Writing Tips

Shannon’s Top Three Tips for Writing Romance

It’s February, so romance is in the publishing air. Whether or not you write romance novels or have romantic subplots in your work, almost every writer has had to think through a couple’s relationship in their work. 

Here are my top three tips for writing romance.

1. Read Romance: As Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the tools to write. Simple as that.” Reading romance novels, or novels that have romantic subplots, will help you learn the beats of a romantic plotline. (You should also check out Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes. It’s a nonfiction craft book dedicated to understanding romance beats.) My favorite go-to romance books are Harlequin. Why? Though the various imprints have particular expectations, every book is focused on romance, and it’s so easy to spot tropes from the cover, title, and synopsis. They tend to run very short, too, so you can read a bunch very quickly. Even with a shorter word count, you’ll be amazed how tight these plots are. These authors will really inspire you to find ways to cut to the chase. Keep in mind that the romance books you read don’t necessarily have to be in the same genre that you’re writing in. I primarily write fantasy and, while I definitely read enough fantasy to study those romantic subplots, I’ve found contemporary romance books have actually helped me understand writing romance more. Probably because there is less distraction (world building, war, magic, etc.) Basically, make sure you’re reading romance in your genre, but don’t be afraid to branch out either. 

2. Requited love is nice, but it doesn’t make much of a ballad. Cassandra Clare’s character Will said that when referring to why characters are put through so much hardship in stories, and I’ve never heard such a true sentiment. Listen, you’re writing a story. Stories require tension and excitement. A what if. In romance, that what if is will they get together? You have to string that question out in some way. If your characters famously get along, your reader will wonder why they aren’t together. Some writers take that to mean that a couple must disagree or not communicate, and that’s not true. There’s lots of reasons people stay apart. Beliefs. Expectations. Distance. Responsibilities, such as taking care of their family. Work that doesn’t allow them time to date. Fear of rejection. I could go on and on. You can definitely still have tension even if your couple is communicating well. But there must be tension somewhere. Your couple is made up of different people with their own goals, who happen to cross each other’s path. I think every romance novel benefits when those paths hit a crossroad in some way. Do they choose themselves or their love for each other? Bam. Tension. At the end of the day, something in their lives is unrequited

3. Couples should complement each other in some way. Is he shy and her outgoing? Is she struggling to find the last piece of the puzzle and her lover has it in her hands? Take a look at your favorite bookish couples and you’ll see that they often complement each other’s personalities and goals. They push each other to be better people or to look at the world in a new way. They experience personality traits of the other that their friends/family do not get to see. When you’re revisiting your favorite couples, ask yourself why they appealed to you. What scenes made your heart pitter-patter? Make a list. You might see a pattern emerge of tropes you love, such as the one-bed trope, brother’s best friend, enemies-to-lovers, etc. Once you know what tropes you want to work with, it’ll be so much easier to form your story.

Honestly, though, I could go on and on about romance. If you love reading romance, I’d love it if you check out my young adult paranormal romance, the Timely Death trilogy. The first book, Minutes Before Sunset, is currently free! It’s set in Kansas and follows two magical teens, who realize they’re fated to fall in love… and die.

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~SAT

Miscellaneous

My Favorite Books of 2021

Every year I blog about my favorite reads, though I admit that this year was hard! I went really out of my comfort zone and read a lot of age categories and genres, but particularly adult romance, including the famous Ice Planet Barbarians series. This was also just a busy year in general for me. My (now) husband and I bought our first home, renovated said home, planned a wedding, got married, and went on a trip. I went back into the office for the first time since March 2020, and we’re still in a pandemic, so naturally, my focus was a little all over the place. I started so many amazing novels that I never ended up finishing, not because they weren’t amazing, but because I had to return them to the library before I got through it, and instead of checking it back out, more holds continued to roll in. That said, I finished reading 87 books this year. You can see the full list on my Goodreads.  To add a little clarity, these are books that I read in 2021, not necessarily books that released in 2021. My favorites are below! I hope you find something to read. I’d also love to hear what you loved this year. 

Verse novels

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Me (Moth) by Amber McBride are fantastic, heart-felt reads about difficult topics. I greatly admired both stories, and I cannot wait to read more from these diverse authors. These are young adult novels written in verse, but if you’re not used to poetry, I think you’d still be able to easily follow them and enjoy the content. Definitely recommended for kids going through hard times!

Graphic novels

All three of these graphic novel—The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag, A Man and His Cat by Umi Sakurai, and The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen—took my hand and held it as we trapezed through fantastic art, adorable storylines, and heartache. I highly recommend all three of them. A Man and His Cat is a four-book series. Each book is a gem. And they’ll make you want to hug your cats even harder. 

Young Adult Novels

Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare: I’m a huge Cassandra Clare fan. I’ve been reading her Shadowhunter books since I was 15, and the current trilogy is one of my favorites. Chain of Iron hits you in the feels so many times, it is cruel. I literally cannot wait for the last book. 

Graceling by Kristin Cashore: This book has been on TBR for years. Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I only just read it. It’s intense, exciting, and fun. I loved Poe so much, and I know it’ll stay with me for a long time.   

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong: I listened to the audio book while painting my house and could not have been more enthralled. I actually stopped painting at times just to listen! And honestly, listening to this story was really neat because there are lots of languages, and that narrator speaks them. For me, it added atmosphere. If you haven’t checked out this Romeo and Juliet retelling, do so! The sequel is now out, too. 

Adult novels

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren: This is a pretty well-known adult romance book. It’s heavy on the sex, and yet still has a substantial plot interwoven throughout. I can see why it’s popular. I finished it in a day or so. It definitely comes with alpha male energy, so if that’s not your thing, you may not like this one. But it’s an entertaining read! 

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L Armentrout: This book had very delicious fantasy trope that you want in a great fantasy series. Despite all the tropes, Armentrout found amazing ways to twist them to give this story a fresh, exciting feel. I immediately put book 2 on hold, and I’m currently waiting on book 3. It’s also a rather large read, but you’ll love every minute if you adore paranormal romance or romance fantasy.  

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: This book is epic, both in word count and in content. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s a very, very gruesome read, but I absolutely loved it. Every scene kept me on the tip of my toes, and I was looking for any excuse to get back to reading. I listened to the audiobook as I read along, so that helped! All three books are now out as well, so you don’t have to wait for the sequel to drop. 

Most Surprising

She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha

I picked up this book knowing that it was about a woman who had to face a parallel version of her life and decide between her old life and her new one. I definitely wasn’t expecting such a dark, thought-provoking read. I emphasize the darkness of this piece, because the description didn’t get into the types of trauma this book covers, and it gets into a lot of really serious topics, so be warned if you have any potential triggers. That said, I could not put this book down. Even in the slowest parts, I just had to keep reading to know what would ultimately happen. The entire book is uncomfortable in the best ways. I had to keep stopping to go debat a new question with my husband every chapter. It’s definitely a great book club read. I still think about it from time to time. 

Honorable Mention

Ferryman by Claire McFall

This is a new category this year, because – to be 100% honest – I had already written this entire blog post before I picked up Ferryman by Claire McFall. (That’s the risk of writing one of these posts with one month in the year to go.) If I had read it earlier this year, it probably would’ve been placed in my favorite YA slots. I absolutely loved Ferryman by Claire McFall. It’s about a girl who dies and then must cross the wastelands of the afterlife with her ferryman…who she falls in love with. Problem is, once she crosses, she’ll lose him forever. I mean, the stakes alone were enough to get me to pick up this read. It’s apparently a re-release. This book originally came out in Scotland in 2013, but released in the US this year. There are two more books in the trilogy, and it’s being made into a movie. I can totally see why! I could not put it down. (And I really struggled to connect with books this year.) This one is a must-read.

Ultimate Favorite

The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene

Never did I ever think an adult nonfiction title would top my list. I mean, I am a fantasy/science fiction sort of a gal. But I was utterly engrossed by this book. It tackles the subject of war by looking at different strategies of battle. What I loved most is that it’s organized by strategy, so the book jumps around time, rather than being written in a historically chronological format. This keeps the stories feeling fresh and exciting, and you can start to see the parallels through time more. I loved that Greene gave credit to women and people of color, particularly Alexander the Great’s mother as an influence when she is so rarely referenced in other narratives. I found myself taking pages and pages of notes for a book idea I’ve been working on for a long time, only to realize I was practically writing everything down. It’s worth picking up, and the audiobook is incredible. The narrator has a way of setting atmosphere while never letting it overtake or exaggerate the facts. A must-read if you’re interested in warfare and history. 

These were my favorite reads of 2021! What were yours?

~SAT

Miscellaneous

Is Spoiler-Free Pressure Ruining In-Depth Discussions About Books?

There is a lot of pressure to be spoiler free. And I get it. I do. People shouldn’t share spoilers on Twitter while they’re watching a TV show live or write up a post on Facebook without a fair warning. But sometimes I wonder if we’ve gone a little overboard with the pressure to be spoiler free. Sometimes I want a little substance.

Protecting yourself from spoilers is hard too! Don’t get me wrong. People should always post warnings. Recently, Google itself ruined ANTM for me. I had it recorded, but checked my news stories of the day, and one of those stories was who lost (in the headline) less than an hour after the show aired. So disappointing!

Sometimes I want to read spoilers, and I’m not sure there is anywhere to go.

So why do I want spoilers sometimes?  

Because the same review is everywhere.

I mainly see “these characters are great, and that one scene totally shattered me.” Or “Characters = great, plot = awesome, conclusion = get it.”

And those types of reviews are awesome, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I want to know what tropes to expect, what dynamics to look forward to, if a book is character-driven or plot-driven, especially when I am on a fence. And sometimes, well…

Sometimes spoilers can be a good thing.

Example? Spoilers ahead for The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. If you don’t want to read it, feel free to skip to the next bolded line.

When I first when City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, I REFUSED to read the next books, not because I didn’t enjoy the first book but because the whole “the main characters who are in love are siblings” totally grossed me out. When my friend spoiled the fact that it turned out to be false, I read the sequel, and now it’s one of my favorite series written by one of my favorite authors.

Basically, without spoilers, I probably would’ve quit a series that I now love.

Now, I am NOT saying to go tweet out every spoiler in the latest Blockbuster hit when you saw the first screening. Hell no. There still needs to be etiquette to discussing spoilers, but by the fandom gods, I want to talk about these things. I want to debate and consider others’ opinions. I want to read more fan theories without having to scour the deep dark web (okay, so Tumblr) for them.

I have found it super easy to find in-depth discussions about film, but not about novels, and I wish we had a forum to do so.

I would love to discuss scenes and characters and spoilers in-depth with others. As a writer, this helps me analyze a work and see how someone else’s viewpoint can differ from mine, which I think is an important aspect of understanding literature. And it’s fun. I mean, isn’t it the best to call a close friend and chat about the latest episode of your favorite show? I want to do that with books, more often and with more people.

Granted, I know there is this lovely little place called Goodreads, but (and I mean no offense to them) I tend to only see spoilers written by those who hated the book (as if they are purposely trying to ruin the book for others) and no spoilers from those who enjoyed the book, which is why I don’t think GR is the right platform. At least not today.

I want a positive place where readers can discuss books in depth. A place where we might not all agree on interpretations, but a place where thoughts can be shared broadly and discussed nevertheless.

Recently, I checked out a new podcast called Parallel Magic Podcast by authors Jonas Lee and Kate M. Colby, and in my opinion, they have the perfect setup. The first part is a spoiler-free rundown on what the book is about and whether or not they would suggest the book (and to who they think would like the book), and then there is a very clear warning about an upcoming in-depth discussion (so that those who haven’t read can clock out), before they discuss the book in-depth, spoilers and all.

I LOVED IT. So if you’re looking for in-depth discussions, check them out.

Personally, I want more places for those who have read a novel to discuss in-depth where they won’t get in trouble for discussing spoilers.

What about you? What do you think about spoilers? What do you think about discussing them in public forums?

~SAT

Miscellaneous

Shaming the Ship

If you’ve ever attended a movie premiere or book signing, you’ve probably heard someone squeal, “I totally ship them!”

I admit, the first time I heard this was at Cassandra Clare’s book signing in Kansas City over a year ago…and I was super confused. “Ship?” I thought. “Like a boat?” So here I am, picturing Dido singing, “I’ll go down with this ship.” Which, in retrospect, kind of works with today’s lingo. But at the time, a cosplaying Shadowhunter kindly explained to me what she meant, and I still dig her for it.

For those of you who don’t know, “ship” is short for “relationship.” Saying you “ship” a couple means you love those two characters being together. Yes, even when they’re sailing on boats. (Excuse me for my poor humor.) Fans can ship a couple that is actually together in the story or characters you wish were together. The term largely started in fandoms and fan fiction.

Is there a better photo for this article? I think not.

I’m totally for shipping whoever you want. I think it’s so much fun, even when I see people point out ships that are purely imagined. In fact, I’ve come across some ships that I had never even considered, but thought were awesome. (*cough, cough, Elsa and Jack Frost, cough cough*) It’s fan fiction heaven. That being said, there is always a negative side.

Recently, I’ve started to see people say things like, “If you ship those who aren’t together in the story, you’re a bad fan,” or “If you ship X and X, you promote abuse,” or blah blah blah.

Listen, I think it’s great to debate aspects of fiction, like how abuse is displayed. But “debate” is the keyword here. Just because one person feels a certain way about a character does not mean everyone should feel that way. One of the best parts of fiction is how malleable it is. A dynamic character could be seen differently by millions of people. Not to mention that fiction itself is fiction. Just because something criminal happens in a show does not mean it was criminal in the context of the show. Example? Take post-apocalyptic fiction. If it’s the end of world, and you see someone stealing from a store (or even killing another person), you automatically sympathize because survival, right? But if that character was doing that in our world, they’d be a bad person. In the context of a post-apocalyptic situation, the moral paradigm has shifted. Does that make anyone bad or good? That’s up for debate. *wink*

Sometimes, fiction is just fiction. Sometimes, a ship is something we sail on. It doesn’t have to have double meaning or be scrutinized beyond the fact that it’s purely entertaining. Just because a fan ships a couple on a show doesn’t mean they would ship them in a real-life situation. As an example, I thought I’d discuss a movie (hopefully) everyone has seen by now. If you haven’t, don’t worry. Just go to the next bolded line.

Spoilers for The Last Jedi beyond this point:

So, as many of you know by now, there was quite the shift in Kylo Ren and Rey in the last movie. Though nothing traditionally romantic happened (i.e. kissing), many felt their relationship was romantic in nature. Where it goes, no one knows, but that doesn’t stop the fandom from drawing photos, posting theories, and just plain ol’ fan girling.

Do I ship them? Yes and no. To me, I find their dynamic fascinating, which—as someone who is here to be entertained—is all I want in a story. So, yes, I love what happened between them in The Last Jedi, because I never saw it coming, yet it was believable, twisted, and exciting. But no, I wouldn’t encourage that sort of dynamic in real life.

Basically, if my best friend came to me and said, “This masked guy chased me through the woods as I shot at him, and then he knocked me unconscious and tried to read my mind. Later, I scarred him, and he killed his dad, but now we have a universe connection.” I would definitely not ship it. I would call the police. But Star Wars isn’t my best friend. Star Wars is a space opera. It’s not functioning on our moral constructs. In the setup of the fictional universe, you’re literally talking about a dark side and light side colliding in a space war. Of course unhealthy moments are going to happen. Does that mean you can’t enjoy the story? Maybe. Maybe not. If that ruins the story for you, that’s fine. If you want to debate it, go for it! But I draw the line at fans telling other fans what they can/should/want to enjoy.

Spoilers End

If you dislike a ship (or a story), by all means, we’re all allowed to our opinions, but I will always draw a line on those who shame others for enjoying (or disliking) a piece of fiction.

We’re here to be entertained and to have fun, and yes, there are times for debate. Yes, those debates are super important. I’m not telling you to stop debating. In fact, one of my favorite all-time quotes is, “The history books will tell what happened, but the art will tell them how we felt about it.” (Jermaine Rogers.) Debating art is society trying to encapsulate how they feel about current and past issues. Debating fiction is a natural response. All I ask is that we respect one another while we debate. No name-calling. No ship-shaming. Just a couple of fans having a reasonable discussion about how we feel about certain stories. Then, at the end of the day, we can enjoy our fandoms and sail off into the sunset on our preferred ships without trying to sink others.

Who are some of your favorite ships? (Actual boats allowed.)

~SAT

Miscellaneous

Give An Author A Second Chance

Recently I came across a poll on Twitter.

How many times do you give an author a chance before you swear off their work indefinitely?

Before I get into what everyone said, please take a minute to consider this question for yourself. Do you pick up every book someone writes and try it out? Do you skim the first chapter or so? Why did you pick it up in the first place? Was it because the author is extremely popular or because you liked the cover/genre/concept? Is it a debut or an author with numerous books under their writing belt? How many times have you given them a shot? And how do these questions affect swearing someone off indefinitely?

This week, check out a book from someone you've tried to read before.
This week, check out a book from someone you’ve tried to read before.

Personally, I’ll pick up any author’s work, numerous times, before I decide they are not for me. Why? Because authors grow and change. So do their ideas. Even their voice will morph overtime. If I only read authors’ debuts—or only one of their books—I would’ve never found some of my favorite authors. For instance, I literally just tried Maggie Stiefvater for the first time, EVER, this past year. I loved the Raven Cycle so much, I am now buying all of her books from the past decade. In contrast, I read Claudia Gray’s Evernight series when I was younger…and wasn’t the biggest fan, but her Firebird trilogy was one of my favorite reads last year. I didn’t even consider her past when I picked up her new work. It’d been eight years. It was also a different genre. All I care about is the storyline, the voice, and how it resonates. If I had considered how much I didn’t like her previous book, I would’ve missed out on one of my favorite reads of the year.

Granted, I have authors I stalk admire. Cassandra Clare is one author that I always buy. Maggie Stiefvater and Claudia Gray are now on that list, too. But if I read their next book and didn’t like it, I doubt I would remove them from that list.

That being said, I understand not liking an author. I do. I would name a few I dislike, but personally, I like to focus on the positive ones I’d recommend more than the ones I don’t enjoy—because everyone is different. That being said, I am sitting here, at my dining room table, trying to recall an author I’ve sworn off indefinitely, and cannot find one. Not a single person. Because I don’t know what the future holds.

So how many chances did the average reader of this poll give before swearing off an author indefinitely? Most people said one. ONE TIME. One book. One poem. One whatever. I was shocked by how many people said one.

I sort of understand—there are a million other authors on the market. Why keep disappointing yourself with the same person? But what if that same person was like Claudia Gray was to me? You could miss out on a lifetime of brilliant works, because one didn’t suit you.

I’m not asking you to read an entire book or even check out every book someone releases, but I am saying to keep an open mind. If something catches your eye—history or not—check out the synopsis. Check out the first chapter again. Before you swear off an author’s entire career because you didn’t like their vampire book back in 2007, or their dystopian book in 2010, or whatever craze comes next, give them another shot.

I’m not saying you have to pick up every book by every author that ever was. I’m just saying not to give up at the first go.

Writing styles change. Trends change. Stories change. So do authors.

Give an author a second chance. Or maybe even a third.

~SAT

P.S. Calling all book bloggers, the Bad Bloods book blitz is April 10-16 by Xpresso Reads. The sign up form is here. You will get exclusive excerpts, ARCs, and more. ❤

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Miscellaneous

Should Authors Have More Say in Adaptations?

Should authors have more say when their novels are adapted to TV or film?

Short answer: Absolutely. But the long answer is a lot more complicated.

For one, authors write novels for a reason. That’s how they like to express themselves. TV and movie writing is a completely different ballgame. When I studied screenwriting in college, for instance, I had never felt so lost in my life. That being said, I don’t think authors should be entirely removed from their work when it is adapted just because it’s a different art form. In fact, I think it benefits everyone to work together. (I also understand that TV/Film rights have a lot to do with the author’s literary agency and how they negotiated a deal.) After acknowledging that, though, I want to talk about why I wish authors had more say so in the end.

Do you watch Shadowhunters on FreeForm? No. Don’t worry. I’ll write this article around it, but I think it’s a great, modern example of how adaptations can go wrong, even in a damaging way, so it might be easier to understand if you do watch the show or read the books or check out the article I discuss below.

Recently, Cassandra Clare did an interview about the adaption of her popular YA series, The Mortal Instruments, both with the flop-film in 2013 and the current TV series, Shadowhunters. I highly recommend you read this (and share it): Cassandra Clare Shares the Troubles and Triumphs of Seeing the Shadowhunters World Onscreen

Listen, I’m a HUGE Cassandra Clare fan. I’m also a pretty open-minded fan. In fact, I rarely complain about adaptations, because that’s what they are—adaptations—and I even enjoyed the movie. (No, seriously, I own it and watch it all the time.) I was also a fan of the show…until recently.

Returning to the interview (which again, please read), I was appalled by some of the changes and ideas strewn throughout the show.

It grosses me out that FreeForm’s original goal was to take away Alec and Magnus’s relationship, because they are gay, while adding unnecessary violence against the female characters “to attract a male audience.”

Um…excuse me?

I mean, seriously? Does that not gross you out? That entire concept?

pexels-photo-66134

Spoilers ahead for books and show. If you want to skip, look for next bolded line.

I was always bothered by Alec’s fiancée Lydia in Season 1, but I can also admit that I didn’t notice the difference in violence against the female cast until last week’s episode. Between Lydia’s attack, Izzy’s attack, Clary being “stabbed” in a dream sequence, and Jocelyn’s death that never happened in the books, I found myself highly uncomfortable and trying to figure out why. Then I read Cassandra Clare’s interview, and it all made sense. I am all for adaptations, but last week’s episode was wrong, whether or not Jocelyn comes back to life in tonight’s episode.
 (Which, I think, she most likely will.)

End of spoilers.

The new team claims to have a different stance than the previous producers, but last week showed much of the same problematic instances, including unnecessarily violence against the female cast and keeping a gay couple apart because “no audience wants to see that” (insert middle finger here). I also did not find it a coincidence that they only sent Clare the first three episodes of Season 2 for her approval and then this fourth one followed the original, damaging aspects. Granted, will I watch it tonight? Probably. I want to see if they’ll change their ways before I judge too harshly. But that doesn’t change my opinion about last week’s episode or what we learned through Clare’s interview—an interview, I will add, that was very brave. Authors aren’t normally so open and honest about this topic. Mainly because there is a conflict of interest, but also because we expect authors to simply be grateful that their work is being adapted at all. A sentiment I disagree with.

I am so glad Cassandra Clare fought to change some of the script, because the changes didn’t just misrepresent the story; the changes misrepresented the work (and the author) entirely.

If an adaptation is homophobic, racist, sexist, or otherwise damaging, shouldn’t an author be able to step in and stop it?

Again, I’m ALL for adaptations. I’m not saying that an author should have the final say over every little thing, or even over major aspects of book-to-movie life. But I do believe in creating better, positive pieces of art. And if a director told me they were going to start abusing females and tearing LGBTQIA characters apart because “men like that”, I’d hope that the world would back me up in stopping such an atrocity.

What do you think? Should authors have more say-so in adaptations? If so, what should they have control over and when? Where is the line? And should they draw a new one?

~SAT

 

Miscellaneous

#WW Heroes I Want to See In YA

In the real world, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can save the world, or they can save one person. Heck, they can even just save themselves! But every hero we read about has a different story to tell, a background unlike any other, and most of all, a story to tell.

However, in young adult fiction, heroes aren’t always so diverse. So, here are three heroes I’d like to see more of in YA fiction.

1. Introverted Protagonists

I want to see more Hermiones as the protagonist instead of the sidekick. You know, the kid who reads or observes from the sidelines and saves the day. Think Velma from Scooby Doo. More quiet heroes who save through intellect over throwing punches. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Fight with Brain instead of Fists

I LOVED The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. Though there was violence, especially in the last book, most of the warfare was puzzles and mysteries and alliances. The characters were often observing rather than fighting, and through trickery or other brainpower fighting tools, they could solve their problems. As much as I love a girl with a sword, I would love to see more brainpower used and less literal violence.

Heroes in YA
Heroes in YA

 3. Bisexual Protagonists

Of course I would love to see protagonists across the entire LGBTQIA spectrum, but I would really love to see more bisexual protagonists, because I think bisexual people are often labeled incorrectly due to who they “choose” in the end. If you’re unfamiliar with this discussion, please read Goodbye, Bad Bi: The Lose-Lose Situation of Bisexual YA. Personally, I LOVED Mark in Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Him as the protagonist would be the best.

There are so many different types of heroes I want to see, including heroes with disabilities, heroes across the entire LGBTQIA spectrum, heroes that are people of color, and heroes who come from different religions and backgrounds.

What are some heroes you would like to see?

Who are some of my favorite recent heroes in YA? Grace in See How They Run by Ally Carter, Mercy in Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, Marguerite in Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray, and Joana from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. (Click any links to read my reviews.)

Also, if you have any recommendations, feel free to share!

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

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Miscellaneous

#SATurdate: X-Men Apocalypse, Winter, Money Monster, & Banana Desserts

What I’m Writing:

I’ve actually been working on the free Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad this week. Even though the origin stories were written a long time ago, the next few stories needed more attention than the other ones. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first three chapters—which included the origin stories of Adam, Michele, and Maggie—and you’ll meet Ryne from the Northern Flock on June 3. Even crazier? Violet’s story releases on Wattpad June 17. Violet—previously known as Kati in the original publication—is actually a shade, and she may or may not be directly linked to The Timely Death Trilogy. That’s right. Bad Bloods and The Timely Death Trilogy are linked. After Violet, though, you’ll FINALLY get to meet a Southern Flock character. (They formed later than the Northern Flock, hence why you haven’t met them yet.) I’ll continue to post a new origin story every other Friday on Wattpad. If you like the stories, please vote, comment, and share. It helps little authors like me out. Other times, I get really bored (since I’m trying to force myself to take a little break from writing), and I spend hours on Rinmaru games creating my characters. Here’s Adam, Michele, and Maggie as kids.

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What I’m Publishing:

If you sign up for the Bad Bloods Thunderclap, I will send you signed swag from The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods! Sign up here. Once you do, take a screenshot of your support and e-mail it to me at shannonathompson@aol.com, along with your address, and I’ll send it soon.

GoodreadsGiveawayThere’s also a Goodreads Giveaway going on for November Rain right now! And that’s not all. If you pre-order November Snow and send me the receipt to shannonathompson@aol.com, I will send you your eBook copy of November Rain TODAY. Also, if you write a review, you will receive November Snow, too.

The #1lineWed preview was “anger,”so here’s this week’s preview: “Enough,” Michele snapped, but even her anger was delicate.

What are readers already saying?

“Fast Paced. Intriguing. Gripping. Just like any other book Thompson wrote, this one stands tall. An epic read that will take you in from the very first page and not let you go. A real page turner.” – Crazy Beautiful Reads

“I recommend November Rain for EVERYONE but especially fans of dystopian and SCIFI. A great novel. It was full of strong characters each with their own background and an interesting world.” – The Book Forums

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Visit the Pinterest and Facebook Pages.

What I’m Reading:

13245305_1049308838449630_6469427564510674207_nI FINALLY started Winter by Marissa Meyer! As many of you know, I love The Lunar Chronicles, so I’ve been holding onto the fourth book with a deep desperation for more time to read it. I’m only a little ways into it, but I love it already. Winter is such an interesting, complex and shameless character. She’s very refreshing, and of course, a welcome addition to The Lunar Chronicles cast.

What I’m Listening To:

13320366_1049951935051987_9197921459974128700_oTornado sirens. That’s right. We had some tornado issues here this week. And they almost killed me. And by “almost killed me,” I mean my cats almost killed me when I was forcing them into the basement to…you know…save their lives…from the tornados that never came. Oh, well. I’ve always wanted Wolverine scars on my neck. All was forgiven when we watched the storm together afterward.

What I’m Watching:

Since I’m attempting to take a writing break, I practically lived at the theatre.

X-Men Apocalypse: I see why there are rumors to replace Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. I LOVE LOVE LOVE J-Law, but I feel like they’ve typecasted her into playing Katniss playing Mystique rather than an authentic Mystique (which I bet is the director’s choice, not hers), but it might be time to switch things up. Other than that little note, I LOVED X-Men Apocalypse. It was really fun to see how it tied into the other films, and I most definitely loved the hint to the destruction of the future Jean/Phoenix. Nightcrawler is one of my favorites, so it was great seeing him, too! Stay after those credits, folks. The little teaser is awesome.

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Money Monster: I surprisingly loved this movie. I don’t know why I didn’t think I would like it. (Maybe because I only saw slander ads after George Clooney was marketing to pay off some student loan debt while advertising for this movie.) But I really loved this movie. Although one or two scenes weren’t believable to me, I thought it was suspenseful and disturbingly honest about the economy and how it affects the little guy. It leaves you dissatisfied in a perfect way.

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I also saw Zootopia this week. That movie is SUPER cute, and I really loved the message behind it. I also want a pet fox now.

I recommend all three movies above.

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

After having family in town, we had 12 bananas in the house that were going to rot, so I made mini banana foster cheesecakes and honey vanilla banana bread. Click either link for the recipe I used. I definitely recommend them both, though the banana bread will definitely last longer, and those cheesecakes are awesome but SUPER sweet. (I’ll definitely make them again.)

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What I’m Wearing:

I wore yellow to channel my inner minions while baking banana desserts.

What I’m Wanting:

CjY2bS6VAAQ7gfZCassandra Clare is writing a Magnus Bane trilogy with Wesley Chu for adults, and I want it right meow. Here’s the official announcement from EW: Cassandra Clare Will Publish Series Based on Magnus Bane.

What I’m Dreaming Of:

So a bounty hunter was trying to kill me, and a friend called—very nonchalant about my impending death—and invited me to come on a train ride if I survived. I barely reached the station without being killed, but I boarded the train with my friend safely. Except not really. This train wasn’t just a train. It was an ocean train…so it swam over waves and storms and such. You could also get on the on-board swimming pool, which connected with the ocean, and there, you could swim with the dolphins and other sea creatures as you traveled on the train. But then people started committing murder on the ocean vessel, and we were trying to solve it. It ended up being the dolphins. Tricky creatures.

What Else Is Going On:

changeYou probably heard the news, but there’s been a slight change to my #BFestBuzz! I’ll be signing books and hosting an author panel in TWO Barnes & Noble stores in the Kansas City area during B-Fest!

On Saturday, June 11th, come see me at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS. 
Event Link.

On Sunday, June 12th, you can see me at Zona Rosa in Kansas City, MO. Event Link.

I really hope to meet some of you there, but since I know many of you don’t live in the KC area, I hope one day that I can come to your town, too!

~SAT

Writing Tips

#MondayBlogs What Changes From First Draft to Publication?

What changes from first draft to publication? So much. In fact, nearly everything. But if the answer was that simple, an entire article (or even whole books on the topic) wouldn’t be necessary, so there’s more to this answer than it seems. Despite that, I insist you take my article with a grain of salt. In the end, everyone’s writing method is different, so everyone’s editing process will be fine-tuned to fit that particular project. Figuring out what works for you and what needs to be done is key, but I wanted to discuss a few topics that almost always change for everyone, so you can prepare yourself for the battle ahead. (It’s a fun battle, I promise.)

1. Word Count

Please, please, please be open to changing your word count. This is especially true for those writers pursuing traditional publication. For every genre, for every age group, there is a “perfect” word count range you’re basically expected to fall into when querying or pitching. Yes, there are exceptions. You might even become the exception during an editing process, but knowing how long or short your story should be shows your knowledge for the market and for what’s appropriate for your audience. That being said, I’m going to contradict myself and say it’s better to be true to the story than to fit a standard, but keep an open mind when rereading your work to see if you can fit the standard. Maybe a scene isn’t necessary. Maybe two scenes can be combined. You might even find yourself contemplating a cut of your favorite scenes or characters, and sometimes, that’s necessary. Keep it in a folder. Share it as an extra on Wattpad later. But making sure everything is vital is one of those tricky but true things a writer must overcome. I struggle with this myself! Almost all of my novels’ first drafts are 130,000 words, but I quickly figure out a lot of it was repetitive information or information not needed for a storyline. I might save it for a sequel or condense it somewhere else, but I tend to find reaching those ideal word counts isn’t that hard as long as I allow myself to let things go and move on. Letting go can be difficult though, so to help you with that, I suggest you read The Disposability of Ideas by Maggie Stiefvater. She is the author of The Raven Cycle and a mad genius when it comes to letting things go, even when you don’t want to.

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2. Characters

Names. Descriptions. Backgrounds. Even their existence might change. Oftentimes, writers will find that two characters in a draft can be combined to serve one purpose, or visa versa (one character could become two). Publishers are notorious for changing names—especially of protagonists—but I always suggest writers face this problem themselves before submitting. Don’t count on publishers choosing the perfect name, and try not to get attached in case they do change it in the end. I personally like to take notes of a characters’ background while also keeping a list of other names used in the story. This way, I make sure I’m using different types of names, including the first letter, the syllable count, the sound, etc.—all while staying true to their background as a person. As an editor, I receive a lot of manuscripts where all 20-some characters have similar sounding names, and unless that serves a purpose (like twins named closely together), it can get really confusing really fast. Of course, names is a shallow example of what can be changed, but I think it’s a good one since many writers get very attached to names quickly…and I’m about to expand on characters a little more in my last topic.

3. Major Changes and Rewrites

In the end, your plot, purpose, genre, or even cast could change completely. I, for one, just finished a manuscript that started off as a 62,000-word draft and ended up being a 92,000-word novel. Why? Because I was missing that much information the first time around. I wasn’t sure about my setting, I didn’t know my characters THAT well, and the secrets didn’t reveal themselves until the end. On top of that, I’m a plotter, not a pantser, so this was a painful book for me, but I followed my gut and did what I could and then, I faced my rewrites head-on. Let me use characters as an example for how much could change overall. A character’s gender, sexual orientation, secrets, lifestyle, background, and mindset could change simply because you didn’t TRULY know that character when you first set out to write the book (even though you thought you did). I recall Cassandra Clare discussing this at a panel I attended recently. For those of who are familiar with The Mortal Instrument series, she actually didn’t plan the big twist about Jace at the end, and she simply couldn’t understand why he acted the way he did for over 700 pages of the first draft. It wasn’t until she got there that she learned that vital aspect about his life, and so, naturally, she had to go back and rewrite the entire story to make his character real again. Don’t shy away from the right change, even if that change demands an entire rewrite. That change could be what makes your book.

The first draft is only the beginning, but that fact doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be an amazing thing. All writers go through it, and all writers come out of each stage happier than they were in the previous stages. Rewriting that 62,000-word draft I discussed above, for instance, was one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. When it finally began to take shape, I was satisfied and proud of the work. Before I rewrote it, it simply sat on my computer collecting technology dust. Think of editing and rewriting as another writing adventure—one that will take you one step closer to publication—and what could be better than that?

Original posted March 20, 2014.

(On a side note, the original is VERY different than this article. I actually focused on a real novel of mine, so if you want to see a detailed account of what I went through with one novel, this is a great article to read.)

~SAT

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November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Miscellaneous

#MondayBlogs The Worst Thing A Reader Ever Said To Me

I can admit the worst thing a reader ever wrote to me. It was 2007, I was 16, my publisher at the time had released my first novel, and Honesty Box was the hottest app on Facebook. My high school self was naïve enough to have one of these, and one day, I found myself staring at this. Message:

“You are the bastardization of the English language.”

honesty-boxI’ve tried not to think about this message often. In fact, I confess I’ve tried to completely cut it out of my memory—especially since I think it had more to do with high school bullying than anything notable—but the most common type of bullying I faced for writing a book in high school followed this script:

A fellow student would say, “Go write a book.”

Normally, I never responded, but sometimes I snapped and stupidly said, “I already did.”

Which almost always got, “Now, go write a good one.”

Perhaps, this affected me more than I would like to admit. A few months later, when I ran into issues with my publisher, I didn’t fight it much, and in turn, my book was taken off of the market. I can’t say I minded much. I think I was a little relieved. That’s probably why seven years passed between my first and second publication. Now that I’m 24, my coping skills have definitely grown.

Writers always get responses—both good and bad—and some days are more uplifting than others. Some days are even downright hilarious. Not in the mocking way, of course, but in the this-reader-could-be-my-best-friend sort of way. Some days, readers make your day, and other days, a reader’s comment inspires your next piece of work. Sometimes, they teach you by pointing out levels of confusion or confliction, and other times, they talk about how your work taught them something about life. The combination is a beautiful thing.

I have plenty of stories I wish I could tell you about all of the wonderful readers who have reviewed my novels, shared quotes, tweeted encouraging messages, and sent me an email just to explain their emotions, but the important part is how the uplifting readers always overcome the negative ones. I could share hundreds, but I would like to share a few to show types:

The Encouraging Reader

12657850_982614665119048_4239343172506995978_oMeagan from The Book Forums recently read an exclusive sneak peek of my upcoming duology, Bad Bloods, and she took the time to e-mail an encouraging message about how excited she is about November Rain and November Snow. I cannot begin to explain how much these moments mean to me. Releasing work—no matter how many times you’ve done it—is nerve-wracking, and in the end, all we want to do is release a story readers will enjoy. To hear they enjoyed it, is priceless. To connect and talk to readers as friends is the best part of the gig. Joking about my own work with someone is surreal. The friendship between a reader and an author is unlike any other type of friendship I’ve ever had, but it brings me just as much love, comfort, and joy.

The Confused Reader That Brings Laughter To My Laugh:

I want to clarify that this is not condescending laughter. This is more like a friend, even if the reader never knows it. I actually enjoy moments where readers have pointed out confusion or mislabeled something because it’s often something I (and many editors) overlooked. My favorite example came from numerous readers over Take Me Tomorrow. (I know. I know. That book isn’t available any longer, but I promise I’m working on it!) This reader story is still priceless. A few readers have compared the dictator, Wheston Phelps to Michael Phelps—the Olympic swimmer—instead of who I intended—Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church—and I’ve had a great giggle over that image-switch. If you’re one of the readers who thought of Michael Phelps instead of Fred, please don’t worry! I had a great giggle, and I feel like it’s more of an inside joke than anything else. Also, more people thought of Michael than Fred. (A handshake goes out to Just Another Girl and Her Books who pointed out many topics, including Fred Phelps, that went overlooked in Take Me Tomorrow. If you’re curious what the sequels might show, this review definitely foreshadows a lot of it. And, of course, Take Me Yesterday is complete. I plan on editing it and then working on Take Me Never ASAP.)

The Critical Reader

Of course, sometimes the negative can help me take a step back and laugh at myself. In fact, these have begun to remind me of my initial editing process. The clearest example I can think of was when my first editor for Seconds Before Sunrise was going through the first chapter and saw, “Robb grabbed his plaid sh*t” instead of his shirt. Yep. That editing mistake happened. That’s embarrassing. And—trust me—I will never, EVER make that mistake again. Every time I write the word shirt I will cringe. (And then, I will laugh uncontrollably). Thank the publishing gods it was caught during the editing process.

Me as a Reader

I am a reader, too, and while I’m not everyone’s reader, my day is made when I tweet to an author and they actually tweet back to me. This recently happened to me with one of my all-time favorite authors, Cassandra Clare. We even spoke about it person when I went to event later that week. My life was complete. No matter how many readers authors come in contact with, I think we find ourselves in their reviews, but more importantly, we connect with friends.

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To think that I might be able to bring joy to a reader in the way Cassandra Clare brought joy to me, fills me with a lot of hope and understanding that I didn’t have when I was 16.

I am very grateful for all the readers who have helped me grow since then, and I continue to love my readers more than anything else. It’s also nice to have reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble instead of Honesty Box.

Original posted February 18, 2015

~SAT

Pre-Order Bad Bloods today!

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