Tag Archives: diversity

#MondayBlogs My Protagonist and Illiteracy

5 Sep

My protagonist is illiterate. She recognizes a few letters, she can identify her name, and she loves listening to stories more than anything. But she cannot read.

Her name is Serena, and Serena is a bad blood.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

While Serena lives in a futuristic world where magical children like her are executed, illiteracy is a very real issue in our world today. An issue I wanted to discuss in my Bad Bloods duology. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding illiteracy—some of which I discuss in an article Tackling Diversity in YA—but the main one is the fact that illiteracy isn’t as uncommon as the average reader might think.

1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. (DoSomething.Org)

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For readers, this fact might seem startling. Readers generally know other readers, after all. And—on top of that—many of the characters in YA fiction love books, because readers love books, and it’s easy to relate to a character that loves the same things as them. For many readers, it’s impossible to imagine a world without reading, even in fantasy and sci-fi settings. I, for one, definitely struggle with that concept, but illiteracy is a reality for many young people, especially women all over the world. Granted, I will be the first to admit that I did not set out to write Serena as an illiterate person to spread awareness. No. I originally set out to write her as a character who didn’t enjoy reading due to severe dyslexia—something my brother and father deal with to this day.

As a child, growing up in a household where my two role models didn’t read was very difficult, especially when my late mother was a reader but no longer able to share that joy with me. That being said, we can relate to one another—readers or not—as people, and since so many characters are readers, I wanted to remind readers we can love those who don’t read, too (although maybe we can help them find the perfect book so they try reading again)! We can also understand how illiteracy happens, and hopefully, we can learn to sympathize with it and also help others learn to read in the future.

The issue of illiteracy developed with Serena’s character over time, but I wouldn’t change Serena for the world. She is smart. She is caring. She loves ice cream, her friends, and stories told beneath the full moon. She falls in love. She cries. She feels pain and sorrow. She laughs.

Serena may be illiterate, but she still has a story.

And so do the millions of people around the globe dealing with illiteracy today.

That is why she’s my protagonist.

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

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Bad Bloods: November Snow

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Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

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#WW Heroes I Want to See In YA

24 Aug

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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#MondayBlogs Writing With Barbie

13 Jun

Authors use various methods to write novels. Some of these strategies are popular, while others are simply bizarre, and two years ago I confessed one of my strangest approaches.

Barbies.

You see, I began writing what would be my first published novel when I was 11, and because I was 11, I loved to daydream with dolls. Instead of plotting with a pen and paper, I pulled out those Barbie dolls—the same dolls that told me I could be anything while I was growing up—and I assigned each one to a potential character. I played out scenes, I tested dialogue, I assessed locations, and I watched my book come to life…Well, a plastic life. And the results were pretty humorous.

Many of my characters’ physical descriptions were actually based on the dolls I used. You can see more of this in the original novel, but some of the characters changed in the remake. That’s right. I’m talking about my upcoming release, Bad Bloods.

Bad Bloods began as a game I played with my Barbie dolls when I was a kid.

Now, if you’ve read the original or even the back covers, then you might be concerned for 11-year-old Shannon, considering how violent the book is, but there’s no need to be concerned. (I think.) Today is meant for laughter. Today, I wanted to share that funny truth behind Bad Bloods, no matter how dark the story is. Even better, I still have these toys (and I definitely still use them to this day), so I’m sharing a few of them as well as small excerpts from Bad Bloods that prove this goofy aspect of my writing.

You’ve been warned.

A little background before we begin:

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.  

Bad Bloods is told from dual, first perspectives: Daniel and Serena. Unfortunately, I lost the Serena doll (she might have lost a limb or two or maybe even a head), but I still have Daniel, who you will see soon. I’m going to share two pictures. Read below for info on the characters, including a one-sentence background and a real excerpt from the novel. I’m also including a little note, explaining how my 11-year-old brain worked. Got that? Okay. I think I’m even lost, but trust me—it’s organized. I hope you chuckle as much as I did while writing this post! Traveling to the past can be a funny adventure.

theboys

Robert: 20, leader of the Southern Flock (hates hugs)

“Everything is fine.” Robert’s light voice didn’t match his stiff movements. When he ran a hand through his hair, his brown bangs stuck up. “But everyone needs to be quiet.”

11-y-o Note: Believe it or not, he’s not the antagonist. Sort of? Okay. Let’s go with antihero.

Daniel: 18, leader of the Northern Flock (all around hunk)

Daniel walked through the crowd, but it wasn’t much of a walk. It was more like stumbling and I had never seen Daniel stumble. Not once. Not even when he was fighting. But he was wearing the blue-and-white plaid jacket and it fluttered amongst the crowd of black coats and gray sweaters. He was practically asking to be arrested.

11-y-o Note: So, if you didn’t notice, I even based some clothes off of these toys.

Calhoun: 57, Daniel’s mentor (kind of a hard ass)

Before I had the chance to knock, the door swung open and smacked against the brick wall. An enormous man filled the entrance. The muscles in his left arm were hard to ignore, but the sleeve that should’ve been tightly wrapped around his right arm was dangling at his side, limbless. Despite his injury, Calhoun wasn’t troubled one bit. A shotgun swung outside and pointed toward my chest.

11-y-o Note: So, my one-arm GI Joe helped create this character, but this character’s personality is very similar to my father. Though, my dad has both arms…and he’s not a vet. But I swear they are alike. You might also remember me mentioning Calhoun in Tackling YA in Diversity, where I explain how I went about writing a character with a disability.

girls

Michele: 17, mother figure of the Northern Flock (Her origin story is up on Wattpad: Read Michele)

But the most beautiful one was the woman. She was tall and willowy, with long white hair and gray eyes like mine. Unlike me, though, every part of her seemed soft, like a warm glow followed her around wherever she went.

11-y-o Note: I definitely kept her white hair, and the character is almost always wearing black in the book as well.

Ami: 14, member of the Southern Flock. (Hates being called “Ami.” Her name is Ameline Marion Lachance.) 

When I first laid eyes on the girl, she was dressed head to toe in pink. Her blonde hair was threaded back into intricate braids, and a bow sat at the end of the braids where the golden strands came together. When Ami cried, she swung her head back and forth, and the bow swayed like a pendulum, all neat and tidy like a present.

11-y-o Note: You can’t really see the doll’s hairstyle anymore, but it was there. I promise. I also used pink on this character a lot.

Tessa: 9, member of the Northern Flock (too small to crush on Adam, but apparently, all the girls like Adam…maybe I should’ve shared Adam…Adam’s origin story is also up on Wattpad: Read Adam)

I pointed to the girl with pigtail braids. “That’s Tessa.”

“So what?” Tessa said, looking over her shoulder at Adam, then to me, her earthy brown eyes matching her powers and her complexion.

11-y-o Note: Her hair, like Ami’s, used to be tied up, too.

The End.

On a serious note, I think writing can be explored in a million ways, and I love my shameless Barbie play. I’ve legitimately called my #1 beta reader complaining of being stuck and she has asked me if I pulled the Barbies out yet. Having a physical representation works for me. I definitely don’t use their descriptions in newer writings, but I wanted to keep what I could for the rewrite since this particular work was built upon them. Imagination shouldn’t be chained to rules. Find what works for you, explore how you want, and daydream until the end of time. Even if that means playing with dolls.

Original posted April 19, 2014

It actually has different dolls and characters, but some of those characters have changed, so I didn’t include them in this post.

~SAT

To everyone I met at BFest this week, thank you for coming out! 

I had a blast!

BFest2016

If you missed out, you can buy signed books from Barnes & Noble in Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS and in Zona Rosa in Kansas City, MO!

For you online readers, don’t forget that Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 in the Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE right now. (And book 2 and book 3 are available, so no waiting!)

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1:

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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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#WritingTips Diversity Is VITAL, But Be Genuine

16 Mar

The word diversity is being thrown around a lot in the publishing world. Agents are asking for it, readers are requesting it, and publishers rejoice in it. As am I. Rounding out literature with realistic and varied groups of people is vital and wonderful and exciting and overall, beautiful. The world, after all, is made up of many different types of people. So should books.

That being said—and a lot of my articles are inspired by my full-time editing job—I am quite shocked when I hear questions like, “Should I make my main character a person of color, LGBT, have a disability, and/or be a part of an underrepresented religion to fit the market?”

Um…

Face to desk.

The quick answer to that question is a resounding NO.

Diversity is not a “fad.” It’s not a bullet point on your novel’s checklist. It’s not an aspect to treat like a trendy topic, and it’s most definitely not an afterthought.

Diversity is a fact of life. Diversity is all around you. Diversity is found in your friends and family and co-workers and strangers at the coffee shop. Diversity should appear in literature just as naturally as it does in real life. If you’re forcing it, there’s a likely chance you’re probably adding to the stereotypes and clichés that are even more damaging than leaving diversity out.

Case and point:

Avoiding LGBTQ Stereotypes in YA Fiction, Part 1: Major LGBTQ Stereotypes

Race in YA Lit: Wake up and Smell the Coffee-Colored Skin, White Authors!

Writing Tips: How NOT to write disabled people

Yes, we need more diversity. We need more people of color in hero roles and LGBT protagonists and characters with disabilities. We need to see a variety of religions and cultural norms and languages and backgrounds. We need varying body types and personalities and dreams and ambitions. We need more characters that are just like everyday people, but we need to be true to our stories. That means being honest. It means researching. It means taking that time to talk to those who represent the cultures we wish to write about. As authors, we need to communicate effectively and efficiently. We need to stay true to our work—not force in characters just because—and we need to love our characters because they are our characters, not because they were warped to fit a trend. Diversity isn’t about being trendy. Diversity is about being genuine. It’s about celebrating the unique characteristics of all types of people, so that readers can rejoice and relate to the stories they read. On top of that, diverse stories help teach acceptance, shape understanding, and encourage friendships to those outside of their own “box.” Diverse stories are a result of a diverse life.

So go out there and explore your world. Meet new people. Listen to their lives. Discuss topics and real trends. (Like fashion and movies and Pilates.) Get to know all the people around you, and who knows? You might find they inspire you to create a character just like them.

Favorite Go-To Article About Diversity: Diversity Writing Tool-Kit. She basically links to a million places to get in-depth knowledge about numerous topics.

Favorite (Recent) Novels Featuring Diversity: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. Both of these wonderful women tackle diversity with genuine grace. You can read both of my 5-star reviews on Goodreads by clicking the titles. I highly recommend both books, but Everything, Everything is contemporary, while Lady Midnight is urban fantasy and a part of a much larger series that I recommend you start with City of Bones. She has diversity throughout her entire Shadowhunter series. I had the absolute joy of meeting Cassandra Clare last night. She signed Lady Midnight for me, and I took home some awesome Shadowhunter runes.

I also met Cassandra Clare, just last night! She is the greatest.

I also met Cassandra Clare, just last night! She is the greatest.

Soon, I’ll share my own experience with writing and diversity. As an example, my next release is a YA duology: Bad Bloods features illiteracy, LGBT characters, deafness, people of color, PTSD, and disabilities, such as one character who only has one arm.

I didn’t force any of these aspects. In fact, the cast was inspired by real people I have met (and Barbie dolls, but that’s a different story you can read about here). Talking to those in the groups I was writing about was vital. Don’t be afraid to reach out. The world is waiting.

~SAT

P.S. Today is the day my mother suddenly passed away in 2003. You never know when your life will change forever. Take a moment to say I love you today. Thank you for changing my life, Mom.

My mother and I on Christmas, 1999

My mother and I on Christmas, 1999

August Ketchup

31 Aug

August’s Ketchup

Wow! Another month has passed, and with it, Seconds Before Sunrise has released. (And the last novel releases in September!) I was blown away by your support this past month, so thank you! I have more prizes and fun coming your way soon.

For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up”. At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog posts, my top referrer, #1 SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.

Thank you for being a part of my life this August!

Big Moments:

Seconds Before Sunrise released! This has definitely been a crazy season to keep up with for me, but I’m loving every second of it. I’m so happy to have the sequel out and in readers’ hands, and I hope you’re enjoying the read as much as I’m enjoying hearing from you all. To everyone who supported my book release by helping, tweeting, Facebook-ing, and more, thank you. You make up the Dark.

Minutes Before Sunset went up for FREE everywhere. This may not seem like a “big” moment for everyone, but it was for me. Anything I’ve never done before is a big moment, and this was my first time having one of my works out there for free. It was definitely a learning opportunity, and I loved it! In fact, I’m still loving it. Minutes Before Sunset even got as high as #5 in science-fiction, #7 in paranormal, and in the top 500 Kindle books overall.

The first time I've ever held Death Before Daylight.

The first time I’ve ever held Death Before Daylight.

We also had the Minutes Before Sunset blog tour this month, which was awesome. (And if you missed my guest posts and interviews, all links are below). While that was going on, I flew to Atlanta to meet a long-time blogger friend of mine, and it was a delight, and when I got back, we celebrated the sequel’s release. The very next day, Death Before Daylight arrived in the mail. For those of you who have been following me since this trilogy was first published, you know that I’ve never been able to hold this book in my hands. I teared up at the moment. I’ve been waiting for it for almost a year after it was supposed to release. It reminds me that dreams will always come true, as long as you keep trying. 

It was definitely a busy month, and I look forward to the excitement of September as well. Keep your eyes out for the Seconds Before Sunrise blog tour, the release of Death Before Daylight,  and more!

Stay Dark,

~SAT

#1 Referrer Other Than Search Engines was Facebook

#1 Referrer Other Than Search Engines was Facebook

Top Three Blog Posts: 

  1. The Emotions of Listing a Book For Free: Oh, silly ol’ me. Minutes Before Sunset went up for free this month, and I wrote a very honest post about my emotions surrounding it—all from horror to delight to absolute excitement.
  2. Seconds Before Sunrise Evolution Day: Seconds Before Sunrise released, and it was a delightful day, full of chocolate, surprises, and fun, but the post covers the seven-year journey of this trilogy, starting in 2008 when it was first written and ending today upon release day.
  3. Confessions of a Slow Writer: I’m a slow writer! I confessed, and now, you can read all about my confession.
#1 Clicked Item was Minutes Before Sunset on Amazon.

#1 Clicked Item was Minutes Before Sunset on Amazon.

Other Blog Posts:

Guest Post:

If You Could Be Any of Your Characters on Black-Words, White-Pages: I talk about my love for sidekicks, especially Jonathon Stone in The Timely Death Trilogy.

How To Make Your Paranormal Novel Stand Out on One Good Guy’s Guide to Good Reads, I talked about how I made my paranormal novel stand out by creating my own world inside of a world with new creatures.

At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you want to be one of these websites, feel free to join my newsletter or email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! I will also share your post on all of my websites.

Reviewers:

Minutes Before Sunset: Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts, Cloud Nine Girl, I Feel The Need, The Need to Read

Death Before Daylight: The Modest Verge Book Blog, Macy Stories

Interviews: Melissa Book Buzz, Deal Sharing Aunt, Juniper Grove Book Solutions, More Than You Wanted to Know

Features: A Fold in the Spine, Girls With Books, The Bookie Monster, Mythical Books, The Cheshire Cat’s Looking Glass, The Wonderings of One Person, Lady Amber’s Reviews, and in the article, You Love Them, but How Well Do You Know Your Favorite Authors?

Calculated on August 26 at 19,887 followers

Calculated on August 26 at 19,887 followers

Hashtag: Diversity in SFF

8 Sep

I know. I know. Who spells out “hashtag?” Well, I did, and I have a purpose for it. On September 4, Twitter blew up with #DiversityinSFF (and, yes, that link should send you to that Twitter discussion as it continues.) While I tweeted once about it, I spent quite a lot of time reading through other readers’ and writers’ tweets. Knowing it’s an important topic to continue, I thought I’d take a shot at it, encouraging others to keep the conversation going on their own blogs and websites.

First: two articles I’ll be referencing: 

1. One of my favorite articles was by The Book Smugglers: “SFF in Conversation R.J. Anderson on Diversity in Speculative Fiction.” If you aren’t familiar with her, she wrote Ultraviolet, and her protagonist is asexual, hence the diversity in speculative fiction. The reason I enjoyed this article so much is pretty simple: I found a lot of readers and writers only talking about race (which is important, of course) but diversity includes an entire list of groups of people living within society that don’t appear in novels as much, including but not limited to gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, race, etc.

2. Mary Robinette Kowal has created a great survey and discussion, and you can read about it here. (I’ve taken it, and it’s very concise and short.) But I will be referencing a comment later on.

Second: Diversity is really important, so why do writers seem to turn away from it? 

I have to clarify that I don’t think people turn away from it as much as they used to, but still: there is not as much diversity as you’d think there’d be with as many writers as there is out there today. This list is simply to discuss the common reasons writers seem to avoid diversity that I could find:

1. Confusion but respect for other cultures: Some writers truly stick with “write what you know.” That being said, adding characters outside of their sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and/or religion can be overwhelming for some. Yes, you can research, but I think a lot of writers worry about the depth and honesty of that research. I think some avoid it merely on the fact that they don’t wish to misrepresent cultures they are not a part of. However, I think this barrier can easily be defeated because of the internet. There are plenty of places we can read and talk to people of other cultures to make sure we are going around stereotypes and defining a character with more honesty. (Such as R.J. Anderson wrote about Tumblr in her article.)

2. Nervous for repercussions/reactions: As Walt Fisher writes on Mary Robinette Kowal: “I have no quarrel with anyone writing, participating and expressing their viewpoint. I think it should be encouraged for all writers. That being said, I fear an overreaction.” I think this is really important, because I think this can be a huge hurtle for some writers. No matter what kind of diversity they are working with, the writer can be nervous of offending a group of people, and no one wants to offend anyone. But I think we need to remember, as writers, that we aren’t going to make everyone happy–no matter what group of diversity your character is. Some will love them, others won’t quite connect with them, and some might even hate them. You have to remind yourself to be true to your character, and, as long as you do that, the reactions won’t matter in the sense that you know you did it out of the goodness of your heart (and your characters) and not out of trying to make a certain group look bad or better.

Lastly: Something I learned about perspective from anime. 

Confession time: I love anime and manga. (I have to be in a certain kind of mood for it–like everything else–but I’m a fan.) And I came across an article that is now one of my favorites: The Society Pages: Why Do Japanese Draw Themselves as White? I really encourage everyone to read this before I discuss it, but I’ll try talking about it so you can understand it as if the link is broken and you can’t find it.

If you’ve ever come across manga (written) or anime (t.v) then you know these cartoons are filled with diversity, including sexual orientation and overall looks, but a lot of people have wondered why the Japanese draw them as Americans. “As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white.” The article continues with a vast description of why this isn’t true, allowing readers to readjust their perspective on characters.

This is what I learned from anime: Perspective of diversity matters as much as the creator adding diversity. 

Basically, it’s not entirely up to the writer; the reader has to notice the diversity for it to be present. When I talk about this, The Hunger Games comes into mind (and there’s a lot of articles about this.) For instance, many readers were surprised to find out Rue’s race, despite the descriptions in the novel. This is when it comes down to the reader. We have to stop reading as if every character is cut out of the same cloth. We have to read and accept the diversity as much as the writer who wrote it down. It takes two.

Now what do you writers and readers think? Have you written a character outside of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.? 

I have, although I can’t share all of my examples because they aren’t published yet, but I can admit that it’s easier for me to write as a male than a female (which I am planning on talking about in the future!)

Thanks for keeping the discussion going!

~SAT

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