Interview with author Shannon A. Thompson about blogging

I interviewed Shannon A. Thompson, an author, poet, and blogger who writes about writing and publishing. She is the author of the YA series The Timely Death Trilogy. She helped me out with a journalism class project, and I thought her answers and advice were so good that I decided to post them here. Enjoy!

1. What prompted you to start blogging? Why blog on that topic? 

I began blogging in 2012 when I decided I wanted to get re-involved with the publishing community. I’d been involved before—back in 2007—but that was a different time. There were no eBooks, for instance. The first thing I noticed was how much bigger (and better) things had become after everyone (writers, cover artists, editors, readers, etc.) found one another, mainly through blogging. So, I started my own blog. Granted, I had no idea what I would blog about. At first, I started blogging about books, music, and movies, but I quickly noticed that my followers responded to my writing tips the most, so I continued to focus on that.

2. What are the goals and intent of the blog? What types of subjects are featured in the blog?

I didn’t necessarily have any goals when it came to blogging. I simply wanted to find my people, and I loved writing anyway, so blogging was a way to combine those two aspects of my life. The topics changed over time, but I mainly focus on what my followers want me to discuss the most.

3. How do you communicate with your followers? What types of responses have followers  given to postings?

I respond to every comment on every article. I often read other blogs, too. Communicating goes both ways; so does blogging. Thankfully, I mainly receive positive responses. I have received a few negative ones in the past, but as long as they are constructive (and not trolling), I don’t mind. We can all debate a topic. But trolls aren’t allowed. I delete anything that doesn’t add to the conversation in a mindful way, because I want my website to be a fun and safe place for readers and writers alike. It creates extra work, but I believe it’s worth it.

4. How do you promote the blog? What works best and worst?

I don’t really promote my blog, to be honest. In fact, I’ve had to slow down over the years. When I first started, I blogged every other day for two years straight. It was a lot of work, and I eventually realized that my time could be better spent elsewhere. Also, followers tend to enjoy less updates than more, so I cut down overtime. I’m currently blogging once a week now, and I love it just as much. In fact, I think it’s more productive with fewer postings. But I share my weekly posts across my author platform, mainly Facebook and Twitter.

5. What new things have you learned about the world and your field of interest because of the blog? What would you do differently if starting a blog today?

As stated above, I’d probably blog less than I originally blogged, because that time can be spent working on your craft. (Then again, maybe that’s why it grew so fast. It’s hard to say.) In my case, once I had an audience, I was able to spend more time writing books by cutting down on blogging. But I will always have a blog. My blog has connected me with some amazing people, and those amazing people changed my life. In fact, my current publisher and I shared a connection through my blog, and I think that helped when we decided to work together. Blogging can open amazing doors. (Even if those doors are invisible and on the Internet.)

6. What suggestions do you have for students and others who want to blog?

Start! The best part of blogging is that it is easy, simple, and free. You don’t have to own a URL or get a custom-made website right up front. Just start, and see where it goes. You’ll find your way.

Contra Mundum – Episode 6: Why Would an Author Quit Publishing?

Hey guys! Again, I’m sorry I’m a day late. I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friend in Georgia, and I forgot to actually post my podcast on here.

On the other hand, I did post the video on YouTube on Saturday. I actually usually post the video to YouTube earlier than it goes up here. So, go ahead and subscribe for early viewing.

This episode was fun. I sat down with my friend and fellow writer, Elizabeth McKinney. We talked about writing, publishing, and the reason that she decided to stop publishing. She also has some good advice for writers who want to go into publishing.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel on YouTube if you want the episode a little earlier. I’m trying to get them done a little earlier than the day they’re supposed to go up here.

Next week’s episode will feature my friend Mica, who will be talking about her time as a firefighter.

See you next week!

Life Update 4/13/2017

I gotta be honest. I completely forgot to post on Wednesday. I woke up sometime around 3 in the morning on Thursday with that realization. Sorry guys, this week has been a little crazy.

I started off this week counting the number of school assignments I had this week with increasing dread. The final tally? Ten. Ten things. Five projects (including a 22 page script and a 10 page and counting paper) and five quizzes, all due by Thursday. Technically, most of these things are due on Friday, but I’m leaving Friday afternoon to hang out with my friend in Georgia.

Which brings me to my next problem. My car has no AC. If I try to turn on the AC, it just blows slightly warm air at me. That’s going to be just peachy (no pun intended) on a six hour drive down to the Georgia.

Sweating

I’m not too worried about it. It shouldn’t get up into the 90s for the whole time I’m there, and I’ll be able to crack my windows a little as I drive. Besides, I actually prefer to be a little on the warm side.

Adding injury to the insult of my insanely busy schedule this week, I fell down the stairs yesterday. I was still groggy from a nap (because I also haven’t been sleeping much), and I guess I forgot that my stairs curve at the top, so they aren’t all equally shaped. I slipped and managed to get my left foot up under my body as I fell.

Thankfully, I was already holding onto the railing, so I didn’t end up tumbling all the way down. But my ankle is not thanking me for this. It’s not my pedal foot, though, which is good. I also strained my left shoulder a little, and scraped up my right arm.

On a lighter note, two of the things on my long list of things to do got postponed. One of them was a huge project that I actually finished half of when I couldn’t sleep on Tuesday night.

I’m doing pretty alright, and I’m looking forward to spending Easter with my friend. Now back to that script that I’m using this post to procrastinate on.

Contra Mundum – Episode 5: Why Textbook are SO Expensive

In this week’s podcast, I sit down with Dr. Brenda Ayres, a professor at Liberty University. She has published multiple academic books in her long career. We talked about writing, publishing, and the enormously high cost of academic books.

On a personal note, I have to tell you that Dr. Ayres is the sweetest lady. I originally interviewed her for a school project. A few days later, I realized that I needed a photo that I didn’t have. So I had to inconvenience her twice in row. In return, she bought me lunch. Twice!

“I don’t like for students to buy their own food,” she said.

She’s the best.

If you’re curious about all of the background noise, it’s because we had to record in a busy restaurant at lunch time. I didn’t think it was too bad, so I didn’t bother trying to remove it.

I hope you guys enjoyed the episode. In next week’s episode, I interviewed a friend of mine on the creative side of publishing.

See you next week!

Pros and cons of becoming an archer

I’ve been doing archery for about two years now, I think. I like it a lot, and I’m pretty good at it. But I’ve noticed that even something as fun as archery has a few down sides.

Here is a list of pros and cons of becoming an archer.

Pro 1: Better posture.

If you’re doing it right, you’re supposed to use your back muscles to pull back the string. Back muscles are much bigger than shoulder muscles and can take a lot more strain. I’ve found that after a few hours of archery, my back muscles stay tight and I stand up a lot straighter.

archery back muscles.jpg

You can’t hear it, but my back muscles are screaming here.

Con 1: Tension headaches

The down side of using your back muscles to pull back the string is that your back muscles stay tight all the time. This has a tendency to lead to pain that crawls up my spine and tries to strangle my brain. Tension headaches bite.

I had a tension headache the other night that felt more like a severe migraine and lasted until two hours after I tried to go to bed. I felt like someone had stuck an ax into the back of my head and was hammering on it.

Pro 2: Increased finger strength

This is true especially for those of us who do the type of archery I do: recurve (or traditional) archery. Most archers who use compound bows also use a release that means all of the weight of the string is on their wrists. However, people like me hold all of the weight on three of our fingers. Which has the effect of beefing up our fingers.

Have you ever had to carry a lot of groceries and it felt like your fingers were about to fall off? I don’t really have that issue. My fingers (at least on the right hand) are used to dealing with worse.

The only down side to this is that the ring that wear on my right hand is getting a tad tight. Well, not the only down side…

Con 2: Dead nerves in fingers

One possible side effect of putting a lot of pressure on one very small spot, like a string on a finger, is that you might hurt the nerves. A few months into my archery career, I realized that my protective finger glove was far too thin. I thought that I was just getting used to the pain on my fingers (and on in particular), but turns out no.

The tip of my finger had just gone numb.

I was a little alarmed when I first noticed, but when I called up my dad (who is also an archer), he just shrugged and said, “Yeah, that happens.” It took a few months, but after I got better finger protection, the feeling did return in my finger.

hand.gif

Side note: Do you have any idea how hard it is to type when you can’t feel the tip of your finger? It’s not easy.

Pro 3: Increased zombie apocalypse survival chances

Let’s be honest, most of us wouldn’t make it ten minutes in a zombie apocalypse. But I feel like we archers have a little better shot (archery pun. I am not ashamed). At the very least, we can hit the zombies from a distance.

And arrows are reusable, too. Unlike bullets.

Con 3: Mostly an utterly useless skill in normal life (if you don’t hunt)

I mean, it’s cool that I can hit dead center of a target many yards away, but that’s not something that’s going come in handy most of the time. I’m not a hunter, personally, so I can’t even use my archery skills for that. I’ve got this awesome skill that I use mostly just for fun and stress relief.

Pro 4: Really cool fictional characters who share my hobby

Whether it’s Katniss from Hunger Games, Susan from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or Legolas from Lord of the Ring, everyone loves the archers. They’re always the coolest member of any fictional universe.

Smexy legolas

Stop drooling ladies.

Con 4: Undying annoyance at fictional archery mistakes

It is a general life principle that once you know how to do something, it becomes hard to watch stupid actors attempt to do that thing on a screen. Sometimes the production company pays for the actors to actually learn to shoot. Sometimes the actor can figure it out.

Most of the time, watching actors try to pretend they’re shooting anything just makes me laugh or rage. Take this example from one of the Hunger Games movies:

Katniss stupid.gif

First off, her left arm is so hyper-extended that it is a miracle that she doesn’t have forty bruises on the inside of it. Then, I have to ask where is the anchor point??? She’s holding her drawing hand in MID AIR.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble Hunger Games fans, but she’s hitting nothing. Except by pure luck.

***

Archery is a ton of fun, most of the time. But, like anything, it comes with a few down sides. Not enough to make me want to stop doing it, but plenty enough to inspire a humorous blog post.

Bonus: Please enjoy this feature that my university’s sports show did with me.

Contra Mundum – Episode 4: Unintentionally Hilarious Glass Blowing Talk

This podcast was a lot of fun to do because it’s with my little sister. She’s an amazing artist, so I knew that I wanted to do a podcast with her while I was home on break.

Here’s one of her more recent artworks that I really love:

Christina's Painting

I actually have two of her paintings in my apartment at college. They definitely make my boring room a little more interesting.

The podcast was a lot of fun, but was… um, slightly awkward. See, glass blowing has some strange terms, and… Well, you’ll see.

I was afraid that my H4N recording device didn’t pick up the entire episode, because it had cut off by the time I went to hit the stop button, but thankfully it did. Lucky, because I didn’t want to lose any of this one.

Here’s the SoundCloud version, if for some reason, you’d prefer to watch that. I’ve got maybe two more podcasts before I run out of space on my SoundCloud page. After that, it’ll be just YouTube.

In next week’s episode, I sit down with a professor from my college and talk about academic writing, so you budding intellectuals should take notice. But honestly it’s a very interesting and informative for any writer.

See you next week!

The enchantress in Beauty and the Beast is a huge jerk

I promised you all a Beauty and the Beast post, so here it is.

I haven’t gotten a chance to see the new live action Beauty and the Beast yet, but it’s definitely on my list of movies that I want to see. However, I did recently watch the original animated version a few weeks ago in anticipation. It was the first time that I watched the movie in probably 5-10 years.

And I noticed something. Watch the opening sequence from the movie and see if you come up with the same thought I did.

Did you catch how old the beast was? I feel like the first time I watched this, I was too distracted by the narrators lovely voice and the creative stained glass visuals. The movie itself seems to gloss over the point. But I think it’s kind of important.

The narration specifically says that the beast would be condemned to eternal beast-hood if he couldn’t find someone to love him by his 21st birthday. First off,  a lot of my friends and I would likely be out of luck, if that were to happen to us. How many normal people manage to “find love” by the time they’re 21? Forget it, if you’re a big hairy monster.

But more importantly, that means he was less than 21 years old  when the enchantress cursed him. The narrator says that “many” years have passed since that event, and it’s been long enough for the town folk to have completely forgotten that they had a prince that lived in an enormous castle not that far from town. One has to assume that “many” years means at least 5, if not 10.

So… wait. The enchantress CURSED A CHILD?

What. A. Jerk.

Beauty-and-the-Beast-stained-glass-window-showing-prince-and-beggar

From this picture, the beast looks to be a little older, probably mid-teens I’d guess. So, let’s assume he was 15.

Have you ever met a 15 year old boy? They can be selfish and rude, sure. But most teenagers have their heads shoved so far up their own butts that they can’t seem to focus on anyone else. They’re immature, but that’s normal.

I’ll grant you that as a prince, the beast probably should have had better manners, but the point remains that he was a kid. And apparently, a kid being raised without his parents’ guidance, because they’re nowhere to be seen in this movie. I’m not sure if they just abandoned him or succumbed to whatever illness that always seems to kill Disney mothers.

Taking stock of what we’ve learned so far, that enchantress cursed a probably lonely, definitely orphaned or abandoned, 15-year-old kid with a curse that could only be broken if he basically did the impossible. I’ll say it again. What. A. Jerk.

That’s not even mentioning the fact that she cursed his entire castle! What did those poor servants in the castle do to deserve that? What, were they supposed to be able to convince their prince that he shouldn’t be such a jerk? That would have gotten them all fired, and left to become penniless peasants. It just feels like this enchantress cursed them out of either spite or negligence, and I’m not sure which is worse.

If you go back and watch it again, you’ll notice that there are actually lots of problems and plot holes in this overall charming movie about learning to love someone for what’s on the inside. But nothing is more ridiculous than the enchantress cursing a kid and his entire household for being rude to her.

Jerk.gif

I mean, that is a gross mismanagement of magical powers and she should definitely be reprimanded by some sort of Court of Fairies, Wizards, and Otherwise Magical Creatures.

Hmm… I sense a short story approaching.

See you all on Sunday!

***

Speaking of Sunday, the next episode of Contra Mundum will be on blowing glass and other forms of art with my very own sister. It’s a fun, Informative, and unintentionally hilarious episode.

Until then, catch up on the podcast with last Sunday’s “Talking Tech” episode.