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.

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.

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.

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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:

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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.

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.

Flicker Teaser Trailer Reveal

I have a really cool thing that I want to share with you all. I mentioned in passing in my last post the massive project that I have during spring break. For a while now, I’ve been planning to film with my friends a pilot episode of a television show that we called Flicker.

It all started last semester when I took a class that focused on writing dramatic TV shows. My team decided to work on one of the my partners’ ideas. We ended up liking the concept so much that we wanted to make it a reality.

This semester, one of my partners, Alex, decided to use this show as his senior project. It’s been amazing to see it come together. Alex and my other partner, Daniel, have worked very hard for the last few weeks.

Let me tell you a little about Flicker.

Flicker tells the story of three guys, Aaron, James, and Thomas, who return from a no-tech camping trip to discover that the United States has been hit with an EMP attack. Their lives change forever when the electricity that they have come to rely on is completely eradicated. Along the way, the guys discover a woman who is much more than she seems. They must learn to survive in their harsh new environment, while facing threats including bandits, thugs, and rogue government agents.

Check out the pre-production teaser trailer:

Production for the pilot episode starts on Wednesday of next week. I’ll have only about 3 1/2 days of relaxing spring break before I have to back at Liberty for 10+ hour shooting days.

I’m really looking forward to getting to work. I’ll definitely post the full episode on here as soon as I can.

Until then, if you would like to help my team out, we have started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money. Mostly, we’re just trying to fund catering for our cast and crew and also some set design stuff. The link below will take you to the page if you’re feeling generous.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/flicker-pilot-survival/embedded/16224135

*****

Come back on Sunday for a special episode of my podcast. I have a guest this time. Her expertise is in Star Wars, so it’s one you don’t want to miss.

Why I’m (sort of) leaving Facebook

It’s March 1. I know it’s a little late for New Years Resolutions and major life changes, but to be fair, this is something I’ve been planning for a while.

I’ve had a Facebook for a little longer than I’ve had this blog, but I think it’s time to quit. Facebook, that is. I’m keeping the blog. And it’s mostly because of the blog that I’m leaving  Facebook.

I feel like Facebook has become something of an addiction for me. I check it every day, and I start to feel nervous when I haven’t checked it in a while. Which is absolutely ridiculous. I know that on a subconscious level, but I still feel the lure.

But more than Facebook being addicting; it’s also an incredible time-suck. If I’m not careful, I can spend hours on Facebook between looking up news articles, reading about my friends’ lives, and watching stupid videos. It’s not so much the news articles or my friends’ posts that bother me. It’s good to keep up with those. No, it’s the stupid cat videos and dumb listicles that do nothing but waste my time that I’m tired of.

I don’t need to read any articles about “10 things employees have done to get back at their bosses” or some such nonsense. I don’t need to watch yet another video of a cute animal. These might be good in moderation, but when I spend hours reading and watching nonsense, it just makes me feel like I’m wasting way too much time.

Now, I’m not actually quitting Facebook entirely. But from now on, I’m going to use in a much more efficient and thoughtful way. First, I’m limiting my mindless wandering on my personal page to just the weekends. Those are my rest days anyway, so I’m not trying to be productive. I don’t mind watching dumb stuff then.

Next, I’m going to be using my author page a lot more. I’m well aware that success these days has almost as much to do with quantity as quality. I made the page for a reason: to help build my personal brand. But the way I use it doesn’t do me any favors. I’m going to be actively searching out and posting actually good content for my author page.

And a few memes. I am a millennial, after all. We can’t just not post memes.

who else is going to do it.gif

If this seems like it’s coming out of the blue, it’s not. I’ve been thinking about this for a few months. Leaving Facebook (mostly) is actually part of a larger plan to revamp my writing practices.

It’s been bothering me that I haven’t been writing as often as I used to since I arrived at college. Writing makes me happy like nothing else does, and I’m pretty sure that my mood has suffered for not doing it as often as I’d like to. I know that I can spend more time on it if I just don’t have as many distractions.

I’m also pretty terrible at self-promotion, so that’s another thing I’ll be working on. I recently learned that, for people my age, Snapchat is almost more popular than Facebook. I know that for authors, Pinterest is a big part of their promotion. Now, I do have a Snapchat account and a Pinterest page, but I never use them.

I just checked my Pinterest account and I have 300+ notifications. That should let you know how long I’ve ignored it.

So, now I’m making a schedule for posting to my Facebook author page, Pinterest page, learning Snapchat, and probably Instagram. The Facebook page and this blog will be the main two platforms, but posting more consistently to the other ones should help with coming up with content for the main two.

Finally, I’m going to be posting MUCH more consistently to this blog. Yes, I know I’ve said that before, but now I have an Excel sheet to back it up. For now, the schedule will be once a week on Wednesdays at about noon. I have a lovely (read: long and incredibly boring) 4 hour break in between classes on Wednesdays, so that’s probably when I’ll make most of those posts.

I’m also starting a podcast that I’ll be posting here on the weekends probably. So you might get 2 posts a week. The podcast might be too labor-intensive to do every week, but I guess I’ll find out.

 

Do you still use Facebook? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

What happens in Vegas… is archery?

I recently returned from an amazing trip with my archery team. In Vegas. Yeah, I went to Las Vegas, Nevada for an archery tournament.

The road to Vegas for most people begins with way too much money and boredom. For me, that road began in Kentucky. For the second year in a row, my team competed in the US Collegiate Archery Association’s indoor tournament. This was two weeks after the semester started.

Now, last year when I did this, I had just joined the archery team in September, and my first competition was this one in March. It was incredibly nerve-racking and was made worse by the fact that literally all of my equipment with the exception of my hat was less than two weeks old. That, and my string broke when I got there (I had an extra, thankfully).

But I still did fairly well. I actually shot the best round of my life, a 207 out of 300 (pretty good for my division). Overall, the Kentucky trip last year was a blast, and I was looking forward to going on this year’s trip.

That is, until things started changing. First, we were told that the competition was being moved from March to January. Which meant that we had a whole lot less time to practice than we normally would. This was made worse because I planned to take time during my Christmas break to practice, but then I had toe surgery and couldn’t stand up for very long for two and a half weeks.

For those of you who don’t know, archery is rather difficult to do sitting down.

Then, we found out that this year’s Kentucky event wasn’t going to be part of the nationals like it was the year before, but instead, was only going to be a true regionals. The top 8 shooters in every division from every regional competition would be going to Vegas.

I had to ask twice to make sure that my coach was talking about that Vegas when he was telling the team this.

evan-and-me

My teammate Evan and me shooting. I’m on the right. (Pic by Meredith Dissinger)

I was ranked 5th nationally last year, and my goal was to stay there. I actually ended up doing a lot better, out-shooting myself by more than 100 points, and I moved up to 4th place. Which secured my place on the Vegas trip.

As you can imagine, I was over the moon, and I was really happy that two other members of my team also scored well enough to join me on the trip.

Which was, of course, only two weeks away. *Cue 80s-style training montage*

I was in the range every other day when I could be, and I competed in a local shoot for two days longer than I needed to just to make sure my form was perfect. Because I’m an idiot and a glutton for punishment, I bought brand-spanking-new arrows and got them fletched the day before we left.

So I shot like a blind monkey for the first day of the shoot, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

before we left.jpg

It was too early, but at least the sunrise was nice.

First, we had to fly to get there. Now I like flying. Most of the time. However, waking up at 5am Virginia time, flying all day across three time zones, competing two hours after we landed, and not finishing until 12:30am Vegas time. Yeah, that was less than fun.

The good news is that I apparently shoot better exhausted. Because after a whole day of phenomenally bad shooting (due mostly to the aforementioned brand-spanking-new arrows), I started shooting really well in the shoot-offs.

champions

My team standing with our bows and plaques. (Pic by my coach, Mitch Reno)

That is how I managed to come into the competition in 4th place and leave it ranked 2nd in the nation. The shoot-offs started at around 10pm Vegas time. My body thought it was 1 in the morning, so why I was able to stand up, much less shoot as well as I did is a mystery. I just kept praying as I shot that I wouldn’t just fall over in the middle of it.

That could have been… messy.

The rest of the shoot wasn’t as eventful. We did get to watch the World Cup of archery, so that was pretty cool. We also went to the trade show, and I picked up a sweet new quiver.

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Sweet new quiver

The trip didn’t end there, of course, but I’ll save for a later post the story of how my coach got us lost on the way to visit the Hoover Dam, so we just decided to run around in the desert for an hour. This post is a little long anyway.

I’ll end it by telling you that we left at 10pm Vegas time that day (Sunday), got back to Liberty at 11am on Monday, and I immediately had to go work for my other club until 8pm. Yeah, I don’t think I woke up again fully until Thursday.

If you’d like to here a little more about the trip and archery general, you can listen to the interview that another member of my team and I did for my friend’s radio show.

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Below are a few more photos from the trip if you’re interested.

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