The Songs of Mordor (a.k.a NaNoWriMo)

Published November 8, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

November is a time of family, autumn leaves, snuggly clothing (I live in San Diego, so . . . . I basically never get to wear my sweaters *cries*), thankfulness, an obsession with the PSL (I had to ask someone—apparently, it’s lingo for Pumpkin Spice Latte *shrugs*). Seems pretty quaint, right?

Well, for writers the month of November is basically a crazed adventure film where people who live a thousand lives and imagine the impossible embark on a journey to the Great Mount Fifty (also know as Mordor). You either make it or die trying. *dramatic music swells*



Don’t know what I’m talking about? 

IT’S NANOWRIMO, PEOPLE! A month where authors take on the task of reaching 50,000 words in their work in progress in a meager 30 days. Why not a month that has 31 days to it? . . . . I honestly don’t know, because when you’re strapped to the seemingly innocent task of at least 1,666 words per day, even a few hours can be helpful.


And everyone knows that epic movies and adventures require the proper soundtrack for inspiration. Do you think Captain Ahab wasn’t humming some Journey power-ballad to himself when he attempted to slay Moby Dick, or that literary greats didn’t bob their heads to some intense Mozart tune while penning their poetry? Or that any Marvel film would be as exciting without a score or AC/DC number to guide the scene on?

Negatory, my friends. “Where words fail, music speaks.” Thank you, Hans Christian Andersen. Some of my greatest blocks while writing the Rising Shadows trilogy were overcome by the right tune that sparked my inspiration and set the mood for the scene, unblocking me like some good ol’ Drano for the mind. . . . I think I took it too far.



Anyway, below is my playlist that helped me work past today’s word count goals for The Jungle Princess. It’s basically a compilation of songs that I just love listening to and put me in a great mood to write, but some also fit seamlessly as the inspiration for current chapters in JP. So, this begs the question, what’s on your writing playlist? What music inspires you? Are you hooked by lyrics, the melody, or both? Or are you like me and listen to the same song on repeat for hours until the scene comes together perfectly? Cheers to that! *clanks mugs of coffee, because caffeine means survival*

“Hurt Somebody” – Dierks Bentley

“It’ll All Work Out” – Tom Petty

“Love Someone” – Jason Mraz

“Start of Time” – Gabrielle Aplin

“On My Way Back Home” – Band of Horses

“This Town” – Niall Horan

“Don’t Worry Baby” – The Beach Boys

“Beat the Devil’s Tatto” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

“Losing My Mind” – Charlie Puth

“Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran

“Hurricane” – Need to Breathe

“Springsteen” – Eric Church

“Back on the Map” – Kacey Musgraves

“One Day” – Kodaline

“Don’t You (Forget about Me)” – Simple Minds





Janeen Ippolito: The Science behind Blood Mercy

Published November 2, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

She loved you all so much that she decided to come back! Give yourself a nice pat on the back. ^_^ Janeen Ippolito, author of the gripping Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water, has returned to grace us with her presence. *excited clapping*

Today she’s giving us the inside scoop on the creation of Blood Mercy and the mythology behind it, and can I just say that I adore lore and Greek mythology and really appreciate Julia and Janeen’s research behind this story. The book has only been out for a couple days, so you can still be some of the first to get your hands on Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water (links at the end of the post). Also, I felt so clever using red lettering for Janeen’s guest post, given the whole vampire theme. *laughs at own brilliance*

So, without further ado . . . 


I enjoy tackling impossible challenges. Julia Busko enjoys putting new spins on the horrific. Both of us enjoy suspense and thrills.

Naturally, our first collaboration was a reinvention of the vampire myth!

Of course, a great deal of research was needed. Vampires have always fascinated us and between the two of us, we covered a wide variety of vampire and horror literature, TV shows, cinema, and graphic novels/anime. Not that we really needed an excuse! In fact, our mutual enjoyment of monsters and the horrific is a reason we became friends in the first place.

Next, we dove into mythology. Since we were creating a people-group who had existed since the origin of sickness, we wanted to echo and pull from traditional lore. Julia Busko is an art history buff, an aficionado of ancient Egypt, and a fan of Asian cultures. She also loves digging up awesome facts from vampire lore. I tackled Norse mythology and Greek/Roman timelines. I also researched various blood diseases and illnesses that contributed to the vampire mythos. After collecting countless facts and ideas, we sifted through them and started drafting.

And drafting.

And then more drafting.

Plus, we wrote pages and pages of backstory, long plot outlines, countless scene snippets, and a massive farm of plot bunnies that ended up spawning their own, entirely separate stories that we divvied up between us. It was three years of work and negotiation and all day brainstorming sessions and a lot of humility on both our parts.

(Side Note: For anyone who’s still persevering on their writing craft—don’t give up! It does help to plan – we now have a cohesive series of books laid out and the security of knowing where we are going with the overall narrative. Keep at it!)

What emerged from all that work was the Blood Kind. Humans from various cultures and societies afflicted with the blood curse, a fatal disease that requires regular blood transfusions for survival. Some people choose to take the transfusions. Others act out of bitterness, darkness, or elitism and take the vampire path, choosing to hunt healthy humans and drink their blood. Side effects of the blood curse can include sensitivities (including to light and to strong flavors, like garlic), personality issues like obsessive compulsive disorder (one common issue with vampires was the compulsion to count things), and a dislike of holy symbols (although that depends on the human and their level of guilt or anger connected with religion). Because many vampires turned to the occult, we chose to follow in the great tradition of Dracula and have the Church be involved in the fight, but we opened the party up to any denomination of churches, as well as to those of other faiths, or no faith, who might have a reason to take up the struggle. We also chose to give the Blood Kind a few ‘perks’ – side effects of the blood curse that could have some benefit, like increased longevity.

Welcome to the Houses of the Dead. Where the Blood Kind walk the shifting ground between vampirism and healthy humanity. Set apart by their weaknesses as much as their strengths and cursed with an incurable disease, they seek to live normal lives, resist the lure of vampirism, and fight against any prejudices of the healthy.


What would you do if the one you loved was turned into a monster?

Melrose Durante brings order. As founder of the Houses of the Dead, he tirelessly opposes the vampires, and provides refuge for the Blood Kind, those like himself who fight against the blood curse that leads to vampirism. His medical breakthroughs have brought many back from the vampire path. After thousands of years, the Blood Kind finally has the upper hand.

Until a vampire attacks Melrose’s family, then begs for asylum. To his friends she’s Lucy, a disturbed young woman prone to incoherent rants, warning of an imminent attack by vampire leader, Conan. But to Melrose she’s something more.

His lost wife, Jane.

One thing is clear – time is running out. In five days Conan will attack Quebec City, killing or enslaving all in his way. If Melrose cannot unlock his wife’s tormented mind, even his immortal wisdom may not be enough to save Quebec City, the Blood Kind, and the Houses of the Dead.

Blood Mercy Official Website:

Amazon Preorder Link:

Uncommon Universes Press Website:



A Day in the Life: Interview with the Authors of Blood Mercy!

Published October 28, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

When you discover that the upcoming book you’re dying to get your hands on is having a blog tour, you hop on board, no questions asked. (Yes, I did receive a copy of the book pre-release, and ohmysweetgoodness!!!) I am crazy excited to announce that I have here with me both of the authors of Blood Mercy; Thicker Than Water

Being born.jpg

*deep breathing to contain mass excitement* Julia Busko and Janeen Ippolito will be answering some questions that I specially designed for them to satiate my curiosity. ^_~ So grab some popcorn, snuggle down, and prepare to chuckle and be moved.   

Hardcover or paperback?

Julia Busko


Paperback. I feel less guilty if I mess up the pages. But on the downside, the binding is more fragile. See I don’t care if the pages are messed up… but the binding? I once freaked over breaking the binding of a book that costed me like… 5 dollars.

Janeen Ippolito: Hardback, because in a pinch they can be used as a weapon. Plus, I tend to wear out paperback spines.

Book or e-copy?

JB: Book. My learning style tends more towards kinesthetic and audio, and although I CAN retain from just reading, it’s easier if I can “feel” the words by highlighting them. All my books are bent and written in. Except the binding! Aside from a few casualties, all the bindings are perfect.

JI: depends on the book. I prefer reference in hardback because I am a rabid marker-upper and underliner and highlighter. ALL the colors! But for fiction it matters less. I always have books on my phone to read.

Library or book store?

JB: Ack don’t make me choose! I love both… Although if I was to choose, I’d go with bookstore. See I have this dream of having a library in my house, full of fiction and nonfiction alike, that friends and family can come and borrow books without having to worry about late fees. See, that’s what gets me about libraries. The late fees.

JI: I believe that I have personally contributed hundreds of dollars to the betterment of libraries through my inability to locate books in time for the late fee. I’m now on a bit of a probation. Of course, the solution is just to buy books!

(Julia, I. Am. Visiting. Your. House!!!! Janeen, I can totally relate. Also, I’m dying laughing)

New books or used books?

JB: Depends. Fiction? I prefer new (See: my quirk on book binding) but reference books I love used books, since there’s a higher chance a previous owner wrote in notes. During a trip to Philly, I found an archery reference book that a skilled archer had written his experiences, views, and techniques in, and I really treasure that knowledge.

JI: I prefer new in general, unless it’s textbooks. Old books are awesome, but they make me sneeze.

If you were in a book, which type of character would you be?

JB: Oh, gosh. One of two roles. Supporting the protag, like an oracle or something that involves psycho-analyzing EVERYTHING, or the antagonist. Freaking. Crazy. Antagonist.

JI: Probably the sarcastic trickster sidekick who has lots of useful information and likes to pick at the too-serious protagonist. Or else a tree. I’d like to be a tree.

*laughs hysterically because these answers are everything*

If you could live in any possible genre, which would you choose and why?

JB: Gothic Horror. I love me some melodrama.

JI: Urban fantasy. As long as I had a motorcycle and a sword.

If there was a book about your life, what would it be called?

JB: Chartreuse Skulls: When Happiness Meets Skeletons

JI: Psychedelic Kaleidescope: How An Overactive Imagination Can Be a Good Thing

Besides reading, what are some of your other favorite hobbies?

JB: I’m a dancer. Currently, I have the honor of dancing in a ameture company (where I’m the oldest by like, 13 years, but hey, I look like I’m in high school, so it’s all good). I also love to sew and create props, although my apartment isn’t well set up for that. I used to do it a lot more before, but given the lack of ventilation in the basement and the fact that I don’t think my husband would appreciate me stinking up the front room with fumes from fabricating props… I mostly stick to dancing with a bit of sewing when I find the time.

JI: hobbies? You’re assuming I have a life outside writing, publishing, and teaching! 😉 Although I am a huge foodie and the more stressed and time-crunched I am, the more I’m inclined to make ridiculously complicated foods. Also, I love to sword fight.

Julia, own that youthful glow! And, Janeen, as a fellow writer I should have known better *facepalm* Free time? What is that you speak of? 

How do you organize your books on your bookshelf?

JB: By size and series. Generally I don’t care if a horror book is next to a YA book, or if the genres are splattered throughout the shelves. My general goal is “Does it look nice and can I find X series in the same place?”

JI: generally by category or genre for the first layer. The second layer is organized a la “stack the books semi-neatly and hope none of them fall off.

What’s your favorite genre of music? Your favorite bands?

JB: I love Symphonic Metal. Nightwish, Epica, and Within Temptation are my jam. Honestly, I love anything with a strong composition, symphonic flare, and dynamic (albeit mostly melodramatic) lyrics. I also appreciate some pop, punk, and classical (Tchaikovsky mostly. I have intense emotions about his Swan Lake composition.) Everyone has something that moves their soul, and for me, if the music can do that, no matter what genre, then I’m not going to complain.

JI: All the things! However, my core sounds are rock, folk, the country songs that tell a story, and a handful of irresistible pop songs. I don’t tend to follow certain artists as much as I follow certain songs they do.

Julia, may I just say that your music choices are stupendous (Within Temptation and Two Steps from Hell basically wrote my first novel). Janeen, I am definitely the same way. I fall in love with songs, not always the artists themselves. 

What are some of your favorite bloggers or booktubers?

JB: This is where we get into interesting territory, hahaha. I’m an illustrator who happens to write, so I primarily follow other illustrators. Some of my notably favorite illustrators are Chris Oatley, Bradley Noah, Will Terry, Jake Parker, and Ahmed Aldoori. Although I don’t really share technical styles with them. Except perhaps Jake Parker superficially, given we both work in pen and ink, but even then, he’s YEARS more experienced than me. But those five artists never cease to inspire me to keep going, and their painting videos have helped me grow SO much.

JI: Again, I’ll follow posts I like more than people. If a person tends to have a record of certain posts, I might just follow them more, but otherwise? I’m all about the content.

What’s your least favorite genre and why?

JB: Historical fiction. I love history when told through art. Surprise, surprise, I loved Art History in college. Which was good, bc I had like 5 semesters worth. But straight-up historical fiction is something I struggle through.

JI: *sighs* Anything without humor or romance. Sorry guys. Straight-up serious fiction isn’t for me. Even in classic literature, I love me some Russian literature for the snark.

So prairie romances are out, Julia? Agreed! And, Janeen, if a book can make me laugh out loud at any point, it’s probably a winner for me.

Do you like to listen to music or snack on food while you read, or do you like it really quiet?

JB: When I was in high school I would read while having the TV on, AND listening to music, and actually do pretty good with it. Nowadays… that is not the case. I’m a VERY slow reader, and I’m also very distractible, so I read in silence while by myself (if I can). When I’m able to concentrate, I’ll forget things, so I rarely have a drink or snack while reading. And if I do, my tea is usually cold long before I remember to drink it.

JI: I can read anywhere, anytime, any place. But if I’m eating, I won’t taste the food and if I’m drinking, I might accidentally knock over the drink. I totally zone out when reading. In college band the team apparently made some awesome play–yeah, so I was reading a really interesting book for a class and totally missed it. There’s even a picture of everyone standing and cheering wildly–and then there I am, hunched over a book.

So we can all agree that it should be socially acceptable for writer’s to wear bibs? Because I could use one from time to time…. *hangs head* Okay, moving on.

How many books do you usually read at a time?

JB: hahaha, you don’t want me to answer this question. Since I read slow, it takes me a LONG time to finish a book, but instead of being “smart” and focusing on one book at a time, I’ll pick up a new one. Last time I checked I had about 5 books I’m reading. That I’ve been reading. For a while. Bc I’m slow.

JI: I’m also a promiscuous book reader, but since I’ve become a reviewer I’ve gotten a lot more committed to one book at a time. Which means I’m only reading  three books right now instead of ten.

If you were allowed to have a party and you could invite any three book characters, which three book characters would you invite and why?

JB: Bertie from Eyes Like Stars bc she’s super fun and interesting, Dorian Grey bc I’d LOVE to get into a conversation about life, love, and morality with him, and then Father Gaetano bc poor dear was just trying his best and he needs a break.

JI: Ella of Frell from Ella Enchanted because she’s a linguist and cook’s helper (I mean, PERFECT JOB THERE), Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings for awesome sword-fighting moves, and D’Artagnan from The Three Musketeers so I could properly smack him upside the head for being such an absolute idiot in the book.

Thanks so much for stopping by, ladies! I laughed, I cried, it moved me (VeggieTales reference, guys. It’s a classic). And if you haven’t pre-ordered your copy of Blood Mercy; Thicker Than Water, it releases TOMORROW *squeals* so don’t be a slow poke and be the only person you know who doesn’t own a copy. Use the links below to find that joy between the pages, and please give it up for the hilarious and brilliant authors who graced this page today.   


What would you do if the one you loved was turned into a monster?

Melrose Durante brings order. As founder of the Houses of the Dead, he tirelessly opposes the vampires, and provides refuge for the Blood Kind, those like himself who fight against the blood curse that leads to vampirism. His medical breakthroughs have brought many back from the vampire path. After thousands of years, the Blood Kind finally has the upper hand.

Until a vampire attacks Melrose’s family, then begs for asylum. To his friends she’s Lucy, a disturbed young woman prone to incoherent rants, warning of an imminent attack by vampire leader, Conan. But to Melrose she’s something more.

His lost wife, Jane.

One thing is clear – time is running out. In five days Conan will attack Quebec City, killing or enslaving all in his way. If Melrose cannot unlock his wife’s tormented mind, even his immortal wisdom may not be enough to save Quebec City, the Blood Kind, and the Houses of the Dead.

Blood Mercy Official Website:

Amazon Preorder Link:

Uncommon Universes Press Website:


Chasing Shadows Turns 2 … AND I MISS IT???

Published October 6, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

There comes a time in every writer’s life where they become “that” writer—the one who forgets to put on shoes before going out or wears pajamas to church, who doesn’t remember to pick up Grandma from the airport and forgets that The Flash is returning. *face palm* And then the common, Did I brush my teeth today? We don’t like to admit it, because those writers should have a better grasp on things, but all these semi-disasters can and do happen because our heads sometimes get a teensy bit jumbled with all the crazy thoughts and plotting going on up there. Between author signings, my birthday, a coworker quitting and taking on extra shifts at the office, and trying to reach a deadline for my WIP Jungle Princess, I may or may not have forgotten that my beloved middle child, Chasing Shadows, turned TWO this past Tuesday. Excuse me while I hide in shame….


It was a hard-fought battle to get Chasing Shadows out there in the world because of time constraints, publishing issues, and trying to find a marketing plan that worked for a busy student/office manager. So it was a gift worth squealing over when the second book in the Rising Shadows Trilogy released on October 4th, just a day after my own birthday. Raise a glass to help me celebrate a story that made me accidentally fall in love with a character who wasn’t Will Taylor (Damien … *le sigh*) and that caused me to realize caffeine addiction isn’t “technically” an addiction if you don’t drink after 4pm. 


Defying Shadows is Timey-Wimey

Published September 28, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

*happy author squeal*

The results are in, and according to Deb and Christine, apparently Defying Shadows is timey-wimey, which makes this little lady pretty happy. ^_^ Check out Christine’s review below and be sure to follow her great blog!

Fangirl Friday #19…I’m in Love, and I Don’t Care Who Knows It

Published September 3, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Books and Wonderful Things

So, I know that this is technically old news, but I am extremely excited about Renée Ahdieh’s upcoming book, which is slated for May of 2017. I love Renée’s style of writing and storytelling, and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for her next series, especially since it is supposed to be a retelling of one of my favorite stories and Disney movies of all time. Oh, did I not mention yet that Renée is writing a YA retelling of “Mulan”?


I heard the news from my sister and I was overjoyed that not only was Mulan going to get the time of day that she has always deserved, but also because Renée Ahdieh is the best author to retell her amazing story. This whole situation is LEGIT, and I already pre-ordered Renée Ahdieh’s amazing sounding book. Alright, time for the title and summary!

41NQZ0fQoDL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Amazon summary:

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Timey-wimey, Robin Hood, & All the Feels (Defying Shadows Review)

Published August 30, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Guys, this review, just–
(Deb: THE YEW TREE!!!! Does it make me a terrible person to say I’m glad it destroyed you? The feels!!!)
I found Deb a while ago through mutual bloggers, and at first I thought she was kind of shy, so I was a little hesitant to ask her to read the Rising Shadows Trilogy because I didn’t want to overwhelm her. But when her enthusiasm and fellow fangirl-ness came out, I knew I’d found a forever friend in this kindred spirit. She has expressed such love for these characters and encouraged me every step of the way (you’ll notice her in the Defying Shadows acknowledgements), and her calm presence and advice helped me to keep going.
This review made me incredibly happy that I asked Deb to be a Shadow for Team Hood and beta read the last book. Seeing other readers connect with these characters and be moved by their circumstances and emotions makes you feel like you’re doing something right. Just *smiles*
If you haven’t yet, check out Defying Shadows through the links on her post or my Goodreads (image link at the upper right corner of my site), and be sure to follow Deb and share her posts around. She’s an amazing writer and hilarious fangirl, and let’s show her some love! Besides, anyone who uses “AWK” or “ASDFGHJKL” to express irrepressible feels is an A in my book.
Also, her reference to one of my all-time favorite quotes from Larry (Veggie Tales) totally moved me. ^_~

The Road of a Writer

My review is below, but first I just wanted to mention something!

Defying Shadows HAS BEEN NOMINATED for the August edition of a thing called Clash of the Titles, which YOU can help with by popping over HERE to vote (through August 31) on one of four featured books — which one sounds most interesting to you.

So shoo! Go vote!! 😀 Hurry! Time’s a-wasting!

(Get it…? Time…? Ahem.)

Then come back here and read this review because you don’t want to miss out on hearing all about a timey-wimey Robin Hood-ish adventure, right? 😉


My Review

defyingshadowsDefying Shadows

(book #3 in the Rising Shadows Trilogy)

by Ashley Townsend

Age range: YA

Genre: Christian / Romance / Time Travel / Historical Fiction / Contemporary

Bonus: Retelling / Robin Hood


“I laughed, I cried . . . it moved me, Bob.”*

*(Sorry to go all VeggieTales on you but the quote…

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