Chasing Shadows

All posts in the Chasing Shadows category

Part 4: Oops, You’re Dead!

Published February 28, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 4: Oops, You’re Dead!

This post was going to be so large I had to break it into two, so next week we’ll discuss how a character moves from the drawing board into (semi) reality. I’m working backward, but I couldn’t resist when I found the perfect gifs to address the idea of dealing with a character once they’ve spent enough time in your story—also known as *cough* knowing when to kill them. When has a character reached their end? When is it useful to kill them off? The former is the most important question you can ask in regards to a character’s demise.

galavant fun

One frustrating thing I’ve encountered as a reader is the unnecessary death count just for the sake of having someone die. It’s like an author reached the end of their story, slapped a palm to their forehead, and remembered they were supposed to kill somebody off, so they choose some background character to avoid upsetting the plot. But was I attached to them? No. Did their death affect me in any way? Hardly. And if this is the case, then odds are the protagonist’s emotions over this character’s death won’t matter to you, which is exactly the opposite of what should happen. You should be emotional, justified, or outraged they died; their death is pointless if you aren’t wildly flipping through the pages to see if they’ll make it, or running like mad to stop the author from writing them out of your series.

 

Thornton No.gif

As a writer, everything we do should have a purpose, especially when it concerns death. I read so many books where filler is everywhere (snooze), and while most understand that not every moment of a story can be action-packed or filled with romance, creating dialogue or descriptions for the sake of word count is just lazy writing; you should be able to engage your readers and give them information they’ll need later on without putting them to sleep.

bored

 

The idea of lazy writing plays into that pesky issue of death-for-death’s-sake that I lamented above. Yes, Chasing Shadows has a . . . high-ish death toll, but every single character dies for a purpose. To avoid spoiling the story for those who have yet to read it (but, really, what’s stopping you? Get it here!), suffice it to say that these tragic passings either drove a protagonist into someone’s arms, explains a character’s actions, wedged a useful bridge between characters, or caused so much emotion in the heart of the reader (and writer) that it plays into the tone for the rest of the novel. Some of my favorite books were memorable because they made me feel like this:

nick miller crying

And there is one particular death in Defying Shadows (add it on Goodreads) that even I was crying over, and while emotion is good, I’ve always made sure that every loss I have ever created has a purpose and causes a chain of events that lead to certain points in the story. One important thing is to remember that it is never okay to kill off a character for convenience’s sake, because someone has to die, or because they’ve simply outlived their usefulness. Make it count! A character’s death should be marked by one of two things: tears for a martyr or a sense of justice when an ultimate evil is vanquished. Let me tell you, few things are more satisfying than killing off a villain who has been tormenting your favorite characters.

monsters.gif

I don’t like to make too many rules for writing, but I think this is something important to keep in mind—to have a purpose for a character’s demise and make sure that it is felt. And if you’re a reader like me, then you know how random character deaths get under your skin, so don’t make the same mistakes as a writer that have driven you up a wall in your favorite books. Remember that mantra: no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader!

 

Part 1: Plotting v. Pantsing

Published January 29, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 1: Plotting v. Pantsing

WARNING!

messy

Ah, writers. We can be curious creatures, each having different writing talents and habits as we pound out our creativity on the keyboard, praying that the tangled story that seems just brilliant in our minds will appear on the page with even a modicum of clarity (sometimes with very little success). But to make this curious bag of creative minds a little easier to explain—indie and sci-fi and fantasy and YA and non-fic and historical and middle grade *sucks in a breath*—I have divided the types writers into three general groups.

Types of Writers:

The Plotter

plot

This type of writer loves to plot out their entire manuscript, in vivid detail, generally before they sit down to write a single morsel. The process of a Plotter involves a lot of organization, forethought, notecards, and perhaps strings linking images from one side of the room to the other (although I have always wanted to try this method, I have yet to prove if this method exists outside of TV). They enjoy creating a word count goal for the final product and designating what events should occur in each chapter and each. Blasted. Paragraph!

Pros: After weeks or months of plotting out their entire novel/series to a T, the result is a fairly smooth writing process, and all their intense preparation leaves room for very few plot holes and little to no rewrites.

Cons: Nobody puts Baby in a corner! There is absolutely no margin for error in the tale or creative rewrites because your entire story fits into, essentially, a single mold that reaches a single conclusion. So if you want to eliminate/add a character and/or scene, good luck!

The Pantster

random

*rolls eyes* Yes, we all wish we could be a total Pantster and have an incredible idea for a beginning and end to a story, and then just magically write an entire middle with absolutely no storyline errors or issues with how the plot suddenly evolved. I said we’d like to do that. The truth of the matter is that being a Pantster can be hard, like, really hard. Some writers can pull it off, and this was basically how I wrote my first novel Rising Shadows. But because I went this route, I spent a couple years playing around with my first book, doing countless rewrites and total plot conversions. It. Was. A. Hassle.

            Pros: You have tons of creative control over your story and will never get fenced in by your pre-constructed plot structure.

            Cons: You have absolutely no pre-constructed plot structure and therefore can write yourself into a hole that you have absolutely no idea how to write yourself out of because there was no real story structure to keep you on track in the first place!

The Plotting Pantster

surprise

I am proud to lump myself in with this category. This type of writer does not like to be fenced in by a specifically designed and action-by-action plot that is already completely detailed out, with no room for creative shifts or changes. But they also acknowledge that flying by the seat of their pants all the time can hinder their progress and that they need some creative structure. What I did for Chasing Shadows and Defying Shadows was create a general plot structure for the stories—big plot reveals, events that had to occur before another instance, important character revelations—that helped to keep the stories on track and events in order, but it also allows room for a ton of creative freedom and surprises for me along the way. I hate making a writing project seem like schoolwork and having zero freedom, so the culmination of the two techniques works for me (plotting and flying by the seat of my author-pants!). It also helps to have a couple big events jotted down on notecards because then you can put a little checkmark beside each one once it’s written, which means you won’t have to flip through half your manuscript trying to figure out if you’ve already addressed something. And trust me, you will at some point. Plotting out certain big events really helps you to keep your focus, but you’ll never lose that creative freedom to have fun with your story. That’s the most important part!

         Pros: see above description

            Cons: N/A (I thought that should be obvious)

So, are you a Plotter, Pantster, or a little bit of both? The creative choice is yours, my fellow bibliophiles!

This post is sponsored by,

A Plotting Pantster

Stop by for Part 2 in the “Writing is an Art, I Tell You!” series. Coming soon!

 

 

 

It Pays to Goodreads…

Published January 7, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

A couple weeks ago, I was perusing Goodreads and found several bloggers whom I totally adored and thought might be interested in reviewing Chasing ShadowsSo I hiked up my big-girl pants and sent out messages to a few of them in hopes of gaining some more feedback for the series. This was right before I went on my AMAZING vacation to Denver/Colorado Springs/Breckenridge to visit some besties of 20-odd years. To sum up my trip in a few words: best friends, spectacular, sleigh ride, mountain men, falling snow, Christmas lights, firelight, singing in the car, and Papa Murphey’s in pajamas. Yeah, it was the best! 

Anyway, so on my trip, it just made me so happy to discover new reviews waiting in my inbox for both Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows, and also a hilariously gushy letter from Cassie herself. Much to my shock and joy–especially since I was kind of jumping out on a ledge throwing the stories at these random girls–Cassie loved them! I was so happy these books found their way into the right hands, and needless to say, she’s definitely joining my team of Shadows to pre-read Defying Shadows. 😉 Please take the time to read her reviews and follow Cassie and her friend at the links below. 

And, as always, Happy Reading!

http://novelsandnecklaces.blogspot.com/2016/01/book-review-rising-shadows-rising.html#.Vo7fhFLlwfA

http://novelsandnecklaces.blogspot.com/2016/01/book-review-chasing-shadows-rising.html#.Vo7fCFLlwfA

Please excuse me. It’s #NaNoWriMo Season.

Published November 13, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

buzz

Ah, yes, NaNoWriMo. A time during the month of November when authors attempt to climb the tip of Everest in the form of reaching a *cough* small goal of 50,000 words in their WIP (work in progress). A time when writers gain 20 lbs from sitting around, act emotionally unstable and irritable, down more caffeine than is deemed medically safe, start crying at random after looking blissfully inspired a moment before, eat their weight in chocolate, and are finally committed (for crimes that our search engines inspired when we called it “research”). Basically, it’s like the Hunger Games for writers: Let the WriMo begin! And may the word count be ever in your favor. . . . (My sisters and I are going to see Mockingjay Part 2 next week at this incredible theater with recliner chairs, so it’s kind of on my mind. ^_^)

An update on my progress so far of 50,000 words: You can see on my Facebook page that I did a brief update on my word count (15,000), which I felt pretty awesome about, considering work and life have been crazy lately and I haven’t had nearly as much time to write as I’d like. But then my last math class from three years ago kept nudging me to use basic mathematics, which was a little depressing.

“If Susan’s goal is to reach 50,000 words in 30 days (apx. 1,667 words per day), and in 13 days Susan has only hit 15,000 words, then her average per-day word count is 1,100 per day. Susan is currently 500 words behind schedule x 13 days= 6,500, which means Susan is in trouble.”

jensen

Yeah, I don’t like math, either. o.0 Please excuse me while I hole myself up in my room and have food and water delivered by a mute to avoid distractions. But before I disappear from the land of the living and immerse myself in the fantasy world of Serimone/other realms, here is a series of pictures and gifs that explain NaNoWriMo process.

The beginning: Innocent excitement and total absorption by your WIP

challenge

busy

Then you realize that keeping a regular schedule isn’t as easy as you thought and slack off a little

500

And then distractions come when you’ve been away from the world too long

coffee shop

haven't written

Suddenly, you realize November is almost over and pull out every last trick in the book (it doesn’t matter if your fantasy novel turned into a spy saga set in ancient times on the moon–just FINISH!!)

typing

Towards November 28th as you start to lose it: KEEP IT TOGETHER!!!

hold it together

losing it

And at the end of it all, NaNoWriMo can be summed up in one gif

success

And you didn’t think that in all the craziness I forgot #FanArtFriday, did you? *maniacal cackle* Silly goose! I might forget to put on real pants or take my fuzzy slippers off when I go out in public during November, but I never forget anything associated with my stories. . . . Unless, of course, that brilliant inspiration comes at 4am and I don’t have paper, and I assure myself that it’s so earth-shaking and incredible that I’ll definitely remember–only to wake up the next morning with a vague inclination that I might have had an epiphany the night before. Anyway, this is probably one of my favorite pieces, because this scene just gives me the feels. Enjoy guys!

defying shadows 2

#FanArtFriday Continues!!!

Published November 6, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

I told you I couldn’t leave it at only four brief weeks of gorgeous fan art. Pshaw! I recently found a new saliva-inducing pic that I’ll be sharing with you all today, but first, a little bit of news and updates. 

My NaNoWriMo is going swimmingly well (4,000 words ahead of schedule–Yeah!), and you can find some of my updates on my Facebook page.

I just discovered that Defying Shadows made it onto Goodreads’ list of Most Anticipated Christian Fiction 2016. Holy strombonie! #1 on the list (and rightfully so) is Melanie Dickerson, one of my favorite Christian authors, along with Francine Rivers, so it was an absolute honor. It also reminded me that I never made a page for the final installment in the Rising Shadows trilogy. *gasps* EGAD! So I quickly remedied that by creating a new tab at the top of my feed for the last book, which you might have already noticed. (check out the page!). It isn’t much right now, but I’ll slowly be adding to it over time, so keep checking for more updates!

Shantelle, the winner of the Chasing Shadows Celebration, absolutely loves the Rising Shadows trilogy! I sent her Rising Shadows so she would have a bit of background before she dived into the paperback copy of Chasing Shadows she won in the giveaway, and I was so pleased to find that she enjoyed both books and is looking forward to the release of Defying Shadows (me too, Shantelle!). 

You can find her review of Rising Shadows here and her 5 star review (^_^) of Chasing Shadows here!

LASTLY, because so much fan art has been made over the past month and a half, I decided to create a Fan Art page with links to the books and images. It’s basically like a Pinterest board right here on my site! Okay, and because I know this is why you showed up today, I’ll make you wait no longer.

Anyone recognize this romantic scene from Chasing Shadows

chasing shadows

 

#FanArtFriday Round 4!

Published October 30, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

What’s this? Fan Art Friday on a Friday?!!!! Imagine that. ^_~ So this is the last Friday of Chasing Shadows‘ birth month, where we celebrated a year of reading by giving away copies of Chasing Shadows, swag, gift cards, plenty of fan art, and also new pieces of art created for Defying Shadows that I released every week. This next piece of art was designed specifically to torture you guys, but I have a couple things to cover before I get into the gorgeousness that has been created for the final “official” Fan Art Friday. But fret not, dear Hooders! There will be more agony and tempting teasers to come, especially since four Fridays of fan art is certainly not enough for my liking. 😉

The winners of the Chasing Shadows 1-Year Celebration all received their packages–yay!–and posted pics of their prizes on Twitter. I hope you enjoy the series, ladies! #TeamHood

fan 1 fan 2Also, my good friend and award-winning author (and dancer!) Nadine Brandes recently released her second book in her Out of Time series, a Christian dystopian trilogy that is absolutely incredible. A Time to Speak is amazing, moving, and all around a fantastic ride. You can order your copy on Amazon here, and if you haven’t yet read A Time to Die, you can find it here. Keep an eye out for my name in the acknowledgements page on Book I; yes, I did get to read these books before anyone else, and let me tell you, they were just as powerful and entertaining the second and third time around. You won’t want to miss them!

And some of you know that I got to work directly with Roan Carter on the cover of Chasing Shadows, which was amazing to be able to have total creative control of a project that meant so much to me. But yesterday, I had the pleasure of literally getting hands-on training in the creative process of cover designing by Lisa M., also known as the Elegant Stylus on Facebook and Etsy. I always imagined that artists spent all their time immersed in creative projects in little elvish caves far below ground, with candles for mood lighting and dramatic music echoing through their little hovel of creativity. Not so. We spent the afternoon with our feet propped up on the ottoman, munching on snacks while we researched fonts and played around with images and lighting and fangirled over our little project. It was the best crash-course in designing ever! Lisa is currently in the process of making me drool and giggle and squeal every five minutes with her designs for the cover of Defying Shadows. You’re going to be blown away!

And, finally, today’s Fan Art Friday reveal:

Timeless loveCare for another little teaser? How about a quote between booooop and booooop that shortly follows this scene (I can’t tell you who’s involved in the conversation–that would be cheating!). 

“No, not goodbye. It will never be goodbye between us.”

“What then?” she asked, voice catching. “How are we supposed to do this?”

He smiled softly, though his eyes filled with tears. She felt the band tighten painfully around her heart at the thought that this would be the last time she ever looked into those eyes or felt his hand on her cheek. Inhaling a shuddering breath, he whispered, “I shall see you in my dreams.”

#FanArtFriday … Well, Sort Of

Published October 24, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

So because I live in a fantasy world Monday-Sunday during all of my waking and sleeping hours, I may or may not have forgotten that yesterday was Friday—hence, Fan Art Friday on a Saturday. Umm, yeah. I spent all day writing/rewriting/perpetually adding extra lines to an intense, time travel-heavy scene and got a teensy bit caught up in the awesomeness of it all. 

funny

So, now that the distraction has passed—that is, until I start writing again as soon as we’re finished here—brace yourselves for some slightly spoily fan art that is, let’s face it, drool worthy. 

Quite Some Time

I know, right?!!! 0.0 And I’m working with this artist on the cover design concept for Defying Shadows next week, so I am ridiculously excited to get started on that. *excited clapping*

And in case you’re wondering, the winners of the Chasing Shadows Celebration were all notified via social media last weekend, and their packages mailed out to them. I felt like Santa Claus wrapping up swag and signing copies of Chasing Shadows with special messages inside. For those of you who didn’t win this time, fret not, dear Hooders! There will be plenty more opportunities to win Chasing Shadows and goodies again soon. 

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