Interviews

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Fins, Spins, & Mermaids—Oh my!

Published February 12, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

As most of you know, I love chatting with other writers and hearing about their stories. I also love doing interviews with fantastic people and adore all-things mermaid (stay tuned for my WIP and you’ll see why!). So when I heard that Lisa M. of The Elegant Stylus was writing a short story about mermaids (!!!), you could say I jumped at the opportunity to interview the incredible artist who designed the covers for Rising Shadows and Defying Shadows

Lisa typically dwells under the sea, which I imagine is a fantastic place for writing inspiration, but she was kind enough to don her land-legs and answer my questions today. *awaits drum roll crescendo* All right, let’s get to some mermaid action! 

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(Also, please note that this interview was written in sea foam-green to keep with the theme. *slow clap for cleverness*)

Lisa, where does your creative inspiration come from?

First, I’m going to give the totally uninteresting “mom” answer and say my children—but it’s true!  Portraiture is something I enjoy, and my first portrait was of my daughter when she was two years old.  Children today are photographed more than any generation in history, yet I’ve found that the simplicity of a line-drawing can sometimes capture the essence of a child even more precisely than a photograph. 

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(The portrait of my daughter which started it all; silhouette portraits of my daughter and son. Commission your own at www.etsy.com/people/TheElegantStylus )

Thematically, I have a particular love of folklore, weird fiction, and fantasy. I was fascinated by the stories by Edgar Allen Poe as a kid, and my first short story (titled “The Skull Upon the Roof”. . . because what else could it have been called?) was based on his house style.  World building has always been a particular passion of mine; anything that hints at belonging to an eerie alternative reality which exists just beyond the fraying edges of our peripheral vision jumpstarts my imagination. Creative inspiration for those types of stories can strike anywhere, any time. Case in point: last summer, my kids and I were stuck in a completely unnecessary traffic jam while trying to leave a Sprout’s parking lot (I’m not going to point fingers, but the driver of a Subaru *may* have been responsible).  It was nap time, it was hot, and my beloved children begin to loudly voice their displeasure with the current situation. 

In an attempt to distract the kiddos, I made the executive decision to YouTube-up a minor-key, EDM/Dubstep cover of The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss the Girl,” which a Facebook friend (a German-raised Opera singer, to be precise) had recently posted on my wall. You know how it goes….

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(See the video here: https://youtu.be/HncGtWcqyV0 )

Now’s your moment
Floating in a blue lagoon
Boy, you better do it soon
No time will be better.

The song is playing, the kids have quieted down, and I’m successfully navigating a “left-turn yields on green” maneuver through the intersection when suddenly, BOOM! The scene unrolls before my mind’s eye like luminous scroll: the singer in this goth dubstepping number is no friendly crab-buddy, narrating the flatteringly-lit rowing scene of romantic tension between our charming protagonists!! No! Indeed, there is an unholy sea sprite lurking in the dark waters, and he has his own Screwtape-esque agenda! The malicious sprite telepathically whispers, taunts, and downright mocks the young man in the boat:

Look at that boy: too shy.
Ain’t gonna kiss the girl.
It’s a shame, too bad.
He’s going to miss the girl.

My physical body may have successfully steered us home, pulled my SUV into our garage and begun unbuckling the kids, but my mind was still in that haunted lagoon, and oh baby, I had a lot of questions. Questions like:

“What deep, dark creature does this taunting voice belong to?”

“Why does he care that the eponymous girl be kissed before the sun sets?  (The girl in question being, of course, a zombie-mermaid glamoured to look like a fresh-faced human girl. I know this intuitively.)

“Why is this Disney song very clearly advocating non-consensual culture? Just look at this:  

Yes, you want her.

Look at her, you know you do.

It’s possible she wants you too;

there’s one way to ask her.

It don’t take a word, not a single word.

Go on and kiss the girl, kiss the girl!

Seriously??? Another way you can inquire if she, indeed, does want you too kiss her, is to, um. . . oh, I don’t know, maybe ACTUALLY ASK HER if she would be receptive to such intimate contact? Gawd, Disney!

Suffice it to say I had MANY questions. It goes without saying that, at least in my case, inspiration will strike at the most unexpected, and honestly inopportune, moments.  I hurried to get my kids out of the car and into their beds so I could scribble a few lines in a notebook and not lose the sneak-peak I’d been given into this dark fairytale world. And then….

Wait….both kids have dirty diapers….SERIOUSLY?!!

Inopportune inspiration . . . Oh, too relatable! Like the shower, the sandy beach with no pen, when your hands are covered in paint, at 2 a.m., etcetera. -_- 

Okay, do you have a favorite spot to brainstorm creative concepts and designs? 

The majority of my creative work is done via computer, so I guess I’d have to say sitting at my kitchen bar with my laptop is my default go-to creative space. Pinterest is a great place to begin a design process, whether I’m giving a makeover to a piece of furniture, researching silhouette cameo-portrait styles, or designing the covers to your novel covers! When I paint, I always begin by creating a digital mock-up in Photoshop. That’s the origin story of the watercolor painting I did for you, based on your Rising Shadows trilogy.

(Serimone by Starlight, which you might recognize from Instagram; Rising Shadows, Defying Shadows)

During the hot summer months, I enjoyed sitting in the shade of my front porch in the evening, writing mermaid-zombie story ideas in a notebook, while keeping a vigilant eye on my kids playing in the yard; I’m trying to embrace the shaggy nature of good ol’ pen and paper writing. If I have to cross out a word, sentence, or, God-forbid, a paragraph … so be it. Writing a story by hand has been an epic triumph for my personal neuroplasticity, and I view it almost as a form of therapy for my super-uptight OCD proclivities. I cannot allow white-out in my vicinity when writing. As a Storm Trooper says in Episode IV: “Move along. Move along.” I’m trying to live according to his advice, and not get hung-up by over thinking things and imperfections.

My creative writing gurus are the brilliant people over at Storywonk.com, and through their podcast, I have been encouraged to keep plugging along. In particular the “Journeyman Writer” podcast has taught me the importance of curating a nest in which to write.

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(http://storywonk.com/podcasts/ )

Lately, I have begun writing before bed, nightcap at my side (it helps with the OCD). I feel particularly blessed to get to write my dark faerie tale in the master bedroom of a creepy gothic mansion; I feel the atmosphere adds to my creative process. (Joke.)

(“IRL” and Gothic Photoshop)

*wishes she had the ability to bring Photoshopped pictures into reality* So. Glorious!

I know I always have to have tone-setting music and a fun beverage when I’m writing (*cough* coffee *cough cough*). What are some things that you MUST have in your workspace while exercising you creativity?

As a mom of young kids, I’ve had to learn to be creative in non-ideal situations.  Oftentimes, I’m Photoshopping an image while simultaneously stepping in to prevent my two-year-old’s meltdown, and navigating Netflix to find “Octonauts” for my 4- and a half year-old.  BUT if I could design the perfect creative environment, it would definitely take place after my kids have gone to bed, with the ‘afore mentioned margarita by my side and a Storywonk podcast playing on my headphones. While I’ve been scribbling my mermaid story, I’ve lately enjoyed listening to ambient ocean wave noises via YouTube on my MPOW Shell Blue Tooth.

Now I’m wishing I had the gift of multitasking while in story-mode, but alas. *sighs* Okay, now for a strange question: I love Monet, Van Gogh, and Pissarro’s works and would love to have watched them create some of their most incredible paintings. If you could bring any artist back from the dead (and possibly put a Mermaid tail on them), who would it be and why?

Definitely weird fiction author H. P. Lovecraft. The contrast between his stuffy, uptight New England personality and the truly wild, disturbing, psychedelic worlds and creatures he created are endlessly fascinating to me. Despite the fact that he was an unrepentant sexist, racist jerk, and overall unpleasant guy, I’d love to have a conversation with him about his Cthulhu Mythos.

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(“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”

“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”)

Though I am an “inferior” woman, I am sure that as soon as he realizes I have not only singlehandedly reanimated his corpse, but ALSO gifted him with a super awesome mer-tail, he will be so overcome by gratitude that he will gladly converse with me about his story-craft. I imagine sitting beside his custom, 600 gallon saltwater tank in a velvet wingback chair, sipping a margarita while chatting about the danger of seeking hidden knowledge and the nature of madness.

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(Howard Phillips Lovecraft, formerly of Weird Fiction. Current status: Merman)

*tries to pull self together while still on the throes of laughter over the saltwater tank comment* *at last regains some semblance of composure*

Fascinating response, Lisa. Going with the saltwater theme . . . Now, you’re on a desert island and have a choice between enlisting the help of a mermaid, a sea witch, and a couple of sea turtles roped together (probably with hair from Jack Sparrow’s back). Which do you choose to help you survive? 

To paraphrase the late author David Foster Wallace, I have a marrow-level dread of the ocean; it is an endless, corrosive engine of death and chaos chockerblock full of snaggletoothed leviathans that rise from the depths at the rate which a feather falls.  Needless to say, I would want to return to the mainland ASAP, so it looks like the sea witch is my gal! Luckily, I just happen to have a nifty H. P. Lovecraft-shaped mer-toy to trade her in exchange for her magical teleporting services! Sorry, Howard! Don’t blame me; Kharma’s a b*ch!

So you’ve given us a little taste of the inspiration behind your current work in progress, but would you share with us a bit about your idea and some scene-inspiring art?

Yes! I’m primarily a visual artist, and have (alas!) finished very few of the stories I’ve attempted in the past. It’s been a bucket-list item to one day complete a short story novella, as well as illustrate it.

As I mentioned before, Chase Holfelder’s Minor Key cover of “Kiss The Girl” from The Little Mermaid planted the seeds for a new story in my mind.

I’ve always loved folktales, their dark origin stories in particular.

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(If you’re like me and enjoy learning about spooky folklore, check out the LORE podcast! http://www.lorepodcast.com/ )

Likewise, I’m intrigued by the concept of an unreliable narrator. Rippling out from that crucial moment of the kiss in the lagoon, I’ve created a whole framework of story! The Cliff’s Notes version is that there is a sea sprite who has been the familiar of an incredibly powerful Sea Witch for a millennia. He has loved his Mistress unconditionally (were his feelings reciprocated?….I think not, but don’t tell him that). The Sea Witch gives her life to reanimate the corpse of a drowned young woman, who is resurrected in the form of a voiceless, zombie mermaid.

(Digital paintings I’ve created as illustrations for my story.)

Now that his beloved Sea Witch is dead, the desolate sea sprite determines to win her life back by presenting the Elder Gods (a Lovecraftian shout-out) who live deep under the sea with the perfect gift: a human soul. And, of course, the formerly human mermaid is the perfect vessel to transport that soul to their underwater temple. The familiar devises a plan in which he glamours the mermaid to look like an irresistible maiden. Once on land, the sea sprite (glamoured in human form as well) sets up the meet-cute in the lagoon, gets an unsuspecting man to kiss her . . . aaaaand you’ll have to read the story to see how it all ends. As of this moment, I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends as well! 

It’s been amazing having you, Lisa, and thank you so much for stopping by to answer all of my questions! I think it’s safe to say that we’re all on the edge of our seats waiting to see how the rest of this fascinating story comes together. As for the rest of you, if you liked what you read and are interested in commissioning Lisa for a project, she’s always open to new, creative endeavors. Just make sure to message her before she ditches her land-legs and dons her fin once more! (I heard computers don’t work very well under da sea.)

Be sure to follow The Elegant Stylus: 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/theelegantstylus

https://www.instagram.com/elegantstylus/

https://www.facebook.com/TheElegantStylus

 

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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 . . . 

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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.

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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: http://www.bloodmercy.wordpress.com

Amazon Preorder Link: https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Mercy-Thicker-Than-Water-ebook/dp/B01L47ILUS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476321001&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+mercy%3A+thicker+than+water

Uncommon Universes Press Website: http://www.uncommonuniverses.com

 

 

A Time to Speak is my New Patronus!

Published June 17, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for “A Time to die,” Book I in the Out of Time series by dystopian author Nadine Brandes, and have been salivating for the sequel ever since! Nadine and I have only met a few times, but we’ve honestly bonded for life over fellow author struggles and fangirling/lamenting over the same books (“Mockingjay” can burn in the fiery pits of Mordor!!!) And when the cover came out for “A Time to Speak,” I was just #deadonthefloor #dyingoffeels #OhTheHumanity #MyPrecious #NewPatronus 

So when Nadine asked if I would like to be part of her team announcing the arrival of the cover of “A Time to Speak,” I was eee-lated! I love supporting fellow authors and friends, and let me tell you, knowing Nadine as a person and writer and inspiration, this book. Will. Not. Disappoint. . . . If I survive the emotional turmoil. 

Without further ado: BA-DA-DA-DAAAAAA!!!!

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The feeeeeels!!!! The cover is fantastic and intriguing, no? *wiggles eyebrows* Okay, now to the interview.

Nadine, let’s kick things off by telling us a little bit about your upcoming release “A Time to Speak” *fangirl squeal*. 

Was there a defining moment that made you decide to become a writer?
Frankly, I was just born with a blank book for a brain. Thankfully God gave me a love for words, so I was able to scribble on that book and fill it up. 😛 But I really got serious about writing when I was in college – that’s when I decided to write for publication instead of just for myself.

I’ve noticed you prefer to write YA—a girl after my own heart—but is there a specific reason that you favor this genre and are there any subgenres that you connect to as a writer?
I like the YA genre for many reasons. 1) It’s what I read the most. 2) I think those readers are in a very transformative time of life, which I remember vividly from my own growing up. I want to reach in to that confusing time of life and help bring clarity and hope. 3) Um…it’s clearly the funnest genre. Just sayin’.

I tend to connect mostly to dystopian and fantasy. Science fiction gets a bit too techy for my brain. 😛

You’re experiencing the dreaded writer’s block *gasps* and need inspiration to keep going. You go/do…
I’ve yet to really have writer’s block. *knock on wood* BUT…when I have a tough time hashing out a scene, I’ll usually go take a walk, try to find a new adventure, and live life a bit. Life inspires me the most. That and the LOTR extended edition movie trilogy. [grin]
  
Of all of the characters you have written, which is your favorite and can you give me three key words to describe him or her?
Parvin is my favorite. I’d describe her with these words: Impulsive. Passionate. Searching.
 
Favorite place/environment to write?
Near a window…preferably in a chic old-townish coffee shop.
 
Plotter or pantser?
Mostly pantser, but I tend to have a rough plot in my head of where the whole thing is going.

As a reader, choose your favorite 5 drool-worthy book covers of all time.
Siren’s Fury (Mary Weber), Plenilune (Jennifer Freitag), Defiance (C. J. Redwine), Dreamtreaders (Wayne Thomas Batson), and Curio (Evangeline Denmark – not released yet)

Let’s say I give you an airplane ticket to any fantasyland from books/film. You would go to…
HOGWARTS! Sorry, but I wasn’t meant to be a muggle. I’d go there with a snap of my fingers, even if I had to be a Squib. (Literally, my favorite answer of Nadine’s!!! Muggles gonna hate…)

We’ve all experienced it—that incredibly disappointing book ending/series finale that spoils a brilliant trilogy (for me: Requiem by Lauren Oliver, Sever by Lauren DeStefano—blek!). Name one of the worst endings to a series or stand-alone that sticks out to you and why. I know, sorry to dredge up painful memories, but the people need to know!
Mockingjay. Still bitter. Still angry. Still throw the book against the wall every time. Not just because of the “last line ending” or anything, but because of the digression of Katniss’s entire character, the depressing plot…just…. *hides under soapbox*

What is the biggest draw to you as a reader picking up a new series (cover, blurb, relatable characters, plot)? Does being an author give you a bigger appreciation for other works?
The cover and title usually catch me. And then if the blurb shows an awesome storyworld I’m usually hooked – flat characters or not. And yes, being an author gives me a much bigger appreciation for other works! I frequently find myself moaning, “Why can’t I write like this?!” In a backwards way, it’s inspiring.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Nadine! And be sure to add “A Time to Speak” on Goodreads, check out “A Time to Die,” and follow this soon to be best-seller wherever she goes. Trust me on this, guys! I’m a professional reader. 😉

And again, just because I love it so much!

And again, just because I love it so much!

Back Cover Blurb for “A Time to Speak”:

How do you live after you planned to die?

Parvin Blackwater should have died in her brother’s place. She didn’t. Now she’s the only one who can protect her village, but no one wants to listen. When the Council starts forcing “new and improved” Clocks on the public, those who refuse are declared Radicals and exiled.

Having been across the Wall once, Parvin is the only one who can save them. But instead of going through the Wall, she’s packed into a boxcar, loaded on a cargo ship, and forced out to sea.  How will she lead when facing the unknown? 

Worse yet, why are people suddenly dying before their Clocks have zeroed-out? 

ABOUT NADINE:

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. Her dystopian trilogy, the Out of Time Series, challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by ‘bumbershoot’.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai, editing fantasy novels, or being a Harry Potter super-nerd, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out chasing adventures.

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Places you can find Nadine:
Website
Facebook
Newsletter
Amazon
Goodreads
Twitter

Author No-No #1

Published June 16, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

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I contacted Ness a little over a month ago because I fell in love with the carefree attitude and sense of humor she portrays on her blog. The questions she sent me to fill out for the author interview did not disappoint–she immediately apologized if they came off too wacky for my taste, but they were awesome. I love a good rapid-fire round of Author Q&A! Her questions totally spurred on my wacky side (seriously? Nerverland isn’t real???I can’t marry my favorite book characters?!) and made this interview a lot of fun to work on. Click the link below for the full interview, and be sure to follow Ness and her awesome blog. 

Ness Kingsley Interview

And, yes, Ness, you need to get cracking on that Writer’s Aid so I no longer have to edit my own works! #IdRatherBeWriting

 

Someone Thinks I’m Lovely!

Published April 21, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

I read Suzy’s title for the interview we worked on together and went all, “Aww, stawp!” Haha. This one actually got me thinking and got my creative juices flowing, which is one of an author’s favorite things. ^_~ If you want to find out how truly kooky I am, what my likes/dislikes are concerning writing and reading, and how I got inspired to write the Rising Shadows trilogy, then just follow the link below to Suzy’s adorable blog to check out the interview. You can also like, share, or leave a blog post comment.

Have a wonderful week, everyone, and stay lovely!

http://www.fictiondreams.com/2015/04/meet-lovely-ashley-townsend.html

 

Guest Post and Giveaway Entry

Published March 19, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

Hey all!

So if you stopped by here last night, you probably saw my heat-of-the-moment rant/lament/explanation of my passionate love of “The Winner’s Crime” by Marie Rutkoski. And you might be thinking that some of those gifs were overdone and that I couldn’t have possibly felt so many emotions over 350 pages…. -_- You would be wrong.

Anyway! I’m popping in to let you know that I was so distracted with finishing the book and processing everything that I forgot to mention that I had done a sort of inspirational guest post for Christian Bookshelf Reviews that went live yesterday. When you check it out, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to enter to win a paperback copy of “Chasing Shadows” and a $25 Amazon gift card from me! You don’t want to miss out on freebies, do you, silly goose? It ends on April 3, 2015, so get crackin’! And don’t forget to share it around with your friends and family that like free books and internet shopping. 😉 If you want to refer back to this link later, I’ll be sure to post it under the Giveaway section of the “Chasing Shadows” tab at the top of the page.

Have a great weekend, all!

http://christianbookshelfreviews.blogspot.com/2015/03/guest-post-book-gift-card-giveaway.html

Between the Pages: Meet Damien Lisandro

Published November 8, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

Between the Pages: Meet Damien Lisandro

Damien Lisandro 3

Today I am more than happy to introduce you to your foreign fantasy crush, Damien Lisandro from “Chasing Shadows.” I’m at the castle right now, of course—who wouldn’t like to take a little side trip to the twelfth century if the opportunity presented itself? I plan to interview Damien in a moment, but I just spotted the would-be murderer Cadius and have decided to go all “reporter” on him. Maybe I can get him to reveal his plans and help Karen and Sarah out!

Excuse me, Cadius, but do you have a minute for some questions?

Eyes me up and down with cold, barely concealed disdain. “I suppose I have a moment.” With a faint flick of his wrist, the servant he was reprimanding scurries off. “What is it?”

I wanted to ask you how you felt about all the suspicion surrounding your brother the king’s death?

Feigns innocence. “Suspicion? I haven’t the faintest…”

Well, uh (gosh, he really has creepy eyes), then what about the death of the original queen, Alexis? Do you have anything to say about that?

Eyes soften almost imperceptibly. “That was a long time ago.”

(Hmm. Interesting reaction). Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it. You must be aware that people think you killed your brother, and others are suspicious that you might have done the same to the first queen. . . . Seriously? No reaction?

Blinks. “The peasants may believe what they wish, but wise lords and ladies know to keep their uneducated suppositions to themselves. And little doves who know not of what they speak should learn to mind their elders, lest harm should come to them.”

…. *swallows* Okaaaay. That sounds like a threat to me.

Chuckles lowly. “Oh, my dear, I never dirty my hands. Fear not. What other inquiries would you care to make?”

*Squeaks out lamely* Um, do you have a favorite color?

“Blood red.”

*Eyes widen* That’s nice! Well, then the last thing I’d like to ask is about the king. What—

Takes a step forward. “Do you know what happens to little doves who ask too many questions?”

*Already booking it down the hall at a clipped pace* 

Okay, new plan! We’re now hanging out with Damien Lisandro at an undisclosed coffee house somewhere in present day North America. Damien! How kind of you to join us.

Grins saucily. “Well, you did grab me from my room and beg me to speak with you. How could I refuse such a request?” Eyes his surroundings. “And what interesting décor in this study.”

Uh, yeah. Very interesting. So . . . Wow, you really do have gold flecks in your eyes.

Leans forward, expression cheeky. “It’s your beauty reflected in them, my lady.” 

*barely contains giggles* Whatever you say. Um, now back to the interview. Can you tell us a little about your background and interests?

“Oh, well, I was raised as the son of a wealthy tradesman, had a loving mother and a sister whom I adored. My life was quite grand.”

Was?

Uncomfortable, he takes a sip of his cappuccino. “Mm, that’s quite good. Well, you see, my father accidentally beat my mother to death one night in a drunken stupor, and my sister Isabella died shortly after we fled from my father.” His smile is wobbly. “Next question, please.”

*Winces* Sorry. Favorite color?

“I have seen so much royal purple since I took up residence at the castle that it has grown on me.” Smiles softly at the wooden table. “And Sarah looks lovely in purple.”

So are you and Will going to duke it out for her, or what? How does that work?

“I’m in no rush to win her heart, but in the end, I will earn her affection.”

You’re a rather confident fellow. Okay, well, I know you grew up in Spain, but how do you like being a lord in Serimone?

“I suppose it has its advantages.” Scratches the perfectly sculpted hair on his chin. “However, living inside the castle walls and being so closely watched has its disadvantages, as well.”

But surely having so much wealth and being well known has its perks.

“Yet everyone is always watching my moves or planning them for me. That is one of the reasons why I sought out the company of Lady Sarah; she made me feel normal—no expectations or preferential treatment because of my station. Being with her gives me something to hope and live for outside of myself—she makes me want to be good.” Grins self-consciously. “But that sounds ridiculous, I’m sure.”

…. People, I just died a little from swooning. But you keep distracting me, you beautiful creature! Back to my questions: You get toxic waste spilled all over you and now have your choice of superpowers. You would pick…?

“To know all. I would never have to question anyone again.”

Does mistrust happen a lot in your field of, uh, lording?

“I’ve dealt with my fair share of betrayals. Everyone wears a mask, as I told Sarah once, and you never can tell whom to trust.” 

Sounds lonely.

“Yes, it can be, but there are many activities and events with which to keep my mind occupied.”

Speaking of which, I’ve been drilling everyone who stops by about a certain future event in Serimone. Are there any upcoming weddings that you know of? Anyone in particular?

Grins charmingly, eyes bright. “Are you proposing? Because then I most heartily accept!”

*Laughs* No! I . . . Well, actually, let me consider it. I’ll get back to you in, ohhh, say a thousand years?

Looks confused. “What?”

Don’t worry; it won’t feel long at all. And that, folks, is the beauty of time travel.

“Time travel? You mean you can—“

No! What? No! *laughs* Of course not, you handsome devil. I was just making a joke. *whispers* But, uh, if you could put that blindfold back on while I drive you home, that would makes things go a lot smoother for the both of us.

 

 

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