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YallWest—The Quest for the Ring & Bookish Things

Published May 29, 2018 by Ashley Townsend

It might have happened at the beginning of May (you know me and punctuality—in opposition like Cinderella and those pesky stepsisters), but I still wanted to share my 10-day experience earlier this month before my next journey. There is always so much to talk about when I go on a bookish trip, but one word to sum up YallWest and the Writer’s Sanctuary Retreat: EPIC!

Some of my Instagram highlights have a few of the videos and pics from the events, in case you missed them, so go check them out and follow the people I tagged for their highlights, too!

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The first Friday of this month, I took a long and arduous 45-minute flight from San Diego to LAX—oy, the jet lag!—to meet up with one of my favorite people on earth, Nadine Brandes, for our fabulous bookish week. After squealing like maniacs who haven’t seen each other in months, we jetted off to the Santa Monica Public Library for a little YallWest pre-fun. We met Alexandra Bracken and Angie Thomas, *squeal* made friends in signing lines, and silent disco danced with Marissa Meyer (unbeknownst to her). Let me tell you, silent disco dancing looks like a gaggle of awkward weirdoes mime-dancing, but as soon as we slipped on those headphones, we didn’t mind joining in on the no-longer-silent dancing in the middle of the library courtyard. At least we were weirdos together!

(Psssst. Nadine is headed to BookCon on June 1st in NYC to giveaway and sign ARCs of Fawkes, so get on that!!!)

YALLWEST:

YallWest is basically a mini ComicCon for books—signings, ARCs and swag, panels, fabulous food, meet-and-greets with authors, and an all-around amazing event for geeky shenanigans with your favorite people. And. It. Was. Fanastic!

Nadine and I had no idea what to expect, so we were blown away by the amount of fans that showed up. We spent that Saturday exploring the shops, drooling over food truck food, getting books signed, visiting with friends, and meeting up with Benita, the creator of the original Book Beau that I had the pleasure of meeting at BeaulitfulCon in January. Of course, it was necessary for me to pick up a new mermaid Book Beau and a fox one for Katie, because you can never have too many Beaus. ^_~ Benita has such an incredible entrepreneurial drive and is a sweetheart, and she said that she would love to talk about doing a Book Beau design for Jungle Princess. Umm . . . Yes?!!!!!!  *internal screaming*

After meeting up with the absolutely hilarious and lovely Mary Weber for a seriously long but completely worthwhile boba line, we met up with Natasha, Christine, Jesse, and Kat. Nadine knew Natasha from BeaulitfulCon, but I had only ever been a fangirl of my favorite BookTubers (Tashapolis, Katytastic, Jesseethereader, and XTineMay) and felt a little awkward about entering the group.

They instantly drew us in with their smiles and open hearts, and we got to learn about their own writing journeys as they opened up about their struggles and rough starts. It felt like a life-chat among friends, which blew my mind a bit, but they are all so real and fun and such beautiful human beings that Nadine and I walked away from our afternoon with them knowing that we had just made some incredible memories and friends. If you watch Natasha’s second YallWest vlog, they mention Nadine, Mary, and I in it, and I admit that I did a little fangirl squeal that it meant something to them, too. As incredible as the entire day was, Nadine and I both agreed that our favorite part was getting to know these beautiful people.

The day went so quickly, but we ended the night at a fancy restaurant where Nadine’s and my epic sunburn didn’t quite blend in (you can find the beautiful image of our lobsterness on my Twitter), sitting at a table with Mary Weber, Marissa Meyer, Erin Sumerill, and Kasie West (who is my EVERYTHING), with Jenny Han and Veronica Roth milling about the room.

I was definitely not cool enough for this crowd, but renting out a fancy restaurant and chilling with NYT bestselling authors was just another Saturday for them. I have to admit it was a LOT of fun getting to know all of them and seriously enjoyed the night, but after a nonstop day of fun and sun and excitement, Nadine and I were toast before 11:00 and caught a Lyft back to our bed, though not before I got my sister’s book signed by the incredibly adorable Jenny Han. *squeals for eternity*

Nadine and I spent another day wandering L.A. and had an absolute blast being dorks and having serious heart-to-hearts before parting ways for the next leg of our journey. Before I get to the retreat, though, I’d just like to highlight the fact that I spent 30 minutes hiding in a bathroom at LAX from former Bachelor bachelor (and my personal favorite) Ben Higgins. Lemme ‘splain. . . .

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I’m a casual shark at Comic Con when it comes to celebrities. I have no problem walking up to them and saying hello or asking for a pic if it won’t cause a scene, no biggie. But when I spotted Ben stinking Higgins in front of me at security in LAX, I panicked and watched in shock as he moved on, though I’ve never gotten through security so quickly. I wandered *cough* a few terminals hoping I could spot him and then waked, dejected, to my own gate only to discover him sitting at the gate right next to mine. Fate? I think yes!!!!! But after walking past his waiting area five times and drawing attention to myself with my clacking boots as I tried to draw up the courage to say hello, I ended up getting a coaching session from my sister, Liz, as I hid in the restroom, and my SDCC partner in crime gave me a little push. I emerged from the ladies’ room and marched up to Ben before I could lose my nerve. I thanked him for his amazing work with Generous Coffee and his entertaining and inspirational podcast, and, guys, he was so kind and appreciative and nice. He was exhausted and took the time to talk to me and chat for a few minutes, and as dorky as it sounds, the Be Generous sticker he gave me is now proudly displayed on my laptop in memoriam of that moment of kismet at LAX. I forgot to give my name (and didn’t realize he was asking for it as I backed away *face. palm*), and I didn’t ask for a picture because I didn’t want to cause a hoopla around him before his flight home. But as much as I geeked out on the inside, I feel like it was a nice experience for him to have someone who was genuinely interested in his work with Generous and to have a real conversation, rather than just a fan who wanted something from him. And he never has to know what a cutie he is or that Dana Black and I bonded as we spent an hour-long car ride explaining The Bachelor and Ben Higgins to Lindsay Franklin, semi against her will, but she loved it.

WRITER’S SANCTUARY RETREAT:

This was probably one of the most fruitful conferences/retreats I’ve ever attended, not just for the opportunity to connect with writers and professionals, but C.J. Redwine and Mary Weber forced us to dive deep into our writing and our own hearts. The stories we craft come from within us, and they gave us the tools to safely draw from our past hurts to heal and grow so that our characters can do 

the same. I got through several problem scenes in my work in progress that weekend!

C.J. is such a firecracker to be around, and Mary is a personal friend who has an incredible heart for the hurting. They put so much work into this retreat so that we all came away wiser and fuller so that we can spill out onto the page and be filled in our own lives.

I roomed with my friend, Kara Swanson, and we had plenty of late night convos and Instagram layout plotting sessions and talking about Tom Holland. Nadine and I got to catch up even more, and I met/reconnected with so many friends: Dana and Lindsay were my soul sisters who helped me kick off the retreat, Sarah and Becky completely surprised me with how welcoming and amazingly sweet and hilarious they are (I’m writing a romcom book about Becky and her husband’s dumpster love, no joke), and supporting Elizabeth, and getting to know Heidi more in between our Timeless fangirl chats, and Sharilyn, Tanara, Ani’a, and Alison. These ladies are amazing!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, fun fact: friends that nap together stay together. Sara Ella is one of Nadine’s closest friends, and I’d had the opportunity to officially meet her after being online friends at BeaulitfulCon in January. But when I was dead on my feet after so much travel, I crashed with Nadine and Sara in their room for a three-hour power nap, and I adore this woman! Sara has one of the sweetest hearts I have ever seen, and she and I bonded quickly over our mutual love of Kasie West, naps, Captain Hook, and Jesus, and we spent the rest of the retreat on the lookout for espresso. The last book in her Unblemished series just released, and you need to snag a copy of the gorgeous Unbroken now!

Even when you’re exhausted, it’s always sad when a retreat or conference ends because you spenda week with the most spiritually encouraging and fantastic people, and I usually come away with sore stomach muscles from all the laughter. Mary and C.J. poured their heart and soul into this retreat, and we all came away from it refreshed and ready to dive back into our writing. Danielle Smith, Mary’s agent, was such a sweetheart and volunteered to drive Nadine and I to the San Luis Obispo train station that morning, but not without a stop by SloDoCo. for the world’s most incredible Muddy Buddy and maple bacon donuts *the heavens rejoice* and for legitimate sandwiches from Gus’s. We had such a fun time getting to now Danielle and only wish we’d had more time to chat with her on the car ride.

It was about a 5-hour train ride down from SLO to L.A., during which Nadine and I reminisced about 

our incredible week, pretended to nap but really just talked and giggled with our eyes closed, ate fruit pies like true travelers (to avoid scurvy, of course), and watched our favorite BookTubers’ updates about YallWest to relive the experience. There are plenty of hilarious selfies of our shenanigans on the ride, but we’ve vowed they shall never see the light of day. But we don’t need them to remember the incredible experiences, memories, and the connections and friendships made. I already can’t wait for next year!

 

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All about Writers

Published October 29, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

When NaNo arrives, even your leisure time needs to foster your creativity because, really, there isn’t such a thing as “free time” during the month of November for writers. Free time? *pauses at keyboard to cackle hysterically and then hurries to catch up with word count* It’s important to remain focused when you’re trying to nail that word count or make up for lost time. But when your brain feels like Jabba the Hut (a big blob of garbled noise), it’s time to take a mental break before you burn yourself out and can’t make sense of anything.

can't make sense merline

So how do you avoid brain mush while not totally losing your writing mindset? Aside from taking a walk or closing my eyes while listening to my writing playlist, one of my favorite ways to decompress during NaNo is to watch a film about writing. I can take a couple hours, have some popcorn or a cup of tea to refuel (no, coffee and I aren’t exclusive . . . not entirely), and let my mind relax while I absorb the stories of other writers. I have a few favorites that always do the trick, and if you’re ready for a mental break (or even have the time to read this post), give one or all of these a try and let me know what you think.

P.S. They also go really well with a cup of coffee during the other eleven months too. ^_~

Little Women

joe march little women

Come on. Who didn’t want to be Joe March growing up? Clever, independent, creative, and an incredibly loyal sister. Growing up in a house with three sisters, I always felt that I could relate to Joe’s quirky ways, overly dramatic exclamations, positive outlook on life, and wandering mind that gets her into trouble. This movie is like comfort food for my writing soul! I’d also like to state for the record that I will always be #TeamTeddy. ^_~

You’ve Got Mail

you've got mail

There’s just something about movies set in fall that make me happy and nostalgic, and this is one of my all-time favorite movies. The entire premise of the film is about preserving the past, creating a future, and centers around the rocky romance between two opposing bookstore owners (the pragmatic Tom Hanks, and the hopeless dreamer played by Meg Ryan). Plus, I visited a few spots from this film when I was in New York, and those are some of my favorite memories.

Her Alibi

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This has been one of my favorite movies for years. Not only is Tom Selleck young and hilarious, but he plays a mystery writer caught in a rut (#relatable?). The quirky fun starts when he becomes enchanted with a young Romanian woman he believes to be innocent of murder, and he gives her a false alibi and a home to stay in. Her alluring and often mysterious behavior ignites a spark in his writing, though he soon wonders if he let a murderess into his home. Selleck’s character lives vicariously through the super-suave Peter Swift in his stories, and the way the scenes in reality are (excitingly) portrayed by his ultra-cool voiceovers is ridiculously funny.

Not Another Happy Ending

not another happy ending

My sister DeAnna found this movie while scrolling through Netflix one day, started it up, and five minutes later told me I had to watch it. It’s a totally offbeat film about a Scottish writer (Karen Gillan) and her uber-handsome French publisher. When her life is going perfectly and her inspiration is no longer fed by real-life angst, she gets into a rut on the last chapter of her much-anticipated second novel. Her publisher realizes that the only way to get the ending from her is to, well, ruin her happiness. This movie will have writers and non-writers alike busting up from the pure, fluffy joy of it.

Castle 

castle

*whistles opening tune* If you haven’t heard of this show . . . I just don’t even know how to respond. It centers on the story of Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion from Firefly), a New York Time’s bestselling author who teams up with detective Kate Beckett (does anyone recognize Stana Katic from Quantom of Solace??!!!) to solve crime. One of my favorite crime-solving duos of all time, along with Sherlock & Watson from the movies and Elementary, and Shawn & Gus from Psych. The show packs fabulous mystery, hilarious moments, and some delicious writer touches that make it binge-worthy.

Other movies to look out for:

True Memoires of an International Assassin (a Netflix original)

Kate and Leopold

Alex and Emma

Well, I guess now the choice is which one I’ll start with tonight!popcorn

Defying Shadows & Amazon Giveaway!

Published July 19, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING!

Defying Shadows will release in paperback this week!

excitedAt the end of THIS week, both the final book and the first book in the Rising Shadows Trilogy will release in paperback for the first time. I am so flippin’ excited to have them on my shelf!!! Rising Shadows (Book I in the trilogy) got a cover makeover for its paperback release, so I’ll send updated Amazon links out soon when its beauteous self is re-released and Defying Shadows is up for purchase. *dreamy sigh*

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I feel like this has been a long time in coming, and I know you’re all dying to have your questions answered: Will Sarah go home? Do she and Will belong together? What is Damien’s end-game in all of this, and is he still working for some evil power? And is Sarah’s presence in the past changing history?

Well, you’ll just have to find out when Defying Shadows comes out. *cackles evilly* 

BUT, if you can’t wait until your paycheck arrives or until Defying Shadows releases, you can enter to be first on the list for a copy. That’s right, in celebration of this momentous occasion, I’m hosting a Rafflecopter for a paperback of Defying Shadows and an Amazon gift card. You can enter to win everyday by sharing, liking, tweeting, following, etc, so keep stopping by. And pay attention to social media for the link each day.

(Enter the Rafflecopter here. Active 7-19-16 through 7-24-16 Details at the bottom of post for secondary prize)

The Rafflecopter is one way to enter, but if you don’t win the grand prize, don’t lose heart! There will be a HUGE release party on Friday, August 5th on Facebook/your living room. Join and invite others for the epic 2-hour event where I’ll be giving away even more prizes (books, swag, gift cards) and entertain you all with games, excerpts from the series, activities, quizzes, and plenty of fun goodness. Click the link below to join.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1758515104431491/

And there are ebooks of the series up for grabs during the term of the Rafflecopter. Each social media share and post/re-post earns you an entry toward the secondary prizes. From 7-19 through 7-24, tag @TownsendTales and use any of the following hashtags: #TeamHood #DefyingShadows #DefyingShadowsBook #TeamWill #TeamDamien #DSBook. You can post anywhere–Instagram (follow me here), Twitter, Facebook, on your blog, Pinterest–just make sure to use one or more of these hashtags and tag me in it. I’ll calculate total entries after the giveaway ends on the 25th, and there will be one random winner selected from–I’m very high-tech here–a hat. More shares equals more entries, which increase your odds of winning. So share away!

What are you waiting for?! Follow the link below and enter to win the Grand Prize each day until it ends at 11:59pm on Sunday, July 24th. And as always, don’t forget to share this link with your friends who enjoy free stuff…. What am I saying? Who doesn’t enjoy freebies?! Good luck, Hooders, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/efc81f6e2/?

Who Wants to Hear Some Exciting News???!

Published June 19, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Come hither, come hither! (wherever “hither” is) I have some exciting news! Drum roll please.

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DEFYING SHADOWS IS OFFICIALLY OFF TO THE PUBLISHER!!!

request the highest of fives
Robert Downey Jr sexy smile (gif)

After rushing to get the final round of edits done–moving past burning eyes, late nights, coffee abuse, and a serious lack of social engagements–Defying Shadows (click here to add it on Goodreads) is officially ready to go to print. WEEEEEE!!!!!!

It has literally been a decade from the start of this series to getting Rising Shadows published (see where it all began here), seeing Chasing Shadows in print, and now sending off the final book in the trilogy. I am crazy excited to share it with you all (July 2016 release date TBA), but it’s also a little strange to know that this series has come to a close.

I don't want to go 10 doctor david tennant

Of course, I’ll read it when it comes out (say, 20 or 100 times), but I’ll never get to write a new scene between Sarah and Will, never laugh at Karen and Seth’s antics (the badger moment you will experience in Defying Shadows), and never sigh with confused emotions when Damien breaks/mends my heart a thousand times over.
crying

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” sounds pretty appropriate for how I felt doing that final read-through. But although it is incredibly bittersweet to send my little word-child off to the presses all on his lonesome (yes, I laughed, I cried), it’s also really exciting to have the chance to dive into new series and novels that have been gnawing at my writer-mind for so long. Plus, I can always go back to visit Sarah and the gang in Serimone because . . . badum da dum!!! . . . yet another surprise:

RISING SHADOWS IS COMING OUT IN PAPERBACK!!!

clapping audience gif | Baby Clapping GIF

That’s right, Ink Smith requested the rights to have the first book, so it will be re-released in paperback in mid- late-July along with Defying Shadows.

Sebastian is basically me with the whole Team Cap over Team Iron Man rivalry XD

Soon, I will have the ENTIRE Rising Shadows Trilogy on my bookshelf, looking all pretty and fabulous, and you will too! And because Rising Shadows will be revamped in paperback in a month, I figured the oldest sibling in the family needed a new look. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands (because I can’t see your hands), so I’m just going to assume I can drop another bombshell on you today and REVEAL THE NEW COVER FOR RISING SHADOWS!!! ^_^

Ready?

Set?

ta-da

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Rising Shadows Book Cover - Larger Moon_resized

“Would you entrust your future with a hero of the past?”

I know, it’s fabulous, feel free to fangirl.

New trending GIF on Giphy

The incredibly talented Elegant Stylus (click here to stay updated on future designs), who imagined the drool-worthy cover for Defying Shadows, also decided to revamp the cover for Book I in the trilogy, and I am LOVING it! Feel free to share around, and I am waiting with baited breath for the moment these lovelies can all grace my shelf, side by side. I might even have an entire room for them. Hmm. Something to consider.

Now, I'm taking a full day to organize my bookshelf and get back to Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matsen. Yep, I'm going to read an entire book this week and listen to music and not have a schedule.

Part 5: Creating Memorable Characters

Published March 5, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 5: Creating Memorable Characters

Aside from the questions I ranted about the other week, one of the most common things an author gets asked is, “How do you come up with your characters, and how do you handle them once they’re created?” *cracks knuckles* Step aside, Stephen King, because I’ll answer this one! (mostly because I’m sure he has a very different answer that doesn’t involve gifs and memes—so blah!)

as you wish

Characters can emerge from absolutely nothing, kind of like that Twilight Zone place in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (I think that’s the one?), where your thoughts create creatures out of the darkness and mist. Getting an idea for a character is the easy part—anything inspires me! But understanding them and knowing their purpose in your story is a completely different concept. This is the tricky part that can trip-up even the most seasoned author, because until a character becomes real to you, you’ll never break the surface of who they are and can misinterpret their reactions along the way. As a reader, this is just plain confusing. 

who are you

Before you create a character, you need to keep in mind that it helps to have different “purposes” assigned to each one—the steady tree, the flighty rocket, ultimate villain, perfect protagonist, sympathetic antagonist—and keep this design in mind to make sure they don’t deviate from their design too much.

You can do this fairly easily by asking yourself a few questions:

-What is their purpose in the story? Hero, villain, martyr?

-Are you supposed to sympathize with them, feel distant from their pain, or feel

          angry whenever they enter a scene?

-Will they have a change of heart, or should they remain steady throughout the journey?

Sarah, Will, and the gang began as simple concepts—a girl from the future, a vigilante with a broken past, the loving family next door, the steady best friend, etc.—and these general ideas worked as a starting point for their growth. Knowing where Sarah was from helped me to imagine how I might react to things a thousand years in the past, seeing everything in a different world for the first time, trying to blend in; because of Will’s history, I knew that he would be protective of those he cares for and more guarded, rejecting love when it’s what he needs the most. You will be amazed at how much growth your characters will take on, all on their own, when you give them a gentle nudge along the path they’re supposed to stay on. And be careful that you don’t fall in the trap of the “campy” character, where they’re always happy go-lucky and never seem to struggle with anything. Readers will always identify more with someone with human doubts and struggles and emotions who overcomes adversity—because that is relatable and hopeful—rather than a character who smiles and dances all. The. Bloody. Time. -_- Nobody can identify with this every day:

happy dance

Now that we’ve established how to create your characters, and also to steer clear of making a dull, one-dimensional protagonist, you have to remember that it’s important to become acquainted with them, too. Go for a walk and imagine conversations your characters might strike up because of something you see, or think about how they might react to a situation in your own life. It sounds strange to listen in on imaginary conversations between fictional beings, but it makes them feel more natural and real to me to follow them throughout the day. Making this a practice honestly helps the writing process, because you’re becoming more and more familiar with them each second you spend with your characters, and this attention to detail will really benefit your novel.

You also have to understand and be accepting of the fact that characters can evolve, and it’s your job to know how to handle them once they decide to move away from your perfect little personality mold. It might sound like a contradiction, but I can explain, I promise! Take Damien Lisandro, for instance: he was originally Lord Bormeo, a tall, thin, middle-aged man with a hawkish nose and absolutely no charm.

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While writing Chasing Shadows, I realized that, although his character’s purpose was necessary to the story, he was not. So, I took the general concept of him and the way he aided the plot and turned him into Damien, the dashing, blush-inducing Spaniard who plays a huge role in Sarah’s investigation at the castle . . . and a large role in why I giggled so much while writing his scenes. Also, I may or may not have fallen in love with him a tiny.

in love mcgarrett

I will never regret making that choice to change, not a character’s role in the story, but some of his traits to make him more appealing to readers and *cough* myself. The A-typical protagonist or villain or antagonist can be so boring, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do some rewriting where your characters are concerned so long as they don’t deviate from their purpose. Make sense?  

So, that’s it! There’s plenty more that goes into creating characters, but these are the basic concepts I follow when whipping up a new bloke or lady in my stories. The best piece of advice I can give for you aspiring writers out there is to know who your characters are, but that also comes from knowing who you are as a writer. Be bold and confident, and let your own passion play out through strong-willed characters who stand outside the box. Nobody likes reading about vanilla!

captain jack sparrow vanilla

 

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