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Be A Writer, Be Unique!

Published August 7, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

My biggest takeaways from Realm Makers: The BEST friends anyone could ever hope to discover, and the fact that it doesn’t matter what you like to write or if your book is nothing more than a few random scribbles on a page. So long as you keep at it and push past all the negativity and self-doubt, you. Are. A. Writer! Whether or not you ever decide to publish and regardless of what genre you write, no one can take that from you, and this truth is infinitely special.

I don’t often travel alone, but when I do, you can bet your poodle that it will be an adventure. Fret not, your poodle is safe if you wagered it, because I always do something that adds excitement to a journey . . . whether or not I actually intend to.

Last week, I hopped on a plane at 9pm to attend Realm Makers SpecFic conference, and I arrived in Philadelphia at what would be four in the morning, according to my internal clock. I braved several train changes and lugged my suitcase around countless stations, and my suitcase weighed, almost literally, a ton due to the copies of my books that took up the majority of beg space (“beg” is an inside joke, guys. I promise I edited this post *wink*). I arrived at Villanova University exhausted and hot (oh, the humidity! My curly hair did not approve), and all I wanted to do was put my face in ice water. But the instant I arrived in our dorm, I was greeted by the friendliest faces that I’d only ever seen on Facebook before, and everyone immediately welcomed me in. It was the strangest thing to meet these people for the first time and feel like I knew every last one of them.

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Just some of our group. (Photo Credit: Jake Tyson)

BUT THEN I went upstairs to drop my bag off, and Nadine Brandes (buy A Time to Die now! Just do it!) threw open the door and hugged me like we’d been apart for years. And we had.

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(left to right) Me, Tricia, Katie, and Nadine

Nadine and I got to know each other nearly five years ago at my cousin’s wedding. We bonded over YA and dancing and our love of all things fantasy and sci-fi, and we just clicked. She is one of those incredibly special people that you know for a day, and she finds her way into your heart forever with her charisma for life and her kind heart and sense of humor. Instead of washing my hair, which I probably should have done, we spent the next two hours chatting and catching up, and it was like we’d never been apart. Later that day, I would run into my other roomies and friends for life, Tricia Mingerink (fellow curly-hair-problems girl and author of Dare. I never write OMG, but O.M.G!!! This book!), and the most enthusiastic writer and blogger and caffeine drinker I have ever met, Katie (future Pulitzer and Christ Award winner. Follow her blog here). These ladies are my everything.

 

 

cassie

Then I ran out the door and hopped on yet another train back into town to meet Cassie (follow Novels and Necklaces) at Independence Hall. You might recognize her name from the dedications at the back of Defying Shadows; she was one of the first to finish beta reading the book, and we’ve kept it touch. So when I heard that she was in Philadelphia, I begged her to meet me, and she agreed! *squeals in excitement* It was such a special afternoon just getting to know each other and acting like we did that all the time. Definitely a special memory! 

And, of course, I promised you adventure. Aside from the amazing conference itself and happily losing myself inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art and jogging victoriously up the steps, Rocky Balboa-style, the majority of my *cough* adventure happened the Thursday I arrived. This mostly involved me getting trapped inside a Starbucks during a torrential downpour, although it did lead to me sharing my story with a few tourists inside, so, yay! When I realized I was going to be late for the conference kickoff, I braved the crazy storm (I’m from San Diego—what’s weather? The sky is crying! Ah!), my umbrella nearly snapped, my coffee cup just about dissolved from the rain, I trekked eight blocks to the train station, realized it was the wrong one and considered jumping the tracks (regardless of oncoming trains) before going back outside to the correct platform, and then I almost drowned in the flooded subway station. Oh, and all the while my sandals were slipping around as I trudged through The Nile. It. Was. Awesome! ^_^ And somehow the girl from the place that doesn’t have weather was the only one who brought an umbrella to the conference, so at one point we had six heads and one soggy poster crammed under the half-broken contraption while we laughingly dashed our way across campus to the cafeteria.

umbrella

Tricia, Katie, and I missing our roomy Nadine (she was off mentoring and adulting) while we were soaking in the rain.

Now, because I can be incredibly long-winded, I won’t detail every 18 seconds of the most incredible conference in history, though I want to. So I’ll glaze over the way I met one of my favorite Twitter friends, Zac Tyson (aka the “other” Zac—you thought I’d be shy . . . bahahahahaha), half-soaked and fully exhausted, and then instantly became besties with he and Hannah. And I won’t describe how amazing the kickoff was that night, with marshmallow-stacking and tissue-pulling games, or detail the incredible costumes at the costume party, nor the fact that Brianna and Lillian saved me from being costume-less next to these ladies:

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Katie (Rey) and I (as a Padawan, because I’m certainly no Jedi) battling for supremacy. We broke the feud for dinner.

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And I won’t tell you how Banana Dolphin Nadine had to keep us company when Nadine wasn’t around for our final breakfast as a group (may the banana dolphin live on!!!!), nor will I describe how two Zacs holding the aforementioned fruit companion is now legendary.

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And I honestly can’t explain what’s happening here:

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Zac is, clearly, a wizard (Photo credit: Me, but Zac’s phone. ^_~)

I also promise not to go on and on about how incredible and informative Kathy Tyres’ World-Building classes were, or how we had a hilarious and wonderfully useful self-defense class on the final night (Carla could totally take down the Hulk!), or the fact that Thomas Locke is such a beautiful speaker and Tosca Lee plays a great presidential candidate. And it would just be too much to tell you how Kirk Douponce—one of the most fantastic cover designers in the industry—is also an amazing person and coffee drinker, and has a great sense of humor when revealing some of the worst covers ever created (and I quote: What am I even looking at here?).

 

elevator 1And that’s not even getting into our group of Realmies! Suddenly, our small crew expanded into a tight-knit group with Hannah and the “other” Zac on Twitter (if you follow his Twitter, you will NOT regret it) and his awesome brother, Jake, and then Megan (aka Agent Carter) and her sister joined us, and Brianna and Lillian, and the “other” Zac from CO (aka Bruce Wayne who braved the Philadelphia train system with me, but doesn’t like coffee. Go figure), and Sam (Saber!), and Emilie Hendryx (her Society 6 designs are amazing—check them out here), and Jessi and Amy Brock McNew and Olivia— *sucks in a breath* I think you get the picture. At one point, we all crammed into an elevator and prayed we wouldn’t die. It. was. Epic! (Photo credits: Zac T. Austin; Fear: Me)

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I’ve never really had a close community of writers who can get together and share their thoughts and fears and fresh ideas, so this experience was special to me. Each night, everyone gathered at our dorm to hang out and chat about our day, and by the end of the conference, Katie and I had nearly lost our voices (worth it). Friday night, I was lucky enough to get on a Philadelphia-New Zealand Skype call with Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books, and on Saturday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Suzy and Shawn Kuhn, and I also pitched my next little brainchild to Michelle Harper of Love2Read2Write and Julie Gwinn, an agent at the Seymour Agency (I know, I was dying on the inside!).

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On the last night we had together, my roommates and I remained behind from the Nerf War that had commenced just outside our door and didn’t cease until 4:30am. 0.o But inside our room, Nadine, Tricia, Katie, and I finally got the opportunity to just be together and munch on chocolate and all the goodies Tricia brought, and we spent that time sharing about our next projects in a safe environment. I started tearing up as I sat there listening to Nadine describe the incredibly moving story she has in mind; Tricia detailed her entire series that sounds ridiculously gripping; and Katie—the youngest but probably the most dedicated writer of us all—who shyly admitted a few of her story ideas and then became excited as she explained what she has in mind. 

It was such a wonderfully special moment for me, and I suspect for all of us, because I realized I was witnessing the brilliant contrast between our group. Yes, we all love reading fiction and writing it and have similar tastes in certain areas of fic, but we all come from different backgrounds and are incredibly unique as writers. And that doesn’t just go for the best roommates of all time (this is a fact and is not up for negotiation), but for ALL writers. Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, enjoy sci-fi or fantasy, historical or purely romance, your story and your voice as a writer is unique and special and needed. The fact that literary historians can attribute several works to the Pearl Poet (they don’t even know the author’s name!) simply because of the style and tone of his/her works just goes to show you how wonderfully different we all are. And that is a great thing!

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Keep writing and dreaming, because God has a plan for that desire He’s put in your heart, and if you lean on Him and surround yourself with the right friends (^these people^), they’ll help you see it through.

Well, That was Fun!

Published October 7, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

Thanks to everyone who made the Chasing Shadows 1-Year Celebration my most successful day EVER! Huzzah!

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We hit an all-time high for total views, you guys were blowing up social media with #TeamHood & #ChasingShadowsBook, and I could not believe how many entries we hit for the Rafflecopter (enter here every day through Oct 16!). You guys are amazing! 

"I love you," (wink) says Dean O'Gorman. (gif) REQUIRED DAILY VIEWING for shy people. Don't forget to hear his Kiwi accent in your head.

Yeah, Kates, this one is for you!

Also, the party and celebration spurred some of you to start creating fan art for the trilogy, and let me tell you, I am loving the gorgeous images that have been pouring in on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. I pinned everything to my Rising Shadows Trilogy board for you to check out, which is slowly being re-created with the help of fans. It still pains me that Pinterest deleted years of work and inspiration from the original board at random *barf face, then quickly recovers*, but your support has been awesome! #HugglesForMyHooders!!! 

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Okay, so because my Hooders are just plain ol’ spectacular, I’ve decided to make Fridays #FanArtFriday. If you follow my Facebook page, you can find an entire album that I created for the fan art that started pouring in during the celebration (click here to see the album!), but a new piece—or two or three—will be released here every Friday during October in celebration of Chasing Shadows’ birth month. And who knows? Maybe there will be some fan art for Defying Shadows soon and another sneak-peak during the month.

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Word to the wise: Creating your own fan art for any of the books in the series is worth 2x the points toward the social media prizes, which will increase your odds of winning. Yippee! The images you create or alter can include direct quotes from Rising Shadows, Chasing Shadows, or the excerpt you saw from Defying Shadows, famous quotes that you feel are appropriate for the series, or just images that you splice and create inspired by the trilogy. Just tag me on Twitter or Pinterest @TownsendTales and use #TeamHood, and if you want, add #ChasingShadowsBook #CSBook. You can even include a link to the Rafflecopter to help people enter the Grand Prize! http://bit.ly/1Lizfzt

So be sure to keep visiting each day, sharing, and #TeamHood -ing it up on social media! And I’m sure I’ll see you back here this week for #FanArtFriday. While you’re here, you might as well just enter again to win some free stuff. Sound good? I thought so!

Only 9 days left to enter to win the Rafflectoper (click here to enter!). You can earn entries into the Grand Prize and social media prizes every day until Friday, October 16th. I’ll announce the winners here and on social media that weekend, so be sure to check back to see if you’ve won. Good luck, Hooders! And keep #TeamHood -ing it up! ^_^

 

Are You Ready to Rumblllleeee?

Published October 4, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

The Chasing Shadows 1-Year Celebration giveaway and party will begin in just a few minutes!

Dean O'Gorman in The Almighty Johnsons |   His face is like, "Food you say?" Lolololololo! That's my face half the time. literally. Lolololol!

I know, it’s pretty exciting. Gift cards and free books and questions and excerpts and fan art and just–BAH! So grab a coffee, strap yourself in, and get your fingers ready for some serious giveaway/reading/not so spoily spoiler fun!

I’m guessing I’ll see you back here in a few minutes.

to make me feel better when i'm having a bad day. Eye of the Tiger, baby! haha! #BestGIFEver

Goodreads Event Created

Published October 1, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

I just created the Chasing Shadows 1-Year celebration on Goodreads for people to join! (I have no idea why I haven’t thought to add it for previous events) I sent out invites to all my Goodreads friends, but anyone can join by following the link below, and I think you should be able to invite your friends, as well, or at least share the link with them (if you share via a blog post, give me a pingback or email me the link at ashleytownsend.author@yahoo.com). The celebration has been getting tons of attention on social media, especially Twitter and Pinterest. I think I have a feeling who the Most Social Hooder Grand Prize is going to be, but keep using #TeamHood and tagging @TownsendTales on social media to gain entries toward both prizes (re-blogging this post counts! Just leave the link and your name in the comments below). And stop by here on October 4th for the grand celebration kick-off and to enter the Rafflectoper, which you can enter every day until October 16th.

Until next time, Team Hood!

https://www.goodreads.com/event/show/973714-chasing-shadows-1-year-celebration-giveaway

Everbound, Take Me Away!

Published March 25, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

Sorry I’ve been so absent, guys! Finishing up some stuff for spring break-HALLELUJAH!!!!—and having the best week ever with my friend Rebekah from Colorado. Our activities basically revolved around Coronado Beach, Starbucks, the San Diego Zoo, Starbucks, day trips up mountains, Starbucks, Sea Port Village, and some Starbucks runs thrown in, just in case you didn’t catch that before. BUT I couldn’t leave you hanging totally, and I’ve been dying to write something about the latest book I’ve read. You all know how much I loved “Everneath” by Brodi Ashton and that the sequel, “Everbound” was on my Most Anticipated of 2013 list. Yes, I was giddy, I was exultant and will always cherish that moment when Liz brought that sweet little parcel of goodness home to me—and the cover is just as incredible as the first, too! I think I devoured the book in two days and was almost late for work both days. It starts off slower like “Everneath,” but both books keep you constantly engaged and never really have a point where they lag.

Okay, so just a refresher, in case you didn’t read my review of “Everneath,” which you can find on my Goodreads page: Loved the first book! It was interesting, fairly well-paced, and for once—move aside, Bella!—the book centered on a NOT self-centered heroine, Nikki. I really liked Nikki’s character, her story, her back story, her disintegrating romance with Jack when she returns from being trapped in the Everneath for a hundred years. And that brings me to my next point: I was very concerned about the Everneath aspect of it and was a little hesitant to read the sequel, since this wasn’t quite so prevalent in the first book. But “Everneath” ended on such a cliff-hanger, almost literally, that I wanted to give “Everbound” a little try. I was so glad I did, though the ending forced me through a wading pool of tissues made out of tears of betrayal. Yeah, that good, and I mean that seriously! No character has ever broken my heart like that. Bring it on! Oh, and heads up that I gave the sequel five stars, especially for the fact that the author could make me so wounded and passionate over the ending.

The book starts off a couple weeks after Jack takes Nikki’s place in the tunnels, and I am literally giddy over the fact that Cole and Nikki have to work together. Don’t ask me why I loved him so much in the first book, because I can’t really be sure. He wasn’t the guy you’re supposed to root for, and I didn’t really in “Everneath,” but I always looked forward to his cheeky attitude and killer grin to enter a scene. Anyway, I was REALLY looking forward to having him in most of the book. Jack, yes, is the hero of the story, and we all know that Nikki will end up with him. But to be totally honest, I didn’t really miss him in this story; the flashbacks and dreams that she has of him were enough for me, and then it was Cole Time.

cole and nikki are working together. Yippee

And then when Nikki finally convinces Cole to help her go to the Everneath to save Jack, I was pretty ecstatic.

giddy

I was expecting the Everneath to be kind of creepy, which is why I was so hesitant. But it actually reminded me more of one of those sandy Star Wars’ worlds with all the dunes and mud houses, for some reason, and it also had a “Pilgrim’s Progress” feel, since emotions affect a lot of the outcomes of the places they have to go. Like the mists in the caves draw out your negative emotions, other places confuse you, etc. And in every instance, I found myself falling totally for Cole. Jack was hardly in the story, only in her dreams—no pun intended—and so there was plenty of space for him in my heart. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen for a bad boy in a story like this before, so kudos to the author! He still had some of his cheeky, Cole tendencies, but the things he did seemed to always be for her benefit. *sigh, sigh, and dreamy SIGH* And then there is this beautiful moment when Cole wraps his arms around Nikki to protect her from this huge wave of rocks and water, and he nearly dies, and she has to do CPR–man, I wish I was her–and he’s all bruised and battered. Oh, come on, Brodi! Can you make me love him any more? Ah, the answer to that is a solid yes.

Which brings us to the Sirens. Awesomeness! These things turn into what you most desire and want at that moment, and the Siren trying to entice Cole is a Nikki doppelganger! Awww. Break my heart! Long story short, Nikki kiss Cole to save his life–don’t you love when that happens. And I was like, “Yes, yes, YES! Finally!” cole is hereSuccess! And then he grins because he knew that only the real Nikki would do something like that to save his life. AwwwwwwwwwWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!

i love him, I love him

Just as they’re about to release Jack, Cole kicks Nikki from the Everneath, and without his help, she can’t come back, to stop him, I was sure. I was honestly shocked and so upset, because I was sure Cole had done something stupid, like traded places with Jack, because I knew there was something he wasn’t telling her. My worst fears were confirmed when Jack suddenly appears in Nikki’s house, totally alive and released. No, Cole wouldn’t, he didn’t….

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Now I’m stuck wondering what happened to Cole, since this all occurred in the last six pages. I was so upset that I was even hoping that maybe Cole had tricked Nikki and came back pretending to be Jack so she would give up her search. I could deal with that betrayal—THAT betrayal. irritation and confusionBut then Cole appeared.

breathing in and out

Where has he been, why is he acting so strange, why is he so surprised and upset that Jack made it back? And then he says something like, “Let me just enjoy this moment, this final moment where in your eyes, I’m still a hero.”

coooooooleI already know it’s coming, but how bad, you ask? Well, the entire time Cole has been tricking Nikki, because he LOVES her–I still choose to believe–to get her to the Everneath so that she would kiss him three times, of her own free will, so that her heart will be his forever. Even his avoidance of her before they start off on their trek was planned.

what

no he di-ent

he did not lieThe LIES!

he wasn't actually bad, was he

He wouldn’t. No.

HOW COULD HE?!!!!

HOW COULD HE?!!!!

cooooooole

CURSE YOU, BRODI ASHTON!!!!

oh, colesadness

crying

so many feelings

book out window

Then I did this in a fit of emotion, immediately regretted it, ran to save the book, hugged it to my chest, and cried.

And then the tears of betrayal start:

Yeah, so that’s basically it. The entire book is a-mazing, then the ending rips your heart out. And I gave it a five? Yes, because the fact that I can fall totally in love with a character, deny that they’re evil and try to convince my sister Liz that Cole really does love her, and then mark all the pages for the beautiful scenes before he turned selfish again means that this was a good book. Yes, my heart was broken into a million pieces, and I curled up with my sock monkey, a blanket, and listened to “Everybody Hurts” on my bedroom floor in total darkness, and I STILL hurt thinking about it. And yet I’ll probably buy it anyway, just to feel the pain, because it means I’m alive!!!!! Okay, that was me being dramatic, but it’s seriously one of those painfully awesome books that you want to read on a rainy day to relive the pain. No idea why, it’s just that good.

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