Creative

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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.

lore

(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

 

Part 3: Did You Really Just Ask That?

Published February 19, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 3: Did You Really Just Ask That?

The only good excuse a writer has for delaying a blog post is because they were, well, writing. And I was, I promise! I was busying immersing myself in Serimone and working through the final three chapters of Defying Shadows (click here)—you know, that book I was supposed to finish months ago? Yeah. . . . But fret not, eager beavers! It’s going to be worth the wait.

Now, onto this weeks writing rant.

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Last time you learned all you could ever wish to know about writers block, and while deadlines and re-writes and copy-editing can sometimes be a very necessary drag in the writing process, there are some things that just burn the proverbial biscuits of every writer (inspired by conversations with authors over the past week).

Comments/Questions authors hate the most:

  1. Oh, you’re a writer. How cute.

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It’s not like I’m a professional panda hugger! (Although, dang, that job would be sweet) Whenever I hear this observation, yeah—no comment. . . . Which I see now is kind of a moot point after I commented, but we’re just going to ignore that fact for now.

  1. It’s been over a month. Are you finished with your novel yet?

for real

Oh, yes, please excuse my while I pull 400+ pages from the magical rear of the Story Unicorn, where every author stores their grand ideas that can be brought to life, macro and copy-edited, and produced in paperback in a solid 30 days.

  1. There isn’t really any money in writing, you know.

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Really? Oh, I had no idea! The only reason why I’d ever pour my soul out on a blank canvas is so that I could earn massive cash and swim in it like Scrooge McDuck. I’ll just call up Michelangelo and let him know we’ve been doing it wrong. . . . Okay, so that’s a bit dramatic, but you get the general picture.

  1. How hard could it be?

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Considering there are a few thousand workshops and conferences each year, support groups, actual writer-themed chocolate and alcohol called “Writer’s Tears” to comfort you when you receive poor reviews, and ENTIRE boards and memes on Pinterest dedicated to the struggles of writing, I believe it’s safe to say that it can be a bit difficult at times.

  1. Can you just give me the summary of your little book so I don’t have to read it?

ron swanson

  1. Don’t you want a real job?

what

Yes, I have heard this before. I was very calm at the time, but let’s be honest, when you spend approximately 40,000 hours pouring every ounce of mental strength into a story that you alone created, completely draining yourself emotionally and depriving yourself of sleep for something that’s meaningful to you . . . Yes, it can be a little painful to hear that people believe what you do is sweet, too easy to be a career, or completely childish. Honestly, when did being creative mean that you weren’t an adult, or that productive imagination meant you weren’t mature? And how did daydreaming become a bad thing?! Some of the greatest minds in history were considered “creative” geniuses and dreamers. 

daydreaming

Some people are born with the creative gene, but so many of us have had to hone our creativity over the years, working day and night to produce something mediocre that we had to re-work again and again until we got it right. Because it was worth it.

Writing isn’t for the faint of heart, and I’m not just saying this post applies to authors alone; I can securely bet a stack of my books that at least half of you can relate to these crafty jabs in some way. And you know what I’m beginning to realize? It’s okay! I read this interesting quote the other day, and I’ll probably butcher it, but basically it said to keep doing whatever it is that makes you happy, even if others tell you that your effort is wasted or you’ll never be good enough: Passion and effort are never wasted when you’re working toward a goal that pleases God, and the harder it becomes, the more rewarding it will be in the end. So, find that niche that makes you happy and go for it. You might even surprise yourself!

 

 

 

 

#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.”

The Indispensable Author’s Arsenal

Published September 9, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

Writer header

I’ve been writing like the dickens lately—school and fun related—so I apologize for my negligence, Sweet Readers! Good news for you loyal fans, though: I literally just received the final edited copy of “Chasing Shadows”!!!!!! Huzzah! I have until Friday to look over the final edits and give the okay for the book to be printed, so it’s a bit of a race against the clock right now. . . . Hmm, much like Sarah in “Chasing Shadows.” Although, if I fail, a medieval kingdom won’t fall into the hands of a bloodthirsty ruler or unravel the very fabric of time and history, so I think I got the better end of the deal. 😉

Because of this, I’m in crack-down mode again and have basically spent until 1am the past two nights poring over the manuscript and making sure everything is copacetic It’s a little scary to know that this will be the last time I get to make corrections to and improve the sequel, but I’m giving this one up to God, guys (don’t worry; I haven’t forgotten my post about letting God take control from a while back). It has also been incredibly exciting to be inspired to write or add things to Book III in the Shadow Trilogy because of something I read in “Chasing Shadows.”

You guessed it! I’m in “Author Mode” (adj: an intensely concentrative state where all things not directly pertaining to writing/reading/editing are ignored to make room for writing/reading/editing functions of the brain. Also includes functions necessary for coffee consumption). Over the past few weeks, I’ve devised a few key concepts that have become my mantra while writing, and also a few tricks of the trade necessary for those long hours spend with pen in hand. I call it:

The Indispensable Author’s Arsenal

(Say that five times fast!) I did a variation of this Arsenal a long time ago and have kept at it since, adding my own improvements. Feel free to use this code of awesomeness for yourself while you read and write, and don’t forget to add “Chasing Shadows” on Goodreads before it comes out in the next two months, become a fan on Goodreads, and keep coming back for the release date of “Chasing Shadows.” ^_^ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22545313-chasing-shadows?from_search=true

 Get creative

time to create

Set goals and ask questions: Is this necessary, does it add to the plot? 

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Caffeinate (it’s capitalized because it’s important)

coffee and writing

Find inspiration in other works

inspired by reading

Get rid of distractions

distractions

Drink more coffee

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Stay crazy and honest in your passion for the craft

stay mad

Remain true to who you are as a writer

stay true

Never be afraid to dream big

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And for that, you need more Coffee!!!!

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Surround yourself with good people–they’ll lift you up and inspire you

friend usefriends

Keep disciplined

deiscipline

Never, EVER give up!

don't give up

write for a living final

 

The Drama in Writing

Published August 17, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

Some people might think that being an author is one of those easy jobs—sit on your backside whilst fabricating stories to entertain your readers. But there are so many issues that come along with a career in writing that no one ever really thinks of. I decided that it’s my job to tell you just how “hard” my life is because I got to live my dream of being an author.

Okay, so first off, being an author makes my life very difficult at times. This trauma has nothing to do with deadlines or even writing the stories, but no one ever explained how awful it is write the sequel to a book and not be able to share it with my readers! I am simply dying to give you a little taste of what I’ve been working on after “Rising Shadows.” I want to ask your opinions about the plot, share the profiles of the new characters, spill the beans about where I want “The Shadow” trilogy to go, shock you with who’s going to end up dead in the sequel, explain the repercussions of time travel and how I’m introducing new legends, and maybe, possibly whisper about what will happen to Will and Sarah because of it. Every time a new idea or scene pops into my head or I spend hours writing plots and scenes that surprise even me, I immediately want to share it with my readers and friends to get their opinions. But, alas, I cannot spoil too much as of yet. I told you my life is difficult. *sighs*

Issue #2: Life is a story to me. Everything I see, touch, and experience are usually a little more dramatized in my head and always seem to come out in my stories. When I get excited over something, I wonder how a character might respond to it—would they share in my joy and want to join me? Sit in the background and long to experience life? Or if I can’t fix something or don’t have an answer to it, I want to see if my characters can figure it out, and sometimes we help each other along; I offer some advice and give a little push, and then see where they go and what they discover. Also, my writing-inclined mind keeps me from just falling asleep at night. Generally, that’s my “quiet time” where I finish out a scene in my head that I was writing earlier and develop new characters and ideas. Sometimes I even just make up a simple scene and characters that I play with until I have something. I would probably fall asleep much faster if I just closed my eyes and shut off my thinking machine, but what fun is that? I’ve done this ever since I was little, and though it hasn’t necessarily mellowed out in the passing years, it has led to some pretty entertaining stories and amazing new discoveries.    

……. Okay, so maybe these really aren’t even issues, per say, and they may, actually, be good things because it means I’m excited about these current projects and working on new ones for you guys … Oh. Then does that mean there aren’t any problems with being an author? Oh, my! What a revelation! I take back what I said—I love my life. ^__^ AND I did want to give you just a little taste of what I’ve been working on and get your opinions on a little something I’m doing with the sequel to “Rising Shadows.” Please, please, please take the poll below and share it with your friends, regardless of whether or not they’ve actually read “Rising Shadows.” I am so curious to see what readers are looking for, and I will make sure to add this newest poll to the “Polls” page on the top left of my site. Feel free to take it as many time as you like and leave a comment!

CURRENT GIVEAWAY!!!

Kirkdale Press and Vyrso are giving away a Nexus 7 tablet and 27 free ebooks (including mine!) Enter here: http://vyr.so/N0n9iI

 

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