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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
And I honestly can’t explain what’s happening here:
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?).
And 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)
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!).
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!
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.
It seems a few of us didn’t quite reach NaNoWriMo Conqueror status this year, although many of us exceeded 50,000 words in previous months. Hey, it’s ebb and flow in the writing process, and we can’t always hit our goals in any given month, no matter how hard we push and slave and abuse our coffee IVs and social network and neglect that thing called “sleep.” So to encourage those who, like me, fell just shy of their goal last month, I thought I’d share this email I received from the NaNo team. I found it to be pretty encouraging, and I hope you do, too. Remember, no one will ever write your novel, and whether you are published or not, as long as you keep writing, no one can ever take your story from you. Be proud of what you accomplished this month, and don’t worry, fellow dreamers. We’ll get ’em next year! ^_^
AND congrats to the winners of NaNoWriMo season–you all worked hard, and I can’t wait to read your WIPs soon!
You might not have hit 50,000 words this month, but you did something tremendously important:
- You felt a story stirring in your heart, and you began to explore it.
- You bravely signed up to make creativity a priority in November.
- You created a beginning—a beginning that will lead to other beginnings.
Sometimes an illness or the demands of life can sidetrack a creative endeavor. Sometimes a story just isn’t quite ready to be written. But don’t despair. A novel travels the same labyrinthian and nettlesome path that its main characters do—overcoming setbacks, facing down gnarly antagonists, and then moving forward toward the light. You built a cocoon for your novel this November. A butterfly will emerge.
So I urge you to keep your creative fires burning and ready yourself to reach 50,000 words next NaNoWriMo. Here are three things you can do if you haven’t already:
- Donate to celebrate your novel’s genesis—and to finish it!
Keep the writing conversation going in NaNo’s forums (the lights are on all year!)
Sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April to renew your creative commitment.
Most importantly, please keep believing in the transformational magic of creativity, and how it can amplify life in all ways. Our stories connect us. Our stories make us who we are. The world needs your novel, so please write it.
Saluting you for your many future NaNo wins!
P.S. Today is #GivingTuesday—a celebration of generosity. You can also donate to support a classroom in NaNo’s Young Writers Program. We sent 2,000 free novel writing kits to classrooms in 2015. In 2016, we’d like to expand our reach by sending 500 more kits to classrooms near and far. After you donate, let the world know.
So you’ve seen the ah-mazing fan art that @Readiculousgirl created for “Chasing Shadows” (drool worthy!!!), and the giveaway went live this morning—the entries are pouring in! Keep entering and sharing the link for the Rafflecopter, and come back each day to enter again until the giveaway ends October 16th! And don’t forget to earn entries toward the 2 social media prizes by tagging @TownsendTales and using #TeamHood #ChasingShadowsBook https://ashley-townsend.com/2015/10/04/chasing-shadows-1-year-celebration-giveaway/
Now that we’re having a blast celebrating the 1-year birthday of “Chasing Shadows” with freebies and fan art, I figured I might give you a sneak peak at “Defying Shadows,” the final installment in the “Rising Shadows trilogy.” Don’t panic!
You can freak out if you want to, actually—that’s totally all right with me. This is a never-before-seen sample from “Defying Shadows” that even my team of Hooders (beta readers) have yet to see yet. You all know how important this series is to me, so it’s so fun to be able to share a tempting morsel of some of the final words of the series. *feels attack* Curious? Keep reading, and reblog to your friends!
The wrinkled paper glared at her, the thick glob of red wax a stark contrast against the slightly yellow parchment. She knew the letter contained Damien’s writing, though she hadn’t yet brought herself to break the seal after months of holding it in her possession, unopened but never far from her mind.
Her hand twitched as she slid her finger under the seal with careful movements, the wax cracking and lifting as she did so. She held her breath when the seal broke and the letter unfolded an inch. She ignored the small piece of paper, crinkled and yellowed with age—whether because she’d left it in her dirty laundry for months or because it was nearly a thousand years old, she couldn’t say—that fell to the floor. She carefully held open Damien’s letter; his tight, beautiful script filled the entire page, as though he’d needed every inch for his thoughts, his looping a’s painfully familiar. Her eyes scanned quickly, unseeing, over the whole of the letter and then returned to the top, to the three perfectly sculpted words that looked like he had penned them with painstaking care: My dearest Sarah—
Abruptly, she snatched the smaller letter from the floor, stuffed it between the pages of Damien’s missive once more, and smashed the paper between her hands, balling it in her fists and chucking both letters the room with a screech of annoyance. It hit the frosted window and fell lamely to the floor atop a mound of clothes Clara had left behind.
Feeling restless in her dorm room, where the air had suddenly become too thin to breathe properly, Sarah grabbed her heavy vest off the mattress and slipped her arms through it, not bothering to zip up the front. She shoved her feet into her leather boots and booked it down the stairs, needing fresh air. A girl she vaguely recognized smiled at her in the foyer, saying a friendly, “Have a great vacation!”
“You, too,” Sarah managed.
She immediately felt refreshed once she stepped outside into the cold, and the air helped to clear her head. The layers of soft white fluff covering the dead grass and piled on the trees that had been decorated with colorful lights made it look like Christmas had arrived on campus. Aside from those few bodies currently inhabiting the grounds, campus was otherwise deserted, Sarah realized as she let her gaze wander the snowy landscape. Hardly another soul in sight.
That was why her eyes found his so easily.
Sarah stopped dead in her tracks, arms falling to her sides in surprise. A dark-haired man stared back at her, and she could see, even from this distance, that his wide eyes were a deep blue. She imagined that she could make out the lighter blue ring surrounding his indigo irises, how the shadow along his jaw would feel against her fingertips. She blinked, sure he was a mirage, but he was still there when she opened her eyes. He looked exactly as she had last seen him—handsome, tall, and dressed for a different age—though he was also strangely like a ghost at the same time. It wasn’t that she could see through him, but there was something off about his appearance that was so subtle Sarah wondered if she might be imagining it.
Will’s lips parted when their gazes met, mouth working almost in slow motion as he shook his head. She squinted, trying to make out the words but too distracted by the fact that Will was in Oklahoma, on her campus, in the twenty-first century. Every instance they had spent together slammed into her, washing over her in a flood and reminding her just how much she had missed him, how much she loved him, and how he should not be here.
He advanced a step, eyes as big as saucers as he moved forward, motioning with one hand for her to come his way. He looked alarmed as he moved toward her, though his movements looked off somehow.
She spun to find her professor behind her, smiling cordially. On instinct, she quickly whipped her head back around, though the apparition had already disappeared. She blinked, swallowing over how silly she had been to think he had been there at all, though she couldn’t keep her eyes from roving the grounds another moment in deluded hope. He had looked so real….
Her heart rate returned to normal, though there was a pain in her chest now. No, she reminded herself dully, Will is dead, and you’ll never see him in this world, or the next.
I know how you feel—I basically reacted this way while I was writing the scene. Right in the fangirl!
I tried to pick a spoiler-free sample from “Defying Shadows” so that it won’t ruin the series for those of you who have yet to begin, but I also really wanted to torture my fans. Muwahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!! But you all know I love you. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you and God’s mercy, so I gotta share some love and feels! Oh, and Hiddles love.
I love the way that Christine writes on her Musings of An Elf blog; it’s so beautiful and heartfelt, and seeing how similarly impassioned we both get over good books was the reason why I asked her to review the Rising Shadows Trilogy, and I’m so glad I did. Christine loves the series! *happy dance* It warms an author’s heart to know that others connect with these characters as they do. I couldn’t be more pleased with her review of Chasing Shadows, so be sure to check it out and share around with your other book-loving/blogger friends. And don’t forget to follow Christine’s blog to keep an eye out for something about beta reading the final book in the series. . . Just sayin’! ^_^
Thank you so much to all who participated in the Chasing Shadows Twitter Release Party! It was a roaring success and a blast to host.
The winner of Most Tweets During the Party is @elizabethtown88. She will be receiving a $10 Amazon gift card. Thanks so much for getting the entire San Diego County Library system to tweet about “Chasing Shadows”!
And the winner of National Timepiece Day for submitting the best picture of a timepiece to win the $5 Amazon giftcard is @readiculousgirl. You know how much I love pocket watches. ^_^
It was a lot of work to keep up with the party and the tweets, and you can check them all out at https://twitter.com/TownsendTales I had so much fun, though! I seriously would not mind doing that again. So thanks, all, for the support and love this afternoon! Phew, I’m pooped!
First order of business: Don’t forget that tomorrow I’ll be at the Barnes&Noble in Grossmont Center, La Mesa, CA with author Livia Blackburne for her and other YA authors’ Q&A and giveaways. It’s going to be a lot of fun and starts at 2pm, so don’t be square! And if you plan to get there early and want to meet me, email me at email@example.com or tweet to me @TownsendTales. Can’t wait to see you there!
Finally, I’ll be on vacation for the last week of this month and am taking my copy of “Chasing Shadows” along with me. My sister DeAnna and I are turning her Instagram into a promotional page of wildly awesome pictures of the books. It might go rock climbing, order Chinese, read itself to ducklings. You’ll just have to follow http://instagram.com/d_jeans86 to find out what we’ll be doing to that poor thing this month! Toodles!
So be sure to follow this Instagram account http://instagram.com/d_jeans86 to receive updates and hilariously random pics with my own copy of “Chasing Shadows” while we’re in central California later this month.
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My good friend Nadine Brandes’ first dystopian thriller is out in ebook today! So excited and proud of her and this incredible story. This book and Nadine’s raw characters impacted my life as a reader and a human being and forced me to answer the question, “If I had one year left to live, what would I do?” My post to Nadine’s prompt will premiere this Friday, September 26th, 2014, so be sure to tune back in. In the meantime, join the Facebook release party and invite your friends for fun and prizes https://www.facebook.com/events/707107636048938/726618327431202/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity
Check out her blog post from today that I posted below, and be sure to order your own copy of the ebook for yourself, or pre-order the paperback for a friend (to be released next week). And don’t forget to share and support brilliant authors like Nadine.
Release Day! – A Time to Die E-Book
Today is the day!
A Time to Die is here. (That sounds rather ominous…)
About the Book
If you haven’t already, you can read about A Time to Die here. Here’s a brief summary:
Imagine a world where everyone has a Clock showing them exactly how long they have to live. You keep yours on your nightstand. You see your Numbers every day. That is what A Time to Die is about.
Parvin Blackwater lives in this world. She’s seventeen-years-old and has one year left, only she believes she’s wasted her life. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out.
Who is this book for?
It’s geared toward ages 16 and up. Do you enjoy books like The Hunger Games or Divergent? A Time to Die is in the same genre. The difference? This story is built off the foundation of faith in Christ. It’s Christian speculative fiction. My goal in this novel is not to “preach” but to address questions — even spiritual doubts — that we have all possibly asked at one point. To point us toward hope in Christ despite the uncertainties of life.
This book is for anyone who loves story and allows story to change them. It’s for anyone searching for hope in a forlorn type of world. It’s for anyone wondering what might change should they know how long they have to live.
Why should you read A Time to Die?
Some believe that fiction can’t really add much to our lives. I used to be one of those people — I read fiction for only entertainment’s sake. Over the past several years, I’ve seen how God used it to shape me. My prayer is that A Time to Die will be a “shaping” type of book.
My prayer is also that it will help renew your perspective on life, thus urging you to pursue life — to pursue God — with the utmost energy and passion. Just by writing it, I’ve gained deeper understanding on what it means to hone my vision and purpose for God.
Ever wonder what God’s purpose is for your life? Ever feel like you’ve wasted your life? These are two issues my main character, Parvin, has to address through her journey.
Most of all, A Time to Die was written to combat the hopelessness I noticed in some other dystopian novels.
Special launch week events to watch for:
Facebook Party! — Come to the Facebook Party tonight! 7-9 EST (4-6 PST) Prizes like gift cards, special items from my book, signed copies, and even a Kindle are being given away.
Giveaway — Click on this link and scroll to the bottom of the post to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a signed copy of A Time to Die and/or an Amazon gift card!
Meet the Characters:
Other ways you can support:
- Pray for this book and release! Pray that it glorifies God and continues to reach the hands of the readers who need it most.
- Purchase a paperback copy of A Time to Die and donate it to your library.
- After you read A Time to Die, write a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
- Purchase it as a gift for a friend (Christmas is just around the corner, right? )
- SHARE this book and release with your friends, on your Facebook, through e-mail, on Twitter, etc.
This process of writing a book, watching God take it into the hands of a publisher, and now seeing it in print has been…overwhelmingly breathtaking. I’m in constant awe of the people who have stepped forward to support, mainly with their friendship and encouragement.
Each of you who visits my blog is one of those people. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I thank God for you and I pray He continues to reveal His purpose and visions for your life.
I’m so excited to share this story with you. Please connect with me and ask any questions you’d like or tell me what you think of the book!
Okay, so which version of A Time to Die are you going for? Paperback or e-book?
What fiction books have helped shaped your life?
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