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August Wrap-Up: The Heat Wave, The Music, The Insanity

Published September 4, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

I don’t know about you, but I felt like August flew by! It wasn’t that there were so many activities, but just general business that caused the summer to jump from July to September in a flash. Although I can’t say I’m too sorry to see August go because:

a) FALL! . . . You know, for those of us who don’t live in Southern California. But I will enjoy my flannel and all things pumpkin while trying not to get heat stroke.

b) August was a fun but kind of stressful month *rocks back and forth in shock blanket*

c) If I hear the words “path” and “totality” in the same sentence one more time . . .

d) It’s always insanity at the office right before school starts.

e) The sun tried to kill us at the end of the month, more than likely because it didn’t like being overshadowed for even a few hours in *whispers* the path of totality.

not amused.jpg

Monthly recap: My sisters and I spent the month of August looking for apartments and finally nailed down a place (we have a roof!!), we did plenty of prep-packing, and then celebrated my grandpa’s 90th birthday with our relatives from Orange County, which was a wonderful time of fellowship and laughter. I failed miserably in my editing and writing goals for the month due to the afore-mentioned busyness (boo *sad face*). BUT I actually managed to read several books last month (huzzah!) and scheduled a bunch of author events and signings through the fall, so I feel like I can revel in those accomplishments. 

loki cheering

I read this hilarious post by Nadine Brandes about the near-assassination by her shower, and I also joined a few amazing Instagram challenges that I’m really looking forward to playing with this month (check them out on some of my latest Insta posts here). Music-wise, my sisters and I saw Dierks Bentley in concert for the fourth year in a row . . . and realized we might be getting too old to stay up past midnight. Haha. Unless it’s for writing and reading purposes, of course! (I technically can’t include One Republic’s amazing concert to this list, since it was Sept 1st, but it will be in next month’s wrap-up.) And as much as I’d love to share some fabulous photos of August’s exploits with you, friends, my phone staged a coo and ran off with all of my personal data and photos, so I’m still waiting for the ransom note to come so I can retrieve my belongings.

Lastly, the past week has been consumed by such an intense heat wave (110 degrees, anyone??) that we haven’t been able to enjoy any of summer’s final moments or focus on anything other than not dying. Although the clouds finally let loose with some cooling rain today, and you know how rain and weather inspire me to write, so maybe I can finally make up for weeks of neglect. I’m coming, precious work in progress!!!

 

supernatural jensen ackles

What I read:

Lucky in Love by Kasie West *****

lucky in love

One word: adorable! Kasie is my auto-buy author, and this is a sweet, funny story of a girl who finds herself faced with the age-old question: Can money solve all your problems?

Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt *****

Unsanctioned Eyes

I met Brianna last year at Realm Makers, and I had the pleasure of reading Unsanctioned Eyes before most. This book is incredible, intense, and depicts a beautiful story of redemption and love. Show Brianna some love and get this book before you regret it!

In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody ****

in some other life

I bought this book at Barnes and Noble because of the cover, and I’m so glad I did! I don’t usually reach for contemporary, but it was a fun and surprisingly moving story of a girl who suddenly finds herself living the life she regretted giving up, though getting what she wishes for turns out to be a curse. 

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo ***

wonder woman

WHY??? If you read my Comic Con post, you know how excited I was for this book. I was just incredibly disappointed. I had a hard time giving it 3 stars and know this doesn’t go along with popular opinion, but I had to force myself to come back to it. I have yet to write a review and am waiting until I can sort out my disappointment.  

sheba

I also started “The Legend of Sheba” by Tosca Lee last month, so this one is in progress. Definitely worth picking up if you enjoy Middle Eastern settings and Biblical history!

My TBR pile

this savage song

Everyone talks so highly of this series, and I’m itching to start!

hunted

I just ordered this on B&N, and, c’mon son, that cover.

deliver

I need this book in my life right now!!!!!!

John-Thornton-john-thornton-9995746-480-516

Why am I reading North and South again? Because it’s one of my favorite classics and we’re reading it for book club. Oh, you mean why is there a picture of Richard Armitage (as John Thornton) brooding all sexy-like? Because his portrayal of Thornton is amazing and because I CAN!

I’m sure there are things that I’m forgetting, but they’ll just have to wait. For now, I’ll be dreaming of fall leaves, crisp autumn air, and any type of coffee that doesn’t have to be iced. ^_~ 

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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.

The Rose and the Dagger

Published May 10, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

dagger

Oh, Renee, you never cease to amaze me! *happy sigh*

After Renee Ahdieh’s “The Wrath and the Dawn” blew–let’s be honest–EVERYONE away (and also after I met the sweet, hilarious writing genius at Comic-Con 2015), the book fandom world suffered greatly for a year in anticipation of the final installment in the duology. Then came a description and the cover!!! (Shipper hearts exploded everywhere) And, finally, after millions of painful hours spent crying softly with want and need, the book arrived.

david tennant eager

Oh, how the heavens rejoiced!!!

Anyway, you know I’m not one for being the recipient OR giver of spoilers, so I’ll just give you a brief overview of the story through “Teen Wolf” gifs. Now, come, enter our fandom. WARNING! There are no exits. 

fandom

The book begins with Shazi at the camp Tariq brings her to, and it was actually nice to see them interacting again. But as much as I like Tariq, I have been waiting a year for Khazi to reconnect, so OUT OF THE WAY!!! At long last, once Shazi came to Khalid on her magic carpet (trying so hard not to sing the Steppenwolf song right now!), it was like nothing else mattered in the world.

yesss

And there is this one moment where something happens to Shazi (no spoilers!), and Khalid is about to go into full-on zombie mode to avenge her. I believe every fangirl felt this way in that instant:

hot

But, inevitably, now that we’ve had some great times together, there’s bound to be some drama. Or, like, truckloads of it. I finished the book in two days (if it wasn’t for eating, sleeping, and work, I could have finished sooner!), and I was basically a hot, concerned mess until the last page.

sad

And when Khalid fights to free himself from his curse, we were all cheering him on.

curse

The only issue (“issue” even sounds extreme, since its just my preference) that I had with the book was that there sometimes wasn’t enough of Shazi and Khalid together–plenty of pages were dedicated to secondary characters. For example, I like Irsa as a person, I really do, but sometimes having entire chapters dedicated to her (when you just know Khazi it out there somewhere) was a little tedious. Though I always looked forward to Rahim in her scenes! But as much as we love them, raise your hand if you don’t want Irsa to occupy half of Khazi’s story.

irsa

 Although having so many secondary characters at the forefront of the story was sometimes distracting, when one of them–one of my favorite characters–lost his life, I was totally broken up over it and shed several tears. But then I couldn’t see the page and had to dry my tears so I could finish!!!

crying

And somehow Renee can break your heart and then mend it 1,000 times over. Just. Sigh. One of the most perfect series enders I have read in a long time. Kudos, Renee!

daniel sharman gif

But I was so entrenched in the story that once I had rushed through to the end and placed the finished story aside, it hit me that it was over. I had just read the epilogue, and the series was over! Excuse me while I die and then proceed to re-read “The Wrath and the Dawn” 40 times.

end

Now buy, BUY the book! What are you waiting for? GOOOOOOOO!!!!

 

Part 4: Oops, You’re Dead!

Published February 28, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 4: Oops, You’re Dead!

This post was going to be so large I had to break it into two, so next week we’ll discuss how a character moves from the drawing board into (semi) reality. I’m working backward, but I couldn’t resist when I found the perfect gifs to address the idea of dealing with a character once they’ve spent enough time in your story—also known as *cough* knowing when to kill them. When has a character reached their end? When is it useful to kill them off? The former is the most important question you can ask in regards to a character’s demise.

galavant fun

One frustrating thing I’ve encountered as a reader is the unnecessary death count just for the sake of having someone die. It’s like an author reached the end of their story, slapped a palm to their forehead, and remembered they were supposed to kill somebody off, so they choose some background character to avoid upsetting the plot. But was I attached to them? No. Did their death affect me in any way? Hardly. And if this is the case, then odds are the protagonist’s emotions over this character’s death won’t matter to you, which is exactly the opposite of what should happen. You should be emotional, justified, or outraged they died; their death is pointless if you aren’t wildly flipping through the pages to see if they’ll make it, or running like mad to stop the author from writing them out of your series.

 

Thornton No.gif

As a writer, everything we do should have a purpose, especially when it concerns death. I read so many books where filler is everywhere (snooze), and while most understand that not every moment of a story can be action-packed or filled with romance, creating dialogue or descriptions for the sake of word count is just lazy writing; you should be able to engage your readers and give them information they’ll need later on without putting them to sleep.

bored

 

The idea of lazy writing plays into that pesky issue of death-for-death’s-sake that I lamented above. Yes, Chasing Shadows has a . . . high-ish death toll, but every single character dies for a purpose. To avoid spoiling the story for those who have yet to read it (but, really, what’s stopping you? Get it here!), suffice it to say that these tragic passings either drove a protagonist into someone’s arms, explains a character’s actions, wedged a useful bridge between characters, or caused so much emotion in the heart of the reader (and writer) that it plays into the tone for the rest of the novel. Some of my favorite books were memorable because they made me feel like this:

nick miller crying

And there is one particular death in Defying Shadows (add it on Goodreads) that even I was crying over, and while emotion is good, I’ve always made sure that every loss I have ever created has a purpose and causes a chain of events that lead to certain points in the story. One important thing is to remember that it is never okay to kill off a character for convenience’s sake, because someone has to die, or because they’ve simply outlived their usefulness. Make it count! A character’s death should be marked by one of two things: tears for a martyr or a sense of justice when an ultimate evil is vanquished. Let me tell you, few things are more satisfying than killing off a villain who has been tormenting your favorite characters.

monsters.gif

I don’t like to make too many rules for writing, but I think this is something important to keep in mind—to have a purpose for a character’s demise and make sure that it is felt. And if you’re a reader like me, then you know how random character deaths get under your skin, so don’t make the same mistakes as a writer that have driven you up a wall in your favorite books. Remember that mantra: no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader!

 

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.

happy dance

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.

mind

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.

bonnet

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?

testing

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!

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Overcoming the “Block”

Published February 6, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 2: Overcoming the “Block”

As you saw in Part 1 of this series, there are many different types of writers, and I’d like to think that no two authors are exactly the same. Yet we all react to writer’s block in similar ways, which is unavoidable no matter what writing technique you use (Plotting, Pantsing, or Plotting-Pantsing). If you aren’t familiar with this term of torture, then, hello! Welcome back to earth, because clearly you were kidnapped by aliens and have been held hostage for some time and haven’t been paying attention to Pinterest series about Writer’s Problems. But if this is the case and you were abducted by extraterrestrials, then I am truly sorry and want to educate you on one of the few negatives of writing.
block

Common side effects of writer’s block include, but are not limited to:

anxiety

(noun: distress or uneasiness of the mind)

  1. I feel such anxiety because my deadline is near and I can’t seem to pull myself together and get over this dreaded block. . . . And when did my fairytale romance suddenly become a sci-fi theater drama with space buffalos?!

hair loss, due to it being pulled from ones scalp in irritation (see definition of  

anxiety above)

frustration

(noun: a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems)

binge-watching

(verb: a brief period of excessive indulgence)

This unhealthy act generally concerns television when one would rather procrastinate than try to push through the aforementioned block.

How do I escape the block? By being a mature adult and just getting it done?

ace

 

By procrastinating, silly goose! Okay, so I have to admit that there are some days when I just have to push through and try to reach my goal, despite my creative—ahem—blockage. But, man, let me tell you, looking up procrastination gifs and memes on Pinterest can definitely be inspiring. Shocked, are we? Let me tell you how this process goes.

wrtiers

Step 1. Look up random pins on procrastination.

Step 2. Laugh hysterically, because they’re just so relatable.

Step 3. Spend 30 minutes scrolling through related pins that eventually lead to one

about actual writing.

Step 4. Find a random story pin that leads you toward a gaggle of images that inspire

a barrage of exciting story ideas that never before had you considered.

Step 5. WRITE!

Aaaaaand, voilá! Suddenly you have a thousand words flowing from your fingertips. That horrible time of doubt and mistrust that those fingers would ever produce anything meaningful again flees, and you’re left with, amazingly, a story.

mozart

But at the end of the day, after you’ve trekked your way over the hump and have found your groove once more, there is one truth that is universally acknowledged.

mal

This random post is brought to you by,

Little Miss Procrastination (I should be starting my next series, but instead I’m telling you how to procrastinate . . . the irony is not lost, my friends.)

Definitions taken from my handy dandy Webster’s Dictionary app!

Part 1: Plotting v. Pantsing

Published January 29, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 1: Plotting v. Pantsing

WARNING!

messy

Ah, writers. We can be curious creatures, each having different writing talents and habits as we pound out our creativity on the keyboard, praying that the tangled story that seems just brilliant in our minds will appear on the page with even a modicum of clarity (sometimes with very little success). But to make this curious bag of creative minds a little easier to explain—indie and sci-fi and fantasy and YA and non-fic and historical and middle grade *sucks in a breath*—I have divided the types writers into three general groups.

Types of Writers:

The Plotter

plot

This type of writer loves to plot out their entire manuscript, in vivid detail, generally before they sit down to write a single morsel. The process of a Plotter involves a lot of organization, forethought, notecards, and perhaps strings linking images from one side of the room to the other (although I have always wanted to try this method, I have yet to prove if this method exists outside of TV). They enjoy creating a word count goal for the final product and designating what events should occur in each chapter and each. Blasted. Paragraph!

Pros: After weeks or months of plotting out their entire novel/series to a T, the result is a fairly smooth writing process, and all their intense preparation leaves room for very few plot holes and little to no rewrites.

Cons: Nobody puts Baby in a corner! There is absolutely no margin for error in the tale or creative rewrites because your entire story fits into, essentially, a single mold that reaches a single conclusion. So if you want to eliminate/add a character and/or scene, good luck!

The Pantster

random

*rolls eyes* Yes, we all wish we could be a total Pantster and have an incredible idea for a beginning and end to a story, and then just magically write an entire middle with absolutely no storyline errors or issues with how the plot suddenly evolved. I said we’d like to do that. The truth of the matter is that being a Pantster can be hard, like, really hard. Some writers can pull it off, and this was basically how I wrote my first novel Rising Shadows. But because I went this route, I spent a couple years playing around with my first book, doing countless rewrites and total plot conversions. It. Was. A. Hassle.

            Pros: You have tons of creative control over your story and will never get fenced in by your pre-constructed plot structure.

            Cons: You have absolutely no pre-constructed plot structure and therefore can write yourself into a hole that you have absolutely no idea how to write yourself out of because there was no real story structure to keep you on track in the first place!

The Plotting Pantster

surprise

I am proud to lump myself in with this category. This type of writer does not like to be fenced in by a specifically designed and action-by-action plot that is already completely detailed out, with no room for creative shifts or changes. But they also acknowledge that flying by the seat of their pants all the time can hinder their progress and that they need some creative structure. What I did for Chasing Shadows and Defying Shadows was create a general plot structure for the stories—big plot reveals, events that had to occur before another instance, important character revelations—that helped to keep the stories on track and events in order, but it also allows room for a ton of creative freedom and surprises for me along the way. I hate making a writing project seem like schoolwork and having zero freedom, so the culmination of the two techniques works for me (plotting and flying by the seat of my author-pants!). It also helps to have a couple big events jotted down on notecards because then you can put a little checkmark beside each one once it’s written, which means you won’t have to flip through half your manuscript trying to figure out if you’ve already addressed something. And trust me, you will at some point. Plotting out certain big events really helps you to keep your focus, but you’ll never lose that creative freedom to have fun with your story. That’s the most important part!

         Pros: see above description

            Cons: N/A (I thought that should be obvious)

So, are you a Plotter, Pantster, or a little bit of both? The creative choice is yours, my fellow bibliophiles!

This post is sponsored by,

A Plotting Pantster

Stop by for Part 2 in the “Writing is an Art, I Tell You!” series. Coming soon!

 

 

 

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