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Where Did the Time Go???

Published December 13, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

Let’s just pretend it hasn’t been nearly a month since my last post. *headdesk* In my defense, a lot has gone on the last few weeks: Lifelong friends came to stay, I traveled around to different bookstores for signing events (ahhhhhhhh), I’m making progress in Jungle Princess, holiday events occurred, and we’re helping my parents pack for their out-of-state move before Christmas. We’re having a little pre-Christmas celebration before they go and have been spending as much time as possible soaking up our days together. I come from a pretty close-knit family, so my sisters and I have been setting aside a lot of our busywork to just absorb life with them, which is one of the reasons why I’ve been a little absent lately. But fret not, friends, I’ll be back at it soon enough, though I’m going to take a break for a couple more weeks to be a spazz with my amazing fam.

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Mom looks so angelic while Dad, Katie, and I are staging a Christmas tree assault. Bahaha

Just don’t ask me how many books my Goodreads says I read last month because, well . . . What makes the number 2 sound more impressive?

crying shameThe reviews for the two books are at the end of this post. I know it sounds like nothing, but although I couldn’t technically add them to Goodreads, I had the chance to help some author friends out by providing input on their manuscripts before they shot them off for final edits, so that was so incredibly exciting to see their stories before they get added to Goodreads. *flails* And speaking of flailing, have you seen the cover for Fawkes by Nadine Brandes? The book releases in July of next year, and I. Need. This. Now. TAKE MY MONEY!! You can and should add it to Goodreads and pre-order on Amazon (click here), or preferably both. *wink* When Nadine sent me the cover before the reveal, I literally shrieked and did an excited little giddy-up dance around my living room (#noshame). Look at the cover below and try not to drool.

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It’s gorgeous and embossed. “And all the fangirls said, ‘Amen.’” grabby hands

Also, last month I was preparing for a signing event at the Barnes & Noble in Mira Mesa just hours before I was supposed to pick up my lifelong friends from the airport for Thanksgiving week. It was a bit hectic that day, to say the least. The author event was a lot of fun, and I had the chance to meet several local writers that I’ll definitely be keeping in touch with. But my favorite part of the afternoon was getting to hang with my friend Liv and grabbing a coffee afterward. She is just such a sweet, calming presence at these things, and it calms my giddy nerves whenever I see her familiar face in the crowd.

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It was definitely crazy getting ready for the event, Thanksgiving, and my friends coming to stay for the week, but we all had an absolute blast together hopping around San Diego—playing in the water on Coronado Island, taking ferry rides with the most hilarious tour guide possible, having a blast at Sea World (despite the fact that we nearly died from lack of coffee, but churros saved out lives), exploring the tide pools at Cabrillo, and just having a fabulous time catching up with old friends.

If you were following my Instagram during NaNo, you probably saw my word-pics for my work in progress, Jungle Princess. These were so much fun to make, and a few of the images actually inspired new scenes for my wip, so HUZZAH! I told you I would share a few of my favorites on my blog and hope they pique your interest in the story of mermaids and magical islands and monsters and . . . Tarzan. Hmm. I was really go for alliteration there, but I had to sneak his name in somehow. ^_~

And feeeeeeeeeeeeeels.

WHAT I READ: 

“The English Spy” by Daniel Silva ***

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I enjoyed the book and think I would have liked it more if I’d had more time to dedicate to it, so maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a slower-paced—and what I assumed was a—spy-thriller. Some of the characters were fun, but there was so much politics and unnecessary plot building that I think it became more of a distraction than an aid to the story. Overall, it was enjoyable, I just wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

“The Afterlife of Holly Chase” by Cynthia Hand *****

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Just in time for Christmas! This book was such a clever take on A Christmas Carol, and from the first page showcased Hand’s unsurprisingly fabulous sense of humor (any Lady Janies out there?). The story really begins after Holly fails her “Scrooge-test” and ends up being recruited by the company that puts the productions together to turn lives around. Usually the self-absorbed protagonist-who-is-guaranteed-to-change-her-ways plot bugs me because you have to drudge through so much of the character’s hideous personality, but Holly isn’t mean-spirited and ends up being really likeable, so kudos to Hand for nailing it. This story was full of heart and character development and quotable phrases and, of course, plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

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All about Writers

Published October 29, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

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

can't make sense merline

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

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

Little Women

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

You’ve Got Mail

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

Her Alibi

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

Not Another Happy Ending

not another happy ending

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

Castle 

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

Other movies to look out for:

True Memoires of an International Assassin (a Netflix original)

Kate and Leopold

Alex and Emma

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

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.

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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. 

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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!!!

 

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What I read:

Lucky in Love by Kasie West *****

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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 ****

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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 ***

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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.  

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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

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

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

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

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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. ^_~ 

Part 5: Creating Memorable Characters

Published March 5, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 5: Creating Memorable Characters

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

as you wish

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

who are you

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

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

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

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

          angry whenever they enter a scene?

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

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

happy dance

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

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

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

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

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

captain jack sparrow vanilla

 

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.

 

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

 

 

 

 

Defying Shadows—A Glimpse Between the Pages

Published October 4, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

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!

shock

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.

“Miss Matthews.”

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.

panic

I know how you feel—I basically reacted this way while I was writing the scene. Right in the fangirl!

agony

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.

kiss

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