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Exhausted, Refreshed . . . INSPIRED!

Published June 30, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

For those of you who think writers’ conferences are dull, professional gatherings . . . Well, you’re doing it wrong!

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I spent last week at the first (of many, I hope!) SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, held at the gorgeous BIOLA University. This campus is absolutely stunning, the food is fantastic—pizza, corn dogs, healthy food, chewy cookies galore, and the most amazing salad bar in history—and there are so many perfectly serene places to plop down and write. That doesn’t even take into account the incredible classes, friendships, writing inspiration, and encouragement I received during the week.

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I found this gorgeous bench area right outside the library where there was, blessedly, a Starbucks. I laid on the bench, staring up at the canopy of leaves above me, and just enjoyed a time of mental story plotting and sweet conversations with God in the most peaceful setting imaginable. Definitely a refreshing afternoon!

 

 

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Nadine has been like a mentor to me for the past few years, but more than that, she is an incredibly dear friend and encourager. You’ve heard me talk about her mad dancing skills and amazing storytelling ability (follow her shenanigans online), but Nadine has also gotten me over some major humps in my writing and life in general with her optimism and support. She is just one of those people who lifts you up, allows you to be yourself, and encourages you in your walk with God.

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The term “insta-friends” is definitely acceptable when referring to these lovely ladies. I met Kara in the bathroom of all places, both of us trying to scrape mascara onto our exhausted eyes, and we were glued at the hip for the rest of the conference. This girl’s mind blows my own, and I am so excited for her future in writing!

Adria joined our group later on, but we immediately adopted her and had to know everything about this super sweet lady and talented agent. I have to admit we all felt intimidated by her because of her status, but we immediately discovered that she is so relatable, fun, kind, and hilarious, and we only wish we’d had more time with her.

Tessa is quite possibly one of the sweetest human beings you will ever meet! She joined us for shenanigans, boba heists, inspiring classes, and she and I had a wonderfully honest conversation about God’s plan for our lives. This woman has a beautiful heart and a mind for the industry, and I’m so blessed I got to know her. 

Fun fact: The last night of the conference, Nadine, Tessa, Adria, and I made plans to one day fly to Ireland for a writers’ retreat, because . . . why not? Although Nadine and I got them to agree only after we did a dance and sang the “Sisters” song from White Christmas. We’re talented like that. 

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My first experience with boba tea was magical!! Stealing Shannon Dittemore’s car (with her permission, of course) for the Great Boba Hunt of 2017 is definitely a favorite memory. Five girls crammed into a car, three blind to the joys of boba that awaited them, all screaming as we sped away from campus with Nadine at the wheel, driving like she stole it. We even had a boba projectile contest in the parking lot, proving that children of all ages can be writers and professionals. ^_~

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This man is anointed (get The Story of with, it will change your life). Being in Allen Arnold’s class about creating with God rather than for Him was so inspiring and reminded me of the nearness I feel when I write with God at the center of the story. He taught about the idea of kintsugi, which is a tradition—and an art form—in Japan where broken objects are not thrown away, but rather repaired with gold, making them more beautiful than before. It was just the perfect analogy of how God takes our brokenness, makes us whole, and sees the damage done as a beautiful reminder of our past and our value to Him. Needless to stay, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room that night.

 

Call me biased, but writers are a fantastic group of creative, fun-loving introverts and extroverts who help to build each other up. The SoCal Conference was a wonderful means for us to get together, grow, and encourage and inspire one another. Although I was physically exhausted by the end of the week, I came away feeling more refreshed and renewed and inspired to write. I hopped on the train coming back down to San Diego, and my mind was flying as I stared out the window, watching the trees and beach fly by. Writing inspiration, a refreshed spirit, and some of the best friends and memories that a girl could hope for. Definitely an amazing adventure!

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Guest Post and Giveaway Entry

Published March 19, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

Hey all!

So if you stopped by here last night, you probably saw my heat-of-the-moment rant/lament/explanation of my passionate love of “The Winner’s Crime” by Marie Rutkoski. And you might be thinking that some of those gifs were overdone and that I couldn’t have possibly felt so many emotions over 350 pages…. -_- You would be wrong.

Anyway! I’m popping in to let you know that I was so distracted with finishing the book and processing everything that I forgot to mention that I had done a sort of inspirational guest post for Christian Bookshelf Reviews that went live yesterday. When you check it out, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to enter to win a paperback copy of “Chasing Shadows” and a $25 Amazon gift card from me! You don’t want to miss out on freebies, do you, silly goose? It ends on April 3, 2015, so get crackin’! And don’t forget to share it around with your friends and family that like free books and internet shopping. 😉 If you want to refer back to this link later, I’ll be sure to post it under the Giveaway section of the “Chasing Shadows” tab at the top of the page.

Have a great weekend, all!

http://christianbookshelfreviews.blogspot.com/2015/03/guest-post-book-gift-card-giveaway.html

The Evolution of Writing

Published November 15, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

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Stories are ever-changing, either because of how we grow as writers, events that influence our perception, or simply things that we see that spark our interest. For me, this constant evolution is one of the most exciting, and sometimes frustrating, things about being an author—exciting because with each month or so that passes, I can look back on what I’ve written and realize how much I’ve matured as a writer, and frustrating because it’s difficult for me to ever be totally satisfied with a whole manuscript.

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I was immensely happy and proud when “Rising Shadows” first came out because it was the type of writing that I was drawn to at the time. And then I proceeded to spend the next two years in embarrassment of my first published work. As I spent endless hours writing several different stories and started expanding my reading repertoire, I watched as my style of writing shifted and my ability grew—I’m not tooting my own horn, because there is always room for improvement. Since I couldn’t go back and completely revise the entire manuscript to match exactly what my preference was, I focused all of my attention on making “Chasing Shadows” into something better.

love writing

Surprisingly, I don’t believe I’ll ever feel more content with how a book turned out than I am with this installment in the series. And it isn’t just temporary satisfaction, either; I had two whole years to play around and re-read “Chasing Shadows” while I sought out a physical publisher, and I never got sick of it or upset with how it was coming together. My writing ability didn’t become stagnant but still progressed, thank the Lord, yet I never felt dissatisfied with this story even as my interests changed.

That’s not to say that there weren’t—ahem—a few alterations that I made to it along the way.

me trying to finish an essay at the last minute :)

Originally, while writing the bare bones of the story, there was a rekindling of the romance between Will and Sarah, with no Jade to muddle things up between them, Karen was still a great friend, and the resolution in the end was very cut-and-dry (i.e. bad guy dies, kingdom restored: TA-DA!). But then I was, like, wow, I’m not even interested. So I prayed for wisdom on where God wanted the story to go, and three weeks later, my entire perception of it changed. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of time travel and figured out a whole new way to make it muddle things up for the gang and expand on time’s presence in the story. I made Will and Sarah’s lives and their relationship less “easy” to show how they’re overcomers, revealing their struggles and highs and lows; they aren’t perfect, but then again, who is? And I altered the ending of “Chasing Shadows” drastically, and I’m so glad I did! So much more drama, craziness, plot reveals, questions, history muddled. Muwah-ah-ah-ah!!!!! ^_~  

You have thought of many gruesome and unique ways to kill people. | Community Post: 20 Signs That You're A Writer

Then there was the length of the story. Its predecessor was sweet and simple and straightforward and, well, a skosh smaller—no filler or mishagosh, but just straight up action, adventure, and fun. But then I found that I actually enjoyed challenging myself by not just taking up space on the page for the sake of length, but by creating transitional scenes that help move the story along with either interesting dialogue, descriptions of the surroundings to transport the reader into the moment, and also small plot reveals that you can find if you pay attention. It was a blast to finally challenge myself!

Oh, yes, and Lord Bormeo Lisandro was not, in fact, a romantic interest setupfor Sarah. Yes, ladies, you may release your gasps of surprise. The handsome Spaniard that you’ve come to know and love—let’s be honest, he’s stolen my heart and makes me swoon!—was first a lord named Bormeo (pronounces Bor-may-o. Bahahaha!), pale (like Mayo), thin, regal, and super evil. And then I realized I had two bad guys running about town, and my sister Katie was dying for me to write a handsome Spaniard in somewhere, so, voilà! Damien Romeo Lisandro was born! I first wanted to just throw him in for some eye-candy as a sort of humorous anecdote within the story, but then I pretty much fell in love as his past revealed itself and as his and Sarah’s relationship evolved. I just friggin’ adore him and how he and Sarah lean on each other as they experience highs and lows in Serimone. *tear* He is probably my favorite alteration to this story, and I hope you find deepest love and sympathy for him as I have!

Let me love you Hook!!

Whelp, that’s all I have for today’s little glimpse Between the Pages of “Chasing Shadows.” Next weekend might be another character interview, plot reveal, excerpt from the book, or just fun goodies from the series. You’ll never know unless you stop by here again! ^_^

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Interview with Dystopian Author Nadine Brandes

Published October 26, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

Just answer as many as you find applicable, or feel you want to answer
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself that we won’t find in your bio?

exploreHm..well, I’m an adventurer determined to experience as many sides of life as possible. Some odd facts about myself are: I was once a professional drummer, I’ve scuba dived in a sunken ship, and I tried to make it to the Olympics by snowboard racing. The Olympic thing was a dream much bigger than I understood when I started. In the process, I learned I’m not a competitive person. I was actually relieved when the journey ended at Nationals. 

I live in Idaho, my heart is in Missouri, but hubby and I hope to move to Russia someday. How’s that for “a little bit” about myself? [grin]

What inspired you to become an author?

Birth, really. I was born needing to write, needing to process via words. I turned everything into a story – both verbally and on paper. I created comic books as soon as I could draw with “paper pals” I’d sketch and send on adventures through little time machines.

It wasn’t until I was seventeen that I realized I wanted to do it for life and pursue writing as a career.

How did you come up with the idea for “A Time to Die”?

It came upon me, really. Quite forcefully. I was in the middle of grad school and an acquaintance of mine passed away. He was my age and it got me thinking about how short life could be. I wondered if I’d live differently if I knew I had a year left. That’s when the idea of A Time to Die hit me – what if a culture existed where everyone knew the day they would die? Would we live differently?

Tell us about your main characters. Do you have a favorite?

Parvin is my main character and easily my favorite. She asks a lot of questions I once asked in my lifetime so her journey feels very close to home. I like trying to delve into a teenager’s mind without supporting the common stereotypes we hold regarding teenages — angsty, irrational, selfish, etc. Just because that’s common with some teenagers doesn’t mean that’s how they all are. I wanted to capture the inner struggle. In doing so, I grew to love Parvin even more.

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Reid is Parvin’s twin brother. He’s a traveler in love with adventures and always looking out for his family. Then there’s Jude – the mysterious inventor. He was a challenge to write. I went from not liking it at all to liking him too much (which made certain story elements harder.) Eventually I found a balance.

As for the other characters? I’ll just have to let you meet them on your own! 😉

What was your favorite scene(s) to write and why?

Strangely, the sad or intense scenes were the most fun to write. I thrive off of writing emotions, that’s when I’m at my best, I think. So whenever there needed to be a tragedy or a hard character decision, that’s when I got glued to my computer.

What do you do in your spare time when you aren’t writing?

readin 1Spare time? What’s that? [wink] Actually, I’m a freelance editor and all my spare time goes to editing. If I have true spare time – where I don’t have to edit or write – I’ll either read or spend time with family. Or do something artsy. 

If you could live inside the pages of any book (or series), what would it be and why?

My gut instinct is Harry Potter because that series inspired me and impacted my life in very positive ways. Not to mention that, I’m so nerdy about the whole series, I’d do quite well in a wand battle. But I’d have to be able to bring my hubby with me. 😀

You’re trapped on a desert island and can only save one book—using the rest for firewood (I just gagged at the thought)—to read until you’re saved months later, what would it be? Your answer must be a title other than the Bible—that’s a given.

Cruel! You are so cruel! Well, providing that I had food and provisions to keep me alive (without needing a survival book), I’d probably pick the dictionary…or a giant book of Systematic Theology. Or a huge encyclopedia.

I know, that is so boring. A million fiction books ran through my mind, but I can’t in good conscience devote several months to only entertainment. Must. Expand. Vocabulary!

(Side note: After I read Nadine’s response–bahahahahaha! And this is why I love this author, people! She’s got her priorities straight)

imaginationWhere do you get your ideas? Is anything in your book based on your own experiences, or is it purely from your imagination?

Mostly from imagination, dreams, or Scripture. A lot of times, my stories draw from a “what if” question. “What if” everyone knew the day they’d die? “What if” every wish came true? “What if”…

 Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Nope. There are scenes that are harder to write than others, but I rarely go into a story without knowing where it’s supposed to go. I don’t have time for writer’s block. 😉 In this, I count myself very lucky because I know a lot of writers who struggle with it.

Can you tell us about your challenges (if any) in getting your first book published?

Frankly, I had my “publishing story” handed to me on a silver platter. The only rejection letter I received came the same day I received the offer of a contract from my top publisher.

The hardest challenge was continuing to write and better my craft, really. It’s crucial that we apply what we learn as we receive edits or read craft books. Writing is hard! But worth it. [grin]

What stories are you currently working on?

I’m writing book two in the Out of Time Series and the first rough draft is done! After this series, I have some pretty cool ideas (I think.) A portal fantasy, another dystopian, an apocalyptic-type of idea. I need to learn to write faster.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Go to a writer’s conference! This is the biggest piece of advice I could give anyone who wants to grow in his or her writing craft. I know a lot of writers are introverts and that writing conferences can seem expensive or intimidating, but it’s the next step. Take it. Be brave!

How can we discover more about your book?

Read it! Oh, I mean, you can find read about it on my website or Amazon. Most of my updates go through Facebook and my newsletter. I’m also on Goodreads for all you Goodreads fans out there.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you for reading. I hope that, instead of escapism, my books inspire you to live more fully. Remember, life demands pursuit, and God’s given us the perfect amount of time with which to catch it.

Thanks, Nadine, for sharing your amazing journey with us and for giving the literary world such a gem as “A Time to Die.” And if Nadine were still here, I imagine she’d give a resounding “Welks!” ^_^ You’ll understand when you read the book. 

Catch up with Nadine and buy “A Time to Die” in paperback and ebook today. You will NOT be sorry!

http://www.amazon.com/Time-Die-Out-Book/dp/1621840298/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414010106&sr=8-1&keywords=a+time+to+die+nadine 

 

A Masterpiece by His Hand…

Published September 19, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

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My 125th post on this blog is kind of a big deal for me, and I didn’t want to just give you a quick update or an amusing tidbit for the week (stay tuned for the 126th, though). Today I wanted to write about something that, I feel, is meaningful right now and that I believe quite a few of us are going through. Don’t let my lack of humor deter you, though; I have a point, I promise, and I really feel that everyone should read today’s musings. It’s also going to be a longer one, so stay with me!

I saw something a couple of weeks ago that I found a tad disturbing. Someone put a post on Facebook about how it’s not perverted boys that the world and the church should be worrying themselves over, but rather we should direct our concern to the twenty-something girls still living at home without any current marriage prospects. I have to be honest and say that this really upset my sisters and I for many reasons, one of which was because most of us are in our twenties and we’re all still living at home. It was a little offensive to find that someone we were very close to thought so poorly of us and our “situation.” And it wasn’t so much an issue that we aren’t, at the moment, involved with anyone, but the problem lay in the fact that our standards kept us from picking just anyone . . . and it seemed anyone would do for the sake of having someone, because it appeared that our worth was only in snaring a man.

Wow. Never thought I’d be crucified for having standards. Crazy beans!

fearfully and wonderfully

Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more irritated I became—I got over my own personal offense pretty quickly, but so many other girls had seen this and were heartbroken over their “loser” status. Right now the idea is so prevalent, in the church especially, that men and women have to be married by 21 because, according to that Facebook post, a woman’s only worth is in marriage and having kids. Now, please don’t misunderstand me—being a mom is the hardest job in the world and incredibly important. My problem lies in the fact that people are telling every single girl that if she does not have a husband and 2.2 kids before she turns 25, she is worth nothing, she is nothing.

Is this really what you want to teach your daughters? That they have no worth?

To be quite frank with you, this is a horrible notion that draws girls away from God when they believe that a relationship with some guy is all He wants of them and that He doesn’t think they’re worth anything if their status says “single.”

god know me and love me

I responded to this post (with unusual calm for me) that I have standards and am finding my worth in God, getting confident in my relationship in Him first, and it appeared this was also a concern—that He would meddle in our lives or think we are worth more than our duty to pro-create.

Ladies, and guys, too! You are worth more to God than you could ever fathom, and He wants HIS best plan for your life, not what other people tell you should come of your days. This generation is full of such low self-esteem that we should be reassuring one another that we are worth more than what others tell them and encourage them to have standards. I don’t mean blond hair, baby blues, 6’4, built like Thor criteria. I mean standards and values that keep you from entering into a relationship with someone—out of low self-worth—who will draw you from God and that would result in an unhappy marriage. Why do you think the divorce rate is so high in America? Because we’re telling everyone that you’re only worthwhile to the world if you have someone by your side this instance.

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Well, I ALWAYS have Someone by my side. Whatever may come of my life—career, husband, family, international espionage—I want to live my life right now for God and stop worrying about a future that I can’t predict and cease fretting over the opinions of people who shouldn’t matter. I’m living my present for God, and I want to spend the rest of my days discovering just how much He thinks I’m worth the wait. And remember: God is never late; we’re just impatient. 

be with you always

Below are a TON of verses that my friends and I compiled to encourage each other— and now you all, too!—that God sees us as more than pawns and that he care about our present AND our future. Lift someone up this week and share these words, verses, and even this post if you think it will encourage them. And never forget what a gem you are! ^_^

delight yourself in the lord

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know the plans hair on your head

seasons of waiting

God's own image

chosen and loved

You are

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Finding the Road. . . Again.

Published December 13, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

don't let past ruin future

It’s been an interesting few weeks. . . . Well, couple of months, if I’m being honest. I have spent most of my free time pouring over list after list of literary agents and publishing companies to get “Chasing Shadows” picked up by a physical publisher. But almost zero publishers, Christian and otherwise, are accepting unsolicited manuscripts. That led me to creating a query letter and setting out in search of an agent who believes in this story as much as I do. But every agent I found was looking for something different, so each query letter sent had to be tweaked and reworded. After that it was a waiting game until I either got rejected or they asked to see the manuscript, and let me tell you, I got rejected a lot; it’s a little painful to admit (ACK! My pride!), but, yeah, about 58 times. The plus side was that they were all very kind and “encouraging,” and nearly every agent said my query letter was perfect, so if you need some direction on writing a query of your own or how to deal with some seriously repetitive rejection, I’m your gal! ^_^ Or we can just eat chocolate together. ashleytownsend.author@yahoo.com

success is not final

Another little hiccup was that almost none of the Christian literary agents are looking for the element of fantasy, and the agents interested in time travel don’t have an interest in promoting Christian fiction. So it put me in a teensy bit of a bind. I was alone at work one day when I got my magillionth rejection, and I basically had a mini meltdown in the bathroom. Though I reference it in my stories, I’ve never actually felt a broken heart until the moment I read the words “Thanks, but.” Yet that is honestly what it felt like. I spent an hour busying myself with insurance billing so I didn’t have to make a choice between believing all the other rejections and moving past it. But no matter how hard I tried to block it out, there would be these brief moments where God’s Voice snuck in and reminded me that it was a choice. Soooo not what I wanted to hear at that moment, but then I realized that the entire Shadows Trilogy is based off of this principle: “Everything is a choice.” I’ve written about it for years but never fully understood until a few days ago when I realized I was choosing to wallow and stop trying. To tell you the truth, that scared the stuffing out of me, so I played a little Russian roulette with my Bible (it’s a highly scientific process), but the verse it flopped open to was completely non-applicable (I have no need to trade in goats OR sandals, dangit!!!). I was going to give up when I kind of begrudgingly flipped to the next page, and a small, random, un-highlighted verse caught my eye:

“He will not fear evil tidings. His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” Psalm 112:7

Psalm 112

…….. Oh. That was a tad spot-on. And this simple, random thing made me realize that so many times the answer is as simple as us being willing to turn the page or round the corner, to not give up when the answer doesn’t readily present itself. I decided then that I didn’t want to live life as a victim anymore and chose to have a better attitude, to not give in to despair and give up on Hope. Yes, there are still times when my friends are talking about graduating and boyfriends and careers and traveling the world, and I’m just sitting here like, “Oh, yeah, I love rocks, and this part-time community college student is totally going to have a best seller before 2090.” But I’m choosing not to believe the Devil’s lies when he says God made me the way I am with no purpose in mind. Even when I don’t know what that purpose is, God knows exactly where He’s directing me. And you, too.

I so wish I could tell you that I received hundreds of offers and that I have an incredible underdog story to tell, but alas, not as of this moment. So why am I admitting all of this? Because I want you to know how low I fell and how far and gently God was able to pick me up. . . . I didn’t realize until I typed those words just now that “Chasing Shadows” is all about that. Cool beans!

louisaI want to create the type of book that is intriguing and fun, serious and clever, full of incredibly realistic and relatable characters, and also the kind of story that won’t just appeal to those who were raised in a Christian home. Yes, of course I want to reach those who have already heard God’s message, but I so desire for readers who are only interested in secular books to connect to the story and characters—no “in your face” Christianity, but a guilt-free book that they love and learn from and that has God’s heart at the center of the story. THAT is what I want. I always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my mom and grandma, who both love and loved to write, and Jesus was the ultimate storyteller. Why wouldn’t I want to be like Him? So I know He has a plan for my wandering thoughts and inner story-maker, but as of right now, I have absolutely no idea what that is. But I’m trusting that God has a plan, and whatever spiritual journey you’re on, He has a plan for you, too, and it will be one of Victory. Our job is to not lose our enthusiasm for our passions along the way as we enjoy the ride.

success failure to another

If you have an unpublished manuscript of your own that you want to put out there, Deep River Books is having a contest and will give the winner a full-ride publishing contract with Carmichael Publishing. The contest is going on now through January 15th, so take a chance and put it out there! You never know what might come of it. http://www.deepriverbooks.com/contest.html

Everyday A Blessing Day

Published June 28, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

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I didn’t realize I had been so busy the past few weeks, but obviously I’ve been a little preoccupied since Rising Shadows’ 1st Birthday passed without me realizing it. I even had it on my calendar with little drawn balloons and confetti and everything! Haha. I guess I should pay more attention to my One Direction calendar, since obviously it’s hanging on my wall for a reason—well, two reasons. 😉

Anyway, thinking of the book being a year old—and writing up chapter summaries for its sequel, Chasing Shadows—reminded me of how blessed I am to be doing what I love. A year ago Wednesday, the amazing, dream-come-true opportunity that God dropped into my unexpecting lap became a reality that I am happy to live. It also made me think of how God loves to do the unexpected and give us our hearts’ desires. My family and I have been reading a lot of devotionals and listening to encouraging CD’s the past few weeks, and they all have a common theme: Expect Blessing.

So often we’re afraid to hope because we assume we’ll be let down, or we think that we can’t possibly give our dreams up to God in faith, because surely He’ll make us live as penniless missionaries in Uganda. If you have never thought this way, then good for you! I, however, am still working on giving everything up to God in faith—not just the little things that don’t matter, but the big dreams. And that’s what my writing career was: A dream that I wasn’t sure I could let Him take full control over, and I still struggle with it. Which is ridiculous, because God can do a far better job at making it a reality than I ever could, and I know it will be more magnificent than I imagine. I’ve written before about my fear of letting go of my dream, but the only time anything came of it was when I finally relinquished control.

We cling so hard to the things that are important to us, and God isn’t asking us to forget about and give them up; if it’s important to us, it’s important to Him, and I think this is something everyone needs to grasp hold of. It might not always be in the exact way we imagine it—keep in mind, God is very creative and imaginative—but if we have something that is our heart’s desire, then He wants to give it to us. We just have to have enough faith to give Him room to work, and don’t worry; He has very gentle hands. I’m still trying to grasp hold of this fully and am working on getting it from my head to my heart, but I’ve decided to start looking for the blessing in each day. Some days it’s harder than others, but there’s always a silver lining or a blessing in disguise if you’re willing to look.       

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