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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

DSCN1562

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.       

Creative Control.

Published January 15, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

I don’t know about you, but I have always loved creative writing—thus why I became an author!—especially since it was the one thing that I had total control over as a kid. Even as I grew older, the biggest draw to writing was being able to create without any outside influence, which was also part of the reason why I kept most of my work a secret for so long. Then when Kirkdale Press picked up “Rising Shadows,” I knew I would need a lot of outside help—this was no longer something that I could just do on my own. However, it was actually very encouraging and insightful to bring others into the mix, getting their opinions as readers to help edit and shape the book into something more than what my eighteen-year-old hands could manage. But it was still mine. Hate to make a Lord of the Rings reference, but I was a little like Gollum (if that’s even how you spell it), all “My precious! My precious!” Maybe not that creepy, and I have more hair on my head, and I don’t have a hump, but I see now that that’s where my head was at.

Anyway, as I write the sequel, I’ve been looking for that same inspiration and encouragement. But about halfway through the story, I kind of got stumped. I mean, I knew exactly how I wanted it to end and a few scenes in between that would fill in the gaps. But I was stuck at one point in the writing process, trapped in this boring hole of filler I had dug myself into. I honestly wasn’t used to getting creatively stuck, since I had written “Rising Shadows” on a whim and managed never to write myself into a total dead-end. Hoping for the best and knowing I had to try, I attempted to force myself out of the pit of a storyline that was going nowhere, having no way to get to this fantastically dramatic and fascinating ending that I had envisioned for several months. But it felt forced, and I knew I was getting nowhere.

Maybe this is just me, but have you ever tried to get God on your terms and fit him into your schedule? Guilty! So I kind of told God, “Hey, I’ll ‘give’ this story up to you.” Months later, I realized that under the guise of letting God inspire me, what I was really thinking was, “I’m going to let you touch the corner of this page, but I still want to hold it, and if you could inspire me and give me the perfect segue between scenes while still maintaining the guidelines I’ve already established and taken the time to plot out, that would be super.” I honestly was not aware of how hard I was still clinging to and relying on my own mind to get me through, because if God took total control, then I would no longer be in the one holding the reins—what if He completely messed it up? (I know, I know. Silly thought) I plucked along for a few more weeks, waiting for God’s “inspiration” that would get this sequel on the best-seller list, earn me international fame in the literary community, get me the rights to the movies they want to turn the trilogy into, etc. Because I was going to make it on my terms. . . . Wow. Reading that makes me realize how ridiculous my assumptions were, and, well, “me, me, me.”

Epiphany time! After writing and rewriting the same scene over and over and still managing to get absolutely nowhere, I paused in my writing and suddenly thought of a verse I hadn’t considered in a while: “It is better to trust in God than to put your confidence in man.” I actually remember sighing and rolling my eyes at myself as I thought of verse eight of Psalm 118, knowing that God was very gently giving me a hint (thank goodness He does it gently and repeatedly, because I can be a little oblivious and headstrong sometimes). Though I sort of begrudgingly told God in that moment that I could no longer do this on my own and really needed His inspiration, my heart was in the right place, and I was finally ready to let go. I’m sure I can’t be the only one who has trouble letting go and letting God take control, even when we know He’ll be gentle. But I took a deep breath, walked away from my laptop, made a cup of Joe, and returned to the writing board more clear-headed than I had been in weeks. As hard as it was for me, I chose to scrap that scene and start afresh, suddenly inspired with a totally new idea for the next two, four, and then twelve scenes. I wasn’t inspired all at once; some came on pretty gradually or built upon the others, and sometimes I had to exercise faith and walk away for a few days to clear my head. But I am ridiculously excited to tell you that the sequel to “Rising Shadows” has been completely plotted out and is nearly twice as large and inspired as Book 1! I’ve been trying not to jump ahead, but there have been some scenes that have come up so suddenly that I had to write a little something in the moment of inspiration. My Word doc kind of looks like a completed story that ends in a bunch of bold, italics, highlights, arrows, notes, and random scenes that I’ve arranged in a timeline. Haha. But to me it’s beautiful and makes total sense. Even though I loved working on “Rising Shadows,” I have been blown away with entertainment and excitement while writing the sequel. And now that I’ve let go, I have a much clearer picture of the special plan that God had in mind all along for this story, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I am LOVING writing it, which is also part of the reason why I’ve been a little neglectful to this blog. *grins sheepishly*  

Oh! And my amazing friends completed the “Rising Shadows” book trailer. I just couldn’t wait to share it, so hopefully it comes through! Check out the trailer and the book, and always, always feel free to contact me with your thoughts on the series. This is as much yours as it is mine!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNIzJ5OTul8&feature=youtu.be

Oh, Finals, You Evil Temptress

Published November 30, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

finals

Ah, yes—the month of December (please note that I did not lose my calendar and am totally aware that it is still November for one more day). A time of unity among the factions, when freshman, sophomores, juniors, AND seniors come together for a few weeks, seeming to understand each other as they share a common goal: Survive finals at all costs. Those last two weeks where you long for the end, but don’t feel that there is enough time to complete everything, where emotions conflict and tensions heighten, where students can’t manage to drink enough caffeine and begin concocting extra-coffee cakes, coffee eggs (protein AND caffein!), and pour some strong Joe over their Cheerios. Meanwhile, Starbucks is secretly snickering and rejoicing behind the stacks of empty paper cups! For those of you who graduated high school or college quite some time ago, let me refresh your memory.

Yes, sometimes it literally feels that teachers do this.

Yes, sometimes it literally feels that teachers do this.

finals 1If you have been living under a rock or on an island for several months, then go to a college, and if it looks like zombies have taken over the earth—congratulations! It’s either the beginning of December or the end of May. The week before finals brings to mind the last fight scene in the movie Timeline, which, consequently, is my favorite time travel film ever; I watched it a bunch of times when I was writing “Rising Shadows,” as well as read a lot of time travel books for inspiration. . . . And Paul Walker and Gerard Butler are in it, but that’s just a perk. ~__^ Anyway, that scene involves a lot shouting, screaming, some weeping might be involved, things are bursting into flames, people are engaging in swordplay and acting totally insane, flaming balls of fire are being launched through the air, and people are trying to tunnel their way out to freedom. Yeah, this pretty much sums up finals in an eight minute scene, except we don’t get the cool medieval garb.finals 4

I drove onto campus at the start of this week and was like, “What the heck is wrong with everybody?!” after nearly being hit six or seven times as cars careened madly through the exit and students fought over parking spots, even though there were four more further down the row—some food for thought, though I’m sure you already know this: If someone is graciously packing up quicker than usual to give you their spot, try not to run them off the road as you attempt to take said space before they have properly vacated it. Thank you for your consideration. I was also crawling through the lot, not only so I could swerve out of the way if a driver blacked out whilst careening towards me Speed style, but also so I could slam on my brakes if a student juggling a stack of books taller than their head and attempting to scribble notes on the top of the stack jetted across the street without warning. Sheesh! Then I remembered that finals is in two weeks and gave a little chuckle as I steered around a group of arguing students, whom I can only assume were working on a group project together and who also looked like they hadn’t slept in four days.

I actually might have seen this girl the other day....

I actually might have seen this girl the other day….

For some reason, though, finals have never really bothered me. Maybe it’s because I’m burned out by the end of the semester and just don’t care anymore. That’s not to say I don’t study or put in effort, because I take a lot of time to really know the material as best I can. But I just don’t stress it that much, and a lot of times my final tests end up being my best scores for the semester! I still take naps and read books, which is obvious from my Goodreads page, and my sister Katie and I just bought new video games—yes, I am a total gaming nerd—and we cannot wait until the newest Tomb Raider arrives, which will probably happen on finals week. That could be tempting. Hmm. Anyway, by some freak happinstance, my constant procrastination during the rest of the semester ceases for that fourteen-day stretch, and I start time-managing better and get everything done beforehand, without sacrificing my mental health or “fun time.” But when my guitar teacher announced to the class yesterday that we have to play Minuet in G for the final and I saw the panicked looks on my fellow classmates’ faces, I, too, felt a moment’s panic as my eyes took in the packed notes on the page; I have no issue taking written tests or doing essays–in fact they are quite the delight, in my strange and honest opinion. However, I am not a fan of performing in front of people! Sweaty palms, a small, shaky voice, and nausea are generally involved in presentations and performances. That’s kind of why I love being an author so much; I never have to directly present anything!!! finals

Then as I felt my shoulders tensing up and my stomach churning, I remembered the weeks of Peace and Faithfulness that we all worked so hard on and took a deep breath. And the more I thought about it, I just kind of shrugged it off and thought, “Well, I’ll practice and do my best, and that’s really all I can do.” Let me tell you, it felt really good to let it go and know that I could work hard and have Faith that if I had put in the effort and still struggled with something, then God would help me through. Honestly, stressing it is NOT going to make it any easier; actually, it muddles up your mind quite a bit and makes it so much harder to study. And it doesn’t just apply to school, either; whatever you’re stressing, whatever’s making you feel like you’re one of the extras who get blown to bits in Timeline, just take a deep breath and let it go. Yes, easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere. I’ve had to walk away from an unfinished story countless times when I get writer’s block and have to do something else for a while. Sometimes a little “fun time” of your own is just the thing to free up your mind enough that you can come back to the problem with fresh eyes. Do you really want to be one of those anxious zombies I see sitting in the stairwell, staring off at nothing? Didn’t think so.       

Week 7: Faithfulness

Published October 19, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the sky.” Psalm 57:10

Unlike a few of the previous weeks, I knew exactly what Faithfulness was: God is Faithful in his promises to me (like the verse above), and I would be Faithful and come through for those around me. I didn’t have to do any great research, ponder Faith for a time, and I did not expect any great discoveries for these seven days. Then Sunday morning, I literally had an epiphany (hey! Only two days in instead of the usual six. Progress!). I wasn’t even thinking about the challenge when it hit me that I have only really been practicing these Fruits on those around me, not God. Sure, I know I was showing Him Love when I emulated it in my life, but what about the others I’ve been working on? Did I work on being Patient when He told me to wait? Had it even crossed my mind to be Faithful to Him? I know Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of these, we do unto Him, but there is a difference when we focus on others and completely forget to be Faithful to God.

“May the LORD repay every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness…” 1 Samuel 26:23

This completely changed my perspective for the entire week, and also the rest of this challenge. I wish I had come to this realization earlier on, but it’s never too late to start. And don’t be intimidated by this concept, either. Just start small—give an addiction up to God, watch what you say, whatever. It doesn’t have to be huge! But He’s Faithful to us all the time, even when we don’t realize it, so why can’t we return the favor?    

“You only live once, but if you live it right, once is enough.” –Adam Marshall

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