Hope

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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.

parvin

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

green water lake in forest

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.

waiting

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

END

A Time to Die Giveaway and Blog Hop

Published September 3, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

Hey all! My author friend and dance buddy Nadine Brandes is kicking off a blog hop in celebration of being one day closer to the upcoming release of her fantastic dystopian thriller “A Time to Die.” *cue the flurry of applause and dead-faints of excitement* The blog hop where I answer Nadine’s prompt “If you had one year left to live” will be live on my blog on September 26th, so put it on your calendars! But for now, Nadine has her own answers and an Amazon giveaway on her blog to whet your bookish appetites.

To enter the giveaway, you’re going to have to put in a little effort and follow the link below to Nadine’s original post at http://nadinebrandes.com/2014/09/03/if-i-had-one-year-left-to-live-a-time-to-die-blog-tour/

 

If I had one year left to live…

…I might stop writing.

*Gasp*

My heart shreds into confetti at the very idea, but one year isn’t very long. I’ve thought quite hard over this concept. Let me explain, for a moment, why I’m even blogging on it.

Today I’m kicking off the blog hop to promote my book, A Time to Die. Over twenty bloggers will be joining this hop to answer the prompt, “If I Had One Year Left to Live, I Would…” Hopefully this also prompts you to think about what you’d do with one year left to live.

Once the question enters your mind, it gets pretty sticky. Trust me, I know. I think about it all the time.

You Have One Year

In order to answer this question, I need to step back and examine what’s important, get to the nitty-gritty. Yes, writing is important because it’s my passion, but what is even more worthy of my complete devotion and sacrifice of time? Of course, it’s my Savior, Jesus Christ and I would fill my last year with things, actions, and choices that I believe He calls me to. But, since I’m playing crystal ball and trying to predict my future actions,  here are some things I would do with one year left:

Either stop writing, or speed-write. 

Don’t take this the wrong way. I do not want to stop writing. Writing is my passion. BUT, if I knew for sure that I would die one year from today, I would really ask myself how much time I could devote to writing without sacrificing time better spent elsewhere.

Another thought that crossed my mind is committing some hard-core writing months (about three or four) to completing the Out of Time series. For the sake of my readers (yes, for you!) If I couldn’t finish it in that time, I’d start looking for authors who could finish it/polish it for me.

I would go to Russia.

Going to Russia and interacting with the people there has been a long-term passion God has placed on both my and my husband’s heart. It’s a long story that I won’t get into now, but we would travel there to live for the majority of my last year. Hey, maybe I could keep writing while there! ;)

I would write intentional letters.

Words are my passion. I would make sure I had a stack of letters to be given to each person I love after I passed on, hopefully encouraging them to pursue life and God full-speed and to REJOICE at my joining Christ in heaven.

I would visit my relatives.

I grew up away from most of my relatives so I didn’t build the relationships with some of them that I would have liked. I would take at least two weeks to a month and road trip (with the hubby, of course!) around America, visiting them, having intentional quality time with them, and — with some — trying one last time to share the importance of Christ.

I would pray and fast more.

This is one of those things I already try to do, but I’m a spiritual wimp. Praying is the more tough side of relationship with Christ for me. I would love to devote hours — and I mean carpetburns-on-the-knees hours — to praying, fasting, and communing with God. The one time I intentionally fasted and pushed myself past my human desires, it completely changed me. And that was just one time.

Some little things:

I would go skydiving, sleep on an overnight train (preferably the Trans-Siberian Rail, which — if I go to Russia — would be very doable.), ride a tandem bike, and send up a desperate plea to J K Rowling (who probably won’t even see it) asking her to let me treat her to a cup of tea.

But, these are little things. Inconsequential things. Not big enough to be labeled as dreams, they’re just desires that would provide me with temporary happiness and then a good story.

 

My real goal in my last year would be to live as passionately as my weak, shy, cowardly human body allows for God’s glory. The point of this blog post is not just to dig into my dreams and last-minute pursuits. It is to show me (and you) my deepest desires — the things that are most important to me — and hopefully inspire me to pursue them as best I can right now, whether I have one year or ten years left.

 

So how about you? What would you do/change/think/stop doing if you had one year left to live?

 

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

Revision Derision

Published September 17, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

reclining

Editing and revising can sometimes be my least favorite part of being an author. You write something that, in the moment, you feel is so inspired. That is, until you read back over it and wonder how much sugar and coffee you had at the time to make you type such nonsensical gibberish in so hurried a fashion. Then comes the fantastic task of trying to make sense of what you were working on. And don’t even get me started on summarizing! Yes, I would love to describe 900 pages of my blood, sweat, tears, and emotional turmoil in 200 words or less. YES! You’ve heard me share my agony over writing a synopsis before, and it hasn’t changed.

But, there are also some days where revising feels like reimagining the entire story, seeing it from a new angle where the ideas you originally put down on paper can fit so seamlessly into a new and more complex plot that you’re devising—those are the days that just make you smile and remind you that you don’t want to be doing anything else, the days that give you the courage to keep pressing on.

courage ralphu  

Every spare second I have between work and school (halfway there for one of my classes, so huzzah!) is spent on my laptop, pouring over the “Chasing Shadows” manuscript at the same time that I plot out the series’ conclusion on my note cards. I introduced an entirely new character and renamed another to subtly throw in some Robin Hood elements for my own enjoyment, and then I had a “Holy mackerel!” moment when I realized that it would beautifully complicate time travel for Sarah; it makes everything so much more disastrous because they fear her presence is corrupting the past. My favorite “Rising Shadows” fan and fellow writer, who is actually named Sarah—you are the absolute best, girl!—enjoys tormenting her characters as much as I do. I think it must be an author thing, because the farther our characters fall, the higher we have to lift them up, and watching them rise from the mire is a beautiful thing. Anyway, after I let God take the reins on this story, he completely opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for the final book, and I’m adding some minor and major elements to “Chasing Shadows” that are totally setting the stage for a bunch of disaster and perfection in the next installment, which is coming along rather nicely. Even my fellow writer and blogger-friend, Sarah (who is 100% Team Will Taylor), fell for Damien Lisandro against her will. Honestly, he is one of my favorite characters, and I’ve never written someone into a story who controls what I write as much as Damien—every time he entered a scene or opened his mouth, he owned the scene, and I found myself grinning like a giggly school girl or grimacing because I wanted to fix him. I have never been so happy to change an older, moderately interesting character named Bormeo into a handsome, cheeky Spaniard who is caught up with the wrong people, but you love him nonetheless. I can’t wait for you to get acquainted with him, but he’s mine, so don’t get any ideas. 😉   

love fairytales best of all end

God has been so faithful throughout this process, and I love you guys for sticking by my side! I’d appreciate some prayer, though, because I have to make a few big decisions soon—kind of a huge career jump that I’m looking for the Lord’s guidance on. Wish me faith! (sounds way better than luck!)

And can I get a smattering of applause or a “woot, woot!” for a new record of absence to this blog on my part. Four weeks, baby! But, seriously, sorry about that, and don’t be shy about sending me scathing reminder emails to get me back on here. Haha. Time has flown these past few weeks. In that time, “Deception” by CJ Redwine came out, “Thornhill” by Ms. Peacock was released, I had my teeth cleaned at the dentist, and my baby sister, Katie, turned the big 1-7 yesterday. Can’t believe the little girl I used to finger paint with outback (actually, that was just a few weeks ago, but we’ve matured in that time!) is all grown up with her own blog and the title of official Zondervan Book Reviewer under her belt. So proud of you, Kiddo!

www.booksandwonderfulthings.wordpress.com

Oh! I almost forgot. Friday, October 18th, I will be at the Casa de Oro Library Branch for a few hours to talk about my books and the publishing process, and I’m especially looking forward to getting to know a lot of you at the party that day. A few of the San Diego branches are getting started with teen and college age groups one Friday of the month to get kids back into reading, but there is no age limit. Everyone is welcome! It will just be a fun afternoon of getting to know one another and getting involved. If you know anyone in the area, encourage them to come and bring a friend, or if you want me tell kids about the publishing process at your school or library, just shoot me an email. You have no idea how much I love meeting you guys!  

I’m super jazzed and honored to kick off the first Friday of Teen Week and hope to see some of you there! ^__^

 

 

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