Inspiration

All posts tagged Inspiration

Where Does the Joy Go?

Published October 15, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

As the years pass, where does the joy go? The earth hasn’t changed, the world doesn’t play more unfairly than it did before, and the sun and stars are still constant. So what changed to make the spark disappear?

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I was inspired to write this post after I heard someone say, “Life just loses its sparkle as you get older.” I wanted to respond with, Life is wonderful, how can you say that? But later on that night, I realized that, tragically, this can be true. The reality of adulthood takes over—less free time, bills, responsibilities up the wazoo (and using the word wazoo is no longer “age appropriate”), broken hearts, stress, deadlines. If you let them, these things will slowly leech the joy and adventure from life so that you’re just living each day on autopilot, waiting for it to be over so it can inevitably begin again. The day-to-day becomes tedious, and eventually, the dawn turns into something that you dread.

This harsh reality really bothered me, and I wondered why it should be that the joy and excitement of life should end because a new chapter of life begins. But does it really? I began to realize that the magic that exists in the world doesn’t disappear, rather we let the cares of this life distract us to the point that we’re too exhausted to look for it when it seems scarce.

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As children, everyday seemed to hold a bit of mystery and excitement, but we’ve become too focused on more money and success, the idea that maybe a different relationship or occupation would complete us, or a million dollars would solve all our problems (or an extra 8 hours in the day to write my work in progress *cough*). That’s not to say a few of these things wouldn’t be nice, but it’s untrue that our lives would be perfect or “complete” because of these fleeting things. Discontentment breeds jealousy and greed and a restlessness that nothing can satisfy. I’m not exempt from the “if-only” idea, but I am a firm believe in the magic of everyday things and the hope that it produces, and the excitement of a new adventure.

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I have to admit that I’ve never understood people when they say that the love between them and another “simply died.” Call me naïve, but the only way that can happen is if no one tries to save it. Love is like a flower—you have to care for it so that it continues to grow and flourish, even if it isn’t as young and beautiful as it once was; if you ignore it and forget it exists, it will die. The same goes for the belief in the excitement that occurs in life: we have to choose to look for it, especially when it seems impossible to find because that’s when we need a bit of magic the most.

 

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Just this week I was having a difficult time finding that spark of joy after a tough week of stress and feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. I was sitting there in traffic, grumbling about the sun in my eyes, and then as I glared at it for another minute, I suddenly saw how beautiful the sunset was. I had spent the entire drive home complaining about something that, since I would have been caught in traffic anyway, should have been enjoyed. The rising and setting of the sun is some of the most obvious magic you can find, and I had almost let it pass by unnoticed because I was too caught up in the bustle of life, the competition to get one more car ahead so I could race home to—what? Drudge the next day?

Nuh-uh.

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God did not put us on this earth to work ourselves to death earning money that disappears all too quickly and to lament each day He’s given us. Every morning our eyes open is a miracle, and my challenge to you this week is to remind yourself to seek out the miracle in today. Easier said than done, right? Trust me, I’ve been there and am still there sometimes, struggling to find the joy in the things that exist around me. But it’s there, even in the small things—the leaves shifting color, the falling rain against a window, meeting a writing deadline, a new dawn brining with it a clean slate. And when you feel you can’t see the magic, be bold and create your own! Climb a mountain, explore the sea, take a long drive with the windows down while the rain is pouring, find a new bookstore (umm , bibliophile!), try something you’ve never done before. This life was intended for us to learn and explore and live it. We just have to choose to keep our eyes and hearts open to the magic of the everyday and to not let our sparkles—our inner light—die out.

So, where does the joy go? It’s been there all along, though it shifts forms like a chameleon and is sometimes tricky to spot. But if you keep on the lookout for it, the world might surprise you.

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September Wrap-Up: October, Take Me Away

Published October 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

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(Thank you, WordPress, for eating my scheduled post that I stayed up working on until midnight. I appreciate the challenge! *cries softly*)

October has arrived!! That means fall weather for those of us not in Southern California, my birthday in two days *cough, cough*, watching the leaves change, NaNoWriMo prep (I’m not sure whether to feel excited or terrified…), and getting one month closer to CHRISTMAS! I’m not excited about that at all. ^_~

The first half of September was . . . shall we say, a mite stressful? My sisters and I spent all of August apartment hunting and had at last settled on a place. Between the four of us, we were preparing to move, experiencing job changes, going to classes, working full time, and I was trying to find a spare minute to work on Jungle Princess.

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I seriously considered dedicating my sparse free-time to enlisting the professor’s assistance from Rising Shadows or that of the Eleventh Doctor to help me find more hours in the day, or to simply travel back in time so I could learn how to be more efficient. I am soooo ready to dedicate October to writing and to mentally preparing myself (and 1,345 cups of coffee) for NaNo this November. 50,000 words, anyone? Anyone? Maybe this is the year! . . . I said “maybe.”

I honestly cannot remember a single thing that I did this month before the move. Although, random side note, no one needs a gym when you have to walk ¼ mile for your mail everyday. Calves of steel, baby! Anywho, my baby sis, Katie, turned the big 2-1 just after we moved in. I. KNOW! A part of me will always see the spunky toddler with white-blond pigtails and too-big sunglasses entertaining us all with loads of maturity and personality. Then again, she’s always acted like more of an adult than me, so maybe it isn’t too shocking that she’s all growed-up. Haha. 

My phone decided to commit suicide right before an event at Barnes and Noble, tragically taking with it to the phone grave all of my photos, contacts, and promotional posts for the event that I had stored on the phone. I scrambled that morning to try and recover what I could, but alas, Toto was no more. I’m really okay with it, though. 

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The BFest event at the Mira Mesa B&N was fantastic and so much fun! There are few pictures because, you know, NO PHONE. But I jacked a couple from other people that are on my Instagram feed. There was a large turnout for the panel me and Nikki Katz (I already pre-ordered The Midnight Dance!), where we answered fan questions, shared about our writing journeys, and laughed over how many drafts we rewrote and our mutual distaste of editing. My Instagram friend Olivia surprised me by showing up at the signing, and we spent the afternoon chatting about life and getting to know one another. This lovely friend is a writer to look out for!

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Picture courtesy of Jade—thanks, girl!

I did the same BFest event at another Barnes and Noble in San Diego yesterday, and my favorite part of these things is getting to know young readers and aspiring writers. Laila and Jade just made the entire event so memorable, and I loved every one of their questions. Seeing their excitement, talking fandom things, and hearing about their future writing aspirations reminded me of why I picked up a pen in the first place. Ladies, you made me want to come home and immediately sit down and write!

Random Ramblings:

Elizabeth Gaskell turned . . . well, a lady never reveals her age. But her birthday was on september 29th, and one must always cheers the fabulous author who created John Thornton with a cup of tea and by reading a favorite chapter of North and South. I found fabulous music inspiration from Katie Grace’s September Highlights and have listened to “Dreamers” by Oh Gravity nonstop, as well as The Oh Hellos. I love new music obsessions! I’m also joining several October challenges on Instagram (follow me here to see which challenges I’m posting about each day), as well as reading through the Old Testament (#OTOctober) with Nadine Brandes. She has set up a read-through of the Old Testament with no rules—you can join in and take your time reading along with the group. I’ve been reading through the New Testament as well, and going through the Old and New side by side has helped me see so many parallels that I have grazed over before. Shoot me a message with what you discover this month!

What I Read:

I tragically read THREE books in September, but I shan’t cry about it (too much) because the month was insanely busy, and I’m praying that the extra day in October means more reading time.

The Legend of Sheba by Tosca Lee ***

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I had this book on last month’s list because I had just started it and finished it a few days into September. I enjoyed it for the historical element, and it’s an interesting story, but it just wasn’t one I would get excited to read again. I know Tosca and have read some of her other books. She is such an incredible writer and puts an insane amount of research into her books, and I appreciate that more than I did the characters in this particular story. But don’t let my opinion stop you if you’re interested in Biblical fiction or historical novels set in the Middle East.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell ************************ x infinity

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If you’re wondering what my favorite classic lit novel is, please reference my million star rating (it has to be implied on Goodreads because 5 stars is their max). I can’t praise this story enough! My sisters and I have all read the book and watched the BBC miniseries with Richard Armitage *swoon. Swoon, swoon* too many times to count, and we recommended it for book club last month. It has so much depth and emotion and character development for a novel of its era, and the heart of the story is just lovely. You won’t regret reading this!

Hunted by Megan Spooner ****

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A Beauty and the Beast retelling? Uhh, yes, please! If you saw my August Wrap-Up (and my Instagram the last week), you would have seen that this was on my TBR pile, and I actually got around to reading it. It’s a miracle!! *checks one off, seven take its place* This story was really enjoyable. I liked the twist on the classic fairytale and thought the Beast was a fabulous and layered character. The only reason I gave it 4 stars and not 5 was because Yeva (Beauty) bugged me a bit with her stubbornness and personality in the beginning, and the pacing was a little slow at first. But I liked her much more the second half and will definitely be reading this one again.

My TBR Pile:

Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

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I saw a Goodreads trailer for this book and almost went right out and bought it because of the Titanic and fantasy vibes, but I held off because of the paranormal element to it. The concept sounds fascinating, but I’m reading cautiously before I buy.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

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I WILL read this . . . someday, and I’m a little noncommittal about it.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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I’m in the midst of a buddy read on Instagram hosted by Captain Valour (follow him here) so feel free to read along with us.

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

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Although I should probably read This Savage Song first, and that’s still on my TBR pile *hangs head*

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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Camp NaNo Update

Published April 26, 2017 by Ashley Townsend
Do you like how I start a blog series, do one post, go on a writers’ retreat, and then post weeks later with a completely different topic? 
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Well, I am down on my knees begging your forgiveness so I can share how Camp NaNo is going so far and give you April updates. I also solemnly swear that I am up to much good and will shortly resume the Fangirl’s Guide to Navigating Life series, and I’ll be sharing some exciting news about the Rising Shadows Trilogy in upcoming posts. There’s a little teaser on this news about four posts back on my Instagram (click here!!!).
Now, onto business!
April has been AMAZING! It was compete craziness at first, prepping for Camp NaNo, working on Jungle Princess, preparing for my writers’ retreat, and remembering to breathe. And caffeinate, definitely caffeinate. But the Realmie Roomie (w)Riting Retreat was the perfect way to kick off Camp NaNo, thanks to my lovely Realmie Roomies, Nadine (follow her inspiring blog here), Tricia (Deliver just released!! *flails*), and Katie (this girl writes approximately 4,786 words per minute. No joke). We had missed each other like crazy since Realm Makers last July and decided to gather together in Michigan for a refreshing time of motivation and inspiration.
Having our writing team together was a huge push for all of us to reach our goals, spending countless hours during the day Word Warring, being startled by terrifying timers when we were in the zone, and hitting some word counts that we had never managed before. I was pretty jazzed to reach over 60,000 words in my current work in progress by the end of the trip, so WIN!! These Three Writing Musketeers are such a constant encouragement and inspiration, and I know I never would have been so motivated to keep writing if it hadn’t been for these amazing friends and writers. 
I feel like I should say that it was nothing but work and that I wrote seven novels during the trip, which is nice and all . . . but we had way more fun than that! 
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“What, precisely, did you have fun doing?” you might ask. A few things that kept us distracted when our eyes were burning from staring at a computer screen for too long were:
-floor swimming and dance-athons (because exercise helps the mind)
-PIZZA!!! 
-CHAI!!!!! (a reward at the end of each night)
-OREOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*%$@#@!$ (because exclamations aren’t enough)
-tromping through Tricia’s yard like Hobbits exploring the land with Gandalf
-waking up and writing with Tricia, morning coffee with Katie (after late night writing), and giggling with my soul-sister, Nadine
-Hot Dog Fry Saturday (and S’MORES!!!!)
-book chats/singing all the songs
-running across a rope bridge in heels . . . for book research
-swinging on “vines” (a rope swing) for jungle research
-watching The Legend of Tarzan for *cough* *cough* research ^_~
-laughing until we got abs like Alexander Skarsgard
-giggling until 2 a.m. about dog props and “the smolder,” a conversation inspired by my blind love of Pierce Brown
-turning a disastrous gate change in Chicago into an adventure and the funniest sprint you will ever see three girls make across an airport (after getting pulled over by security because apparently they have a thing against delicious teas and saucepans).
As you can see, our retreat was not only productive, but a total blast and just what we all needed. It definitely helped me to get a jumpstart on my productivity for the month, and as the end of April approaches, I am so close to my NaNo goal that I’m feeling pretty good right now. That’s not to say it hasn’t been hectic lately, but I think we’re going to get there with our sanity intact.
So here’s to the last few days of NaNo, my fellow campers. Whether we win or lose Camp this April, just remember that there will always be Oreos, pizza, great friends, good books, and Tarzan. 
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Prepare the Coffee! Camp NaNo Has Begun

Published April 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

 

If you are like 90% of Americans, you’ve probably never heard of Camp NaNo, even if you have heard of its terrifying counterpart and older sister, NaNoWriMo *shivers at the memories of sleep deprivation and caffeine abuse*

I’ll lay it out simply for you:

girl writing nature     -There are cabins that you can create or join on the site to “hang” with your buddies or get randomly assigned with new writing friends.

     -Forums allow you to share snippets of your story and offer up encouragement, advice, and fangirling during your cabin mates’ writing process.

     -And the best part is that YOU set your own goals for April!

 

That’s right. During the month-long fest of awesomeness that is Camp NaNo, you decide a realistic word count goal that works for you. Or if you’re better at managing chapters or pages, then use that as your motivational guide. You can work as hard as you want to, and instead of burning yourself out by reaching 50,000 words in 30 days, you can set a goal of 30,000 words (like me!). And the best part of April is the community of writers you get connected with, who are aspiring and struggling to meet goals or connect ideas just like you.

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This picture is so accurate, it hurts.

I have never been to camp and haven’t *cough* successfully participated in Camp NaNo before. I know, the horror! But knowing that my circle of amazing encouragers and beta-readers and writer-friends has grown so much makes me want to dive right in and tackle whatever goal I’ve set for myself. That’s my favorite part of Camp, just understanding a goal and having the support you need to reach it or the Oreos and coffee when you don’t. As cheesy as it sounds, it isn’t about the goals you set but the journey and the people along the way.

So here’s to the next 30 days, friends. I have a feeling it will be epic!

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And stay tuned this month for more Fangirl’s Survival Guide posts and Camp NaNo updates.

 

 

Fins, Spins, & Mermaids—Oh my!

Published February 12, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

As most of you know, I love chatting with other writers and hearing about their stories. I also love doing interviews with fantastic people and adore all-things mermaid (stay tuned for my WIP and you’ll see why!). So when I heard that Lisa M. of The Elegant Stylus was writing a short story about mermaids (!!!), you could say I jumped at the opportunity to interview the incredible artist who designed the covers for Rising Shadows and Defying Shadows

Lisa typically dwells under the sea, which I imagine is a fantastic place for writing inspiration, but she was kind enough to don her land-legs and answer my questions today. *awaits drum roll crescendo* All right, let’s get to some mermaid action! 

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(Also, please note that this interview was written in sea foam-green to keep with the theme. *slow clap for cleverness*)

Lisa, where does your creative inspiration come from?

First, I’m going to give the totally uninteresting “mom” answer and say my children—but it’s true!  Portraiture is something I enjoy, and my first portrait was of my daughter when she was two years old.  Children today are photographed more than any generation in history, yet I’ve found that the simplicity of a line-drawing can sometimes capture the essence of a child even more precisely than a photograph. 

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(The portrait of my daughter which started it all; silhouette portraits of my daughter and son. Commission your own at www.etsy.com/people/TheElegantStylus )

Thematically, I have a particular love of folklore, weird fiction, and fantasy. I was fascinated by the stories by Edgar Allen Poe as a kid, and my first short story (titled “The Skull Upon the Roof”. . . because what else could it have been called?) was based on his house style.  World building has always been a particular passion of mine; anything that hints at belonging to an eerie alternative reality which exists just beyond the fraying edges of our peripheral vision jumpstarts my imagination. Creative inspiration for those types of stories can strike anywhere, any time. Case in point: last summer, my kids and I were stuck in a completely unnecessary traffic jam while trying to leave a Sprout’s parking lot (I’m not going to point fingers, but the driver of a Subaru *may* have been responsible).  It was nap time, it was hot, and my beloved children begin to loudly voice their displeasure with the current situation. 

In an attempt to distract the kiddos, I made the executive decision to YouTube-up a minor-key, EDM/Dubstep cover of The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss the Girl,” which a Facebook friend (a German-raised Opera singer, to be precise) had recently posted on my wall. You know how it goes….

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(See the video here: https://youtu.be/HncGtWcqyV0 )

Now’s your moment
Floating in a blue lagoon
Boy, you better do it soon
No time will be better.

The song is playing, the kids have quieted down, and I’m successfully navigating a “left-turn yields on green” maneuver through the intersection when suddenly, BOOM! The scene unrolls before my mind’s eye like luminous scroll: the singer in this goth dubstepping number is no friendly crab-buddy, narrating the flatteringly-lit rowing scene of romantic tension between our charming protagonists!! No! Indeed, there is an unholy sea sprite lurking in the dark waters, and he has his own Screwtape-esque agenda! The malicious sprite telepathically whispers, taunts, and downright mocks the young man in the boat:

Look at that boy: too shy.
Ain’t gonna kiss the girl.
It’s a shame, too bad.
He’s going to miss the girl.

My physical body may have successfully steered us home, pulled my SUV into our garage and begun unbuckling the kids, but my mind was still in that haunted lagoon, and oh baby, I had a lot of questions. Questions like:

“What deep, dark creature does this taunting voice belong to?”

“Why does he care that the eponymous girl be kissed before the sun sets?  (The girl in question being, of course, a zombie-mermaid glamoured to look like a fresh-faced human girl. I know this intuitively.)

“Why is this Disney song very clearly advocating non-consensual culture? Just look at this:  

Yes, you want her.

Look at her, you know you do.

It’s possible she wants you too;

there’s one way to ask her.

It don’t take a word, not a single word.

Go on and kiss the girl, kiss the girl!

Seriously??? Another way you can inquire if she, indeed, does want you too kiss her, is to, um. . . oh, I don’t know, maybe ACTUALLY ASK HER if she would be receptive to such intimate contact? Gawd, Disney!

Suffice it to say I had MANY questions. It goes without saying that, at least in my case, inspiration will strike at the most unexpected, and honestly inopportune, moments.  I hurried to get my kids out of the car and into their beds so I could scribble a few lines in a notebook and not lose the sneak-peak I’d been given into this dark fairytale world. And then….

Wait….both kids have dirty diapers….SERIOUSLY?!!

Inopportune inspiration . . . Oh, too relatable! Like the shower, the sandy beach with no pen, when your hands are covered in paint, at 2 a.m., etcetera. -_- 

Okay, do you have a favorite spot to brainstorm creative concepts and designs? 

The majority of my creative work is done via computer, so I guess I’d have to say sitting at my kitchen bar with my laptop is my default go-to creative space. Pinterest is a great place to begin a design process, whether I’m giving a makeover to a piece of furniture, researching silhouette cameo-portrait styles, or designing the covers to your novel covers! When I paint, I always begin by creating a digital mock-up in Photoshop. That’s the origin story of the watercolor painting I did for you, based on your Rising Shadows trilogy.

(Serimone by Starlight, which you might recognize from Instagram; Rising Shadows, Defying Shadows)

During the hot summer months, I enjoyed sitting in the shade of my front porch in the evening, writing mermaid-zombie story ideas in a notebook, while keeping a vigilant eye on my kids playing in the yard; I’m trying to embrace the shaggy nature of good ol’ pen and paper writing. If I have to cross out a word, sentence, or, God-forbid, a paragraph … so be it. Writing a story by hand has been an epic triumph for my personal neuroplasticity, and I view it almost as a form of therapy for my super-uptight OCD proclivities. I cannot allow white-out in my vicinity when writing. As a Storm Trooper says in Episode IV: “Move along. Move along.” I’m trying to live according to his advice, and not get hung-up by over thinking things and imperfections.

My creative writing gurus are the brilliant people over at Storywonk.com, and through their podcast, I have been encouraged to keep plugging along. In particular the “Journeyman Writer” podcast has taught me the importance of curating a nest in which to write.

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(http://storywonk.com/podcasts/ )

Lately, I have begun writing before bed, nightcap at my side (it helps with the OCD). I feel particularly blessed to get to write my dark faerie tale in the master bedroom of a creepy gothic mansion; I feel the atmosphere adds to my creative process. (Joke.)

(“IRL” and Gothic Photoshop)

*wishes she had the ability to bring Photoshopped pictures into reality* So. Glorious!

I know I always have to have tone-setting music and a fun beverage when I’m writing (*cough* coffee *cough cough*). What are some things that you MUST have in your workspace while exercising you creativity?

As a mom of young kids, I’ve had to learn to be creative in non-ideal situations.  Oftentimes, I’m Photoshopping an image while simultaneously stepping in to prevent my two-year-old’s meltdown, and navigating Netflix to find “Octonauts” for my 4- and a half year-old.  BUT if I could design the perfect creative environment, it would definitely take place after my kids have gone to bed, with the ‘afore mentioned margarita by my side and a Storywonk podcast playing on my headphones. While I’ve been scribbling my mermaid story, I’ve lately enjoyed listening to ambient ocean wave noises via YouTube on my MPOW Shell Blue Tooth.

Now I’m wishing I had the gift of multitasking while in story-mode, but alas. *sighs* Okay, now for a strange question: I love Monet, Van Gogh, and Pissarro’s works and would love to have watched them create some of their most incredible paintings. If you could bring any artist back from the dead (and possibly put a Mermaid tail on them), who would it be and why?

Definitely weird fiction author H. P. Lovecraft. The contrast between his stuffy, uptight New England personality and the truly wild, disturbing, psychedelic worlds and creatures he created are endlessly fascinating to me. Despite the fact that he was an unrepentant sexist, racist jerk, and overall unpleasant guy, I’d love to have a conversation with him about his Cthulhu Mythos.

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(“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”

“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”)

Though I am an “inferior” woman, I am sure that as soon as he realizes I have not only singlehandedly reanimated his corpse, but ALSO gifted him with a super awesome mer-tail, he will be so overcome by gratitude that he will gladly converse with me about his story-craft. I imagine sitting beside his custom, 600 gallon saltwater tank in a velvet wingback chair, sipping a margarita while chatting about the danger of seeking hidden knowledge and the nature of madness.

hp-merman

(Howard Phillips Lovecraft, formerly of Weird Fiction. Current status: Merman)

*tries to pull self together while still on the throes of laughter over the saltwater tank comment* *at last regains some semblance of composure*

Fascinating response, Lisa. Going with the saltwater theme . . . Now, you’re on a desert island and have a choice between enlisting the help of a mermaid, a sea witch, and a couple of sea turtles roped together (probably with hair from Jack Sparrow’s back). Which do you choose to help you survive? 

To paraphrase the late author David Foster Wallace, I have a marrow-level dread of the ocean; it is an endless, corrosive engine of death and chaos chockerblock full of snaggletoothed leviathans that rise from the depths at the rate which a feather falls.  Needless to say, I would want to return to the mainland ASAP, so it looks like the sea witch is my gal! Luckily, I just happen to have a nifty H. P. Lovecraft-shaped mer-toy to trade her in exchange for her magical teleporting services! Sorry, Howard! Don’t blame me; Kharma’s a b*ch!

So you’ve given us a little taste of the inspiration behind your current work in progress, but would you share with us a bit about your idea and some scene-inspiring art?

Yes! I’m primarily a visual artist, and have (alas!) finished very few of the stories I’ve attempted in the past. It’s been a bucket-list item to one day complete a short story novella, as well as illustrate it.

As I mentioned before, Chase Holfelder’s Minor Key cover of “Kiss The Girl” from The Little Mermaid planted the seeds for a new story in my mind.

I’ve always loved folktales, their dark origin stories in particular.

lore

(If you’re like me and enjoy learning about spooky folklore, check out the LORE podcast! http://www.lorepodcast.com/ )

Likewise, I’m intrigued by the concept of an unreliable narrator. Rippling out from that crucial moment of the kiss in the lagoon, I’ve created a whole framework of story! The Cliff’s Notes version is that there is a sea sprite who has been the familiar of an incredibly powerful Sea Witch for a millennia. He has loved his Mistress unconditionally (were his feelings reciprocated?….I think not, but don’t tell him that). The Sea Witch gives her life to reanimate the corpse of a drowned young woman, who is resurrected in the form of a voiceless, zombie mermaid.

(Digital paintings I’ve created as illustrations for my story.)

Now that his beloved Sea Witch is dead, the desolate sea sprite determines to win her life back by presenting the Elder Gods (a Lovecraftian shout-out) who live deep under the sea with the perfect gift: a human soul. And, of course, the formerly human mermaid is the perfect vessel to transport that soul to their underwater temple. The familiar devises a plan in which he glamours the mermaid to look like an irresistible maiden. Once on land, the sea sprite (glamoured in human form as well) sets up the meet-cute in the lagoon, gets an unsuspecting man to kiss her . . . aaaaand you’ll have to read the story to see how it all ends. As of this moment, I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends as well! 

It’s been amazing having you, Lisa, and thank you so much for stopping by to answer all of my questions! I think it’s safe to say that we’re all on the edge of our seats waiting to see how the rest of this fascinating story comes together. As for the rest of you, if you liked what you read and are interested in commissioning Lisa for a project, she’s always open to new, creative endeavors. Just make sure to message her before she ditches her land-legs and dons her fin once more! (I heard computers don’t work very well under da sea.)

Be sure to follow The Elegant Stylus: 

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The Music Speaks! DS Playlist

Published August 13, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

jewelry heart

Music inspires me. 

One beat or pulsing rhythm or lyric that catches on my heart strings, and I’m hooked on a song. My sister Katie (follow her blog Books and Wonderful Things!) brought a random song from Florence and the Machine to my attention while I was writing Chasing Shadows, and the chorus and a single line in the bridge of “Heavy in Your Arms” inspired the waterfall scene between Jade and Will (“The one who creeps in corridors and doesn’t make a sound.” Come on, people!). Sometimes when I get blocked, I take a break, close my eyes and just nap in the sunshine and listen to music. I’ve overcome many a writing stump by absorbing the tone and lyrics of random songs.

music speaks

My writing playlist consists of about 150 inspiring songs in all sorts of genres so that there is something to fit any scene (romantic, intense, moody, tragic). But there is always one lyric or beat or chorus that so perfectly encompasses the entire mood of a chapter that, before I realize it, the repeat button has been pressed, and I listen to nothing but that song as it inspires the setting and the way I write, even how the characters respond to one another. Some music causes me to pound away at the keyboard as swords clash and arrows fly, while sweeter melodies make me slow down and smile as I pen a romantic interlude (ooh, interludes! ^_~). Music is, essentially, the backbone behind life and every story, if you listen close enough to the birds, the wind, and “every breaking wave” (*cough* U2 reference *cough*).

Since there is one specific song that really stuck out to me as being the lifeblood behind each chapter, I had to share with you the melodies that inspired Defying Shadows. If you’ve read the book, then you’re probably freaking out because you’re reliving every laugh and tear and emotional tidal wave that you experienced while reading the book. If you haven’t started Defying Shadows yet, then find it here so you know why this playlist is perfect. 

I hope you enjoy the sounds of Serimone!

beats

Prologue:

            “Drop of Smoke”—Hudson Taylor

Chapter 1:

            “I Will Be Back One Day”—Lord Huron

Chapter 2:

            “Best Friend”—Jason Mraz

Chapter 3:

            “Into the Wild”—Lewis Walton

Chapter 4:

            “Sing Loud”—Alpha Rev

Chapter 5:

            “Surrender”—Natalie Taylor

Chapter 6:

            “Surround You”—Echosmith

Chapter 7:

            “Another Story”—The Head and the Heart

Chapter 8:

            “History’s Door”—Husky

Chapter 9:

            “Big Bad World”—Kodaline

Chapter 10:

            “Can’t Pretend”—Tom Odell

Chapter 11:

            “The Lion’s Den”—Twin Oaks

Chapter 12:

            “Let it Go”—James Bay

Chapter 13:

            “I Have Made Mistakes”—The Oh Hellos

Chapter 14:

            “Moon Shines Red”—Jamie McDell

Chapter 15:

            “Running for You”—Kip Moore

Chapter 16:

            “Searchlight”—Phillip Phillips

Chapter 17:

            “Run”—Jasmine Thompson

Chapter 18:

            “All I Want”—Dawn Golden

Chapter 19:

            “Unclear”—Kodaline

Chapter 20:

            “Stay Alive”—Jose Gonzalez

Chapter 21:

            “Daniel in the Den”—Bastille

Chapter 22:

            “Fire”—Barnes Courtney

            “Volcano”—Emily Hearn

Chapter 23:

            “I Found Love”—Amber Run

Chapter 24:

            “Hollow”—Tori Kelley

Chapter 25:

            “Pieces”—Andrew Belle

Chapter 26:

            “Prince of Peace”—Hillsong

Chapter 27:

            “Way Down We Go”—Kaleo

Chapter 28:

            “Song for Someone”—U2

Chapter 29:

            “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”—Raign

Chapter 30:

            “Charlie Boy”—The Lumineers

Chapter 31:

            “All I Ever Wanted (Was Time)”—Vance Joy

Chapter 32:

            “On My Way Back Home”—Band of Horses

Chapter 33:

            “Light”—Sleeping at Last

Chapter 34:

            “Other Side”—Parachute

Chapter 35:

            “Hanging by a Thread”—Aaron Espe

Chapter 36:

            “All This Time”—One Republic

Chapter 37:

            “Home”—Gabrielle Aplin

Chapter 38:

            “Our Last Days”—The Fray

Epilogue:

            “Photograph”—Ed Sheeran

 

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