literature

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Fact-Fiction

Published February 20, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

My sister Katie and I, spurred on by the inspiration of our better half—or third—Elizabeth, decided to create a list of our all-time favorite fiction couples in books. We promised not to cheat and look at each other’s’ lists until after we both posted, but I have a feeling that our fictional taste will be fairly similar. After you read this, be sure to check out Katie’s blog www.booksandwonderfulthings.wordpress.com to see if we see eye-to-eye, or not, when it comes to books. Though I have a feeling that she’ll have Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester on there, whereas I went with Robin Hood and Maid Marian. We don’t always agree, which will probably be a good thing when fictional men start entering the world. I’m still waiting on that, though…..

Michael Hosea and Angel/Sarah from Francine Rivers’ “Redeeming Love.”

As most of you know, this is why of my favorite novels of all time, and the fact that it holds one of my favorite romance stories doesn’t hurt. Firstly, I love the contrast between the two characters: Michael gives the relationship his all and is very open with his heart, whereas Angel has been hardened by life and always seems to pull back, even after she realizes she has feelings for him. The story is amazing and heart-warming, and the slowly developed romance between the characters is absolutely beautiful.

Wanda and Ian from “The Host” by Stephenie Meyer.

Ah. Their romance is just so delightful and pure. I went into the book wanting to hate it and ended up loving it, mostly because of these two. I liked their budding romance so much because after the selfish and obsessive romance from Twilight, it was really refreshing and endearing to have two characters that started out as friends and moved into something more. And they actually TALK about things and don’t just stare into each other’s souls.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian from anything and everything Robin Hood related.

Loved them in the books, loved the modern remakes, the BBC shows, the re-envisioned novels, and especially the Disney cartoon version. Who doesn’t love foxes?! I especially loved these characters in A.C. Gaughen’s “Scarlet.” The author really played with the idea while also staying true to the original story and characters, and I really enjoyed what she did with it. Scarlet is a little standoffish at the start of the novel, but as a reader you get a better feel for her towards the end and get endeared to her. And Robin was amazing, as always. ^__^

Marcus Valerian and Hadassah from “A Voice in the Wind” and “An Echo in the Darkness.” Yes, Francine Rivers again. While not always as sweet as some of the afore mentioned romances, the progression of it is delightful and slow. And for some reason, even when Marcus is being a Roman bad boy, you still love him! I think it has to do with the fact that you can see his attraction to Hadassah and the way that it turns into a sort of friendship for him, even though he sometimes has a difficult time with it.

Jane Bennett and Mr. Bingly. I don’t think I really have to mention that they’re from “Pride and Prejudice,” but just in case you’ve been living under a rock or don’t understand the beauty of literature—or watching the remakes—they’re two of my favorite characters in Austen’s novel. It’s very subtle and, yes, not quite as tortured or up-and-down romance as Darcy and Lizzy, but I love the subtle story behind their love. I like the fact that it’s sometimes more implied for them than all out there, because sometimes I like to take some creative license in my mind and write a little more back story for them. And both characters are just so sweet and endearing!

Jack and Nikki from “Everbound.” This was also one of my favorite new finds of the year, although I’m not so sure about “Everneath.” Anyway, it took me a little while to warm up to Jack, but once I did, I really loved him. Nikki is great throughout the book and is very unselfish, which is unusual for any YA female character. The fact that they had a back story, even before they rekindle their romance, was also very intriguing and added to my affection for the characters.

Kyle and Mackenzie from “Hemlock” by Kathleen Peacock.

There really wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about this book. Kyle was not only an amazing friend to Mac, but he was also a great and unselfish character. I enjoyed their relationship and banter, and they really leaned on each other. And, of course, readers always love a tenuous romance between a tough girl and a boy with Lupine Syndrome who’s being tracked by a secret agency that hunts down and kills werewolves. Yeah, just your average day in Hemlock.

Smith and Tessa from Kristen Heitzmann’s “The Edge of Recall.” My favorite novel of hers and by far my favorite two characters. Smith was clever and endearing, and while Tessa was somewhat damaged and overreacted, I really liked and understood her. I don’t know what else to say except READ THE BOOK!!!

Scott and Jennie McGrady. I used to read Patricia Rushford’s Jennie McGrady series as a kid, which is what got me started on my mystery novel kick. Scott wasn’t so impressive in Book II, but you love, LOVE him as the series progresses. He was a little snarky, but that’s kind of what I liked the most about him—that and the fact that he really was a fantastic guy and honestly loves Jennie. And I’ve always loved her as a main character. She stayed consistently smart, endearing, and realistic for 15 books, which is the mark of a great character.

Murphy and Elissa from Body and Brock Theone’s series. I loved them instantly in “Vienna Prelude” and continued on with the series only for a hopeful glimpse of them. John Murphy (*sigh*) is just plain wonderful, and while I didn’t always love or agree with Elissa, I did love them together. For some reason, I love stories where two characters are madly in love and are forced together by circumstances, but neither is willing to admit it. Ah, fictional romance is sweet, is it not? 

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A Day in the Life of an Author

Published February 4, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

Lately, I’ve had a few people ask me what my process for writing is and how I get inspired for my stories. Sooooo, this is for the rest of you curious people, and, yes, this is honestly how my “free” days go. I don’t write this much every single day—I’m not a total hermit!—but on my more productive days, this is about it.

The life of an author:

8:00 am: Wake up. Lay in bed for an hour thinking and plotting, while also trying desperately to get a few more minutes of sleep to make up for a late night of thinking and plotting.

9:00 am: Decide it’s useless to lie there any longer, finally accept the inevitable, and get up to make breakfast. During breakfast, read a book or chew on the story that was devised around midnight the night before.

11:00 am: (hair might be brushed by this time) Water garden. Either listen to music for inspiration from the “Inspiration” playlist on the iPod, or take advantage of the silence by mentally moving scenes around and devising new characters and ideas for other stories.

12:30-ish pm: Eat lunch. This time is usually reserved for reading.

1-2:00 pm: Generally when the actual writing begins, sometimes lasting well into the evening—with a break for dinner with the family, of course. This time can produce anywhere from zero pages—on a very unproductive day spent revising and reading previous chapters—to twelve pages of new work. This kind of productivity usually only happens in the middle of very exciting or intriguing scenes.

8:00 pm: Try to tie up loose ends of whatever was produced during the day and prepare for nighttime shows, game night, or an evening movie with everyone.

12:00 am: Lie wide awake in bed because the total silence has caused the floodgates of inspiration to be opened wide. Spend the next hour mapping out tomorrow’s writing and thinking everything through, almost against your will. (Unfortunately, this happens a lot, but it’s when I get some of my best inspiration!)

Right now my sisters Elizabeth, Katie, and I are blowing through seasons one and three of the show Castle. There’s this hysterical saying that the author in the show does at the beginning of each episode, and I thought it might give you all a chuckle. He says something like, “There are two types of people who spend their days thinking up ways to kill people: Psychopaths and mystery writers.” Thankfully, I fall into the latter category. ^__^   

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

Shhhhh! It’s Book Confession Time!

Published January 8, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

We all do it—cringe, cough, gasp, gag, flinch, faint. Well, usually the instances where I managed to do ALL six of these, other than when I encounter a lizard, tend to revolve around books. So, with the help of my ever-awesome and always-passionate fellow book lover and roommate—my younger sis, Katie, who also happens to review books. www.booksandwonderfulthings.wordpress.com–helped me compile a list of my reading and writing confessions. Perhaps she thought I could move past my sometimes mentally incapacitating quirks and hang-ups. Here’s to hopin’ I can look at the next book I read with fresh eyes! And for your edification; I am not crazy, just passionate. And we passionate lexophiles prefer the term quirks, not ticks or challenges. It might not seem like there’s a different, but I assure you, there is.

book 1

1) I cannot STAND when I see a brand new paperback open and placed face-down to hold the reader’s place in the story. I can almost hear the binding ripping. THAT’S WHAT BOOKMARKS ARE FOR!!!! Have compassion! I guess I should also lump into this category the presence of turned corners and covers folded back like a magazine. They give me the chills.

When I discover a really great hero at the library.....

When I discover a really great hero at the library…..

2) I tend to fall for the same kind of male lead in almost every book. And in case you’re wondering what that is, my character Will Taylor in “Rising Shadows” is pretty much the epitome of that ideal. My sisters tease me that I have a type, and I’ve tried to change, really. But tall, dark, and mysterious is just plain classic. And when he’s a blacksmith, well……. That’s just an added bonus. ^__^

3) Unless it’s a textbook, it pains me to see pencil and/or pen marks on a page. I get if you want to make notes, but I will personally buy you colored flags from Staples, if that’s the case.

4) Oober whiny or obsessive heroines bug the living monkey out of me. I’m all gung-ho for a girl who can stand her own, but when they go on this crazy, seemingly pointless vendetta or get obsessed over a weird pale kid, I tend to roll my eyes. So when I get a book with a selfless, mostly level-headed leading lady, it is quite refreshing.

book 3

5) Writing confession: I cannot listen to music too loudly when I write. I love listening to music and get inspired by it, but it has to be at a certain volume, otherwise I get distracted. Also, if I’m in the middle of an intense action scene, I either have to turn off the music or put on something without words.

book 4

6) People who say they have never entered a library for either business or booky goodness scare me. No, seriously; they’re probably robots, or something.

7) As much as I cringe at the sight of a new book lying face-down, some marks or an accidentally bent page are a beautiful sight on older books. I know, I know; it sounds contradictory. But a well-loved and frequently read book should never look brand new.

8) I love to read everywhere, and I really mean that. I’ve brought huge—I had to swap out my usual purse for a baby-snatcher—novels into the movie theater before when I thought there might be some down time.

9) I realize that it’s necessary, but filler is just a drag to write—that’s usually why I like jumping from one meaningful scene to the next action scene, with minimal drag between. I don’t skimp on backstories or necessary info, but do we need a four-page description of a vegetable cart? No. I’ll give you what you need and let your imagination fill in the veggie details.

10) It honestly confuses me as to why authors feel such a need to throw their readers for a loop that they would surprise us by killing a very necessary and loveable character with little or no to-do about it. If they’re going down, I want a flippin’ parade to honor them!

book 5

11) Like I said before, I can honestly read just about anywhere, but if I can, I prefer to curl up on my bed with a beverage in total silence. Or in a hammock, which I do not own. Hey, a girl can dream.

Trust me, there are plenty more where that came from, but I thought this was a good start. I’ve been reading so many books lately that I’m really starting to get what I like and don’t like in novels. Some have dazzled and amazed, while others made me question why, exactly, people read them. Just more motivation to write, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately. We’re up to 423 pages for Book II. Yippee! Can’t wait to share some of it with you all.

Check out my Goodreads page to see the kind of books that I really LOVE, and also the ones that I . . . well, the opposite of love. http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5839773.Ashley_Townsend

Giveaway!

Published December 11, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

I have been looking forward to this book forever! I found an interview with the author and a giveaway for “Fairest Beauty” that I thought you all might like to check out. And if you haven’t already, find her book “The Healer’s Apprentice” on Goodreads.

http://christianbookshelfreviews.blogspot.com/2012/12/interview-giveaway-melanie-dickerson.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ChristianBookshelfReviews+%28Christian+Bookshelf+Reviews%29&utm_content=Yahoo%21+Mail

And the Award Goes to…

Published December 10, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

Without further ado! (I just love saying that) Ashley Townsend and Friends present to you our 2012 list of books that blew our minds, stole our breath, surprised us, and made us gag.

Favorite Dystopian Worlds:

under the neverdelirium

You read enough dystopian fiction, and after a while they all begin to look the same. I never felt that way about these two novels. “Under” and “Delirium” both captured my attention from the start as the authors set the stage for what I excepted to be the A-typical dystopian society. However, both Oliver and Rossi (one of my fav books of the year!) created worlds where everything is controlled and monitored (sound familiar?), but each author spun her society or added twists that make these two novels stand apart from the rest. I was enraptured by Oliver’s world, and I loved how Rossi spun such a technological/post-apocolyptic spin on her story. 

Favorite 2012 Covers:

scarleteverneathI originally bought “Scarlet” for the cover (and the fact that it was a take on Robin Hood’s young gang) and ended up loving the story. It was fun, entertaining, and full of endearing characters; the author also gave a fantastic spin to the story that kept me guessing at every turn. “Everneath” is probably one of my favorite dress covers of the year. I love the contrast between the red dress, her pale skin, and the darkness beneath her. The further I got into the book, the more  details I noticed about the cover. So when you read the book, keep flipping back to see what you find! 

defiancethe selectionBoth “The Selection” and “Defiance” were fun, entertaining reads, but I love how much their covers resemble the story within. The strong character on the front of “Defiance” and the dark colors and detailing are what really stick out to me. Cass’ story was sweet and fun, but I love how, though the cover is gorgeous and bright, there’s still a little mystery there as well. And that dress is just incredible!

Most Disappointing Anticipated Books of 2012:

feverinsurgenttimepiece

Honorable Mentions of 2012:

Don't you just love this cover?ther hostfor

“The Host” really surprised me, and if you look at previous Palooza’s, you’ll notice that it’s one of my favorite new books. I finally got over my pooey-pooey-on-Twilight faze and forced myself to read it after my sister did. And I was shocked by how much I loved it! I also really appreciated the way that Meyer’s crafted the story. “Hourglass” was my first time travel love, and while “Timepiece” disappointed and bored me, the first book really blew my mind with its intricacies and scientific base. “For Darkness Shows the Stars” was one of those “Wow” books that totally surprise you. It’s a mild sci-fi take on Austen’s “Persuasion,” and the author did a really great job of re-crafting this story and making it her own. Loved it! 

The Pen is Mightier…

Published November 27, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

My sincerest apologies for being so neglectful, guys, but I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Anyway, I found this the other day and, recently inspired by the best fan letter of all time—thank you, Sarah B.!—I thought I might share it with you all. It’s a description of my target audience for “Rising Shadows” that I wrote up for my publisher at the very beginning of this whole process. Kind of curious to see how accurate this is for some of you. Oh! And since today’s update is Shadow-based, keep in mind that I love to hear from my fans. If you have ideas or hopes about where the series should go and what you expect from Book II, please shoot me an email at ashleytownsend.author@yahoo.com. It’s been so fun to get your input on this next installment as I write, and also very helpful! And I finally added the link to my Pinterest boards on the left (under Blogroll and “Pinterest”), so you can keep up-to-date on what I’m doing though my Novel Inspiration board. I think you all will be very excited over where the Shadow Trilogy is going; I’ve never been this giddy and surprised in any of my previous writing, and I honestly cannot wait to reveal some of what I’m working on. But until then! Ta-da!

Target Audience:

My audience is centered on young men and women who read to escape and de-stress. Though they have adventurous spirits and dream of excitement, my readers have had very few opportunities for adventure and live vicariously through the stories they read. They love to sit in their favorite chair in a quiet corner with a book that is filled with humor, fantasy, adventure, and romance. To them, a book that flows nicely has to have multi-dimensional characters and a “creamy” mixture of detailed descriptions and dialogue; they can become detached from a story if there are unnecessary details or a lack of dialogue between characters. They are intelligent and read historical fiction because it can be both entertaining and educational. In order for them to fully lose themselves in a story, it has to be filled with strong but realistic characters who have the ability to overcome evil. My readers are fixers by nature and are drawn to wounded heroes and heroines with a darker side and a deep longing for the light. They love to see their favorite characters heal from past hurts and learn to love and trust again. These avid readers are attracted to relatable characters and constantly wonder how they would react in the same situation. Reading not only allows my audience to relax and escape, but it also helps them to sort out life’s problems; they feel hopeful when they see characters overcome obstacles that they themselves are facing. My readers know that I write to provide entertaining, quality adventure stories that kids would not be embarrassed or ashamed to share with their parents.

P.S. My sister, Katie, wrote an amazingly encouraging post that I thought you all should check out. http://booksandwonderfulthings.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/fallen-leaves/

 

 

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