Perseverance

All posts tagged Perseverance

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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Half Agony, Half Hope

Published April 8, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

I breathe, I sleep, and I dream in story form. A carefully phrased string of words can create complex characters who find residence in my heart and are permanently etched into the walls of my soul.

books

This is a far more dramatic take on how stories and writing impact me, though the feelings are 100% true. I imagine that if I went to a BA (Bibliophiles Anonymous) meeting that my confession would sound a little something like this: “Hi, my name is Ashley, and I’m a bibliophilette.” (This is where you would all chime in with the slightly creepy, collective “Hi, fellow crazy person”) Yes, I dream in stories and find myself acting them out in my head during everyday life. I was the glassy-eyed kid staring out the window during class, imaging a fantasy world just beyond that cruel glass partition (I will probably dedicate a future post to the cruelties of allowing kids to see, but not touch, the outdoors during class). It’s actually quite entertaining—and distracting—to have a weightless book or multiple stories with you at all times, so no complaints. Move aside, 1 lb. Kindle!

victim of books

When people starting to ask me why I wanted to start my career with a Christian publisher—since I would have so much more reach with a secular house, I was told—I simply have them refer to the afore mentioned delusions. Then there’s the “middle ground” (a.k.a. moral compromise) question: Would you ever be able to alter your writing style so it has more appeal to secular markets? Able? Yes. Willing? That would be a resounding no. Why, you might ask?

Because my stories consume me. dream while awake

I can’t always pin down the exact moment when they come in and take over my life, because it can sometimes be slow going, but they do every time. I have lunch with the characters, spend the afternoon writing about their lives, and then go to bed envisioning what the next day might have in store for them. They occupy my waking and sleeping thoughts and resonate with me. If I hear a phrase or if I see something that reminds me of a character’s actions or what they might say, then I am immediately transported into the story. I smile when my characters—and other authors’ characters—are happy, grin like an idiot when they’re being cheeky, cry when they do, and hope for the same splendid ending that they wish for in their lives.

creative before sleep

The other day I was writing a very emotion scene for the sequel to “Rising Shadows” (currently “Chasing Shadows”) and sensation in readerwas honestly balling my eyes out—I could hardly see my laptop keys to type!—because I knew what it meant for Will. Sadly, I can’t give you the “nod” to let you know if it’s good or bad for him and those he cares for, because that would completely ruin the book for you. And then just before that, I had to kill off a character I had quickly grown to love, and when Sarah wept with loss and regret, I cried softly, matching my tears with hers. When I forced her into the arms of someone else for comfort, I was a distraught wreck, conflicted over what I had done to get her to this moment, but knowing it had to be done. Half agony and half hope—isn’t that Captain Wentworth’s line from “Persuasion”? I even took a moment to think over the lack of a future for this erased being as Sarah contemplated that same reality.

do something creative every day

So, clearly, I’m a crazy author who thinks her characters are absolutely, 100% real—they are, I tell you! But I like to think that it just means I’m passionate about designing relatable people that live and breathe on the page, as much for me as for those who read. But you can see why I don’t want to compromise: If I don’t have some moral base at the center of my stories, an encouraging conclusion to the hero’s journey, then what is it, exactly, that will be consuming me so fully? I want readers to pick up my novels and know that they aren’t simply “fluff,” but to be assured that they have a purpose and will impact them in some way, hopefully for the better.    

write the book you want to read

I started the sequel to “Rising Shadows” with the intent of making Sarah fall and lose her faith, to stumble into the darkness just a little to show that we can come out of it. But no matter how hard I pushed, how many precipices I forced endings we love to seeher to tread upon, and no matter what obstacles I sent to block her path, she has proven herself to be too strong to fall completely. It was actually kind of funny to have her fighting back at me when I tried to give her a gentle push downward, though sometimes it was frustrating to have her and others constantly thwarting my designs. But then I realized that I kind of like that about her—the fact that she’s a fighter even when, from her perspective, she thinks that she’s failing and seems to have as many fears as I do. At least she’s willing to try, sticking her neck out there for her friends, and is always prepared to fight for what she believes is right, though she isn’t always as secure as she would like to be. Sarah struggles with the same doubts and—usually—makes the right decision in the end. I suppose as far as “character” qualities go, those aren’t too bad to focus on. So if I’m going to be consumed by something, I want it to be unwavering, passionate faith and strength, even amidst the trials. The strength of a lion and the meekness of a lamb, right? Something to work towards and write about, I guess. So if you will excuse me, I think I’ll go map out my aspirations in story form.

writing

P.S. Something I realized this week: Success is not getting it right the first time. It’s kicking discouragement in the seat meat when the door slams in your face, and then you either bust the door in or attempt to scale to the window above it. I’m fairly certain Edison was anti-discouragement.      

living the life she imagined        

 

E=MC+Some Sort of Shape

Published July 25, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

School was never really this toe-curling, torture chamber of stress for me. That’s not to say I didn’t struggle sometimes, or that I was simply without a care for my education; there were some things that I just did not understand no matter how hard I tried, and then my mom would take hours to patiently explain and quiz me until I got it. And I am drawn to discovery and new things like a woman trapped in a vegan health spa is drawn to a Butterfinger, so I always loved learning and studying things that surprised and amazed me—I had to know how the world ticked, and I loved discovering all the intricacies that God had taken the time to dazzle us with on this planet. Studying these things was fun …

But math has never been my thing. Okay, that’s a very mild and vague explanation of the total love-hate­ relationship I have with it. It was the only subject that could dissolve me into tears when a concept refused to make camp in my head. Sometimes it seemed as though I was doomed to fail in the sea of endless numbers and symbols that tried to choke me and make shopping into a form of schoolwork instead of enjoyment. And yet somehow I always managed to jump up in the nick of time and grab hold of the lifeline of comprehension that was dangling in front of my face, though I didn’t fully understand nor see it until the very last second. That was how it went every time, but I always pulled through it and even got good grades in high school math, which restored my confidence in the subject as I went off to college, feeling fully prepared to face whatever my math teacher might throw this freshman’s way.

That confident stride was my companion for the first week, though it became more of a drunken stagger as I walked to class each morning in a daze. I was doing really well in the other four classes I was taking and felt like I was learning so much, but math … well, suffice it to say that it liked to play with my head and remind me of past mathematical failures. While the teacher was fantastic and passionate about helping her students understand the subject (love you for that, Mrs. Wheelock!), the mass of online homework was astounding. Even the students who understood and loved math—naturally, I was not part of this select group—were having a hard time keeping up with the overwhelming number of extremely difficult problems each week, so I didn’t feel too bad. We pretty much looked like this guy on the right. It was nightmare each time I sat down at the computer, and I remember the angry tears resurfacing each time problem seven of 408 said “Wrong Answer” when I was desperately trying to get them done before class the next morning. I think it was a week before the final drop date that I caught a glimpse of my grade, which had been drastically effected by my homework grade. Yeah, not good. I calculated and recalculated six or so times, because obviously my math wasn’t that good, and that couldn’t possibly be right. But, alas, those puny little numbers more befitting a good golf score than my unfortunate class grade were the same every time, and I knew I had a choice to make.

Originally, my goal for that class was a low A or any sort of B, but then it suddenly turned into “Must. Survive!” I was still unsure if I could pull my grade up to even pass the class, but I had never failed a class before, and I was no quitter (just ask my sisters about my penchant for finishing horrid books because I believe they have to get better—I’m usually wrong and just end up wasting my time). So I spent several days wondering what I should do and prayed about it a lot. I told God that if He really wanted me to stay in that class, then He would have to make it clear and help me get a perfect score on the next quiz before the drop deadline. I thought this was a pretty good idea … until circumstances prevented me from studying that week, and the only info I gleaned on that subject was from the few hours spent in class. I was about ready to rescind my previous agreement with God, but I kept feeling like I had to just try this last time before giving up. So, completely unprepared, I stepped into the computer lab, sat down, and got a perfect score on that quiz, something I hadn’t managed to do with any previous quizzes. I was shocked and ridiculously pleased. What’s more, my teacher called out to me in the middle of the lab and gave me a thumbs up and an “Awesome, girl!” I later found out that I was the only one in the entire class to get a perfect score on that quiz.

Now I was feeling like this kid.

Here are the facts: Panicky freshman on the verge of class dropping hysteria + absolutely no study time – any left brain function + a looming deadline = A perfect score. Hmm. Even for those of you more mathematically-inclined people, it doesn’t really seem to add up, does it? I hadn’t thought of this instance for a while, but I figured that maybe someone out there needed a little encouragement that God can perform miracles, even when the odds seem stacked against you. Oh, and I stayed in the class after that, more confident than before with the reminder that God was looking out for me, and even when things got tough, I knew that God wanted me there. So I pushed through and managed to pull a B+ by the end of the class. That might not seem like some incredible achievement for some of you, but I like to call it my little miracle B, and with it came a little more faith. I’m still working on trusting God with my whole life—I’m human, and I stumble constantly—but when I do give it up to Him, the situation always seems to turn around for the better. Don’t believe me? Give it a try yourself.

“Wisdom is better than wit, and in the long run will certainly have the laugh on her side.” –Jane Austen

I Turned Out Okay. . .

Published May 25, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.” Thessalonians 5:14

I’ve been looking over a list of author questions for an interview I’m doing with a blog, and one of the questions got me to thinking about how energetic—that’s a modest word—I was as a kid. Generally, I make a point of not overthinking my childhood because it can be rather exhausting for my old and weathered mind, but once my head gets wrapped around an idea, I tend to go for it. So, I was sitting there sorting through some of the more . . . interesting moments in my young life that might be entertaining for those who would come across the interview. You have to understand, I was a curious youngster and, well, to be honest I was the type of kid who would have had a Kool-Aid mustache as a permanent fixture on their upper lip (though I wasn’t really allowed to have Kool-Aid because it made me more hyper than usual). If you continue reading, you’ll understand why I was having a little trouble coming up with one singular crazy childhood memory that really jumped out at me.

I decided I could talk about the time when I was four or five and stuck a dead skunk on my head so I could look like Davy “Cricket” (I was curious, remember?). The horrified looks on my mom’s and grandma’s faces are priceless now, but at the time I was very disgruntled that they didn’t like my fashion statement. Or I could tell my future audience about my first time at the “big girl’s” tea party. My grandma Ruth, a fellow storyteller, used to throw these fantastically elaborate tea parties for all her grand-girls each summer. I was five and had been dying to go to one of the grown up parties that my two older sisters had been going to for years, so I was ecstatic to be invited that year. Unfortunately, that excitement turned into energy in my little body (the equivalent of five Snickers bars in a middle school boy). Since I was all hopped up on joy, I spent ten plus minutes before the party officially started running around the elegantly decorated table in my party dress, snatching whatever food my little hands could hold and munching on pre-tea snacks as my grandma chased after me. Then there was that year when I was really young that I ate all the erasers off the pencils. Mom tried to break that habit by putting cayenne pepper on all the erasers, but apparently I was born with a thirst for spice, so. . . For the record, I’ve been cold-turkey off the stuff for nearly two decades. Praise the LORD!

Somehow, amidst all these musings about my eventful childhood, I remembered with great clarity how I learned the alphabet. Seems like an odd jump to go from chewing erasers and inventing skunk hats (it was revolutionary, I tell you!) to my ABC’s, but this is how my train of thought works. First off, let me tell you that my grandpa Don is awesome. He is the most patient man you will ever meet, my co-demiser of the evilius gopherous (gopher) species, the man who taught me to tie my shoes, and he is my favorite person to cook and bake for—he loves food as much as I do!

I think I was in kindergarten, and my mom could not for the life of her get me to sit down for more than a minute to learn the alphabet. So, she called in her dad, the master of the ABC’s and a former teacher. Somehow, my grandpa realized that it wasn’t the letters I was having trouble with, but rather sitting still that was keeping me from concentrating. Patient man that he was, he brought out the chart and plastic letters and allowed me to climb on the back of his chair, duck under the table, jump up and down in place, hang upside down from the chair seat, and run around in circles while I shouted the letters back to him. Needless to say, I had my ABC’s memorized by lunch. God seriously gifted him with patience, and I have no idea how he sat there so calmly that morning, but I’m glad he did.

It helps to have someone who understands you. I realize that not everyone has someone in their life who is patient enough to figure them out, but my life is full of encouraging people—my grandpa is one of these special people. I know I would have eventually learned my ABC’s, because my mom is an incredible teacher and learned from the best, but I like to think that my grandpa gave me that little push toward my future in writing, so I should thank him for jump-starting my career. I mean, what author doesn’t know the alphabet?

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” -Saint Augustine

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