Sarah

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The Evolution of Writing

Published November 15, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

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Stories are ever-changing, either because of how we grow as writers, events that influence our perception, or simply things that we see that spark our interest. For me, this constant evolution is one of the most exciting, and sometimes frustrating, things about being an author—exciting because with each month or so that passes, I can look back on what I’ve written and realize how much I’ve matured as a writer, and frustrating because it’s difficult for me to ever be totally satisfied with a whole manuscript.

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I was immensely happy and proud when “Rising Shadows” first came out because it was the type of writing that I was drawn to at the time. And then I proceeded to spend the next two years in embarrassment of my first published work. As I spent endless hours writing several different stories and started expanding my reading repertoire, I watched as my style of writing shifted and my ability grew—I’m not tooting my own horn, because there is always room for improvement. Since I couldn’t go back and completely revise the entire manuscript to match exactly what my preference was, I focused all of my attention on making “Chasing Shadows” into something better.

love writing

Surprisingly, I don’t believe I’ll ever feel more content with how a book turned out than I am with this installment in the series. And it isn’t just temporary satisfaction, either; I had two whole years to play around and re-read “Chasing Shadows” while I sought out a physical publisher, and I never got sick of it or upset with how it was coming together. My writing ability didn’t become stagnant but still progressed, thank the Lord, yet I never felt dissatisfied with this story even as my interests changed.

That’s not to say that there weren’t—ahem—a few alterations that I made to it along the way.

me trying to finish an essay at the last minute :)

Originally, while writing the bare bones of the story, there was a rekindling of the romance between Will and Sarah, with no Jade to muddle things up between them, Karen was still a great friend, and the resolution in the end was very cut-and-dry (i.e. bad guy dies, kingdom restored: TA-DA!). But then I was, like, wow, I’m not even interested. So I prayed for wisdom on where God wanted the story to go, and three weeks later, my entire perception of it changed. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of time travel and figured out a whole new way to make it muddle things up for the gang and expand on time’s presence in the story. I made Will and Sarah’s lives and their relationship less “easy” to show how they’re overcomers, revealing their struggles and highs and lows; they aren’t perfect, but then again, who is? And I altered the ending of “Chasing Shadows” drastically, and I’m so glad I did! So much more drama, craziness, plot reveals, questions, history muddled. Muwah-ah-ah-ah!!!!! ^_~  

You have thought of many gruesome and unique ways to kill people. | Community Post: 20 Signs That You're A Writer

Then there was the length of the story. Its predecessor was sweet and simple and straightforward and, well, a skosh smaller—no filler or mishagosh, but just straight up action, adventure, and fun. But then I found that I actually enjoyed challenging myself by not just taking up space on the page for the sake of length, but by creating transitional scenes that help move the story along with either interesting dialogue, descriptions of the surroundings to transport the reader into the moment, and also small plot reveals that you can find if you pay attention. It was a blast to finally challenge myself!

Oh, yes, and Lord Bormeo Lisandro was not, in fact, a romantic interest setupfor Sarah. Yes, ladies, you may release your gasps of surprise. The handsome Spaniard that you’ve come to know and love—let’s be honest, he’s stolen my heart and makes me swoon!—was first a lord named Bormeo (pronounces Bor-may-o. Bahahaha!), pale (like Mayo), thin, regal, and super evil. And then I realized I had two bad guys running about town, and my sister Katie was dying for me to write a handsome Spaniard in somewhere, so, voilà! Damien Romeo Lisandro was born! I first wanted to just throw him in for some eye-candy as a sort of humorous anecdote within the story, but then I pretty much fell in love as his past revealed itself and as his and Sarah’s relationship evolved. I just friggin’ adore him and how he and Sarah lean on each other as they experience highs and lows in Serimone. *tear* He is probably my favorite alteration to this story, and I hope you find deepest love and sympathy for him as I have!

Let me love you Hook!!

Whelp, that’s all I have for today’s little glimpse Between the Pages of “Chasing Shadows.” Next weekend might be another character interview, plot reveal, excerpt from the book, or just fun goodies from the series. You’ll never know unless you stop by here again! ^_^

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Between the Pages: Meet Sarah Matthews

Published October 10, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

Between the Pages: Interview with Sarah Matthews from “Chasing Shadows”

To really kick off the release of “Chasing Shadows,” I wanted to give you an idea of Serimone and the characters, aside from what you’ll read in the book. As a reader, I always wonder what it would be like to live in the fantasyland, and I’ll ask myself how my favorite characters would act outside of the pages on which they live. But for you “Chasing Shadows” fans, wonder no more! I’m going to take the next, well, however long I want to discuss the book, its characters, and the things that are closest to my heart as a writer. So keep checking back each Friday for these posts, and also during the week for whatever other crazy escapades I’m up to.

Today, meet Sarah Matthews, the heroine of “Chasing Shadows”!

Sarah

I appreciate you letting me steal you away from homework and for taking the time to join me today, Sarah! . . . Why the grin?

“Nothing. I’m just beginning to realize how much time matters right now.”

That brings me to my next question: Is traveling through time the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you?

Laughs. “Yeah, you could say that.”

Was getting sucked back a thousand years all pure adventure and fun, or did you have any doubts?

“To be honest, I was pretty freaked out. I was sitting in my room one minute, and the next my sister and I were in the forest, dumped right in the middle of a misguided witch-hunt a millennia before. I was also a little worried I’d grow an extra toe or lose a limb.” Chuckles. “Don’t look so surprised! Time travel isn’t as easy as you think—you know, being dissolved and reassembled, and all.”

Interesting. But you did meet your best friend, Karen, because of it.

Nods. “I don’t know if it was because she was my ‘ride home’ or if we bonded over having to rely on one another, but Karen is my best friend now. That’s part of the reason why I traveled back this last time—well, yeah, I wanted to stop a deranged killer from striking twice, but I also wanted to see her again.”

And Will Taylor, of course.

Sarah grins slowly. “Yes, and Will. I haven’t seen him in a long time, though.”

Why is that?

“… Um, I’d rather not say.”

But you are in love with him.

“I’d like to be the first to tell him that.” Eyes wide, she hurries to add, “I’m not saying that I am or that I’m not. I’m just … not saying right now.”

Not even a little hint whether you’re in love with him or not?

Grins. “You clearly are.” 

Touché. Okay, moving on. If you could live in any classic novel, what would it be?

“Quick change. Thanks. Well, I’d have to say Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. After meeting Cadius, I feel like I have a lot more experience with monsters.”

Interesting choice, also one I applaud. Favorite color?

“Blue, but lately I’m becoming fond of green, too…”

Favorite subject in school?

“My medieval history course at OSU seems to be a lot more valuable and . . . relatable these days. I think when I travel back to Serimone for a certain wedding, all I’ve learned will be helpful.”

A wedding?

“Yeah, the—“ Raises brow. “Nice try. It’s a bit of a secret right now, so you’ll just have to find out for yourself.”

Can’t blame a girl for trying. What do you like to do in your free time?

“Lately? Well, right now I’m slammed with schoolwork, so I don’t have a ton of free time. I guess reading crime novels and watching period pieces? I also like eating my mom’s cinnamon rolls and matchmaking.” Sighs. “Maybe I should find some hobbies that really interest me.”

Will seems to interest you quite a bit. Do you think that you two can work things out?

“You mean the whole ‘he’s been dead for a thousand years where I come from’ situation? Um, yeah, we’re still working on that. But Karen told me to fight for what I want, so I’m choosing to hope! It’s just going to be a teensy bit awkward to introduce him to my parents, if it comes to that.”

 Understandable! Though I’m sure they’ll appreciate his manners. Sarah, thank you so much for joining us today. I just have one final question before we let you go: As a time traveler, any advice for our readers?

“Never trust an informant or a guard. Believe me; I’ve had experience. Also, keep track of your time watch and don’t forget that messing with the past has consequences.”

 … Oddly specific and yet somehow entirely vague, but I’ll keep it in mind! I’ll let you get back to class with Professor Demetrius, now, before you have to enroll in summer school and miss the wedding. But feel free to stop by next week, where I’ll be pulling Will into the future to interview him. I promise not to steal him away from you, though. *wink wink*

Frowns. “Yeah, not even funny.”

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!

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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! ^__^

 

 

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.

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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        

 

A Glimpse of Sequel Sounds …

Published September 11, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

So, you all know how much I love music and enjoy creating playlists. Well, ta-da! Here’s a sneak peak at the playlist for the sequel to Rising Shadows. This is just a little taste of the ridiculous number of songs that I’m sorting through until I find the perfect ones for the sequel. It has been so much fun writing the book while selecting music for the playlist, because most of these songs have actually inspired scenes and feelings that I hadn’t yet written in or imagined. These are my favorite songs so far that I listen to constantly, and I specially selected these to share because each one inspired something in the book. Music addicts like me honestly have to add these to their iPods or get them on YouTube, just so they can get a feel for the tone of the next book. I’ll also be listening to each song as I write about them, and I recommend that you pull them up and listen while you read to get the full effect. Enjoy!

“Heavy in Your Arms” – Florence and the Machine

            My first possible-scene-obsession-song of the summer. My magical music guru, Katie, led me onto this sweet little morsel. She was listening to it while I was working on the playlist for Rising Shadows and thought the lyric about “the one who creeps in corridors” would be perfect for the Shadow. Then we spent the better part of an hour shooting ideas for the scene back and forth, throwing out characters ideas, and playing with the symbolism for the scene versus the song literally directing it. Like the rest of the book, I already have it written out in my head, but even Katie has no idea what I’m actually going to do with it.

“Give Me Love” – Ed Sheeran

            Ohmysweetgoodness! It is going to be a very emotional and intense scene, and you’ll get what I mean when you reach about 3:45 in the song (You can stop after 5:30). My sister Liz turned me onto his “Small Bump” song, and we purchased the rest of the CD days later, where “Give Me Love” became our next blare-in-the-car tune. Like the rest of these songs, this one inspired a certain part of a scene that I already planned on writing, but it definitely added more emotional depth to this particular moment. I am so looking forward to writing this one! I love drama! … In books. Real life, not so much.

 

“World Spins Madly On” – The Weepies

            This song has a really great sound to it—I love the guitar—and it just puts me in one of my very thoughtful, I-must-write! type of moods. When a song inspires me to write or I think it would really fit well with a scene, I become obsessed with it and just leave it on repeat for hours as I play the scene out in my head, trying to match the lyrics or have them affect the tone of the scene. I drove my sister Katie nuts the other day because I listened to it fifteen times in a row, after which she begged me not to make it sixteen. ^__^ This song has a very melancholy sound, which for some reason, I am drawn to when writing. Little spoiler: This is from Sarah’s perspective just after someone close to her dies … And that’s all I can say. Sorry, it’s just a tormenting taste.    

“The Shadow Proves the Sunshine” – Switchfoot

             I have been a Switchfoot fan for years, and when I heard this song just before the release of Rising Shadows, I knew I had to write something into the second book where this was the “theme” song (it appears fairly quick after “World Spins Madly On”). Every time I listen to this song, I immediately think of Will (sigh) and have this really melancholy moment with him. Plus, this track has the word “shadow” in the title. I mean, come on; I had to add it. I have not typed out this scene yet, but trust me, it is completely written in my head—drafted, revised, and spell checked!—and I cannot wait to be able to finally get this scene down on paper.

“Awake My Soul” – Mumford and Sons

            My older sister Elizabeth introduced me to this one—thank you, thank you, thank you!—and I have added it to just about every playlist on my iPod so I’m never without it. “How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes, I struggle to find any truth in your lies … But my weakness I feel I must finally show.” When I heard these lyrics, I immediately pictured a moment between Will and Sarah; they have this fantastic draw to each other, but they also fight it constantly—Sarah, because she knows she can’t stay in the twelfth century, and Will, because he’s afraid to let anyone in. There’s also the fact that the song talks about truth and trust, which has always been a theme in their relationship, and then the line about weakness completely describes Will opening up to her. Ah. Don’t you just love it when a song can sum up your first book in three and a half minutes?    

“Demons” – Imagine Dragons

            I already have one of their songs, but when I heard “Demons” on a movie trailer, I purchased their new CD without listening to the rest of it. Not recommended, but this time it actually turned out really well! I dedicate this entire song to Will, especially for the sequel. Once again, I got this song three days ago and have listened to it probably twenty or more times.  

More scene-inspiring music for the sequel!

“Winterlove” – Parachute

“Eyes Wide Open” – Gotye

“I Won’t Give Up” – Jason Mraz

“Twenty Years” – Augustana

“Hear You Me” – Jimmy Eat World

“Rivers and Road” – The Head and the Heart

“No One Ever Taught Us” – Jason Reeves

“Always” – Switchfoot

“John Wayne” – Sons of Sylvia

 

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