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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! ^__^

 

 

And So it Begins Again!

Published August 20, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

Ah, the first week of the fall semester. *gives a prolonged sniff* Can you smell it in the air? Smells like teen spirit! Actually, it really has more of an odor of desperation as everyone scrambles to get a perfect schedule, tie up their summer fun with a pretty bow, and try to navigate the swirling mass of students who are just as desperate as them to salvage what’s left of their summer. Let the games begin!

run

For some reason, watching that mass of students herding toward the library or through the quad reminds me of the wildebeest scene in The Lion King, only you’re Mufasa, and you just pray you don’t lose your balance and get trampled by the herd. Then, of course, there are always a few hecklers milling about on the grass, cackling like hyenas, and you’re just thinking you can’t wait to be king and graduate. Pretty much sums up the first week of class before you settle into the groove of things.

hye

Then there are those students who, before the first week of class is over, have their online postings and responses completed, extra credit in the making, and already love probing the instructor with “insightful” questions that launch the teacher into an excited diatribe on economics or the beauty of mathematical science in raising marmosets in some jungle, or whatever, that causes class to go way over. And then, if you’re like me and don’t mentally get into the groove until week two (when you map out and color-coordinate the rest of the semester), yet somehow manage to roll out of bed each morning, you most likely have toothpicks propping your eyelids open and a cup of dark Joe in your clenched fist. Seriously, the amount of coffee consumed by American college students during the first and last weeks of each semester is astounding.

asleep

So, basically, there are four types of students, fantastically speaking: The Dragons, Zombie Children, the ghosts, and the Unicorns.

dragon

Dragons are pretty self-explanatory; they’re the students who overachieve and stress themselves out by accomplishing every task with absolute perfection a week before anything is due. They won’t have to take the final, but they’ll be in therapy that day anyway. Oh, yeah, and sometimes they breathe fire. Awesome!

warm

The Zombies tend to stumble into their early morning class with a beanie smashed on their head and a strong espresso in hand. Their eyes are generally glazed over, but somehow they manage to complete the assignment that morning and get a pretty good grade. Come on, admit it; you’ve been a zombie at one point or another in your college careers.

invi

The Ghosts kind of just, well, vanish after the first week of class, only taking on a tangible human form to turn in large assignments and take tests. You’ve probably thought you’ve seen them around town, but when you look back, they’re gone. Whenever the teacher calls on someone to answer a question, she never quite seems to notice them, like they’re the Invisible Man, or something. Yet somehow they manage a passing grade.

univ

And then there are the Unicorns. Super-human, mystical creatures of beauty. They seem to flit in and out of class without a care, acing everything slapped onto their desk. They do the extra credit, though it’s unnecessary, and the instructor is instantly their best friend. Worse still; they never seem to need coffee. This type of personality is actively sought out by other students when it comes time to group-up, so snag ‘em first!

So, what category do you fit into? Most of us probably have a smattering of each, though we can’t seem to disappear as easily as the Ghosts do. May the fittest survive! And the rest of you, sit back and enjoy the show!

Hand-Cramping Goodness!

Published May 15, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

Okay, so it’s only been–what?–two or three weeks since my last post. Can you tell I’ve been editing like a mad woman? But, hey! 854 pages edited in two weeks is fairly good, though I still want to do it all over again (chalk it up to the inner OCD in me). I scrounged up my notecards today and realized that being an author looks a LOT like being a college student. No, seriously; I even compared these cards to the ones I wrote for my geology class, and they were practically a  match for Unabomber-ness. I tried to keep out most of the “spoiler” cards for Chasing Shadows, but if you’re like me and don’t want to know a THING about to-be released books, then maybe steer clear. I wrote everything down, from what each person was wearing in every scene, the type of weather occurring, dates, timelines, crazed, scratched-out notes at two in the morning, characters’ appearances, things to reference in the next chapter, outlying lands, names of forests/towns, logistics (east versus west wings, what side Sarah’s windows face), etc. Yet still WAY more entertaining to create these little numbers than to work on notecards about upper, nor’easter winds, or whatever.

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Oh, Finals, You Evil Temptress

Published November 30, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

finals

Ah, yes—the month of December (please note that I did not lose my calendar and am totally aware that it is still November for one more day). A time of unity among the factions, when freshman, sophomores, juniors, AND seniors come together for a few weeks, seeming to understand each other as they share a common goal: Survive finals at all costs. Those last two weeks where you long for the end, but don’t feel that there is enough time to complete everything, where emotions conflict and tensions heighten, where students can’t manage to drink enough caffeine and begin concocting extra-coffee cakes, coffee eggs (protein AND caffein!), and pour some strong Joe over their Cheerios. Meanwhile, Starbucks is secretly snickering and rejoicing behind the stacks of empty paper cups! For those of you who graduated high school or college quite some time ago, let me refresh your memory.

Yes, sometimes it literally feels that teachers do this.

Yes, sometimes it literally feels that teachers do this.

finals 1If you have been living under a rock or on an island for several months, then go to a college, and if it looks like zombies have taken over the earth—congratulations! It’s either the beginning of December or the end of May. The week before finals brings to mind the last fight scene in the movie Timeline, which, consequently, is my favorite time travel film ever; I watched it a bunch of times when I was writing “Rising Shadows,” as well as read a lot of time travel books for inspiration. . . . And Paul Walker and Gerard Butler are in it, but that’s just a perk. ~__^ Anyway, that scene involves a lot shouting, screaming, some weeping might be involved, things are bursting into flames, people are engaging in swordplay and acting totally insane, flaming balls of fire are being launched through the air, and people are trying to tunnel their way out to freedom. Yeah, this pretty much sums up finals in an eight minute scene, except we don’t get the cool medieval garb.finals 4

I drove onto campus at the start of this week and was like, “What the heck is wrong with everybody?!” after nearly being hit six or seven times as cars careened madly through the exit and students fought over parking spots, even though there were four more further down the row—some food for thought, though I’m sure you already know this: If someone is graciously packing up quicker than usual to give you their spot, try not to run them off the road as you attempt to take said space before they have properly vacated it. Thank you for your consideration. I was also crawling through the lot, not only so I could swerve out of the way if a driver blacked out whilst careening towards me Speed style, but also so I could slam on my brakes if a student juggling a stack of books taller than their head and attempting to scribble notes on the top of the stack jetted across the street without warning. Sheesh! Then I remembered that finals is in two weeks and gave a little chuckle as I steered around a group of arguing students, whom I can only assume were working on a group project together and who also looked like they hadn’t slept in four days.

I actually might have seen this girl the other day....

I actually might have seen this girl the other day….

For some reason, though, finals have never really bothered me. Maybe it’s because I’m burned out by the end of the semester and just don’t care anymore. That’s not to say I don’t study or put in effort, because I take a lot of time to really know the material as best I can. But I just don’t stress it that much, and a lot of times my final tests end up being my best scores for the semester! I still take naps and read books, which is obvious from my Goodreads page, and my sister Katie and I just bought new video games—yes, I am a total gaming nerd—and we cannot wait until the newest Tomb Raider arrives, which will probably happen on finals week. That could be tempting. Hmm. Anyway, by some freak happinstance, my constant procrastination during the rest of the semester ceases for that fourteen-day stretch, and I start time-managing better and get everything done beforehand, without sacrificing my mental health or “fun time.” But when my guitar teacher announced to the class yesterday that we have to play Minuet in G for the final and I saw the panicked looks on my fellow classmates’ faces, I, too, felt a moment’s panic as my eyes took in the packed notes on the page; I have no issue taking written tests or doing essays–in fact they are quite the delight, in my strange and honest opinion. However, I am not a fan of performing in front of people! Sweaty palms, a small, shaky voice, and nausea are generally involved in presentations and performances. That’s kind of why I love being an author so much; I never have to directly present anything!!! finals

Then as I felt my shoulders tensing up and my stomach churning, I remembered the weeks of Peace and Faithfulness that we all worked so hard on and took a deep breath. And the more I thought about it, I just kind of shrugged it off and thought, “Well, I’ll practice and do my best, and that’s really all I can do.” Let me tell you, it felt really good to let it go and know that I could work hard and have Faith that if I had put in the effort and still struggled with something, then God would help me through. Honestly, stressing it is NOT going to make it any easier; actually, it muddles up your mind quite a bit and makes it so much harder to study. And it doesn’t just apply to school, either; whatever you’re stressing, whatever’s making you feel like you’re one of the extras who get blown to bits in Timeline, just take a deep breath and let it go. Yes, easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere. I’ve had to walk away from an unfinished story countless times when I get writer’s block and have to do something else for a while. Sometimes a little “fun time” of your own is just the thing to free up your mind enough that you can come back to the problem with fresh eyes. Do you really want to be one of those anxious zombies I see sitting in the stairwell, staring off at nothing? Didn’t think so.       

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

A True Friend

Published May 30, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Proverbs 18:24

When you’re young, you feel like the current moment and relationships in it will last forever. But the minute change occurs, it feels like the end of the world. Graduation means leaving behind the familiarity of four years spent in the same lunchroom with the same group of friends. You promise to stay connected as everyone goes off to different colleges, taking career paths that draw everyone in opposite directions. Sometimes you keep in touch and maintain those close friendships you had in high school. But, oftentimes, you grow apart and lose touch as everyone forges a new life for themselves.

I was homeschooled up through high school, so I never had to say those painful goodbyes on graduation day. That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of farewells to bid. My family and I have moved around several times, and I’ve had to leave friends behind in the process. Over the years, I lost contact with many of my friends back in Colorado as we changed and drifted apart. But a bump in the road often reveals who your true friends are—someone who will walk with you in both the sunshine and the shade. My friend, Rebekah, is such a person. There are too many good memories of our times together to pick a favorite. Friends since infancy, we have shared countless sleepovers where our secrets and wildest dreams were whispered in the dead of night over a bowl of popcorn and cans of Dr. Pepper. I smile when I think of her dancing like a crazy person to “U Can’t Touch This” to keep awake, and then her priceless reaction to me consuming three dill pickles after midnight. Rebekah was the childhood friend I laughed hysterically with over absolutely nothing, and she was the first one I would call and cry to when it felt like everything was caving in.

It’s odd; her friendship was the only one that I should have been truly concerned over losing in all the moving madness, and yet I never even considered the fact that we might drift apart. Sure, we’ve grown up and changed, but I like to think our friendship has only grown with us—we’ve changed, but our bond has remained the same. This post is actually a day late because Rebekah Facetimed me while I was writing about her, and we spent two hours talking and laughing like we had just seen each other yesterday. She makes me smile when I think about all the crazy things we’ve done and the memories we’ve made together. There honestly is not a single word that you could use to describe Rebekah; she’s too fantastic and timeless to put in a box. There are some things that she does where those who know her just say with great fondness,” That’s so Rebekah,” because it really is! She’s the forever friend everyone should have.

I have come to the realization that true friends are the ones who walk in when everyone else walks out. A true friend is someone whom you can count on—someone who has seen your worst and loves you all the more for it. Change doesn’t mean the end of the world—not even close! I guarantee you’ll meet some incredible new people who make you smile and laugh and thank God that you have such true friends (Olivia, Gabriela, and Veronica—I’m talking to you ladies!). And there will also be those constant stars, like my Rebekah, who will stay faithfully by your side for the whole journey.

“When we consider the blessings of God—the gifts that add beauty and joy to our lives, that enable us to keep going through stretches of boredom and even suffering—friendship is very near the top.”

Donald W. McCullough

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