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Be A Writer, Be Unique!

Published August 7, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

My biggest takeaways from Realm Makers: The BEST friends anyone could ever hope to discover, and the fact that it doesn’t matter what you like to write or if your book is nothing more than a few random scribbles on a page. So long as you keep at it and push past all the negativity and self-doubt, you. Are. A. Writer! Whether or not you ever decide to publish and regardless of what genre you write, no one can take that from you, and this truth is infinitely special.

I don’t often travel alone, but when I do, you can bet your poodle that it will be an adventure. Fret not, your poodle is safe if you wagered it, because I always do something that adds excitement to a journey . . . whether or not I actually intend to.

Last week, I hopped on a plane at 9pm to attend Realm Makers SpecFic conference, and I arrived in Philadelphia at what would be four in the morning, according to my internal clock. I braved several train changes and lugged my suitcase around countless stations, and my suitcase weighed, almost literally, a ton due to the copies of my books that took up the majority of beg space (“beg” is an inside joke, guys. I promise I edited this post *wink*). I arrived at Villanova University exhausted and hot (oh, the humidity! My curly hair did not approve), and all I wanted to do was put my face in ice water. But the instant I arrived in our dorm, I was greeted by the friendliest faces that I’d only ever seen on Facebook before, and everyone immediately welcomed me in. It was the strangest thing to meet these people for the first time and feel like I knew every last one of them.

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Just some of our group. (Photo Credit: Jake Tyson)

BUT THEN I went upstairs to drop my bag off, and Nadine Brandes (buy A Time to Die now! Just do it!) threw open the door and hugged me like we’d been apart for years. And we had.

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(left to right) Me, Tricia, Katie, and Nadine

Nadine and I got to know each other nearly five years ago at my cousin’s wedding. We bonded over YA and dancing and our love of all things fantasy and sci-fi, and we just clicked. She is one of those incredibly special people that you know for a day, and she finds her way into your heart forever with her charisma for life and her kind heart and sense of humor. Instead of washing my hair, which I probably should have done, we spent the next two hours chatting and catching up, and it was like we’d never been apart. Later that day, I would run into my other roomies and friends for life, Tricia Mingerink (fellow curly-hair-problems girl and author of Dare. I never write OMG, but O.M.G!!! This book!), and the most enthusiastic writer and blogger and caffeine drinker I have ever met, Katie (future Pulitzer and Christ Award winner. Follow her blog here). These ladies are my everything.

 

 

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Then I ran out the door and hopped on yet another train back into town to meet Cassie (follow Novels and Necklaces) at Independence Hall. You might recognize her name from the dedications at the back of Defying Shadows; she was one of the first to finish beta reading the book, and we’ve kept it touch. So when I heard that she was in Philadelphia, I begged her to meet me, and she agreed! *squeals in excitement* It was such a special afternoon just getting to know each other and acting like we did that all the time. Definitely a special memory! 

And, of course, I promised you adventure. Aside from the amazing conference itself and happily losing myself inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art and jogging victoriously up the steps, Rocky Balboa-style, the majority of my *cough* adventure happened the Thursday I arrived. This mostly involved me getting trapped inside a Starbucks during a torrential downpour, although it did lead to me sharing my story with a few tourists inside, so, yay! When I realized I was going to be late for the conference kickoff, I braved the crazy storm (I’m from San Diego—what’s weather? The sky is crying! Ah!), my umbrella nearly snapped, my coffee cup just about dissolved from the rain, I trekked eight blocks to the train station, realized it was the wrong one and considered jumping the tracks (regardless of oncoming trains) before going back outside to the correct platform, and then I almost drowned in the flooded subway station. Oh, and all the while my sandals were slipping around as I trudged through The Nile. It. Was. Awesome! ^_^ And somehow the girl from the place that doesn’t have weather was the only one who brought an umbrella to the conference, so at one point we had six heads and one soggy poster crammed under the half-broken contraption while we laughingly dashed our way across campus to the cafeteria.

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Tricia, Katie, and I missing our roomy Nadine (she was off mentoring and adulting) while we were soaking in the rain.

Now, because I can be incredibly long-winded, I won’t detail every 18 seconds of the most incredible conference in history, though I want to. So I’ll glaze over the way I met one of my favorite Twitter friends, Zac Tyson (aka the “other” Zac—you thought I’d be shy . . . bahahahahaha), half-soaked and fully exhausted, and then instantly became besties with he and Hannah. And I won’t describe how amazing the kickoff was that night, with marshmallow-stacking and tissue-pulling games, or detail the incredible costumes at the costume party, nor the fact that Brianna and Lillian saved me from being costume-less next to these ladies:

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Katie (Rey) and I (as a Padawan, because I’m certainly no Jedi) battling for supremacy. We broke the feud for dinner.

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And I won’t tell you how Banana Dolphin Nadine had to keep us company when Nadine wasn’t around for our final breakfast as a group (may the banana dolphin live on!!!!), nor will I describe how two Zacs holding the aforementioned fruit companion is now legendary.

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And I honestly can’t explain what’s happening here:

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Zac is, clearly, a wizard (Photo credit: Me, but Zac’s phone. ^_~)

I also promise not to go on and on about how incredible and informative Kathy Tyres’ World-Building classes were, or how we had a hilarious and wonderfully useful self-defense class on the final night (Carla could totally take down the Hulk!), or the fact that Thomas Locke is such a beautiful speaker and Tosca Lee plays a great presidential candidate. And it would just be too much to tell you how Kirk Douponce—one of the most fantastic cover designers in the industry—is also an amazing person and coffee drinker, and has a great sense of humor when revealing some of the worst covers ever created (and I quote: What am I even looking at here?).

 

elevator 1And that’s not even getting into our group of Realmies! Suddenly, our small crew expanded into a tight-knit group with Hannah and the “other” Zac on Twitter (if you follow his Twitter, you will NOT regret it) and his awesome brother, Jake, and then Megan (aka Agent Carter) and her sister joined us, and Brianna and Lillian, and the “other” Zac from CO (aka Bruce Wayne who braved the Philadelphia train system with me, but doesn’t like coffee. Go figure), and Sam (Saber!), and Emilie Hendryx (her Society 6 designs are amazing—check them out here), and Jessi and Amy Brock McNew and Olivia— *sucks in a breath* I think you get the picture. At one point, we all crammed into an elevator and prayed we wouldn’t die. It. was. Epic! (Photo credits: Zac T. Austin; Fear: Me)

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I’ve never really had a close community of writers who can get together and share their thoughts and fears and fresh ideas, so this experience was special to me. Each night, everyone gathered at our dorm to hang out and chat about our day, and by the end of the conference, Katie and I had nearly lost our voices (worth it). Friday night, I was lucky enough to get on a Philadelphia-New Zealand Skype call with Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books, and on Saturday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Suzy and Shawn Kuhn, and I also pitched my next little brainchild to Michelle Harper of Love2Read2Write and Julie Gwinn, an agent at the Seymour Agency (I know, I was dying on the inside!).

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On the last night we had together, my roommates and I remained behind from the Nerf War that had commenced just outside our door and didn’t cease until 4:30am. 0.o But inside our room, Nadine, Tricia, Katie, and I finally got the opportunity to just be together and munch on chocolate and all the goodies Tricia brought, and we spent that time sharing about our next projects in a safe environment. I started tearing up as I sat there listening to Nadine describe the incredibly moving story she has in mind; Tricia detailed her entire series that sounds ridiculously gripping; and Katie—the youngest but probably the most dedicated writer of us all—who shyly admitted a few of her story ideas and then became excited as she explained what she has in mind. 

It was such a wonderfully special moment for me, and I suspect for all of us, because I realized I was witnessing the brilliant contrast between our group. Yes, we all love reading fiction and writing it and have similar tastes in certain areas of fic, but we all come from different backgrounds and are incredibly unique as writers. And that doesn’t just go for the best roommates of all time (this is a fact and is not up for negotiation), but for ALL writers. Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, enjoy sci-fi or fantasy, historical or purely romance, your story and your voice as a writer is unique and special and needed. The fact that literary historians can attribute several works to the Pearl Poet (they don’t even know the author’s name!) simply because of the style and tone of his/her works just goes to show you how wonderfully different we all are. And that is a great thing!

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Keep writing and dreaming, because God has a plan for that desire He’s put in your heart, and if you lean on Him and surround yourself with the right friends (^these people^), they’ll help you see it through.

Only 3 Days Left to Enter!

Published October 13, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

There are only 3 days left to enter the Chasing Shadows Rafflecopter Giveaway and earn entries for the social media prizes! (enter here) I’ve never done a Rafflecopter before, and so I was amazed at how many of you entered. I was also seriously flummoxed (word of the day that I’m pretty sure I’m using improperly–thanks, Dictionary app! ^_^) and excited over how much attention #TeamHood and #ChasingShadowsBook are getting on Pinterest and Twitter. You guys are seriously the best!  Mwah! Keep entering the Rafflecopter to win the Grand Prize and share the link around for your friends to enter, too.

You can use the tweets below during the week until this Friday, Oct 16th, at 11:59pm (PST) to spread word about the grand prize giveaway. Each tweet, share, and mention that leads back to me containing #TeamHood earns you one entry toward the 2 social media prizes (gift cards, books, ebooks, book swag, and more!). So keep sharing and entering the Rafflecopter until Friday, and stop by this weekend to see if your name is announced as one of 3 winners for the Chasing Shadows 1-Year Celebration!

RT! Enter to   &       

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RT! Ends 10-16. Enter below to win:       

RT to earn entries into the @TownsendTales

Ends Oct 16! Use & enter to win free @TownsendTales

Defying Shadows—A Glimpse Between the Pages

Published October 4, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

So you’ve seen the ah-mazing fan art that @Readiculousgirl created for “Chasing Shadows” (drool worthy!!!), and the giveaway went live this morning—the entries are pouring in! Keep entering and sharing the link for the Rafflecopter, and come back each day to enter again until the giveaway ends October 16th! And don’t forget to earn entries toward the 2 social media prizes by tagging @TownsendTales and using #TeamHood #ChasingShadowsBook https://ashley-townsend.com/2015/10/04/chasing-shadows-1-year-celebration-giveaway/

Now that we’re having a blast celebrating the 1-year birthday of “Chasing Shadows” with freebies and fan art, I figured I might give you a sneak peak at “Defying Shadows,” the final installment in the “Rising Shadows trilogy.” Don’t panic!

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You can freak out if you want to, actually—that’s totally all right with me. This is a never-before-seen sample from “Defying Shadows” that even my team of Hooders (beta readers) have yet to see yet. You all know how important this series is to me, so it’s so fun to be able to share a tempting morsel of some of the final words of the series. *feels attack* Curious? Keep reading, and reblog to your friends!

The wrinkled paper glared at her, the thick glob of red wax a stark contrast against the slightly yellow parchment. She knew the letter contained Damien’s writing, though she hadn’t yet brought herself to break the seal after months of holding it in her possession, unopened but never far from her mind.

Her hand twitched as she slid her finger under the seal with careful movements, the wax cracking and lifting as she did so. She held her breath when the seal broke and the letter unfolded an inch. She ignored the small piece of paper, crinkled and yellowed with age—whether because she’d left it in her dirty laundry for months or because it was nearly a thousand years old, she couldn’t say—that fell to the floor. She carefully held open Damien’s letter; his tight, beautiful script filled the entire page, as though he’d needed every inch for his thoughts, his looping a’s painfully familiar. Her eyes scanned quickly, unseeing, over the whole of the letter and then returned to the top, to the three perfectly sculpted words that looked like he had penned them with painstaking care: My dearest Sarah—

Abruptly, she snatched the smaller letter from the floor, stuffed it between the pages of Damien’s missive once more, and smashed the paper between her hands, balling it in her fists and chucking both letters the room with a screech of annoyance. It hit the frosted window and fell lamely to the floor atop a mound of clothes Clara had left behind.  

Feeling restless in her dorm room, where the air had suddenly become too thin to breathe properly, Sarah grabbed her heavy vest off the mattress and slipped her arms through it, not bothering to zip up the front. She shoved her feet into her leather boots and booked it down the stairs, needing fresh air. A girl she vaguely recognized smiled at her in the foyer, saying a friendly, “Have a great vacation!”

“You, too,” Sarah managed.

She immediately felt refreshed once she stepped outside into the cold, and the air helped to clear her head. The layers of soft white fluff covering the dead grass and piled on the trees that had been decorated with colorful lights made it look like Christmas had arrived on campus. Aside from those few bodies currently inhabiting the grounds, campus was otherwise deserted, Sarah realized as she let her gaze wander the snowy landscape. Hardly another soul in sight.

That was why her eyes found his so easily.

Sarah stopped dead in her tracks, arms falling to her sides in surprise. A dark-haired man stared back at her, and she could see, even from this distance, that his wide eyes were a deep blue. She imagined that she could make out the lighter blue ring surrounding his indigo irises, how the shadow along his jaw would feel against her fingertips. She blinked, sure he was a mirage, but he was still there when she opened her eyes. He looked exactly as she had last seen him—handsome, tall, and dressed for a different age—though he was also strangely like a ghost at the same time. It wasn’t that she could see through him, but there was something off about his appearance that was so subtle Sarah wondered if she might be imagining it.

Will’s lips parted when their gazes met, mouth working almost in slow motion as he shook his head. She squinted, trying to make out the words but too distracted by the fact that Will was in Oklahoma, on her campus, in the twenty-first century. Every instance they had spent together slammed into her, washing over her in a flood and reminding her just how much she had missed him, how much she loved him, and how he should not be here.

He advanced a step, eyes as big as saucers as he moved forward, motioning with one hand for her to come his way. He looked alarmed as he moved toward her, though his movements looked off somehow.

“Miss Matthews.”

She spun to find her professor behind her, smiling cordially. On instinct, she quickly whipped her head back around, though the apparition had already disappeared. She blinked, swallowing over how silly she had been to think he had been there at all, though she couldn’t keep her eyes from roving the grounds another moment in deluded hope. He had looked so real….

Her heart rate returned to normal, though there was a pain in her chest now. No, she reminded herself dully, Will is dead, and you’ll never see him in this world, or the next.

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I know how you feel—I basically reacted this way while I was writing the scene. Right in the fangirl!

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I tried to pick a spoiler-free sample from “Defying Shadows” so that it won’t ruin the series for those of you who have yet to begin, but I also really wanted to torture my fans. Muwahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!! But you all know I love you. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you and God’s mercy, so I gotta share some love and feels! Oh, and Hiddles love.

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“Chasing Shadows” Has A Cousin!

Published August 27, 2014 by Ashley Townsend
Or maybe it’s sister/brother (I haven’t decided a gender for Book III yet).

Brace youselves

After having the Shadow Trilogy rattling around in my brain for nearly a decade, I set out this past weekend to tie up loose ends. That’s right, guys: Book III is officially underway! Most of you know how I like to make a big deal out of everything and turn it into a memorable event, so I just sat there for a full five minutes, watching that little line blink on and off on the clean slate that was the brand new Word doc. And I just let it sink in that the next word I wrote would be the last first word I would ever write in this series.

The beginning of the end.

Okay, okay, it sounds super dramatic that way, but it’s the truth. While I have a caravan full of other stories plotted out and half-written, and also random ideas that I want to bring to life, it’s still hard to accept that after this series, I’ll never really get to hang out with these characters again.

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For an author, starting the final installment in a trilogy is like having your kid graduate from high school—they haven’t gone off to college yet, but it’s only a matter of time—or setting your feet on the moon for the first time. OR like tasting your one and only first bite of Talenti ice cream. You’ll never be able to go back and experience the tantalizing flavors of Mediterranean Mint, Sea Salt Caramel, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, or Cappuccino (trust me, you’re missing out). Unless, of course, I’m successful in creating a time machine and can travel back simply for the purpose of eating and experiencing history. You’re welcome for that. 😉

So going back to what I was actually talking about before (writing, remember?). It’s either extremely exciting or totally terrifying to begin a new story, but for me it’s always a little bit of both. I’m not sure if it’s fear that I won’t be able to do the story justice, but all I know is that it feels a little like going on a first date, or so I’ve heard (all the single ladies, woot-woot!): Is the opener/introduction good enough to keep them interested? Haha. I know, I’m full of weird analogies today, but they’re all totally appropriate.

I did it anyway, though. I typed those first two lines, and then another four . . . then a page, and by the time I was done—and only because I had to go to work and get real pants on—I had the entire prologue finished, another scene typed up, and several chapters plotted out. EEE! I can’t tell you how good it felt to once again have new ideas pouring from my fingertips, my mind working faster than they could type. I don’t think I’ve ever had totally new and unexpected ideas and scenes come to me so quickly. In that hour before work, I explained Cadius’ motives for—well, I guess you’ll find that out in “Chasing Shadows” ;-P—why Ridlan, the surrounding province, will play such a significant part in the series, how time travel is really going to mess things up, why the professor was betrayed, and also how Karen’s parents were murdered. It was like an onslaught of awesome!

Soon, I’ll be releasing quotes/excerpts from “Chasing Shadows,” doing a final, final cover reveal once it’s sized, and also releasing the official map of Serimone, thanks to the amazing Roan Carter, who illustrated the cover. But you guys are just as important to the success of this series as my writing is, even more so because you guys help to get the word out about “Chasing Shadows.” I have some signing events, activities, meet and greets, and the like over the next few months, and I would love for you all to help spread the word when I post event info. You can Tweet, Pin, like/share on Facebook, follow, become a fan on Goodreads via the link on the sidebar, blog, or use word of mouth to share anything pertaining to the series. Or if you have any creative ideas for promotions that I can add to my bag of tricks, let me know!

I have a few ideas for a title that I have up my sleeve, but I can’t reveal them quite yet. If you’re interested in contributing your input, though, please send me an email with possible titles (containing the word “Shadows”) for the final installment in the Shadow Trilogy. And I’m still accepting review and interview submissions. If you want to host me on your blog and review “Chasing Shadows,” or if you’re an author who would like for me to interview them, let me know at ashleytownsend.author@yahoo.com

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