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September Wrap-Up: October, Take Me Away

Published October 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

october

(Thank you, WordPress, for eating my scheduled post that I stayed up working on until midnight. I appreciate the challenge! *cries softly*)

October has arrived!! That means fall weather for those of us not in Southern California, my birthday in two days *cough, cough*, watching the leaves change, NaNoWriMo prep (I’m not sure whether to feel excited or terrified…), and getting one month closer to CHRISTMAS! I’m not excited about that at all. ^_~

The first half of September was . . . shall we say, a mite stressful? My sisters and I spent all of August apartment hunting and had at last settled on a place. Between the four of us, we were preparing to move, experiencing job changes, going to classes, working full time, and I was trying to find a spare minute to work on Jungle Princess.

not simple

I seriously considered dedicating my sparse free-time to enlisting the professor’s assistance from Rising Shadows or that of the Eleventh Doctor to help me find more hours in the day, or to simply travel back in time so I could learn how to be more efficient. I am soooo ready to dedicate October to writing and to mentally preparing myself (and 1,345 cups of coffee) for NaNo this November. 50,000 words, anyone? Anyone? Maybe this is the year! . . . I said “maybe.”

I honestly cannot remember a single thing that I did this month before the move. Although, random side note, no one needs a gym when you have to walk ¼ mile for your mail everyday. Calves of steel, baby! Anywho, my baby sis, Katie, turned the big 2-1 just after we moved in. I. KNOW! A part of me will always see the spunky toddler with white-blond pigtails and too-big sunglasses entertaining us all with loads of maturity and personality. Then again, she’s always acted like more of an adult than me, so maybe it isn’t too shocking that she’s all growed-up. Haha. 

My phone decided to commit suicide right before an event at Barnes and Noble, tragically taking with it to the phone grave all of my photos, contacts, and promotional posts for the event that I had stored on the phone. I scrambled that morning to try and recover what I could, but alas, Toto was no more. I’m really okay with it, though. 

cry face

The BFest event at the Mira Mesa B&N was fantastic and so much fun! There are few pictures because, you know, NO PHONE. But I jacked a couple from other people that are on my Instagram feed. There was a large turnout for the panel me and Nikki Katz (I already pre-ordered The Midnight Dance!), where we answered fan questions, shared about our writing journeys, and laughed over how many drafts we rewrote and our mutual distaste of editing. My Instagram friend Olivia surprised me by showing up at the signing, and we spent the afternoon chatting about life and getting to know one another. This lovely friend is a writer to look out for!

author pic

Picture courtesy of Jade—thanks, girl!

I did the same BFest event at another Barnes and Noble in San Diego yesterday, and my favorite part of these things is getting to know young readers and aspiring writers. Laila and Jade just made the entire event so memorable, and I loved every one of their questions. Seeing their excitement, talking fandom things, and hearing about their future writing aspirations reminded me of why I picked up a pen in the first place. Ladies, you made me want to come home and immediately sit down and write!

Random Ramblings:

Elizabeth Gaskell turned . . . well, a lady never reveals her age. But her birthday was on september 29th, and one must always cheers the fabulous author who created John Thornton with a cup of tea and by reading a favorite chapter of North and South. I found fabulous music inspiration from Katie Grace’s September Highlights and have listened to “Dreamers” by Oh Gravity nonstop, as well as The Oh Hellos. I love new music obsessions! I’m also joining several October challenges on Instagram (follow me here to see which challenges I’m posting about each day), as well as reading through the Old Testament (#OTOctober) with Nadine Brandes. She has set up a read-through of the Old Testament with no rules—you can join in and take your time reading along with the group. I’ve been reading through the New Testament as well, and going through the Old and New side by side has helped me see so many parallels that I have grazed over before. Shoot me a message with what you discover this month!

What I Read:

I tragically read THREE books in September, but I shan’t cry about it (too much) because the month was insanely busy, and I’m praying that the extra day in October means more reading time.

The Legend of Sheba by Tosca Lee ***

sheba

I had this book on last month’s list because I had just started it and finished it a few days into September. I enjoyed it for the historical element, and it’s an interesting story, but it just wasn’t one I would get excited to read again. I know Tosca and have read some of her other books. She is such an incredible writer and puts an insane amount of research into her books, and I appreciate that more than I did the characters in this particular story. But don’t let my opinion stop you if you’re interested in Biblical fiction or historical novels set in the Middle East.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell ************************ x infinity

north and south

If you’re wondering what my favorite classic lit novel is, please reference my million star rating (it has to be implied on Goodreads because 5 stars is their max). I can’t praise this story enough! My sisters and I have all read the book and watched the BBC miniseries with Richard Armitage *swoon. Swoon, swoon* too many times to count, and we recommended it for book club last month. It has so much depth and emotion and character development for a novel of its era, and the heart of the story is just lovely. You won’t regret reading this!

Hunted by Megan Spooner ****

hunted

A Beauty and the Beast retelling? Uhh, yes, please! If you saw my August Wrap-Up (and my Instagram the last week), you would have seen that this was on my TBR pile, and I actually got around to reading it. It’s a miracle!! *checks one off, seven take its place* This story was really enjoyable. I liked the twist on the classic fairytale and thought the Beast was a fabulous and layered character. The only reason I gave it 4 stars and not 5 was because Yeva (Beauty) bugged me a bit with her stubbornness and personality in the beginning, and the pacing was a little slow at first. But I liked her much more the second half and will definitely be reading this one again.

My TBR Pile:

Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

haunting the deep

I saw a Goodreads trailer for this book and almost went right out and bought it because of the Titanic and fantasy vibes, but I held off because of the paranormal element to it. The concept sounds fascinating, but I’m reading cautiously before I buy.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlander

I WILL read this . . . someday, and I’m a little noncommittal about it.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

I’m in the midst of a buddy read on Instagram hosted by Captain Valour (follow him here) so feel free to read along with us.

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

our dark duet

Although I should probably read This Savage Song first, and that’s still on my TBR pile *hangs head*

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August Wrap-Up: The Heat Wave, The Music, The Insanity

Published September 4, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

I don’t know about you, but I felt like August flew by! It wasn’t that there were so many activities, but just general business that caused the summer to jump from July to September in a flash. Although I can’t say I’m too sorry to see August go because:

a) FALL! . . . You know, for those of us who don’t live in Southern California. But I will enjoy my flannel and all things pumpkin while trying not to get heat stroke.

b) August was a fun but kind of stressful month *rocks back and forth in shock blanket*

c) If I hear the words “path” and “totality” in the same sentence one more time . . .

d) It’s always insanity at the office right before school starts.

e) The sun tried to kill us at the end of the month, more than likely because it didn’t like being overshadowed for even a few hours in *whispers* the path of totality.

not amused.jpg

Monthly recap: My sisters and I spent the month of August looking for apartments and finally nailed down a place (we have a roof!!), we did plenty of prep-packing, and then celebrated my grandpa’s 90th birthday with our relatives from Orange County, which was a wonderful time of fellowship and laughter. I failed miserably in my editing and writing goals for the month due to the afore-mentioned busyness (boo *sad face*). BUT I actually managed to read several books last month (huzzah!) and scheduled a bunch of author events and signings through the fall, so I feel like I can revel in those accomplishments. 

loki cheering

I read this hilarious post by Nadine Brandes about the near-assassination by her shower, and I also joined a few amazing Instagram challenges that I’m really looking forward to playing with this month (check them out on some of my latest Insta posts here). Music-wise, my sisters and I saw Dierks Bentley in concert for the fourth year in a row . . . and realized we might be getting too old to stay up past midnight. Haha. Unless it’s for writing and reading purposes, of course! (I technically can’t include One Republic’s amazing concert to this list, since it was Sept 1st, but it will be in next month’s wrap-up.) And as much as I’d love to share some fabulous photos of August’s exploits with you, friends, my phone staged a coo and ran off with all of my personal data and photos, so I’m still waiting for the ransom note to come so I can retrieve my belongings.

Lastly, the past week has been consumed by such an intense heat wave (110 degrees, anyone??) that we haven’t been able to enjoy any of summer’s final moments or focus on anything other than not dying. Although the clouds finally let loose with some cooling rain today, and you know how rain and weather inspire me to write, so maybe I can finally make up for weeks of neglect. I’m coming, precious work in progress!!!

 

supernatural jensen ackles

What I read:

Lucky in Love by Kasie West *****

lucky in love

One word: adorable! Kasie is my auto-buy author, and this is a sweet, funny story of a girl who finds herself faced with the age-old question: Can money solve all your problems?

Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt *****

Unsanctioned Eyes

I met Brianna last year at Realm Makers, and I had the pleasure of reading Unsanctioned Eyes before most. This book is incredible, intense, and depicts a beautiful story of redemption and love. Show Brianna some love and get this book before you regret it!

In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody ****

in some other life

I bought this book at Barnes and Noble because of the cover, and I’m so glad I did! I don’t usually reach for contemporary, but it was a fun and surprisingly moving story of a girl who suddenly finds herself living the life she regretted giving up, though getting what she wishes for turns out to be a curse. 

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo ***

wonder woman

WHY??? If you read my Comic Con post, you know how excited I was for this book. I was just incredibly disappointed. I had a hard time giving it 3 stars and know this doesn’t go along with popular opinion, but I had to force myself to come back to it. I have yet to write a review and am waiting until I can sort out my disappointment.  

sheba

I also started “The Legend of Sheba” by Tosca Lee last month, so this one is in progress. Definitely worth picking up if you enjoy Middle Eastern settings and Biblical history!

My TBR pile

this savage song

Everyone talks so highly of this series, and I’m itching to start!

hunted

I just ordered this on B&N, and, c’mon son, that cover.

deliver

I need this book in my life right now!!!!!!

John-Thornton-john-thornton-9995746-480-516

Why am I reading North and South again? Because it’s one of my favorite classics and we’re reading it for book club. Oh, you mean why is there a picture of Richard Armitage (as John Thornton) brooding all sexy-like? Because his portrayal of Thornton is amazing and because I CAN!

I’m sure there are things that I’m forgetting, but they’ll just have to wait. For now, I’ll be dreaming of fall leaves, crisp autumn air, and any type of coffee that doesn’t have to be iced. ^_~ 

Part 5: Creating Memorable Characters

Published March 5, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 5: Creating Memorable Characters

Aside from the questions I ranted about the other week, one of the most common things an author gets asked is, “How do you come up with your characters, and how do you handle them once they’re created?” *cracks knuckles* Step aside, Stephen King, because I’ll answer this one! (mostly because I’m sure he has a very different answer that doesn’t involve gifs and memes—so blah!)

as you wish

Characters can emerge from absolutely nothing, kind of like that Twilight Zone place in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (I think that’s the one?), where your thoughts create creatures out of the darkness and mist. Getting an idea for a character is the easy part—anything inspires me! But understanding them and knowing their purpose in your story is a completely different concept. This is the tricky part that can trip-up even the most seasoned author, because until a character becomes real to you, you’ll never break the surface of who they are and can misinterpret their reactions along the way. As a reader, this is just plain confusing. 

who are you

Before you create a character, you need to keep in mind that it helps to have different “purposes” assigned to each one—the steady tree, the flighty rocket, ultimate villain, perfect protagonist, sympathetic antagonist—and keep this design in mind to make sure they don’t deviate from their design too much.

You can do this fairly easily by asking yourself a few questions:

-What is their purpose in the story? Hero, villain, martyr?

-Are you supposed to sympathize with them, feel distant from their pain, or feel

          angry whenever they enter a scene?

-Will they have a change of heart, or should they remain steady throughout the journey?

Sarah, Will, and the gang began as simple concepts—a girl from the future, a vigilante with a broken past, the loving family next door, the steady best friend, etc.—and these general ideas worked as a starting point for their growth. Knowing where Sarah was from helped me to imagine how I might react to things a thousand years in the past, seeing everything in a different world for the first time, trying to blend in; because of Will’s history, I knew that he would be protective of those he cares for and more guarded, rejecting love when it’s what he needs the most. You will be amazed at how much growth your characters will take on, all on their own, when you give them a gentle nudge along the path they’re supposed to stay on. And be careful that you don’t fall in the trap of the “campy” character, where they’re always happy go-lucky and never seem to struggle with anything. Readers will always identify more with someone with human doubts and struggles and emotions who overcomes adversity—because that is relatable and hopeful—rather than a character who smiles and dances all. The. Bloody. Time. -_- Nobody can identify with this every day:

happy dance

Now that we’ve established how to create your characters, and also to steer clear of making a dull, one-dimensional protagonist, you have to remember that it’s important to become acquainted with them, too. Go for a walk and imagine conversations your characters might strike up because of something you see, or think about how they might react to a situation in your own life. It sounds strange to listen in on imaginary conversations between fictional beings, but it makes them feel more natural and real to me to follow them throughout the day. Making this a practice honestly helps the writing process, because you’re becoming more and more familiar with them each second you spend with your characters, and this attention to detail will really benefit your novel.

You also have to understand and be accepting of the fact that characters can evolve, and it’s your job to know how to handle them once they decide to move away from your perfect little personality mold. It might sound like a contradiction, but I can explain, I promise! Take Damien Lisandro, for instance: he was originally Lord Bormeo, a tall, thin, middle-aged man with a hawkish nose and absolutely no charm.

bored.gif

While writing Chasing Shadows, I realized that, although his character’s purpose was necessary to the story, he was not. So, I took the general concept of him and the way he aided the plot and turned him into Damien, the dashing, blush-inducing Spaniard who plays a huge role in Sarah’s investigation at the castle . . . and a large role in why I giggled so much while writing his scenes. Also, I may or may not have fallen in love with him a tiny.

in love mcgarrett

I will never regret making that choice to change, not a character’s role in the story, but some of his traits to make him more appealing to readers and *cough* myself. The A-typical protagonist or villain or antagonist can be so boring, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do some rewriting where your characters are concerned so long as they don’t deviate from their purpose. Make sense?  

So, that’s it! There’s plenty more that goes into creating characters, but these are the basic concepts I follow when whipping up a new bloke or lady in my stories. The best piece of advice I can give for you aspiring writers out there is to know who your characters are, but that also comes from knowing who you are as a writer. Be bold and confident, and let your own passion play out through strong-willed characters who stand outside the box. Nobody likes reading about vanilla!

captain jack sparrow vanilla

 

#FanArtFriday Continues!!!

Published November 6, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

I told you I couldn’t leave it at only four brief weeks of gorgeous fan art. Pshaw! I recently found a new saliva-inducing pic that I’ll be sharing with you all today, but first, a little bit of news and updates. 

My NaNoWriMo is going swimmingly well (4,000 words ahead of schedule–Yeah!), and you can find some of my updates on my Facebook page.

I just discovered that Defying Shadows made it onto Goodreads’ list of Most Anticipated Christian Fiction 2016. Holy strombonie! #1 on the list (and rightfully so) is Melanie Dickerson, one of my favorite Christian authors, along with Francine Rivers, so it was an absolute honor. It also reminded me that I never made a page for the final installment in the Rising Shadows trilogy. *gasps* EGAD! So I quickly remedied that by creating a new tab at the top of my feed for the last book, which you might have already noticed. (check out the page!). It isn’t much right now, but I’ll slowly be adding to it over time, so keep checking for more updates!

Shantelle, the winner of the Chasing Shadows Celebration, absolutely loves the Rising Shadows trilogy! I sent her Rising Shadows so she would have a bit of background before she dived into the paperback copy of Chasing Shadows she won in the giveaway, and I was so pleased to find that she enjoyed both books and is looking forward to the release of Defying Shadows (me too, Shantelle!). 

You can find her review of Rising Shadows here and her 5 star review (^_^) of Chasing Shadows here!

LASTLY, because so much fan art has been made over the past month and a half, I decided to create a Fan Art page with links to the books and images. It’s basically like a Pinterest board right here on my site! Okay, and because I know this is why you showed up today, I’ll make you wait no longer.

Anyone recognize this romantic scene from Chasing Shadows

chasing shadows

 

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