Ashley C. Darling

Hello Again

Feb
02

These last two years have been a dumpster fire. I wrote in 2019 that I wanted to blog more, and then promptly failed to do that. In August of 2019 I joined a local Nerdy Girls group and made so many great friendships! I even started playing D&D in early 2020 with some of those girls, and then COVID happened and the world stopped.

Also in August of 2019 I started a graduate program for library science. That definitely took up most of my time that year! Along with a mostly full time job, I didn’t have much time to write for myself, let alone blog. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a blogger. Sometimes I feel like I try to do this to be popular, but then life gets busy and I don’t make time for it. That’s my fault, for sure, but I also wonder if I’m just not cut out for it.

Anyway, I started teaching in 2020 and it’s been a whirlwind since! I’m enjoying teaching again (mostly, you know how it is), and have found time to write and work on my novels. I bought a house about a year ago and have been living with my boyfriend. It’s been great! I play D&D usually twice a week, I co-host my school’s D&D Club, and I’m finally finding time to read again. All of that along with a literature class is definitely keeping me busy!

I do hope that I can hop on here every once in a while to post something, whether its a writing trick/tip I just learned or a review of a book for my lit class. Whatever it is, I hope you’ll read and follow along.

Is there anything you’d like to see from me? I have two completed novels under my belt and I’ve revised them both multiple times (still in the process, too!). Let me know what you’d like to see from me, and I’ll do my best to provide!

All the best,

June 2019 TBR [& May Wrap-Up]

Jun
02

In my TBR post earlier this month, I set a pretty low goal of reading 3 books. I *did* reach that goal, but I didn’t read all the books I set out to read.

So for May 2019, here’s my TBR:

Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough
You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
Story Genius by Lisa Cron

The books I finished were the fiction books: Amelia Westlake Was Never Here & You Asked for Perfect.

I also read Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough. I literally read this in a day. Not only was the writing lyrical and lush (a novel in verse!), I was floored by the fact that this was historical fiction AND a debut novel. Like, what? I read the author’s note at the end–yes, she is a playwright as well–so I felt a little better about it, but still. Talk about feeling intimidated.

Amelia Westlake Was Never Here was a lovely f/f contemporary novel that tackles social injustice in the form of teacher abuse. It was the book I needed as a teen, and I really hope that teen girls now enjoy it. It was super cute!

You Asked for Perfect was similarly good. It was a m/m contemporary, and dealt with the pressures placed on students (usually by themselves, but sometimes their parents/teachers/peers) to be academically and socially perfect. While I wasn’t the valedictorian in my school (nor did I want to be!), I still connected with Ariel’s struggle to balance academics, a social life, and extracurricular activities (volunteering, Church, etc.).

The other books I read in May, though partially, are Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand and Story Genius by Lisa Cron. My goal is the finish those this month and read a couple more.

Though I hope to read more than these, here’s my official June TBR:

What books did you read in May? What books should I add to my June (or July) list? Let me know!

May 2019 TBR

May
17

Everyone has a TBR, right? A pile of books to be read, one that grows ever larger depending on the day.

I want to post a monthly TBR of books I hope to read, not only fiction, but also craft books & non-fiction (I’m working on expanding my horizons!). I can usually read about 2 books per month, but I want to push my boundaries and read 2 fiction books and 1 non-fiction (craft or otherwise) in May. Wish me luck!

So for May 2019, here’s my TBR:

I’m going to start out pretty slow on this; I actually *want* to complete this TBR list this month. In fact, I’ve already finished Amelia Westlake & have started on You Asked for Perfect. If I manage to read more than these two fiction books this month, I’ll consider it icing on the cake!

I’ve read about half of Story Genius, but I’m going to start from the beginning and really dive deep into it.

What books are you reading this month? Have you read any great books recently? Let me know in the comments!

Failures

May
16

Everyone fails.

Einstein. Steve Jobs. Tony Stark (yeah, I know he’s not real. But it still counts!).

Every single person that has achieved anything great has failed at least once. Most people fail repeatedly, and their success hinges not on their failures, but on their ability to pick themselves up and keep going.

Currently, I’m failing as a writer.

I recently left an emotionally and mentally exhausting job. Every day I would come home, take care of my dog, eat dinner, and go to bed. Then I’d get up the next day and do it all over again. My relationships and social life suffered. My writing fell by the wayside. I was miserable for many reasons, but a large part of my unhappiness was the fact I couldn’t write. Not that I didn’t have time, not that I didn’t try. My mind simply wouldn’t focus on anything long enough to matter, and I was depressed. I think I might still be, but I’m working through the funk.

I was blessed to have a job, but I absolutely couldn’t stay there any longer.

So I gave my notice. I trained my replacement and I got the hell out. But I’m still not writing.

My mind has focused for too long on survival mode, on protecting itself from verbal and emotional abuse at work, that even though I now work part-time to allow for more writing, I can’t seem to make anything stick.

I’m failing. I’m not doing such a great job at the part-time gig (it’s so far out of my wheelhouse, I’m floundering. help!). I’m worried about my financial situation. My friendships are still suffering, but at least that is getting better. I’m having some health issues that are hopefully going to be resolved soon, but I’m not holding my breath (the American healthcare system sucks).

But I don’t want to fail anymore.

I’ve been wanting to blog for a long time, but I’ve failed at that too. I’ve made posts in the past saying “This year I’ll blog more!!” It never happens. But now that I have more time, I want to contribute. I want to help other writers on the journey from draft to publication. I don’t have an agent or a book deal (yet!), but I have a passion for writing and for helping others.

So this an official rebranding. I’m going to post writing tips and tricks, behind the scenes of my writing process, book reviews, and more. I’m putting this out there to finally say, I’M HERE. AND I’M GOING TO DO THIS THING!

I’d love for you to follow along.

<3 Ashley

#AMMConnect: Spring 2019

Jan
10

Author Mentor Match—or AMM for short—opens for submissions for Round 6 from March 1-5, 2019. AMM is a mentoring program that matches YA and MG writers with published or pre-published authors.

Want to learn more? Follow the hashtags #authormentormatch#ammfam, and #ammparty on Twitter. Watch the video below for more information from AMM’s co-creator, Alexa Donne!

SUBMISSIONS OPEN MARCH 1
AND CLOSE MARCH 5.

While you’re revising and waiting for the submission window to open, use #AMMConnect to hype your work and connect to other writers all over the world. All you have to do is make a blog post on your own site and add your name, category/genre, and link to the table below! Feel free to scroll through and find more awesome writers, maybe even swap pages.

About #AMMConnect

You can also use #AMMConnect to meet other hopeful mentees! Connecting with other writers is one of the big benefits of AMM, whether you’re selected as a mentee or not. You could meet a new critique partner or your biggest cheerleader.

#AMMConnect How-To

  1. Create an #AMMConnect post on your blog. Tell us about yourself, what you write and why, and why you’d make a great mentee. Be sure to include your category and genre, and a link back to this post. Have fun with it! We love gifs, aesthetics, images and videos!
  2. Enter your name, category, genre, and link in the Google form below.
  3. Head over to Twitter (Writer Twitter is amazing! Create an account if you haven’t already.) and share a link to your post. Make sure you include #AMMconnect so others can find you, and pin the tweet to your profile.
  4. Browse the hashtag and interact with other AMM hopefuls! Read bios, like, and comment. Drool over incredible book concepts and offer to swap sample chapters with potential critique partners. You could make a writing buddy for life.

Also on Twitter we’ll be having fun answering prompts at #AMMparty! Learn about your fellow mentees and their work, and make more connections!

Why Submit to AMM?

I’m an OG AMM mentee. I was chosen waaaay back in Round 1 and I’m a HUGE proponent of this program. Not only have I made a meaningful connection with an established author (hello, Kayla!), I’ve made valuable friendships and found some of my best critique partners throughout the years.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out what my fellow mentees have to say about their own experiences.

“There’s a thousand reasons to submit to AMM, but here’s just a few… My mentor provided amazing insight on how to take my manuscript to new levels, closer to being the book I’ve always dreamed about. Before and even after signing with an agent, he’s been around for me for everything from reading recs to questions about book covers. In addition, the AMM mentees have become my writing family — we cheer each other on, pick each other up after difficult days, and word sprint together after our day jobs.

I hope you’ll submit to AMM and find your writing family, too.

I am beyond grateful for Sean, Alexa, and my AMM family!”

Julie Abe
Agent: Sarah Landis, Sterling Lord Literistic
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: Sean Easley


“Author Mentor Match has been a huge deal for my writing career. With every round of revision I did with Jaime, my book and my writing in general became so much stronger. Beyond revising my manuscript, Jaime was still with me through every step of the querying process, from helping me with my query letter, decided which agents to sub to, to talking me through the stressful process of deciding between multiple offers. I recommend this program to anyone who feels like they have a strong manuscript but know it’s not ready for the next step and need some help getting it there. I couldn’t have made it this far without Author Mentor Match, and now my mentor and I are agent silblings!”

Jordan Marisa Kelly
Agent: Jordan Hamessley, New Leaf Literary Agency
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: Jaime Olin


“Author Mentor Match is everything I never knew I was looking for. This community has revolutionized my writing life in every aspect, from confidence to ability and everything in between. My mentor has equipped me with a trusty arsenal of plotting spreadsheets and puns, and her feedback is always spot on. But most importantly, my mentor isn’t just investing in this one manuscript—she’s investing in me as a writer. We’re in this for the long haul. And that makes all the difference.”

Sarah Harrington
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: Rosiee Thor


“I’m blown away by how great AMM has been. My mentor is amazing, insightful, and generous, and has helped me grow so much. Not only is she just a great person to talk to, she also has years of experience as a published writer, and has shared her wisdom and connections with me. In addition, my cohort of mentees has turned into a supportive, resource-sharing, cheerleading group of role models and peers that I’m so glad to have met. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of AMM.”

Carolyn T. O’Neil
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: J. Albert Mann


“Kevin has offered such a fresh perspective on my manuscript and really pushed me to find my story. His knowledge of writing resources and the industry has proven invaluable, and he’s always available for a comforting word or brainstorming session. I feel so lucky to call him my mentor and have him (and the whole AMM family) on this journey with me!”

Debra Spiegel
Fall 2017 Mentee, Mentor: Kevin van Whye


“Joining AMM was a wonderful experience for me. With Kim’s help, my writing improved beyond what I’d ever expected. I love how it’s an ongoing relationship, and the focus is on mentoring rather than competing for a showcase. I’ve been able to work at my own pace, and know that our relationship will continue long-term. She has been such a wonderful teacher and has supported me through multiple revisions and querying. Also, through the AMMfam I’ve connected with so many wonderful people, including some amazing critique partners who I now consider my bestest friends :heart: I feel so supported and connected as part of this entire community. Since being mentored, I have gone on to sign with an agent and am about to send my book off on submission in 2019, eep!”

Lyndall Clipstone
Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary
Spring 2018 Mentee, Mentor: Kim Smejkal


“AuthorMentorMatch is an amazing program. My book has improved by leaps and bounds since I began revising with my mentor’s input and ideas. My mentor has been so supportive—she’s helped with everything from edit letters and brainstorming sessions to query materials and publishing advice. Anyone looking for a program where you’ll get a great mentee-mentor relationship, help with your book, and amazing community of other writers, AuthorMentorMatch has what you’re looking for.”

Emily Grey Feldman
Spring 2018 Mentee, Mentor: Rosiee Thor


“I found out about AMM three weeks before the deadline, and on a whim I decided to apply. I can’t believe how this amazing opportunity almost passed me by! My mentor has been absolutely amazing, quick in her responses, supportive, and firm in her critique. Getting a long edit letter was overwhelming, but reading her ideas and talking them through with her opened my eyes to what my book could become. Having access to the other AMM mentees as well has been great since we can share our struggles and our triumphs with each other. The AMM community has made me a stronger writer, and the resources it provides has me excited–not scared!–of the next steps on my path to being a published author.”

Linnea Garcia
Spring 2018 Mentee, Mentor: Jaime Olin


AMM has been everything I hoped for. At the end of March, when I got into Round 4, my amazing mentor Tae Keller sent me a 10-page single-spaced edit letter complete with graphs. Her critique was so insightful and helped me re-work my manuscript entirely. Two months later, after essentially rewriting half my novel, I sent her a revision. She gave me another edit letter, this time three pages long. A month later, I’d made some more significant edits and sent my manuscript to beta readers and other critique partners. A month after that, and a bit over four months after receiving my first edit letter, I was ready to query my novel.

Coming into AMM, I was ready to put in the hard work of revising my novel, but I couldn’t have done it without my mentor or this program. To have someone believe in my project and help guide me through the Blow-It-Apart-and-Put-it-Back-Together stage of novel-writing was absolutely invaluable.”

Sylvia Liu
Spring 2019 Mentee, Mentor: Tae Keller

#AMMConnect Blog Links

Enter your name, genre, and link using this form. Then hop around and meet your fellow AMM hopefuls!

And remember: your story matters. Write it. <3

Oct
18

Well, hello. I haven’t blogged on here in a while, and even though its always my intention to do so, I just lose track of time and find myself spiraling into the rabbit hole that is YouTube or Facebook. (Bad use of time, let me tell you.)

I originally wrote this as a thread on Twitter, but I wanted to make a blog post about it, too, because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with maintaining my writing passion.

You know that feeling when you’re eyeball-deep in revision and you think your writing just SUX0RS? Yeah, well, that was me in July. I took a break from my beloved WIP, worked on something else, read a few books, etc etc.

I struggled with this revision. I LOVE this story, these characters, but I didn’t know where I was going or how to make the story I’d written into the story I wanted. I was so frustrated and exhausted that writing felt like torture. It sucked, big time. I doubted myself.

It’s okay to give up reading a series—I did

Feb
09

So, I’m not usually one to give up on a book. There are very few I will actually delegate to my DNF pile, and only if I really, *really* can’t get through it. Two books spring to mind immediately from the last year that I DNF’d—VASSA IN THE NIGHT by Sarah Porter and RIVERKEEP by Martin Stewart. I don’t know if it was the style, genre, or some strange combination of the two, but something just put me off these books.

But I’m not here to talk about individual books. I’m here to talk about when you should quit reading a series. Or, well, when *I* decided to quit reading a series. And I know I’m going to catch so much flak for not finishing this series. It’s not YA (which is my genre of choice), but it is a beloved series by an equally beloved author—the SHADES OF MAGIC Trilogy.

I know, I know. Schwab is a master at her craft. I adored the first book, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC. I loved Lila and Kell. But as I was reading through the first 50 pages of A GATHERING OF SHADOWS, I was *bored.* That’s not a good feeling to have that early in a book. And I know its a second book, so it’ll have that middle syndrome, but really. I’m pretty sure I stopped well before 100 pages and I haven’t picked it back up in weeks. It’s still sitting on my bedside table, gathering dust and ice cream droplets and who knows what else. (I should probably put it back on the shelf…)

Maybe I’ll pick it back up in a few months. I adored the first book and its characters. Maybe 2018 isn’t quite the right time to pick up a book about magic and mayhem and darkness encroaching on the world—that lands too close to home. For now I’ll put AGOS back on the shelf with its buddies and find another book to read.

Sometimes the timing isn’t right, and that’s okay. Sometimes you need some space to really ready yourself for a heady book—and that’s totally valid, too. Whatever your reasons for giving up on a series, just know that it isn’t an irrevocable decision. There’s always the library. Or—heck!—even your own personal library where you can find the book or series again. Just because you set it aside for now doesn’t mean you can’t return to it when you’re ready. It’s not like the series will disappear.

Have you ever DNF’d a series? If so, which series? Can you pinpoint what put you off (timing, genre, characters, plot, etc)? Let me know in the comments!

2017: Writing Goals

Feb
08

Hey y’all! I know I haven’t blogged in a while – since July 2016! – but one of my goals for 2017 is to blog more often. Here’s a list of writing goals I’d like to achieve or be on the way to achieving in 2017:

  1. Finish a first draft of something new
  2. Edit/revise THE ADEPT (with help from my awesome mentor)
  3. Query THE ADEPT
  4. Sign with an agent 🙂
  5. Blog 3-4 times a month (more if possible!)
  6. Sell THE ADEPT (this is dependent on #3 & #4, plus other factors)

That may be about it. I’m already starting on #1 – its a fantasy with magic and war and espionage. I’m super excited about it! 🙂

As far as blogging, I’m not sure what types of post you’d like to see, so please let me know! I’m happy to oblige.

I think that’s it for this post. Have any questions? Post them below and I’ll gladly answer!

Love,

Pitch Wars 2016 Mentee Bio

Jul
06

#PimpMyBio is an optional blog post for the Pitch Wars 2016 mentee hopefuls. If you don’t know what Pitch Wars is, take a look over at Brenda Drake’s site, and learn all you want to know! It’s basically an awesome contest for writers where mentees (like me!) join up with mentors in the business (authors, agents, editors, etc) and work together to get the mentee’s manuscripts polished and up to snuff for the agent around in a few months. I can’t wait to submit!

ABOUT ME

I’m a twenty-something fantasy writer living in northwest Arkansas. By day I work at a veterinary clinic as an inventory manager/receptionist, and by night I’m a swashbuckling heroine, a warrior defending her people, and a young mutant learning about her power — all in my books, of course.

I’ve been writing since I was 11 (so like forever, but who’s counting?), ever since my grandfather gave me my first (used) Toshiba laptop. I started out in the Neopets forum (yes, I’m that old) and eventually moved to forum-based roleplay. When I’m not pretending to be a wolf on the internet (GO WOLF!), I’m researching for my novels, or else reading some of my favorite books.

I’m a huge fantasy and sci-fi fan. Some of my favorite authors include JK Rowling, George RR Martin, Robin Hobb, and Pierce Brown, among others. In my teenage years I obsessed over Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. TRUE BLOOD is my favorite show EVER, and the books the show is based on, the Sookie Stackhouse Series, are just as amazing. I love vampires; I should probably write about them someday!

I grew up in Miami, Florida, for seven years, then moved to northwest Arkansas when my dad got a job up here. I love it. It’s the most gorgeous area of the country, even if it can get a bit stifling (it was once well over 110 degrees for two weeks. Talk about heat!).

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I can remember. It’s something I’ve worked on over the years, but in 2014 I finally had the grand inspiration for my book. Between a friend’s ideas, and my own crazy imagination, I dreamed up the world in which I write, and I hope the passion and love for this world come across.

ABOUT MY BOOK

I’m submitting THE ADEPT, a YA historical fantasy inspired by the Amazon warriors of ancient Greece. It follows a young woman as she uncovers a plot to kill the Queen, and the consequences of her actions as she discovers the would-be-usurper’s identity: her own mother.

WHY PICK ME

Everyone says this, so to some extent it loses its meaning, but I will seriously bust my ass to revise and strengthen this manuscript. I love the ADEPT and the world I’ve created. I just need someone else’s eyes to help me polish it, bring it to a shining gleam, and delve deeper into world than I ever thought possible. I’ve got the work ethic, I just need someone to point me in the right direction, because right now I’m feeling a little lost.

Take a look at the other mentee bios here.

POSTHUMAN (Vol. 1) — new project

Apr
27

Hey y’all! Now that my novel THE ADEPT is complete and in the hands of my trusted beta readers, and I have to constantly remind myself NOT to edit while its out, I’m finally working on a new project.

Basically this idea came to me fully-formed during a dream (after binge watching Marvel’s Jessica Jones, go figure!) about a pair of siblings who find out they have super powers. Its morphed into something a little more complicated than that, but I think its going to be so much fun.

I touched on the idea a little in my last post, but I wanted to use this as an opportunity to showcase the way I plan my novels! The Adept’s planning was a little different, so I’m going to show what I do here for what I’m calling POSTHUMAN. I’ll include pictures where I can and talk about what kinds of research/prompts/etc I’ve done for it.

I’m using a traditional notebook to plan this project, using Susan Dennard’s For Writers—which has all sorts of excellent advice, I must say!

So far I’ve brainstormed a little in the notebook, but most of my ideas are still in my head. I’m trying to write them down as I generate them, either in the notebook or in Scrivener. In the notebook I have the following sections: characters (primary and secondary), scene ideas, super power ideas, setting, and planning. I also have those sections in Scrivener, as you can see below.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 9.38.29 PM

Here is a screenshot of my Scrivener binder for POSTHUMAN. This section is for the characters themselves. So far I have the main family—the Vanhooks—which consists of the parents and kids. I do have more characters in my notebook, like Nova and Rudo’s best friends, but I haven’t transcribed them into Scrivener just yet.

Tonight I’ve been researching super powers and their limitations. This research has given me lots of ideas for other super teens in this world and even perhaps a villain, too. 😉 I’ll let you know how that goes!

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.16.00 PM

I even started drafting a (terrible) query for this project. Really that’s there to help me brainstorm ideas for the story and the tone I want to write in. So far, I’m in love with Nova’s voice; snarky teenager who suddenly finds herself in the middle of events she can’t control. I’m looking forward to writing this more each day, but I want to have the bones down before I delve into the world.

Next week I’ll go over how I create the plot of the story. I’m by no means an expert, and this story is likely to change a few times before I’m done, but I’ll go over the beginning stages and would welcome feedback on the story and my process.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! I’ll happily include them in my next post.

Until then, write like the wind.

Love,
ACDSignature