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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. 

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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!

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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*

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.

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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. 

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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!!!

 

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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.

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

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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. ^_~ 

Fangirl’s Guide: Procrastination

Published September 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

The Fangirl’s Guide to Navigating Life, Vol. 3

Procrastination

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The following words are not a call to arms against procrastination, nor encouragement to pick up your swords (pens) and ride at dawn (get that novel done!). Nay, dear weary travelers, this is a post about the different ways I like to procrastinate because, honestly, we could all use a self-imposed break once in a while.

I have a slew of author events and writing deadlines this month that I have to tackle (*cough* preferably before deadlines *warily eyes to-do pile* *hides*), but somehow I kept finding things to occupy my time. Granted, these tasks also needed to be vanquished, and I felt a sense of accomplishment in doing so, but then there are the other . . . unmentionable distractions (TV, painting my nails, Instagram—okay, so maybe not quite so unmentionable). Incidentally, I might have procrastinated this post by getting some actual writing done in Jungle Princess, so maybe a little mental R&R was just what the Eleventh Doctor ordered.

1.Reading: I like to think of it as “research.”

reading

2.Cleaning: I can go *guilty, shifty-eyes* a while without dusting or vacuuming when I’m in the writing zone, but when I sit down to write and get blocked, I’m like, “Hmm. I should paint the baseboards . . . and re-hang that picture . . . and reupholster the chair.”

wolverine cleaning

3. Organizing my bookshelves, because I couldn’t possibly write with books that are slightly askew.

4. BAKING: Cookies. Are. Life! Also, cake, pie, scones, flatbreads, main dishes. Really, anything that requires me stepping away from what I should actually be doing. But, honestly, it isn’t healthy to plot and brainstorm on an empty stomach, so . . .

rory eating

5. New stories: There’s nothing like having a deadline on your current work in progress and being inspired to write six other standalone novels.

yes

 

6. Blog-Binge: Check out this hilarious post by Nadine Brandes on a shower assassination (here), and this one about Katie Erickson’s third-year in the blogisphere (here).

7. My memory also becomes really sharp when I feel like procrastinating, and I can recall things from fifteen years ago that I’m suddenly inspired to find in some long-forgotten place, or remember that to-do list I neglected to complete . . . in 2003.

Well, there are plenty more, but you get the idea. Now that I’ve exercised my procrastination muscles—gotta keep ‘em sharp!—I feel mentally capable of and excited to return to the jungle with Julia and Taran.

What is your favorite form of procrastination?

Defying Shadows Turns 1 Giveaway!

Published August 6, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

Because last month was such a whirlwind, I didn’t have the chance to properly celebrate Defying Shadows’ FIRST birthday. Egad! In honor of my youngest book child’s birthday, I wanted to celebrate by giving away a copy of Defying Shadows and fabulous swag and goodies to one lucky winner. You can also enter the Rafflecopter here for an ebook of your choice from the Rising Shadows trilogy and a $20 Amazon gift card. There will be another link at the end of this post for the Rafflecopter, but first, onto the Grand Prize, because goodies and swag and books are what we really want….

DS giveaway pic
GRAND PRIZE
Defying Shadows paperback, with my favorite quotes and moments underlined (baby needs a new home!!!!)
-Little Karen magnetic bookmark from Magic Bookmarks (because we all need a best friend!)
Defying Shadows bookmark
-notepad for your ideas and inspiration
Defying Shadows pen
-my favorite writing snacks!

HOW TO ENTER:
-use #defyingshadowsturns1 in your sharing, and/or tag @townsendtales                              -share about the Rafflecopter (1 entry per share, but be sure to tag me)
-share this pic on social media with the hashtags (1 entry, unlimited shares)
-tag a friend/friends on this pic around social media each day! (1 entry for each tag)
BONUS ENTRIES:
-use #TeamHood when sharing series related pics/quotes (1 bonus entry per day)

Open to U.S. residents only, and giveaway ends 8-13-17 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Good luck, friends!😊

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/efc81f6e3/?


#bookstagram #book #giveaway #freebies #repost #defyingshadows#books #defyingshadowsturns1 #fun #fantasy #adventure #timetravel#scifi #entertowin

 

Goodbye, July!

Published August 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

July, you were chaotic and occasionally stressful, and while I’ll miss the adventures and fabulous memories you brought my way, I bid you adieu!! *flips calendar to August with a dramatic flourish*

August

Now that the breakup is out of the way, let me give you a recap on the happenings of July. I feel like it was mostly everyday life craziness that made the month fly/drag by. . . . Oh, yeah, and there was San Diego Comic Con, apartment hunting in SoCal (not an easy feat), finding new car insurance for my new go-go machine, balancing finances (reference the aforementioned car and insurance), the general chaos at the office, relatively maintaining a social life *cough* *cough, cough*, setting up engagements at local bookstores, libraries, and Barnes and Nobles (details soon!), and reminding myself that I’m a writer who has a work in progress to be tackled, something I may or may not have neglected. *hides face in shame*

hiding

Instead of making this an eleven-page post—with most of it being taken up by details about Comic Con, because there is so much to tell you about!!—I figured I’d just give you the happy highlights of this month and have an entirely separate update for the nitty-gritty of SDCC, so stay tuned for that.

Quick San Diego Comic Con summary (because I couldn’t resist):

Amazing cosplays, meeting/attacking Derek Theler, missing the once in a lifetime Psych panel *sobs*, finding Waldo in the Exhibit Hall, being a Disney princess, getting pics with Bob Ross and Kid Flash, accidentally stumbling upon the Outlander signing, seeing Stan Lee, being flabbergasted by the handsomest and most charming man ever to cosplay Rick from The Mummy, and discovering ALL THE THINGS that Comic Con has to offer with my big sis.

Camp NaNo Update: ……………………… 0.o Uhhhhhh, what’s Camp NaNo?? Well, the first half of the month was great. *cringes* Below is an accurate depiction of me trying to pretend that everything is okay whilst covering up the fact that I’m waaaaay behind:

digging out of a hole

I can’t feel too guilty, though, because Comic Con prep was consuming, apartment hunting was the same, I got organized for several speaking/signing engagements, I actually kept up with my blogging schedule (wahoo!), and I plotted out the last ¼ of Jungle Princess, fixing some holes that a T-Rex could have fallen into and broken its ankle. You’re welcome, Rexy. But, hey, I made sure to write every single day, even if it wasn’t specifically for my work in progress, so GO ME! 

What I read: 

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor ***

strange

I very seldom say “Meh” to a high-fantasy book that is, technically, well written, but meh. I felt like I should have loved it because her world was elaborate, but the writing was stilted and unnecessarily ostentatious (see what I did there?), which made for slow reading, and half her world was unexplained and left me confused. Was there a prequel I missed?? And while I liked two of the characters, nothing really happened. Until. The. End!!! I’m still trying to get over the guilt of not loving it when everyone else seems to think it’s remarkable, but I just can’t.

The Girl Who Could See, by Kara Swanson *****

the girl who could see

EEP! I got the novella signed by Kara at the SoCal conference and flipped it open as soon as I arrived home. It was gripping and moving and such a fabulous story that I found myself wanting to dive right back into her world after having just finished it.

Purple Moon, by Tessa Emily Hall ****

purple moon

I’ll admit, tears were shed while reading this story. Such an incredible book about brokenness and healing, of loneliness and God’s unfailing mercy and love. Oftentimes troubled teens as protagonists get on my nerves, even if I know their behavior will turn around. But I felt constantly connected to Selena’s perspective and emotions, and while she made some poor decisions, I understood her. Such a lovely book by an even lovelier author!

Angel Eyes, by Shannon Dittemore ****

angel eyes

I feel like I am so behind in this series! I met Shan at the SoCal conference, too, and since everyone had been raving about this series, I had to pick it up. Now I’m happy to have jumped onto this bandwagon, taken up the reins, and set it at a chaotic pace as I attempt to devour the rest of the books in a single day. Such a beautiful and unique depiction of the spiritual realm and heavenly forces, and it is a wonderful story that will ignite your spirit.

Lucky in Love, by Kasie West. **************** (that should be enough stars)

lucky in love

Kasie is my auto-buy author, and I’ve gotten into the habit of pre-ordering her books before they even release the cover (although it’s so cute!!!! ^_^), and I had no idea what Lucky in Love was even about. But in typical West fashion, she did not disappoint!

you complete me

Well, that’s about it! You know, aside from an amazing week at Comic Con. But that will have to wait until next week, dear hearts!

 

 

Exhausted, Refreshed . . . INSPIRED!

Published June 30, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

For those of you who think writers’ conferences are dull, professional gatherings . . . Well, you’re doing it wrong!

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I spent last week at the first (of many, I hope!) SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, held at the gorgeous BIOLA University. This campus is absolutely stunning, the food is fantastic—pizza, corn dogs, healthy food, chewy cookies galore, and the most amazing salad bar in history—and there are so many perfectly serene places to plop down and write. That doesn’t even take into account the incredible classes, friendships, writing inspiration, and encouragement I received during the week.

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I found this gorgeous bench area right outside the library where there was, blessedly, a Starbucks. I laid on the bench, staring up at the canopy of leaves above me, and just enjoyed a time of mental story plotting and sweet conversations with God in the most peaceful setting imaginable. Definitely a refreshing afternoon!

 

 

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Nadine has been like a mentor to me for the past few years, but more than that, she is an incredibly dear friend and encourager. You’ve heard me talk about her mad dancing skills and amazing storytelling ability (follow her shenanigans online), but Nadine has also gotten me over some major humps in my writing and life in general with her optimism and support. She is just one of those people who lifts you up, allows you to be yourself, and encourages you in your walk with God.

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The term “insta-friends” is definitely acceptable when referring to these lovely ladies. I met Kara in the bathroom of all places, both of us trying to scrape mascara onto our exhausted eyes, and we were glued at the hip for the rest of the conference. This girl’s mind blows my own, and I am so excited for her future in writing!

Adria joined our group later on, but we immediately adopted her and had to know everything about this super sweet lady and talented agent. I have to admit we all felt intimidated by her because of her status, but we immediately discovered that she is so relatable, fun, kind, and hilarious, and we only wish we’d had more time with her.

Tessa is quite possibly one of the sweetest human beings you will ever meet! She joined us for shenanigans, boba heists, inspiring classes, and she and I had a wonderfully honest conversation about God’s plan for our lives. This woman has a beautiful heart and a mind for the industry, and I’m so blessed I got to know her. 

Fun fact: The last night of the conference, Nadine, Tessa, Adria, and I made plans to one day fly to Ireland for a writers’ retreat, because . . . why not? Although Nadine and I got them to agree only after we did a dance and sang the “Sisters” song from White Christmas. We’re talented like that. 

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My first experience with boba tea was magical!! Stealing Shannon Dittemore’s car (with her permission, of course) for the Great Boba Hunt of 2017 is definitely a favorite memory. Five girls crammed into a car, three blind to the joys of boba that awaited them, all screaming as we sped away from campus with Nadine at the wheel, driving like she stole it. We even had a boba projectile contest in the parking lot, proving that children of all ages can be writers and professionals. ^_~

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This man is anointed (get The Story of with, it will change your life). Being in Allen Arnold’s class about creating with God rather than for Him was so inspiring and reminded me of the nearness I feel when I write with God at the center of the story. He taught about the idea of kintsugi, which is a tradition—and an art form—in Japan where broken objects are not thrown away, but rather repaired with gold, making them more beautiful than before. It was just the perfect analogy of how God takes our brokenness, makes us whole, and sees the damage done as a beautiful reminder of our past and our value to Him. Needless to stay, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room that night.

 

Call me biased, but writers are a fantastic group of creative, fun-loving introverts and extroverts who help to build each other up. The SoCal Conference was a wonderful means for us to get together, grow, and encourage and inspire one another. Although I was physically exhausted by the end of the week, I came away feeling more refreshed and renewed and inspired to write. I hopped on the train coming back down to San Diego, and my mind was flying as I stared out the window, watching the trees and beach fly by. Writing inspiration, a refreshed spirit, and some of the best friends and memories that a girl could hope for. Definitely an amazing adventure!

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Prepping for a Conference, The Chaos Theory

Published June 21, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

How to Prepare for a Conference, The Chaos Theory

You all know I have procrastinator tendencies and would rather pants an entire novel than plot it out detail-by-grueling-detail. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that I’m the same way when preparing for trips and conferences.

I have been getting excited over attending the First Annual SoCal Christian Writers Conference since Nadine Brandes (check out her blog and links here) and I planned on going together months ago. Seems like plenty of time to prepare, right? Well, the last 36 hours have been a tad chaotic, like The Hunt for Red October or that scene in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls when he wakes strapped to a raft that’s headed over a waterfall. Maybe a bit less dramatic and flashy, and with no A-List actors in sight, but here’s how I decided to prep for a writers’ conference the day before:

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-caffeine . . . would I ever let you or myself down?

-plotted out the closest coffee shop to the train station in L.A. (priorities)

-went to a doctor’s appointment because, sure, I’ve had a year to do it and want to get that off my mind the day before leaving town. Seems smart.

-got sustenance for the trip

-packed my bag (finished about an hour ago)

-started/finished/edited one of the chapters that I will be presenting to publishers, friends, and agents.

-went to Staples to print out copies of the aforementioned chapter (I got back 20 minutes ago)

-realized that I’m running out of space in my bag due to snacks and books. Also, is there room for clothing?

-purchased my train ticket (success!!!)

-figured out what dorm Nadine and I are rooming in after they tried to separate us. You can never break up the team!!

-spent an hour debating if I should use paperclips or staples for my samples of my current work in progress.

-mailed packages

-penned a letter to self reminding self to stop procrastinating.

And did I mention that I’m working on a last-minute blog post about procrastinating everything before my train, which leaves in about an hour? I would like my award for best pantser delivered to my home, thank you very much.

But despite the craziness of the past two days, I am so excited to travel up to L.A., hang with Nadine, eat all the Oreos and drink all the coffee/chai in the cafeteria, and just meet other amazing writers. No matter if I’m up for all hours of the night and wide awake at the crack of dawn, conferences have this amazing way of rejuvenating me and putting that spark of excitement back into my writing. Here’s to the next week of adventuring!

Be sure to follow my Instagram and other accounts during the trip for updates!

Jeneca Zody

writer and artist

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