Inspiration

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YallWest—The Quest for the Ring & Bookish Things

Published May 29, 2018 by Ashley Townsend

It might have happened at the beginning of May (you know me and punctuality—in opposition like Cinderella and those pesky stepsisters), but I still wanted to share my 10-day experience earlier this month before my next journey. There is always so much to talk about when I go on a bookish trip, but one word to sum up YallWest and the Writer’s Sanctuary Retreat: EPIC!

Some of my Instagram highlights have a few of the videos and pics from the events, in case you missed them, so go check them out and follow the people I tagged for their highlights, too!

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The first Friday of this month, I took a long and arduous 45-minute flight from San Diego to LAX—oy, the jet lag!—to meet up with one of my favorite people on earth, Nadine Brandes, for our fabulous bookish week. After squealing like maniacs who haven’t seen each other in months, we jetted off to the Santa Monica Public Library for a little YallWest pre-fun. We met Alexandra Bracken and Angie Thomas, *squeal* made friends in signing lines, and silent disco danced with Marissa Meyer (unbeknownst to her). Let me tell you, silent disco dancing looks like a gaggle of awkward weirdoes mime-dancing, but as soon as we slipped on those headphones, we didn’t mind joining in on the no-longer-silent dancing in the middle of the library courtyard. At least we were weirdos together!

(Psssst. Nadine is headed to BookCon on June 1st in NYC to giveaway and sign ARCs of Fawkes, so get on that!!!)

YALLWEST:

YallWest is basically a mini ComicCon for books—signings, ARCs and swag, panels, fabulous food, meet-and-greets with authors, and an all-around amazing event for geeky shenanigans with your favorite people. And. It. Was. Fanastic!

Nadine and I had no idea what to expect, so we were blown away by the amount of fans that showed up. We spent that Saturday exploring the shops, drooling over food truck food, getting books signed, visiting with friends, and meeting up with Benita, the creator of the original Book Beau that I had the pleasure of meeting at BeaulitfulCon in January. Of course, it was necessary for me to pick up a new mermaid Book Beau and a fox one for Katie, because you can never have too many Beaus. ^_~ Benita has such an incredible entrepreneurial drive and is a sweetheart, and she said that she would love to talk about doing a Book Beau design for Jungle Princess. Umm . . . Yes?!!!!!!  *internal screaming*

After meeting up with the absolutely hilarious and lovely Mary Weber for a seriously long but completely worthwhile boba line, we met up with Natasha, Christine, Jesse, and Kat. Nadine knew Natasha from BeaulitfulCon, but I had only ever been a fangirl of my favorite BookTubers (Tashapolis, Katytastic, Jesseethereader, and XTineMay) and felt a little awkward about entering the group.

They instantly drew us in with their smiles and open hearts, and we got to learn about their own writing journeys as they opened up about their struggles and rough starts. It felt like a life-chat among friends, which blew my mind a bit, but they are all so real and fun and such beautiful human beings that Nadine and I walked away from our afternoon with them knowing that we had just made some incredible memories and friends. If you watch Natasha’s second YallWest vlog, they mention Nadine, Mary, and I in it, and I admit that I did a little fangirl squeal that it meant something to them, too. As incredible as the entire day was, Nadine and I both agreed that our favorite part was getting to know these beautiful people.

The day went so quickly, but we ended the night at a fancy restaurant where Nadine’s and my epic sunburn didn’t quite blend in (you can find the beautiful image of our lobsterness on my Twitter), sitting at a table with Mary Weber, Marissa Meyer, Erin Sumerill, and Kasie West (who is my EVERYTHING), with Jenny Han and Veronica Roth milling about the room.

I was definitely not cool enough for this crowd, but renting out a fancy restaurant and chilling with NYT bestselling authors was just another Saturday for them. I have to admit it was a LOT of fun getting to know all of them and seriously enjoyed the night, but after a nonstop day of fun and sun and excitement, Nadine and I were toast before 11:00 and caught a Lyft back to our bed, though not before I got my sister’s book signed by the incredibly adorable Jenny Han. *squeals for eternity*

Nadine and I spent another day wandering L.A. and had an absolute blast being dorks and having serious heart-to-hearts before parting ways for the next leg of our journey. Before I get to the retreat, though, I’d just like to highlight the fact that I spent 30 minutes hiding in a bathroom at LAX from former Bachelor bachelor (and my personal favorite) Ben Higgins. Lemme ‘splain. . . .

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I’m a casual shark at Comic Con when it comes to celebrities. I have no problem walking up to them and saying hello or asking for a pic if it won’t cause a scene, no biggie. But when I spotted Ben stinking Higgins in front of me at security in LAX, I panicked and watched in shock as he moved on, though I’ve never gotten through security so quickly. I wandered *cough* a few terminals hoping I could spot him and then waked, dejected, to my own gate only to discover him sitting at the gate right next to mine. Fate? I think yes!!!!! But after walking past his waiting area five times and drawing attention to myself with my clacking boots as I tried to draw up the courage to say hello, I ended up getting a coaching session from my sister, Liz, as I hid in the restroom, and my SDCC partner in crime gave me a little push. I emerged from the ladies’ room and marched up to Ben before I could lose my nerve. I thanked him for his amazing work with Generous Coffee and his entertaining and inspirational podcast, and, guys, he was so kind and appreciative and nice. He was exhausted and took the time to talk to me and chat for a few minutes, and as dorky as it sounds, the Be Generous sticker he gave me is now proudly displayed on my laptop in memoriam of that moment of kismet at LAX. I forgot to give my name (and didn’t realize he was asking for it as I backed away *face. palm*), and I didn’t ask for a picture because I didn’t want to cause a hoopla around him before his flight home. But as much as I geeked out on the inside, I feel like it was a nice experience for him to have someone who was genuinely interested in his work with Generous and to have a real conversation, rather than just a fan who wanted something from him. And he never has to know what a cutie he is or that Dana Black and I bonded as we spent an hour-long car ride explaining The Bachelor and Ben Higgins to Lindsay Franklin, semi against her will, but she loved it.

WRITER’S SANCTUARY RETREAT:

This was probably one of the most fruitful conferences/retreats I’ve ever attended, not just for the opportunity to connect with writers and professionals, but C.J. Redwine and Mary Weber forced us to dive deep into our writing and our own hearts. The stories we craft come from within us, and they gave us the tools to safely draw from our past hurts to heal and grow so that our characters can do 

the same. I got through several problem scenes in my work in progress that weekend!

C.J. is such a firecracker to be around, and Mary is a personal friend who has an incredible heart for the hurting. They put so much work into this retreat so that we all came away wiser and fuller so that we can spill out onto the page and be filled in our own lives.

I roomed with my friend, Kara Swanson, and we had plenty of late night convos and Instagram layout plotting sessions and talking about Tom Holland. Nadine and I got to catch up even more, and I met/reconnected with so many friends: Dana and Lindsay were my soul sisters who helped me kick off the retreat, Sarah and Becky completely surprised me with how welcoming and amazingly sweet and hilarious they are (I’m writing a romcom book about Becky and her husband’s dumpster love, no joke), and supporting Elizabeth, and getting to know Heidi more in between our Timeless fangirl chats, and Sharilyn, Tanara, Ani’a, and Alison. These ladies are amazing!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, fun fact: friends that nap together stay together. Sara Ella is one of Nadine’s closest friends, and I’d had the opportunity to officially meet her after being online friends at BeaulitfulCon in January. But when I was dead on my feet after so much travel, I crashed with Nadine and Sara in their room for a three-hour power nap, and I adore this woman! Sara has one of the sweetest hearts I have ever seen, and she and I bonded quickly over our mutual love of Kasie West, naps, Captain Hook, and Jesus, and we spent the rest of the retreat on the lookout for espresso. The last book in her Unblemished series just released, and you need to snag a copy of the gorgeous Unbroken now!

Even when you’re exhausted, it’s always sad when a retreat or conference ends because you spenda week with the most spiritually encouraging and fantastic people, and I usually come away with sore stomach muscles from all the laughter. Mary and C.J. poured their heart and soul into this retreat, and we all came away from it refreshed and ready to dive back into our writing. Danielle Smith, Mary’s agent, was such a sweetheart and volunteered to drive Nadine and I to the San Luis Obispo train station that morning, but not without a stop by SloDoCo. for the world’s most incredible Muddy Buddy and maple bacon donuts *the heavens rejoice* and for legitimate sandwiches from Gus’s. We had such a fun time getting to now Danielle and only wish we’d had more time to chat with her on the car ride.

It was about a 5-hour train ride down from SLO to L.A., during which Nadine and I reminisced about 

our incredible week, pretended to nap but really just talked and giggled with our eyes closed, ate fruit pies like true travelers (to avoid scurvy, of course), and watched our favorite BookTubers’ updates about YallWest to relive the experience. There are plenty of hilarious selfies of our shenanigans on the ride, but we’ve vowed they shall never see the light of day. But we don’t need them to remember the incredible experiences, memories, and the connections and friendships made. I already can’t wait for next year!

 

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Watches and Calendars are So Mundane

Published April 28, 2018 by Ashley Townsend

Four things that I’ve recently considered investing in:

-A private jet

-A fleet of chocolate fountains

-Caffeine IVs—excuse me, Future, you failed to bring these or Back to the Future hover boards into my life. Pfttt.

-Someone who pays attention to my schedule better than I do. Because overbooking—it’s what I do best.

juggling fail

Outside of Instagram and Facebook, I’ve been a bit absent lately. *coughs at the inadequacy of this statement* No, I did not join a fangirl cult or new library club that prevents you from checking emails and updating your blog. I have, however, been booking my crazy conference schedule for the year, planning signing events, getting back into the writing mode for Camp NaNo, overcoming a reading slump, and planning a trip out to visit my parents in Idaho. Soooooo, yeah, I think I need a second brain. Or just one that functions calmly and clearly on the mass amount of caffeine I’ve been consuming lately.

March: Spotted in the Wild!

Even though I didn’t do much writing in March, I did plenty of Camp NaNo prep and plotting and outlining for the rest of Jungle Princess (and maybe a bit of Book II, shhhhh). That’s basically like finishing the manuscript, right? *shifty eyes* I did, however, have a fabulously successful signing event at the Barnes & Noble in Grossmont Center at the end of last month, which is always so much fun to meet new friends and chat books. I met Yessenia (left), and she bought my entire series. I was the first author she’s ever had a book signed by before. SQUEEEEALLL! And my sweet, amazing friend Liv surprised me with laughter and fabulous fangirling, and she picked up Defying Shadows to complete her collection.  

APRIL: Camp NaNo Approaches.

April 1st was, obviously, Easter, although I considered spending the entire day holed away to get a jump on spring NaNo , let’s be real, family takes priority. I stayed up way past midnight to catch up, but the day was all about family and reveling in the beauty of so many hearts that are thankful to be given the choice to accept Life. Besides, there is something infinitely powerful and inspiring in beginning a new chapter of your story with an open heart and a refreshed spirit.

May: Dates Mean Nothing to Me. *facepalm*

I’m attending a book festival in L.A. next week, then staying at a friend’s place up there to do all the things besties do, and then I’ll hop on a flight the very next day to go even farther up north for a writer’s retreat in Cambria. -_- Yeah, even though I booked flights and trains and purchased lodging, somehow the dates and the fact that these events are two days apart didn’t register. Hence, the personal assistant . . . or someone who is just willing to write in the day-planner I own and shove it in my face.

But the writer’s retreat is going to be incredible! It’s hosted by C.J. Redwine and Mary Weber (yes, THE C.J. and Mary *flailing*), and so many of my amazing writer friends are going. Plus, the lodge we’re staying at is absolutely stunning and perfect for fueling writing inspiration!

June: A Little Reprieve

And by reprieve, I mean I still have two trips planned, but they’re a couple weeks apart. Phew! My sister, Katie, and I are traveling up to Idaho to visit our parents in June, and it will be exciting to see their new place, visit the lakes, and overwhelm them with our sheer volume after they’ve been away from their four daughters for so long. ^_~ Katie and I plan to do this at the airport:

mama gif

 

Also in June is the SoCal Christian Writer’s Conference, which I went to last year with Nadine Brandes and met so many fabulous people. It quickly became one of my favorite conferences, and this year is the second annual, so I can’t wait to meet up with everyone again, absorb, and keep writing!

July: WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY????????

I originally intended to go to Realm Makers and Comic Con, as I do every July, and they usually happen back-to-back weeks. It’s a lot to juggle, but it works and is so much fun because I get to wander Comic Con and cosplay and see fantastic things and meet new people, and then I get to learn and see my fabulous friends at the conference. It’s a win-win. But this year, I just discovered (TODAY) that they are over the same days, so while I’m in Missouri at Realm Makers, Comic Con will be happening in San Diego WITHOUT ME! I haven’t missed Comic Con in THREE YEARS, and I had a costume design for every day this go-round after the success of last year’s Cinderella and Indiana Jones cosplays. Guys, I am just not okay right now!!!!!!!!!

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August: I HAVEN’T GOTTEN THAT FAR YET!!!! THERE’S TOO MUCH PRESSURE, AND I’M STILL EMOTIONAL FROM NOT BEING ABLE TO ATTEND BOTH REALM MAKERS AND COMIC CON!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NaNo Prep Time

Published October 21, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

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Can you believe it’s almost November? o.0 That means NaNoWriMo is coming up in less than two weeks. It also happens to begin the same day I consider to be the start of the Christmas season, and I don’t even mind dodging the angry fruit you pre-Christmas haters want to throw at me. I’ll make Christmas fruitcake from it. ^_~

A lot of prep-work goes into the month of October to make sure that I stay focused on my project. It isn’t always easy, so aside from the usual tactics—like limiting social media, upping caffeine abuse, etc.—I’ve introduced several other helpful tricks into my October planning. They help to maintain my sanity and allow me to be prepared for NaNo so I’m not scrambling at the eleventh hour to accomplish last minute tasks.

The Hobbit Hole

I try to cram as many social engagements and catch-up phone calls with friends into October because I will basically be a hermit starting November 1st. Social calls may resume on December 1st, and please bring coffee to the creature with the blood-shot eyes and the hands that phantom-type words onto an invisible keyboard.

tom and jerry sleepy

Writing Inspiration Playlist

Whatever is on this playlist basically becomes the only music I listen to during November. Although it keeps you in the write mindset *laughs hysterically at vague joke*, listening to the same music nonstop for 30 days can make you want to turn on all the fans, have the popcorn maker going, and crank a blow-dryer on high to drown out the same loop of songs. Since these noisy distractions can be counter-productive—and send your energy bill skyrocketing—I make sure to have variation on my playlist and create it before November begins. Don’t waste time scrambling to design a playlist late in the game; save yourself the trouble and do it beforehand so you can dive into your story Nov. 1st with the perfect background inspiration guiding your fingers.

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Goodies on my playlist:

~ “Meet Me in the Woods” by Lord Huron

~ “Running if You Call My Name” by Haim

~ “All We Ever Knew” by The Head and the Heart

~ “Dreamers” by Oh Gravity (thanks to Katie Grace leading me onto it!)

~ Pride and Prejudice soundtrack

Limit Your Social Media

It’s a given, but as much as I love chatting with friends online or sharing photos of books on Instagram (see what I’m reading here), I can’t let myself fall into the social media rabbit hole during NaNo. I’ve made the mistake of spending more time chatting about my manuscript progress than actually writing it, or adding to my novel board on Pinterest.

Ways to stave off the decent into the rabbit hole:

~Prepare blog posts beforehand. It’s a lot of work, but you don’t want to stress blogging deadlines while trying to nail your word count. You can always fine-tune them later!

~Plot, plot, plot. Now, you know I’m a plotting-pantser and can’t stand to box myself in, but having a good idea of sequencing and character development for your 50,000 words gives you a goal to hit and helps to keep your focus to stave off the call of the web.

~Have a cache of photos on your phone to post on Instagram the days when there just isn’t time to stage a book tower.

~Create templates for social media posts on FB and Twitter, and consider having pics selected on Pinterest to add text from your MS to as you go along (use a formatter like PicMonkey). I have a few that I’m considering using next month that you can check out on my Jungle Princess Pinterest board

Creative Detox

Although it’s incredibly important to stay on-task and in the writing mindset during November, you can’t spend every single moment at your computer. Instead of losing your head, try to find activities that allow you to take a mental break while still encouraging your creativity.

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Ways to keep your sanity while maintaining your creative mindset:

~Go on a walk to clear your head and think about your story. Your brain will get a cramp if you don’t give it some fresh air!

~Take a nap listening to your writing playlist, or paste a chapter of your work in progress into a text-audio reader (like AlReader or NaturalReader). You can rest those tired eyes and get in some extra editing by hearing your writing out loud.

~If you want to escape into a book or film, do it! Treat yourself after a hard-fought day of writing to a mental getaway, but consider entertainment that is about writers or books, or even ones that just generally put you in a happy mental place so you can return to your manuscript creatively recharged and inspired. I’ll have a post up soon with some recommendations for my favorite writing-centered entertainment.

Now that the prep-work is set and the playlists have been created, it’s time for the most important part of NaNo: Go write that novel!

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Where Does the Joy Go?

Published October 15, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

As the years pass, where does the joy go? The earth hasn’t changed, the world doesn’t play more unfairly than it did before, and the sun and stars are still constant. So what changed to make the spark disappear?

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I was inspired to write this post after I heard someone say, “Life just loses its sparkle as you get older.” I wanted to respond with, Life is wonderful, how can you say that? But later on that night, I realized that, tragically, this can be true. The reality of adulthood takes over—less free time, bills, responsibilities up the wazoo (and using the word wazoo is no longer “age appropriate”), broken hearts, stress, deadlines. If you let them, these things will slowly leech the joy and adventure from life so that you’re just living each day on autopilot, waiting for it to be over so it can inevitably begin again. The day-to-day becomes tedious, and eventually, the dawn turns into something that you dread.

This harsh reality really bothered me, and I wondered why it should be that the joy and excitement of life should end because a new chapter of life begins. But does it really? I began to realize that the magic that exists in the world doesn’t disappear, rather we let the cares of this life distract us to the point that we’re too exhausted to look for it when it seems scarce.

the heavens declare the glory of god

As children, everyday seemed to hold a bit of mystery and excitement, but we’ve become too focused on more money and success, the idea that maybe a different relationship or occupation would complete us, or a million dollars would solve all our problems (or an extra 8 hours in the day to write my work in progress *cough*). That’s not to say a few of these things wouldn’t be nice, but it’s untrue that our lives would be perfect or “complete” because of these fleeting things. Discontentment breeds jealousy and greed and a restlessness that nothing can satisfy. I’m not exempt from the “if-only” idea, but I am a firm believe in the magic of everyday things and the hope that it produces, and the excitement of a new adventure.

incredible carl sagan

I have to admit that I’ve never understood people when they say that the love between them and another “simply died.” Call me naïve, but the only way that can happen is if no one tries to save it. Love is like a flower—you have to care for it so that it continues to grow and flourish, even if it isn’t as young and beautiful as it once was; if you ignore it and forget it exists, it will die. The same goes for the belief in the excitement that occurs in life: we have to choose to look for it, especially when it seems impossible to find because that’s when we need a bit of magic the most.

 

the best view hardest climb

Just this week I was having a difficult time finding that spark of joy after a tough week of stress and feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. I was sitting there in traffic, grumbling about the sun in my eyes, and then as I glared at it for another minute, I suddenly saw how beautiful the sunset was. I had spent the entire drive home complaining about something that, since I would have been caught in traffic anyway, should have been enjoyed. The rising and setting of the sun is some of the most obvious magic you can find, and I had almost let it pass by unnoticed because I was too caught up in the bustle of life, the competition to get one more car ahead so I could race home to—what? Drudge the next day?

Nuh-uh.

awfully big adventure peter pan

God did not put us on this earth to work ourselves to death earning money that disappears all too quickly and to lament each day He’s given us. Every morning our eyes open is a miracle, and my challenge to you this week is to remind yourself to seek out the miracle in today. Easier said than done, right? Trust me, I’ve been there and am still there sometimes, struggling to find the joy in the things that exist around me. But it’s there, even in the small things—the leaves shifting color, the falling rain against a window, meeting a writing deadline, a new dawn brining with it a clean slate. And when you feel you can’t see the magic, be bold and create your own! Climb a mountain, explore the sea, take a long drive with the windows down while the rain is pouring, find a new bookstore (umm , bibliophile!), try something you’ve never done before. This life was intended for us to learn and explore and live it. We just have to choose to keep our eyes and hearts open to the magic of the everyday and to not let our sparkles—our inner light—die out.

So, where does the joy go? It’s been there all along, though it shifts forms like a chameleon and is sometimes tricky to spot. But if you keep on the lookout for it, the world might surprise you.

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!

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*

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.

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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?

At Last! A Comic Con Recap!!

Published August 25, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

If you followed my Instagram leading up to SDCC and my survival guide post beforehand, you can tell Comic Con pretty much consumed the weeks leading up to the event. Why, you ask? Because this year I attempted something I’ve never done: a different cosplay for every day. *pauses for ooohs* Also for the first time: forgetting that I had this post completed THREE weeks ago when it should have been posted. -_- *ahem* Moving on….

Day 1 Recap:

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Cosplay for this day was Indiana Jones for me, and my sister and faithful SDCC companion, Liz, went at the Eleventh (and best) Doctor. The screwdriver lit up and made sounds, and I’ll admit I was geeking out over it.

Liz got to meet Leigh Bardugo, and we were surprised with ARC copies of her Wonder Woman novel, Warbringer! The precioussssssss.20170720_111454

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This guy ^ was dressed as Rick from The Mummy films, and I literally chased him down to get this pic. He was so nice and charming and shocked that I knew who he was, and I was just trying to be cool with “Alex” and not drool. His charisma matched the character so perfectly. *le sigh*

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Some major highlights were getting pics with the tallest Flynn Rider and Captain America we’d seen, meeting my video game hero, Tomb Raider, and was amazed by thegirl’s fabulous cosplay of the original game. We ate fabulous soft-pretzels, I received a high-five from Patrick Star for asking him if mayonnaise was an instrument (it’s a classic “Bang Geeks” reference, guys), we saw the Timeless fan tribute panel, and then shared a Lyft ride with one of the terribly engaging men from the group of kilt- but not shirt-clad handsomeness that wanders downtown during the Con. All in all, not a bad day!

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Day 2 Recap: My first “real” attempt at sewing was Cinderella’s pink dress after the evil stepsisters had torn it apart. Designing a torn dress sounds simple . . . It’s NOT! Anywho, we missed the Psych panel in the morning—much to our dismay, especially since we were close enough to hear the fans screaming—but we did see the iZombie panel in the morning and had stitches in our sides for the rest of the day from laughing.

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Liz and I also met BookTubers Jesse the Reader and Christine Riccio when we were preparing to leave (must. contain. fangirl!!), searched for fabulous flare, and got pics with Arrow—sort of. We don’t have many photos from this day because we spent it in panels, getting swag, and it was so crowded that it was difficult to move.

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Day 3 Recap: Okay, now to the juicy stuff! Liz and I attempted to go to the Once Upon a 

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Time and Riverdale panels in Ballroom 20. *cough* Yeah, that didn’t happen. We got there right as the doors opened and . . . were promptly led a ¼ mile from the convention center and down by the marina to line up, where we had to wind our way back up in the heat and humidity. We were 30 stinking people away from getting into Ballroom 20, and we spent hours on the floor hoping that people would leave. No dice! We thought it would be a crummy start to the day, but Saturday was AMAZING and held so many surprises, including our fabulous friend, Gabriela, hanging with us for the day and using her baby backpack to make space on the floor so I could run after fantastic cosplayers. One of my favorite parts of the adventure was taking pictures with the kids who thought I was the real 20170722_134857Cinderella, and seeing the joy on their faces made the whole experience magical. Guys, I want to be a Disney princess!

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This Kid Flash was adorable and hilarious. I told him to strike a running pose, and he immediately got into Barry Allen’s 

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running position. This kid deserves a medal!

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Attacking Derek Theler, which I’m now embarrassed about blurting out his name and following through by asking for a pic, but totally worth the memory! 

Liz and I discovered that hanging by one of the bathroom’s meant that the entire casts of Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl had to walk right past us. Brandon Routh is just as handsome in person, but Franz (who plays Jackson on Legends) was so sweet and stayed behind on the floor to take pictures with fans. Honestly, he was so genuine and immediately made us love him more.

And ending the night was the most hilarious surprise of all. The floor was crowded, and Liz and I were exhausted, so we leaned against the foam “room” that was the Outlander booth. People repeatedly asked us if we were in line, so we kept moving out of the way because there were lines everywhere and you never know what you’re getting into. Eventually, we wandered around the front so as to not confuse people and discovered, four feet away, the entire cast of Outlander at their signing. I’d nearly busted through that foam wall by accident and fallen right into Jamie’s lap (now I’m a little bummed I didn’t lean harder!).

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We had become pros by this time, so we waited at the edge of the gathering when the 20170722_154029bagpipes started to play. Yes, I said bagpipes. While everyone else tried to usher actors out as quickly as possible, they announced their departure like they were waltzing down the Red Carpet. Liz and I laughed at the fanfare as they walked right by, Sam Heughen smiling and working that crowd the entire time. I’ll admit that he definitely sells it, and these Sassenachs didn’t mind stumbling upon that fabulous memory one bit.

It might be a few weeks late, but there you have it! This year’s SDCD was full of great laughs, fabulous memories, and plenty of new adventures. And it never hurts to learn new secrets for next year!

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