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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.

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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:

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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!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, What A Year! 2017 Highlights

Published January 1, 2018 by Ashley Townsend

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2017 was a exciting and . . . interesting, full of tricky transitions and fantastic adventures. As many highs and lows as there were, one thing can be said of this past year: It was definitely memorable (except for January because I honestly don’t remember anything about that month, except for my TBR pile *slinks away in shame*)

One word about February: Nashville. 

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I went out to visit my bestie for her birthday in February, and Nashville is now one of my IMG_3117favorite places. From Honkey Tonking to my first chicken and waffles, being Southern Belles on the porch of a plantation to hearing fabulous live music at the Bluebird Cafe, and there was also flipping flapjacks like pros at the Pfunky Griddle (which was pfabulous!) and the eight coffee shops we managed to cram into a few days. It was a week of amazing memories of adventure and hilarious laughs, and I immediately wanted to go back afterward.

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We all know NaNoWriMo, but who has participated in Camp NaNo in April?

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I met up in Michigan with my incredible Realmie Roomies (also known as my soulmates, Tricia Mingerink, Katie Erickson, and Nadine Brandes) for a week of pounding away at IMG_3112the keyboard. But it wasn’t just work, and we took time to explore Tricia’s awesome property, goof off, laugh hysterically, floor-swim, eat all the Oreos we could, drink enough coffee and chai to float a ship, and watch The Legend of Tarzan … for writing research purposes only. *cough, cough* We even got to run across a rope bridge and fly through the air on the rope swing at the farm. I felt like I understand the Jane character in my work in progress a bit more now. ^_~ These lovely humans are a group of encouragers and pure joy, and I’m so grateful for the time we had together to motivate one another to beat that word count and keep going.

The next month was a blur of writing and work, and then my car got totaled one night by a drunk hit-and-run (not the funnest way to celebrate Mother’s Day). But I made some incredible memories in June. I traveled up to L.A. to attend the first ever SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, and I think this will forever be a favorite and I am definitely going again this year.

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I roomed with Nadine who, as I mentioned before, is one of my favorite people on the planet! I went into this conference not knowing anyone and walked away with countless memories and so many new forever-friends that I know will always sneak away to grab boba tea and steal Shan Dittemore’s car for an adventure (with her permission, of course). 

There’s just something about writing conferences that brings out the best in everyone, IMG_3109and no matter where you look, you find a new friend and encourager. I met KARA SWANSON in the bathroom the first morning when we groggily introduced ourselves, and then we shared corn dogs and became fast friends. Now we’re planning conferences together (BeaulitfulCon this month!) and visits and send text inspiration to one another every day. She’s also my midnight writing companion and keeps me focused when life threatens to get in the way of writing.

July—SDCC, man.

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You can see my post on that week HERE, so these are just a few highlights. I always go IMG_3093with my big sis, Liz, and the Eleventh Doctor and Indiana Jones has a blast those four days exploring and wandering and stumbling upon the secret bathroom where all the actors get funneled past. Playing Cinderella was a lot more fun that I imagined because the kids think you’re the real deal, and after being asked to pose with sweet kiddos for so many pics, I decided I want to be a Disney princess. Also, next to Lara Croft and Indiana Jones (obviously), Rick from The Mummy was my adventuring hero growing up. And it didn’t hurt that he was charismatic and quite the charmer. *wink* 

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I’d rather forget August, to be honest. My sisters and I spent the entire month looking for an apartment, and it was so stressful that I think we’ll just brush that under the rug and move onto September, when we moved in and celebrated my sister Katie’s 21st birthday two days later. Phew! It’s great to have our own space, though, and NEW BOOKSHELVES!!!!  

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I had two big signing and panel events at the end of the month, which was crazy after just having moved into our new place, but they were so much fun. I’ve done signings before, but the panel at Barnes & Noble Mira Mesa was different and exciting—and a bit strange—because there was a specific Q&A, questions from fans, and a lot of the guests stuck around afterward to chat about writing and my books. And my online friend, Liv, surprised me there, which was such a fantastic surprise!!!! 

My birthday happened at the beginning of October, and Chasing Shadows turned 3 the next day. My baby is so growed up! *flails* It was basically just a month of writing and preparing for NaNoWriMo. 

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I designed a bunch of word-pictures for NaNo to give everyone a taste of my WIP that you can find on my Instagram, and I love how they turned out! 

Ah, November. A month designed to test my endurance and my keyboard’s ability to keep up and not burst into flames. I knew the end of the month would be slammed with friends visiting and B&N signing events, but having those late-night writing sessions with Kara totally saved my hide. I didn’t master NaNo this year, but I actually stayed on top of my goals and explored corners of my story and the characters’ lives that I’d never considered before. Surprise twists, even for a writer, are so exciting!

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My bestie, Rebekah, and her sister, Elizabeth, visited us for Thanksgiving, and we had a blast. We were like kids running around Sea World and found the Promised Land in the form of Starbucks coffee and the churro stand, and we still laugh over practically dying with the wet cold and our chant that got us home—Chipotle, shower, warm pants, tea. There was also the ferry from Coronado Island to downtown with the most hilarious tour guide, a gorgeous day at Cabrillo, Thanksgiving, and plenty of delightful adventures and coffee to keep us alive. 

December was full of highs and lows. My parents moved out of California just two days after Christmas, so it was weird wandering through our old house full of boxes and empty rooms when we’d spent so many Christmases there before. But I have amazing memories from our time there, and it was so special to have Christmas events where we got all the family together to celebrate just being together. It makes you appreciate the moments and memories you have right now.

I don’t usually make resolutions because I feel they can be so easily broken or are silly things that I’ll never do … like exercise or stop drinking coffee (HOW DARE YOU?!). But I do have one plan for 2018, and I’m sticking to it and hope you’ll give it a shot.

Never stop trying!

Where Did the Time Go???

Published December 13, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

Let’s just pretend it hasn’t been nearly a month since my last post. *headdesk* In my defense, a lot has gone on the last few weeks: Lifelong friends came to stay, I traveled around to different bookstores for signing events (ahhhhhhhh), I’m making progress in Jungle Princess, holiday events occurred, and we’re helping my parents pack for their out-of-state move before Christmas. We’re having a little pre-Christmas celebration before they go and have been spending as much time as possible soaking up our days together. I come from a pretty close-knit family, so my sisters and I have been setting aside a lot of our busywork to just absorb life with them, which is one of the reasons why I’ve been a little absent lately. But fret not, friends, I’ll be back at it soon enough, though I’m going to take a break for a couple more weeks to be a spazz with my amazing fam.

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Mom looks so angelic while Dad, Katie, and I are staging a Christmas tree assault. Bahaha

Just don’t ask me how many books my Goodreads says I read last month because, well . . . What makes the number 2 sound more impressive?

crying shameThe reviews for the two books are at the end of this post. I know it sounds like nothing, but although I couldn’t technically add them to Goodreads, I had the chance to help some author friends out by providing input on their manuscripts before they shot them off for final edits, so that was so incredibly exciting to see their stories before they get added to Goodreads. *flails* And speaking of flailing, have you seen the cover for Fawkes by Nadine Brandes? The book releases in July of next year, and I. Need. This. Now. TAKE MY MONEY!! You can and should add it to Goodreads and pre-order on Amazon (click here), or preferably both. *wink* When Nadine sent me the cover before the reveal, I literally shrieked and did an excited little giddy-up dance around my living room (#noshame). Look at the cover below and try not to drool.

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It’s gorgeous and embossed. “And all the fangirls said, ‘Amen.’” grabby hands

Also, last month I was preparing for a signing event at the Barnes & Noble in Mira Mesa just hours before I was supposed to pick up my lifelong friends from the airport for Thanksgiving week. It was a bit hectic that day, to say the least. The author event was a lot of fun, and I had the chance to meet several local writers that I’ll definitely be keeping in touch with. But my favorite part of the afternoon was getting to hang with my friend Liv and grabbing a coffee afterward. She is just such a sweet, calming presence at these things, and it calms my giddy nerves whenever I see her familiar face in the crowd.

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It was definitely crazy getting ready for the event, Thanksgiving, and my friends coming to stay for the week, but we all had an absolute blast together hopping around San Diego—playing in the water on Coronado Island, taking ferry rides with the most hilarious tour guide possible, having a blast at Sea World (despite the fact that we nearly died from lack of coffee, but churros saved out lives), exploring the tide pools at Cabrillo, and just having a fabulous time catching up with old friends.

If you were following my Instagram during NaNo, you probably saw my word-pics for my work in progress, Jungle Princess. These were so much fun to make, and a few of the images actually inspired new scenes for my wip, so HUZZAH! I told you I would share a few of my favorites on my blog and hope they pique your interest in the story of mermaids and magical islands and monsters and . . . Tarzan. Hmm. I was really go for alliteration there, but I had to sneak his name in somehow. ^_~

And feeeeeeeeeeeeeels.

WHAT I READ: 

“The English Spy” by Daniel Silva ***

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I enjoyed the book and think I would have liked it more if I’d had more time to dedicate to it, so maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a slower-paced—and what I assumed was a—spy-thriller. Some of the characters were fun, but there was so much politics and unnecessary plot building that I think it became more of a distraction than an aid to the story. Overall, it was enjoyable, I just wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

“The Afterlife of Holly Chase” by Cynthia Hand *****

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Just in time for Christmas! This book was such a clever take on A Christmas Carol, and from the first page showcased Hand’s unsurprisingly fabulous sense of humor (any Lady Janies out there?). The story really begins after Holly fails her “Scrooge-test” and ends up being recruited by the company that puts the productions together to turn lives around. Usually the self-absorbed protagonist-who-is-guaranteed-to-change-her-ways plot bugs me because you have to drudge through so much of the character’s hideous personality, but Holly isn’t mean-spirited and ends up being really likeable, so kudos to Hand for nailing it. This story was full of heart and character development and quotable phrases and, of course, plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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!

The Fangirl’s Guide to Navigating Life: COMIC CON!!

Published July 17, 2017 by Ashley Townsend
The Fangirl’s Guide to Navigating Life:
Surviving Comic Con
In case you haven’t noticed all the social media hoopla or cosplay pics galore accosting your social media feed, Comic Con is just around the corner. Let the nerds and fangirls unite!! I did a LOT of research and prep work for my first venture into the Greatest Geekfest in America, but I had no idea what to expect or what I was getting myself into.
Heads up: If you’re wearing an incredibly elaborate Alice in Zombieland dress, make sure the hem won’t be too long so the crowds don’t step on it every five seconds . . . or so you don’t trip on it going up the stairs (true story). As Edna Mode says, “NO CAPES!”
 
Now, years later, I’ve got a few quick tools and tricks under my belt that take some of the guesswork out of SDCC. And if it does become a bit of a headache, there’s aspirin in my survival pack for that. ~_^
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The survival pack: 
Your CC badge, of course
Camera — no explanation necessary.
Phone and charger
Comfy kicks — anytime you can swap out those cosplay shoes for something comfortable to walk in, do it! Your tired feet will thank you.
Protein bars and water — you won’t always have time to stop for sustenance and need these on hand.
Cool shades/sunnies for waiting outside
Chapstick!!!!!
Gum
Business cards — you’d be surprised at the friends and potential readers you meet in line or on the floor.
Notebook, pen, and Sharpie (autographs and notes).
A watch — time WILL get away from you.
A few random items to bring are bandaids, lotion, aspirin, oil absorbing tissues for your face, safety pins, and double-sided tape for costume repair. Be prepared!
 
Planning your trip:
While most of you probably already have your schedule down, it’s definitely worth downloading the Comic Con app. You can save events to your schedule, signings, and exhibitors to know exactly who will be where, and there are even nifty notifications that let you know when an event is coming up. They also have extra details of the schedule on the Comic Con website that are worth checking out or downloading. And when you get your swag bag the first day, make sure to keep the gigantic events guide they give you. It seems cumbersome, but this shall be your guide for the next four days (or however long you decide to spend in the Fangirls’ Promised Land).
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For locals headed downtown, parking can get crazy expensive in some of the lots (if you can find a space, it’s around $40-$60 for each day), and they block off some of the underground parking during CC. Getting someone to drop you off near Market St. is ideal, but Ubering is awesome if you don’t want to bother with the traffic, and half the locals take the trolley down because it dumps you right in front of the con. If you’re flying in and staying in a hotel downtown, it’s worth the walk to the Convention Center, or you can Uber or take a Lyft. Traffic is usually worst Friday and Saturday, so if you can avoid it these days, it’s definitely worth having these backup plans in mind!
 
I’ll admit I’m no expert, but these small hacks make attending Comic Con a breeze. My biggest recommendation is to not overbook your week with activities and fill every minute. Allow some gaps in your schedule for discovering new things, wandering, shopping, and, of course, taking pics with amazing cosplayers. Speaking of costumes, I plan to have FOUR cosplay changes over the week, so stay tuned on Instagram for pics of the fun and adventures that await. Will I see you there?
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