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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?

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!

Camp NaNo Update

Published April 26, 2017 by Ashley Townsend
Do you like how I start a blog series, do one post, go on a writers’ retreat, and then post weeks later with a completely different topic? 
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Well, I am down on my knees begging your forgiveness so I can share how Camp NaNo is going so far and give you April updates. I also solemnly swear that I am up to much good and will shortly resume the Fangirl’s Guide to Navigating Life series, and I’ll be sharing some exciting news about the Rising Shadows Trilogy in upcoming posts. There’s a little teaser on this news about four posts back on my Instagram (click here!!!).
Now, onto business!
April has been AMAZING! It was compete craziness at first, prepping for Camp NaNo, working on Jungle Princess, preparing for my writers’ retreat, and remembering to breathe. And caffeinate, definitely caffeinate. But the Realmie Roomie (w)Riting Retreat was the perfect way to kick off Camp NaNo, thanks to my lovely Realmie Roomies, Nadine (follow her inspiring blog here), Tricia (Deliver just released!! *flails*), and Katie (this girl writes approximately 4,786 words per minute. No joke). We had missed each other like crazy since Realm Makers last July and decided to gather together in Michigan for a refreshing time of motivation and inspiration.
Having our writing team together was a huge push for all of us to reach our goals, spending countless hours during the day Word Warring, being startled by terrifying timers when we were in the zone, and hitting some word counts that we had never managed before. I was pretty jazzed to reach over 60,000 words in my current work in progress by the end of the trip, so WIN!! These Three Writing Musketeers are such a constant encouragement and inspiration, and I know I never would have been so motivated to keep writing if it hadn’t been for these amazing friends and writers. 
I feel like I should say that it was nothing but work and that I wrote seven novels during the trip, which is nice and all . . . but we had way more fun than that! 
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“What, precisely, did you have fun doing?” you might ask. A few things that kept us distracted when our eyes were burning from staring at a computer screen for too long were:
-floor swimming and dance-athons (because exercise helps the mind)
-PIZZA!!! 
-CHAI!!!!! (a reward at the end of each night)
-OREOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*%$@#@!$ (because exclamations aren’t enough)
-tromping through Tricia’s yard like Hobbits exploring the land with Gandalf
-waking up and writing with Tricia, morning coffee with Katie (after late night writing), and giggling with my soul-sister, Nadine
-Hot Dog Fry Saturday (and S’MORES!!!!)
-book chats/singing all the songs
-running across a rope bridge in heels . . . for book research
-swinging on “vines” (a rope swing) for jungle research
-watching The Legend of Tarzan for *cough* *cough* research ^_~
-laughing until we got abs like Alexander Skarsgard
-giggling until 2 a.m. about dog props and “the smolder,” a conversation inspired by my blind love of Pierce Brown
-turning a disastrous gate change in Chicago into an adventure and the funniest sprint you will ever see three girls make across an airport (after getting pulled over by security because apparently they have a thing against delicious teas and saucepans).
As you can see, our retreat was not only productive, but a total blast and just what we all needed. It definitely helped me to get a jumpstart on my productivity for the month, and as the end of April approaches, I am so close to my NaNo goal that I’m feeling pretty good right now. That’s not to say it hasn’t been hectic lately, but I think we’re going to get there with our sanity intact.
So here’s to the last few days of NaNo, my fellow campers. Whether we win or lose Camp this April, just remember that there will always be Oreos, pizza, great friends, good books, and Tarzan. 
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