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NaNo Prep Time

Published October 21, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

writer

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.

old piano

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!

writing

 

 

 

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September Wrap-Up: October, Take Me Away

Published October 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

october

(Thank you, WordPress, for eating my scheduled post that I stayed up working on until midnight. I appreciate the challenge! *cries softly*)

October has arrived!! That means fall weather for those of us not in Southern California, my birthday in two days *cough, cough*, watching the leaves change, NaNoWriMo prep (I’m not sure whether to feel excited or terrified…), and getting one month closer to CHRISTMAS! I’m not excited about that at all. ^_~

The first half of September was . . . shall we say, a mite stressful? My sisters and I spent all of August apartment hunting and had at last settled on a place. Between the four of us, we were preparing to move, experiencing job changes, going to classes, working full time, and I was trying to find a spare minute to work on Jungle Princess.

not simple

I seriously considered dedicating my sparse free-time to enlisting the professor’s assistance from Rising Shadows or that of the Eleventh Doctor to help me find more hours in the day, or to simply travel back in time so I could learn how to be more efficient. I am soooo ready to dedicate October to writing and to mentally preparing myself (and 1,345 cups of coffee) for NaNo this November. 50,000 words, anyone? Anyone? Maybe this is the year! . . . I said “maybe.”

I honestly cannot remember a single thing that I did this month before the move. Although, random side note, no one needs a gym when you have to walk ¼ mile for your mail everyday. Calves of steel, baby! Anywho, my baby sis, Katie, turned the big 2-1 just after we moved in. I. KNOW! A part of me will always see the spunky toddler with white-blond pigtails and too-big sunglasses entertaining us all with loads of maturity and personality. Then again, she’s always acted like more of an adult than me, so maybe it isn’t too shocking that she’s all growed-up. Haha. 

My phone decided to commit suicide right before an event at Barnes and Noble, tragically taking with it to the phone grave all of my photos, contacts, and promotional posts for the event that I had stored on the phone. I scrambled that morning to try and recover what I could, but alas, Toto was no more. I’m really okay with it, though. 

cry face

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.

yes

 

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

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

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

What is your favorite form of procrastination?

Defying Shadows Turns 1 Giveaway!

Published August 6, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Goodbye, July!

Published August 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

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

August

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

hiding

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

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

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

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

digging out of a hole

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

What I read: 

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor ***

strange

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

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

the girl who could see

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

Purple Moon, by Tessa Emily Hall ****

purple moon

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

Angel Eyes, by Shannon Dittemore ****

angel eyes

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

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

lucky in love

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

you complete me

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

 

 

Exhausted, Refreshed . . . INSPIRED!

Published June 30, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Prepare the Coffee! Camp NaNo Has Begun

Published April 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

 

If you are like 90% of Americans, you’ve probably never heard of Camp NaNo, even if you have heard of its terrifying counterpart and older sister, NaNoWriMo *shivers at the memories of sleep deprivation and caffeine abuse*

I’ll lay it out simply for you:

girl writing nature     -There are cabins that you can create or join on the site to “hang” with your buddies or get randomly assigned with new writing friends.

     -Forums allow you to share snippets of your story and offer up encouragement, advice, and fangirling during your cabin mates’ writing process.

     -And the best part is that YOU set your own goals for April!

 

That’s right. During the month-long fest of awesomeness that is Camp NaNo, you decide a realistic word count goal that works for you. Or if you’re better at managing chapters or pages, then use that as your motivational guide. You can work as hard as you want to, and instead of burning yourself out by reaching 50,000 words in 30 days, you can set a goal of 30,000 words (like me!). And the best part of April is the community of writers you get connected with, who are aspiring and struggling to meet goals or connect ideas just like you.

hugs sadness

This picture is so accurate, it hurts.

I have never been to camp and haven’t *cough* successfully participated in Camp NaNo before. I know, the horror! But knowing that my circle of amazing encouragers and beta-readers and writer-friends has grown so much makes me want to dive right in and tackle whatever goal I’ve set for myself. That’s my favorite part of Camp, just understanding a goal and having the support you need to reach it or the Oreos and coffee when you don’t. As cheesy as it sounds, it isn’t about the goals you set but the journey and the people along the way.

So here’s to the next 30 days, friends. I have a feeling it will be epic!

high five fist bump psych

And stay tuned this month for more Fangirl’s Survival Guide posts and Camp NaNo updates.

 

 

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