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Plugging Along—NaNo Update

Published November 17, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

It’s time for an update on NaNo!!

Don’t you love how, in my last post, I was just talking about how NaNoWriMo was coming and that it’s important to be prepared and that you should have a bunch of posts scheduled and that you shouldn’t have run-on sentences and should definitely use commas. *takes a breath* But then you’re halfway through the month of chaos and emerge from your walking-slumber to find that WordPress hates you and didn’t publish the aforementioned posts.

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Oh, well, at least you’ll see them at some point! In the meantime, let me give you a quick update on the goings-on so far this month.

We’re over the hump and are moving into the home stretch. Can you believe it? For me, the past two weeks have been spent prepping for Thanksgiving and CHRISTMAS, getting ready for upcoming signing events I have scheduled (one this weekend! Details below), planning for out of state friends to stay for Thanksgiving, preparing for holiday parties at the office I work at, and also balancing travel for several conferences next year. Phew! How is writing going for you this NaNo in the midst of the holidays? For me, you ask? Wellllllllllll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Stefan happy face

Do all those periods count as words? Then I have 18. ^_~ Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. All things considered, I’ve had a pretty good November for writing. If you check out my Instagram here, you can find a bunch of images for my current work in progress for NaNo scattered about my feed, and creating those word-images was seriously fun. My favorite and most productive writing times were with my friend Kara Swanson, who is just a machine, guys! Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays—whenever we had the chance—she and I would hop online together and write for hours, sprinting and sharing snippets and writing our hearts out until the night turned into a new day. It was so inspiring and fun, and I highly recommend grabbing a friend and motivating each other to keep going. Everything is more fun with a buddy!

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT:

Now that we’re on the topic of buddies—and partly because I had, like, three cups of coffee today and can’t keep on one topic for long—how would you like to join me this Saturday, November 18th, at 2 p.m.? I’ll be joining a few writers at the Mira Mesa Barnes and Noble in the Westview Parkway shopping center this Saturday for their local author event. For those of you who live in SoCal, come join me for free Rising Shadows goodies, to pick up a copy of your favorite book in the series and have it signed by me, or just to chat. I’ll be getting there early, so stop by and say “hi.” I hope to see you there!

 

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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.

reading

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

 

 

 

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?

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!

 

 

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!

Part 6: The Tricks of the Trade

Published April 7, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Wow, has it really been so long since I last posted?! . . . . Oopsies! Got a little distracted there for a bit, but now I’m back on track and ready to get at it. Now, where were we? Ah, yes:

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 6: The Tricks of the Trade

typewriter

Things a writer should definitely be aware of:

Conferences:

In the modern age, it’s crazy simple to search “Writing conferences in your area” and get a ton of hits. Conferences are going on all the time and are a great way to expand your network and learn things about the industry that you never even imagined.

I’m attending Realm Makers at the end of July. It takes place in Pennsylvania and is an awesome conference for Christian spec-fic writers to share their stories and learn about the craft. I’ve had the pleasure of getting connected with authors and speakers who will be in attendance this year, and their encouragement and lively attitude is incredible. I hope you’ll join us there, and registration is open now!

Natural Reader:

This app saved my life while editing Chasing Shadows! (download the free version here) I was going bonkers reading the manuscript over and over, and then I discovered this bad boy. I would copy and paste a few chapters at a time into the app, and then while I’m cleaning the house or getting ready for work, I could audibly catch errors that my eyes had just skipped right over by the 32nd edit. When you read you manuscript so much, your brain just auto-fills, and although the monotone voice can be a little grating at first, this was such an invaluable tool! I’m also pretty positive it saved me from chucking Chasing Shadows right out the window.

PicMonkey:

I joined PicMonkey a little while ago, but never really took full advantage of its process until recently. It saves so much time and makes every announcement or advertisement look so much more Wow! when you can create your own graphics over an image and design it specifically for your event/announcement.  

http://www.grammarbook.com/

This website is fantastic! I have it bookmarked on my phone so whenever I have a quick grammar issue to check, and I can just look up the problem super quick and be done with it, rather than stare at the screen vacillating between whether I’m right or wrong.  

And a couple things my good friend and fellow author, Nadine Brandes (check her out here—she’s amazing!), introduced me to are https://evernote.com/?var=1 and https://clicktotweet.com/

Evernote—basically it links all of your devices and the work you do on them so you’re never without it! I’m still getting used to it, but it’s pretty fantastic and handy.

Click to Tweet—now this is awesome! I’ve seen Nadine and other bloggers use this little tool, and it. Is. Marvelous! It’s only free for the first month, but for a measly $7 a month, I can embed links for people to easily tweet about anything I post on or share. Just invest, okay?!

Well, that’s about it for today. I promise not to let so much time pass before I chat your eyes off next time. But until then, stay crazy, Shadows!

 

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