Autumn

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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*

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The Songs of Mordor (a.k.a NaNoWriMo)

Published November 8, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

November is a time of family, autumn leaves, snuggly clothing (I live in San Diego, so . . . . I basically never get to wear my sweaters *cries*), thankfulness, an obsession with the PSL (I had to ask someone—apparently, it’s lingo for Pumpkin Spice Latte *shrugs*). Seems pretty quaint, right?

Well, for writers the month of November is basically a crazed adventure film where people who live a thousand lives and imagine the impossible embark on a journey to the Great Mount Fifty (also know as Mordor). You either make it or die trying. *dramatic music swells*

 

frodo-mordor

Don’t know what I’m talking about? 

IT’S NANOWRIMO, PEOPLE! A month where authors take on the task of reaching 50,000 words in their work in progress in a meager 30 days. Why not a month that has 31 days to it? . . . . I honestly don’t know, because when you’re strapped to the seemingly innocent task of at least 1,666 words per day, even a few hours can be helpful.

nanowrimo

And everyone knows that epic movies and adventures require the proper soundtrack for inspiration. Do you think Captain Ahab wasn’t humming some Journey power-ballad to himself when he attempted to slay Moby Dick, or that literary greats didn’t bob their heads to some intense Mozart tune while penning their poetry? Or that any Marvel film would be as exciting without a score or AC/DC number to guide the scene on?

Negatory, my friends. “Where words fail, music speaks.” Thank you, Hans Christian Andersen. Some of my greatest blocks while writing the Rising Shadows trilogy were overcome by the right tune that sparked my inspiration and set the mood for the scene, unblocking me like some good ol’ Drano for the mind. . . . I think I took it too far.

picard

 

Anyway, below is my playlist that helped me work past today’s word count goals for The Jungle Princess. It’s basically a compilation of songs that I just love listening to and put me in a great mood to write, but some also fit seamlessly as the inspiration for current chapters in JP. So, this begs the question, what’s on your writing playlist? What music inspires you? Are you hooked by lyrics, the melody, or both? Or are you like me and listen to the same song on repeat for hours until the scene comes together perfectly? Cheers to that! *clanks mugs of coffee, because caffeine means survival*

“Hurt Somebody” – Dierks Bentley

“It’ll All Work Out” – Tom Petty

“Love Someone” – Jason Mraz

“Start of Time” – Gabrielle Aplin

“On My Way Back Home” – Band of Horses

“This Town” – Niall Horan

“Don’t Worry Baby” – The Beach Boys

“Beat the Devil’s Tatto” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

“Losing My Mind” – Charlie Puth

“Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran

“Hurricane” – Need to Breathe

“Springsteen” – Eric Church

“Back on the Map” – Kacey Musgraves

“One Day” – Kodaline

“Don’t You (Forget about Me)” – Simple Minds

 

 

 

 

Whether There Be Weather

Published October 2, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” John Ruskin

This is a sweet quote, and all, and normally I would agree. However, the weather (or lack of any change in the temperature) has left myself—and most of San Diego—in desperate need of reprieve from the mundane 108 degrees on Monday, 106 degrees Tuesday, and so on. I mean, for the love of all that is holy! It’s October! And it’s also been too hot to bake inside, something most of you know is a favorite pastime of mine, so we’ve taken to baking in the barbeque; we’re actually pretty good at it, too. Okay, reining myself back in before I go off on some incensed viral tirade about how I haven’t worn jeans or any variation of a shirt with sleeves since April; the heat is make it verrrrry difficult to practice my Fruit of the Spirit Challenge this week, so hopefully I can cool down—literally—by Friday. Anywho, the purpose for today’s update is to share with you all the joy I find in weather, and maybe I can pretend that I’m sitting in a pile of fluffy white snow and not contemplating dumping a bucket of ice over my head.

My younger sister, Katie, and I were discussing our favorite months while we baked (not literally, unfortunately) and made iced coffees in the kitchen. It got me reminiscing about what weather used to feel like, that moment in September when you look outside and suddenly know that autumn is here with winter close at its heels. As a kid when we lived in Colorado Springs, I always loved October. Each year on my birthday—tomorrow, by the way, and gifts are accepted!—it was always perfectly cool, and nearly every single birthday, there would be this incredible fine mist that would let you know winter was on its way, and I loved that.

Most of the leaves had fallen by then, leaving a carpet of reds and golds and pale yellows, though some golden-red stragglers still clung to the branches, swaying gently in the crisp passing breeze. Katie and I used to rake piles and piles of dried leave in our front yard and launch ourselves across the grass into the mounds. I even remember the smell in the autumn and early-winter air; somehow the crispness of the temperature heightened every incredible scent in around you, and the mulching leaves scattered in yards and across the street gave the air with this delicious, spicy aroma that made you think of pumpkin patches and hayrides and being a kid in autumn. Everything about it was, in all honesty, magical. When you’re young, everything is exciting and enchanting, and October was always that way for me, though I always looked forward to the coming of winter.

The first snow usually came in the middle of the night. Starting about a decade back, when Katie and I woke up in the morning in the Springs and saw that beautiful, powdery dusting of white spread over our small part of the world, we would smile at each other, grab a quilt—whether or not it was actually cold inside—beg our mom to let us have hot chocolate for breakfast, and then curl up on the couch together and sip our cocoa. It was our way of acknowledging the arrival of winter, and it was an even better excuse for some liquid chocolate. Then the first actual snow would hit, and by “actual” I mean enough powder for a kid to really play in, and it would send all the adults into panic mode because they weren’t sure if the roads were too icy to drive to work on before they realized that the driveway needed to be shoveled before they could even back the car out of the garage. But for us kids, that was when the world of fantasy was opened to us.

 

My sisters and I built forts the size of Smart cars that were connected to tunnels that went all over the deck, and we made ramps down the steep wooden stairway out back for smooth sailing on our boogie boards and sleds, though sometimes it was a little too smooth; Dad was a trooper and fixed the fence right up! Don’t underestimate the architectural genius and ability of a couple winter kids, though. We spent a solid week or more on some of the structures, and our igloos were so solid that someone could lie on the roof without it caving in or our dogs could barrel through the tunnels without knocking the walls loose. Ah, yes, we were quite the experts at snowmen and snow angels, as well. There was this insanely breathtaking hush that would fall over our part of the world when it snowed, a perfect quiet that—I don’t know—makes you want to smile or weep. It sounds silly, but it’s true. I remembering lying out front, the imprint of my half-finished angel beneath me, and I would just stare at the piles of snow on the branches above, filling my lungs with the exhilaratingly cold, crisp air and listening intently to the world around me. It was so perfectly quiet that every sound was distinct when the world slowed down like that, and it was then, lying on a powdery bed of white, my back wet with snow and my face warmed by the ever-present sun, that I would dream and imagine and create stories in my head. For me, the weather inspired me and opened this endless sea of possibilities. It was perfect for a kid who likes to dream.

The other day someone who had never seen snow before asked me with this terrified, wide-eyed gaze what it was like having to live with it? I just smiled and replied with one word: “Magical.”      

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