December

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Oh, What A Year! 2017 Highlights

Published January 1, 2018 by Ashley Townsend

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

One word about February: Nashville. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

July—SDCC, man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never stop trying!

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Where Did the Time Go???

Published December 13, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And feeeeeeeeeeeeeels.

WHAT I READ: 

“The English Spy” by Daniel Silva ***

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

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

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

Winter Joy and #NaNoWriMo Update

Published December 1, 2015 by Ashley Townsend

Okay, all, so you might have noticed I’ve been in a little place called Cognito for a couple of weeks. This lack of attention to you guys was basically due to Thanksgiving, UC transfer application drama, essays up the wazoo, and, you guessed it: NaNoWriMo. I got soooooo close to the 50,000 word goal, but didn’t quite make it, capping out last night with 46,000 (not counting an additional 8,000 words for essays). BUT, hey, that is the most I’ve ever written in any single month, so I’m pretty ecstatic about my progress in Defying Shadows. Hey, it’s all about personal growth, and so I think I’ll take my “measly” 46,000 words and try again next year. ^_~

Now, onto serious business:

HAPPY DECEMBER!!!!!

By: Volleyball Beauty♛ ♡ (VolleyballBeaut):

the friday of all months:

Okay, so we’ve been celebrating Christmas since November 1st in our house, getting out our decorations, music, baking, and Christmas cheer for the past month, but it always becomes more exciting once we actually get into December. And this season is especially exciting for me because I’ll be spending New Year’s in Colorado with my best friend of 22 years. We haven’t been able to celebrate our favorite holidays with each other for nine years, so we’re doing it up with all our old New Year’s traditions, plus some new ones we’ve acquired over the years. AND, because her house was always my second home growing up, I’ve demanded that Mama K. and the fam leave all the decorations up and that we have Second Christmas, where we swap gifts by the fire in the morning, go sleigh riding in the afternoon, dress up for a pizza dinner (they do NOT have any Papa Murphey’s near us in San Diego, and that should be a crime), and then wander their neighborhood to look at the lights. Maybe “demand” is a strong word, since they all jumped aboard halfway through my explanation. Haha. It’s going to be amazing, and I cannot WAIT to get out there!

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

LETS DO THIS girls week joeys home!  knicks game BEYONCE  Christmas  New Years :):

 

Oh, Finals, You Evil Temptress

Published November 30, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

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Ah, yes—the month of December (please note that I did not lose my calendar and am totally aware that it is still November for one more day). A time of unity among the factions, when freshman, sophomores, juniors, AND seniors come together for a few weeks, seeming to understand each other as they share a common goal: Survive finals at all costs. Those last two weeks where you long for the end, but don’t feel that there is enough time to complete everything, where emotions conflict and tensions heighten, where students can’t manage to drink enough caffeine and begin concocting extra-coffee cakes, coffee eggs (protein AND caffein!), and pour some strong Joe over their Cheerios. Meanwhile, Starbucks is secretly snickering and rejoicing behind the stacks of empty paper cups! For those of you who graduated high school or college quite some time ago, let me refresh your memory.

Yes, sometimes it literally feels that teachers do this.

Yes, sometimes it literally feels that teachers do this.

finals 1If you have been living under a rock or on an island for several months, then go to a college, and if it looks like zombies have taken over the earth—congratulations! It’s either the beginning of December or the end of May. The week before finals brings to mind the last fight scene in the movie Timeline, which, consequently, is my favorite time travel film ever; I watched it a bunch of times when I was writing “Rising Shadows,” as well as read a lot of time travel books for inspiration. . . . And Paul Walker and Gerard Butler are in it, but that’s just a perk. ~__^ Anyway, that scene involves a lot shouting, screaming, some weeping might be involved, things are bursting into flames, people are engaging in swordplay and acting totally insane, flaming balls of fire are being launched through the air, and people are trying to tunnel their way out to freedom. Yeah, this pretty much sums up finals in an eight minute scene, except we don’t get the cool medieval garb.finals 4

I drove onto campus at the start of this week and was like, “What the heck is wrong with everybody?!” after nearly being hit six or seven times as cars careened madly through the exit and students fought over parking spots, even though there were four more further down the row—some food for thought, though I’m sure you already know this: If someone is graciously packing up quicker than usual to give you their spot, try not to run them off the road as you attempt to take said space before they have properly vacated it. Thank you for your consideration. I was also crawling through the lot, not only so I could swerve out of the way if a driver blacked out whilst careening towards me Speed style, but also so I could slam on my brakes if a student juggling a stack of books taller than their head and attempting to scribble notes on the top of the stack jetted across the street without warning. Sheesh! Then I remembered that finals is in two weeks and gave a little chuckle as I steered around a group of arguing students, whom I can only assume were working on a group project together and who also looked like they hadn’t slept in four days.

I actually might have seen this girl the other day....

I actually might have seen this girl the other day….

For some reason, though, finals have never really bothered me. Maybe it’s because I’m burned out by the end of the semester and just don’t care anymore. That’s not to say I don’t study or put in effort, because I take a lot of time to really know the material as best I can. But I just don’t stress it that much, and a lot of times my final tests end up being my best scores for the semester! I still take naps and read books, which is obvious from my Goodreads page, and my sister Katie and I just bought new video games—yes, I am a total gaming nerd—and we cannot wait until the newest Tomb Raider arrives, which will probably happen on finals week. That could be tempting. Hmm. Anyway, by some freak happinstance, my constant procrastination during the rest of the semester ceases for that fourteen-day stretch, and I start time-managing better and get everything done beforehand, without sacrificing my mental health or “fun time.” But when my guitar teacher announced to the class yesterday that we have to play Minuet in G for the final and I saw the panicked looks on my fellow classmates’ faces, I, too, felt a moment’s panic as my eyes took in the packed notes on the page; I have no issue taking written tests or doing essays–in fact they are quite the delight, in my strange and honest opinion. However, I am not a fan of performing in front of people! Sweaty palms, a small, shaky voice, and nausea are generally involved in presentations and performances. That’s kind of why I love being an author so much; I never have to directly present anything!!! finals

Then as I felt my shoulders tensing up and my stomach churning, I remembered the weeks of Peace and Faithfulness that we all worked so hard on and took a deep breath. And the more I thought about it, I just kind of shrugged it off and thought, “Well, I’ll practice and do my best, and that’s really all I can do.” Let me tell you, it felt really good to let it go and know that I could work hard and have Faith that if I had put in the effort and still struggled with something, then God would help me through. Honestly, stressing it is NOT going to make it any easier; actually, it muddles up your mind quite a bit and makes it so much harder to study. And it doesn’t just apply to school, either; whatever you’re stressing, whatever’s making you feel like you’re one of the extras who get blown to bits in Timeline, just take a deep breath and let it go. Yes, easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere. I’ve had to walk away from an unfinished story countless times when I get writer’s block and have to do something else for a while. Sometimes a little “fun time” of your own is just the thing to free up your mind enough that you can come back to the problem with fresh eyes. Do you really want to be one of those anxious zombies I see sitting in the stairwell, staring off at nothing? Didn’t think so.       

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