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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.

Lend Me Your Ears!

Published August 28, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to
speak and slow to become angry.”

James 1:19

Have you ever just listened to someone? I used to think I was a great listener; I loved to give advice and prided myself on being able to glean the gist of someone’s issues from a simple chat with them, and then I would try to help them work past whatever problem they were facing. It wasn’t until my communication class freshman year that I realized I wasn’t actually listening. And since school has started back up for most of us, I’ve decided to do a little educating, reminding myself to put into practice some previously acquired skills and, perhaps, help you learn a new skill for yourself.

Most of the time I just zoned out in the class during the two hour slideshow that myself and my classmates endured every Tuesday that semester. I had a difficult time understanding the point of the awkward pairing-off for the even more mortifying question and answer time that our instructor thought would really get us to open up. Mostly, it just kept us from making eye-contact with our fellow classmates. I think it goes without saying—but I’ll say it anyway! Don’t you just hate that?—but Tuesdays were my least favorite day of the week for about a year. Anyway, we finally arrived at the chapter all about listening, and I was sure it was going to be a breeze, because I loved to listen. But then I discovered that it wasn’t just about letting someone talk about themselves for five seconds before I burst in with positive affirmations about how great they are and what they’re worth, or quickly fill in what they are going to say when they can’t seem to find the words. I am a fixer by nature, and even though I meant well, I realized that being a great listener was hardly about fixing people the moment a problem arose. Sometimes people just need someone to really listen without saying a word.

I practiced this newfound “skill” on my friends and family, learning to pay attention to what they said when they spoke, but also pay attention to what they were saying when they remained silent. I learned to shut my mouth (which can be difficult for me when I’m trying to make things right), and I improved at making sure my body language told them I was interested in and paying attention to what they had to say. I discovered more about their thoughts and feelings in that week than I had in years of living with them. And I didn’t just test this newfound “gift” out on those closest to me; I brought my listening ear with me wherever I went. I was amazed and a little hesitant to lend such a listening ear when a store clerk I had never seen before talked about her dying mother and the broken relationship they had. Then there was a random student in my literature class whom I had never talked to before—except to smile and say hello to that morning—who walked with me to my next class and told me about the awful relationship that she had with her parents and brother. My eighteen-year-old self was at a loss for words—impossible!—but then I realized that it wasn’t my words they needed. What they wanted most was just someone to listen.   

Challenge of the week: Spend the next seven days really listening; don’t do the talking for them. Remember, “silent” and “listen” are both spelled with the same letters. If anything, that class taught me to just remain silent and wait until someone is ready to talk; when they’re ready, they will. And in other instances, they just need to know that a friend is there with them in the silence, as well as the noise of life.        

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

~Winston Churchill

Don’t forget to check out my interview on growing up as a homeschooler at http://www.homeschool.com/adventures/article.asp?title=Homeschooler+has+a+debut+novel!&p=3157 and keep entering to win Nexus Seven Tablet. The link is just below the “Rising Shadows” page. Good luck!

Lady in White

Published July 2, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.”

Acts 2:28

Ruth Elizabeth Wimpy Smith

July 2, 1927—February 22, 2011

How could I possibly describe in a few brief words all that my grandma was and the impact she had on our lives? The truth is, it’s impossible; I can do my best to tell you about the things she did, the caring grandma and friend she was, and the fact that she loved her granddaughters. It wouldn’t do her justice to just tell you how fondly I remember the way she said “’Bye” on the phone—how her voice would get super soft and sweet as the word stretched out, and you could hear her smiling. I could try and explain her to you and paint a picture of the incredible woman I knew, but it’s impossible to just sum up someone so special, a lady who had room in her heart for everyone.

Ever since we were little, Grandma would throw her granddaughters these elaborate tea parties. Us girls would get all dressed up and pick something from her costume jewelry, and we ‘d spend the entire afternoon chatting and enjoying ridiculously gorgeous treats and tea from our china cups. Now I realize how much Grandma looked forward to those parties and what they meant to her, all of her favorite girls gathered around her, laughing and smiling. When each of us grand-girls turned ten, we received a special pin, and on our sixteenth birthdays, she gave us the completed journals she had been writing in since the day we were born, one special journal about each girl. Each year, she’d mark our heights on the wall in the laundry room, and it was always my goal when I was young to reach Grandma’s belt (in later years when I grew, she joked that we should get her a hat).

In recent years, she and my grandpa (the one who taught me my ABCs) took my sister, Katie, and I to the zoo a lot. We would ride the bus, and I still smile when I think of Grandma saying in exasperation, “Oh, Don!” when Grandpa tried to stand up on the top deck of the moving bus to better see (I love his curiosity!). My grandma always walked a little slowly, so I’d hold her hand, which was so cool and soft and reassuring. And then we would just stroll behind the group, holding hands and talking, just the two of us. Those walks became my favorite thing, some of the most special moments I can remember. I get a little teary-eyed thinking that we won’t get to hold hands for a very long time, but I look forward to strolling hand-in-hand again one day.

My grandma and I used to bake together, too, though we always seemed to get distracted and mess something up. We’d laugh over our baking gaffes, swearing that we would do better next time. Well, the next time we got to talking and forgot to add bananas to the banana muffins, and I still remember Grandma’s cute laugh and the way her nose scrunched up as she said, “Well, that’s new!” I know she would have loved to hear me relaying these stories, because she loved stories and writing; I got my ink-stained blood and love of books from her. Grandma was ecstatic when I told her that I wanted to be a writer someday because I would be living both of our dreams. She gave me a copy of Jane Eyre and wrote inside, “May this book inspire you to write your own masterpiece!” She passed away—peacefully in her sleep, completely healthy; the way I want to go—six months before she could realize her words had inspired me. When Rising Shadows came out on Tuesday, I spent a lot of time thinking about her and remembered that she wasn’t there to share my tears of joy. But I know that she is proud of me and overjoyed that I wanted to follow in her footsteps. And though I still wish she was here on earth so we could hold hands during those special moments and just sit together, I know that she is where every living soul wishes to be someday: Paradise.

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel (grand)mother.” -Abraham Lincoln  

I Turned Out Okay. . .

Published May 25, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.” Thessalonians 5:14

I’ve been looking over a list of author questions for an interview I’m doing with a blog, and one of the questions got me to thinking about how energetic—that’s a modest word—I was as a kid. Generally, I make a point of not overthinking my childhood because it can be rather exhausting for my old and weathered mind, but once my head gets wrapped around an idea, I tend to go for it. So, I was sitting there sorting through some of the more . . . interesting moments in my young life that might be entertaining for those who would come across the interview. You have to understand, I was a curious youngster and, well, to be honest I was the type of kid who would have had a Kool-Aid mustache as a permanent fixture on their upper lip (though I wasn’t really allowed to have Kool-Aid because it made me more hyper than usual). If you continue reading, you’ll understand why I was having a little trouble coming up with one singular crazy childhood memory that really jumped out at me.

I decided I could talk about the time when I was four or five and stuck a dead skunk on my head so I could look like Davy “Cricket” (I was curious, remember?). The horrified looks on my mom’s and grandma’s faces are priceless now, but at the time I was very disgruntled that they didn’t like my fashion statement. Or I could tell my future audience about my first time at the “big girl’s” tea party. My grandma Ruth, a fellow storyteller, used to throw these fantastically elaborate tea parties for all her grand-girls each summer. I was five and had been dying to go to one of the grown up parties that my two older sisters had been going to for years, so I was ecstatic to be invited that year. Unfortunately, that excitement turned into energy in my little body (the equivalent of five Snickers bars in a middle school boy). Since I was all hopped up on joy, I spent ten plus minutes before the party officially started running around the elegantly decorated table in my party dress, snatching whatever food my little hands could hold and munching on pre-tea snacks as my grandma chased after me. Then there was that year when I was really young that I ate all the erasers off the pencils. Mom tried to break that habit by putting cayenne pepper on all the erasers, but apparently I was born with a thirst for spice, so. . . For the record, I’ve been cold-turkey off the stuff for nearly two decades. Praise the LORD!

Somehow, amidst all these musings about my eventful childhood, I remembered with great clarity how I learned the alphabet. Seems like an odd jump to go from chewing erasers and inventing skunk hats (it was revolutionary, I tell you!) to my ABC’s, but this is how my train of thought works. First off, let me tell you that my grandpa Don is awesome. He is the most patient man you will ever meet, my co-demiser of the evilius gopherous (gopher) species, the man who taught me to tie my shoes, and he is my favorite person to cook and bake for—he loves food as much as I do!

I think I was in kindergarten, and my mom could not for the life of her get me to sit down for more than a minute to learn the alphabet. So, she called in her dad, the master of the ABC’s and a former teacher. Somehow, my grandpa realized that it wasn’t the letters I was having trouble with, but rather sitting still that was keeping me from concentrating. Patient man that he was, he brought out the chart and plastic letters and allowed me to climb on the back of his chair, duck under the table, jump up and down in place, hang upside down from the chair seat, and run around in circles while I shouted the letters back to him. Needless to say, I had my ABC’s memorized by lunch. God seriously gifted him with patience, and I have no idea how he sat there so calmly that morning, but I’m glad he did.

It helps to have someone who understands you. I realize that not everyone has someone in their life who is patient enough to figure them out, but my life is full of encouraging people—my grandpa is one of these special people. I know I would have eventually learned my ABC’s, because my mom is an incredible teacher and learned from the best, but I like to think that my grandpa gave me that little push toward my future in writing, so I should thank him for jump-starting my career. I mean, what author doesn’t know the alphabet?

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” -Saint Augustine

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