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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.

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  

A True Friend

Published May 30, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Proverbs 18:24

When you’re young, you feel like the current moment and relationships in it will last forever. But the minute change occurs, it feels like the end of the world. Graduation means leaving behind the familiarity of four years spent in the same lunchroom with the same group of friends. You promise to stay connected as everyone goes off to different colleges, taking career paths that draw everyone in opposite directions. Sometimes you keep in touch and maintain those close friendships you had in high school. But, oftentimes, you grow apart and lose touch as everyone forges a new life for themselves.

I was homeschooled up through high school, so I never had to say those painful goodbyes on graduation day. That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of farewells to bid. My family and I have moved around several times, and I’ve had to leave friends behind in the process. Over the years, I lost contact with many of my friends back in Colorado as we changed and drifted apart. But a bump in the road often reveals who your true friends are—someone who will walk with you in both the sunshine and the shade. My friend, Rebekah, is such a person. There are too many good memories of our times together to pick a favorite. Friends since infancy, we have shared countless sleepovers where our secrets and wildest dreams were whispered in the dead of night over a bowl of popcorn and cans of Dr. Pepper. I smile when I think of her dancing like a crazy person to “U Can’t Touch This” to keep awake, and then her priceless reaction to me consuming three dill pickles after midnight. Rebekah was the childhood friend I laughed hysterically with over absolutely nothing, and she was the first one I would call and cry to when it felt like everything was caving in.

It’s odd; her friendship was the only one that I should have been truly concerned over losing in all the moving madness, and yet I never even considered the fact that we might drift apart. Sure, we’ve grown up and changed, but I like to think our friendship has only grown with us—we’ve changed, but our bond has remained the same. This post is actually a day late because Rebekah Facetimed me while I was writing about her, and we spent two hours talking and laughing like we had just seen each other yesterday. She makes me smile when I think about all the crazy things we’ve done and the memories we’ve made together. There honestly is not a single word that you could use to describe Rebekah; she’s too fantastic and timeless to put in a box. There are some things that she does where those who know her just say with great fondness,” That’s so Rebekah,” because it really is! She’s the forever friend everyone should have.

I have come to the realization that true friends are the ones who walk in when everyone else walks out. A true friend is someone whom you can count on—someone who has seen your worst and loves you all the more for it. Change doesn’t mean the end of the world—not even close! I guarantee you’ll meet some incredible new people who make you smile and laugh and thank God that you have such true friends (Olivia, Gabriela, and Veronica—I’m talking to you ladies!). And there will also be those constant stars, like my Rebekah, who will stay faithfully by your side for the whole journey.

“When we consider the blessings of God—the gifts that add beauty and joy to our lives, that enable us to keep going through stretches of boredom and even suffering—friendship is very near the top.”

Donald W. McCullough

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