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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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At Last! A Comic Con Recap!!

Published August 25, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

If you followed my Instagram leading up to SDCC and my survival guide post beforehand, you can tell Comic Con pretty much consumed the weeks leading up to the event. Why, you ask? Because this year I attempted something I’ve never done: a different cosplay for every day. *pauses for ooohs* Also for the first time: forgetting that I had this post completed THREE weeks ago when it should have been posted. -_- *ahem* Moving on….

Day 1 Recap:

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Cosplay for this day was Indiana Jones for me, and my sister and faithful SDCC companion, Liz, went at the Eleventh (and best) Doctor. The screwdriver lit up and made sounds, and I’ll admit I was geeking out over it.

Liz got to meet Leigh Bardugo, and we were surprised with ARC copies of her Wonder Woman novel, Warbringer! The precioussssssss.20170720_111454

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This guy ^ was dressed as Rick from The Mummy films, and I literally chased him down to get this pic. He was so nice and charming and shocked that I knew who he was, and I was just trying to be cool with “Alex” and not drool. His charisma matched the character so perfectly. *le sigh*

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Some major highlights were getting pics with the tallest Flynn Rider and Captain America we’d seen, meeting my video game hero, Tomb Raider, and was amazed by thegirl’s fabulous cosplay of the original game. We ate fabulous soft-pretzels, I received a high-five from Patrick Star for asking him if mayonnaise was an instrument (it’s a classic “Bang Geeks” reference, guys), we saw the Timeless fan tribute panel, and then shared a Lyft ride with one of the terribly engaging men from the group of kilt- but not shirt-clad handsomeness that wanders downtown during the Con. All in all, not a bad day!

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Day 2 Recap: My first “real” attempt at sewing was Cinderella’s pink dress after the evil stepsisters had torn it apart. Designing a torn dress sounds simple . . . It’s NOT! Anywho, we missed the Psych panel in the morning—much to our dismay, especially since we were close enough to hear the fans screaming—but we did see the iZombie panel in the morning and had stitches in our sides for the rest of the day from laughing.

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Liz and I also met BookTubers Jesse the Reader and Christine Riccio when we were preparing to leave (must. contain. fangirl!!), searched for fabulous flare, and got pics with Arrow—sort of. We don’t have many photos from this day because we spent it in panels, getting swag, and it was so crowded that it was difficult to move.

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Day 3 Recap: Okay, now to the juicy stuff! Liz and I attempted to go to the Once Upon a 

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Time and Riverdale panels in Ballroom 20. *cough* Yeah, that didn’t happen. We got there right as the doors opened and . . . were promptly led a ¼ mile from the convention center and down by the marina to line up, where we had to wind our way back up in the heat and humidity. We were 30 stinking people away from getting into Ballroom 20, and we spent hours on the floor hoping that people would leave. No dice! We thought it would be a crummy start to the day, but Saturday was AMAZING and held so many surprises, including our fabulous friend, Gabriela, hanging with us for the day and using her baby backpack to make space on the floor so I could run after fantastic cosplayers. One of my favorite parts of the adventure was taking pictures with the kids who thought I was the real 20170722_134857Cinderella, and seeing the joy on their faces made the whole experience magical. Guys, I want to be a Disney princess!

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This Kid Flash was adorable and hilarious. I told him to strike a running pose, and he immediately got into Barry Allen’s 

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running position. This kid deserves a medal!

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Attacking Derek Theler, which I’m now embarrassed about blurting out his name and following through by asking for a pic, but totally worth the memory! 

Liz and I discovered that hanging by one of the bathroom’s meant that the entire casts of Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl had to walk right past us. Brandon Routh is just as handsome in person, but Franz (who plays Jackson on Legends) was so sweet and stayed behind on the floor to take pictures with fans. Honestly, he was so genuine and immediately made us love him more.

And ending the night was the most hilarious surprise of all. The floor was crowded, and Liz and I were exhausted, so we leaned against the foam “room” that was the Outlander booth. People repeatedly asked us if we were in line, so we kept moving out of the way because there were lines everywhere and you never know what you’re getting into. Eventually, we wandered around the front so as to not confuse people and discovered, four feet away, the entire cast of Outlander at their signing. I’d nearly busted through that foam wall by accident and fallen right into Jamie’s lap (now I’m a little bummed I didn’t lean harder!).

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We had become pros by this time, so we waited at the edge of the gathering when the 20170722_154029bagpipes started to play. Yes, I said bagpipes. While everyone else tried to usher actors out as quickly as possible, they announced their departure like they were waltzing down the Red Carpet. Liz and I laughed at the fanfare as they walked right by, Sam Heughen smiling and working that crowd the entire time. I’ll admit that he definitely sells it, and these Sassenachs didn’t mind stumbling upon that fabulous memory one bit.

It might be a few weeks late, but there you have it! This year’s SDCD was full of great laughs, fabulous memories, and plenty of new adventures. And it never hurts to learn new secrets for next year!

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*

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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*

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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:

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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 ***

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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 *****

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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 ****

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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 ****

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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)

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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!

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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!

 

 

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