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NaNo Prep Time

Published October 21, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

writer

Can you believe it’s almost November? o.0 That means NaNoWriMo is coming up in less than two weeks. It also happens to begin the same day I consider to be the start of the Christmas season, and I don’t even mind dodging the angry fruit you pre-Christmas haters want to throw at me. I’ll make Christmas fruitcake from it. ^_~

A lot of prep-work goes into the month of October to make sure that I stay focused on my project. It isn’t always easy, so aside from the usual tactics—like limiting social media, upping caffeine abuse, etc.—I’ve introduced several other helpful tricks into my October planning. They help to maintain my sanity and allow me to be prepared for NaNo so I’m not scrambling at the eleventh hour to accomplish last minute tasks.

The Hobbit Hole

I try to cram as many social engagements and catch-up phone calls with friends into October because I will basically be a hermit starting November 1st. Social calls may resume on December 1st, and please bring coffee to the creature with the blood-shot eyes and the hands that phantom-type words onto an invisible keyboard.

tom and jerry sleepy

Writing Inspiration Playlist

Whatever is on this playlist basically becomes the only music I listen to during November. Although it keeps you in the write mindset *laughs hysterically at vague joke*, listening to the same music nonstop for 30 days can make you want to turn on all the fans, have the popcorn maker going, and crank a blow-dryer on high to drown out the same loop of songs. Since these noisy distractions can be counter-productive—and send your energy bill skyrocketing—I make sure to have variation on my playlist and create it before November begins. Don’t waste time scrambling to design a playlist late in the game; save yourself the trouble and do it beforehand so you can dive into your story Nov. 1st with the perfect background inspiration guiding your fingers.

old piano

Goodies on my playlist:

~ “Meet Me in the Woods” by Lord Huron

~ “Running if You Call My Name” by Haim

~ “All We Ever Knew” by The Head and the Heart

~ “Dreamers” by Oh Gravity (thanks to Katie Grace leading me onto it!)

~ Pride and Prejudice soundtrack

Limit Your Social Media

It’s a given, but as much as I love chatting with friends online or sharing photos of books on Instagram (see what I’m reading here), I can’t let myself fall into the social media rabbit hole during NaNo. I’ve made the mistake of spending more time chatting about my manuscript progress than actually writing it, or adding to my novel board on Pinterest.

Ways to stave off the decent into the rabbit hole:

~Prepare blog posts beforehand. It’s a lot of work, but you don’t want to stress blogging deadlines while trying to nail your word count. You can always fine-tune them later!

~Plot, plot, plot. Now, you know I’m a plotting-pantser and can’t stand to box myself in, but having a good idea of sequencing and character development for your 50,000 words gives you a goal to hit and helps to keep your focus to stave off the call of the web.

~Have a cache of photos on your phone to post on Instagram the days when there just isn’t time to stage a book tower.

~Create templates for social media posts on FB and Twitter, and consider having pics selected on Pinterest to add text from your MS to as you go along (use a formatter like PicMonkey). I have a few that I’m considering using next month that you can check out on my Jungle Princess Pinterest board

Creative Detox

Although it’s incredibly important to stay on-task and in the writing mindset during November, you can’t spend every single moment at your computer. Instead of losing your head, try to find activities that allow you to take a mental break while still encouraging your creativity.

reading

Ways to keep your sanity while maintaining your creative mindset:

~Go on a walk to clear your head and think about your story. Your brain will get a cramp if you don’t give it some fresh air!

~Take a nap listening to your writing playlist, or paste a chapter of your work in progress into a text-audio reader (like AlReader or NaturalReader). You can rest those tired eyes and get in some extra editing by hearing your writing out loud.

~If you want to escape into a book or film, do it! Treat yourself after a hard-fought day of writing to a mental getaway, but consider entertainment that is about writers or books, or even ones that just generally put you in a happy mental place so you can return to your manuscript creatively recharged and inspired. I’ll have a post up soon with some recommendations for my favorite writing-centered entertainment.

Now that the prep-work is set and the playlists have been created, it’s time for the most important part of NaNo: Go write that novel!

writing

 

 

 

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Fangirl’s Guide: Procrastination

Published September 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

The Fangirl’s Guide to Navigating Life, Vol. 3

Procrastination

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The following words are not a call to arms against procrastination, nor encouragement to pick up your swords (pens) and ride at dawn (get that novel done!). Nay, dear weary travelers, this is a post about the different ways I like to procrastinate because, honestly, we could all use a self-imposed break once in a while.

I have a slew of author events and writing deadlines this month that I have to tackle (*cough* preferably before deadlines *warily eyes to-do pile* *hides*), but somehow I kept finding things to occupy my time. Granted, these tasks also needed to be vanquished, and I felt a sense of accomplishment in doing so, but then there are the other . . . unmentionable distractions (TV, painting my nails, Instagram—okay, so maybe not quite so unmentionable). Incidentally, I might have procrastinated this post by getting some actual writing done in Jungle Princess, so maybe a little mental R&R was just what the Eleventh Doctor ordered.

1.Reading: I like to think of it as “research.”

reading

2.Cleaning: I can go *guilty, shifty-eyes* a while without dusting or vacuuming when I’m in the writing zone, but when I sit down to write and get blocked, I’m like, “Hmm. I should paint the baseboards . . . and re-hang that picture . . . and reupholster the chair.”

wolverine cleaning

3. Organizing my bookshelves, because I couldn’t possibly write with books that are slightly askew.

4. BAKING: Cookies. Are. Life! Also, cake, pie, scones, flatbreads, main dishes. Really, anything that requires me stepping away from what I should actually be doing. But, honestly, it isn’t healthy to plot and brainstorm on an empty stomach, so . . .

rory eating

5. New stories: There’s nothing like having a deadline on your current work in progress and being inspired to write six other standalone novels.

yes

 

6. Blog-Binge: Check out this hilarious post by Nadine Brandes on a shower assassination (here), and this one about Katie Erickson’s third-year in the blogisphere (here).

7. My memory also becomes really sharp when I feel like procrastinating, and I can recall things from fifteen years ago that I’m suddenly inspired to find in some long-forgotten place, or remember that to-do list I neglected to complete . . . in 2003.

Well, there are plenty more, but you get the idea. Now that I’ve exercised my procrastination muscles—gotta keep ‘em sharp!—I feel mentally capable of and excited to return to the jungle with Julia and Taran.

What is your favorite form of procrastination?

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*

August

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*

hiding

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:

digging out of a hole

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 ***

strange

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 *****

the girl who could see

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 ****

purple moon

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 ****

angel eyes

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)

lucky in love

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!

you complete me

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!

 

 

Chasing Shadows Has a New Look!

Published June 11, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

At long last!! I am proud and excited to announce that Chasing Shadows has a new look, and there’s also a giveaway for the entire series at the end of this post. *let the medieval flutes and trumpets toot a happy jig*

There’s no cause for alarm—Chasing Shadows is just as beautiful as it has always been. But while I love the cover unconditionally, the book itself was originally printed in a different size and format than the rest of the series, and my OCD would act up every time I saw it towering above the others on my bookshelf. So thanks to Lisa M. (visit her new blog here!), who revamped the cover to include the series title while I burned my eyes with countless hours of editing, the second edition of Chasing Shadows is available, and it’s perfectly uniform!! (get it from Barnes & Noble today)

Revisiting the pages of Chasing Shadows was like having coffee with a best friend—comforting, delightful, and full of deep conversations. . . . And Will and Damien. Yeah, there’s that. ~_^ It was fabulous being reminded of all the adventures these characters have been on and how far they came in the end, and also how fantastic these opposing gentlemen are. *le sigh*

You can find the book anywhere, and Amazon is great, but I love supporting local bookstores and Barnes & Noble, so feel free to use those 20% off coupons and order Chasing Shadows online or request that your favorite local bookstore pick up the series. 

***OR if you love winning free books, because let’s be real, who DOESN’T? Well, you will be entered to win the entire Rising Shadows Trilogy plus swag if you sign up for Mandy Fender’s newsletter (click here to follow the easy instructions). She gives a Christian book box every month to one lucky follower, and if an entire book series and free swag aren’t motivation enough to click the link below, just remember that Mandy is doing an amazing thing by supporting writers AND readers by getting free books into their hands. Sounds awesome? So follow the link above and enter to win!!

http://mandyfender.com/christian-book-box

2017 Reading Goals

Published January 31, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

Has it really been SO long since I last visited your homes? *cringe of shame* Apparently, I’ve been a bit consumed lately by working on The Jungle Princess, ironing out some blemishes/going where the story takes me, catching up on the mass amounts of paperwork at the office, planning a trip to Nashville (the heart of country music) to see my bestie, and also—oh, yeah, preparing for this year’s voyage to Realm Makers, the best writer’s conference. In. History. So forgive me, because, honestly, you can’t stay mad at this face.

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I’d like to say I’m coming back online to impart some great writerly wisdom on you, or blow your mind with a snippet from my work in progress (but keep your eyes posted for this, because soon . . .). But alas, I have simply journeyed to the Internet to humbly present an update on my 2017 reading progress. *raises hands to defend self against expected volley of rotten vegetables and fruit*

I set my 2017 Reading Challenge goal on Goodreads at 45, the same as last year, so I’m hoping to do as good as I did in 2016 and exceed my goal. I haven’t read much yet this year, so I figured now would be a good time to share my opinions so far.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnely ***

these-shallow-graves

Umm, I think I liked this book?? I’m typically not this confused over my opinion on a story, but there were moments while reading that I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the setting. But then there was the forced romance that was so cliche it was often painful, and the killer was fairly obvious from the first chapter of the book. There is this fabulously intense scene at the end where the main character (whose name I can’t recall, she was so memorable) gets into a scuffle with her father’s murderer and runs for her life in a mental institution. I wish there had been more exciting moments in the book because the author did it so well. It had a lot of potential and there were a few characters that I liked and wished had been in it more, and the setting of old-time New York was very fun. Overall, though, I feel like this book is a bit forgettable. 

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman ****

illuminae

(really 4.5 stars for cleverness of plot and design of the book itself)

Things I learned from Illuminae:
1. I can now survive the zombie apocalypse, though my hacking skills are seriously lacking.
2. You can fall in love with a person because of their emojis. EZRA!! ❤ ^_^
3. Artificial intelligence is a bad idea.
4. Nukes don’t really makes a sound in the vacuum that is space.
5. You should definitely have Gemina on hand to prevent symptoms of the Phobos virus (i.e. violence, incessant shaking, catatonia).

Wow. Just wow. The plot, the characters, the tears and edge-of-your-seat intensity made me stay up all night to see what would happen. This is the most uniquely designed book I have ever read, and the storyline is fantastic and very involved. The first 100 pages were a little bit dry as I got into the style of the book, but then I couldn’t put it down as I became involved in the story and these characters (and the death toll!!! o.O) The ending was such perfection—so intense and tragic and then your heart leaps in hope—making it one of those books that resonates with you for a long time.

Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman ***

gemina

(3.5 stars)
There were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed more than Illuminae. I felt like the characters were more alive in this story through the way they wrote the scenes to involve more action and surveillance footage, rather than just IM’s back and forth between characters.
That being said, I actually liked Kady and Ezra more as the driving force behind the plot in Illuminae. Also, I didn’t appreciate the casual drug abuse in the book or how the authors made it seem all right for the characters to use “dust” because they know when to stop or because it dulls their senses so they can get through a tough situation. I felt like it was unnecessary and actually sends a terrible message.

Despite my misgivings, I really enjoyed the book and will continue on with the series. Kristoff and Kaufman have crafted an incredible world, and the design of these books is unlike anything you will ever read. 

I’m also currently reading Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken *squeal of pure joy* and have Unblemished by Sara Ella patiently waiting for me on my bookshelf. I got them both on the same day, and there is nothing like that “new book” feeling where fresh hardbacks follow you home. 

coming-home

Also, my sister just ordered By Your Side for me by my auto-buy author Kasie West. A thousand yesses. I’ll do an Instagram post when I receive the book, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Lastly on the reading update, I feel like I’ve never had to wait for a sequel to release like I have with the much-anticipated Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman. Those who are also waiting for Book II to come out probably feel like each day just drags on and on. But we’re in this together, guys, and so we have to hold out and lean on each other through these hard times. Hang in there, friends, it will be here soon! 

are-you-okay

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Janeen Ippolito: The Science behind Blood Mercy

Published November 2, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

She loved you all so much that she decided to come back! Give yourself a nice pat on the back. ^_^ Janeen Ippolito, author of the gripping Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water, has returned to grace us with her presence. *excited clapping*

Today she’s giving us the inside scoop on the creation of Blood Mercy and the mythology behind it, and can I just say that I adore lore and Greek mythology and really appreciate Julia and Janeen’s research behind this story. The book has only been out for a couple days, so you can still be some of the first to get your hands on Blood Mercy: Thicker Than Water (links at the end of the post). Also, I felt so clever using red lettering for Janeen’s guest post, given the whole vampire theme. *laughs at own brilliance*

So, without further ado . . . 

2016janeenheadshot

I enjoy tackling impossible challenges. Julia Busko enjoys putting new spins on the horrific. Both of us enjoy suspense and thrills.

Naturally, our first collaboration was a reinvention of the vampire myth!

Of course, a great deal of research was needed. Vampires have always fascinated us and between the two of us, we covered a wide variety of vampire and horror literature, TV shows, cinema, and graphic novels/anime. Not that we really needed an excuse! In fact, our mutual enjoyment of monsters and the horrific is a reason we became friends in the first place.

Next, we dove into mythology. Since we were creating a people-group who had existed since the origin of sickness, we wanted to echo and pull from traditional lore. Julia Busko is an art history buff, an aficionado of ancient Egypt, and a fan of Asian cultures. She also loves digging up awesome facts from vampire lore. I tackled Norse mythology and Greek/Roman timelines. I also researched various blood diseases and illnesses that contributed to the vampire mythos. After collecting countless facts and ideas, we sifted through them and started drafting.

And drafting.

And then more drafting.

Plus, we wrote pages and pages of backstory, long plot outlines, countless scene snippets, and a massive farm of plot bunnies that ended up spawning their own, entirely separate stories that we divvied up between us. It was three years of work and negotiation and all day brainstorming sessions and a lot of humility on both our parts.

(Side Note: For anyone who’s still persevering on their writing craft—don’t give up! It does help to plan – we now have a cohesive series of books laid out and the security of knowing where we are going with the overall narrative. Keep at it!)

What emerged from all that work was the Blood Kind. Humans from various cultures and societies afflicted with the blood curse, a fatal disease that requires regular blood transfusions for survival. Some people choose to take the transfusions. Others act out of bitterness, darkness, or elitism and take the vampire path, choosing to hunt healthy humans and drink their blood. Side effects of the blood curse can include sensitivities (including to light and to strong flavors, like garlic), personality issues like obsessive compulsive disorder (one common issue with vampires was the compulsion to count things), and a dislike of holy symbols (although that depends on the human and their level of guilt or anger connected with religion). Because many vampires turned to the occult, we chose to follow in the great tradition of Dracula and have the Church be involved in the fight, but we opened the party up to any denomination of churches, as well as to those of other faiths, or no faith, who might have a reason to take up the struggle. We also chose to give the Blood Kind a few ‘perks’ – side effects of the blood curse that could have some benefit, like increased longevity.

Welcome to the Houses of the Dead. Where the Blood Kind walk the shifting ground between vampirism and healthy humanity. Set apart by their weaknesses as much as their strengths and cursed with an incurable disease, they seek to live normal lives, resist the lure of vampirism, and fight against any prejudices of the healthy.

postcard-4inx6in-v-front

What would you do if the one you loved was turned into a monster?

Melrose Durante brings order. As founder of the Houses of the Dead, he tirelessly opposes the vampires, and provides refuge for the Blood Kind, those like himself who fight against the blood curse that leads to vampirism. His medical breakthroughs have brought many back from the vampire path. After thousands of years, the Blood Kind finally has the upper hand.

Until a vampire attacks Melrose’s family, then begs for asylum. To his friends she’s Lucy, a disturbed young woman prone to incoherent rants, warning of an imminent attack by vampire leader, Conan. But to Melrose she’s something more.

His lost wife, Jane.

One thing is clear – time is running out. In five days Conan will attack Quebec City, killing or enslaving all in his way. If Melrose cannot unlock his wife’s tormented mind, even his immortal wisdom may not be enough to save Quebec City, the Blood Kind, and the Houses of the Dead.

Blood Mercy Official Website: http://www.bloodmercy.wordpress.com

Amazon Preorder Link: https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Mercy-Thicker-Than-Water-ebook/dp/B01L47ILUS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476321001&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+mercy%3A+thicker+than+water

Uncommon Universes Press Website: http://www.uncommonuniverses.com

 

 

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