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Watches and Calendars are So Mundane

Published April 28, 2018 by Ashley Townsend

Four things that I’ve recently considered investing in:

-A private jet

-A fleet of chocolate fountains

-Caffeine IVs—excuse me, Future, you failed to bring these or Back to the Future hover boards into my life. Pfttt.

-Someone who pays attention to my schedule better than I do. Because overbooking—it’s what I do best.

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Outside of Instagram and Facebook, I’ve been a bit absent lately. *coughs at the inadequacy of this statement* No, I did not join a fangirl cult or new library club that prevents you from checking emails and updating your blog. I have, however, been booking my crazy conference schedule for the year, planning signing events, getting back into the writing mode for Camp NaNo, overcoming a reading slump, and planning a trip out to visit my parents in Idaho. Soooooo, yeah, I think I need a second brain. Or just one that functions calmly and clearly on the mass amount of caffeine I’ve been consuming lately.

March: Spotted in the Wild!

Even though I didn’t do much writing in March, I did plenty of Camp NaNo prep and plotting and outlining for the rest of Jungle Princess (and maybe a bit of Book II, shhhhh). That’s basically like finishing the manuscript, right? *shifty eyes* I did, however, have a fabulously successful signing event at the Barnes & Noble in Grossmont Center at the end of last month, which is always so much fun to meet new friends and chat books. I met Yessenia (left), and she bought my entire series. I was the first author she’s ever had a book signed by before. SQUEEEEALLL! And my sweet, amazing friend Liv surprised me with laughter and fabulous fangirling, and she picked up Defying Shadows to complete her collection.  

APRIL: Camp NaNo Approaches.

April 1st was, obviously, Easter, although I considered spending the entire day holed away to get a jump on spring NaNo , let’s be real, family takes priority. I stayed up way past midnight to catch up, but the day was all about family and reveling in the beauty of so many hearts that are thankful to be given the choice to accept Life. Besides, there is something infinitely powerful and inspiring in beginning a new chapter of your story with an open heart and a refreshed spirit.

May: Dates Mean Nothing to Me. *facepalm*

I’m attending a book festival in L.A. next week, then staying at a friend’s place up there to do all the things besties do, and then I’ll hop on a flight the very next day to go even farther up north for a writer’s retreat in Cambria. -_- Yeah, even though I booked flights and trains and purchased lodging, somehow the dates and the fact that these events are two days apart didn’t register. Hence, the personal assistant . . . or someone who is just willing to write in the day-planner I own and shove it in my face.

But the writer’s retreat is going to be incredible! It’s hosted by C.J. Redwine and Mary Weber (yes, THE C.J. and Mary *flailing*), and so many of my amazing writer friends are going. Plus, the lodge we’re staying at is absolutely stunning and perfect for fueling writing inspiration!

June: A Little Reprieve

And by reprieve, I mean I still have two trips planned, but they’re a couple weeks apart. Phew! My sister, Katie, and I are traveling up to Idaho to visit our parents in June, and it will be exciting to see their new place, visit the lakes, and overwhelm them with our sheer volume after they’ve been away from their four daughters for so long. ^_~ Katie and I plan to do this at the airport:

mama gif

 

Also in June is the SoCal Christian Writer’s Conference, which I went to last year with Nadine Brandes and met so many fabulous people. It quickly became one of my favorite conferences, and this year is the second annual, so I can’t wait to meet up with everyone again, absorb, and keep writing!

July: WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY????????

I originally intended to go to Realm Makers and Comic Con, as I do every July, and they usually happen back-to-back weeks. It’s a lot to juggle, but it works and is so much fun because I get to wander Comic Con and cosplay and see fantastic things and meet new people, and then I get to learn and see my fabulous friends at the conference. It’s a win-win. But this year, I just discovered (TODAY) that they are over the same days, so while I’m in Missouri at Realm Makers, Comic Con will be happening in San Diego WITHOUT ME! I haven’t missed Comic Con in THREE YEARS, and I had a costume design for every day this go-round after the success of last year’s Cinderella and Indiana Jones cosplays. Guys, I am just not okay right now!!!!!!!!!

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August: I HAVEN’T GOTTEN THAT FAR YET!!!! THERE’S TOO MUCH PRESSURE, AND I’M STILL EMOTIONAL FROM NOT BEING ABLE TO ATTEND BOTH REALM MAKERS AND COMIC CON!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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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!

Plugging Along—NaNo Update

Published November 17, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

It’s time for an update on NaNo!!

Don’t you love how, in my last post, I was just talking about how NaNoWriMo was coming and that it’s important to be prepared and that you should have a bunch of posts scheduled and that you shouldn’t have run-on sentences and should definitely use commas. *takes a breath* But then you’re halfway through the month of chaos and emerge from your walking-slumber to find that WordPress hates you and didn’t publish the aforementioned posts.

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Oh, well, at least you’ll see them at some point! In the meantime, let me give you a quick update on the goings-on so far this month.

We’re over the hump and are moving into the home stretch. Can you believe it? For me, the past two weeks have been spent prepping for Thanksgiving and CHRISTMAS, getting ready for upcoming signing events I have scheduled (one this weekend! Details below), planning for out of state friends to stay for Thanksgiving, preparing for holiday parties at the office I work at, and also balancing travel for several conferences next year. Phew! How is writing going for you this NaNo in the midst of the holidays? For me, you ask? Wellllllllllll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Stefan happy face

Do all those periods count as words? Then I have 18. ^_~ Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. All things considered, I’ve had a pretty good November for writing. If you check out my Instagram here, you can find a bunch of images for my current work in progress for NaNo scattered about my feed, and creating those word-images was seriously fun. My favorite and most productive writing times were with my friend Kara Swanson, who is just a machine, guys! Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays—whenever we had the chance—she and I would hop online together and write for hours, sprinting and sharing snippets and writing our hearts out until the night turned into a new day. It was so inspiring and fun, and I highly recommend grabbing a friend and motivating each other to keep going. Everything is more fun with a buddy!

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT:

Now that we’re on the topic of buddies—and partly because I had, like, three cups of coffee today and can’t keep on one topic for long—how would you like to join me this Saturday, November 18th, at 2 p.m.? I’ll be joining a few writers at the Mira Mesa Barnes and Noble in the Westview Parkway shopping center this Saturday for their local author event. For those of you who live in SoCal, come join me for free Rising Shadows goodies, to pick up a copy of your favorite book in the series and have it signed by me, or just to chat. I’ll be getting there early, so stop by and say “hi.” I hope to see you there!

 

Camp NaNo Update

Published April 26, 2017 by Ashley Townsend
Do you like how I start a blog series, do one post, go on a writers’ retreat, and then post weeks later with a completely different topic? 
captain picard face palm
Well, I am down on my knees begging your forgiveness so I can share how Camp NaNo is going so far and give you April updates. I also solemnly swear that I am up to much good and will shortly resume the Fangirl’s Guide to Navigating Life series, and I’ll be sharing some exciting news about the Rising Shadows Trilogy in upcoming posts. There’s a little teaser on this news about four posts back on my Instagram (click here!!!).
Now, onto business!
April has been AMAZING! It was compete craziness at first, prepping for Camp NaNo, working on Jungle Princess, preparing for my writers’ retreat, and remembering to breathe. And caffeinate, definitely caffeinate. But the Realmie Roomie (w)Riting Retreat was the perfect way to kick off Camp NaNo, thanks to my lovely Realmie Roomies, Nadine (follow her inspiring blog here), Tricia (Deliver just released!! *flails*), and Katie (this girl writes approximately 4,786 words per minute. No joke). We had missed each other like crazy since Realm Makers last July and decided to gather together in Michigan for a refreshing time of motivation and inspiration.
Having our writing team together was a huge push for all of us to reach our goals, spending countless hours during the day Word Warring, being startled by terrifying timers when we were in the zone, and hitting some word counts that we had never managed before. I was pretty jazzed to reach over 60,000 words in my current work in progress by the end of the trip, so WIN!! These Three Writing Musketeers are such a constant encouragement and inspiration, and I know I never would have been so motivated to keep writing if it hadn’t been for these amazing friends and writers. 
I feel like I should say that it was nothing but work and that I wrote seven novels during the trip, which is nice and all . . . but we had way more fun than that! 
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“What, precisely, did you have fun doing?” you might ask. A few things that kept us distracted when our eyes were burning from staring at a computer screen for too long were:
-floor swimming and dance-athons (because exercise helps the mind)
-PIZZA!!! 
-CHAI!!!!! (a reward at the end of each night)
-OREOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*%$@#@!$ (because exclamations aren’t enough)
-tromping through Tricia’s yard like Hobbits exploring the land with Gandalf
-waking up and writing with Tricia, morning coffee with Katie (after late night writing), and giggling with my soul-sister, Nadine
-Hot Dog Fry Saturday (and S’MORES!!!!)
-book chats/singing all the songs
-running across a rope bridge in heels . . . for book research
-swinging on “vines” (a rope swing) for jungle research
-watching The Legend of Tarzan for *cough* *cough* research ^_~
-laughing until we got abs like Alexander Skarsgard
-giggling until 2 a.m. about dog props and “the smolder,” a conversation inspired by my blind love of Pierce Brown
-turning a disastrous gate change in Chicago into an adventure and the funniest sprint you will ever see three girls make across an airport (after getting pulled over by security because apparently they have a thing against delicious teas and saucepans).
As you can see, our retreat was not only productive, but a total blast and just what we all needed. It definitely helped me to get a jumpstart on my productivity for the month, and as the end of April approaches, I am so close to my NaNo goal that I’m feeling pretty good right now. That’s not to say it hasn’t been hectic lately, but I think we’re going to get there with our sanity intact.
So here’s to the last few days of NaNo, my fellow campers. Whether we win or lose Camp this April, just remember that there will always be Oreos, pizza, great friends, good books, and Tarzan. 
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Part 5: Creating Memorable Characters

Published March 5, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

Writing is an Art, I Tell You!

Part 5: Creating Memorable Characters

Aside from the questions I ranted about the other week, one of the most common things an author gets asked is, “How do you come up with your characters, and how do you handle them once they’re created?” *cracks knuckles* Step aside, Stephen King, because I’ll answer this one! (mostly because I’m sure he has a very different answer that doesn’t involve gifs and memes—so blah!)

as you wish

Characters can emerge from absolutely nothing, kind of like that Twilight Zone place in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (I think that’s the one?), where your thoughts create creatures out of the darkness and mist. Getting an idea for a character is the easy part—anything inspires me! But understanding them and knowing their purpose in your story is a completely different concept. This is the tricky part that can trip-up even the most seasoned author, because until a character becomes real to you, you’ll never break the surface of who they are and can misinterpret their reactions along the way. As a reader, this is just plain confusing. 

who are you

Before you create a character, you need to keep in mind that it helps to have different “purposes” assigned to each one—the steady tree, the flighty rocket, ultimate villain, perfect protagonist, sympathetic antagonist—and keep this design in mind to make sure they don’t deviate from their design too much.

You can do this fairly easily by asking yourself a few questions:

-What is their purpose in the story? Hero, villain, martyr?

-Are you supposed to sympathize with them, feel distant from their pain, or feel

          angry whenever they enter a scene?

-Will they have a change of heart, or should they remain steady throughout the journey?

Sarah, Will, and the gang began as simple concepts—a girl from the future, a vigilante with a broken past, the loving family next door, the steady best friend, etc.—and these general ideas worked as a starting point for their growth. Knowing where Sarah was from helped me to imagine how I might react to things a thousand years in the past, seeing everything in a different world for the first time, trying to blend in; because of Will’s history, I knew that he would be protective of those he cares for and more guarded, rejecting love when it’s what he needs the most. You will be amazed at how much growth your characters will take on, all on their own, when you give them a gentle nudge along the path they’re supposed to stay on. And be careful that you don’t fall in the trap of the “campy” character, where they’re always happy go-lucky and never seem to struggle with anything. Readers will always identify more with someone with human doubts and struggles and emotions who overcomes adversity—because that is relatable and hopeful—rather than a character who smiles and dances all. The. Bloody. Time. -_- Nobody can identify with this every day:

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Now that we’ve established how to create your characters, and also to steer clear of making a dull, one-dimensional protagonist, you have to remember that it’s important to become acquainted with them, too. Go for a walk and imagine conversations your characters might strike up because of something you see, or think about how they might react to a situation in your own life. It sounds strange to listen in on imaginary conversations between fictional beings, but it makes them feel more natural and real to me to follow them throughout the day. Making this a practice honestly helps the writing process, because you’re becoming more and more familiar with them each second you spend with your characters, and this attention to detail will really benefit your novel.

You also have to understand and be accepting of the fact that characters can evolve, and it’s your job to know how to handle them once they decide to move away from your perfect little personality mold. It might sound like a contradiction, but I can explain, I promise! Take Damien Lisandro, for instance: he was originally Lord Bormeo, a tall, thin, middle-aged man with a hawkish nose and absolutely no charm.

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While writing Chasing Shadows, I realized that, although his character’s purpose was necessary to the story, he was not. So, I took the general concept of him and the way he aided the plot and turned him into Damien, the dashing, blush-inducing Spaniard who plays a huge role in Sarah’s investigation at the castle . . . and a large role in why I giggled so much while writing his scenes. Also, I may or may not have fallen in love with him a tiny.

in love mcgarrett

I will never regret making that choice to change, not a character’s role in the story, but some of his traits to make him more appealing to readers and *cough* myself. The A-typical protagonist or villain or antagonist can be so boring, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do some rewriting where your characters are concerned so long as they don’t deviate from their purpose. Make sense?  

So, that’s it! There’s plenty more that goes into creating characters, but these are the basic concepts I follow when whipping up a new bloke or lady in my stories. The best piece of advice I can give for you aspiring writers out there is to know who your characters are, but that also comes from knowing who you are as a writer. Be bold and confident, and let your own passion play out through strong-willed characters who stand outside the box. Nobody likes reading about vanilla!

captain jack sparrow vanilla

 

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