Jasmine Angell's Blog

Imagination is freedom…on writing, self-publishing and all things fantasy


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An Unexpected Journey: Part 2

“But you don’t write horror! Why aren’t you writing fantasy?”

That was the inevitable question that fans of my Psyne novels would ask. Believe me, I have no aspirations to be the next Stephen King. I want to reassure all the fans of my fantasy novels that I am and will always be a fantasy novelist first and foremost.  There are many more Psyne novels in the works and will be available soon!  But I also write horror short stories.  The answer to why requires a little backstory.

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The Answer Part 1: I have always loved reading novels. I like to be inserted into a world and stay there for a nice long time. Novels give me that. That’s why I love writing them. Short stories are like diving into a swimming pool, coming up for air, and being told by the life guard that it’s time to get out. Nooooooooo! I’ve just never been a fan of reading them. In college I didn’t enjoy writing short stories because I didn’t want to stop writing. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters I’d gotten to know. It was like being wrenched away from your best friends with no hope of ever seeing them again. Now that’s a true horror story!

At my very first meeting of the Utah Horror Writers Association (UHWA) I learned that Griffin Publishing was taking submissions for their newest horror anthology, It Came From the Great Salt Lake, and something in my subconscious told me that I needed to try for it. I was a novelist who wanted to try new things, hone my writing skills and grow as a writer. Why not? I got to work and well, my first short story bombed – big time! I tried to cram a novel into the itty bitty space of a short story. I didn’t even submit it but ran it past my South African author friend, A.M. Winters, half a world away and we both agreed it needed work. A lot of work. Granted, I learned about the submission call only one month before the deadline which gave me zero time and I’d only been with the UHWA for little over one month. It was then that I vowed I would devote myself to cracking this juggernaut of a nut called the Short Story!

The Answer Part 2: Shortly after, I learned of the next horror anthology taking submissions entitled, Apocalypse: Utah. The submission deadline was in 11 months, on Halloween to be exact, so I had plenty of time. I knew I had to have a departure from the beloved Psyne characters from my fantasy novels if I was to grow as a writer. I needed to be objective with my short stories and working in the horror genre was perfect because I wasn’t emotionally invested. I spent months learning everything there was to know about writing horror and short stories. In time I came to envision each short story as a one-room studio apartment. It had limitations, it had boundaries and I had to work within those boundaries. Suddenly things began to look very clear to me.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the horror writers group was that the experienced writers were more than willing to mentor the inexperienced writers. During meetings, we would quickly go over member business and then move right into a presentation from one of the writers on the Elements of Horror or Using Devices in Short Stories. I also became aware of other anthologies seeking submissions as well as various writers conferences where I could continue to learn and hone my skills.

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LTUE Conference February 2017 at the UHWA booth

The Answer Part 3: While I don’t read horror novels or scary short stories for fun, I realized that some of my favorite movies are very much a part of the horror genre but I always thought of them as being science fiction: Aliens, AVP, and Predator. I’ve always had a soft spot for vampires. Long before Stephenie Meyer introduced her fangless version. My favorite literary novel is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book I love because of the moral dilemmas rather than the horror elements. So I guess I’ve always been a closet horror fan. Who knew?

First page of my short story The Fateful Hour

Long story short, after a lot of hard work I submitted a polished short story and it was accepted for publication. My first short story entitled, “The Fateful Hour” was published in Apocalypse: Utah in early February 2017. The sense of accomplishment I felt was considerable. I had struggled with writing short stories for years and years but I’d finally cracked that nut.

A year later I submitted to The Hunger anthology and my second short story entitled, “The Pit and the Pendleton” was published in April of this year. I was slowly building my publishing resume and to be honest, writing short stories was addictive. I see them as instant gratification! A novel is a labor of love and that is where my true passion lies but now I have new tools in my writing tool box. When I’m short on time and can’t commit to a project as long as a novel, I have short stories I can jump into.

My horror stories aren’t tales of violence with copious amounts of blood and guts.  They reflect my obsession with science fiction.  They don’t venture down the path of dark fantasy but focus on moral dilemmas.  They deal with fear.  They deal with the human condition.  They deal with the psychological.

Looking back, it’s funny that it took joining a horror writers group to get over my fear of writing short stories. What’s holding you back in your creative life? What fear has you paralyzed? You’re not alone. We all have fears that control us but all it takes is one decision to face that fear and to fight it head on in order to change your life. I wish you all the best on your creative endeavors.

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An Unexpected Journey

After the publication of my third novel in the Psyne Series entitled, Radiant, in 2015 I needed a long sabbatical. I’d published 3 novels in 3 years and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment but I also felt that I had pushed myself to the limit. Juggling the creative life of an author, as well as family and friends, was difficult at times even with how wonderfully supportive everyone in my life was. I needed some time away from the series to recharge and set some new goals that would fuel my writing. What I didn’t know is that I’d embark on an unexpected journey that would lead me to a very surprising destination.

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In Cosplay as my alter ego, Lady Isadora Carrington, with a really BIG robot!

In July 2015 I attended the Salt City Steamfest, our local Steampunk convention, at the Sheraton Hotel and went to a seminar given by Xchyler Publishing. I listened to three fabulous women share their experiences about the world of writing and the advice they would give would truly change my life. They are (in no particular order):  Terra Luft, author and soon to be President of the Speculative Fiction Chapter of the League of Utah Writers (aka. The Infinite Monkeys); C.R. Asay, author and former member of the Special Forces Unit; and Callie Stoker, editor extraordinaire. They were all members of the Utah Horror Writers Association and spoke about the benefits of becoming active within local writing communities, how novelists can learn to be short story writers and how submitting your work to anthologies is essential to building your author resume. I was more than a little intrigued and spoke to them afterwards to get more information. They urged me to attend the next meeting of the Utah Horror Writers.

 

My first thought was, “But I’m not a horror writer. I write fantasy. I write about mermaids!” I was surprised to learn that Terra Luft didn’t start out as a horror writer and that C.R. Asay was a sci-fi author. The discussion I had with them was thought provoking to say the least. They reasoned that in any genre if a character possesses a fear of something, an element of horror was being used by the writer. If a character’s life was in jeopardy, an element of horror was there. Any genre can employ elements of horror to make it more thrilling, more suspenseful and more entertaining. I took the Utah Horror Writers Association business card and went out to the pool of the Sheraton to check in with my mermaid friend, Zmeya. I had a lot to think about.

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Zmeya

I balked at the idea of writing horror. Blood and guts and lots of screaming was not my thing. I preferred adventure, magic, and unusual worlds full of myth and wonder. But I couldn’t get the things they’d said out of my head.

I knew I really needed to get involved in a writers community. For the last few years while I wrote and published my Psyne novels, I’d become a part of an incredible artist community. All my friends were visual artists and I enjoyed our collaborations for the cover art on my novels immensely. But it was time for growth and growth isn’t always easy. I’ve read plenty of author blogs who’ve written about how they’ve very social and need to be around people. That they’re extroverts who love their writers groups and aren’t the stereotypical introverts that writers can be known for. But that’s not me! I’m very introverted, I love my quiet time to write and while I come up for air to get my friend fix, I need the solitude that a writer’s life demands.

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UHWA

In the end, I forced myself to go to the meeting. It was hard but sometimes you just have to eat the vegetable you really wish wasn’t on your plate. Lucky for me, that vegetable turned out to be the beginning of a beautiful learning experience! The Utah Horror Writers meeting was a group of interesting and talented writers of all genres, some published, some not published, as well as a few professors. This dynamic group possessed fantastic energy. I just wanted to sit there and soak it all in. For the next year I attended monthly meetings, learned all I could about writing short stories and attended writers conferences I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I manned the UHWA booth at Salt Lake Comic Con and the LTUE Conference (Life, the Universe, and Everything) at Utah Valley University.

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Made a new friend

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Game of Thrones throne…dark fantasy much?

 

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February 2016

Meanwhile, many of the loyal fans of my sci-fi/fantasy novel series were thrown by my affiliation with a horror writers group. “But you don’t write horror,” they’d say. “Why be in a horror writers group?” The answer to that will be in my next blog post which will be coming up next. Stay tuned!