Jasmine Angell's Blog

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


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Cakes, Cakes, Cakes (Part Two)

Here’s part two of my blog post on my healthy obsession with decorating cakes:  A year ago last January (2014), I opted for a simple frosted cake for my two-year-old’s birthday since I was still recovering from the craziness of the holidays (I felt like they had chewed me up and spit me out at least a dozen times, do you ever feel that way?). He loves trains so I tried something a little different and literally forced myself not to use fondant.  I used the train from the movie, The Little Engine That Could (2011) as my inspiration.

choo choo cake

It’s not my favorite cake (it’s a bit too messy for me, I like the clean lines achieved by using fondant) but my son loved it and the candy-filled cars were a big hit with the kids attending the party.

coal carMmm…a train car full of coal (licorice)

lego candiesMmm…candy legos

candy rocksMmm…candy rocks

ball candiesMmm…chocolate baseballs, soccor balls, basketballs, footballs and tennis balls.

By February, I needed a long break from cakes as I had done too many in such a short amount of time and it was losing its appeal for me. (I couldn’t even eat cake, I was so over it!) With a nice break over the next few months, I recovered and finally felt like doing a cake at the beginning of summer.  I’d seen it on Pinterest:  a KitKat cake!

kitkat cake1
Many of you cake enthusiasts have probably seen versions of this cake on Pinterest and around the web, using colorful M&Ms or other candies. The cake was for my husband (the lucky guy) and I incorporated Almond Joy candy pieces on the top, alternating with Rolo caramels.

kitkat cake2

The cake was a chocolate cake from scratch which just didn’t turn out very well, it might have been the higher elevation but I’ve never had much luck with cake recipes, I go with boxed mixes most of the time which everyone loves. If I make this cake again, I’ll just use brownie mix, yum!

kitkat cake3

The filling is a coconut and almond sliver mixture (double yum!). With all the candy it was a heavy, heavy cake but super fun to make!

Ducky leaning
But not all of my creations turn out quite the way I hope they would. Case in point, the cake I did for my son on his first birthday. It was a Rubber Ducky themed party and so I thought I’d try doing my first cake from a mold.

Cute Ducky from side

Aw, isn’t that the cutest little ducky?  The idea of a 3-D yellow duck cake fit great with the party theme but I encountered one major problem: as I was just about finished piping on the yellow frosting all over the duck, the duck’s head literally rolled right off the body!

Duck fell apart

I was horrified because serving a decapitated duck birthday cake to guests was NOT my idea of a party (maybe a Halloween party but not a first bday party!). I realized I should have used a denser cake mix like pound cake which would’ve been able to withstand the added weight of the frosting as well as gravity (pesky gravity!).  Freezing the cake for a few hours before piping on the frosting would have also given it more support.  Live and learn, lol!

Salvaged duck cake

So I did what any self-respecting cake maker does: I cut the headless duck’s body in half, laid it on its side, cut the duck’s head in half, set in on its side and wah-lah, my 2-D duck cake was saved! (Thanks for that idea, mom!)
Watch for more of my cake creations in the near future. Coming up: a super fun How To Train Your Dragon 2 cake and a Disney’s Frozen cake featuring everything Elsa.

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Cakes, Cakes, Cakes (Part One)

I hope everyone’s 2015 has started off in an exciting way!  I’m happily (and furiously) working  on book 3 of my Psyne series, Radiant, due out this August.  I had PRK correction eye surgery last November and anyone who has had it done knows that it’s grueling to wait the four to six weeks it takes for the eyes to heal and vision to become 20/20.  Emailing was put on hold as was writing and blogging but I’m back and more importantly, I can see again!

Today’s topic is one of my creative obsessions:  cakes.  I have a thing for fondant. In 2009, I decorated my first cake with fondant instead of frosting and I was hooked.  Since making fondant cakes is a creative outlet of mine and most of them incorporate an element of fantasy, I thought I’d share them with you.

Castle Cake

After I published my first novel, Luminous, fellow blogger and author, Sara C. Snider, posted an author interview of me and in it she asked about my cake-making hobby.  Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.  For my daughter’s 3rd birthday, I went a little crazy with the castle cake using a Wilton kit for the amazing turrets.  It was a fantasy castle, there was no way I could resist!

Mermaid-Tail-cupcakes-smaller

I baked up mermaid tail cupcakes for my very first Mermaid Tea which was loads of fun and then there’s the Steampunk cake I did for my friend, Abigail Sloan, the artist who did the artwork for the Luminous cover.

Steampunk cake for Abby

She introduced me to all things Steampunk and so for her birthday, I had the best time putting this together for her.

Steampunk Mermaid tail

Two of my favorite features on it is the purple Steampunk mermaid tail and the Kraken tentacle holding the paintbrush.

 

After that, the holidays picked up and by the end of the year (2013) I was burned out and in much need of a vacation. It took me a while to bounce back and that’s why I didn’t keep up with posting about my other cake creations. But better late than never and so here I am to show off the other cakes. At the beginning of December, I did this Minnie Mouse cake for Minnie-obsessed four-year-old daughter.

Isabel's Minnie cake

I found several on Pinterest and chose certain elements to re-create for this cake. Cutting out the letters by hand using the Disney font for inspiration was particularly challenging and fun. I’m a certified ‘font junkie’!

Isabel's Minne cake2
The best thing about the Minnie cake was that I got to try doing a polka dot cake so that when you cut into the cake, each slice features polka dots, just like the ones on Minnie’s dress.

Minnie polka dot cake1

I found the awesome polka dot cake tutorial on Pinterest (of course!) at Once Upon A Pedestal and it’s easier than you’d think!

Minnie polka dot cake2Minnie polka dot cake3

The key is to freeze your cake pop balls before you put them in cake pan and pour cake batter over them.  Freezing will help to keep them moist and adding the pudding packet to the cake pop balls when baking them helps too.  It’s all in the tutorial!

 

Usually December is far too busy for too much cake-making with family birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s and all the seasonal baking that goes on. But I just had to make this birthday cake for my friend, Joanna, who is the designer for the covers of my Psyne book series. She has a well-developed appreciation for Tim Burton and is a fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  The puncture wounds in the top layer is one of my favorite parts of this cake.

DSC_0260

One of my other favorite aspects of the cake is the shiny red ganache dripping like blood over the white fondant. It was super easy to do thanks to the tutorial from Cookies and Cups and since then, I helped a friend use it as lava on a volcano cake for her son.

I cut the letters by hand using the lettering used in the movie poster for Dracula as my guide.

DSC_0256

The cake was made with red velvet and the top layer had a cherry filling (without the chunks of cherry) so that when you cut into the cake, it oozed ‘blood’.

 

That concludes Part One of this post on my cake craziness. Part Two will be posted soon!


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Free eBook and Tidbits from My Second Steampunk Convention!

Who doesn’t love free stuff? My second eBook, Prism, is FREE for Labor Day weekend and the promotion starts today, Thursday, August 28 and runs through Monday, September 1. For your Kindle or Kindle app, click here.   You don’t have to have a Kindle to get your free copy of Prism! Download Amazon’s Free Reading App here:

Promoting books is an unavoidable part of being a published author and many of us aren’t very comfortable doing it but for me, a Steampunk convention makes promoting my book series a whole lot more fun and helps to get me out of my shell! Last year was my very first Steampunk convention which had me scrambling to learn everything I could about this new term ‘steampunk’ in the weeks leading up to it. I fell in love, of course, with all of the neo-Victorian costumes, corsets, airships, goggles and lots of metal – what’s not to love? I sat at a booth in Artist Alley with a few of my artist friends who were selling their wares and passed out promotional flyers about my upcoming debut novel, Luminous, which at the time was due out in a few weeks. It was uncomfortable and a bit terrifying for me to put on my saleswoman/self-promoter hat but the two day experience I had at the convention immersed in this unforgettable world of Steampunk made up for it in spades!

Jas with falcon steamfest

Posing with a falcon at last year’s Steamfest

 

Getting to hold a falcon at last year’s Steamfest held special meaning for me since the falcon is the avian form that my main character, Ilauria, shape-shifts into when she needs to fly.  I think birds are beautiful but I was really nervous holding one, their beak and talons look sharp because they are sharp, ha, ha!  My costume is one I put together:  a bit of a neo-Victorian, carnivale/Southwest feel.  I decorated the hat and sewed the electric blue bustle from a prom dress I got at the second hand store.  The chains I added to the front of the corset was surprisingly easy and gave me that extra metal I needed to be steampunk.

Jas with mermaid Steamfest 2013

Last year, I also got to pose with the lovely mermaid Thalassah.  I felt like I was 4 years old again and it was awesome!   Doesn’t she have a fantastic tail?

 

But that was last year and this year proved to be an even more incredible experience! For my second Salt City Steamfest, I knew what to expect, I had a super fun costumes to wear and I had not one, but two novels to sell. Yippee! Having actual paperbacks of Luminous to sell made all the difference in the world along with having business cards to pass out and info about the eBook of Prism. I actually felt like I was doing more than just “playing at being a fantasy author” (I don’t know if it will ever feel ‘real’ to me).

My Promotional Poster 2014

My Promotional Poster 2014

 

For those of you unfamiliar with steampunk conventions, the Salt City Steamfest is a two day event similar to Comic Con and Fantasy Con but on a smaller scale with artists and vendors selling all manner of fantasy and Steampunk wares, panels and special guests, a fashion show, lots of opportunities for people watching (the costumes are beyond remarkable to say the least!), musical guests perform and there’s a Steamfest Ball at the end of the last day. The first day, I didn’t expect to sell much because it’s the day when everyone is perusing the vendor booths deciding how best to spend their money but I ended up selling one of the Luminous paperbacks and I was ecstatic! My hand was shaking so badly as I signed the copy of the book but I managed.

My first sale of the convention!

My first sale of the convention!

Afterward, I celebrated by visiting the mermaid lagoon where mermaids had taken over the hotel pool. Mermaids might not seem like they would belong at a Steampunk convention but they are a favorite at any fantasy convention. Steampunk, while growing in popularity and reaching more mainstream audiences during the past few years, is much like the mermaid genre in that they both occupy small niches of fantasy.  Fantasy is dominated by the usual suspects, ie. wizards, vampires, and witches – but many fantasy enthusiasts are looking for something new.  I’d love to try fusing these two genres:  a steampunk mermaid!!!

Second day costume with Luminous

Second day costume with Luminous

The second day was amazing because I sold three paperbacks of Luminous and was very pleased with how my books did. The highlight of my experience (besides the euphoria of signing and selling books) was actually talking to readers. They were all very vocal about their preferences in regards to books: some were Team Paperback and others were adamantly Team eBook. I was surprised to observe that it was actually readers  in their 20’s and 30’s who rejected eBooks for the incomparable feel of holding a book in their hands while readers in their teens and those 40 and up, were loyal to their eBooks. But most of the readers I spoke to had made the switch to eBooks citing the ease of purchasing online, how eBooks were more affordable and they preferred reading on a tablet as opposed to holding a book open for hours.  Whether it’s an eBook or a paperback or even a hardback, it’s the magic of the stories inside them that make books phenomenal!

My baby Kraken Victorian hat

My baby Kraken Victorian hat

Costuming is one of my favorite hobbies so putting this red/black neo-Victorian costume together was super fun and wearing it was even better!  I sewed the jacket from a pattern and added the black satin ruffle to it for extra pizazz.  The grand bustle was fairly easy to sew but I had to add wads of tulle to the inside to make the bustle have the correct ‘bouffant’ and poofiness.  The black velvet apron was easy to make and I used the black corset from my previous costume.  All of it went over a red bridesmaid dress which proves that some bridesmaid dresses can, in fact, be worn again, ha, ha.    The hat I embellished with feathers and a “baby Kraken (octopus)” which I molded from paper clay and painted to match.  The choker and red octopus tentacle earrings went perfect with the costume and I’d bought them from a vendor at Steamfest last year.

I’ll do a blog post soon on the inspiration for the red/black costume but in the meantime, you’re welcome to see more pics from Salt City Steamfest 2014 on the Prism Facebook page and be sure to Like it too!  Click here!

 

 


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Top 10 Things I’m Going to Do Now That My Sequel Has Been Published

Those of you who have published a book know how many long, arduous months go into preparing it for publication. For me, only the few priorities in daily life get done during that time and everything else gets pushed aside to a later date. Even though I took the time to celebrate the release of Prism with family and friends and I’m currently in the promoting/marketing stage, my stress level has decreased drastically and I have more time in my day for real life. So I thought it would be kinda fun to list off all the things that I’ve been putting off for the last six months and maybe it would help focus me so I could accomplish them all before I got too busy with my next writing project.

 
Here Are the Top 10 Things (in no particular order):

 
1) Catch up on my blog. I have a backlog of blog topics. My problem is not that I don’t have ideas for blog posts, I write plenty of them. My problem is that I don’t have the time to read back through them, edit and polish so that they’re suitable for posting on my blog. I hope to start posting them regularly this summer, especially about my creative cakes!  Yes, I’ve been baking!

 

2) Redbox. I’m going to catch up on all the DVDs I’ve been wanting to rent, especially since summer started. I haven’t had time for much entertainment lately.

 

3) Clean out my closet of clothes. Having had two kids in the past five years, I have all sizes of clothes clogging my closet: pregnancy clothes, post-pregnancy clothes, my pre-pregnancy clothes I’ve been holding onto and now that I fit into them again, I find that they are outdated and not worth wearing. Most of my clothes need to be donated to Goodwill. Once there’s more room in my closet, I can start the arduous task of buying new clothes. Shopping doesn’t come naturally to me, at all.

 

4) Make a really nice dinner for my husband. The preparation of dinner undoubtedly has fallen near the bottom of the priority list and I’ve fallen into a rut of cooking fast meals like hot dogs, frozen fish fillets, spaghetti, frozen potstickers…you get the idea. It’s time for something special.

 

5) Create more storage space on my cell phone. I’m horrible at deleting the pics and videos I take on my cell phone since they automatically download to my computer (but it’s not set to automatically delete them once the download is complete, mostly because I’m a tad paranoid. I might have to update that setting though). For the past few weeks I haven’t been able to take any pics on my cell because it’s too full. Definitely time to free up some room.  I also need to free up some space on the hard drive of my laptop.  Haven’t had a spare second for that either…

 

6) Potty train my son.  It is something that is time sensitive and requires mom (that’s me) not to be distracted by the myriad of things that have to fall into place in order to have a book published.  Now that I’m less distracted, I’m ready to give him my full attention, get him out of diapers and make my husband one very happy dude (diapers are expensive!).

 

7) Finish unpacking! We moved a year ago and I still haven’t hung up all of the framed family photos. With kids and writing and everything else going on, it just hasn’t been a priority. My younger self would be shaking her head at me!  I hate bare walls!

 

8) I’m always doing crafts but I’m not organized at all, so there are bags of this and bags of that—EVERYWHERE! Well, not everywhere, just in the guest room and when we do have an overnight guest, I throw the bags into several plastic storage totes. Afterward, I can’t find anything! Very frustrating. I just need to get organized and life will become so much simpler.

 

9) Make time to try out all the new recipes my daughter thinks look interesting. I’m grooming her to be a fantastic baker and cook in hopes that I won’t have to step foot in the kitchen ever again. It’s a diabolical plan, I know!

 

10) Finish the baby book I’m making online for my son who is two and a half years old. I’m also auntie to some smart and amazing nephews and nieces and I’ve done baby books for each of them over the years. I’m also very excited to meet #6 and #7 which means more baby book making is in my very near future!

 

That about sums it up. For those authors out there, what do you do after you publish a book?

 

 


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Writing, the Muse, and the Juggling Act

Sara C. Snider bio picI want to thank Sara C. Snider for tagging me in the Writing Process Blog hop. Sometimes all a fledgling blogger like me needs is a gentle push from a fellow blogger to get back into blogging mode. I know I’ve been lax in blog posts this year, largely because preparing my sequel, Prism, for publication has taken up the majority of my time. But it feels good to belong to such a great community of writers who give encouragement and support just when I need it! Be sure to check out Sara’s fantastic blog and look for her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tower, now on Amazon.

Here’s how the blog hop works:

1. Introduce who referred the blog tour to you
2. Answer the following 4 questions:
a. What am I working on?
b. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
c. Why do I write what I do?
d. How does my writing process work?
3. Introduce the people you’re passing this on to (3 – 4 people if possible who will then post a week later)

Let the blog hop begin:

Question #1: What am I working on?

Now that Prism is published, I’m free to concentrate on Book 3 of the Psyne series entitled, Radiant. I started the manuscript during National Novel Writing Month last November and made good progress. In the spring, I created a working outline for Radiant that will aid me in finishing the manuscript. I’ve never worked with a completed outline before but I’ve wanted to start using one. I’m hoping that an outline will keep me focused and help me to write the novel quickly so that I can begin the editing process in hopes of publishing next summer.  With my two previously published novels, I spent a year to write them and a year to edit them and then had some time away from them before polishing for publication.  Radiant will challenge me to be disciplined because I’ll be writing, editing and polishing it in one year’s time.  I think practice makes perfect and I’m excited to put all the skills I’ve honed with the first two novels to good use in this third one.  Confidence in my abilities has also been something I’ve struggled with but seeing my completed works on Amazon for readers to enjoy has gone a long way toward helping me in that respect.

While my mermaids take most of my attention these days, I do have to battle against getting side-tracked by a multitude of other fantastic worlds, characters and story lines.  Many writers know exactly what I’m talking about and half the time it may seem like the place one’s ideas come from is hindering more than helping.  I’ve learned over the years how to take the snippets of inspiration for other novels and put them safely away for the future.  Over time these snippets of notes add up and after a while, I can go back to them and see that I have enough material for another book series.  After I finished writing Luminous in 2008, I wrote a novel about vampires (this was during the vampire craze when it seemed like everyone was writing about them) and I enjoyed giving them a unique mythology like I’d done with my mermaids.  I’d love to get back to writing about vampires but I’m also being pulled in a different direction, to write about a fantasy culture that revolves around horses and dance.  We’ll have to see which one succeeds in winning my attention in the future.

 
Question #2: How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My Psyne series is Young Adult Fantasy and centers around mermaids. Unfortunately, mermaids make up a very small niche in YA Fantasy since they’re eclipsed by the multitude of books about more popular fantasy creatures such as vampires, werewolves, witches, fairies, angels and demons. The YA mermaid books I’ve encountered largely fall into two categories: the ‘metaphor-for-puberty’ books and the ‘first-time-on-land’ books. The first overused, tired story line involves a human teenager who becomes a mermaid through a latent gene or magic like in the lovely TV show H2O: Just Add Water. The second category involves an innocent/naïve mermaid who ventures onto land for the first time and falls in love with a human like in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the 1984 movie Splash. While these classic stories are very entertaining, it gets tedious reading the same old plot lines. I wanted to write something new and re-imagine mermaids so they were fresh and exciting. My Psyne book series takes the reader on adventures from the mermaids’ points of view with surprises around every turn, a unique mythology for the reader to explore and page-turning conflicts that make these books difficult to put down.  In my imagination, mermaids have always been so much more than the simple, trivialized way they’ve been conveyed in pop culture and my books strive to showcase them with all the magic and mystique due them.

 

Question #3: Why do I write what I do?

I write fantasy because fantasy rocks! Reading and writing fantasy makes my heart soar, gives my imagination free reign and thrills me like no other genre does. Fantasy is a place where anything is possible and I mean, anything. Magic is always involved in some form or another and that’s just plain cool. Mermaids have always appealed to me, since I was very young, and I was always disappointed by the regurgitated story lines. Mermaids are one of the longest persisting female archetypes in history but usually they’re relegated to stereotypical roles of the naïve, the vain or the vicious. I saw the potential for what mermaids could truly be and I jumped at the opportunity to reinvent them. Mermaids represent women and as a woman, I know how multifaceted, how complex and how extraordinary we can be. I wanted that depth expressed in the mermaids that populate my Psyne series. With my novels, I hope to change the way readers and our society view these most magical of all fantasy beings.

 

Question #4: How does my writing process work?

One of the reasons I enjoy writing novels in a series is because the next book grows out of the one that came before it. It’s all very organic in its creation. So by the time I’ve finished one novel, I have pages of notes and the beginnings of the outline for the next book in the series. I also love staying with the same group of characters and in a way, they become like a second family. By the second book, they’ve revealed so much of themselves to me that they really end up dictating how they react to events in the story. I really enjoy seeing how they handle the situations I throw at them.

But I’ve gotten off topic. Raising two small children during the day means that when their bedtime rolls around, I’m glued to my laptop. For the initial writing of the novel, I force myself to work at a desk with an ergonomic keyboard and I use two monitors so that I can have my manuscript on one screen and the internet with windows to dictionary and thesaurus and various types of research on the other. I love to write late at night when the house is quiet.  There’s something about the night that helps to put me in another world but I can only work a few hours an evening because I have to be up early the next morning to keep up with the kiddos. That means I have to deal with a fair amount of frustration when I force myself to stop but it also means I have to be extremely disciplined in writing every day. All I have to do is ask myself how badly I want this next novel published and I’ve got all the motivation I need.  Sometimes you just have to dig deep and do it!

One thing I’ve found in recent years is how to access the Muse directly which may sound absolutely strange to most of you. It started when I became a new mom and sleep was scarce. They say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps” and so I got into the habit of forcing myself to rest by counting down from ten. Practice makes perfect and I got very good at being asleep before I got to number four (it also helped that I was exhausted most of the time!). Once I was able to incorporate my writing into my daily routine, I got into the habit of thinking about my current plot problem that I needed a solution too. Then when I’d lay down to rest, in that place between being awake and being asleep, the answers began pouring out and I had to make a choice: continue to fall into unconsciousness or wake myself enough so I could jot down the ‘inspiration’. Depending on my level of exhaustion that day, it was sometimes a difficult choice but most days I’d write down the nuggets of gold my semi-unconscious mind had hand delivered and fall asleep happy with the insight I’d been given.

There are a ton of books out there on the subject of the Mind, dreams and unconsciousness. I’m no expert but I think there’s something to be said about quieting the mind (as in meditation) and allowing the answers you seek to come forth. Give it a try and you might be surprised what the Muse whispers to you. Anyway, back to the nuts and bolts of the writing process.

Once the bulk of the manuscript is complete, I switch to editing mode where I get to snuggle up in my bed or on the couch with a blanket and my laptop. This is my favorite part of the whole process because: 1) I get to be more comfortable (and since I’m not typing that much, I don’t need to employ my ergonomic desk), 2) As editor, I get to view my novel from a different perspective and I see my characters more objectively, and 3) That said, insights become revealed and more nuggets of plot gold become plain to me. The plot really begins to come together and the magic in it becomes clear. You can tell I love this part of it, it really gets me excited!  Then I get to polish, polish, polish which means substituting words, cleaning up dialogue, streamlining chapters and lastly, making sure typos are gone and the grammar is pristine.

Once I have a nearly finalized draft, I always have it read by other people.  Luckily, I have a small group of friends and family who are avid readers and they give me the much needed feedback I need to make my manuscript ready to publish.  It’s so important to have one’s work read because it’s far too easy to become too close to the project.  A pair of fresh eyes is essential to elevate one’s manuscript to the level it needs to be so that when it’s published, readers will have the best experience possible.  Having it edited by an outside source is a must!

Those are the nuts and bolts of my process but here are some other random facts.  I love writing during summer. I think it’s the feel of the longer days and the fact that my novels take place during the summer that helps me get excited about diving in and continuing my characters’ story. Sometimes I listen to music and other times I use ear plugs so the world around me falls away. When I first started writing the series, I’d light candles that smelled like vanilla sugar cookies and surround myself with my figurines of mermaids or winged horses but now, all the inspiration I need is in my head. I usually have a first draft that I can give my select group of readers by Thanksgiving so I can get feedback from them and begin the editing process after the holidays. Then I’m on track to publish by the beginning of summer when I can begin serious work on the next novel and the process starts all over again for another year.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post and happy writing!

 
I choose to tag the following phenomenal writers, whose blogs I really enjoy, to share their writing process on the blog hop next week (July 14-20):

Julianne Kelsch

Julianne Kelsch:  She has two occupations: mom and writer. Her life revolves around her amazing husband and three adorable little kids (5, 3, and 1). Writing is her other passion, and the biggest goals of her life revolve around it. Her interests include reading, writing, piano, family and learning. You can connect with Julianne on her blog.

 

Heidi Angell bio pic Heidi Angell (we’re not related but she has the same rockin’ last name as me!):  She has been passionate about writing since she “published” her first book in her first grade class! She has written thousands of short stories, plays, books and poems. She has published a psychic thriller novel Elements of a Broken Mind, an urban fantasy/ horror The Hunters, a children’s picture book Royal Prince Vince, and an activity book Creative Exercises to Inspire. Heidi is also the vice president of Soul Star Publishing. She is a mom and a wife, active in Cub Scouts and in her community. You can connect with Heidi on her blog, website, Twitter and Goodreads

 Jennifer Windram bio pic

Jennifer Windram: Her current work in progress is a paranormal romance novel (Yay vampires!), with historical elements. She love animals (even the creepy ones), a buttery glass of wine, and a good book or series on Netflix that she can binge-watch with her hubby. Her favorite food is sushi and she believes in ghosts. You can connect with her on her highly entertaining blog.


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Maleficent as inspiration for villain in sequel, Prism

Maleficent movie poster

Maleficent. When I first saw the previews to the new movie starring Angelina Jolie, my first impressions were: Angelina Jolie was made for that role, the special effects looked amazing and I was really sad that I had to wait two months until it was released to see it. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m happy to say it met all of my expectations and then exceeded them, in the most magical ways possible.

 
Like any good story, this one tells of Maleficent, a powerful fairy who is complex, surprising and utterly captivating. This ‘villain’ is a far cry from the one-sided character most of us know from the animated Disney movie Sleeping Beauty (1959). As a mother of two small children, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched the animated Disney movie (and I confess to humming the “Once Upon A Dream” song while I’ve made dinner on several occasions. Hey, it’s a catchy tune!). The Maleficent in the animated movie appears to be a true villain, without room for redemption, no sign of good. As a writer, I know well that there’s always at least two sides to every story and the characters who are cast as the villain or the hero is entirely dependent on whose perspective the story is being told by. To quote a line from that song that likes to get stuck in my head, “…visions are seldom what they seem…”

 
While my sequel, Prism, features the character Adante on the cover, it is her mentor, the Queen of the Venvian, who is the main antagonist at odds with the heroes of the novel. Atargatis is her name and she is powerful, cunning and lethal. When I was first creating her for Book One of the series, Luminous, I tried to imagine strong female villains and Maleficent was at the top of the list. She influenced my Atargatis greatly but to make Atargatis a fully realized character, I had to delve into her beginnings, which all villains have. Somewhere along the line, everyone has to make a choice between going down the path of good or taking the path of evil, and I think that’s part of what makes villains so intriguing – the point when they decided to choose evil. The more complex a villain is, the more believable and engaging they are to readers.  I fleshed out Atargatis’s history and even wrote a short story about the pivotal moment in her life that altered her future forever (I hope to release it on my website before the end of the year).

 
To get back to the movie, Maleficent, I was very pleased to see Maleficent’s character presented in all the complexity, mystery and magic due such an iconic villain. So while I don’t routinely review movies on my blog, the fantasy lover in me thoroughly enjoyed Maleficent and you should definitely run out and see it as well. You’d get there faster if you had a pair of giant black bird wings!