Jasmine Angell's Blog

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


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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!

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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.

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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.

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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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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.