Heroines of Fantasy: Miss September

This month we’re paying tribute to an ordinary woman playing in an extraordinary league: Agent Natasha Romanoff from The Avengers movie.

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

Photo credit: Marvel Studios

Also known as Black Widow, Natasha is an ex-Russian spy/assassin, now working as an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. Unlike the superheroes on the Avengers team, Natasha doesn’t have any super powers. Just moxie, kick-ass fight moves, and guns. She goes head-to-head with Loki in a mind game and wins, not to mention she beats up her fair share of invading Chitauri aliens.

While she appears tough and aloof on the surface, Natasha has a softer, vulnerable side around Hawkeye. She tells Loki at one point that Hawkeye saved her from being killed and gave her a chance at redemption. Now she fights with the good guys, even if they are a motley team of superheroes.

Scarlett Johansson is scheduled to resume her role as Black Widow in the second Captain America movie (2014) and the second Avengers film (2015). I, for one, can’t wait!


I also have exciting news: Earth Tones is a Finalist in the 2013 Best Indie Book Awards! I am so honored that the book made it into the Top 5 for Fantasy. From here the judges will take the month of September to determine the winner, but I feel like one already. Here’s to a great, kick-ass month! *clink*


I hope you enjoyed your visit and come back for more!  You can subscribe using RSSTwitter, or Facebook.  And if you want to ensure you don’t miss any new releases, sign up for the newsletter!

Heroines of Fantasy: Miss August

Welcome to our monthly feature of kick-ass fantasy heroines. This month, in honor of the movie release, we’ll be taking a look at Clary Fray from Cassandra Clare’s bestselling YA series, The Mortal Instruments. The movie adaptation of the first book, City of Bones, releases August 21. (Anyone excited?)

Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Clary Fray

Clary is a fifteen-year-old girl who witnesses a murder at a night club. Yet she’s the only one who can see the victim and the teenage perpetrators. Clary has the Sight, which means she can see the supernatural hiding among us. She also happens to be the child of two Shadowhunters, a race of humans who fight demons. When her mother is attacked by a demon, Clary finds herself thrown into a world she was born into, but that her mother hid her from all these years. She meets Jace Wayland, a Shadowhunter boy and the two fall in love. (Bad news when they both find out they share the same absent father. Oops.)

Clary is a tough girl, driven to confront the strange and terrifying world of the Shadowhunters in order to save her mom from a magical coma. She’s an artist with a talent for drawing, an ability that manifests itself supernaturally when she is able to invent magical runes by drawing them. She battles her growing love for Jace as the two also fight their biological father, Valentine, a traitor to the Shadowhunters and bent on destruction. No high school drama here, just bloody fights to the death against demons risen from hell.

The Mortal Instruments and the spin-off, The Infernal Devices, are stupendous series I recommend to everyone.


Quick note to those following the Supernatural Sleuth series. I apologize for having two weeks between postings, but last week I was writing the conclusion after the votes, and this week was the first Monday of August, which demanded a Heroine of Fantasy post. Fret not, I will be posting the conclusion to Paige’s adventure next week.


I hope you enjoyed your visit and come back for more!  You can subscribe using RSSTwitter, or Facebook.  And if you want to ensure you don’t miss any new releases, sign up for the newsletter!

Heroines of Fantasy: Miss June

Welcome to our sixth installment of this series where I feature kick-ass heroines from the fantasy genre. This month I have a slightly different type of heroine for you. Meet Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. (For the sake of this post, I’ll be referring to the movie, as the movie and book take completely different plot turns.)


Sophie is a hat maker. She’s 18, but has taken over her father’s shop so her younger sister can be free to do what she wants. Sophie is responsible, hard working, and plucky when she has a mind to be. She also has very low self-esteem. In fact, she thinks she’s so ugly, that not even the dreaded wizard Howl would deign to eat her heart.

At this point you might be exchanging wary glances with each other. Sophie is our heroine? This mouse of a girl who lives a boring life while her sister goes out and has all the fun? Well now, the story gets better. Or worse, for Sophie.

Grandma SophieThe wicked Witch of the Waste comes to visit Sophie’s shop, and in a rare moment of Sophie showing some of that pluck, she shows the sleazy witch the door. Oops, don’t piss off a mean old witch. Sophie is then cursed and transformed into an old woman. Horrified, she quickly leaves town and heads into the wild. It’s a slow journey, as her bones creak and she gets tired easily.

You’re still wondering why I picked her as our monthly heroine? Okay, here’s the deal. Sophie may not be a vampire or demon slaying chick who wields swords or guns, but she’s got brains. She finds the wizard Howl’s castle and makes a pact with the fire demon inside to help break each other’s curses. And when Howl shows up wanting to know who she is, she claims she’s the new cleaning lady.

Even in an old woman’s body, Sophie still battles traps by the Witch of the Waste, evil sorcerers, and encroaching war. But here’s what I think truly makes her a heroine worthy of our feature—sometimes the hardest obstacle to overcome is ourselves. Sophie may not think she has much to offer the world or anyone, but in the end, she doesn’t need to be saved by a dashing hero. She can save herself. And him. 😉


I hope you enjoyed your visit and come back for more!  You can subscribe using RSSTwitter, or Facebook.  And if you want to ensure you don’t miss any new releases, sign up for the newsletter!

Castle in the Sky

Here is another great masterpiece film from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.  In line with Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky is my all-time favorite.  What I love most about these anime films is the breadth of imagination.  Think fantasy and steampunk, toss in quirky characters and gorgeous animation, and add the voice talents of Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamil, Mandy Patinkin, Andy Dick, and many more.

Young Sheeta is a captive on board an airship when it’s attacked by pirates.  In a desperate attempt to escape the government secret agents who kidnapped her and the pirate gang looking for her crystal amulet, Sheeta accidentally falls from the ship.  Her necklace comes to life and floats her gently to earth where a young Pazu catches her.  The two become fast friends, but the army and the pirates are close on their heels.  Everyone wants Sheeta’s family crystal for its power in finding the long lost floating city, Laputa.  When Sheeta is recaptured by the secret agents, Pazu joins forces with Dola’s pirate gang in order to save her and find the legendary city before its power falls into the wrong hands.

The Characters

Sheeta grew up in the mountains where her parents taught her the secrets of their family line as the descendents of the people who built the flying cities from so long ago, before all were lost and man returned to the earth.  All she wants is to be left alone, but the crystal’s power only responds to her own.  She starts out as a scared little girl bent on running away, but with Pazu’s friendship and bravery, she decides to fight back and seek out the city and whatever answers it may hold.

Pazu is an orphan who lives in a mining town.  He works the mines and dreams of building an airship and flying to Laputa, the castle in the sky his father saw once.  No one believed him, and Pazu wants to prove his father right.  He’s always got a smile and a positive attitude.  His loyalty for Sheeta leads him to join up with pirates in order to save her.

Dola is the leader of the pirate gang.  She’s a crazy old woman with guns instead of cats.  Half the crew are her own sons, though she’s insistent they call her “Captain” and not “mother.”  She may seem ruthless, but Pazu and Sheeta bring out the heart in her.

Muska is the secret government agent in charge of finding Laputa and discovering the secrets of its power.  He has no qualms about kidnapping little girls and forcing Sheeta to cooperate.  While he’s got an entire army and huge battleship at his command, Muska’s got secret motives of his own.

It’s a non-stop, fun-filled adventure, and I’ll also add that the soundtrack is pretty good too.


I hope you enjoyed your visit and come back for more!  You can subscribe using RSS, Twitter, or Facebook.  And if you want to ensure you don’t miss any new releases, you can sign up for the newsletter!

Howl’s Moving Castle

In September I posted about one of my favorite Japanese anime movies, Spirited Away.  Today I bring you another masterpiece by the same filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki: Howl’s Moving Castle.

Sophie, a quiet girl with low self-esteem, is about to find her life turned upside down.  While out and about, she has a chance encounter with the mysterious and handsome wizard, Howl.  Sophie isn’t afraid of him like everyone else because Howl “only eats the hearts of pretty girls.”  The wicked Witch of the Waste is jealous of Howl’s attentions towards Sophie, and puts a spell on her, turning her into an old woman.  Unable to remain in her normal life, Sophie ventures into the wastes and comes across Howl’s magical moving castle, a heaping piece of creaky junk powered by the powerful fire demon, Calcifer.  The two strike a bargain, agreeing to help each other break the curses they’re under.  Sophie hires herself as Howl’s cleaning lady, but finds it’s not so simple a job when the great and powerful wizard is as mature as a two-year-old and a war between two countries threatens to destroy them all.

The Characters

Sophie handles being cursed into an old woman’s body rather well, considering.  She gains more confidence as “Grandma Sophie” than she ever did as a young woman.  She works hard and grows to love her new family.  When that love shows, she even becomes visibly younger, though it doesn’t break the curse.

Howl may be handsome and mysterious, but at heart he’s really vain and selfish.  He’s under a kind of curse as well, though these curses come with a gag order and no one’s able to speak about it.  Howl transforms into a hideous monster at night when he flies out to survey the destruction of a war he hates, yet the King is calling upon him to serve and fight, and Howl can’t hide forever.

Calcifer is a fire demon.  He and Howl are under a binding curse that keeps Calcifer trapped in the fireplace and running the magical castle.  Calcifer is belligerent and petulant, but is most definitely the comedic relief.  Voiced by Billy Crystal, he’s my favorite character in this movie.

The Witch of the Waste has been after Howl for years.  Though hideous, she’s vain and prideful.  She gets some nasty just desserts in the end.

Markl is a young boy apprenticed to Howl.  At first suspicious of Sophie, he comes to love her with a little boy’s vulnerability.

Turnip Head is a scarecrow who hops around on his stick and tries to help Sophie.  He’s got a turnip for a head, which is what earns him his nickname.  He’s got a secret identity that won’t be revealed until the end…

This movie is actually based on a novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones.  However, though the characters are the same and the inciting incident of Sophie being cursed are the same, the two stories go in completely different directions after that.  So much so, that I can’t even compare the two; they are independent plots, and I love them both in their uniqueness.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I highly recommend both.

This week I also did a guest post on Kim Kozlowski’s blog about writing and my little helper.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Spirited Away

Welcome to Imagine That on Wednesdays!  Here’s a random fact about me: I love fantasy anime.  The breadth of imagination the writers and animators have inspires me.  Sometimes the images are breathtaking, sometimes they’re crazy weird, but that’s what makes watching it such an adventure.

Here’s one of those masterpieces by acclaimed filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki: Spirited Away.

Ten-year-old Chihiro is sullen when her parents uproot her from her home and move to a new neighborhood.  On the way, they stumble into the spirit world where her parents are transformed into pigs.  To find a way to save them, Chihiro takes a job at the bathhouse, run by the witch Yubaba.  Yubaba controls people by stealing their names.  Chihiro becomes Sen and must fight to remember who she is and why she’s in the spirit world.  She’ll discover courage she never knew she had as she faces a stink spirit, a monster who devours people, a curse, and a dragon who knew her as a young child, though she can’t remember how.

The Characters

Chihiro starts out as a pouting, obnoxious whiner.  However, throughout her adventure, she will learn strength and determination, not to mention the discipline of hard work.  She’ll learn to think of others before herself and face her fears on behalf of those she loves.

Haku is the boy (also a dragon) who rescues Chihiro when she first enters the spirit world.  He continues to help her by sending her to people he trusts.  Haku has his own agenda, and though he works for Yubaba, he’s fighting to remember his name and be free of her.  He thinks Chihiro holds the key to his true identity, though neither can recall how or where.

Yubaba runs the bathhouse and controls all her employees by stealing their names.  She’s obsessed with profit and running a business, so much so that she fails to notice when her baby boy is replaced with a dummy.

Boh is a selfish, fussy, screaming child who’s never left the safety of his padded playpen.  Yubaba’s twin sister transforms Boh into a mouse as punishment for Yubaba ordering Haku to steal her gold seal.  Like Chihiro, this swaddling baby boy undergoes his own journey from selfish brat to wiser toddler.

Zeniba is Yubaba’s twin sister who lives out in the boonies.  When Chihiro makes her way there to return the gold seal and plead for Haku’s life, Zeniba turns out to be quite the grandmotherly figure.  All the curses she cast were to teach lessons.

There are some other interesting characters.  Karmaji is a six-armed man who works in the boiler room with the soot mites.  No Face takes a liking to Chihiro, but accidentally loses control and starts eating all the employees at the bathhouse.

Spirited Away is a beautiful coming of age story wrapped in wonder and splendor.

So tell me, have you seen Spirited Away?  Are you going to go rent it?  Do you like the style of anime and the fantastical interpretations?  Or is it too weird for you?  I love hearing from you!

Guilty Pleasures

Hi, my name is Angela, and I’m a glutenoholic.  I’ve been clean and gluten-free for 4 days.  Yeah, I fall off the wagon–a lot.  It’s just that McDonald’s is the perfect comfort food when I’m having a bad day.  And then there’s Arby’s, which I treat myself to when I have a *great* day and I want to celebrate something.  I know, there’s something wrong with that picture.  Oh, and then there’s Panda Express, which is just everyday temptation.  And Taco Bell, though it really isn’t fair that they put oats in their meat.


Ok, all this talk of food is just torturing myself.  What other guilty pleasures do I have…

When I’m in a particularly sour mood, I watch movies of mass destruction.  Independence Day and Godzilla are great for indulging that voice in my head that wants to squash things.  Better the numerous, nameless extras on screen than those around me.  Catharsis–good medicine, though I much prefer our contrived attempts at it over the ancient Romans’ practice of using slaves in their plays for actual death scenes.  I’m content with fake blood.

When I’m stressed out to the point where my head explodes, I curl into a ball and watch classic Disney movies.  Life was simpler as a kid.  Although as an adult I also appreciate the veiled comments and vocabulary meant to entertain parents that kids would never understand.  It’s something I find sorely missing from kids’ movies/television productions today.

And when I simply lack the motivation to snap my limbs out of a gelatinous state, I turn to Castle.  Comedy plus crime drama with a splash of writer–my heaven.  (Not so much a guilty pleasure as an indulgence.)

“There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about how to kill people, psychopaths and mystery writers.  I’m the kind that pays better.”

If there is anyone out there who has not seen Castle, rectify it immediately!  In fact, today I am taking the first season and forcing my best friend to watch a marathon with me.  😀

Okay, I have another confession.  I love spoilers.  I am addicted to spoilers.  More accurately, I’m addicted to recaps, all details provided.  When I stumble upon a book series or television series for the first time, but it’s been around for a while, I will not wait to read/watch every single book/episode.  I will Google it, find a recap, and summarize my way through til the end.  Then I will read/watch the originals.  While I would never give away spoiler information myself, I am grateful for those people who take the time to do so.  I will harbor you when the witch trials come.

Have any guilty pleasures?  When you’re sad, mad, or reduced to a sniveling puddle on the floor after going ten rounds with the WIP?

Blog Mash-up

Living Life Down Under: Katy explains to all us northern hemisphere people what it’s like having Christmas in the summer!

Wise Winamp Wed: Ask the all-knowing anything you want by Lyn Midnight.  As for the answers…don’t drink and read.

Tips for Being a Healthy Writer by Kristen Lamb: Feeling lazy?  The pictures of cesspools can be quite motivating.

Important Notes On What Readers Do Not Want To See In A Story by Mistress Suzie: A must-read, writers!

Tele-Tuesday, 1996 by Tiffany A White: Take a trip down memory lane.

Also, Smashwords is having its annual Summer/Winter sale (Summer in the North, Winter in the South), and my paranormal romance, Phoenix Feather, is half off!