Art is… a piece of cake (Feats of Fantasy with Tiffany Flanagan)

Tiffany Flanagan’s sumptuous groom cake—a spellbinding dragon guarding his precious treasure of an ancient grimoire—deserves space in an art gallery, not the bellies of wedding guests. But this original creation is totally edible. The amber fire-breather is even fashioned from Rice Krispies® Treats.

Thankfully, I was able to feast my eyes on it before it was gobbled up and gulped, thus stirring my creative passions and the desire to seek out MORE Tiffany Flanagan, and maybe the story behind her art.

To my joy, I discovered a treasure trove of fantastical art and antiquities, curated by the inimitable Dr VonDrachen (more on her later), and Tiffany has been gracious enough to share with us today. After all, art inspires art, and artists inspire others.

I hope Tiffany’s story (and her breath-taking artwork) inspires you as much as she inspired me.

Create Bold. Write Bold. Live and Be Bold. Cheryse


Cheryse: Welcome, Tiffany. Your work is amazing! How long have you been an artist?

Tiffany: First, thank you so much for your kind words I am so happy you enjoy my work. Next, I have always been artistic, from a very young age. I always had a love for creating. I only really started applying what I loved when I opened up my own cake company about 8-10 years ago.

Cheryse: What do you think about when you create?

T: This will sound crazy but I think of nothing. I allow thoughts to come and go and I don’t hold onto any of them. It’s being in the flow, allowing the soul to take over and not think. Thinking just creates doubt.

C: What advice do you have for young people?

T: Never give up…with practice you can be good at anything! Even it is just a little bit at a time, over time you will just get better and better.

C: Tell me about your early years.

T: I grew up in Rhode Island. I enjoyed living in my beachfront cottage with my mom, dad and little sister. Every day, I would enjoy exploring the rocky coastline for treasures. In my late teens, I spent time with my highschool sweetheart Mike (who was also an artist) and my best girlfriend (who is still to this day my bestie).  My boyfriend and I used to take classes on how to swing dance and we would be the crowd favourite at dances.

C: What inspired you as a child? Do you have a favourite novel from your childhood?

T: I think what inspired me was my Father…he used to do these really cool doodles on scrap paper! As for a favourite novel, well, I loved the RL Stine collection and, when I was older, I picked up historical romance novels. Ha!!

C: Did the art inspire the cake making, or the cake making inspire the art?

T: Cake making came first. I had my own company for years then decided it would be better on my family to work for someone, so I did. I worked for a well-known company for years then got into a major car crash going in to work one day. I broke my back in many places and while recovering I discovered I loved working in polymer clay.

C: That would have been incredibly painful. Did art play a role in helping with your recovery?

T: Yes, art was one of my saving graces because when I created I would enter into the “flow”. This allowed my mind to focus on something besides the pain. I would also do a lot of meditation, this would help too. When I talk to people going through back surgery I tell them: be patient, the pain will be there and then it will slowly get better and better. To this day, I still suffer from pain but I do small amounts of yoga to help from stiffing up. Exercising helps a lot, too!

C: Do you feel sad when you design an amazing cake that you know will be eaten?

T: Yes, it’s an awful feeling to know your work is only here for a short period of time. To be honest that is why I work in clay these days. I know that it will last and last.

C: You sell your amazing art on the fabulous Dr VonDrachen’s Cabinet of Curiosities website and Etsy. Where did the idea of Dr VonDrachen, your curiosity explorer and adventurer, come from?

T: The good doctor is just an outlet to allow me to create anything in any medium, including writing.

C: What is the significance of her skull face?

T: It’s a mystery as to what she might look like. This allows the reader’s imagination to have her look or be anyone they want.

C: You have a fabulous Dr VonDrachen voice. Have you written any books yourself?

T: Haha, no. I really don’t think I am strong at writing but maybe it’s something I should exercise.

C: Yes, absolutely! Are you a horror or curiosity fan, or do you lean towards other spec fic sub-genres?

T: That’s hard because I love them all, but I guess these days I love more of the curiosity, fantasy side. I really don’t like lots of blood and guts or slasher films. They don’t inspire me.

C: Ditto. What is your favourite art ever created?

T: Sculpting. I love looking at marble statues. To this day, it boggles my mind as to how it was accomplished!!! ((Aliens))

C: What projects are you working on right now and what’s your inspiration?

T: My latest project is doll making. They are commissions and are fairy tale inspired. Also, talking of inspiration, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my two favourite cheerleaders: my amazing supportive husband of 15 years, Jeffrey, and my awesome son, Nolan. They bring out the best in me.

C: Does that mean your studio is neat or messy?

T: Messy.

C: What star sign are you? Are you a planner or a spur-of-the-moment girl?

T: I’m a Virgo. I kinda do both. It makes me feel good when I am organized but half the time my ADD kicks in and there is no stopping me from creating something.

C: If you could spend a day with any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?

T: Jim Henson, Tim Burton and George Harrison.

C: If you could have dinner with any three storybook or film characters (any galaxy, Wookies included), who would they be?

T: Hmmm, this is a good one. I would say Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful), Jareth (Labyrinth) and Mary Poppins.

C: Finally, a few quick questions: Cat or dog lover?  T: Cat.

C: What do you eat for breakfast?  T: Egg and Spinach.

C: Favourite shade of nail polish or gel?  T: Pink.

C: Favourite novel or TV series?   T: Ancient Aliens.

C: Name three special things you keep on your desk or in your studio?  T: Stickers from friends, artwork from my son and pictures.

C: What possession will you never-ever give up?  T: Art.

Cheryse: What gift do you never-ever want to be given?

Tiffany: Hmmm… the gift of seeing dead people.

Tiffany, thank you so much for sharing your inspiring thoughts and awesome art with my students and readers. Discovering your work at the start of this year has personally inspired me and I’m looking forward to seeing what new creations you have in store for us all in the future. Happy Rhode Island-ing and I hope the weather gets warmer soon! Cher

Postscript: In case you’re wondering, Tiffany sourced her text for the groom cake from an ancient spell book found beneath the floorboards in a villa on the former estate of the Abbé Bérenger Saunière, whose conspiracy theories surrounding the Rennes-le-Chateâu were later the inspiration behind Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. You can view copies of the original pages here.

Art and fantasy lovers (and everyone else!) can view Tiffany’s art at her Dr VonDrachen website, her Facebook page or Etsy.


In Conversation with Nina D’Aleo

Fairymead House soared to life with wine, laughter and not just fantasy tales when Aurealis short-listed Nina D’Aleo joined Bundaberg readers In Conversation last night.

Cheryse & NinaOver a glass of red and Alowishus canapés, D’Aleo enchanted readers (and a swag of our fave Bundaberg Writers Club convicts, myself included) with her down-to-earth honesty, delicious authenticity and colourful anecdotes of her writing career that started aged seven with a flying horse story, scribed with a feather dipped in water… so even the text was magical and invisible 🙂

Some of the gems from last night’s talk:

Coffee and night-time are credited as the tools behind her successfully writing and publishing her science-fiction-esque novels, despite the busy world of her everyday, which includes two sons aged four and six and a husband (age not supplied) and a psychology career which has demanded further study this year.

Nina received her first rejection at age 13 and didn’t get published until her early 30s. She said she could wallpaper her bedroom with the number of rejection slips and letters that she has received during that time (and it was pretty cheap wallpaper at that).

Her big break, she says, came from a previous Bundaberg WriteFest where she was interviewed and successfully acquired by The Cameron Creswell Agency (agent Sophie Hamley). She said, “I owe (WriteFest Director) Sandy Curtis big time, thank you Sandy.”

Although she’s only been published in recent years, Nina said she always thought of herself as a writer. I think that statement resonated with all the writers present – that it’s not about whether you’re published or not, but that writing is what you are – and WHAT YOU DO.

A background in psychology has injected additional layers of depth into her characters. “Having people tell you their deepest stories helps bring out, I think, a greater depth in your own stories. Readers say my characters have a lot of depth.”

Patricia C Wrede and her world-building resources came highly recommended.

Writing and publishing is a business process as well as a creative process, even though most writers just want to remain in the creative confines of their art

Working on a different book can energise you when you return to a previous WIP, especially a long-term series like the Demon War Chronicles.

Nina struggled with the writing of subsequent novels after publishing her first book because she is very demanding of her writing quality and will often rewrite and rewrite scenes until she is happy with them – and because real life still gets in the way (THIS resonated with all the published authors in attendance).

Nina D’Aleo In Conversation was brought to Bundaberg as part of the Queensland Writers Centre’s 25th anniversary celebrations (1990-2015).

For the first time last night, Bundaberg writers met the delightful Katie Woods, who took over the reins of the Queensland Writers Centre as its new chief executive officer two months.

Katie previously worked at the State Library of Queensland where she was most recently Manager of Reading, Writing and Ideas, and worked closely with the QWC on many partnered projects including Read Around Gladstone and the delivery of the Queensland Writers Fellowships.

Wide Bay writers are always a little nervous when there’s a changing of the guard at QWC. Although the centre is based in Brisbane, it has been highly supportive of its regional members in the past decade, recognising the tyranny of distance and the effect that has on rural careers, and subsequently implementing many initiatives for regional writers and supporting them in fresh and diverse ways. Without the Queensland Writers Centre and their courses, I wouldn’t be where I am today – and I am grateful for their continuing support.

Fortunately, Katie’s love of Queensland writing, and her own empathy for regional Queensland, means the QWC – and Bundaberg writing – are in safe hands for many years to come.

Thanks, Nina, for dropping in at Bundaberg and sharing your deepest thoughts and dreams with us and thanks, Katie (and the QWC), for bringing her to our little sugar town. Finally: Happy Birthday QWC!

For more information about Nina and her books, go troll her website or stalk her on Twitter. I’m very inspired now to check out her books and the other hiddens gems lurking in Momentum’s spec fic collection.

Sisters of the Shadows launches into the light

SOTS cover on whiteBlast the trumpet and sound the cymbals: The fabulous Sisters of the Shadows anthology launched overnight and is now available on both Amazon and Smashwords.

This particular eBook, a collaboration of novellas by WriteFest buddies Sue-Ellen Pashley, Shelley Russell Nolan, Christina Craig and myself, includes the first-time publication of my beloved “The Pool of Rathorne”, a magical story very dear to my heart.

In this post-apocalyptic/steampunk tale, Tasha Severin is a woman in hiding on an impossible quest. (You know how much I love impossible quests, right?)

The Pool of Rathorne’s healing waters promise a cure in a world where the crippled are shunned and the Cursed are imprisoned. Concealing her hideous affliction beneath a witch’s robes, and casting an illusion spell, Tasha boards a steam train bound for Rathorne where her life collides with the daring and enigmatic Raoul Duberger. But beneath his expensive cloak and aristocratic presence, Raoul is also hiding his true identity. His lies are a foil for deadly truths, some of which may change her destiny forever. In a kingdom where secrets are worth killing for, does Tasha have the courage to trust a stranger and risk her life for the sake of a prophecy and an oppressed land?

For the past year, I’ve rather felt like Tasha, living in the shadows, battling the everyday challenges of work, family, sickness and our constantly-changing, ever-chaotic lives.

But maybe the launch of this anthology will remind me to return to the light, to spend more time each day in the sunshine, knowing that when we embrace our magic, it changes other people’s lives – not just our own.

Now tell me… What are you hiding from?