Inspiration boards: Characters from Death’s Dancer

Pinterest is one of my favorite places to spend time when I’m percolating a novel. I love pulling together boards that help me visualize characters, places, and even the atmosphere or mood of a story. I’m reluctant to reveal my visual character inspiration because I want them to live in your brains as you (the readers) imagine them. If you are the kind of reader who likes to make up visuals for the characters in your head, feel free to skip this post altogether!

Just a note that these images don’t belong to me and all are used solely for visual reference.


I knew Isela would have to be a match for Azrael, if not literally in terms of power, in terms of competence in her own sphere. Professional dancers are incredible athletes as well as artists, and so when I went looking for the physical inspiration for Isela, I started there. Ballerina Misty Copeland was the first of many dancers of color that inspired Isela’s physical, including Tai Jiminez, Alicia J. Graf, and Aesha Ash. That said, when I saw the mockups for the Dancer’s Flame cover, the image of the woman made me gasp aloud. Unfortunately, it’s a stock photograph that I’ve since seen all over the place, but I have to say it really got her right.

Dream Casting: Gugu Mbatha Raw (Beyond the Lights, Belle)


Azrael was one of the hardest to find visual inspiration for–I mean the guy is two thousand years old. I had such a strong image of him in my head, no single real person would do. More than any of the others, he’s an amalgam–Atesh Salih’s eyes, Mads Mikkelson’s refined otherworldiness and the ability to throw big green balls of power at demons. See what I mean.

Dream Casting: Oscar Isaacs (Ex-Machina, Star Wars)


Visually, it’s a toss-up between Tom Hiddleston and Michael Fassbender. Just go with me for a minute. There’s something about the way Hiddleston moves as well as his ability to be sardonic (especially as Loki in that black suit) that just feels like Gregor for me. He’s very tall and lean, but graceful. I feel like Hiddleston is the guy that never trips over his own feet, and knows where his body is in space at all times. That said, Michael Fassbender as Magneto is not only the best part of the X-Men reboots, it’s also a great Gregor audition. 😉

Dream Casting: Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Centurion)


The Queen of Diamonds (aka: Evil Elsa) was so much fun to write, though very little of those sections made it onto the page. I often think of Charlize Theron and also Portia De Rossi (Ally McBeal and Scandal) also has great sarcasm and levity–her characters always seem to enjoy a level of calculated ruthlessness. If Cate Blanchett’s Hella was around when I was writing, I would have pinned her to the board as well.

Dream Casting: Charlize Theron (Snow White and the Huntsman)


The inspiration for godsdancing started with my background in dance and yoga. From there, I tumbled down a rabbit hole of research after googling ‘dance as communication.’ Traditions all over the world recognize dance and movement as a form of language, from storytelling to celebration, often including a spiritual element. Like language, dance is an expression of culture, and it evolves, changing and growing with the people that use it.

That’s all for now (I have to save a little something for Dancer’s Flame and The Talon & the Blade, you know) Next time I’ll take on Rory and Dory, Lysippe, and (some of) the Vogels.

If you’re looking for more, check out my Pinterest boards.

Inspiration Boards: Prague

I recently did a takeover at the Romanced by the Book Instagram account and I shared some of my inspiration images for the Grace Bloods series, particularly Death’s Dancer.

I’m a super visual person, which is why I love Pinterest and Instagram so much. Getting visuals on a place, story and characters help when I sit down to write. Here are some images that made it to my inspiration boards. None of the images belong to me (unless noted) and were found on the internet and I’ve done my best to find and credit creators whenever possible.

(L to R) The Charles Bridge, the stairs leading from Prague Castle, The Astronomical Tower (Photo by Author), the Charles Bridge and View of the Castle, Illustration (Fortune, by Sergey Lesiuk Deviant Art)

These images visualized the moody and atmospheric nature of Prague I wanted to create. And that illustration was the best visual for Azrael’s fire!

LtoR: Municipal House (photo by Rood Huweel), Sparkler (yasmin K Unsplash, Dancer (Photo by RJ Muna), Municipal House (photo by John Galbo), Anyz Barette (photo by author)

I love the Municipal House–I’ve toured it twice, have seen concerts and art exhibits there, so I knew it was going to be part of Isela’s world. The barrette Azrael gives her is loosely inspired by this Franta Anyz pendant that was on display as part of the Art Nouveau exhibit when I visited. Fun fact, I actually tried to license the RJ Muna dancer photo for the cover, but alas, couldn’t get in touch with the right people in time, so I went with another dance photographer, Richard Calmes to find the iconic image of an Alvin Ailey dancer that became the cover!

L to R: Headstone at Vysehrad Cemetary (photo by author), Prague Tram, Basilica of St. Peter and Paul (photo by David Sutton), Park at night (Photo by Deposit Photos)

Outside of the architecture, Prague’s transportation and gorgeous city parks all appear in both Death’s Dancer and Dancer’s Flame. The villain in Death’s Dancer was originally going to be a cemetery headstone (like the one in this photo) that had been animated, like a golem (another bit of mythology Prague made famous) in the end, I liked the idea of the real antagonist so much, I bumped the golem mention to Dancer’s Flame.

Where do come up with my images? Aside from Google searches, here are some of my favorite image specific sites:

  • Pinterest: for inspiration, I use Pinterest primarily because it’s easily searchable, but it bothers me that a lot of the credits are either removed or not present.
  • Unsplash – free stock photography site where I get most of the images I use in promotions
  • Deposit Photos – another stock photography site (paid) where I find images for promotions and marketing.
  • Deviant Art – Sometimes only an illustration will do and this site is an oldie but goodie!

For more of my inspiration boards and images, check out my Pinterest account!

Death’s Dancer Now Available on NetGalley!

Are you a book blogger or reviewer posting regularly to online retailers, social media, and/or review sites (or your own blog!) A librarian, bookseller or industry professional? For a limited time, complimentary review copies of Death’s Dancer are available by request at NetGalley. Click here (you must be logged in to NetGalley to submit a request)

Death’s Dancer will be available until the end of February, so don’t wait. The sequel, Dancer’s Flame will be available in March, and then ARCs go out for The Talon & the Blade in early April, so you have plenty of time to catch up!

If you are just interested in joining the ARC team for The Talon & the Blade (NetGalley membership not required), please fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch!

The Grace Bloods Prague Tour: The Municipal House

Photo by the Author

A monument to Art Nouveau design and Czech pride, the Municipal House had served as a center for Prague’s community, culture, and gathering since the beginning of the twentieth century. Recognized as being state of the art for its day, it had seen countless concerts, balls, and been the backdrop for history-making events—none so important as the necromancer’s claim to Prague as the capital of his territory.

Left in shambles after the wars, the restoration of the Municipal House was his gift to the Praha Dance Academy. Great pains had been taken to preserve the original interiors and decor. These days, only the first floor and front halls, housing a museum and a few of the old ballrooms, were open to the public. The students and faculty of the Academy occupied the rest.

Death’s Dancer

If you recognize the Municipal House (Obecní dům) that might be because you saw it in a movie. XXX, Mission: Impossible, Edith Piaf and I Served the King of England have all featured shots of the interior or exterior. State of the art at the time it was complete, it’s one of my favorite buildings in Prague. (I’ve taken the tour THREE TIMES, and seen a concert in Smetana Hall just to hang out in the building). Today’s video is all about the part the Municipal Hall plays in Death’s Dancer, as the home of the Praha Dance Academy…

Photo by the author

Niles met [Isela] outside as she passed through the glass doors. Her eyes went to the elaborate stained-glass canopy that had always been her favorite part of the building’s exterior. Greens and peaches colored the muted light refracting through the glass. Niles unfurled a crimson umbrella edged with gold in anticipation of her leaving the shelter of the building. The colors the Academy shared with its home city bloomed against the rain-sodden day, and a small gasp went up among the passersby as they recognized her.

Death’s Dancer

The powder tower is that big dark building on the left. It’s been around for a while.

The Powder Tower was one of thirteen original gateways to the city of Prague. In the fifteenth century, the Bohemian king restyled it as a welcoming entry point to the seat of his power, and for years it served as the gateway through which future royalty passed on their way to being crowned at Saint Vitus Cathedral. As the city expanded, its prominence declined until it earned its modern name by serving as a storage place for kegs of powder used in guns and explosives. Restored with the Municipal House for the Praha Dance Academy, it now served as home of the Academy library—the official and unofficial one.

Dancer’s Flame

…on the shadowed roof of the Municipal House, the last of the winged figures alighted, leaning casually on the hilt of his sword. He caught her eye and winked before he went still in a slouch as if he were suffering from a millennium of boredom.

Dancer’s Flame

Story goes The American Bar in the basement of the Municipal House is the first bar in Prague where women were allowed to attend without an escort. I do know that it’s a nice cool spot on a very hot day to pause with a good book…

A couple of familiar books in the American Bar.
photo by Author

…and a cocktail.

An Old Fashioned and an iceberg are the perfect way to end a humid summer day.

Here are a few more shots of the interiors that are open to the public.  Be sure to check out the previous tours of the Prague Castle and Vysehrad.

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Grace Bloods #1 On Sale Now!
Grace Bloods #2 Now available wherever books are sold!

The Grace Bloods Prague Tour: Vysehrad & The Vogels

This week’s tour takes us south of the city to Vysehrad. The old fortress is thought to be the first city site. According to legend, Princess Libuše (“the wisest woman in Czech,” how’s that for a title?) foresaw the city rising to the stars. So it turns out that’s mostly legend (and a stolen one, at that) but it makes a great story. And the statue of Libuše sits in Vysehrad, still looking to the future. These days only the foundations of the original fortress remain and in addition to being an incredible escape from the busier parts of the city, it’s a UNESCO heritage site.

The Basilica of Peter & Paul and sculptural group Premysl & Libuse, Vysehrad, Prague
Photo by Deposit Photos

Isela’s family lived in an old neighborhood at the foot of Vysehrad; the ruins of a medieval fortress turned park at the south edge of the city. When they’d come to Prague, property had been cheap. Her father bought not just one flat but an entire building— a shabby, old, art nouveau thing that needed as much repair as it was worth. It had given him something to do in the first few years when work had been inconsistent, and it kept the boys out of trouble.

Death’s Dancer, Jasmine Silvera, p 96

Here’s your video tour of Vysehrad, the Vogel compound, and my favorite church in Prague, the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul.

Basilica of St. Peter and Paul, Vysehrad, from the cemetery.
Photo by Author
Vysehrad in late summer.
Photo by Author

When she opened her eyes, they were in Vysehrad Park on an autumn day. The leaves were shades of flame and ember, the air so crisp it stung her lungs.

Lukas Vogel laughed. “You’re much better at this than I am.”

View of the Vltava from Vysehrad fortress walls.
Photo by the Author
Not in the books…yet: The closed Vysehrad train station. I’m dying to sneak this gorgeous old building into the world of the Grace Bloods…now I just have to figure out how!
Photo by the Author

Coming up: the Municipal Hall (aka The Praha Dance Academy), the Charles Bridge. Check out the previous post on The Prague Castle!

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The sequel to Death’s Dancer:
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The Grace Bloods Prague Tour: The Prague Castle

In May I was able to go back to Prague for a couple of days during our annual trip to Germany. I spent the time doing research for the Vogel Brothers books, visiting friends, and visiting places mentioned in Death’s Dancer and Dancer’s Flame. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting the videos with photo, excerpts from the books and my notes here. Keep in mind: I write fantasy, not historical fiction. Some of the places and locations have been changed in my books, but they were all inspired by real places in the city.

Today I’m starting with the eponymous castle that gives Prague its iconic skyline…enjoy!

The Prague Castle was a complex of buildings framing an
increasingly narrowing street leading toward the main grounds. While an architectural student might have admired the enormous range of styles represented by the individual palaces, Isela felt like livestock being funneled down a chute.
As they reached the castle proper, the gates rolled open soundlessly. The car continued between the columns topped with statues of battling Titans. Isela was unable to shake the impression that the two muscle-bound demigods peered hungrily into the car as she passed.

Death’s Dancer Jasmine Silvera, p17
The Battling Titans (Photo by Author)

They moved through the largest of the three courtyards, awash in shadows cast by the enclosed cathedral and the falling darkness. The imposing exterior of St. Vitus loomed over them in all of its neo-Gothic glory.
Isela didn’t realize she had slowed down until her guide paused a few steps ahead. He angled his head toward her.
“The cathedral has been closed for some time,” he stated. “Restoration.”
“I’ve just… never seen it so close,” she uttered finally, unable to hide her awe.
She didn’t assume a necromancer had much interest in a church even if it was the grandest in all of Prague. However, she’d heard stories and seen old pictures of the stained-glass windows by Mucha and Svabinsky. She longed to see the light shining through them.

Death’s Dancer, Jasmine Silver, p 21


The gardens on the south hill of the castle provided her favorite view of the red-roofed Malá Strana district. On a clear day, the long stone walkway of the garden on the ramparts was the perfect place to watch the sparkle of the river winding its way through the center of the city. Today the sky was hazy with the kind of gauzy air that presaged rain. Pools of slate-gray clouds driven on a cold wind blanketed the horizon, dappling the sunlight over the city. The walkway led into the Garden of Eden, once the private retreat of an archduke. The gardens were also close to the buildings, an option she had taken into consideration when she accepted the invitation for a walk.

Dancer’s Flame, Jasmine Silvera, p 305

Photo by Author

Overlooking the city of Prague, the castle complex gives the city its iconic skyline. One of my favorite views traveling on the 22 tram across the city is looking out the north windows crossing the bridge to see the castle on the hill. Depending on the time of year, the actual grounds are more or less packed with tourists–it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, after all–but without much effort, you can find a less traveled spot. One of my favorites places to pause and enjoy the grounds are the Royal gardens outside the riding school. Don’t let the name fool you: it’s much more like a city park than a formal garden and ends in the Summer Palace which is now used for art and historical exhibits.

The Summer Palace in the Royal Garden

The fountain in front of the summer palace plays a special part in the opening scene of Dancer’s Flame (Grace Bloods #2). If you’ve read Death’s Dancer, you can read the first chapter here. But beware, spoilers ahead!

That’s all for this post. In the next few weeks, we’ll visit the Charles Bridge, Municipal House, and the Vysehrad Fortress! Stay tuned.

Have you been to Prague or read the books? Tell me about your favorite places in the comments below!

GSMC Book Review Podcast Interview

I had so much fun talking to Sarah once again at the GSMC Book Review Podcast about Dancer’s Flame. Sarah’s such a warm and welcoming host with a great interview style. We wandered all over Dancer’s Flame, writing and managing life with a threenager.

You can listen to the full interview here.

Sarah’s blog is also a great resource for new reads.

We also gave away a print copy of Dancer’s Flame to one lucky winner.


Authors! Sarah is booking guests with new releases now, so if you’d like to talk about your book, send her an email.


The conversation continues!  Be sure to join my group “The Academy” for the latest book news, sneak peeks, grammar geekery, giveaways and more ->

Win a $50 gift card during “Sizzling Summer Reads”

Join me over on The Romance Reviews for the “Sizzling Summer Reads” in June for a chance to win a $50 gift card ad hundreds of other prizes. With over 100 authors participating in all genres, it’s a great way to stock your summer TBR pile!

To celebrate, Death’s Dancer on sale for just 1.99¢ until June 30th. If you’re looking for a new series to start, now’s the time. Get yours for Kindle–>

About Death’s Dancer:

Dancer Isela Vogel forged a lucrative career bending the power of gods in service of her patrons. Facing an injury that will end it too soon, she agrees to one big job for the payout of a lifetime.
The assignment? Help a necromancer find a killer.
Icy, impenetrable Azrael can make the dead walk, but the spirited dancer’s refusal to bend to his will sparks his interest in more than her choreography.
But what should have been an easy paycheck puts Isela in the crosshairs. Now she must rely on her training and discipline to stay alive… and resist the lure of her captivating new patron. Because behind Azrael’s controlled exterior is a fire, and fire irrevocably transforms what it does not destroy.
Journey to the magical streets of an alternate present-day Prague with the first book in the new Grace Bloods series. It’s a sexy supernatural thriller that will delight fans of romantic fantasy.
Get yours for Kindle–>

Already have a copy? Be sure to join my group “The Academy” for the latest book news, sneak peeks, grammar geekery, giveaways and more ->

Dancer’s Flame Launch Party Report

I had such a great time with Offbeat Bride author and Offbeat Empire founder Ariel Meadow Stallings at Ada’s Technical Books on Capitol Hill to celebrate the launch of Dancer’s Flame. We had a great conversation with the sold-out crowd about indie publishing, feminism, romance and inclusion.

click for video

You can check out the Facebook Live video or the 3 part series I wrote for Offbeat Home & Life about the joys of being a feminist romance novelist:

Part 1: Yes, I’m a feminist who loves romance novels (+ a Seattle event on May 8th!)

Part 2: The romance genre needs better critique, not more gatekeepers

Part 3: Demanding greater diversity in who gets a happily ever after in romance

A post shared by Jasmine Silvera (@jassilvera) on

The conversation continues! Facebook pages are dying, so be sure to join my group “The Academy” for the latest book news, sneak peeks, grammar geekery, giveaways and more —>

Three Ways I Use Music When Writing

  1. Characters   Sometimes it’s hearing a song and knowing it fits a character’s personality, or a scene in the book, perfectly.
  2. On Repeat – I wish I could take credit for this, but alas, I’m not the first to advocate listening to a single song on repeat. I first heard about it from my husband, who uses it as a technique to get into “the zone” when he’s on a big work project, who attributed it to Mr. Four Hour himself Tim Ferriss (though it originally came from a WordPress founder ). The trick is to pick a song you can stand to hear over and over again (or in my case brings me to mind of a charter or scene I’m working on) and listen to it on repeat. A few of my favorites: “The Theme from Far from a Madding Crowd,” anything by Zoe Keating, and “Cheers to the Fall,” by Andra Day. One word of caution: depending on how often you use the song be prepared for one of two things to happen:
    1. You hate it and never want to hear it again.
    2. You hear it out in the world and your brain goes into work mode. In the grocery store. Or the shower.
  3. Playlists – By the time I’ve finished a book, it has a playlist of songs. Some of them carry over from book to book, but most are ones that fit into #1 or #2 above. Though sometimes I devote (procrastinate) an hour or so to shaping up a playlist for a project, most of the time it’s a more organic process. I listen to music all the time around the house and in the car and am always excited to discover new (or new to me) artists. Once a song hits me, I add it to a playlist or make a note to add it later.

Where do I get my music:

  • NPR: I don’t listen to the music shows as much as I used to, but every year the music crew at NPR puts out the Austin 100, a free downloadable curated music from South by Southwest.
  • Other Playlists: In my attempt to stay semi-current, I listen to a lot of new release playlists on Spotify and Amazon Music. I’m not gonna lie, I hit the skip button a lot (Biebers of the word, I’m looking at you) but once in a while I’m digging what the kids these days are rocking out to (says Granny Silvera) I also like the mood/activity based playlists of Google Play. Most of their workout playlists are great for writing action scenes. I’ll talk more about writing sexy-times later…
  • Pandora… If I know I like an artist or a sound I let it’s algorithm create a list of like-minded songs.

How does any of this help?

Music has always had the ability to transport me. When I was a kid, my mom used to play Harry Belafonte at Carnage Hall (on vinyl, no less) to get us out of bed in the morning. To this day, Jump In the Line and The Banana Boat Song get me motivated and moving. 

Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Sustaining the emotions and mood of scenes or character as I edit and revise is so much easier if I can get back into the same state I occupied when that character or scene was first coming to me. I use the song on retreat trick a lot when I’m editing because it helps keep me in that zone.

Both Death’s Dancer and Dancer’s Flame have Spotify playlists if you’re curious to know what music inspired each.

What music inspires your writing, or your reading? Do you like knowing what songs an author listens to when they write, or do you prefer your own playlist?