Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Most Peculiar Coincidence

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Image result for troll faces

Hello, readers!  I hope you all had lovely Christmases!  
Something very strange happened to me recently, and I just had to tell you about it.  But first, I have to set it up for those of you who know me only from this blog.
Image result for the berinfell prophecies the undergroundI believe I've mentioned a particular forum in the past called The Underground, which was run by the authors of a children's book trilogy called The Berinfell Prophecies.  (Good books, by the way- even if you're not exactly a 'child').  
This forum was not only my introduction to the internet world, but it was a very unique place, unlike any other forum I've experienced since then.  It was a close-knit community made up mostly of young kids and slightly older teens. The majority of us were Christians, or at least raised in a Christian home.  It made for a very kind, open, safe environment unpolluted by the junk that litters most of the internet.  
A lot of us were writers, and we began to share our work with each other.  Over the years, the forum evolved from its original purpose (which was to hype about the book series), and genuine friendships seemed to develop.  People grew up, graduated, and one even died in a tragic car accident,  all during the time that forum was in existence.  It was a very special place with many memories.

Not too long ago, that website was corrupted by some kind of site hack, and it was shut down.  The remaining members gathered together to form Whitehall Castle, a new forum.
Now, with all those unique relationships we built on that first forum, you can imagine that we often talked about meeting each other in real life, which was a difficult thing to do since we all lived very far apart for the most part.

Here's where the strangeness starts.

I work at a hotel, and I recently was asked to design a Christmas advertisemet poster.  To do that, my manager gave me her user password to the desk computer, allowing me to work with her setting.
When I opened up her web browser, what did I find bookmarked?  A link to the old Underground forum.  I couldn't believe it- because only a member who visited frequently would want it bookmarked. 
 Of course I asked my manager right away if she had been there during its time.  She said no- she had never heard of the book series before.  But she said that her settings were actually carried over from the previous Live-In who left before I started working at the place.  Her name was Sarah, but I don't know her last name.  She was an adult, so she must have been one of the older members.  Either that, or she had kids that lived with her and used the computer.  

Image result for troll faces facepalmCAN YOU BELIEVE THAT???   After ALL that dreaming and planning and wishing, a member of the Underground came so close, but still too far.  I'll never even know which user she was, since we all went by pseudonyms like Elethia, or Millard, or Leilani, or Aarthyn.  (-)_(-)

Well, there you have it.  A most peculiar coincidence.  Those of you who used to be members of that same forum will understand the irony of this.  

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-Emmarayn Redding

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Tag

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Sarah of Dreams and Dragons  has tagged me with the Christmas Tag!
This tag is pretty much the same as all other blog tags, so I shall simply begin answering the questions.  :D

Thanks for the tag, Sarah!  This will be fun.

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What is your favorite Christmas treat?

Hmm.... I really love snickerdoodles, and gingersnaps, and those peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses in the center.  But there's this thing that we make that is a date stuffed with an almond, wrapped in bacon, and then baked.  Those things are SO YUMMY!  XD  I love them so much.  Which is funny because I never thought that dates were a thing that I would like.

Are there any special traditions that your family has to celebrate Christmas?

I don't know if we have anything terribly unique- but we do celebrate both Christmas eve and Christmas morning.  

How do you usually celebrate Christmas?

On the Eve, we get together with our Big Family- that's aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, grandpas, in-laws, and once or twice removed folks.  We read the Christmas story, sing songs, exchange gifts, and gorge ourselves on homemade snacks.  
On Christmas morning, it's just our immediate family.  We open our personal presents, have a lazy morning and a special breakfast, and basically just loaf around and use our gifts for the next few days until it's time to get back to work.  :)

Do you enjoy getting presents for your friends and family?  Do  you buy your gifts or go the homemade route?

I do enjoy giving gifts- I like to see their faces when they open their presents.  I especially like seeing them use the presents afterward.  I buy gifts and make gifts depending on who I'm giving to, and how much time I have.  I wouldn't give my uncles homemade gifts because they really aren't the sort who would find a use for paintings, wood-burnings, or crocheted slippers.   But my grandma and mom both love that stuff, so that's usually what they get.  

Is it cold where you live?  Have you ever had a white Christmas?

Oh yeah, it's very cold where I live.  North Dakota is classed as semi-arid.  Our temperatures swing between as hot as 100 Fahrenheit in the summer, and -40 or -50  Fahrenheit in the winter.  Most years we've got snow before Thanksgiving, and its almost thigh-deep by Christmas.  These past few years, however, we've had two brown Christmases in a row, which is freakish our standards.  This year is the first one that's been white in a while.  I'm very happy to have the snow back.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

Some books, The Hobbit:  Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition, some raspberry-flavored hot cocoa packs, junk food, Girl With a Pearl Earring Soundtrack.  I'd also really appreciate some tall black medieval leather boots, but I have a large shoe size (Comes with being tall) and I wear therapeutic inserts, so it's tough for other people to buy shoes for me. 

What's your favorite Christmas song?

I love Oh, Holy Night! and What Child is This?, several Celtic Christmas tunes, including Suantrai and Don Oiche ud i mBeithil

(The first two songs were sung by my grandmother and my mom!  :D)

What is your favorite Christmas Memory?

It's hard to pick just one memory.  For the last several Christmases, I've been sick with the flu over the holidays! Not to mention, now that I'm nineteen I seem to have a harder time remembering specific Christmases.  But a couple of years ago, I opened up a present from my parents that contained a journal and a blank CD.  There was a note saying that it was representative of the money they were going to use to pay for my first book to be published, and my first album they would record.  It was one of the most touching moments I've ever felt- before that, I had been prepping myself to find a job and save my money until I could afford it.  But in that moment, my dreams were realized, and I very nearly cried.  And that's something, since I'm not often moved to tears!

What does your Christmas tree look like?

Here is a picture!  :D

What are you reading in December?  Anything festive?

No, nothing festive.  I'm still trying to get through Frank Herbert's Dune.  I'm ashamed it's taking this long, but to be fair I have been busy trying to complete illustrations for my fairy tale book.

Are you an organized little elf, or are you still shopping/preparing on Christmas Eve?

I'm usually done with my stuff by Christmas eve.  I like to get that load off my chest.  

How soon do you start getting into the Christmas spirit?

After Thanksgiving, definitely.  As much as I love Christmas, it can get tiring if I'm not careful.  

Do you make any Christmas crafts? Decorations? Send physical Christmas cards?

I almost always do paintings for my family members, either that or woodburnings.  I don't make cards often, but when I do I use watercolor to paint flowers and such.  :)

Here's a painting I did for my mom this year:  

What's on the menu for Christmas day?

Hors d'oervres, mostly.  Cookies, crackers, meat, cheese, fruit, salad, cake, egg nog, sherbet, pie, pickles, olives, you name it!  Last night, someone brought lazagna (which was awesome!) and a Puetorican ham roast.

What makes it FEEL like Christmas for you? (Weather, specific tradition, food, smell, person, etc.?)

Everything about it!  Snow, music, the kids' excitement, those Rankin-Bass holiday movies...

Do you have relatives coming?  Excited?  Nervous?

I have a lot of relatives that come for Christmas, but I don't really get nervous.  :)  I do like seeing my extended family members, since we hardly ever get together.

What famous Christmas character do you most identify with? (Scrooge, Elf, Tiny Tim, the Grinch, Santa, etc.)

Rudolf, because my nickname is Rudy.  They used to call me "Emma-rudy-toody".  

If you were to start a new Christmas tradition, what would it be?

I don't think I would add anything new to our traditions.  Though when reading the Christmas story, I would want to read a bit from Genesis about the Fall of Man, a bit from the old testament prophets, and finally the birth of Jesus Christ, therefore establishing the history and context of the event.  :)

What Christmas movie do you like to watch this time of year or what's your favorite?

The Santa Claus is a family favorite.  We watch it every year.  
On the years when I am sick with the flu, I watch The Man from Snowy River and Emma by myself. On those nights, I used to spend a lot of time on the Underground, hoping some of the members would be there to wish each other a merry Christmas.

What's your favorite Christmas book or book with a Christmassy part?

I actually don't have one!  I don't read many books that have a Christmassy theme.  Though I suppose Narnia counts, in a way.  :)

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And now, since it's already the evening of Christmas Day, I don't think I'll pass the tag on officially- but if you see this and want to do it, be my guest!  Consider yourself tagged.  I look forward to seeing your posts if you do.

-Emmarayn Redding

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Harry Potter Fanfiction: "My Name"

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It's been a while since I read the Harry Potter series, but the story is still fresh in my mind.  Indeed, the end left a great many possibilities swirling around in my head- so what was I to do but write a quick fanfiction?
I've also included some fan art I've done- it's not really an illustration for this story, but's it's got a few moments from it included.  

This oneshot takes place after the main story ends, but just before the last scene in the book.  Thus, there be spoilers here- but only about whether certain characters in the series live or die.  Now you have your fair warning, and I can now give you....

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Is Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy

I apologize for the low quality- I had to take a photo,
Instead of scanning it in as I usually would.
Scorpius gazed out the window of the family cariage, filled with a million thoughts and feelings regarding the building that lay just ahead:  that is, King's Cross Station.  Really, it wasn't just King's Cross Station he was thinking about, it was everything it stood for.  Beginnings, journeys, mystery, and most of all- Hogwarts. 
Scorpius heaved a deep sigh, trying to still his shuddering body and ease the apprehension in his chest.
Looking up to see his father staring at him with his cool, piercing gaze, Scorpius snapped to attention and sat up.
Seeing his apparent alarm, Draco softened his eyes just slightly.  
"Yes, Father?"  Scorpious said expectantly.
Draco tapped his fingers on a book he had been reading.  Taking a deep breath, he looked down before starting. 
"I want you to be careful,"  he said slowly.  "On this train, at Hogwarts, everywhere really."
He paused.  Scorpius waited.  
"It is likely that you will experience some amount of... difficulty... as you enter society on your own now."
Scorpius looked down, swallowing and fiddling with his shirt cuffs.
"You will be navigating a very difficult position in life,"  Draco continued.  "Because you are my son, you will have many enemies.  On one side, you are the son of a Death eater, a servant of Voldemort, and worst of all, a murderer and a torturer.  On the other side, the descendants of my former friends will consider you the son of a blood traitor and a coward."
"Yes, Father," Scorpius murmured.  "But..."  he hesitated.
"All those things... I know they're true, but.."  Scorpius sighed.  "That can't be the whole story, can it?"
Draco looked at him once again with that piercing gaze.  "It is."
Scorpius nodded, feeling his heart sink.
"But, whatever you do, I don't want you to be afraid,"  Draco said after a moment, tearing his gaze away from his son.  
Scorpius looked up, his eyes wide.  
"Don't be afraid,"  Draco repeated, "and don't give in.  Never let them make you ashamed of something you didn't do.  It's not a crime to be a Malfoy.  You can be proud of the name,and you can give us something to be proud of too.  Remember that."
"I'll try, Father."
"I know you will."
Draco leaned forward across the seats and put a gloved hand under Scorpius's chin.  "And remember that I- that you are are not alone.  Do you understand?"
Scorpius nodded, feeling his traitorous eyes fill with tears.  Shutting them tightly, he threw his arms around his father and hugged him with all his might.
Draco responded immediately, wrapping one arm  firmly around his son, and lifting the other hand up to stroke his hair.
"I love you, Dad,"  Scorpius whispered.
Draco smiled.  "Are you sure?"
Scorpius snorted, grateful for the distraction from his tears.  "Pretty sure.
"Good,"  Draco said, sitting back.  "I was worried."
Scorpius shook his ehad, looking out the window with a smile pulling at his mouth.  "Oh, Dad..."
"I love you too, Scorpius," his father returned quietly.
Scorpius dried his eyes.

After a moment, the carriage stopped, and Scorpius stretched his back.   Draco straightened his collar and adjusted his hair.
"Wake your mother, we're here."  
Draco stood and stepped out of the carriage.  Scorpius could see him putting on his "public face", cold and austere. Scorpius sighted.
Crossing the carriage, he stooped over the pale, sleeping form of his mother.  She stirred, and he kissed her lightly on the forehead.  
"Mother, it's time to wake up.  We've reached the station."
Astoria's eyes fluttered, and she gave her son a tired smile.  "So soon?"  she murmured.
Slowly, with Scorpius's help, she lifted herself to her feet and leaned out of the carriage, placing her hand in Draco's waiting grasp.  Her foot slipped on the step, and Scorpius gasped.  But Draco caught hold of her arm and swept her onto solid ground in the blink of an eye.
"Would you rather wait here?"  he asked under his breath.
Astoria shook her head.  "No,"  she said faintly,  "I want to see him off."  
She smiled at Scorpius.  "I'm fine, really.  Just dizzy today.  Come on, we'll miss the train!"
Scorpius smiled up at her and picked up his bags.  His falcon, Oberon, shifted restlessly in his cage.
"Shush, Oberon- someone will hear you!"  he whispered, casting a glance about and meeting his father's eyes.  
"Come along, now,"  he muttered to the bird,  "or like Mother says, we'll be late."
Balancing the cage carefully alongside his carpet bag, Scorpius set off toward Platform 9 3/4, his parents trailing close behind.
"Get ready, Hogwarts... Another Malfoy is coming your way!"

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-Emmarayn Redding

(DISCLAIMER:  I have no claim on the rights for Harry Potter.  All credit for the creation of this world and story go to the proper parties.)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

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Quite a while ago, Hannah of the Writer's Window tagged me with this award, and I never saw it.  So here I am, after all this time, doing it at last.  Sorry for the long delay, Hannah!  And thank you very much for the award.  :)

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How many books have you read this month?

Image result for frank herbert's dune

Not many, to be honest.  I've been focusing on my writing and art.  But I did finish reading  Neverseen, by Shannon Messenger, and I'm working through Dune, by Frank Herbert.

What's a song that's been on your mind?

Lights, by Journey.  It's a beautiful song- you should listen to it!  I'm in love with the chord progressions and the way the melody weaves through it.  The lyrics give it a wistful, longing feel.  I'm currently learning to play it on both piano and guitar.

Favorite holiday?

Christmas.  It's got such a beautiful, quiet excitement about it, and it's always special to remember Jesus's birth all those centuries ago.  I have so many questions in my mind about that.... what was He like as a child?  How much did He know about who He was?  All of it? Some of it?  Who knows.  I suppose I'll ask Him someday.

But any way, the Christmas season is just so beautiful, and I love the music.  It's also a time when my family performs a lot of concerts, and that's always fun.  :D

Describe the prettiest firework you've ever seen.

Last fourth of July, I watched a fireworks display over a lake.  One the the fireworks lit up in a large sphere of white sparkles, then rained down in golden glitter.  It was so beautiful I decided I'd like to have at least one go off during my wedding reception... as soon as I find Sir Right and get married.

Is there a type of story you haven't read yet and really want to?

A steampunk novel with wizards, but I've already got my eye on one particular series from that genre, and I intend to write a trilogy of my own as well.

Favorite meal?  

Egg plant parmesan is my default answer for that.  :)  But there are so many meals to choose from... mostly Italian, but also from the Puertorican culture as well.

What's your favorite least-known fairytale?

Difficult to say.  There are so many!  I love fairy tales- I consider them an art from.  I'll list a few of my favorites:

Day Boy and Night Girl
Belle-Belle or the Chevalier de Fortune
The Hoodie Crow

What your favorite rare food?

Are we talking medium rare, or hard-to-come-by?  If it's the latter,  I like Giant Puffball Mushrooms.  I don't think they're actually rare, it's just hard to find them in my area.  But they're the best mushroom I've ever tasted- like melted cheese when they're cooked, almost.  I might even risk a trip to Farmer Maggot's garden if I knew I could get my hands on one of them.

(Just kidding- I would never steal it.  I'd just knock on his front door and ask.)

Favorite constellation?  

Draco.  Though I have a difficult time finding it for some reason.

Pick a color and explain why you think it's beautiful.  


I love that color because of it's striking vibrance and beauty.  It is both dark and bright, dark, and warm.  There is a life within its depths that seems so elegant and adventurous.

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Well, that was fun!  Now for my questions:

1.  If you were tossed into a fictional world, which genre would you want it to be?  (In other words, which would you have the best chance at surviving?)

2.  If you could three people with you to that world, who would you take?

3.  If a stranger broke into your house, but didn't see you immediately, what would you do?  (Assuming you didn't have a phone within arm's reach.)

4.  What would be the ideal way to meet your future husband, in your opinion?

5.  If there's one character from a book/movie you would never want to find sitting in your living room, who would it be?  (Leaving out the ones that are too big or abstract to sit in your living room- i.e. Sauron...)

6.  I there is one character from a book/movie you would want to find sitting in your living room, who would it be?

7.  If you could live one day of your life in the style of a television show, what genre would you pick?  (Sitcom, comedy, romance, crime drama, etc)

8.  What character role would you take in the "episode?"

9.  If someone were to compose a soundtrack for your life, who would you want it to be?

10.  Can you give us some examples of their work?

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And with that, I must now tag the following bloggers:

Aarathyn Arvell

Loganna Cross


Chloe Linn

Lover of Lembas

Ghost Ryter

Sierra Jones

Maggie Rice

Erin Kenobi

Trysta Vaporblade

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Well, there we have it!  To those of you who do the tag, link back to me here so I can read your answers.  :D  I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thanks again to Hannah for the fun tag!  I liked your questions.


(Disclaimer:  I do not own any of the images in this post.  Images taken from the public domain.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities Series (So Far)

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Image result for keeper of the lost cities never seen
Look at these covers.  Aren't they beautiful?

Quite a long while ago, I wrote about a delightful book called Keeper of the Lost Cities, a book I picked up on a whim at the library and proceeded to fall in love with.

Since then, Shanon Messenger has come out with several more books in that same series, the latest one being Neverseen, We are now anxiously awaiting book five... and when I say anxiously, I really do mean anxiously.  These books are intense!  I know they're children's literature, and the main characters are between 12 and 15, but I- at 19 years old- am nearly weeping and jumping up and down excitedly with the rest of those little teens!  
Anyway, since I've fallen so behind in reviewing each book, I decided to put them all together in this one post.  To all of my readers out there- prepare yourself for a some uncharacteristic hype.  These books are FEELS-inducing!
And to all of you other Keeper fans out there, you know what I'm talking about. *sniff*

Image result for keeper of the lost cities bronteSo, just to recap, Book One tells the story of how 12-year-old child genius and telepath Sophie Foster learns that she is really an elf from a hidden society, and that in order to remain safe and master her powers, she must go and live among her people.  There, she meets many new friends:  the handsome Fitz Vacker, his sister Bianna, a wonderfully intelligent boy named Dex, and laughing jokester Keefe Sencen.  But the elven world, despite its dazzling beauty and seemingly Utopian ideals, is filled with secrets and lies- and danger lies around every corner.  It's just that no one is willing to admit it.

Image result for keeper of the lost cities bronteIn book two, Exile, we find Sophie and her friends caught up in a battle that none of the elves seem to believe exists.  The mysterious organization responsible for creating Sophie with her peculiar abilities, The Black Swan,  is as elusive as ever.   The elven council is still hiding something, and the a third, unnamed group is quickly working their sinister agenda.  Sophie must unravel the mysteries surrounding herself and those close to her before it's too late.  And when an extremely rare and precious Alicorn is found, things turn ugly fast.

Image result for keeper of the lost cities bronteIn book three, Everblaze, Sophie, Fitz, Bianna, Dex, and Keefe have uncovered more about the Black Swan and their mysterious foes- but lies, fears, and misconceptions still bar the way to truth.  Sophie must use her newfound ability to heal the broken minds of those who hold key information to the war that threatens the elven world.  But things are more complicated than they seem, and not everyone is who they appear to be.  Enemies lurk around every corner; the only trouble is figuring out who they are.  

Image result for keeper of the lost cities never seenAnd finally in book four, Neverseen, we find Sophie and her band of friends on the run from the council and the stifling injustice of their flawed Utopia.  The Black Swan welcomes them with open arms- but victory over the villainous Neverseen will not be simple.  Their enemy is widespread and cunning, and no matter what Sophie and her friends try, they always seem to be one step behind.  
As Sophie continues her training with Fitz, tensions rise between him and Keefe, who is reeling from the shock of losing those closest to him in ways far worse than death.  Sophie tries desperately to help her friends, and herself, understand the pain of the world, but betrayal and trickery hang like a dark shadow, blinding them from all that is most important.

These books have the power to make you feel strongly for the characters.  I swear, reading these books has inspired some of my most moving "revolution speeches" that I intend to use in my actual books.  The world in which the elves lives is beautiful in many ways, and most of the elves are well-meaning.  However, the willful blindness of the council and even most of the citizens is infuriating.  there are so many problems to be fixed.... it's a good thing I don't live there because I would have been starting a rebellion long ago.
And this last book, Neverseen just about broke my heart.  I won't say anything to avoid giving spoilers out, but it's just awful.  And so very good.  I can't wait for the next one.
The characters are fun and easy to identify with.  My favorites are Keefe, Grady, and of course, Sophie.  Oh!  And Mr. Forkle, naturally.  Oh, there are so many loveable characters, it's hard to choose a favorite.

ANd there are so many possible "ships"!  Sophie x Fitz, Sophie x Keefe, Bianna x Keefe, Dex x Sophie, Tam x Sophie, Bianna x Tam...

Whew.  There are too many.  I suspect Shanon Messenger favors Fitz and Sophie together, but my personal favorite pairing is Sophie and Keefe.  Time will tell us...

On the technical side of things these books are well written.  They are simplistically told so that a child could understand them, but they are also sophisticated, and the words the author spins serve to invoke just the right atmosphere in such a way that adults could enjoy them just as much.  There are lots of hidden clues throughout the books that allow you to solve the mysteries alongside Sophie and the gang, if you pay close attention.  I and my sisters called several of the revelations in this latest book before they happened- but we were still surprised when we saw it confirmed.  There was many a "HA!  I KNEW IT!"  echoing through our house as we each worked through the book.
But at the same time, these books aren't totally predictable.  There are many twists and turns that manage to surprise even me- and I'm pretty genre savvy when it comes to books and movies.  Overall, this series makes a fun, exciting, and occasionally agonizing read for any fan of fantasy, school stories, and good books in general.  I would recommend it to anyone of any age.  :D

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-Emmarayn Redding