Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Things that Inspire Me

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I don't know how other authors and writers feel, but for me, a story can be sparked by just about anything I see, feel, hear, or do.  Sometimes it can be the oddest thing that provides the first concept of a novel or fairy tale.  For instance, the titular novella in my upcoming  short-story collection, The Madman of Elkriahl, first began to take form when I was playing around with random syllables, and that weird looking word came out.  
And my first book, Quest for the Ivory Sword, was inspired by a dead stick.  
That doesn't really sound glamorous when I say it that way....
How about- "it was inspired by a diminutive and slender tree branch that had long ago expired"?

As you can see, inspiration for me can really come from anything at all.  (Of course, God is the ultimate source of inspiration:  who else made the sticks or the syllables, eh?)  
But anyway, the following is a list of specific things that continue to inspire me every time I encounter them.  Maybe these will inspire you too!  Let me know what you think in the comments, and be sure to tell me about what inspires you.  I'd love to hear about it!

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Train Tracks

Cottonwood Seeds on the Wind

Light through a Leafy Canopy

Image result for leafy forest public domain

A Path that Bends out of Sight

Pine Trees on a Hill

Wide, Rolling Plains


Cold Autumn Days

Image result for october trees public domain

Spring Fog


Songs by Sting

Songs by Thomas Newman

Blank Books


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-Emmarayn Reddng

(Images taken from the public domain.  Songs uploaded from You Tube.  All credit for these works goes to their respective copyright owners.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Trouble With Writing Young: An Encouragement to Growing Writers

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I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember.  My old school notebooks are filled with little half-finished "novels" in which each chapter is only a page long.  Sometimes I must have gotten tired of actually writing and just drew pictures to represent what happened instead.

And before that, my parents tell me that as a toddler (I was speaking in full sentences at age one) I would say in my tiny voice, "Time, time..."  (once upon a time).

When I was ten years old I had the idea to write about a female knight who wielded a sword of pure white: an idea which would later develop into Quest for the Ivory Sword, my first published work.
From the moment I first conceived the idea, I was determined to finish it and publish it, so I started as soon as I could.  I was twelve by the time I began the first draft, and I was sixteen before it was finished and on the shelves.  There had been times when I almost despaired, wondering if it would ever be good enough, or if I'd ever have enough funds to go through with it, but with God's help and the wonderful resources He provided, we finally got it out there exactly when He wanted us to.

I was thrilled to have finally finished something worthwhile.  It was everything I had ever dreamed of as a child, realized through my parents, my diligence, and most of all, through God's generous gifts.  
As soon as QIS was finished, I was already writing its prequel, The Rise of Ralienah.   It even says so in the introduction to the book.

But you see, here is where we run into a problem.  

The trouble with writing young is that you grow up.  And when you grow up, you tend to be your own worst critic.

As much fun as I had writing QIS, I was also a growing and changing person.  And as I matured, I found that my story ideas matured as well.  Quest for the Ivory Sword is a good book, don't get me wrong.  But it is a young book.  It was written by a teen, meant for children, and though I have heard from several adults who enjoyed it thoroughly, I know that if I were to re-write it today, there are many, many things I would do differently.  That's not a bad thing!  In fact, I'm thankful I wrote it when I did, because otherwise the book that will always be closest to my heart might never have been.  

I had originally intended to publish Rise of Ralienah only a few years after QIS, but I quickly saw that that would not be the case.  In the short span between QIS  and Rise, the story and tone had already changed.  I continued to write for a long time, and was making good progress, until I had to bring it all to a grinding halt- I needed to reevaluate my work and decide where I really wanted to go with it.

During the time I was writing Rise, I had learned so much about literature, composition, word usage, and plot devices.  Story and scene structure, character archs, foreshadowing, you name it.  I now had a decent understanding of what I'd always wanted to do.   But the stories I'd been writing before..... just didn't have it.  They were good stories, but their construction was juvenile and unconnected.  Yet they had potential, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I could just take the time, I could instill them with the classical elements that make up stories at their best.

The only problem was, that would require a complete overhaul for most of my books.  

Which meant a lot of work.  

The Warriors of Talminia Series is and always has been the story of a family, even in its earliest days.  QIS details Nayrame's journey as she finds her place in her family's tradition as the defenders of Talminia.  There are many other subplots and character arcs, but at the core, it was about family and finding one's place in it.

In Rise of Ralienah, however, I went back five generations to explore the life of Nayrame's ancestor and founder of the family line, Ralienah herself.  The theme was still family, but at the time I started writing it, I had no idea what about family I wanted to say.

The most basic plot elements have always remained the same.  Ralienah, a young woman who has lost her parents and has only her twin sister Sapphire left, travels from her home country to Talminia,  whose people are held in slavery by cruel nobles who govern the land with an iron fist.  Ralienah and Sapphire enter a rebellion/revolution together and Ralienah becomes the hero of the people, which eventually leads to the freedom of the Talminians and the institution of Ralienah as the Warrior of Talminia, the official defender of the land.  

That much was stated in Quest for the Ivory Sword.  But as far as the details, it was all up in the air.  I toyed with many alternate ideas for how the conflict might play out before finally deciding on an order of events, but even that wasn't good enough.  I had to find a central theme, something to tie it all together.  I needed a stronger villain, fewer unimportant minor characters, and better continuity.
At last, with my mother's help, I found it.  It all had to do with the motivation behind Ralienah's actions, the emotions that drove her to do what she did, and the peculiar circumstances that made her a legendary hero...

But that's all I'm going to say because I really don't want to spoil my own novel before I have a chance to release it!

But the bottom line is, despite the fact that my steadily maturing mind sometimes can't seem to make up its mind on how I should write, it isn't too late.  Do I regret writing young?  Not one little bit!  In fact, I'm grateful that I did.  Looking back at my old writing may show me fantasy stories about warrior maidens or lost dogs, but it also shows me a journey that I took.  Perspective always shows through when you write, even if you don't mean it to.  In many ways, my perspective has changed.  But in the most important ones, it hasn't.

So even though writing a book during your formative years can be frustrating because every time you look back you feel like you should do a rewrite, take heart!  Have patience.   Get  advice.  Grow and learn, and most importantly, trust in God.  If it's His will that you succeed, He'll get you there.  

There will be setbacks, and writer's block.  There will be days when you seriously wonder if you've wasted your time.  But don't be afraid or ashamed of those wacko first drafts, or of the typos, or of the Mary Sues that are likely to be abundant.  It's all part of the process.  And if you hang in there and give it your best, then by God's grace it will be finished someday.  Who can say what your results will be?   Maybe it will be for the printers, and maybe not...

 All I know is, a story blessed by God- even a youthful story- is always worth a read.  

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-Emmarayn Redding

(DISCLAIMER:  I do not own the image used in this post. Images taken from the public domain.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Daily Quotes Day 3

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Here we are, the last day of my challenge.  I want to thank Maggie once again for this tag.  It's been fun!

My last three nominees:

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“The young mouse's eyes snapped open, clear and bright. He swung the ancient sword high and struck at the giant adder.
He struck for Redwall!
He struck against evil!
He struck for Martin!
He struck for Log-a-Log and his shrews!
He struck for dead Guosim!
He struck as Methuselah would have wanted him to!
He struck against Cluny the Scourge and tyranny!
He struck out against Captain Snow's ridicule!
He struck for the world of light and freedom!
He struck until his paws ached and the sword fell from them!” 

-Redwall, Brian Jacques

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-Emmarayn Redding

(Disclaimer:  I do not own the image used in this post.  No copyright infringement intended.  Pulled from an online store.  All credit goes to photographer.)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Daily Quotes, Day 2

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Welcome back for Day 2 of the Daily Quotes Challenge!  Here are my three new nominees:

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"With all eyes upon us as we crossed the ship's waist to the bowsprit and figurehead, I felt like a princess being led to her throne.
Not even the same lowering mist I'd observed when I first came from my cabin could dampen my soaring spirits.  Captain Jaggery was a brilliant sun, and I, a Juno moon, basked in reflected glory."

-Charlotte, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

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-Emmarayn Redding

(DISCLAIMER:  I do not own the image used in this post.  May be subject to copyright.  All credit goes to the original creator.)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Daily Quote Challenge, Day 1

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I'm really bad about answering tags in a timely fashion... sorry about that!!
Quite a while ago I recieved this tag from Maggie Rice on Traveling Home.  Here's  how it works:

1. Thank the person who nominated you  (Thanks, Maggie!)
   2. Nominate 3 new bloggers everyday  (Lover of Lembas, Jag Swiftstorm, Ghost Ryter)
   3. Post a new quote everyday for three consecutive days...

My first quote is from Watership Down, by Richard Adam.

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"All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you.  But first, they must catch you..."
-Frith, Watership Down

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-Emmarayn Redding

(DISLCAIMER:  I do not own the image used in this post.  All credit goes to the photographer and copyright holder.)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Beautiful Music: Road to Chicago

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Hey!  Thanks for coming.  :D

Today's selection is a significantly shorter piece than last time, when "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis"  came to just over 17 minutes.  
I bring you "Road to Chicago", by Thomas Newman, from the soundtrack to Road to Perdition.  
Road to Perdition is a film about a group of Irish gangsters and their relationships, and the swiftly approaching tragedy that will tear them apart.  I've never seen it, and that's about all I remember from the descriptions.  The plot is rather complex, I believe.  
But regardless of the story, the music is absolutely beautiful.  My other favorite tracks from the score include "Brooks was Here" and the opening title, which shares the same name as the film.

"Road to Chicago" is mysterious, emotional, and driving.  I include it on my list of Most Inspiring Songs for writing.  

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-Emmarayn Redding

(DISCLAIMER:  Copyrights to the music go to Thomas Newman and the makers of Road to Perdition.  Used here for entertainment purposes only.  No copyright infringement intended.)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Book Review:The Grisha Trilogy

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Greeting, my friends!  

Today I will be reviewing The Grisha Trilogy, by Leigh Bardugo.   I have mixed feelings about this series- so be prepared for a little bit of anxting.  

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Ravka is a land that has been torn by war for over a hundred years.  Home to a race of people known as Grisha, magicians with uncanny powers, the soldiers march loyally on to a fight they no longer understand.
Orphaned at a young age, Alina Starkov's only family is her childhood friend and fellow orphan, Mal Oretsev.  Though he grows to become one of the most skilled trackers in Ravka, Alina never thought she would be anything other than ordinary...
until the day she became the Sun Summoner.
As the only living being with her powers- the ability to summon and wield light itself, Alina is whisked away to the Little Palace, where she must train with other Grisha in hopes that she will end the war.   Alina finds herself baffled by the peculiar ways of the Grisha, the treacherous nature of the Royal Court, and most of all by her enigmatic commander- The Darkling.  In him and his own unusual abilities, she finds a kindred spirit.  But the allure of power is strong, and betrayal can come from the least expected places.  Time is running out, and Alina must call together all her resources to save her country and her people before everything is gone.

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This series had a very interesting story and wonderful characters.  Their respective arcs were believable and intriguing.  These were real page-turners;  I stayed up to the wee hours more than once to find a good place to leave off.  
Alina, as the only living Sun Summoner, ran the risk of becoming a Mary Sue- but Leigh Bardugo did wonderfully keeping her genuine and relatable.  Her journey from a simple mapmaker to- er, well... (without spoiling anything) the person she became- was subtle and (SPOILER:  heartbreaking at times END SPOILER).
Her friend and beloved, Mal, also had an interesting arc.  And at first I thought I wouldn't like where he was headed, but I ended up applauding the author for the way she tied his story.  
A fellow named Nikolai was probably the most entertaining with his sharp wit and oozing charm.  I loved him... couldn't marry him, but loved him just the same.  XD
My favorite character was probably the Darkling.  I'm really not going to say much about his character because it would spoil everything, but suffice to say that he was a very interesting individual.

Now, as you all know, one of my favorite parts of the story is the villain/antagonist.  They can make or break a story.  And this is one of those rare books where there were times I actually agreed with the antagonist.  Were it not for his tendency toward unnecessary violence and death, I might have joined him.  His dreams were noble, but his way of achieving them was not.  

The world in which the series is set is also fascinating. I've never seen a fantasy series set in an 1800's-esque era without steampunk elements.  This is the first- and a really appreciated it!  Ravka has elements of a magical Russia, but it is quite it's own culture and feel.  The way that the magic (called the Small Science) works is unique.  Rather than being presented as magic, it's shown to be more like natural abilities that you have to be born with to use.  However, one of the big themes of the series explores what happens when a person is not satisfied with their gift and strives more, eventually delving into the dark world of merzost, true magic... abomination.


First of all, there's a bit of sensuality.  Not as bad as some YA novels, but it's there.  There's also some scattered swear words, if memory serves me right.  A bit of fantasy violence, but nothing described in gory detail.  Mostly it served to move the story along, and added to the excitement. 
Like any YA novel, there's more than one love interest for our girl, and she is always torn between them, anxting over which one she should choose.  The bad boy who is possibly the one person in the world who can understand her personal struggle as the Sun Summoner?  The flamboyant, charming, and clever prince who finds he has come to care deeply for her?  Or the good boy from home whom she has always secretly loved?  This struggle annoyed me... because personally, I wouldn't have chosen any of them, I wish she would have made up her mind more quickly.   I don't approve of a girl who says she loves one boy, and then kisses another because... reasons.  -_-

*The following section contains some spoilers*
These books also contain a lot of sad, dark content.   This is a war story, death and loss abounds.  Also, a lot of the characters are selfish.  One could say that selfishness drives the plot, and the goal is for the characters to overcome their own brand of selfishness in order to save the day.  
Alina's character arc is tainted by her lust for power.  She starts out as an innocent girl who wants nothing more than to gain the love of her longtime sweetheart.  However, as she comes to accept her power, she comes to hunger for it more and more, until it becomes clear that she has lost sight of what is most important.  She is, however, aware of her weakness and does try to fight it when she's thinking straight.  
Christian readers may find it disturbing that so many people in her country insist on calling Alina a Saint.  They practically worship her by the end of the series, and while Alina and her friends know it to be false and wrong, they do use the people's devotion to their advantage.  This seemed a bit blasphemous to me, but since the series takes place in a fantasy world that has nothing to do with reality, I found I could take it.  

Another thing I didn't really care for was the fact that as Alina became more powerful, she began to overshadow her lover, Mal.  It bothers me when a female is more dominant than the male in the relationship.  A woman ought not to be a ruler, but rather a partner.  The relationship should be touched with love, respect, and humility on both sides.  
With Mal and Alina, it seemed she became all to willing to order him around, and he was heartbroken as he perceived that her rise to power had somehow ascended her far higher than his own level of existence.   It causes him a bit of depression, which I found difficult to stomach because all the characters were taking their turns being so STUPID!!  Seriously, I had to get up every ten minutes while reading and act out what should have happened between them, fixing dialogue and having them make smart decisions.  
Alina sort of has an excuse though, since her mind was at times clouded by a power-enhancing necklace that was permanently attached to her...

Finally, one thing that made me really uncomfortable was the pointless inclusion of an lesbian couple.  They started out as characters that I liked, and then along comes the last book and it becomes apparent that they are falling for each other.  There are scattered instances of their affectionate gestures, including a kiss.  This did nothing to move the story along, and seemed like something the author included just because it's popular to do now.  
Fortunately, it was easy for me to avoid in the books.  Since there were only scattered references to their relationship, I'd just skip ahead whenever I saw their names mentioned.  Still, it really bugged me that this trilogy would disappoint me in this way right at the end.  It's like finding a bit of uncooked egg-white in your scrambled eggs, and then the whole breakfast is less appetizing.  :(


This book series made for an interesting read.... if you can put up with the negative elements.  After book two, I was basically reading just to finish the story and find out what happened at the end.  And also to find out what became of the Darkling.  
And, actually, the end did not disappoint me.  It turned out WAY better than I expected it to.  It defied the trend in YA books that everything has to be sad at the end.  Yes, there was grief, and loss, and some people were changed forever, but somehow, the ending was happy and satisfying.  I was SO grateful for that because I really didn't want to find out that I'd wasted a week of my life reading the trilogy.  The character arcs were tied off well, and I liked where they ended up, despite my fear that I would hate who they became.  
But that's not enough to make me forget the negative aspects of the story.  It's not even the story so much... it's the things that are mentioned IN the story.  Unnecessary junk that clutters up an otherwise great tale.  
I did enjoy the series, but don't think I would recommend it. If you read it, take the characters as fantastic examples of how NOT to act, though in the end the consequences of their actions shine through with a clear moral.  
There are better things to read, I think.  But if you absolutely MUST try it anyway...  tell me what you think because I need to work out these feelings I have for the book.  And Darkling!! Nikolai!! What am I gonna do with them... :'(  I need to vent to somebody.

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-Emmarayn Redding