Guest Post: The Music of “World of Shadows”

As promised, here is Emily Rachelle’s guest post about the music she listened to while writing World of Shadows. I encourage you to read my review from last week, visit Emily Rachelle Writes, and purchase the book on Amazon.

When I write a book, I always have a playlist to go with it. Here are some of the tracks on my playlist for World of Shadows:

Like any faithful Disney fan, I love the soundtrack from their Beauty and the Beast. But not many of those songs really fit with my own story. I did listen to the classic “Beauty and the Beast” as well as “Something There.”

One of my absolute favorite songs while working on this novel was actually an obscure instrumental piece I found while doing historical research. It’s called “French Renaissance Lute Branle.” I’ve listened to this one on repeat for hours while working on scenes in the tunnels. It’s very relaxing.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge one of the biggest influences on my work. I know there are quite a few similarities between the fantastic show Beauty and the Beast from the 80s and my own Beauty and the Beast story. I’m pretty sure I saw this show after writing most of my first draft, although it’s been so long I don’t remember completely. There’s been a reboot of the show running for a few years now with an Asian heroine and a modern genetic-experiment twist. I watched the first two seasons; it’s romantic and full of action, but it lacks the magic of the original.

Anyway, the songs from this show that most spoke to my work included the suite from the episode “To Reign in Hell,” the score “Labyrinth,” and “Though Lovers Be Lost” from one of the most controversial episodes on the show.

There were also several modern tracks that connected with me while working on World of Shadows. I love “Demons” and “Monster” by Imagine Dragons. The mysterious aura of the characters and world in my story also fit well with “Riddle” by Mindy Gledhill.

Beila’s place in the tunnel world seemed best connected with “Mercy” and “Come Home” by One Republic.

The emotional setting and tempo of the book were perfectly embodied in Jennifer Thomas’ instrumental work “Illumination” and William Joseph’s “Stella’s Theme.”

The perseverance required of Beila as the book progresses, especially emotionally, was expressed well in Jayesslee’s cover of “I Won’t Give Up.”

On a romantic note, I frequently listened to “I Will Always Return” by Bryan Adams. I adored his work on Spirit as a kid. As cliched as it is, I enjoyed “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. A lesser-known favorite of mine is “Sunshine” by Lucas Grabeel, an actor from Switched at Birth. Finally, “All About Your Heart” by Mindy Gledhill is just beautiful.



World of Shadows: Book Review

world-of-shadows-coverFairy tales are stories of wonder and magic, but they are also stories of life. Emerging author Emily Rachelle pulls these elements together beautifully in her first novel, World of Shadows. World of Shadows chronicles the adventures of Beila, a teenage girl whose nightmares begin to intersect with reality until she is pulled into the land of her dreams. The lines between dream and reality blur as she navigates her interconnected, yet multifarious lives.

This novel is a stunningly expanded adaptation of the classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast. While in some renditions of the story, readers are left questioning the validity of the message that a pure woman’s love can change an abusive man, the complexity of Rachelle’s characters and their motivations provide an effective exploration of good and evil beyond a simple, dichotomized paradigm. She also incorporates many depictions of love within families, friendships, and broader communities, so that romantic love is not the primary motivator or manifestation of love within the story.

While certain plot points felt predictable, Rachelle’s descriptive writing style and use of detail maintained suspense throughout the book. The story is beautifully told, with writing full of imagery to describe scene and emotion, and Rachelle’s gift for fantasy storytelling was evident as I was pulled into this story. Besides a couple of times where I was unsure of the significance of a particular detail, Rachelle’s storytelling method is very interconnected, employing foreshadowing, satisfying character development, and imaginative world-building.

Like all good fairy tales, World of Shadows explores various important themes, including love, truth, and memory. When Beila recalls her childhood, she says that “[t]he memories come up in [her] mind like driftwood bobbing up on the ocean’s surface” (18). This idea of submerged memories recurs throughout the book as Beila works to uncover her truth and how it intersects with the truths around her.

These truths, while sometimes containing joyous elements, are often painful to uncover. When Beila is afraid to acknowledge a particularly gruesome truth, she is told, “Sweetheart, sometimes the truth isn’t pretty. It’s not clean or friendly. But it is truth nonetheless, and it must be faced and grasped” (232). Beila’s responses to the many distressing narratives throughout the book remind the reader that confronting pain is often the first step to healing.

A good fairy tale is at once familiar and eye-opening, and Emily Rachelle’s World of Shadows definitely satisfies on both accounts. With a cast of empathetic characters, a full set of emotions and virtues, and a believable world with a generous sprinkling of magical imagination and wonder, this book will enthrall you fellow lovers of fairy tales, and could even convert a few critics.

Launched on December 11th, 2016, Emily Rachelle’s World of Shadows is available for purchase on Amazon as a Kindle or paperback! Check out her blog, Emily Rachelle Writes for more amazing writing. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to review her book and look forward to hosting a guest post on December 20th, where she’ll talk about some songs from her book-writing playlist!

Day 1: Keeping watch, speaking out (fuck/rend)

“Therefore, you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” ~Matthew 24:44 (NRSV)

I have always struggled with the apocalyptic and Revelation texts within the Bible. They are too violent, too full of fear, and too often used to terrify people into seeking salvation. I often ignore these texts because I don’t know what to do with them. They bring up painful memories of damaging ideologies involving guilt and hell which I was exposed to in my childhood and adolescence, and this guilt digs its claws into my mind, waiting to interfere when I work to reimagine my faith.

This first reflection was one of the few times I have seen one of these texts in a new light. Throughout Matthew 24, Jesus instructs his listeners to keep watch, to prepare for the unknown coming of the Lord at “the end of the age.” Though I tend to imagine Revelation images of beasts and horror, when I reflected on this passage with today’s reflection words (fuck/rend), I saw a different idea of what it means to keep watch.

My reaction to an imminent second coming is two-fold. On one hand, I am terrified and selfish, thinking of all the things I want to do—learn more, travel, write, fall in love… Yet at the same time, I recognize that my future won’t be the fulfillment of “the American Dream.” We are hurting the world and our lives will change, with or without our consent. In my lament, words often feel inadequate to express my frustration. A grieving mantra of “fuck” can release some pent-up pain. In these times, I want to cry out, “God! Just come now!”

There is so much pain and hatred in the world, and we have seen innumerable, horrible manifestations of this throughout this past year: the vitriolic US election and its aftermath, war in Syria leading to unimaginable violence and ghetto conditions, police aggression and illegal torture of the Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock…

The world is a mess; it’s all fucked up. Just come and rend the pain, the horror, the hatred. Strip it clean. Make us new.

In all of this, it is easy to grow despondent, to want to say “fuck this” and not care anymore. But I cannot stop caring for my fellow humans and for the earth. My faith calls me to work for justice for all creation.

My dad has an interesting theory about the “second coming” that really resonates with me. He says that it has already occurred, at least in part. At Pentecost, shortly after Jesus left the earth, God came again in the Holy Spirit to dwell on earth—God in us, and us in God. In this vision of building the kingdom of God on earth, part of keeping watch is living in this tension of fear and expectation. Instead of waiting for some future time, watching the sky for signs of a descending Deity, we keep watch on the world.

Jesus calls his followers “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). As followers of Jesus, we must live into the call to be prophetic voices for justice in an aching world. To tangibly demonstrate our words with our actions. To live in right relationship with each other and with the earth, knowing that, whether God has already “come again” or whether that is still to come, the God who is Love is here with us and in us, and we are with God and live in God.

So let us keep watch as prophetic people living in the “now” of God’s presence here on earth. This vision of keeping watch isn’t the guilt-driven “oh, fuck,” but the active “fuck this!” Fuck the pain and sin and hatred. Fuck the guilt and fear-mongering. Fuck injustice.

We will keep watch.

We will speak out when our watch sees injustice.

We will work to rend the injustice and work for a new kingdom on earth.

How can we be silent is a beautiful, prophetic hymn by Michael Mahler. You can find all the words here, and can listen to the song here. This recording demonstrates the Mennonite tendency to slow the tempo; I’d recommend taking it a titch faster.

How can we be silent when we know our God is near,
Bringing light to those in darkness, to the worthless, endless worth?
How can we be silent when we are the voice of Christ,
Speaking justice to the nations, breathing love to all the earth?

None can stop the Spirit
Burning now inside us.
We will shape the future.
We will not be silent!