This week, author M. Dalto is taking over the blog to share her inspirations behind and motivations to keep writing The Empire Saga. The third in the series, Beginning’s End, was released yesterday, September 7th. Follow Alexstrayana as she grapples with her unexpected return to the Empire—something she never thought would occur after the life-altering events in the Borderlands. Defying expectations—her own and the Empire’s—she returns to delve into profound power and endeavor to protect her family. Read on in this thrIlling new entry of The Empire Saga!
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With the release of Beginning’s End, it has occurred to me that I’m one book closer to the end of The Empire Saga. If you had asked me three years ago when I first signed my contract with The Parliament House how I would feel when this day came, I’d probably have said excited and hopeful and accomplished. But right now, with just over a year until the last book is released, I’m feeling something totally and completely different.
Since Two Thousand Years released in December of 2018, a passionate fanbase has emerged, and the pressure has been on to keep them satisfied with each story that’s released. Even with Beginning’s End, which may be my favorite release of the series to date, I was terrified that only I would think it was a favorable addition to the series (and this may still be the case). But be that as it may, because this is a series with numerous characters and multiple points-of-view and many plot points that still need to be tied up in a neat little bow by the end of the last book, I’m incredibly nervous I’m going to miss something and let my readers down.
Not to mention, I still need to write it.
Unfortunately, the way of the world lately has been making writing for myself far more difficult than it ever has been before, and these last six months have been the hardest for me creatively than they ever were since I began writing.
But books need to be written, and stories need to be told, and I’m finding myself looking for inspiration from sources new and old.
In the beginning...
It all began with a song.
People have heard me tell this story many times, and I’m always happy to tell it again. Inspiration can come from many places, and The Empire Saga is no different. I first heard Billy Joel’s “Two Thousand Years” when released on the River of Dreams album back in 1993, and I remember listening to the lyrics and thinking, ‘This is going to make an amazing story someday.’ I didn’t pursue it at the time—in fact, it took me another twenty years to actually consider writing anything close to a novel—but I remember finally sitting down to begin contemplating what I wanted to work on and once again, the song “Two Thousand Years” came to mind.
I even used the lyrics as a rough outline for the first draft of what later became my book of the same name.
At the time, however, my Two Thousand Years was only supposed to be one book. One standalone novel—a single story to tell. However, the more I wrote it, and the longer I continued to involve myself with characters I had created, I knew their stories would be bigger than just one book.
I just never imagined they would span four full-length novels and four companion novellas.
So, while I’m trying to get myself back into the mindset of working on a series that began with a song, I’ve been listening to the playlist I created for it in hopes it will continue to inspire me as I work towards the Saga’s end.
That same playlist can be found here.
So many battles...
What happens when music isn’t enough?
That’s when we have to get a little more creative.
I’m not a very artistic person, but sometimes I need to look for inspiration in other places, and for me, that’s in the form of aesthetics or mood boards.
Mood boards are beneficial in many ways, especially if you’re trying to convey an idea and can’t yet find the words to do so. When I first began writing The Empire Saga, I realized that my characters were becoming so involved and complicated that the only way I could begin to figure them out was through creating an aesthetic for each of the main players.
Sometimes characters are enough, and I need to capture the whole essence of a story in one 3x3 square, and sometimes that is just enough to get me inspired to write more. This was an aesthetic I made for Two Thousand Years as a whole, to motivate me to get to writing Mark of the Empress:
It worked at the time.
Now I’m trying to find that inspiration again as I work myself up towards completing the fourth and final book. Having started it three years ago, I’m finding it difficult jumping back into a world where I haven’t written anything new for it in just as long. What if I can’t get back to where I was? What if the mood and the voice can’t match what was written in the past? Am I even going to remember what I wanted to do with my characters before I stopped writing?
With high hopes, I created yet another mood board to help me return the Empire that had been home to my creativity for so long...
There will be miracles.
And what happens when music and graphic aesthetics aren’t enough to inspire me? We look to the things that do.
The Empire Saga was initially set in Boston because that’s where I grew up, and it’s where I currently reside. I love the city so much that I knew I needed to use it in my storytelling as much as I wanted to tell this story with these characters. The places within The Empire Saga, at least where Boston is concerned, are real places, and in the past (when it was far safer to do so), I would go and show them off to friends visiting from out of state in my own little The Empire Saga walking book tour. Granted, I don’t have as much freedom to do such things these days, wanting to be socially distant and all, but sometimes thinking about it can help put me in that almost nostalgia-like mood when times were different and writing was easier.
Could this just be another case of writer’s block? Perhaps. And one of the best things for me to do when I can’t find the motivation to write is to stop writing. It may sound counterproductive, but it does help clear my mind some. And one of the best things that inspired me to write is reading, especially my favorites like Sarah J. Maas and Cassandra Clare. I even went so far as to buy myself the newest editions of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series with the hope that using them as a reward would motivate me to start writing again.
Those books are still sitting on my desk, untouched, but there’s still time, and the hope is still alive.
And when it may feel like all else fails, there’s still coffee.
Time is relentless.
Whatever it may be that gets me back to writing, I need to do it and soon. Deadlines are looming, and the ending is in sight. This story must one day come to an end, and the only way we’re going to get there is to write it.
So we go back to how it all began.
Where I self-imposed a deadline of writing 50,000 words in a thirty days to get a novel completed.
NaNoWriMo may have helped. And if it helped me then, I know it can help me now.
But whatever it is that gets the words written, I do love looking back at all that inspired me to create The Empire Saga in the first place, and I hope that through my story and my worlds that I can somehow inspire others to do the same in their own, personal ways.
Ever since her unexpected return to the Empire, all Alexstrayna wanted was to protect her family. Despite the life-altering events that occurred within the Borderlands, her family–those that remained–were all she had left. As Empress, it was her predestined duty to protect them while ensuring the safety of the Empire.
But when the ever-threatening forces from the Borderlands challenge the peace, she must search within herself to discover a new magic, one stronger than anything the Annals have foretold before.