The Ebony Quill

Thoughts, reflections, and whimsies as I experience life

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

And then the librarian gave me a funny look…

I checked out an armful of books the other day from the local library and the unusual mix caused the librarian to look at me oddly, but it was probably more so because she doubted I’d actually read all of the books.

It’s an eclectic group, but here we go:

1) The World We Found, by Thrity Umrigar

2) The Psychology Book (I’m not a psychology major, but I really wanted to learn more about it….)

3) Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (I have resolved to read as many of the great literary classics as possible)

4) Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

5) On Writing, by Stephen King (hoping he’ll give me some tips and encouragement for my own book!)

6) The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak

7) Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

8) The Girl in the Garden, by Kamala Nair

In addition, I’ve reserved several books: The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, Destined by Aprilynne Pike (I like to finish series that I’ve started, whether or not I have lost interest in the story), and Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (again, I like to finish a series, mostly out of curiosity, and also because I want to make sure I read the rest of the Hunger Games trilogy before I rant about how it doesn’t meet the standards set by the Harry Potter series.)  One series, however, which I refuse to finish is the Twilight series.  I just can’t.  Books that do not have a strong female character–or just a strong protagonist in general–seriously arouse my ire, and the way Bella so willingly and completely devotes herself to a vampire who is struggling with himself not to suck her blood and kill her is ridiculously masochistic and sends a terrible message to young girls.

Let the reading begin!

Excerpt from my Novel

So, I finally threw aside all my outlines and character sketches and sat down to wrote a couple of pages of the novel last night.  And lo and behold, it worked.  I wrote, and it felt good.  I would like to share a short excerpt from what I’ve written thus far, and I would appreciate any and all feedback, corrections, and constructive criticism.

Without further ado, may I present a taste of my novel…Untitled (no, that’s not really the title- I just don’t have one yet.) :

Arianna peered around the corner of the red adobe and brick building she was hiding behind.  The market was as busy as usual: colorful, open-air stalls lined both sides of the narrow dirt street, filled with everything from fruits and vegetables, trinkets and baubles, to clothing and weapons, twinkling in the late morning sun.  Merchants marched back and forth in front of their individual stalls, yelling out their wares and prices to the clusters of shoppers.  Camels and donkeys stubbornly resisted the tugs and reproaches of their owners, kicking up red dust and clouding the entire scene.  The scents of spices and food, the fragrances of perfumes, and the odors of livestock mingled in the thick, dry desert air.  On the walls of the buildings that rose behind the shops, visible now and then through the gaps in the stalls, were signs illustrating wanted criminals and the reward for their capture or information about their whereabouts: murderers, swindlers, and thieves of all sorts graced the ragged parchment, their features somewhat distorted by the artists.  One face recurred more often than any of the others: Arianna’s face.  She gazed at the signs, smiling proudly at one featuring herself.

“Wish they’d get my face right for once,” she muttered.  Admittedly, however, her likeness was better represented than the others on the wall; she knew a good number of them by name.

Arianna checked the market scene again before emerging from her hiding spot and weaving skillfully through caravans of livestock, dodging several women arguing over some vegetables in the middle of the path, to a large barrel on the other side.  Crouching behind it, she breathed heavily, catching her breath as she readjusted the covering over her mouth and nose; the piece of cloth was used less to protect her from the dust than to shield her from sharp and wary eyes that might identify her.  After a few seconds, she looked over the barrel, just in time to see a tiny boy running into his hiding place behind a similar-looking barrel.  He caught her eye and gave her a confident grin and a thumbs-up.  Arianna gave him a curt nod and retreated back into position behind the barrel.  She and Nathanial had successfully executed this same routine a hundred times without getting caught—although they had come dangerously close on more than one occasion—, and were incurring increasingly fewer cuts and scrapes in the process.  This time was different, however

The baron who ruled this part of the kingdom would be riding through town today to “see how his people were faring,” a thinly veiled guise for his real intention of gauging the citizens’ wealth so that he could increase taxes.  Arianna and Nathanial planned to rob him.  To be sure, Arianna had robbed many lower officials on her own, but this one called for some assistance; it would be tricky, but with the backdrop of a busy market, nobody would see a miniscule ragamuffin deftly cut the coin bag that regularly adorned the side of the baron’s large, white stallion.  Arianna wanted to be the one who did it, but Nathanial insisted that he was ready.  Hardly thirteen, he had trailed Arianna for several weeks on her missions undetected.  When she finally discovered him, she realized he would be a valuable partner, and they had been thieving together for over a year now.  Nathanial wanted to proudly present the coin pouch to his mother and younger siblings upon his return to their squalid living quarters in one of the city’s poorhouses.

The clattering of horses hooves—a foreign sound in the city center—sent Arianna’s senses on high alert.  It was time.

–So that’s the end of the excerpt!  Please let me know what you think!

Writing a Novel

When I was younger, I would often daydream and imagine stories (as children are wont to do), but I never wrote down any of my tales.  In the sixth grade, I devised a plan to become the youngest published author and sat down to write a novel which wound up ending at Chapter 3. I believe a lack of motivation and originality was to blame; I was basing my book off of the Harry Potter series, but it ultimately resembled Harry Potter so much, I was certain no one would want to read it.

This summer, I feel inspired to embark on the ambitious quest of writing a fiction novel again, and this time, I am attempting to do it right.  That is, I believe I have an original idea, I have been outlining and planning, and I have researched the Hero’s Journey and Jung’s archetypes as well as advice from published authors.  The goal at this point is to get a draft out; publishing is not in the near future, if at all.  Nevertheless, I would still appreciate any advice on writing a book, or even just staying motivated to keep going.  I will post updates on the ups and downs of the writing process, so please keep checking back!

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