Open Pen

To Khalgena: An Open Pen Critique

This Friday for Open Pen, Araenceana submitted an excerpt from her fantasy novel. I hope you enjoy this descriptive and dark story!

As for critiques, Araenceana is not looking for any specific type of critique, so feel free to share all (constructive) thoughts in the comments. As always, even short, simple comments help. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this piece– I know the authors who submit to Open Pen love your feedback!

God bless,

Gabrielle

Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit, especially if you are targeting the YA audience. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.

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To Khalgena by Araenceana

Night is a mysterious occasion. Sometimes, the wind whistles through the darkness like an unknown, invisible force, other nights, rain pours from the sky like a deluge, drowning out fields and flowers. In winter, snow falls thickly, carpeting the outside world in a deadly cold blanket of ice. It is always a mysterious occasion; there is a deep unknown about the cold darkness that is called night.
And it rained over the slave traders and their caravan that night. Not just a little fall of rain, it stormed, wind howling and wailing through the trees, water pouring through rents in the sky, hitting the dusty road and churning it into a path of mud. Though Mornaug, the captain of the slave drivers, sat under a canvas canopy in the foremost cart, the slaves and his men were not so lucky. Shivering and cold, the slaves huddled together in the wagons as the rain drenched them. Though it was still summertime, the season was on the cusp of changing, and the first chill of autumn air seemed to grow stronger.
In the corner of one of the carts sat a boy by name of Einyd, not much older than seventeen years of age. His wrists were bound, and his ankle was chained to the wooden side of the cart for extra caution. He was a slave like the rest of them, but no one spoke to him. The boy had caused trouble before, had even attacked one of the slavers with his chain, and his infamous attitude of carelessness infuriated most everyone. Rain fell upon his dark hair, running down over his face. He didn’t move. A smile played across his lips as he stared up at the pouring sky above. He’d always loved the rain.
Beside him, his sister Brya rested, worn out and hungry from a long day of travelling. Several hours ago, Mornaug had completed his last raid, a rewarding collection of at least a dozen young men and women suitable for slavery. The carts had stopped upon a nearby hill, while the slave driver and several of his men went to capture the newest slaves. The village must have fought back. The smoke of the burning town was visible for almost a mile after the caravan had finally continued on its way.
One of the girls had fainted shortly after being captured, and Einyd watched her now, as she began to stir again. The girl opened her eyes, and sat up, staring in utter horror about her. She must have forgotten what happened. Poor girl was in shock anyway, he thought to himself. He brushed a strand of wet hair from his eyes.
The girl who had awakened gave a cry. “No! What…where…?” Her eyes widened in panic, and she looked around wildly for an explanation. The girl next to her, probably her friend, put a hand on her arm. She screamed, pulling away from her.
“Sh! It’s alright, it’s alright. Don’t scream, they’ll hear you…” said her friend, looking desperately at Brya and Einyd, who sat right across from them.
The girl jerked her arm away, and stood up, sobbing tearlessly. The motion of the cart threw her down again, and she shrieked when she realized that her hands were tied.
“Sit down, Rell! Stop it, come on, come here!” her friend urged, crawling forward to help the girl back to the side of the cart. Rell cried out again in terror, her whole body shaking with fear and cold.
“What happened to us? Where are we? Ailatea, what’s become of us, I don’t remember anything!” Before the other, Ailatea, could say a word, she burst out into hysterical tears, sobbing and wailing.
She’s going mad, isn’t she? Einyd thought. He looked at his sister, who seemed to be watching the poor, confused girl with a pitying look. Unfortunately, it was often that captives reacted like this.
Rell continued to weep, crying and screaming, and before long, a guard came over, angry to have been disturbed from the bit of shelter the main cart offered. He jabbed at her with his spear handle.
“Stop your moaning or you’ll have something more to cry about!” he growled menacingly, and then turned and marched off, hunched down against the rain. Rell’s eyes widened and she stopped wailing, though she put her head into her hands and wept quietly. Her friend looked up at Brya, and shook her head.
“Why did they take us?”
Brya looked at the sobbing girl, and sighed. “Slave traders. The want to sell us.”
A look of horror flashed across Ailatea’s face. “Ohhh…” she managed. She swallowed.
“Where do they plan to go?”
“Khalgena. To the slave markets there.” Einyd explained.
Brya looked at her brother, surprised. “How do you know?”
Einyd pulled his scant cloak tighter around his shoulders. “I hear things. I eavesdrop, listen to the guards. Have a good memory.”
Ailatea narrowed her eyes slightly. “Khalgena. They’re taking us across the Drulu.”
“Aye”, he said, shortly.
“That’s worlds away”, Ailatea whispered softly.
Silence fell over the cart for a moment.
“You’ve never been across the divide before?”
Ailatea shook her head. “Never. Never even left Derlor.”
Einyd raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Then you will be in for quite an experience.”
“What do you mean by that?” said she, looking rather offended.
He shrugged, and said nothing more. Ailatea frowned, and sat back, wrapping her cloak around herself to stay dry. It helped little.
Rell stopped weeping after a few minutes, much to everyone’s relief, and it was not long before she had fallen back asleep. Ailatea too closed her eyes, letting the now soft rainfall calm her frightened nerves. She was relieved that her friend had finally woken up; she’d been frightened that Rell was traumatized beyond hope of recovery, but at the same time, the maddened, wild look on her friend’s face had worried her, and she couldn’t help praying that Rell wouldn’t go mad. Ailatea herself had been terrified beyond anything she’d ever felt before when the band of rough men had broken into her village in the middle of the night, kidnapping her and the others, snatching many of them from their very beds. She’d tried to fight back, but it was futile, only earning her more bruises and scrapes. And now here she sat, huddled in the rain next to her maddened friend, on the way to a foreign country across the great channel that separated Rendess from Semrone. A slave now, no longer free.
It would be wise to rest while peace lasts, she thought, and she rested her head on her knees.
Ailatea did not realize that she had fallen asleep until the cart stopped with a sudden jolt, and she was awakened by shouts and cries. Her whole body ached from sleeping in an uncomfortable position, but she sat up straighter and stretched to see what was going on.
“Why are we stopping?” she asked Einyd.
“Some idiot decided to try and escape. Don’t watch.” Einyd nodded in the direction of the third cart ahead.
Heedless of his warning, Ailatea looked, just in time to see one of the slavers force a captive to his knees and bring his knife down, hard. She gasped, and whirled back around, eyes wide with shock. A strange taste rose in her mouth.
“No…” she gasped out, sickened. She tried to wipe out what she’d just witnessed, but found that she couldn’t.
Einyd winced. “I told you not to look.”
Brya hid her face in her cloak. Ailatea covered her mouth, tears rising rapidly to her eyes.
“What did he do? What happened?”
“He tried to escape. Twice. And it seems that they had enough of it.”
“Enough? They killed him!”
Einyd nodded sorrowfully. “You shouldn’t have looked.”
Ailatea shook her head in disbelief and closed her eyes. Einyd felt sorry for her. Likely she’d never seen someone killed so brutally before.
The carts began to drive again, and soon they were back on their way to Khalgena, leaving the body of the dead captive behind. The rain gradually started up again, pattering harder and harder against the road until it became a downpour. Night began to fall, as the sky grew darker and the air grew colder.
It seemed that the journey had just begun.

Open Pen

Struggles at Starbucks: An Open Pen Critique

This Friday, we have a short story set in a Starbucks. The author, Annalia Fiore, has a blog about appreciating the joys of writing, so if you enjoy this story, you may want to drop by her blog.

Regarding feedback, Annalia seems open to any comments on her story and even asks that we “destroy it entirely” (though I am willing to bet that she does not want complete annihilation!) So please feel free to give constructive criticism, and remember that even short comments can be very helpful!

God bless,

Gabrielle

Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.

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Struggles at Starbucks by Annalia Fiore

Thumbing for my phone beside me, I looked through the windshield of my car at the looming Starbucks coffee shop. Inside the christmas-light framed windows, sat an elderly woman wearing skinny jeans and hoop earrings. She was typing furiously on a laptop covered with brightly colored stickers saying: “Save the whales.” Across from her sat a middle-aged man with a balding scalp. He stared back at me through the frosted window.
I opened my car door and put a booted foot out into the slushy snow.
The warmth of the coffee shop greeted my cold body. A soft murmur of voices spread about the room. I got in line behind a short man wearing a fluffy gray sweatshirt. He peered at me behind oval glasses.
“C-cold out,” he stuttered.
I gave a short nod. Instinctively, I pulled out my phone and began to attend to it seriously.
“I’ve been coming to this Starbucks for eleven years. I always get the same thing. Do you know what I get?”
“What?” I said, not looking up. He hardly looks twenty-three.
“A hot, white chocolate mocha. Grande.”
I looked up from my phone. The small man was grinning at me. I gave another quick nod and returned to my screen.
“I sit in that chair, over there, by the old lady with earrings.”
“Someone is sitting in your spot.”
“Yes! It’s so funny how you know that without looking up.”
I had no interest in explaining to him that I had been coming to this Starbucks for thirteen years and that I sat in that particular chair.
A tall, blond lady from behind the counter handed a plastic cup to the small man.
“White chocolate mocha, sir? Grande?”
“Thank you!” said the small man to her. He then turned to me.
“Excuse me?” he said. I ignored him.
“Excuse me?!” he said again, this time tapping me on the shoulder with one finger.
“What?” I said, finally.
“Oh…hello! You must have not heard me. Anyway, will you please come with me?”
“Where…? No!”
Where are the mental institutions when you need them?
“Oh, but you see I am so attached to that chair. I want you to come and help me get it back. You see?”
“No, I do not. I’m very sorry but I have a lot of work to do.”
I went up to the counter and slammed a five dollar bill onto the counter.
“White chocolate mocha,” I whispered, hoping the small man would not hear, “Grande.”
“That’ll be five dollars and eighty cents, sir,” drawled the blond lady. I looked at the five dollar bill and then to her.
I reached into my back pocket, feeling a few smooth quarters. I pulled them out with two fingers, fumbled, and the coins fell onto the hard ground. I whirled around to pick them up but banged into something in the process.
“Darn! I’ve spilled my tea.”
I looked up to see a huge man wearing a black leather jacket over a shirt that said: “Snake Charmer.” He had enormous black rubber boots on and bushy gray eyebrows.
“I’ve spilled my tea,” the man repeated.
“I’m very sorry, sir. If you’ll just excuse me for a-.”
The man bent down and picked up my lost quarters.
“Here ya go,” he said.
“Thank you,” I muttered. I turned back to the blond lady and gave her my coins.
“Five dollars and eighty cents,” I said.
She glanced down at the quarters that lay in the palm of my hand and then back up at me.
“You’re missing five cents, sir. You gave me three-quarters.” A faint flutter of amusement went across her made up face.
I felt my back pocket. Nothing there. I felt my front pockets. There was nothing. I turned back to the lady.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t have five cents on me.”
The blond lady raised one well-groomed eyebrow.
“No cash? Credit cards? We take casino cards,” she said, smirking, “If that’s all you have.”
“I don’t gamble. Your manager won’t mind if you let go on a nickel, right?”
“I’m afraid he will,” she said, pushing my cash and coins to the edge of the counter. “Sorry, sir.”
A hot wave rippled through my body. My neck was wet with sweat.
“Ma’am,” I began with a desperate patience, “Starbucks is the only coffee shop that sells white chocolate mochas. I’ve been coming here for thirteen years. And I live in Plainville! We have two coffee shops on Main Street, two minutes away from my apartment. Why do you think I drove thirty-four minutes to Starbucks Coffee shop?”
I looked down at the ground. A rusted penny lay beside my foot. I stooped and picked it up.
“Here! Five dollars and seventy-six cents! No! I’m not an insane! I don’t gamble. I just left my credit cards in my apartment. Will you take the money? Deal?”
The blond lady flipped her head behind her. She gave a deep sigh.
“I’ll check with my boss, sir. Just a minute.”
She retreated slowly away and disappeared. Behind me, I heard many sighs of frustration.
It felt much longer than a few minutes when the blond lady returned.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said with pathological patience, “But it’s against the rules.” She looked beyond my shock ridden figure to the next customer.
“I’ll take your order, sir.”
“Just a minute,” said a familiar voice. The huge man with the black jacket came up behind me.
“I have a nickel.” He put the coin on the counter.
The blond lady stared at him. I stared at him.
“T-thank you,” I said at last.
Handing me my penny, the blond lady said: “The pickup counter is to your left, sir.”
She must have forgotten that I had been coming here for thirteen years.
“Thank you,” I said, with effort.
I glanced towards the window. The small man was sitting in my favorite seat. He saw me and grinned. I went over to him.
“Hello,” I said, in a very nice voice.
“Hello! You had some trouble, didn’t you?” said the small man.
“Yes,” I said. I lowered my voice. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Marley. What’s yours?”
“Marley…” I said, ignoring his question, “Can you…Marley, do something for me?”
“Of course!”
“Well, you see… I hope it won’t be too much trouble.”
“Not at all!” interrupted the small man with glee.
I tried not to show my annoyance.
“Well, really, it’s just…” I leaned closer to him and whispered: “Have you heard of Anguliphobia?”
“No. I don’t think I have.”
“Well, anyway, it means a fear of corners or angles. You see?”
“And you have it…this Angu-Angi-.”
“Anguliphobia. Yes.”
“But you came through the door! There are corners and angles there!”
Perhaps this man’s isn’t so mentally ill.
“Well you see, I have a very special case. I don’t like marble. Marble gives me the creeps. It’s hard and shiny. But by itself, like at the order counter, I can stand it. But marble corners! Oh! Those are the worst!”
“Ah! I see,” said the small man, “What is it you want me to do?”
“Will you go and wait for my coffee?”
“Certainly! What did you order?”
I hesitated.
“Well, it’s a White Chocolate Mocha. It’s a Grande.”
“Really! You know, I’ve been ordering that very same thing for the past eleven years! We must be soul mates! Do you know what-.”
“That’s very nice! I think my coffee is about ready.”
Without further words, the short man hopped up and went to the counter.
Stealthily, I put the small man’s coat onto a nearby vacant chair. I sank into his seat and pulled out my laptop. I plugged in my headphones and waited for the man to return. The sun streamed into the coffee shop. Across from the same old lady kept typing. Her iced tea, that sat beside her had not been drunk.
“You are in my seat.”
I looked up. The small man was now towering over me in my seat. He had a puzzled look on his face.
“My coffee!” I said, taking the cup from the man, “Thank you so much.”
I turned back to my computer.
“Yes, of course. But you are in my seat,” repeated the man.
I slipped my headphones on.
“You don’t understand,” continued the small man, “That’s my seat. I’ve been coming here foreleven years. I always sit there.”
I signed into my laptop. I clicked wifi settings.
The small man tapped his finger on my shoulder.
“Excuse me? Excuse me!”
I was completely tired of this irritating man. I selected a hard rock song to blast in my ears. Then a white tab came up in the middle of my computer. It read: We’re sorry, but Starbucks Internet is currently down.
“Excuse me?”

The End

Open Pen

A Discovery: An Open Pen Critique

I am sorry for the long disappearance and lack of posts, but this Friday, we have a Middle Grade novel excerpt from a very patient Rebekah. Rebekah wrote this novel a few years ago, and now she is going back to revise and rewrite. Specifically, she would like constructive comments on realistic dialogue.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to comment on this piece! Even short, simple comments are very helpful. So please do not feel obliged to give a long, comprehensive critique.

God bless,

Gabrielle

Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.

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Excerpt from The Book Chapter 3: The Discovery by Rebekah

One dreary afternoon in the attic, Alice-May decided to ask the dangerous questions that had often been playing on her mind. “Where are you really from?” she asked, “Who are your parents?”
Cassidy sighed as she stared out the window, trickles of rain painting its grimy surface. She couldn’t keep it all in forever. “I am from Japan,” she said, her Irish lilt seeping into her words. “I’m a ninja.”
Alice-May almost jumped through the roof. “A WHAT?!!!!” she exclaimed.
“Hush,” hissed Cassidy, covering her friend’s mouth, “I knew you’d react like this. Anyone would, really.”
“Okay, sorry. Go on,” urged Alice-May.
“Well, as I was saying,” Cassie continued, “My mother was a Japanese ninja. I don’t know who my father was though. He was Irish I think. My surname is Lane, which originates from Ireland. Don’t ask me why a Japanese woman would marry an Irish man, because I have no clue. His parents may not have both been Irish either. I think he was actually born in Japan as well… Anyway, my mother was a ninja, and one of the best. Not many females were accepted into the shinobi – that’s another word for ‘ninja’ in Japanese. I originally trained with the other children of the shinobi. When I was six, I was sent to Kyoto to train. When I was ten, my mother was sent to Sydney to do some work there. I was carted off to a boring place where I’d have to be schooled by these friends of my mother’s, but then there was an attack by the Enemy. I ran away and didn’t try to go back, in case it wasn’t safe. I had the address of this house, which possibly belonged to my great-grandparents. I don’t know much about it though, and I’m currently trying to find out who my father was… No. Who he is. Mother and the others say he died, but I don’t believe it.” The edges of Cassidy’s eyes were moist. “I don’t believe them!” she yelled defiantly, a quiver in her voice.
“It’s okay Cassie. Don’t cry. I’m sure he’s still alive somewhere,” assured Alice-May, tentatively reaching to stroke the smaller girl’s back. “How did they say he died?”
“Th- they say he was… assassinated,” choked Cassidy, blinking back another stream of tears.
“Maybe he’s in hiding, or was kidnapped. He couldn’t be dead. Was he a ninja too?” asked Alice-May, now stroking her friend’s dark hair in a maternal manner.
“Well, I think he was a warrior of some sort. I don’t know what though. Maybe he’s in hiding. He wouldn’t have let anyone kill him,” said Cassidy, trying not to expose her own doubts.
“Well, let’s explore the rest of the house then,” Alice-May suggested, deciding it would be best to leave the personal stories untouched.
They headed down the stairs from the attic and into the main house. The wind howled through the hallway. The floorboards creaked. No wonder Cassidy stayed in the attic.
“What’s the ‘Garbage Room’?” asked Alice-May, looking at the three strange buttons again.
“Well, it’s really a training room, but it was labelled ‘Garbage Room’ to repel anyone that might decide to go there. It contains some extremely valuable artefacts. Please promise not to tell anyone about it,” she pleaded.
“Okay, I promise,” said Alice-May. “Can we go there? You can show me all the ninja-y stuff you do.”
Cassidy smiled softly, “Brace yourself, Ally. It may be more – or less – amazing than you think.”
She pressed ‘Garbage Room’ and part of the wall flipped around, showing a keypad. Cassidy punched a sequence of numbers and……
“Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Alice-May screamed. She internally kicked herself. She never screamed. Ever.
They were falling. There must have been a trapdoor beneath them, thought Alice-May.
Alice-May landed on a mattress at the bottom, and Cassidy stood beside her.
“Welcome to the ‘Garbage Room’,” Cassidy said, the corners of her lips turning upwards into a satisfied smirk.
“Woah!”
In the middle of the room was a rotating training course with hanging spike things, dummies, fire – everything you can imagine a ninja would ever face.
To the left was a row of punching bags. Above them, warehouse lights dangled precariously, and on the right was – a tea-table?
At the far end of the room was a chest. Cassidy ran over to it and pulled a key from around her neck and opened the chest. Inside were a whole bunch of cool weapons. Katanas, scythes, nunchucks, shurikens, you name it.
Cassidy drew a blunt katana out of a worn leather scabbard. “For training,” she explained, as if reading Alice-May’s mind. The sharpened weapons would be kept for more important situations.
Then she sprang into action on the rotating course. Punching, slashing, jumping and rolling. It was amazing to watch. Afterwards……. they had tea.