#AMMconnect Bio

Ever since finishing the first draft of my YA fantasy novel, HYMNS OF SALT AND TERROR, I have had Author Mentor Match (AMM) on my calendar. After months of pooling over critique partner notes and completing revisions, I finally feel ready to put my baby out in the world. But before I do that, I know that I could still stand to learn and improve with the help of the Author Mentor Match program, which connects unpublished writers with agented authors.

If you are an aspiring writer who wants to be traditionally published, I urge you to check out their program!

A Bit About Me

My name is Em. I am an undergraduate student from Philadelphia working on my degrees in Creative Writing (Fiction) and Anthropology. Writing has always burned brightly in my blood, and the novel that I hope to seek representation for is my sixth manuscript. Granted, the first few novels (written between the ages of eight and twelve) were all about talking dogs and elementary school heists, but I consider each work to be a piece of me, and I would not be where I am now if not for the experience of writing them.

At the moment, my life is pretty typical of a college student, except I wake up at four in the morning to write novels and spend my nights tutoring English to non-native speakers.

My family is Italian-American, and I have been studying the Italian language throughout college. I even studied abroad in Sicily, and it was my time there that inspired the fantasy setting for my novel.

What I Write

I write young adult speculative fiction, and I am particularly fond of fantasies set in non-Western European settings. HYMNS OF SALT AND TERROR is a YA fantasy novel inspired by fifteenth century Barbary pirates and various Sicilian folklores. If Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina met Starz’s Black Sails in a life-raft on the Mediterranean, I like to think that this book would be the lovechild of that sea-swept union.

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Without giving away too much, my novel is about Esmerata Spataro, a flutist whose world is forever changed when her fishing village is ransacked and she, her musician friend, Pia, and a number of other captives are kidnapped by pirates. While awaiting her fate in the slave markets of distant Arpoli, Esmerata is forced to serve as the captain’s private musician aboard God’s Plague.

She discovers a mysterious connection to the sea that allows her to spin each note into her will and to manipulate the actions of all who take pleasure in her hymns. Her goal: to take the ship and to kill the captain, armed with nothing but her music and the help of a grim surgeon, a fast-talking helmsman, and a lookout whose veins run with more saltwater than blood.

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In this novel you can expect to encounter: subtle yet gritty magic systems, settings inspired by Sicilian villages and Tunisian coasts, morally gray pirates who wear too many rings and too much eyeliner, non-traditional revenge-filled sirens, and music that quite literally breaks hearts…and bones. Also, a dash of romantic angst with a supernatural selkie-boy.

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Why I Would Love To Be A Mentee

I am a big believer in the power of collaborative writing. As both a writing tutor and a person who has participated in many fiction workshops, I have come to value criticism and feedback in all its forms.

I am in love with my novel, but I need someone to push me further. Someone to rip the rug out from under me, so to speak. I have worked with critique partners on this manuscript, but I feel that I need the help of someone who has foresight into the publishing industry.

I am a dedicated editor and I am willing to put the work in to improving my novel. If I am selected for Author Mentor Match, I would be so grateful for the opportunity because I know that each mentor truly cares about seeing their mentee do well.

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You can find me lurking around this blog, or on twitter @stellularscribe. Thanks for stopping by!

The Drunken Soldier — an excerpt from my novel

Ta-da. Yet another hopelessly unedited, entirely out-of-context excerpt from my 100k word novel without a name! Starting next week I am going to dive into my second draft, so I thought I’d go on an excerpt spree for sentimentality’s sake. More likely I’m going to end up cringing at this later.

The drunken soldier’s voice wriggled like a worm unwelcome into Aleron’s ear. His fingers twitched around the handle of his tankard as he willed himself against bouncing to his feet and causing a scene right there in the middle of the tavern. But each word that dripped off the drunkard’s lips set his teeth grinding, and not even the bard’s thunderous lute strumming could muffle the blathering. The man in question, who sat spilling out of his jerkin onto a table behind Aleron, was surrounded by three other poxy-faced soldiers. Their viscous laughter trailed after his every word, and Aleron wouldn’t have been so bothered if it were not for the nature of their ‘conversation.’

“Bleated like a sheep, he did!” the soldier garbled. “Wept for his dear ol’ mum breaths before I sep’rated his body from his head! Thought he was some Titan, but I’ve never seen a Titan bleed so redly before!” This earned him a hearty round of guffaws from his comrades. “I dare any imp to run me through! I stood before the hoards of them, and I roared, Do me your worst! But their skinny swords cracked clean like glass against my blade. I tell yez, all them Armaxese and Syonseeri are no better than the dirt I piss on. Craven louts, ev’ry one of them.”

Aleron stared fiercely into his mug. Don’t get involved. Don’t get involved, he thought. Keep your stupid head low.

All at once, he pushed back from the table, the legs of his chair skidding along the floor. He stood, rolled his sleeves to his elbows, and turned to face the dribbling entourage.

“Them slate-skins and imp-eyes…they’re the real leeches o’ the realm. Eatin’ our food and buildin’ their huts on our soil! They call themselves Titans — harmph! Why, just the sight o’ one of them makes me want to —”

“Gouge their imp eyes out? Rip their leech tongues from their mouths and force them to chew on their own taste buds?”

The soldier’s bottom lip hung like a dead slug, his voice suddenly lost as he beheld Aleron. Clad in dirty riding clothes with nothing but a stocky blade holstered to his belt, seventeen year old Aleron Aardale was not the most menacing of sights. He was all shoulder blades and grasshopper limbs, with dark skin that smoldered under the velvet light of the fire and tight-sprung hair that cast coiled shadows over his forehead. While not intimidating, he was dramatic: a faded white scar etched over his brow and across his right eye, and he had lips that seemed to be created for the sole purpose of smirking.

“Oh, please don’t stop on my account,” he said. “I find it ever so fascinating, how many ways a man can squash a rat. May I offer any suggestions? I find it’s very effective to cut their toes off one by one before you cave in their brains. Adds for a striking dimension to torture.”

Get out. Get out before you make the big man with the sword angry. Yes, that would be the rational thing to do. But for all his supposed sense, Aleron’s boots remained sealed to the floor, and his eyes held the soldier’s, searching, digging, reaching for any reaction.

At first he thought it was fury that roiled in the soldier’s eyes, but then the man’s whiskered chin shook, and he burst forth in a raucous fit of laughter. His companions joined in, their guffaws taking turns slapping Aleron across the face. He could feel his ears smoking, burning off the fumes of his fury, and he was about to open his mouth when the soldier spoke.

“Well the lowest of the louts has come to play t’night! Isn’t this a pretty twist, boys?”

His friends nodded, their eyes laced with drink.

“Pretty as a garden sparrow.”

“Bleed me dry it if I don’t cry!”

“Cut off their toes before crackin’ their skulls, you say?” the soldier continued. “Must say I quite like that one. Let’s try it out on you, shall we?” A shadow darkened his eyes, and a grin slithered across his lips as his hand itched for the longsword at his hip.

“Hold there, good sir!” Aleron said quickly as he took a step back into the table. “There’s no need to resort to such base acts. I’m only trying to help you, after all. You see, friend, we’re on the same side!”

The soldier snorted, and his fingers found the hilt of his blade. “Friend? All I see before me is a cowardly slate-skin, some Syonseeri spy tryin’ to reap me of secrets.”

“I assure you, if I were hunting down Edylarion strategies than you would be the last sorry sod I went to.” 

The soldier’s jaw clenched in iron, and he stormed to his feet, swaying a bit as the mead overtook him. The other men stood beside him, and suddenly all of their hands were at their swords, as if daring Aleron to breathe another word.

He nearly knocked over a bench as he took another step back. You bloody fool. You should’ve left while you could. “The Hawk of Highfeather!” he blurted out as his heart leapt into his mouth. His eyes shifted among the reddened men. “Surely you’ve heard of him?”

They paused, if ever so slightly, and the soldier curled his upper lip. “What’re you playin’ at?”

“I’m offended! Don’t you recognize me?” 

Aleron found delight in watching the slow trudge of understanding across their thick brows. 

The man on the right was the first to voice it. “You’re…the Hawk of Highfeather?”

A smirk traipsed along Aleron’s lips. “The Hawk of Highfeather. Wielder of Words. Black Breath. I go by many names; call me what you like. But in the end I am the same man. A man of Madric’s army. A man whom you should think twice of before calling a slate-skinned lout.”

He held onto the thread of hope that it wasn’t disgust, but consideration that crossed their eyes. Perhaps they would erupt in laughter again and go back to their drinks, slurring on about their great conquests against the rats of the East. Maybe…just maybe telling them that he was the Hawk of Highfeather would earn him a strand of respect. 

But, as the case often was, Aleron should’ve listened to the prying voice in his head telling him to shut his damn mouth.

“You’re telling me,” the soldier said slowly, his words seeping together, “that the great Hawk of Highfeather, the messenger of the Rosewater War, the breather of a thousand fates…is a soot-faced, Syonseeri boy?”

Ouch. Aleron offered up a feeble grin. “In the flesh.”

With that, the men quaked in wet, sopping laughter, and for the briefest echo of a second, Aleron prayed that it was all in good jest. His voice melded into theirs with a nervous chuckle, and all the while he inched away from the table towards the door at the other end of the tavern.

But blackness bled into their laughs, and the silver sound of four swords being unsheathed at once grated against Aleron’s ears. The bard’s playing dropped off on a sour note, and a procession of drink-addled gasps traveled through the room. Everything was still, and the soldier’s gray eyes glinted in an unspoken dare.

Aleron turned on his heels so quickly that the wooden boards beneath his feet squealed in protest, and with a flap of his cloak he shoved past the other tavern-goers, tripping over benches and kicking aside empty flagons on his break to the door. He heard the clamber of chair legs behind him, but didn’t dare turn back his gaze as he clipped a barmaid on the shoulder. “Sorry,” he mumbled before leaping over the legs of a plastered man on the floor.

A series of muddled shouts spilled after him, but he was already at the door, kicking it open and disappearing into the night.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

Highfeather — an excerpt from my novel

I’ve never actually shared an excerpt from my novel before. It’s a little baffling to think; two years of blogging and the most I’ve ever posted about my biggest work have been angsty poems and passing mentions in writing tips.

Ah, I love the stench of first drafts in the morning. Without further ado, I present to you, in all of its unedited glory and with absolutely no context whatsoever, an excerpt from my novel.

Aleron remembered Mage saying how Highfeather looked as if it passed judgement on each traveller who crossed in its shadow. As the tower loomed high and blazing over him, he sensed its stony stare, felt it threaten to topple over and crush him for all he was.

Still ablaze. Still burning, but never fallen.

The fire crackled from the peak of the keep tower, casting the stonework of the walls in pulsing, red heat.

And that is where I must go, he thought.

It must’ve been raw instinct that rolled his joints and moved his limbs. He was mechanical in his dismounting of Dusk, systematic as he secured her behind a boulder and hitched his satchel over his shoulder. One foot met its mark on the ground in front of the other, and he carried himself to the fort.

The cold spot he had rode through left his mind numb, but as he passed under the entrance of the curtain wall he could feel the heat of the tower radiating on his skin. He was tired, so very tired, and the warmth only kneaded the worries in his brain, only made him long for sleep and forgetfulness.

He crossed an empty and overgrown bailey. In the night, the shadows cast across the yard by the fire were made long and lanky, like great arms stretching across the earth. The effect was nothing short of mystifying, but he was struck from his contemplation when a fist of thunder pounded the sky.

Up the tower, relay the spell, gather and feast, he thought.

The door that led into the main keep must’ve burned up three years ago, because all that was left was a pile of warped iron. Aleron stepped over the heap to pass under the threshold, and then he was swallowed by darkness.

He became aware of each hitching breath in his chest, and in the still black of the keep, he felt like the only living thing in the world. At first, all was silent and obscured by shadows, but then he heard something soft and fragile, like wind singing through glass. He stumbled through the dark after the sound until he saw a warm glow emitting past a crumbling wall.

He ran for the light, because he didn’t like the restlessness that set into his legs when he stood still for too long. He felt that if he were to keep to one place, then the specters from the smoke would leak into the tower after him. It was like a thousand ghosts were watching him, and he had to keep moving lest they seep into his mind.

He turned around the wall and found himself looking up a spiraling stairwell. The stone trembled in firelight, the source of which lay beyond his line of sight. But the thin music still whistled in his ears, high and begging him to hear more.

He climbed.

He climbed after the light, the warmth, the song. He climbed wondering if he was doing the right thing. He scaled the uneven steps, and he could hear everyone he ever loved warning him, fearing for him, anticipating his movements.

Be watchful, Aleron. Even I forget it sometimes, but you are still a boy.

I’m afraid of what you mean to me, Aleron. Because you’re a bird. And I’m a worm. And birds pluck worms from the dirt.

You brought me to Ferric so that I could change things. But I am in here, and you, whether you like it or not, have more power than all of us.

I’m afraid that you’ll drop off the map altogether.

Your enemy is whatever’s out there twisting people into Wraiths, making people suffer.


And then he was sprinting, tearing up the stairs, his heart leaping into his throat. And the sound, that spindly song was growing louder and shriller, and he ran with his blood coursing under his skin, threatening to shatter his veins. And he ran with his world, his only chance, clattering against his back, and ghosts were chasing after him, and heat building around him. And he hurt.

He breached the stairs and staggered onto the roof. The grating music pinched off into silence, but the heat from the rising fire engulfed him. The surrounding pinnacles stood ablaze, and the smoke was so thick that he could not see the stars.

The Three can’t save me now, he thought.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

The night mocks me.

The night mocks me. Do you
see it turning? Stars moving
across the sky, the moon at
the lead, all racing to hide
behind the horizon. They can
escape this when it’s done,
and then start anew.

A puff of air escapes my teeth.

They seem like a cowardly lot.
Always chasing the end
of the day or night, never
facing each other. I can’t
imagine why anyone
would pray to them.
They’re so inconstant.

A squinting voice. But they always
come back. Some people
might find comfort in that.

A palm cups my mouth. I
speak through fingers.

Stupid sky, stupid stars.
They watch us shrivel
into dust, thinking they’re
eternal. But I’ve seen stars
fall from the night, breaking
apart before they can ever
touch us. They’re not eternal.
And they die for nothing,
just like us.

A shadow closes my eyes.

I am not some people. See how
the night mocks me.

A squinting voice. Yes.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

A Secret Room

More than a lot had changed, I guess. As kids, the two of us used to climb up to the Roost and play with her dolls and stare out on the Cove, making up wild tales about what foul beasties lived beyond the sea. She always swore that there were others like us, other lost children looking for a way across that dark, watery infinity. I always swore that there were sea dragons and ghost pirates and slinky mermaids, but I guess that just went to show the difference between her and me. Her and her hopes and me and my magic. Back then, we could walk around in the Roost without risk of denting our heads on the ceiling. I guess you could say it was a short time, in more ways than one.

My earliest memory of her, actually, was when she yanked me aside after dinner one night and hissed through her teeth that she wanted to show me her “secret room.” A place no one knew of but her. A place where she could spy down on the courtyard and laugh at the smith when he dropped the ingots on his toes and dream of fantastical lands beyond the gray skies of this boulder . “But you can come up, if you want,” she had said to me. “You just have to promise not to tell my brother or any of his brutish friends. They’d just spoil it.” I promised. Of course the others would find a way to ruin the room, to make it not ours. I promised and it became ours. She called it “the Roost” because up there, she said, “I’m an eagle who flies above everyone, and if any one bothers me, I can swoop down and carry them off over the sea, where the serpents will gobble them up!” And I guess she was an eagle, and I was a hawk, and there was something simultaneously freeing and confining about looking out of a window onto the world that no one else could see. And she knew that. And I knew that. But she insisted that there were others like us out there, and I only talked of monsters.

I guess that said something about us.

I guess I should’ve known.

Just a quick writing exercise to motivate inspiration for my novel. I tried to reach into a character’s mind for a memory and then tell it from their point of view. Which was both a challenge and interesting insight to the character’s motivations, considering that I usually write in third person limited.

Happy writing!

Oh Rose

Oh Rose, will you wake from your slumber?
Oh Rose, will you climb from the dirt?
There are shadows approaching;
they darken the sun —
Oh Rose, find your root, take the world.

Oh Rose, do you know they are praying?
Oh Rose, they are crying for you!
Their hearts, how they’ve blackened,
so they tend your soil —
Oh Rose, spread your petals, pursue.

Oh Rose, what is it that you’ve done?
Oh Rose, there is blood on your hands!
You choked from the earth
the spirits sheltered  —
Oh Rose, steel your stem and withstand.

Oh Rose, have you heard the people talking?
Oh Rose, they condemn you for dead!
Your thorns have grown long
and strangled the land —
Oh Rose, they’re coming, duck your head.

Oh Rose, you must go into hiding.
Oh Rose, you must strike from the dark.
The shadows are creeping,
their souls restless now.
Oh Rose, you must free them, embark! 

© 2015 Stellular Scribe

The Maid of Ruby Rill

A born a day of rags and fray, I smelled a hearth in th’ air —
what smells a hearth? why, dogs of course!
and be a dog, I dare.
Such smoke led south ‘round weeping wastes,
and up past yonder hill —
and dancing in the blaze so chaste
be the Maid of Ruby Rill!

She twirled her skirts and called my name, and long a gasp I sighed —
be she a nymph? a siren wraith?
for hooked I was inside.
Honeyed words she kissed my way,
and fierce I felt a thrill —
and what possessed me then to pray
for the Maid of Ruby Rill?

Sweet as sour-grass her song; warm as winter her grin —
but what of flames? did not she blaze?
how white still shone her skin!
Then deep within my core I yearned
and leapt to touch her still —

but crimson bit my hand and burned
my dear Maid of Ruby Rill.

Blackness bled into her eyes, serpentine her smile curled —
what form be this? a trick? a guise?
taunting, her tail unfurled.
Shocked my heart and swiped my breath,
I yelped a plea so shrill —
“Sweet lady, now be not my death!”
to the Maid of Ruby Rill.

A knee I took to hold her gaze, and hands I pressed in prayer —
“what sin is mine? is craving a crime?
speak now or I’ll despair!”
With twisted lips she smirked in ire,
and whispered words of ill —
“Damned are you to tend my fire
here in Ruby Rill!”

A born a day of rags and fray, I sold my heart to her —
what sells a heart? why, slaves of course!
and slave I was, assured.
Of years nothing but dust remains,

but her hearth dances still —
for I have fed and fueled the flames
of the Maid of Ruby Rill.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and holiday season! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then hopefully it was a lovely time nonetheless. I haven’t posted anything for two whole weeks (gasp! I know!), but am finally getting back into the swing of things. Today I have for you a poem (actually, a song) that was written for my current fantasy series. I originally approached it with every intention of writing a silly, carefree tavern song — but it quickly developed a darker, more serious tone (as so many of my poems do).

Happy writing! 🙂

The Three


In obsidian nights
when the rain lashes cold,
the wanderer weeps through the land.

All hear his plight,
as the twilight grows old;
in tempest, how can he withstand?

First come the stars,
like eyes in the sky,
looking down on the traveler’s trail.
Sanguine and simple,
they smile in surprise,
and gentle they breathe on the gale.

Then wakens the moon,
veiled in velvet and light
and his face chases shadows away.
Mystic, his guidance
leads the stray through the blight,
’round rivals and out of the gray. 

In silence, the sun
overlooks her domain,
and sees the roamer wet and cold.
Sagely, she spreads
her arms ‘cross the plains,
to embrace and warm him in gold.

In amber morrow,
when the weather has waned,
the wanderer sings to the skies.

None hear his sorrow,
for the Three banished pain,
and in joy, he strikes his reprise.

This is a song written for my work-in-progress. I really enjoy song-writing (especially when it’s for fantasy fiction), and find that it’s helpful in world-building and culture-creating. I also like to actually write the music for my songs; most of the time I use medieval styles, intervals, and instruments to establish its melody and harmony.

It’s probably difficult to understand the overall message of this song when taken out of context (though you can probably interpret it in multiple ways). Basically, the realm that my w.i.p. takes place in worships three fictional gods who take the form of the sun, moon, and stars. This would be a hymn sung in the Temple or by traveling minstrels.

The Boulder Knight


The Boulder Knight! The Boulder Knight-
who moves mountains with his hands.
The Boulder Knight! The Boulder Knight-
he’s the backbone of the lands.

The eve was orange and the fire was blue,
and the Boulder Knight stood over his men-
“These lands of smoke,” he said, “Are ours to rue,
Will you stand with me and take them again?”

“With blood and flame we’ll make the Titan’s splay
for the crows across the ash splattered ground,
and then the un-burnt will become the blazed,
when the final wailing traitor is downed.”

Then with steel in hand and glory in heart,
the Boulder Knight lead the charge through the mist,
and they pulled the leeches and land apart
before the Titans could even persist.

The Boulder Knight! The Boulder Knight-
who moves mountains with his hands.
The Boulder Knight! The Boulder Knight-
he’s the backbone of the lands.


Here is yet another song/poem from the project I’m working on. Taken out of context, it might be a bit difficult to understand. I am also writing music to go with the ‘lyrics’.

The Bard’s Hymn

"Campfire" by Temarinde
Campfire” by Temarinde

Gather ’round the fire, friend,
we’re not such a scary lot.
Sure, that one’s been condemned a witch,
and the drunk one here’s a sot.
But we’re nomads, braced against the world,
adventurers rare and true,
and the fire here’s so warm, my friend,
and we cook a lovely stew.
I’m a bard of many songs, you see,
for you I could weave a tale,
of golden knights and silver ghosts,
and fair ladies of the vale.
You’re a stranger ’round here, aren’t you?
But that’s just fine with us.
See, we’re vagabonds and castaways,
the roughest of the rough.
But don’t shy away, come sit by me;
I’ll strum you a mellow hymn,
and together we will share this toast,
until our bellies brim. 

When I wrote this, I pictured a bard sitting on a log by the fire, surrounded by nomads and strumming his lute. It’s yet another piece for the project I’ve been writing. This is just a “rough draft”, so I might tweak it in the future.