Friday, July 12, 2013

First Page Friday & More Reviews!

Today I have a guest post over at Spellbindings, where I talk about how I can realistically write about snipers and law enforcement.  You can read it here

I also received two new reviews.  The first one from Why Not? Because I Said So, said the reviewer actually took her iPad to the theater so she could read a bit more of my book before the lights went out.  I loved that!  You can read what she thought of Ashes Ashes here

And this was my favorite line from the second review I got today at Sarah Aisling's blog:  "Bellon’s writing is intriguing and descriptive, and she keeps the plot moving at a rapid-fire pace with no wasted words or unnecessary scenes to bog down the story."  I definitely want to put that one in my keeper file.  You can see the whole review here.

I am really loving this blog tour.  And if you didn't know, you can enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card at any of the blog stops.  Yay!

All right, on to First Page Friday.  This one was fun because of what Ms. Shreditor thought of it.  As always, thank you to both our author and our editor for all their hard work.

See you next week!

The Entry
Relative Evil
by Jaycie Allen

It stood motionless, less than ten feet away from Ryan. The sallow, blotchy skin barely hung on its bones. The not-quite-human’s lips were gone, eaten away by the fleas that had given it the virus. Now, only broken teeth, dripping with blood, glistened in the hot sunlight, and forced an aberrant smile onto its face, like a gruesome Halloween Jack-o-lantern. The tiny bugs still feasted on what was left of its healthy membrane.

It stared at him through clouded blue eyes; the whites tainted jaundice yellow with disease. Ryan wanted to run away from it. He knew he had time, but watching it kept him riveted to where he thought was his hiding place behind a forgotten industrial garbage bin. He shivered as gooseflesh coursed over his sweaty skin. This one appeared cognitive, unlike some of the other altered creatures. When it lifted its boney left hand, something caught the sun, refracting the light into minuscule rainbows onto the broken window by its fetid arm. A diamond. Her wedding ring—
their wedding ring.  

“Oh! Yuck! No, no, no! This is so stupid,” I said out loud, and I began tapping the delete key with more force than necessary to get rid of the last two disgusting paragraphs I’d just written. I glanced at Paddles, my fifteen-year-old polydactyl cat, who trilled at the noise my excessive pounding produced. “Why can’t I just be happy writing romance?” I asked him. He didn’t answer me in words, of course. But I interpreted his ears rotating backwards and half-closed his eyes as his way of saying, “You should be happy, Claire.

Switching hands, I continued hitting the delete button, maybe not with as much enthusiasm. “At least I’ve published two in that genre. My editor probably won’t take a second look at this drivel.” I looked back at Paddles. “Would she?” I sighed. “What was I thinking? Moonwriting Publishing doesn’t even accept science fiction.”

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

Okay, I fell for it. Before I started reading, I took a cursory glance at this first page and noticed that the first half was italicized. I flexed my fingers, ready to take the text to task for mashing up a prologue and the actual beginning of the story—and a multitude of other sins, which we’ll get to in a minute. And then the italics stopped, and the evil genius of the first two paragraphs began to sink in. It was supposed to be over the top. Some of the errors in execution that activated my editorial radar might have been deliberate.

I’m going to break this week’s critique up into two sections: Ryan and Claire. Think of them as Goofus and Gallant, if you will. (If you aren’t familiar with these crazy fictional kids, you can find tons of their old comic strips from Highlights magazine on Google Images. To boil it down: Goofus bad, Gallant good.)


In all honesty, I wasn’t really going to eviscerate Ryan’s story. It’s flawed enough to give Claire agita, but I’ve read far, far worse. So what exactly does the first part of the sample get wrong? For starters, there’s some serious excess here. We have broken teeth dripping with blood, bugs feasting on membranes, and jaundiced eyeballs. It’s funny that Claire later classifies her piece as science fiction, because it reads more like campy horror to me. There are a lot of horror clichés herein. (However, bonus points to the author for spelling “minuscule” correctly. If I had a dollar for every time I had to fix the spelling of that word, I could afford a wheel of cheddar cheese that’s been aged more than six months.)

A few technical hiccups stood out to me in Ryan’s story that I suspect weren't intentional. For instance, we have “the whites tainted jaundice yellow with disease.” The syntax is a bit murky here. “Claire” could simplify this by saying “the whites jaundiced with disease.” You’ll also want to ditch the preceding semicolon and replace it with a comma. (Semicolons separate two independent clauses; we have an independent and dependent clause here.)


So what does Claire’s section of the sample get right? For starters, it’s funny. Claire has a distinctive voice. She’s self-deprecating and aware of her own flaws. Her feline sidekick, Paddles, provides comic relief in an already funny scene. There’s also something very “meta” about her commentary on book publishing. It speaks to the difficulty of the writing and submission process.

The First Page about First Page Friday

I have a feeling that the structure of this first page will garner mixed reviews. Ryan’s story sets up a pretty good fake-out. Someone reading this blind (as I did) wouldn’t know right off the bat that his story is somewhat of a farce and might deem it a cheap trick. I personally like it because of its aforementioned “meta” nature. This entire first page is like a satirical salute to the literary angst that powers First Page Friday every week—from the challenges of the writing process to the self-doubt to the agony over submission guidelines. These things are very real, and the author illustrates them in creative fashion here. Well done.

1 comment:

Jaycie Allen said...

*nearly faints* I've always wanted to be called an evil genius. Really! Thank you sooooo much, Ms. Shreditor, for critiquing my first page. The old one was boring. I was looking for that bit of unpredictability, even if it was a cheep shot. And I didn't think it was out of the realm of acceptability, since Claire is a fictional writer of fiction.