So I know that there are a lot of folks who may have read the last few blog posts but haven't migrated over to Amazon yet. Having gleaned this from all the emails I've been getting, I thought I'd share some of them with you here on the blog. Be advised ... I've put up both good and bad. Don't get angry or upset, things like this happen. It's a competition and some folks are jockeying for their favourites, so it's to be expected.
(5 Star) Flawless, powerful, compelling. , March 18, 2009 By
I have said in my blog that 4 stars is the best my fellow writers can expect, from me, for their excerpts. In my opinion five stars should be reserved for the truly great, the classics. The excerpt would have to be flawless, powerfully written, and have that "something" that sets classic literature above the rest.
I have found a 5 star excerpt. This excerpt is flawless. The narrative is powerful and compelling. The author drew me into the life of a neglected eleven year old boy who tore at my heart to the point I want to pull him off that damn bus and take him in. If the remainder of this manuscript lives up to the amazing penmanship of this excerpt it is destined to be a best seller.
All I can say is hurry up and publish this one so I can buy my copy.
( 5 Star) Heartfelt, wise, and, yes, compelling, March 18, 2009 By
Steffan Piper's ABNA excerpt has the hallmarks of a good coming-of-age story: a wise-for-his-years but vulnerable narrator, a good balance of heartbreak and humor, and an opening set-up that could easily turn into an exploration of deeper themes, possibly reflecting the diversity of America.
In these opening pages, Sebby (Sebastian?) is being abandoned by his mother yet again as she sends him alone on a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Altoona, PA to live with his paternal grandparents. His mother has fallen in love with the appropriately named Dick, a man who makes fun of Sebby's stuttering and wants to get rid of him. His mother, always in search of a new dress and presumably validation through her relationship with a man, obliges by sending Sebby on his way with nothing more than thirty-five dollars in his pocket and an admonition to always take a seat in the front of the bus.
I can see this opening morphing either into a YA novel or adult general fiction, depending on the direction the plot takes and how the themes unfold. The writing is solid, with excellent characterization and generally good pacing. Although Piper overdoes the dialogue tags at times, which can grate, the dialogue itself is wonderful. This excerpt seems to need only light editing/tightening, much the way any professional manuscript would require at this stage. Of course, because this is only an excerpt, it remains to be seen whether Piper can sustain the great voice and intriguing observations for an entire novel. My guess is that he can.
(3 Star) Disappointed in Greyhound, March 17, 2009 By
The storyline of this excerpt is full of details concerning a boy's place in and perceptions of his family life. The most outstanding detail describes a visit to a wax museum, comparing his own uncared-for life with that of the wax dummies. However, I was disappointed in the over usage of weak verbs such as "was" and "were". It also took sixteen pages for the boy to get on a bus. I wanted to see more action and sooner. I think it would have been possible to layer in the background information rather than to dump it all on the reader in the first ten pages. While it's a good effort, I don't see this as being the winning entry.
So there's a few of them for ya, so far.
I've asked many people that I know that have been in contact with me -- not -- to review the excerpt as I think the reviews should be the reaction of the general public at large and not just back-pattery and team support. Some of the folks in my corner have agreed, but some may not be swayed. I understand that others may feel different about this and I do not begrudge them their decision or choices. It's just mine.
I wish everyone the best as the contest continues and I think that the top 100 will be a very interesting collection of authors and novels, all deserving of the press that Amazon and Penguin should be disseminating on their behalf. Hopefully ABNA will see more presence in the press in the coming weeks.