Thursday, January 27, 2011

Have aNother Nutter Butter Friday Feedback Super Guest Star!

This is me. You remember me?

Guess what, peepos?

I’ve got another super exciting guest star on tap today, putting his bravery on the line for Friday Feedback. Fellow Elevensie, and all around amazing writer, RANDY RUSSELL.
This is not me, it is Randy.
I know, the blue cap fooled you.

(If you click on his name, it will take you to his very cool, new fangled website which I love!)

Here’s a true story: In prepping for today's Friday Feedback, Randy sent me four different excerpts to choose from, and one after another, I read them hyperventilating. I finally made him choose because I couldn't (and one was so awesome, I was afraid to reveal it on my blog).

Trust me on this: Randy is an author to follow.

Anyway, enough gushing. More business.

Randy’s YA debut, Dead Rules, comes out from Harper Teen, June 21, 2011.
According to some smart person at Harper Collins, Dead Rules can be described as follows,

“…Romeo and Juliet meets Heathers in this darkly comedic paranormal romance.”

Yep. You wanna read that, right?

All I know is the protagonist dies in a freak bowling accident, so, seriously, people, sell me no more.

This is a photo of a button.
If you want this button, ask Randy!
(I do. I want this button!)

But, where was I? Oh yeah.

Today, for Friday FEEDBACK Randy is giving you a sneak peek at his sequel to Dead Rules, which is still a larval work in progress. The working title is Deadication or, hmmm, Dead Girl Blues, I can’t decide which I like better, you?

Okay, here we go, after a brief recap of the RULES:

(If you want more details, read this blog post here: otherwise, just follow along).

1. If it is the first few paragraphs of a novel – today it IS, yay!! – tell me if it "hooks" you enough to make you want to keep reading, or not. If yes, why? If no, why not?

2. What works for you, draws you into the piece, and why?

3. What doesn’t work for you (if something doesn't) and why?

If you would like the same feedback on your own piece, please post your brief excerpt at the end of your comment (and tell me what it is -- e.g. opening to a novel, short story, poem, etc...). Please post no more than 3 -5 paragraphs, 5 if they're short, 3 if they are long. If there's more, I will only read the first 3 -5. If the comment gets too long, feel free to reply in two separate comments. If you are a student from a particular class, please identify yourself as such (and take a bow).

Okay, here's Randy's work:

Chapter One

Her face red from exertion, Carla Cassel worked her bicycle along a ridge road above the French Broad River at the edge of Buncombe City, North Carolina. There was no city here, just a string of older houses under the mountain pines. The houses were spaced far apart on level with the paved road. Carla was looking for her sister.

Where are you?

Her right pedal began to squeak on each down push as Carla rode past a small clapboard church with a white steeple. The church had been in her dream. She was on the right road. A little later, a small black dog barked from behind a front-yard fence. That had been in her dream, too.

With each circling push of the pedals, Carla’s bicycle seemed to be saying her thoughts.

Where are you? Where are you?

The ridge road straightened to pass through a small plateau on the hillside. The houses appeared in uniform blocks now, three streets deep on Carla’s left.

A single row of buildings, including the cinderblock laundromat that had been in her dream, was on her right with a steep rise of mountain directly behind. The mountain was a blanket of green hung in the sky behind the buildings. Wild laurel and rhododendron thickets filled the spaces between the pine trees.

Where are you?

Then Carla saw what she was looking for. An abandoned public school building of red brick was just like the building in her dream, centered in an expansive weedy lot, surrounded by a tall chain link fence. Carla leaned her bicycle against the fence. The gate in front was chained and padlocked. A metal sign said No Trespassing. The school had been closed for years.

Her sister was hiding inside, hiding from the man who had abducted and killed her the night before. Carla walked the perimeter of the property until she found a hole in the fence big enough to slip through.
(seriously, my heart is pounding just rereading this excerpt! There's my feedback for you right there!)
- gae


  1. *limply shakes fist at Blogger for not posting my comment the first or second time*
    Here we go...again.

    Number um, Zero: Randy, you look a heck of a lot like my cousin Joey. I had to look at that picture twice!

    Number One: What hooks me. I was hooked at 1- "Carla was looking for her sister." I have a younger sister and hate the momentary feeling of panic when I don't know where she is. I was also hooked at 2- "The church had been in her dream." My friend had a dream about a car crash, and well, it came true. I lost my BFF and she lost her adoptive brother. We now hate telling our dreams to people. (this was a long time ago but we are still freaked out)

    Number Two: What works for me. O.o All of it. End of story. This piece is awesomesauce and I want more. :)

    Número Tres: (I am not sure why I switched to spanish although it is 2:36 am) What doesn't work for me. Hmm... I guess I am just a little confused, I do like this but at "Her sister was hiding inside, hiding from the man who had abducted and killed her the night before. Carla walked..." Was Carla's sister dead in the dream? If I felt this way (being that my sister was dead in the dream) I would have brought my BFF along so that if/when I found my sister dead and dropped to my knees wanting to die also, she could peel me off the ground and force me to go on with life.


    Ha. My longest hash tag ever! Anyways, I have to go find my notebook so I will post my excerpt below.

  2. Now that I have found my notebook and Blogger seems to let me (finally) post a comment...

    *puts on writing cap...and goggles so that hopefully I spell everything right this time*

    Crying that hard must have exhausted me because I fell asleep somewhere around 4 a.m. Despite being drained of all energy I woke up around seven, very groggy and not wanting to move. I decided that I wanted to message my friend Cory and explain what happened. I usually messaged him because he could calm me down and help me see if I was being irrational in a situation. This time I wasn't. I explained what happened between me and my parents the night before and he said he was sorry and that he wished he could be of more help. I felt bad always leaning on him, pouring my heart and soul into a tiny message for him to dissect. I felt like I was giving him a window into my life, exposing it for what it really was. Showing him that the smile I paint on for the public wasn't how I really felt.

    Writing out all my dilemmas was a hell of a lot easier than voicing them. Whenever I opened my mouth to spill out my opinions, I felt a lump in my throat choking off my air supply. As if the world didn't care to hear what I had to say.

    *it is very rough but I believe I spelled everything right, hopefully it is a shiny excerpt*

    Now that it is 2:45 am, I shall come back later. ♥

  3. Carolinekimberly - OMG, your friend's dream! I am so sad. :-( I don't know why so many people refuse to believe this kind of stuff -- that dreams can see the future. It happens all the time (so sorry your friend's experience was a bad one!). Dreams can be as real as toast.

    Thanks for your comments on the vignette. I am very pleased that the bound between sisters came through so clearly to you. It's one of arcs of the story.

    Sorry about the bit of confusion. Truth is, I've done about 60 pages on this one and I still don't know everything that's going on or what will happen or what Carla and her sister have to teach me about love.

    My own edit: I just noticed I used the word "small" twice in the 3rd paragraph and it is starting to piss me off.

  4. Carolinekimberly: your piece. First, can I borrow those googles? Gae wears them too, I understand.

    Your piece. Very shiny, indeed. First-person is all about voice and you have that going here just fine. I like that you are using the internet (or texting) in your character's moment of need to share and touch.

    The thing about first pages is to make them really tight, as I am sure you know. But in first person, the character thinks/feels in her/his own rhythm and that can mean that a few extra words might add rather than detract. Very tricky stuff.

    For instance: In third person, I would cut the word "out" in the phrase "spill out my opinions". But, damn, this may be exactly the way your character would think/express it.

    I so constantly watch for extra words, though. In your piece, "As if" in the last sentence might be cut. Try it and see if you think it makes a more powerful statement without it. "As if" is one of those things I keep an eye out for in my own writing.

    This kind of stuff is for later editing. Once I find my rhythym (or the character's voice), I just keep going and keep it growing, knowing I can come back later and look for the extra words and, you know, things like spelling.

    Here's something interesting. I read your start two different ways. As a female voice (because of your name). Then as a male voice. Both worked and in different ways. A boy crying until he was exhausted catches my attention differently than a girl crying until she was exhausted. Weird world, huh?

    I almost always consider gender flops for my characters, btw, when I am thinking about the story elements of a book of fiction. It's a good way to find more story now and then. And if nothing else, it helps me procrastinate... which we all know is the most important part of writing.

  5. P.S. Dissecting a tiny message gives me the creeps. In a very good way. :-)

  6. Caroline, your excerpt IS shiny, and your feedback is even shinier.

    also, "more real than toast" must be made the phrase of the day.

    I'll leave Randy to the rest of the "detailed" feedback.

    p.s. (I have gotten in the habit of "copying" my long comments that I'm trying to make in the interwebs BEFORE I try to hit POST. I have lost too many to count, including responses here).

  7. Oh my goodness- yeah, I'm hooked!
    I want (and at the same time really, really *don't* want) Carla to find her sister.
    Can't wait to read this one!

  8. Hey, Maurissa, you famous author, you! Thanks for visiting me at Gae's place today.

  9. I just wanted to say I love the cover for Death Rules and it's on my "I WANT!!!!" list.

  10. *goes through some sort of numerical process again*

    Number one: Randy, you said googles and not goggles, so of course i will share them with you!

    Number two: thank you both for thinking my excerpt is shiny!!

    Number three: since you read this both from male and female points of view, which do you think would work better? I cannot decide, but am leaning more on male....

    Number four: I agree that "more real than toast" should be the phrase of the day.

  11. Le me start by saying this rocked! The fact that she is doing this because of a dream is what hooked me in the beginning. I've woken up before and felt like I was still in a dream, it's kinda creepy, but I understand the need to follow it like a strange noise in a horror movie.

    Also, last night my dream smelled like a strawberry poptart, It was odd but nice :)

    I'm dying to find out what Carla finds, and for her sake I hope it's nothing too earth shattering

  12. Let** lol

    My piece is very rough and also the very end of my story, so I'm not going to share that cuz it's too important :( In the meantime please enjoy this poem :)

    A hand to hold when I'm not steady
    Still by my side when I'm not ready
    A tight embrace when all goes wrong
    and wild eyes when I feel strong

    A New Year's kiss to start things right
    Longing and deep, yet feather light
    A place to go just to get away
    A gut feeling that means I know you'll stay

    The strength to show you all these lines
    My heartfelt poems, and simple rhymes
    I want to feel that we're forever
    Bonded, fused, and breaking never

  13. Cari - Miss-Deathwish at (Bailey Elizabeth) did the cover (and back cover - a boy instead of a girl). She is all of 18 now and is a super incredible photog and artist. Her work amazes me. And obviously impressed HarperTeen

    What can I say... when I was 18, I cold barely bag groceries.

  14. Heya, my name's Felecia. I'm from Mrs. Andersen's Y.A. class.

    One: Yeshhhh it hooks me. :) I want to read moreeee. :( (sad face because I can't)
    Two: I LOVEEEEEEEE the imagery, absolutely love it. :)
    Three: EVERYTHING works. :) I LOVEEE it. :)

    Okay, I didn't get to finish my excerpt last Friday, buttttt I'm going to post something newwww because I have to write a novel-ish thing for this Y.A. class, and I want opinions on if its good or I should just trash it... Welp, here goes...

    "Mom, I DON'T care." I looked up at her then back down at the strands of hair I was braiding over and over again. My mom continued to drone on about how much 'potential' I had. She uses this one sided conversation every time I find myself in trouble, which seems to be a lot lately.
    "I love you. I'm not mad at you. I'm just extremly disappointed. " My mom slid a plate of pancakes towards me,
    across the bar and I let them drop to the floor, the plate shattering.
    "Wow. Worse thing you could ever say to one of your children. " I picked up my cup of coffee and sipped it. "My God, you act like I dropped out of school. I just dyed my hair and pierced my lip. That has no connection to my 'potential' at all."
    "But it's black." My mom reached forward to touch my hair but I leaned away from her. The hurt on her face had no affect on me, anymore.
    "Look mom, sorry I'm not perfect like my twin sister. Guess there can only be one good child, and thats Jessia. Whatever, okay?" I stood up and stormed up the stairs.Good child? Not in this family. My parents' perfect angel was probably a demon, but they would never notice. They're to focused on the rebel of the family.

  15. CarolineKimberley - "googles" LOL. Tells you where I live.

    The gender question? For me, it's the boy that would have the most impact. A boy crying himself to exhaustion really shakes me somehow. But then, I'm a guy. And, yes, I've done it.

  16. Exscuse the horrible typos and spelling errors. I had a longggg night. Sorry. :(


  17. This is definatly something I would love to keep reading. I believe in the Paranormal and Love how it is based on that. Just the dream was so erie that was why I liked it. Also the fact I loved the line when she says(THAT IS WHERE MY SISTER IS HIDING FROM THE PERSON THAT KILLED HER THE NIGH BEFORE) It just is really erie, sad, heartbreaken, and thrilling. I surely hope this book becomes published.

  18. Ellie! A poem! My first love. I actually did my mfa in poetry. if I didn't have to make a living, it what I would do until I die.

    Your first stanza is perfect! Love it. And then you get sexy. Coolio! I love a New Year's kiss turning into something quite a bit more.
    :-) And your last stanza is so direct and you claim your place as poet so firmly. Wow. Reminds me of I AM A ROCK. Although, obviously, this is much warmer than some cold stone.

    Ellie, this does sound like a song to me and that is not small accomplishment.* You're very polished here. Do you ever think of your poetry as sung lyrics?

    *Paul Simon is one of my all-time favorite American poets.

    P.S. Strawberry poptarts? YES!

  19. Thanks :D I posted a poem on the last Friday Feedback about possibly making one of them into a song, I'm still thinking but quite a few have told me to go for it, Thank you so much!

  20. Felecia -- how freaking old are you? This is superb! How did you learn to write like this?

    OMG, Gae, I'm sensing a natural here.

    Okay, nothing here is wrong. Period. So the only question is could it be "more right".

    Yes. Don't scream. I need just a word or two at the beginning to let me know for sure it is your m.c.'s OWN hair that she is "braiding". Small, small, small... but it tripped me up, wondering. And I do wonder things when I read.

    Uh, something like "braiding my new hair."??
    Or anyway you want to do it. "New hair" sorta gets a good foreshadow going for the dye job and piercing and it is a curiosty for the reader, too, that is soon explained.

    I love dialogue openings. Your first line is a classic and works for all us, Felecia. What really impresses me, though, is your skil at tagging the dialogue without saying "said." Just damn cool and you are very good at that. Also you know what I am talking about and I don't need to explain.

    So, let me just say "Congratulations!"

    Oh, did it hook me? Yes. By voice alone and then by twins both being bad girls. (Okay, I know who the actual good twin is... but the perfect twin being the bad one is just right to keep me reading to find out how bad).

  21. Josh, thank you for your comments. I am tickled that you are "hooked" by this. Thanks for saying so! And, yeah, I hope it gets published, too. If I don't end up using the f-word too much, maybe it will. :-)

  22. Seriously LOVE this excerpt, Randy! So much can be learned from strong writing, it's the ONLY way we learn, when you really think about it.

    I am so hooked already. Truly cannot wait to read this!

  23. Tracy, I'm not fooled. :-) But THANK YOU for the kind comments. You are a VERY strong writer already. All you have left to learn is how to negotiate a contract. :-) It won't be long. ABNA, though, is tough sledding.

  24. I'm 15:). Uhm, I don't really know how I came to love writing....I just picked up a pencil and... viola I fell in love. It was love at first sight. ;) Uhm, I'm not going to lie..... my head is probably the size of Alaska right now. I NEVER let people read my writing but I just chanced it. I highly appreciate you feed back SOOOOOOOOO much. I'll rewrite it to make it better too. :) Thank you.

  25. hey all you lovelies! I see you posting and interacting with Randy and braving it up to post your stuff so I'm so, so proud of you!!!

    I'll be back over the course of the weekend to toss my two cents in. But suffice it to say right now that you all ROCK. :)

  26. Hi Randy and Gae :D

    First- I dig the button :)
    Second- This chapter is eerie and I love it! It makes me want to read DEAD RULES all the more.
    Third- I'm excited that Felecia and Josh posted comments. Felecia was over-the-moon about your feedback, Randy! She saw me after you posted that and told me how excited she was :D
    Fourth- Gae, Mali was thrilled that you called me a teacher that you see in the movies (or however you phrased that-and thank you!). She had a huge smile on her face when she asked me if I had read that yet.

  27. Gae, Mrs. Andersen is THEEEE BESTTTTTT teacher in the whole wide world. I totally agree with you. SHe you would say "Awesomesaucy". And I was super excited about his feedback.Ilove this blog its AMAZINGGG. And I would have NEVER heard of it if it weren't for Mrs. Andersen. (Another point added to her awesomey-ness. :))

  28. Ellie,

    you don't know how lovely it is that you are willing to share your poetry here. I love this one, and of it, this best of all:

    The strength to show you all these lines
    My heartfelt poems, and simple rhymes

    to me those two lines are so very evocative.

  29. Felecia,

    Randy has already said what's important and good about your piece, I just want to point out that there is so much hidden in this little bit that it's truly terrific: "My mom reached forward to touch my hair but I leaned away from her. The hurt on her face had no affect on me, anymore."

    good work. keep writing.

  30. Josh, thanks for stopping by with feedback. I become a bigger fan of Randy's with every word of his i read.

    Sarah/Mrs. Andersen, with all due respect to your (TOTALLY FABULOUS) students, i dont need them to tell me how great you are. You are one of those life-changing teachers, and it's really cool to know you. :D

    Now, who thinks Randy should send everyone who posted here some Bowling Can Be Fatal buttons?!?!?

  31. ME!!!!!! :))) That would be awesome. And thanks for the feedbak, Gae. :)

  32. I'd love to send around some pinback buttons. Gae, can you grab a mailing address for me off the blog? Or I can send to a batch to Mrs. Andersen?

    Just let me know. Pinback buttons r us this week.

    I had a great time (and am still going back and re-reading pieces) seeing such original work from all who submitted! Thanks for sharing. I know that can be hard to do.

  33. okay. hooked right from the bike sounding like it said "where are you." That is awesome and very relateable. My dog can howl "I love you" and I don't even want to tell you what the ceiling fan says. It's all how you want to hear it. But that is one bit of brilliant writing right there.
    I also vote for "real as toast." as the phrase of the day.
    (my dog loves you too)

  34. Yes, I'm hooked! It's eerie and mysterious from the opening. What got me the most is the refrain "Where are you?" I heard this in my mind as a ghostly, echoing cry. Gave me chills.

  35. Terry Lynn, your dog is MOST wonderful! All of them. :-) I'm still laughing at the ceiling fan. Mine tells really corny jokes when I first turn it on, then repeats the punch line over and over... and over again. Anyone who wants to see the most beautiful working dogs in the world should check out her webpage:

    And don't let a few paragrahs of writing impress you... Terry Lynn does things like tripping over sleeping deer in deep snow, fighting off a killer moose, chasing a bear away by starting a chainsaw... blowing up a lumberjacks cooking shed... Oh, and she knows how to pee from a kayak. And she writes novels. :-) The photographs of her sled dogs are as incredible as the dogs themselves.

  36. Hi, Kathy! Thanks for your kind words. I wasn't sure the squeaking pedal was coming across right. I can't wait till November to read your book all about magic. Delaney Collins. F.G. [Fairy Godmother] is one of the most wonderful characters I have met online. Not to mention the boots!