Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: A Taste of Vanilla by Leigh Ellwood

Cute motif, but the craft isn't practiced. 2 stars

A Taste of Vanilla starts off well with a basic meet-up-for-sex premise. The vanilla/chocolate motif is a cute way to highlight the interracial pairing, but the writing itself was inconsistent. Only a thousand words into the story the POV becomes very muddled. Chapter one is supposed to be from Hailie's POV while chapter two is from Cecile's, alternating from there, but once the action moves from conversation to intimacy, the POV falls apart and it becomes very difficult to figure out who is doing what.

The character voice of both chapters is the same, despite a shift in POV. This only muddies the POV problem further, as I couldn't rely on vocabulary or dialogue differences to clue me into each character. For some reason, two supporting characters had almost identical names: Thora and Thea. With how difficult to was to keep just the main characters straight, this was unnecessary to manage as well.

I did enjoy the details of Thora's cooking and some of her backstory, but I feel like I know her better than the main characters! An entire opportunity to explore them is glossed over with 'Cecile felt she learned quite a bit about Hailie' telling rather than showing the reader their development.

TL;DR: A sexy story is buried in POV/voice issues too deeply to enjoy. 2 stars

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: The Condor by Isa K

The Condor is a book that presents unglamorous life with its human complications. It does this with grace but without celebration. 4 stars

I like The Condor. This book takes its reader on an interesting, but not dramatic, cruise along the countryside of the sex industry. It doesn't try to cover the grimy corners with polish or hold aloft its sex scenes as if to say, 'Look! Who cares if lives are falling apart, the sex is great!' The Condor puts its reader in the roll of quiet onlooker, 'See here as the whore preens in his native habitat, surrounded by fellows.'

This book doesn't sensationalize its content nor its characters. Everything is considered evenly important, from a new hire's first trick to the manager's heartbreak. I'm used to a romance introducing the love interest from chapter one and anticipating the 'how do they get together' moment from the start, but The Condor doesn't have a traditionally romantic plot. I didn't have any notion of where this story could take me, but nor was I clawing for more at the edge of my seat.

Instead I soared, gently, like the book's namesake, through the lives of these characters wanting to know more about what made them who they are now. This will never be a story that grabs readers by the throat demanding attention and that's a risky move. It's so heavily character driven that I frequently forgot to wonder what all of this was leading up to.

TL;DR: 4 stars. The Condor is a cozy M/M sex-industry novel. Quite possibly alone in its genre.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review: Omorphi by C. Kennedy

What to say about Omorphi but why don't you own this book already? 5 stars

Omorphi, at its most broad is a story about abuse and the way that trauma follows a person. It's about learning how to support someone who has been abused, how to work through it, and recognize that love doesn't just fix the problem. Indeed, love is the reason to persist on the path toward healing and sometimes it's the only thing a person knows for sure while the world crumbles around them.

I honestly only had one reservation about this novel and that was the prologue. It gave additional context to the remainder of the story, but it wasn't necessary plot-wise and stylistically speaking, felt distant. The second scene in the prologue had a different POV that was not the main character and he didn't reappear until the climax of the novel. I don't think it detracted in any way from the flow of the story, but it wasn't necessary for understanding.

Omorphi is long. Almost 500 pages. Kennedy builds the characters slowly, deliberately, and every interaction provides additional insight into the lives of these people. The supporting cast is varied and strong. Not all of them were interesting or likable, but not every person in life is either. I felt like I was watching a select group of very smart young adults at the edge of their high school years deal rather well (most of the time) with the trauma of entering the adult world, coming out to parents and friends, the thrill of first relationships, and the chaos that Christy brings with him from Greece.

Kennedy doesn't once cop out on the plot or the characters. People don't do dumb things (ok, jumping a fence with a dislocated knee is stupid, but there's a solid supporting lead up, there) for no apparent reason. Arguments aren't simply resolved like magic. The drama isn't over 'does he like me, or doesn't he', the definition of a relationship, or even boys wearing lacy things. It's about things that matter, that persist over time, that change a person.

Abuse doesn't go away in chapter two.

Omorphi is a hurt/comfort story about two young men from completely different backgrounds finding common ground together and dealing with the wretchedness of humanity.

TL;DR: 5 stars. Trigger warnings all over the damn place, but if you can, read this novel. Then go paint something.


Monday, January 13, 2014

P2P: Twitter

Original photo by USFW
For those uninitiated, Twitter is a short-form, global, public conversation with a million participants all talking at once. A planetary hive-mind of ideas and experience that happens in real-time. It's text messaging for the web with your texts limited to 140 characters.

The hivemind is filtered by the symbol #, also known as a hashtag (or octothorp if you're a writing nerd) and with it you can both broadcast to a specific group (#novel) or narrow your focus to a limited audience (#SoCal). It's also a tool to indicate an emotion or opinion, usually at the end of your text (#tmi #IDontWana #EndRant). Hashtags cannot contain any punctuation, but they're indifferent to capitalization. 

So. As an author you'll find twitter is a great place to both find an audience and connect with a lot of other authors, readers, agents, publishers, and other industry pros. The best way to introduce yourself and meet like-minded people is to hunt down a twitter chat that is in your genre. Attend and participate, you'll find friendly people and more contests than you can shake a stick at.

I use twitter to connect with and follow some of my favorite authors. I announce new blog posts there, seek out people to interview for my newsletter, and let everyone know when I have a new book available. I'll pop in during the day to see how other people are doing, I frequently haunt the #amwriting tag to give encouragement or answer easy questions people run into during their drafting process.

Here's a list of sites that have already done a great job collecting all kinds of writing related hashtags. 

And a list of twitter chats:

Finally, a website I use to figure out popular hashtags that are related to the ones I already know about:


Find me on twitter under @tamiveldura and let's talk! I'm frequently involved with #wschat and #genrechat.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: Cut & Run by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban

I liked this novel over all, but not enough to fall in love: 3 stars.

Cut & Run ended up on my to-read list because it's won several awards and is consistently among the recommended books I find scattered around the internet. I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't wow'd either.

I felt both the main characters were very strongly developed. From the beginning they have distinct and fun personalities that naturally clashed; the best kind of setup for an 'opposites attract' story. About half way into the novel I'm hooked, the characters are connecting with each-other and the plot is getting tense.

When things fall apart between them, the story also takes a turn for the worst. The characters develop to a point that they effectively swap stereotyped rolls which I found to be very appropriate given their experiences. And the relationship between them also faltered as it should.

However, there was no time dedicated to the characters in their new personalities in order for me to re-connect with them or to make their romantic re-connection believable. The story never recovers from this. The romance is appropriately stilted from the trauma of the plot but there was never enough time to settle into their new reversed and/or damaged personalities. It became all about plot and significantly less about characters.

Also, this book is co-written between two people and it really shows. The point of view is all over the place, often switching without warning from one paragraph to the next. This breaks the flow of reading and also causes some awkward pronoun issues. It constantly bothered me. The POV issues really stuck out in the second half when the personalities changed so dramatically that I couldn't rely on body language or dialogue content to clue me into who was doing or saying what.

These two issues really prevented me from getting lost in the world and devouring this story, which is unfortunate! The worldbuilding is excellent and the character dynamics were consistent throughout the novel. I very much enjoyed the investigation procedures (even thought the 'ah, ha' moment was deus ex machina). I thought pacing and tone were excellent across the bar. There are a lot of great things going for this story.

TL;DR: 3 Stars. There are some big craft issues but the important stuff was done right. I'll pick up book two, but I'm not sold on the series.


Monday, January 6, 2014

P2P: Edit Yourself Backwards

Editing your own work is hard for several reasons. You know what's going on, so the picture in your head is complete. When you're reading your own work you don't really know what a brand new reader is seeing with your words. How complete is their picture? You also know the intent of the dialogue, and our brains- being awesome- fill in minor missing words without our eyes ever noticing. Sometimes, when we're really involved in a project, faults of logic can even slip past, causing huge pileups of edits later on.

So if editing yourself is so hard, is there anything you can do?

Edit Yourself Backwards
Have you ever tried reading a sentence backwards? Start at the end of your manuscript and work your way right to left. You'll notice right away that things go a lot slower like this. Making sense of a backward sentence takes a bit of doing- a lot like learning a new language where the nouns and adjectives are swapped. This enforced slower pace will make awkward sentences jump out right away. Missing words and strange tenses will become very obvious.

Edit Yourself Upside Down
This won't work on a tablet or your desktop computer, but print out a few text pages and try it. Flip your work upside down. Like the backwards technique, upside down forces your brain to work harder to translate into right-side-up words. You'll have the sentences in a logical order this way, so pacing, voice, and characters are easier to see.

Edit Yourself In The Mirror
Not going to lie, this one might be more trouble than it's worth. But for those avid readers who swallow doorstoppers in a day, it may come to this. Grab your laptop, get comfortable on the bathroom counter (or in front of a floor-length mirror if you want to be slightly more normal) and read your story in the reflection. With every letter flipped around b's and d's will get confused very quickly. Be methodical. Read word for word. Misspellings, missed punctuation, and all sorts of small weirdnesses will pop out at you, but it will take a long time.

Edit Yourself Out Loud
Every reader has a mental voice or two that carries them along through a text. Many readers, once they get into the story, start seeing it like a movie or hearing it, rather than reading the page. Hide in the farthest corner of the house in a quiet room to yourself, and read your story out loud. With you mouth, not your mental voice. Give the words weight and emphasis. Feel them. Pacing with scream at you this way, but so will awkward sentences and funny homonyms.
Even with all of the above, you won't catch everything. It's the nature of the beast. You will, at some point, need a beta reader or editor (request a quote!) to go over your work and critique or proofread before publication. That's ok! An outside look at things can give you some perspective. Still, in order to produce the cleanest copy you can, try combining all four of the above techniques at once. That'll slow your inner reader down.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Let's Get It Started

Original Photo by Brenda
Happy New Year and Welcome!

My name is Tami, I'm an author, editor, and artist with a degree in Creative Writing and an emphasis in fiction. I've been published through small presses, self published, and like most budding writers, I got my start in fanfiction. You can check out what I've done on the about page. Now I'm available to authors for evaluations and developmental edits of your short stories, flash fiction, serial fiction, novellas, and novels. For editing services and a list of genres I read, visit this page.

Throughout the next year I'll be posting common writing errors: both how to identify them and how to fix them. Topics range from keeping your character's voices consistent to what exactly does 'show, don't tell' mean and when do you apply it?

Follow this blog by email or RSS to be notified when a new blog goes up.

And when you have a story ready for editing, don't hesitate to request a quote.