Writing like Happy Gilmore’s golf: Record breaking drive, misses the putt.
Normally I don’t give spoilers or openly bring academic theories into a review. However in this case it is necessary in order to explain my rating and the analogy.
The story starts with Lydia, the heroine, as a very ordinary human. Cool I like female driven action.
She is attacked and turned into werewolf/vampire hybrid. So she is unique and no longer ordinary. This is the start of The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Okay, a standard introduction to a story. Since it has been told a thousand times from the dawn of history, it’s one the writer can really work with (or not).
Oh, and by the way she’s pregnant. You’ve got my attention!
So we have the elements of classic story, with a twist. The character Lydia is likable and well drawn, her companions have unique skills as they flee the mad vampire scientist, actually his bounty hunter Cornelius. Then it starts to drag when it shouldn’t.
Part of this is Cornelius. He is very good at his job, but it’s just a job to him. Other than professional pride, he doesn’t have a passion to catch his prey. His motivation is Sterling, the vampire scientist, will turn his sister into a vampire if he doesn’t. A lot of Cornelius’ time is about his relationship with his sister. This is like Kellerman, the evil guy in Prison Break,’s relationship with his sister, however in Prison Break it showed how the evil spy had a soft side so when (Spoiler within a spoiler) he ends up helping, it is an evolution. With Cornelius all we get is the soft side that his sister brings out. He isn’t ruthless or driven, just very good at his job.
The second reason it drags, is as Lydia goes through, “a road of trial” the tasks and challenges that threaten her life, she uses her human cunning, not learning the new skills that her being a Were-pire have given her. It would be like Obi-Won telling Luke, “The force within you is strong. But hey, why use it?”
As the trio flee they encounter more supernatural creatures, werewolves and witches. At around the eighty percent mark, Lydia uses her new abilities.
Then the sub-boss fight between Cornelius and Lydia. She wins using the cunning, “Hey, have you ever thought about quitting your job?” technique.
As was repeatedly shown, Cornelius only did his job because his sister was held hostage, so it didn’t take much convincing. It would be as if Darth Vader said, “Join me and together we can rule the empire!” and Luke responded, “Join me and we could go fishing together, maybe catch a ballgame.” and Vader respond, “Hey, that sounds good. Sure why not?”
But okay, let’s get ready for the final battle. We’ve got a Werewolf/Vampire hybrid leading two ordinary vampires, a super skilled vampire, a pack of werewolves and a coven of witches against the slightly mad but well connected (in both the human and vampire worlds) vampire scientist. This could lead to more heads being lopped off than the ending of the Twilight series.
So they lead him down a dark path and distract him so he steps on a silver bear trap.
Now Gothic fiction doesn’t have to conform to “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” model. However this one was set-up with all the ingredients. But it didn’t work as true Gothic fiction either. Our hero “Lydia” could have to fight off the evil while protecting the virgin in distress, can’t be more pure and virginal than an unborn child. But she was mostly concerned with how to hide it.
The element of fear was in the first few chapters then vanished. The Psychological Overlay (is the world mad or is it me?) was totally missing. Lydia was merely amused by her companions reaction to her eating raw meat not, “OMG I just wolfed down a live squirrel.”
After that brutal examination of what is missing from this novel, I’m giving it three stars for what is there. Having the unique heroine who is pregnant is a cool idea. She needs to go through threats to her survival while protecting her unborn child. To make a twist upon a twist since she gave birth by the time of the final confrontation, she could battle with full power at the end. Much like how Sampson’s hair grew back totally surprising the Phillistines in Cecil D. DeMill’s Sampson and Delilah. (Yes, another spoiler).
The fugitive hunter/prey set-up like the movie “The Fugitive” only with vampires, if Cornelius was more like Tommy Lee Jones, it could have been great.
Lydia winning over the supernatural beings she met as she went along, could have turned into awesome battle.
Basically, this novel had everything set-up to be great, (like Happy’s record breaking drives) then didn’t follow through (Like Happy’s putting). (Spoiler: Happy learns to putt.)
Sorry about the spoilers, after avoiding them so long they just came flowing out. (The boat sank in Titanic, Solent Green is people, the Planet of the Apes is Earth, Bruce Willis is dead in Sixth Sense, Kristen shot J.R., The Fonz made the jump over the shark.)
After your first reaction to my review (First reaction is always wrong) and you had a chance to look it over, what did I miss?
A. Your review was very thorough so I’m going to say you basically covered everything.
What would you like anyone who read my review to know?
A. That I have since then re-written Vermilion Tears, based on a number of feedbacks.
Without calling out anyone, what would you like anyone who read the other reviews to know?
A. That I have re-written Vermilion Tears and took those reviews into consideration while re-writing. I took in the pros and cons. There were several things people seemed to really like characters and the overall plot so I kept those in and changed things that seemed to be making people feel it missed the mark.
Of all the reviews of your book, what was the greatest takeaway, what did you learn about your writing from a review?
A. When I got enough reviews, I was able to really see where my novel was really shining and where there were holes that I needed to fill in. Since Vermilion Tears is my first book I really took all the feedback to heart to make take it from a 3-star book to a 4 or 5 star book.
Vermilion Tears, had everything set-up to be great, that’s not from just me, but others have said they loved the idea, foundation, ect. But it just missed the mark. You have since rewritten it. What was it like to, “Killing your darlings” Chopping out stuff you loved, but obviously missed the mark?
A. One big thing I changed that seemed to be bothering people was the jarring change from a love story to supernatural. That was the first change I made. I had a writing group that pointed out that I started writing this book to write about a paranormal journey and because I gave it to too many romance readers in the beginning stages I was lead in a direction I never really saw the book going down in the first place. Taking out the first third of the book actually felt good, because even I felt like that was filler for the real story. It did make my story about 20,000 words less, but sometimes less is better. A lot of the other changes I made were adding on to chase sequences that should have been more exciting.
How do you think you have evolved creatively, while writing this book and after?
A. I think I have gotten better at understanding what my readers want, which I feel is something that as a writer I will always be evolving in. I also have a better understanding of throwing obstacles in my MCs way that makes my stores more exciting.
Every author gets bad reviews that miss the mark so completely, that you have to look at the rating to know if it was a positive or negative review. Have you ever looked at the negative reviews of your favorite author and chuckle, knowing that the review could be applied to your work?
A. Yes. One of my biggest influences is Anne Rice and Interview with the Vampire only has a 3.9 on Goodreads. My eyeballs bugged out when I saw that number. I was sure that she would have at least a 4, but honestly, I thought it would have been more of a 4.5 or higher. A lot of people criticize Luis who reflects in a melancholy way as being overdramatic. I did get at least one review that said Lydia was a bit like that and she couldn’t relate to Lydia because of that. I guess I didn’t notice because clearly, I don’t see anything wrong with that. And it is something I did not change in my re-write.
I get inspired by B-Movies, I’ll sit and laugh at “Attack of the the Eye Creatures” (Not a typo, that is the name of it) but learn as well, mostly what not to do. What sources inspire you, that you wouldn’t recommend others try?
A. I read a lot, and a lot of what I read is from indie authors, and there are a lot of examples from them of what not to do, but I want to focus in on my own writing that I will more than likely never revisit. I was reading a blog of a more successful author than me (but I had never read or heard of her books so I’m not sure how famous she was, but she did have a decent publisher, not the top 5, but an okay one) anyhow, she was saying how in her first several novels that she thought it would be fun to have her characters running around in adventure mode all over being chased by a bad guy, but realized it was very amateurish and she stays away from that now. I realized the same about Vermilion Tears. After Lydia gets her “freedom” she is running the entire time and I think maybe it can be kind of exhausting. I won’t go back and change that, but my other books will not have someone fleeing, but facing danger where they are.
What is the WORST piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
A. I think in the beginning from all those romance authors wanting Vermilion Tears be something it wasn’t in the first place. Their hearts were in the right place, but my book was never really intended for them, but it was the only people willing to read it at the time I was trying to get feedback. Since then I have found an awesome consistent beta reader and some fans, yes fans even with all the faults in Vermilion Tears that can help my next book be so much better.
Who is your favorite indie author?
A. I’m a bit biased, Author Sarah Stein. She helped me a lot in the indie world and encouraged me to follow through on finishing Vermilion Tears in the beginning stages. I don’t usually read her genre, but I have read all of her books, some of which are published, some self-published.
Describe your ideal fan (the person who would love your book)?
A. I think someone who would love my book would be someone who enjoys reading Anne Rice. Someone who likes to read paranormal books without the romance aspect in them, where the paranormal is the main focus and not falling in love with someone.
For the people who loved Lydia, the pregnant, half vampire, half werewolf, what can they expect from the re-written copy?
A. Like I said before the first third is out, it will be its own non-supernatural book and go in a different direction so for those who did love the romance they can look forward to that.
Also, the action sequences, I changed a few and added some.
Without revealing too much, what is the biggest, and in your mind best change in the new version?
A. The best change is probably the action sequences. I was stumped for a while because people were saying there was no feelings and the story seemed to drag and I had no idea what exactly what they were talking about until I found a really great beta that was actually able to pin point to me what was going on. After thoroughly reading Vermilion Tears for example she said it’s not that those things were a problem, but the action sequences needed to feel like there was more at stake, like Lydia was really going to be caught and almost letting it seem like Cornelius was truly going to win, but not. That’s when things really clicked for me.
Where can we find more of your books?
So far Vermilion Tears is my only book it can be found in ebook and paperback on Amazon Vermilion Tears
What books do you have coming out?
We’ll Find a Way-which is the romance split I made from Vermilion Tears
Vermilion Whispers- which is what I’m working on now it’s the next book in the Vermilion series. It follows Edgar and Alva
And I have a few others in the baby stages so far.
What are your different author pages (Website, Amazon, Smashwords, ect)
Of all the words, amateurish, is not one that comes to mind with your book. Your plot was quite sophisticated. I could mention several successes that were similar (although yours had some really unique elements).
When I read it I was seriously thinking of offering you a free copy edit. Anyone who’s had one on my copy edits knows how valuable that is. Unfortunately, my life did not allow it at the time.
Learning from romance writers isn’t a bad thing, just remember, action is to romance like Fred Astair is to Ginger Rogers. She just had to do everything he did backwards and in heels. When you get the balance right it is magic.
Maybe it’s an ego thing with me, but I like to look at authors I believe are better than me, for you its Anne Rice, and compare ratings. I laugh when I beat some of my favorite novels in the ratings. I wish it were true, but I know the rating systems are all flawed, just no one has come up with a better system.
Finally, it is really brave of you to tackle such a massive re-write. I look at my first and third books from time to time, thinking of re-writing them and give up by the third chapter. (I did look at my second book, never published, and re-wrote it into MIND THIEF, keeping the ideas, but nothing else). I truly do believe the core elements for a great book were there and it sounds like the re-write took it in the right direction.