Review: Fire of Fryslan by Jen Minkman

Fire of FryslanReview by Alexis Arendt

“Aska, Tjalling, Sytse, Enna, and Royce have fallen into the hands of Mayor Edison. The corrupt leader of Brandaris knows what they have done, but what he doesn’t know is what motivated them. In a desperate attempt to regain power over the island, he uses the five rebels as bargaining chips to force the Skelta to reveal who is part of the Skylger resistance. Anglian girl Melinda and Skylger girl Dani team up to free their friends from prison, but their task won’t be an easy one.

Meanwhile, some of the Sirens from the deep visit the indigenous Skylgers to help them to reclaim what was once theirs. And when Tesla and his assistant set sail for the island of Skylge to come to the people’s aid as well, all bets are off. Edison will not give up his family’s position of power without a fight, and his struggle will involve Anglians, Skylgers, and Sirens alike.

The War of Currents is about to be fought, and nothing will ever be the same again.” –Amazon.com

 

Fire of Fryslan is a thrilling conclusion to the story begun in Sound of Sirens. It’s more fast-paced than the previous installments, which is fair because it has a lot of loose ends to wrap up. Practically every character with a major role in the previous two books has some kind of closure due to them.  To Minkman’s credit, each of them gets it in a way that doesn’t feel too neat or rushed. In facts, she brings the strand of each story together so they bind together in a very satisfying way.

On the other hand, having so many narratives needing attention can get a bit distracting, if not confusing. Melinda and Dani are technically the point-of-view characters for this book. It’s actually great to get inside Melinda’s relatively privileged mindset, and watching her change long-held opinions provides a small-scale model of what the rest of her society is going through. Dani falls a little flat; she seems to be little more than a romantic foil, first for Sytse and then for Melinda. I didn’t remember much about her from the first book, so it was hard to be very invested in her story.

The ending was a heart-wrenching mix of tragedy and triumph, though I could have done without Mayor Edison’s “revelation,” which felt heavy-handed.  It broke the spell of the world that Minkman had so carefully woven throughout the series.  Overall, though, I think Fire of Fryslan is my favorite of the series, and I highly recommend the Tales of Skylge from beginning to end.

 

Title:  Fire of Fryslan (Tales of Skylge, Book Three)

Author:  Jen Minkman

Genre:  YA Fantasy/Science Fiction

Published: Amazon Digital, June 1, 2015

Price: $3.99 (eBook, all formats), $8.99 (Paperback)

Author’s Website: http://jenminkman.blogspot.com/

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Review: Light of Lorelei by Jen Minkman

Light of LoreleiReview by Alexis Arendt

The second book in Jen Minkman’s Tales of Skylge series picks up a few months after the events of Sound of Sirens, and features a different main character: Aska, the daughter of an Anglian and a Skylger. Confined to the convent of St. Brandan for being the product of a forbidden union, Aska’s life is dull and hopeless. Unlike most of the girls in the convent, she is pledged to serve St. Brandan for life, not just a few years. The only bright spot in her existence is her best friend, Melinda.

However, beginning when she meets a strange Skylger boy on the beach, Aska’s life quickly begins to change.  Soon she’s embroiled in a conspiracy that may change the course of her life, and the fate of the entire island along with it.

This book was incredibly suspenseful. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, and I found it very hard not to peek ahead to see what was going to happen! Many of the questions asked by Sound of Sirens about the island’s history and the mysterious Nixen are answered here, in some very surprising ways.

Aska’s character was well-developed and interesting, and it was nice to see the island from a different point of view. Her reactions to the revelations about her own history and the romantic feelings she may or may not have for two of the other characters were realistic and heartfelt. Her internal struggles made me care about her fate as a character as well as the overarching plot.

One small quibble I had concerns the character of Melinda, Aska’s best friend, and her sexuality. Melinda states early on in the book that she’s bisexual, but thereafter Aska refers to her as a lesbian. It was most likely an oversight on the author’s part, but I was still disappointed by it. On the other hand, there’s no negative reaction to Melinda’s sexuality, which is nice.

Light of Lorelei is a brilliant installment in the series, and I can’t wait to read the next book, Fire of Fryslan, which is already out!

 

 

Title: Light of Lorelei (Tales of Sklyge Book Two)

Author: Jen Minkman

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Publication: Dutch Venture Publishing (January 29, 2015)

Price: $2.99 (Kindle, Nook, Kobo), $8.99 (paperback)

Author’s Website: http://jenminkman.blogspot.nl/

Let’s Talk About Sex, Part 3: Be Explicit

by Suzanne Lahna

In this, our final installment of our ‘how to write better sex’ series, we will be discussing the finer points of this unique body of writing. Part One discussed researching the science of sex; Part Two illustrated the many ways which authors can write sex in character. We wrap the series the best way we can to prepare you for the work ahead: the execution.

all the good things and the bad things

For many of us, talking about sex with friends and loved ones brings anxiety and discomfort, which can make writing sex scenes themselves no different. Like any type of writing, crafting the perfect sex scene for your story takes practice, numerous drafts, and the use of sensory details.

Sex is a very powerful moment for anyone who chooses to engage in sexual activity (note- sex is not for everyone and we will never say it is, asexual characters should be allowed to remain ace and stay true to character). These moments engage all five senses, and even additional ones when a moment of spiritual or emotional connection takes place. Remember the one and a half pages we talked about in Part One? This is where you find them.

The third and final rule of writing erotica: don’t be vague!

We are all adults here, so write like one. Talk. About. Sex. Talk about how a person’s pulse races when their partner gets closer to them, how the anticipation mounts when the partner’s hands slip under their shirt. Talk about how the temperature rises, how the world fades out as the senses become overwhelmed. A great sex scene, just like great sex, should leave you breathless.

it feels like the first time

The visual sense is the one writer’s most often work with, as we view the scene in our minds often as a short film or television episode before us. But for a great sex scene, you have to utilize the other four. Talk about how their skin tastes. Maybe their using a flavored lube or massage oil, maybe your characters breath is minty from the gum they chew or the mint they popped earlier or has the aftertaste of an alcoholic drink. Does the characters skin feel soft and smooth, or are there scars that feel rougher or smoother depending on the injury? Think about what your character wears for perfume or cologne, or how they keep their home smelling nice. If they’re in a hotel room, are the sheets musty or do they smell of bleach? As for sound, we always hear about the noises women make, but male partners are never perfectly silent either, so let your audience hear them too! Even if it’s just gasping for breath or low moans, these are the details that matter.

fat amy better not betterBut just as you want great details in your sex scene, there are also words you should avoid. Here are a few that confuse editors and befuddle readers everywhere:
Velvet glove
Throbbing member
Love stick
Man juice
Back door
Vagina
Penis
Moist folds (moist in general really should be avoided)
Mound (not always avoidable, but do try)
Cum (as your editor will one day tell you: come, not cum)

There are a few simple and effective ways to keep your sex scene properly worded. If the phrase springs to mind the need to seek medical attention immediately (members don’t throb, please see your doctor immediately if yours does), or if it can easily be mistaken for anything other than a sexual term, don’t use it in your sex scene.

Words that you can always stick by: cock, dick, core, clit, entrance, dripping, come, orgasm, release, bundle of nerves, slick, ass, nipple, and breast. Keep it simple. Simple is effective. Simple gets the point across and lets you add more sensory details without any confusion.

Also, as an ending thought, as a woman who’s read, edited, and experienced a lot of sex in her life, can we stop with the phrase “You’re so wet!” as an exclamation of surprise? She should be wet, dude. If she’s not wet, you’re not doing your job, or otherwise has a medical issue requiring the aid of lubricant, which should have been discussed prior to the sexual encounter. Also, a woman’s vaginal fluids should not smell sweet or taste like honey; I know that’s the feminine myth at work, but resist! Keep it realistic.

In closing, be an adult. Keep it simple, but explicit. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as we have writing them.

snooch time Iliza

Coming up next: Prepping for Nanowrimo by finding the right word processing program for you. We’ll go into some of the biggest names in the business, and even revisit a new trend on an old piece of technology, to help you find the perfect fit to Write The Damn Book this November.

September Theme Discount – 10% Off Horror Stories!

Word Vagabond has BIG NEWS for up-and-coming authors! We will now be featuring a sale each and every month on a different genre or theme of writing. You can now receive a 10% discount on all editing and formatting services for manuscripts fitting the theme.

This discount will apply on all works with that theme booked in that month. However, this does not mean you have to book the service for the month of the sale. It’s okay if you’re still working on your novel, short story, press release for world domination via summoning Eldritch gods (hey dude, we don’t judge here). For example, if you contact us in September to schedule a Comprehensive edit on your zombie novel for December, you will receive 10% off the total fee!

I don’t know about you guys, but this was the sight that greeted me this morning.

That’s right – LEAVES CHANGING COLORS. PUMPKIN EVERYTHING. Or, as also called it at my second job yesterday, HALLOWEEN SEASON! 

So if your project falls into the horror genre (Any kind of horror! Be it zombies, or flying killer rays, or just humans killing other humans), contact us anytime in September to receive your 10% off discount. Our primary goal is to help authors looking to submit to horror anthologies next month get their short stories, horror novels, tales of terror (maybe you’re the crypt keeper, we’d be great friends if you were) to spine-tingling perfection before your deadline hits.

And if you’re not a horror writer, stay tuned for next month’s theme!

Review: Dangerous Reflections by Shay West

Dangerous Reflectionsby Manda Disley

Alexis Davenport is an ordinary teenage girl whose life gets upheaved when her father leaves and she and her mother are forced to move in with her aunt.  Alexis must start a new school, where she crushes on a guy named Beau, makes new friends, and makes a bitter high school enemy. On top of that, she keeps seeing reflections of other girls in the mirror, and sometimes she gets thrown back in time to take over those girls’ lives and thwart a time traveler who means to mess up history.

This book is written in mostly third person limited, from Alex’s point of view. There are a few instances where the reader gets a sentence or two about what another character is thinking (which is random and a bit confusing when it does happen) but we’re predominantly in Alex’s head. There are a few short chapters that interrupt her narrative where the reader jumps to someone named “Drifter”, who is another time traveler, but they’re few and far between. Alex is a teenage girl and her inner monologue reads that way – or at least it’s supposed to read that way. Her character is a very stereotypical caricature of a teenage girl, rather than an accurate depiction of a girl her age, which was a huge let down. She fell flat and so did all the supporting characters around her.

The plot of this book (the time-travelling) was interesting in the description but played out much like the characters: boring, flat, and just not engaging. To be fair, the book is the first in the series, so perhaps the story makes more sense when you read the other installments, but as a reader I wasn’t impressed. Nothing about the book hooked my attention enough to want to continue reading Alex’s story. It even ended on a huge cliffhanger, or what was supposed to be a cliffhanger. Unfortunately the book was so dull that I have no desire to find out what happens.

There was definitely a lot of potential for this to be a great book. Time travel is a fun concept to play with, especially when put into the hands of a teen girl, but the author just didn’t put in the work. The writing is completely unpolished, the research that went into it felt superficial at best, and none of the characters actually felt like real people.  A disappointment from start to finish.

Title: Dangerous Reflections

Author: Shay West

Genre: YA Time Travel

Publication: Booktrope Editions ( January 1, 2011)

Price: $2.99 (ebook, all formats), $12.56 (paperback)

Author’s Website:  http://shay-west.com/

Let’s Talk About Sex, Part 2: Stay in! (Character)

by Suzanne Lahna

shorty get down

One of the things that Alexis and I come across when editing manuscripts is this weird sort of habit – I’m not sure if writers even realize they’re doing it – where the names of the characters almost never come up during a sex scene.

Pull up your MS, erotica writer, and take a look at that scene. Why is it that you say he and she throughout every single paragraph of the sex scene? This is something we’ve been encountering across the board, and it seems like it might be the symptom of a larger problem. When you’re writing a sex scene, are you just plugging in some generic “tab A into slot B” to boost book sales? Or are you actually taking into consideration how your unique characters, with their personalities, backgrounds, and storylines, would go about getting it on?

Rule the second: thou shalt STAY IN CHARACTER.

When sitting down to write your sex scene, before you begin to contemplate positions or type of sex, I want you to think about the backstory and personality of the people involved. If you’re writing for paranormal romance, your character may come from a tragic past or have been harmed in some way before, whether physically or emotionally. This can mean that certain positions are emotionally jarring; for example, ones that don’t allow them to look at their partner’s face throughout the scene.

Your character may also have certain physical triggers that they cannot handle in the bedroom, like being held down or even simply being on the bottom. Do they need to be in control? Or are they craving to hand the reigns over? Bringing conflict into a sex scene can make for excellent character development, and even help with your pacing! All conflict is good conflict, whether it’s a huge scary plot monster or a series of awkward moments in the bedroom. How character B negotiates character A’s bedroom don’ts can go a long way to showing the depth of their sincerity.

Pitch Perfect all through the night

Another thing to consider is how your character feels about their body. Is there anything they’re self-conscious about? Even the most conventionally attractive people have hang-ups: that pudge around their waist, a scar, something  a previous lover said they didn’t like. Be conscious of bringing this aspect of personality up in characters of any and every gender.

Another important aspect of staying in character is dialogue, both internal and external. Beware of words used to describe the human body during sex that do not fit the perspective of the character!
Pussy.
Tits.
These are words that women do not ever use. Ever. Think about it. When was the last time you heard either one in polite conversation with a fellow babe? Never.  No woman has ever used these words to describe their body. Why? Because it’s degrading as hell. So if your sex scene is coming from the perspective of a female character, just say “breast.” It will be fine, I promise you. (we will have a whole section devoted to “Words to Use and Words to Avoid Like the Plague” in Part 3!)

Back to your character: let’s talk about kinks! Kink negotiation should happen anytime your characters have sex for the first time. It doesn’t have to be a paragraph of pace-destroying dialogue before the main event; it can occur naturally during. When Character A removes their shirt, Character B may say they like to keep their shirt on, because maybe they’re trans and wearing a binder. Maybe Character B says they’ve had a vasectomy and don’t wear condoms, but gets tested every month and are clean, and will show you results if needed, while kissing character B’s collarbone. (You get the idea!)

pitch perfect s & m

Don’t avoid writing a kink that you think your character will be into simply because you’re not knowledgeable about it, just do some research! You wouldn’t write a detective series without researching police procedure and standard weapon carries – don’t write erotica without knowing what you’re writing about. Every erotica writer should know the differences between vanilla sex, rough sex, and BDSM. If Character A is really into anal, you should be looking into the best lubricant, learning how the anal cavity actually stretches wider than the vagina, and get comfy writing about plugs, vibrators, and dildos designed for people who like “a lot of gaping” (research gaping, decide if this is a thing your character likes or not). If for some reason you’re uncomfortable researching a kink that your character is into, close your writing program now, and walk away.

NOPE

Erotica is for adults, written by adults – get a grip and be mature about it. There’s nothing wrong with writing PG-13 romance if the down and dirty makes you squirm! Knowing your strengths and playing to them is an important part of the writing process.

And on that note, I conclude part 2 of Let’s Talk About Sex. I suggest you sit down and have a chat with your characters. Discuss what their preferences are in the bedroom. Have that kink negotiation. And above all else: STAY. IN. CHARACTER. (and stay tuned for part 3 next week!)

Let’s Talk About Sex! Part One: Size Matters

by Suzanne Lahna
Pitch-Perfect-Stills-and-Gifs lets talk about sex gif

It’s no secret that the last month of summer is always the hottest; that’s why Word Vagabond has chosen August to share our three-part series on how to write the hottest sex scenes. We’re going to walk you through step by step to show you what to do – and what not to do – to make the sparks really fly the next time you sit down to write an erotic scene.

First off: Yes, bigger is better. And no, I’m not talking about male genitalia, I’m talking about your sex scene.

Rule the first: thou shalt write a sex scene that is no less than one and a half pages.

If you can’t pull that off, go back to the drawing board. Sex with your characters should be about passion and desire, and occasionally emotions at varying levels of depth. If it’s all three, you will have no trouble at all making the cut. A paragraph is not a sex scene; that’s a cop-out for a ‘fade to black’ (which is fine if the sex is necessary for plot, not character development; do this to up the pacing when needed). If three to twelve minutes has been your average in the bedroom, fire your partner. If you are this partner, fire yourself immediately.

And on that note, let’s talk about foreplay!

Foreplay is a wonderful and beautiful thing that can be used to show how well your characters know one another, and should always include moments of consent when the situation calls for it (i.e., anything that would not be dub-con or non-con. Your happy PNR pairings should have A LOT of consent). If they don’t know each other very well, let it be awkward. Awkward is the new adorable, trust me on this. Humorous sex scenes are incredible on paper; they read real and true.

On the ‘science of sex’ side of foreplay, always prepare the partners if any type of penetrative sex is happening. This goes for both anal and vaginal. Sex should not be painful for a woman, even if it is her first time or if he has a wider-than-normal cock.

Let me repeat: There is no reason for sex to be painful for women.

yes water based lubricant sex scene 1

A fair amount of fingering should be involved in the proceedings, always starting at one and working your way up if it is their first time having penetrative vaginal sex, or if you’re having anal sex. If lube is required, the lube should be water-based, and never ever flavored. Always remember that the g-spot is to women what the prostate is to men, and work to include this erogenous zone in your scenes. Also, weird but cute erogenous zones work great for the awkward couples, like behind the knee or that spot by your hip.

Your foreplay should last at least five to fifteen minutes; aim for ten. Foreplay includes kissing and working up into sex, as any couple or group would.

Anal sex with any gender will require a fair amount of preparation: usually slow and methodical, and at least three fingers before a penis should enter anyone’s ass. Again, water-based lube is the best all-purpose choice, though a silicone-based is longer lasting and more suitable for anal sex.(Do not sit there and tell me you think saliva can be used as lube; it cannot. It will hurt and be harmful. And STAY AWAY FROM KY. It contains awful things which you can read about briefly here, and in detail here.) If a man is participating in anal sex, always include the prostate. And please, if you’re going to do anal, think about rimming. It’s a wonderful part of sex and really should be brought up more in anal sex scenes (thank you How To Get Away With Murder).

But of course, I cannot write this post without bringing up actual sizes, so let’s roll out a bit of science for all of us to remember the next time we’re taking our characters’ clothes off.

For the ladies: the average depth of the vagina is only three to four inches. In some abnormal cases, the vagina can be five to six, but this is RARE. This is why a ten-inch penis is not only uncommon, but if encountered could be painful and would definitely not fit into a woman’s vagina (massive dildos are designed for anal sex, not vaginal!). Yes, it stretches, but it’s not a pocket universe; there’s only so much you can fit in there. Remember this when you’re writing the next part!

For the boys: the average penis is six inches long. That’s it. Also, girth. Girth is the circumference around the penis, and anything pushing five inches is going to take a lot of prep work and simply doesn’t happen often in nature. Remember – girth is circumference, not width!
For an average male: six inches long, with maybe four inches of girth (or one and a half to two inches wide).
For a very hung man: eight inches long and six inches around (no more than three inches wide) is well within the realm of possibility, while still requiring a fair amount of the previously mentioned foreplay.
(I like to keep width below three inches, because anything beyond that sounds absolutely terrifying and simply unrealistic).5.5 inch dildo from love honey sex scene 1

Obviously, you can go bigger, but as a writer and editor, I would save the ten-inch dicks for seriously out-there paranormal romance. Leave the unnaturally large genitals to the super-human characters; it will make for better writing.

Want to know more about what a penis of such-and-such measurement actually looks like in relation to the human form? I highly recommend you take a trip to the nearest sex store, check out the dildo selection, and see for yourself. If you don’t have one near you, go to lovehoney.com and check out the videos on each item to see how it stacks up against the average hand (just like the photo above, featuring a 5.5″ length or Penis of Average Size). This will give you a much better idea of what you’re actually dealing with, regardless of your sex life.

Sex scenes are like every other aspect of writing – research well and practice often!

Part 2 will post by this Friday, and Part 3 will be up next week! So stay tuned for more sex scene tips and tricks!