Thursday, February 5, 2015


Some people may have read my recent review post on Kurt's Frontier about The Queen of the Tearling. It was a good book, but I am not going to rereview it in this post. I noticed that in the blurb, it was compared to Game of Thrones and Hunger Games. To be honest, I've never watched either of those shows, though I've heard enough about them that I know I would get addicted to them, at least for a time. Again, I am not going to talk about either show. (One more thread then I'll get to what I'm building up to. I promise.) As I use Goodreads to keep track of my TBR list, I went in last night to mark The Queen of the Tearling as read. I looked at a few of the reviews and noticed that several people took issue with the comparison to Game of Thrones and Hunger Games, up to and including giving the book a bad rating. Again, I am not going to talk about other peoples review criteria.

However, it got me thinking about people comparing their work to another work. Many reviewers have compared Price of Vengeance to Star Wars or Starship Troopers. I honestly never set out to rewrite either story. There were other tales that provided me with inspiration, true, but I like to think of Price of Vengeance as a distinct, unique work.

I can understand a reviewer, professional or casual, using another author's work as a point of reference but should the blurb really include such a comparison? I personally think that, from a marketing point of view, it would be a mistake. It indicates that either the author or publisher don't have faith in the uniqueness of their story. Maybe if you are including some reviews on the cover, it would be fine; but in your own description, I think it should be avoided.

You can read the full text of my review at Kurt's Frontier, but my feeling is that The Queen of the Tearling stood fine by itself and need no comparison. Checking the other reviews, I seems that people were set up for one thing by the comparison but received another and found themselves disappointed. In that regard, the comparison backfired.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Those Dreadful, Awful, -ly words

I've been wanting to write this for a while. Modern writing gurus have gone to great lengths to help would be writers improve their writing by giving them "rules" to write by. Break these rules at your peril. Follow these rule—at your peril. (Wait for expected double take).

Okay, all joking aside, the gurus (as I shall call them for the sake of brevity) would not have made these rules if they didn't have a point. The one I want to cover in this post is their objection to the adverb. What is an adverb? I will paraphrase my Apple dictionary on my computer.

An adverb is a word or phrase that modifies an adjective, verb, other adverb, or word grouping, usually expressing a relation in place, time, circumstance, manner, degree, etc.

More often than not, adverbs end in -ly. For example, quickly, slowly, angrily, and so forth. There are, or course, exceptions like very, almost, often, and always. Checking on the internet, there are also adjectives that end in -ly. I'll save those for another post…maybe.

When I was working with an agent, he advised me to get rid of all my -ly words. "Awful -ly words" where his exact words. The problem with them is that they are overused. I don't just mean they are used a lot, but used when they don't need to be used. So, does that mean they should never be used? No, and many gurus will say this.

Going back to overuse. If you write fiction, as I do, you deal with a lot of dialogue. When a person speaks, you want your reader to know the nuances of how something is said. Let me provide an example. Suppose you have a man who has just been shot in the shoulder.

You might be tempted to write: "You'll pay for this," he said angrily.

What's the problem with that. When you think about it, getting shot is not a good thing. Soft tissue is definitely torn. The joint may be permanently damage. Even if it's "just a flesh wound," it's going to hurt. I doubt this person is going to be cheerful. So "angrily" is redundant. Therefore, you may remove it.

Now, might you put an adverb in? As a point of fact (I like that expression for some reason), yes. "Angrily" is obvious. Suppose you want to catch your audience off guard? Suppose the man is a raving lunatic? Suppose he knows something the shooter doesn't.

"You'll pay for this," he said cheerfully.

And that's when his pet saber-toothed tiger disembowels the shooter.

"Well and good," you say. "So how do I deal with them."

If your writing the first draft, use the adverbs freely. Many gurus suggest this as trying to edit while writing the draft is going to slow the writer down. There is some truth to that, though if you are aware, you might be tempted to try to fix it as you write. I think the gurus are right in this case. Don't slow down. Keep writing. Deal with them when you edit.

So you are at the editing stage. As you go through your editing (I suggest several edits.) use the -ly as a beacon that you want to take a closer look at something. When you find one, ask yourself the following.

1. Does the context make this redundant. If no, leave it. If yes, delete it. Alternatively, you can change it and explore a new aspect of the character in question.

2. Can it be said without the adverb. If no, leave it. If yes, try various ways to say what you said without using the adverb. This can lead to subquestions like "is this overly wordy?" If it doesn't look too bad, go with it. If it looks wordy, go back to the -ly word.

3. Do you really need this? Again, I am thinking of redundancy. However, you should also ask, "Is it important for my audience to know how this was done or said?"

Another useful trick is to make sure that no more than two adverbs appear on a page. As with anything in writing, each author must develop his or her own voice. This is what makes one author stand out from another, and it's important for an author to stand out from the others. If all author's slavishly followed rules (i.e. no -ly words), it would be much more difficult to develop and author voice. On occasion, you may decide to leave three of for adverbs on a page. You may decide redundancy delivers a certain effect you want. Just keep in mind, over use will make it less potent when you do use it. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year: 2015: New beginnings.

Well 2014 has departed. May 2015 prove to be an improvement.

First of, I have started the New Year with my first post to the new Kurt's Frontier site on Wordpress. After Melissa Frye announced the Invincible Love of Reading would be going dormant due to health issues, was bummed. I had come to enjoy doing a review blog. I considered spinning Kurt's Frontier off, but I don't know much about html or coding. People began suggesting wordpress, and Melissa pointed me in that direction as well. My first review was Search for the Star Stones, by the late Andre Norton. I used another of my favorites The Forerunner Factor to be my inaugural review when I started with Invincible Love of Reading, so there is a certain amount of symmetry to it.

The New Year also finds my with my second novel in the Dreamscape Warriors series in production at Tate Publishing and Enterprises. This one is called Promise of Mercy. We are going through edits of the the first draft of the third book. I am actively working on two other books in that universe.

In the Spring Semester of 2015, I know I will be teaching Introduction to Anthropology at Manchester Community College in New Hampshire. I am waiting to see if enough people signup to take Introduction to Archaeology.

Things may not go as expected, but we have to remain confident as we walk into the New Year. 2015 is a blank slate, hence full of possibilities. Let's keep our eyes open and be ready to spring when opportunity knocks.

Wishing everyone the very best.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

End of the Road for Invincible Love of Reading

For those of you who have been following my review blog, Kurt's Frontier, I regret that I must inform you that the site that publishes Kurt's Frontier, Invincible Love of Reading will be ceasing taking reviews at the end of 2014. Once the December reviews are posted, Melissa Frye, affectionally known as Missy, will cease to up date the site, but will leave it up for the foreseeable future. She has been struggling with health issues, and after wrestling with the issue, made the correct decision that her health and writing needed to take priority. Missy has done an outstanding job with Invincible Love of Reading.

Missy invited me to do science fiction and fantasy reviews in February of 2014. I had been writing reviews of Amazon and Barnes & Noble for a number of years. In 2013, I discovered Goodreads and began posting there as well. I had been resisting getting into social networking, but as I became an author, I was told that it is a help in marketing the books. I didn't realize what other benefits could crop up. My first review was one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, the late Andre Norton's Forerunner Factor.

I've been astounded that people actually have sought me out for reviews, and a little humbled. I try to review what comes my way because, as a new author myself, I know how vital reviews can be to success. I have enjoyed ever minute of it.

So what happens now? I will continue to do reviews on Goodreads and other sites. I am hoping that someone who runs a review site similar to Invincible Love of Reading will take an interest in my reviews. However, Invincible Love of Reading has been one of the highlights of my literary career, and I will always be grateful that I was given the chance and honored that people thought my reviews were of value to them.

I wish Missy all the best and hope her health improves. I will keep everyone informed of my status.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Writing out of order

Some people know this, other people don't, but I do not write the scene of my books in order. Sometimes the first scene written isn't even a key scene or a crisis point. Some times it's just an idea I have in my head for a scene, but doesn't yet have a story to go with it.

When I begin to seriously write a story, I start with a one word sentence. Then I do an outline of the crisis points. After that, I do a key scene outline. Finally I write a scene outline, where I start off trying to connect key scenes and crisis points with actual actions. All the way along, I am writing scenes. The number of scenes is in the hundreds. This is the key to being able to bounce around the story.

I've talked to several people who try to write in chronological order. I suppose the advantage is that is how stories are normally told to an audience. Also, you don't write something later on and find you don't have a way of connecting it to something you wrote previously.

However, people who want to write must accept the fact that they will change things, especially once the draft is out of the way. Scenes will be reordered, reworked, dropped, and added. That makes writing scenes in order very limiting.

Let me introduce something I'm currently working on: Legacy of Valor. For those who have read my first book and followed my contribution to the Work in Progress Character Blog Hop, you know the first book I've written in the Dreamscape Warrior Series was Price of Vengeance. Promise of Mercy is nearing the time when I will submit it to the publisher. Legacy of Valor can be considered Book 1.5. Liam finds himself commanding against a much bigger force. No spoilers but trying to figure out logistics, and how he will overcome three-to-one then six-to-one odds was a daunting prospect. 

So most of the battle scenes haven't been written yet. The reason is simple. I had no idea how Liam and his troops were going to survive the first encounter, let alone the entire novel. I took writing the end, which I've just begun doing, to clarify the answer. Jumping ahead forced me to consider the ways in which a small force can defeat a larger one.

At the Battle of Thermopylae, the Greeks stood off and delayed a much large army of Persians by using terrain to funnel the Persians down so the 300 Spartans faced manageable numbers. Major General John Buford used a similar tactic at Gettysburg to stack up the Confederate while the rest of the Union Army arrived.

I finally have my answer and can start working on the preceding scenes. Writing scenes out of order allows the writer to explore different ideas at different points. It also helps in the development of a character. You may discover something that you can bring backwards. How do you know what scene to write next. I usually go with what feels right at the moment.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Work in Progress Character Blog Hop--Deirdre O'Connor

To start off, I would like to thank Melissa Keir  for inviting me to this WIP Blog Hop. Melissa writes romance short stories like Chalkboard Romance, Second Times a Charm, and Protecting His Wolfe. Melissa’s Bio:

Fortunately for me, my husband allows me the opportunity to be myself (spend my salary on books) and still takes care of the really important things for me like killing spiders and opening
jars. As an elementary teacher, teaching children about the many worlds inside of books is a gift that I’m lucky enough to do for a living. Teaching the next generation to love reading is a lot of fun! Reading the right book can make a new world come alive!
Currently living in the suburbs of Ann Arbor, Michigan with my darling husband, way-too-grown-up children and spoiled dogs, I enjoy getting away through a book to escape the harsh winters or summer road construction.
I’d love to hear from you!

Onward to my entry into the Work In Progress Character Blog Hop:

Kurt D. Springs is presently an adjunct professor of anthropology and archaeology in New Hampshire. He holds a PhD. in anthropology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, as well as a Master of Literature in archaeology from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and a Master of Liberal Arts in anthropology and archaeology from the Harvard University Extension School. His main area of interest is megalithic landscapes in prehistoric Ireland.

Kurt writes reviews on Kurt's Frontier for Invincible Love of Reading. He also has an author blog, Amazon Author Page, and is on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn. Price of Vengeance has it's own Facebook page as well.

Professor Springs currently lives in Manchester, New Hampshire.


1. What is the name of your character?  Is she fictional or a historic person?

The name of the main character is Corporal Deirdre O’Connor who, with her sisters Bayvin and Aisling, have completed there advanced training with the Finnian Shock Forces. As the book is science fiction, she would be a fictional character.

2. When and where is the story set?

The setting of the story is approximately 1000 years in the future and 25 years after the events of Price of Vengeance. The war between the Galactic Alliance and the Rebellion is still on going and Deirdre’s father is a veteran of several engagements.

3. What should we know about her?

Deirdre is one of three daughters of Liam and High Priestess Celinia, who were married at the end of Price of Vengeance. She also has a little brother who is 15-years-old that she is very protective of. She has the red hair and green eyes of her mother, but the temperament of her father. All of her siblings have strong abilities to dreamwalk and step out of time. Deirdre inherited her father’s skill as a marksman and has strong leadership abilities. Note, Deirdre is the subject of a previous blog, On The Cutting Room Floor.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

At the beginning of the story, her parents are kidnapped. Her mother is being held in the main Temple of the Creator on the planet Etursci. Her father has been sent to Earth, which was abandoned 400 years ago. While there, Liam discovers a plot by the Rebels to use ancient alien technology to turn the tide of the war.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Deirdre’s goal is to lead her siblings to rescue her parents and stop the Rebels from using their new terror weapon.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title of the book is Promise of Mercy. There is a teaser on my website at As the production process gets underway, a blurb and some facts may be posted later.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

The book will be heading to the publisher by the end of August. The production process at Tate Publishing and Enterprises can take up to a year. So the official release date might be in September 2015, roughly speaking.

I have six invitees to this blog hop.

1. Jessica Lauryn:

An author of Contemporary Romantic Suspense, Jessica Lauryn is most intrigued by dark heroes, who have many demons to conquer…but little trouble enticing female companions into their beds! She feels that the best romances are those where the hero is already seducing the heroine from that first point of contact.

When she’s is not writing, Jessica enjoys listening to as much 80’s music as possible, shopping for the latest fashions and the prettiest of antiques, and taking long walks in nature where she can daydream about anything romantic. Though she resides in Central New Jersey, her heart belongs to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

2. Mark Bordner (Sadly, Mark Bordner was forced to bow out of the Blog hop do to illness. He still has a great new book that I encourage people to read: The Mighty First Episode 2: The Children's War. Check out my review on Invincible Love of Reading.)

Mark Bordner veteran of the U.S Navy, husband, father of three, in that order.

I love to read sci-fi, and enjoy writing it even more. Having kids that are of young adult reading age, I was concerned with a lot of the gore, and sexual innuendo out there that they get bombarded with every day.

This is why my series has none of that. My books are written with my own teens in mind, with what I, as a parent, would feel comfortable with them reading. 

To spice it up, I also decided to offer guest roles to the readers. How often does one get to see themselves as a character in a writer's books? It's all about the reader having fun with it. 

I write for all of you. Enjoy ☺

3. Andi O’Connor (Just like Deirdre’s last name!)

Andi O'Connor is the award winning author of the fantasy series The Dragonath Chronicles, The Vaelinel Trilogy, and The Legacy of Ilvania. Andi's first YA novel, Silevethiel, was named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2013. Her short story Redemption, is a Kindle Book Review, 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semifinalist. Andi is a member of the National Writers Association and the Boston Chapter of the Women's National Book Association. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and four dogs. You can connect with Andi on Twitter @OConnorAndi and on Facebook at

4. Aoife Marie Sheridan:

Aoife Marie Sheridan has loved reading from a very young age, starting off with mills and boon's books, given to by her grandmother her love for romances grew, by the age of 14 she had read hundreds of them. 

Aoife had a passion for writing poetry or in her eyes her journal entries. It was something she did throughout her teens and into her twenties. Aoife won first place for two of her poems and had them published at a young age of just nineteen. Realising she needed to get a real job (What writing isn't) she studied accountancy and qualified working in that field for many years, until her passion for reading returned and she found Maria V Snyder. Poison study one of her favourite books has been read and re-read countless times. 

Aoife's first book Eden Forest (Part one of the Saskia Trilogy) came to be after a dream of a man and woman on a black horse jumping through a wall of fire and the idea of Saskia was born. Now with her first novel published and taking first place for Eden Forest with Writers Got Talent 2013, Aoife continues to write tales of fantasy and is currently working on her third book for the Saskia Trilogy amongst other new works. To find out more about Aoife Marie Sheridan you can visit her at:

Twitter: @aoifesheri

5. Adi Rule:

Adi Rule is a writer/cat lackey from New Hampshire. YA novel STRANGE SWEET SONG is out now from St. Martin's Press, 
REDWING forthcoming. When the cats approve, Adi also sings in the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston 

My blog -- (the post will be here)
My website --

6. D. W. Craigie:

A New Hampshirite, born and raised, D.W. Craigie hails from the North Country.  Reading and writing are life-long passions for this mountain boy, and he believes the written word is the soul and cornerstone of any society.  Without words of inquiry our minds stagnate.  Without stories of hope and loss our hearts grow shallow.  To the best of his ability he has tried to convey that passion for writing in this, his first novel.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Writing Reviews

One thing you will hear from time-to-time is that author's live and die by their reviews. I don't think truer words have ever been spoken. One review certainly won't make or break a book, but the most powerful marketing tool ever devised is still word-of-mouth. Especially in this day of Indie and Small Press authors, it is important to let a book's potential audience know what you think. Now you don't need a degree in English or journalism to write a review. You don't need to be on staff at a magazine or newspaper. Most online bookstores like Barnes and Noble, BAM, Amazon, iBooks, Copia, Kobo, etc. have a place with each book that the general audience can write a review. There are also sites such as Goodreads whose whole reason for existing is to bring authors and readers together. Goodreads is the one social networking site for writers and readers I know of. I'm sure there are others. If you know of any, just put them in the comment field below.

"Yes, Kurt," you say, "but how do you write a review?"

Most of these sites have a star rating system they start at one star for bad and go up to five stars for really really good. This is a good place to start. Note, most places will let you change your mind. So the first thing I think of is, "How much do I like this book." This is a technique I learned doing quality control in graphic arts. Look at the overall piece and give an overall impression.

There are a couple of ways to go from here, but remember, you will have to justify your impression at some point.

Some people like to start off with a synopsis. In other words, without dropping spoilers, what is the story about? As an adjunct professor, students ask me about writing a synopsis frequently. In three to five sentences, you need to describe the conflict and goals of the protagonist and antagonist. A basic format to follow is:

1. Who are the protagonist and antagonist?
2. What do they want to achieve by the end of the story?
3. What is that first crisis that sets the protagonist and antagonist in collision?
4. You can through in a few details such as love interests and reversals if you think it adds to the synopsis without giving the story away.

Not every review I've seen on Amazon includes a synopsis, but it can be helpful in letting a potential reader know if the story might excite them.

Now comes the hard part: justifying your rating. You gave three stars (for the sake of argument). What kept it from being four? What saved it from being two? The easiest thing to do is ask yourself "What was good about it?" Did you like the characters? Could you identify with them? How was the dialogue? Many otherwise great stories come apart because of dialogue. Is it believable? Is it to awkward or stiff. Is it too formal or academic. Conversely does it flow naturally. Was the story line believable, in the context of the genre? This can be difficult in the cases of science fiction or fantasy. The characters are able to do things we can't do in our world. In the cases of these two genre, a better question is, "Did the author help me to suspend my disbelief." Suspending disbelief means that the author has sucked you into the story before you have a chance to question the facts and validity of how they make things work. However, sometimes the author does something that bounces the reader out of that accepting mode and has them looking around, wondering how they got to this point. 

A good example for me is Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. I liked Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. The Crystal Skull was far better than the Temple of Doom. Where did it fall apart? For me, it was the introduction of the aliens. Don't get me wrong, I have an open mind about extraterrestrials and whether or not they visit Earth. My problem was the cliché way they were handled. The old, alien standby, the Grays, along with other things that have appeared before. I think the writers got lazy and were relying on special effects here. Everything that the characters did up to that point just fell apart. My suspended disbelief came crashing to earth.

Another thing to look at is spelling and grammar. Were their any typos that really made you stub your toe? You don't have to go digging for them. I know of many good works were there are a few typos sprinkled in. In most cases, if the writing is good, they're easy to miss. I'm talking, are there many mistakes that keep jarring you out of the flow of the story.

Now some etiquette.

"What do I do if I just don't like a book?" As painful as it may be, honesty is the best policy. That being said, there is no reason to be mean. My policy it that, if a book falls below three stars, I have to make a hard shift to constructive criticism. Try really hard to find something I like and start with that. It is always best to start with the positive. Indie authors have one advantage over traditionally published authors. It's easier to correct mistakes if you're self-published. I had one person come back to me after I reviewed a book that had fallen short and asked me to review the updated version. Vast improvement.

"What if it's just not something I normally read?" In many cases, it's is best to say so from the get go. If the book is an exception and you really liked it, then the author should be flattered. If it was what you expected, you can say something like "People who usually read this type of story will probably like it." I'd try to be a little more diplomatic, but the author can't expect a glowing review if you don't even like the genre. If you do like a story that is otherwise in a genre you don't read, it is a pleasant surprise. This is also a case where you can consider punting and not leaving a review.

One other point: If you didn't read it don't review it. Yes, you may find the cover or title problematic, but as the old saying goes, "Never judge a book by its cover." If you think the cover or title are objectionable, then read the book before making the final  judgment. If you find it surprisingly good, the author may appreciate knowing that the title or cover aren't having the desired effect.

That is pretty much how I do it now. It is a process that evolved over time. You may want to add things or drop some of the things I do. I don't pretend my way is the only, or even best, way to review a story. I merely hope that it provides a good starting point for the would-be casual reviewer.