Tag: Montagnard

So, what about a Kirkus Review?

Reviews are crucial to establishing yourself as a successful author

Are Kirkus Reviews a scam?

The short answer is … No! Kirkus is a big player in the world of book reviews and has been in business since 1933. For a fee, Kirkus has a professional reviewer read the book and supply an unbiased review of 250 to 300 words. Over the years, Kirkus has established a reputation for independence and frankness, and there is no guarantee of a positive review. Seeking a review from a professional service such as Kirkus is a significant investment, and you should be sure both you and your work are ready to face the challenge before submitting it for a review.

In my research to decide whether or not to submit my newest work, Montagnard, to Kirkus for review, I found a lot of negative comments about Kirkus. However, after talking to my editor, I believe that these negative comments are likely over the price (Kirkus is not cheap) and/or disgruntled authors who didn’t fare too well.

Kirkus is Coveted for a reason

Reviews are notoriously honest, leaning toward brutal. The most common complaint by reviewers is that the book was poorly edited. Over expository dialogue is another big one. A fast pace can cover a lot of issues, but when the pace slows, reviewers tend to notice things. So, if you walk away from Kirkus with a decent review, it’s definitely a feather in your cap as an author.

Reviews can be kept private, which, if you do receive a negative review, might be the thing to do. However, it is still not wasted money if you take the reviewer’s comments constructively and work to improve your book. Of course, if you get a positive review, you will want to publish it to the Kirkus website and have it distributed to licensees, including Google, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram.

The Kirkus Star

Kirkus stars are rare and valuable. A Kirkus star is awarded to books of exceptional merit. Recipients of a Kirkus star are automatically eligible for the Kirkus Prize, a $50,000 prize awarded to the winning books published and starred in any given year.

Brand recognition.

Kirkus is the brand that gets the most attention from booksellers and librarians. When an author publishes a Kirkus review (whether to post the review is up to the author), it will be seen by agents, editors, booksellers, librarians, and book buyers. The Kirkus website receives approximately 1.5 million page views each month, so book reviews will undoubtedly get a lot of exposure. However, it still remains incumbent on the author to enthusiastically market their book.

A good Kirkus review opens doors.

Getting a positive review from Kirkus can help an author boost sales, find an agent and/or publisher, or even sell the foreign rights. An author also receives thoughtful feedback on their work from a professional reviewer. This feedback can then be used to garner more media attention.

So yes, I am submitting Montagnard to Kirkus for a review.

However, I will definitely wait until my editor is done with it, and any editing suggestions, corrections, or comments have been read, analyzed, and acted upon accordingly. I will do my best to ensure that Montagnard will not be one of those hit for poor editing.

I learned my lesson self-editing Serpents Underfoot. While it saved me money, it took far to many revisions to get it to a point where readers are no longer pointing out “minor typos.” While most reviews have been very positive, that was a painful process a good editor would have helped me avoid.

And, I do think I have a pretty darn good editor. Beth Werner, of Author Connections, has been a professional editor and marketer for over 20 years. She served as the former Director of Marketing and Sales at Kirkus and has worked with Random House, Penguin, MacMillan, Disney Hyperion, Chronicle, Scholastic, FSG, Wiley, and others.

I feel confident that if she enjoys the book, and I follow her advice, that submitting my work to Kirkus will be worthwhile whether I get a positive or learn negative review, and whether I post it or learn from it. And I will keep reminding myself, it is just one reader’s opinion.

And, if you are looking for something to read during the Coronavirus 30-Days To Stop The Spread …

Check out my reviews here! You will never know what you might find.

The Belgium Connection!

Adirondack Bear Tales has gone international!

Adirondack Bear Tales has gotten some great reviews from several folks I respect, including Joy Neal Kidney, the author of Leora’s Letters. However, it seems that Adirondack Bear Tales has also now gone international, getting a great review from Denzil Walton, a full-time freelance writer living in Belgium.

Discovering Belgium is Denzil’s personal blog, which focuses on exploring the many wonders of Belgium, offering suggestions for days out, hikes, cycle rides, nature reserves, castles, museums, city trips, and much more.

A few excerpts from the review …

The stories are all short, and there are only eleven, so the entire book can be read in 30 minutes or so. But they are all delightful, easy to read and captivating. Quality rather than quantity!

A 12-year girl comes face to face with a bear during a night-time bathroom break! … The hilarious account of Grandma locking Grandpa out of the car while Grandpa tussles with a bear for ownership of a bag of garbage. The stubbornness of an Uncle who refuses to let the local bear destroy the bird feeder and steal the seeds … a handful of other stories illustrating the close relationship between the people and the bears of the Adirondacks.

The book is well-written … frequently involve the author’s grandparents … ideal for grandparents to read as bedtime stories to their young grandchildren … in my case, as someone living in a country where wild bears disappeared centuries ago, as an insight into a completely different world where a black bear might appear in your garden or even your kitchen!

You can read the entire review by clicking here!

And thank you, Denzil, for the amazing review. It is much appreciated.

Click here to check out some of my book reviews. You might find a few you want to read to help pass the time during the Covid-19 stay-at-home period.

Vietnam Veterans Day

March 29th

I have counted several Vietnam Veterans among my closest friends. Sadly, several are no longer with us. Please remember our Vietnam Veterans today as you go about living your daily lives.

They sent me

and my friends

and my generation

To Vietnam to die

and some of us did.

The rest of us have been dying

in bits and pieces

since the first day they sent us

home.

Unknown

Profile of an Adirondack Woman

Sometimes when I share some of my life stories with friends and acquaintances, I get looks and comments like “No way” or “You’re full of it.” I think far too many people spend their lives in tiny bubbles and never get to experience the fantastic world that is out there.

You’ve heard the saying, “We tend to write what we know …”

One of the many things that have amazed me in my short career as an author is the number of women who have given my first book, Serpents Underfoot, great reviews. It was my first book, and because of this, I know it is a little rough around the edges; maybe a bit too much language and a bit “too much information” in the bedroom scenes. But hey, you learn!

I had imagined my audience to be veterans and action/thriller fans. So I was shocked when I began receiving great reviews from female readers. After talking to a few readers, I understood that Serpents Underfoot had several strong female characters, and they really appreciated that.

While I pretty much self-edited Serpents Underfoot, I am working with a real editor for its sequel, Montagnard.

Beth Werner, of Author Connections, has been a professional editor and marketer for over 20 years. She served as the former Director of Marketing and Sales at Kirkus and has worked with Random House, Penguin, MacMillan, Disney Hyperion, Chronicle, Scholastic, FSG, Wiley, and others. Having read Serpents Underfoot, she commented she was also struck by the strength of the female characters in the story and how much she appreciated and enjoyed that. I believe I have carried this through into the sequel, Montagnard.

So, why the strong female characters?

In my life, I have had the privilege of knowing several strong women. Both of my grandmothers were strong women. One was the daughter of a well-known Herkimer, NY lawyer, drove a roadster, wore patent leather boots, and met the world on her terms. She was part Cherokee Indian and related to Robert E. Lee. I think my mother was a lot like her.

My other grandmother was a quiet, caring, and supportive woman. When my grandfather was drafted by the Army and stationed in Japan with General MacArthur after the war, she raised her children, worked in her garden, and was a source of strength for her husband, who was thousands of miles away in a strange land.

I was privileged to date another strong woman for several years, and while things did not work out quite like I hoped they might, I have nothing but respect for her. A medical professional, this lady took on the State Government, unethical “pain pill” clinics, and other issues in a continuous effort to improve the quality of professional medical care for her patients. She is now knee-deep in this battle against the coronavirus.

But, the strongest woman I have ever known was my mother!

Let me introduce you to her …

Ardis Gilbert was born in Ilion, NY, the daughter of Erwin and Eileen Klippel. She began nursing school at the age of 16 and graduated as an RN from Albany Medical Center in 1959. After moving to North Adams, MA, with her husband, Curt, Ardis graduated Magna Cum Laude in Mathematics and Summa Cum Laude in Administration from North Adams State Community College. She went on to teach mathematics for many years.

My mother enjoyed hiking, camping, backpacking, and canoe trips with family and friends, and jokingly founded the Adirondack Women’s Club for female family and friends who met the criteria.

A few family tales …

Albany, NY Granary Fire

When my mom was still a freshmen nursing student at the Albany Medical Center, a disastrous granary fire occurred in Albany. Many were severely burned in the fire, and the medical center was overrun. During the emergency, she stayed in an elevator with a doctor and performed emergency tracheotomies on burn victims as they were being taken up to the burn center for care.

One Crazy Old Lady

Serving a tour as a nurse in a ward that housed the criminally insane, she prepared to check in on an old woman who needed her medication. Nurses were not supposed to enter this woman’s room without an orderly present. However, there were no orderlies available. So, mom looked in the room and saw that the woman was resting peacefully and seemed quite calm. Being rather fearless, she decided not to wait for an orderly. My mother leaned close to the patient, the old woman sprang on her and began strangling her. She was amazingly strong, and my mother couldn’t pry her fingers loose. Fortunately, some orderlies arrived just in time and pried the crazy old woman’s fingers from around her neck. A few more moments and I would not even be here. It was a lesson my mother took to heart.

Hand washer escapee

In the same ward, there was a young man who continually washed his hands to the point that he would scrub the skin off them. I never knew what he did, but it was like he was trying desperately to get the blood off his hands. The doctors had to keep special gloves covering his hands and sometimes had to restrain him. During one of his more lucid moments, he was calmly walking the halls when someone accidentally let the locked door to the ward stay open a few seconds. In a flash, the man was out the door and making a dash for freedom. Seeing him go, my mother took right off after him and chased him through the medical center. She was a small younger woman but tackled him around the legs in a manner that would make any football player proud. He was, at this point, in the main entrance lobby to the medical center.

My strong female characters

While not intentional, I guess the strong female characters in Serpents Underfoot are composites of the courage and strength I saw in the many strong women I have had the privilege to know during my life. And after the reaction from my readers, I felt it essential to continue that.

My mother lost a fight with cancer almost two years ago now. But she met that implacable enemy with her head held high, and she fought the good fight. She was 78 years old. I guess these characters in my books are my way of remembering and celebrating the strong women I have known, including my mother.

The world can certainly use a lot more of them.

Montagnard: Some Positive Beta Reader Results

I have learned good beta readers are worth the time and effort!

I got the first set of results back from one of my beta readers, and I have to admit, I was blown away and humbled at the same time. Of course, there were some typos, punctuation errors, suggestions for clarity, and perhaps some rewording. But I was pleasantly surprised at the rather small number of errors found in the text. I must give most of the credit to Grammarly!

Will anyone like what I have written?

Most authors can identify with this question. I suppose it gets easier with time and success, but I am still mostly amazed that people enjoy reading my work.

So, I was really blown away by some of the comments made by this particular beta reader, Eric. I know Eric well enough to know that he will give honest feedback and he has done beta reading for other authors as well.

I thought I would share a few of his comments here. They will not mean much until you read the book, but then, that may entice a few folks to take a chance and read Montagnard when it comes out this summer.

Here are some of the positive comments:

  • The story flows well and is an exciting read.
  • Like in Serpents Underfoot, I appreciate reading the many boots-on-the-ground anecdotes and other “Behind the scenes’ experiences of your characters. Especially the reactions of the family members when they learn their daughter has been kidnapped.
  • The experiences of the SEAL team members, their conversations, thoughts, and activities are quite compelling.
  • I was worried if there would be any friendly casualties. Next, I found myself VERY worried about Ajax during the grenade incident.
  • Every time you described Ajax and “a thump of his tail,” it made me grin.
  • There are dozens of terrific one-liners in here (e.g., the Browning .45 spoke twice). I won’t echo them all, but good job!
  • It’s good storytelling, and really, that’s the reason we read.

There was some constructive criticism as well.

1) This one was more a comment than a criticism. Eric said he is not used to short paragraphs, and that took a bit of getting used too. I am not sure I will change that. I kind of like writing in short “digestible” segments and find that I get lost when paragraphs go on and on.

2) There was a confusing section in the third chapter. It was a flashback to Serpents Underfoot and Vietnam during the war, and then a return to present-day Vietnam. Comment appreciated, and section reworded for clarity.

3) I would use a Vietnam Names website to find names for characters in the story. I discovered I had used the same name for two female characters and had to go back and change one of them. Apparently, I missed a few. That has since been corrected.

Four more beta readers to go!

I definitely will use beta readers for every project going forward. The additional sets of eyes are indispensable.

Also, I am using a professional editor this time around. She gets the book after the beta readers are done with it. This should help keep costs down. Good editors are not cheap (as you will discover if you ever try to hire one), so keeping the work the editor has to do to a minimum is a big plus! Especially if you are on a tight budget.

Montagnard: Sample scene

Time: Current. Location: Niger. Mission: Humanitarian.

Dr. Ellen Chang, working for Doctors Without Borders, is trying to curtail a Hepatitis E outbreak among the desolate villages north of the Nigerian city of Agadez. It is a rough region, sparsely populated with hopeless villagers, bandits, and now, al Qaeda, fleeing from the success of American forces based in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.


Abardek village was the last stop before the team would head back to the drone base outside Agadez. Exhausted, Ellen had treated seventy-three patients so far. There were another seven waiting in Abardek. Ellen saw each one in turn. The hardest to see were young children. The look of hopelessness and hunger in their eyes was almost unbearable. Ellen frowned as her mind drifted home for a minute. So many people in her generation had no idea how damn lucky they are.

People protest over such stupid stuff, Ellen thought. They should experience a little of this life. Life or death, out here, was real.

After Ellen treated the last patient, Norman threw her medical kit into the back of their old Land Rover. At least the hot and dusty day was drawing to a close. Bram stood nearby, keeping a vigilant eye on the surrounding desert. Ellen hadn’t met any mercenaries before this and didn’t know what to expect. He seemed quiet and polite enough, very professional, but there was a detachedness in him that discouraged much in the way of pleasantries.

What makes a man do what he does? Ellen wondered. God, it was hot!

It was so hot and dry that you didn’t even sweat very much. Or at least, it didn’t seem like it. Any sweat evaporated immediately. Ellen took a sip of water from the bottle she held in her hand. She always carried one; hydration was vital in Niger.

And to think I volunteered for this shit! She almost laughed.

Ellen suddenly became aware that Bram was waving her frantically toward the Land Rover. He was yelling something as well. But with his Dutch accent, it was hard for her to make out his words. Then from nowhere, Norman grabbed her arm.

“Come on, Ellen! Run! We’ve got to go now!”  Ellen heard shots being fired and turned to see Bram on one knee, firing the Galil Ace assault rifle he never went without. Her eyes looked in the direction the gun pointed, spotting a group of pickup trucks racing toward their location.

“Oh shit!”

Needing no more urging from Norman, she turned and raced the few yards to the Land Rover. Ellen climbed into the passenger seat as Norman jumped into the driver’s seat and pressed the ignition switch. The Land Rover’s old engine sputtered to life. Norman threw the transmission into gear and spun the wheel, swinging around to pick up Bram. Bullets were flying everywhere. Ellen could now see men standing in the back of the speeding pickups firing their weapons. As the Land Rover moved toward him, Bram dashed toward it, reaching for the rear passenger side door as Norman momentarily hit the brakes. Reaching back, Ellen tried her best to help him in. Bram was halfway into the back when several AK-47 rounds tore into his back. Ellen screamed as his blood splattered over her arms and face.

“Get the fuck out of here,” Bram yelled as he fell back, several more bullets striking his body. He was dead before he hit the sand. Norman stomped the accelerator, heading for the road that led back to Agadez. Bullets slammed into the side of the Land Rover. A pickup truck cut wildly across their path. Instinctively, Norman swerved to avoid hitting the smaller vehicle. The Land Rover skidded to the left, glancing off the side of an old mud-walled hut and careened wildly in the opposite direction. Norman fought to regain control of the Land Rover, correcting for the skid. He overcompensated. The Land Rover flipped over onto its passenger side. The last thing Ellen felt was her head hitting the windshield hard. Everything went dark.


Please leave a comment and let me know if you enjoyed this small selection from Montagnard!

Check out Serpents Underfoot and Adirondack Bears! You might enjoy them as well! Both are available in multiple formats.

Editing Montagnard: The Beta Version

Have you ever used beta readers for a writing project?

For my first novel, Serpents Underfoot, I did not use beta readers. I did the editing myself with a great deal of help from my mother. Neither of us was a professional editor.

Needless to say, it took several content uploads before I had eliminated all of the typos, etc. And, I have to thank several of my early readers for pointing some of them out to me. I think Serpents Underfoot is in pretty good shape now, but you never know, there might be one more typo lurking in the shadows, ready to spring out on some poor unsuspecting reader!

Even as short as Adirondack Bear Tales is (only fifty pages or so), it took two rounds to get it to what I hope is now a typo-free state!

For Montagnard (the sequel), I am doing something new

I have read and re-read the draft of Montagnard several times. I have run through Microsoft Spellcheck and Grammarly several times as well. Unfortunately, I am sure there are still a few typos, punctuation errors, homonyms and homophones, and probably even too many adverbs.

So, sending a copy out to five beta readers is a bit intimidating. While these are readers whose opinions I respect, I certainly don’t want them to think, “Egad! How’d he miss this!”

On the bright side, I am hoping that if there are any plot holes, sections of the story that are confusing, or parts that simply suck, these five individuals will let me know. And the end result will be a much better novel … and a sequel to Serpents Underfoot.

Then the final step …

I figure that once I have gone through all the observations and edits suggested by my beta readers, I will be ready to send the manuscript to my editor for its final edit. When she is through with it, it will surely be ready to publish.

And, while all this work is being done, I should have time for some pre-release marketing, etc., as well as getting started on my next book project, a story of family, love, and sacrifice during World War II.

While you are here, check out a few of my other blog posts by clicking here!