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Monday, July 27, 2015

WOW! Women on Writing Book Review, Giveaway, and Book Blog Tour for "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets" by David W. Berner

Thank you to WOW! Women on Writing for allowing us to participate in this tour!

Today's Reviewer: Cathy Hansen is a wife, mom, teacher, independent
beauty consultant, and small business owner. She and her husband operate SeedsNBeans, a local nature store, in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Cathy Writes:

Anyone who has ever loved a pet will enjoy There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard by David W. Berner. A cute collection of essays about various pets the author has owned, the book reminded me of pets I’ve owned, and led me to ponder the lessons they’ve taught me, as well as the lessons my children are learning from our pets.

Berner’s tales of a crazy cat, a hamster named Tony that unexpectedly had babies, a pet lizard, a spider captured and studied for a few days, a dog who got him in trouble on his paper route, and others reminded me of some of my own family’s experiences with pets. There was the cat who only returned home when he smelled freshly caught fish, two escape artist hamsters who met untimely and unfortunate deaths, a hermit crab death, swallowtail butterflies that emerged from their chrysalides in late December and were fed homemade nectar and later given to a museum butterfly habitat, a dog who went with me on my paper route, and others. Reading his essays was like a trip down memory lane. Reminiscent of Marley and Me, There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard doesn’t just tell the tale of the pets’ lives, but the experiences gained, lessons learned, and joys and sorrows shared because of the animals’ presence in his life.

The essays also cover situations where the author admits he should have known better. Berner’s honesty about times when he wasn’t the best pet owner was initially startling to me, and I was tempted to judge, but after reading the entire book, I admire the honesty. Many pet owners have learned and become better pet owners because of their pets, and it would not do the experience justice to sugar-coat it or leave out the negative times or less than flattering moments. Sharing these moments can be helpful to others, both in learning from those experiences without committing the same errors, but also in allowing pet owners to let go of the guilt they might feel over pet experiences gone wrong.

My 10 and 12 year old daughters, intrigued by the title and colorful cover, grabbed the book off the counter, and have enjoyed the essays as well, though other parents will want to know that the author’s references to a young boy’s natural curiosity about x-ray vision glasses might provoke a few questions or raised eyebrows from their children.

Unsuspecting parents should also be warned that Berner makes an excellent case for why children should grow up with pets, and not just for the purpose of practicing responsibilities, like we might expect. Berner goes beyond that and talks about the little things that we learn when we aren’t really paying attention. According to Berner, “It’s simplistic, but true: we become who we are by where we’ve been, who we’ve been with, by all that has surrounded us, all that we have permitted into our daily existence. It may come in a flash, or it may work to shape us in a more methodical, stealth-like way, tiptoeing into our reality undetected.” This essay collection tells the tales of the lessons Berner’s pets have taught him and how sharing his life with those pets have shaped his life. It makes me ponder the lessons our 2 dogs and 2 cats, along with the monarch caterpillars that come into our lives each summer are teaching my children . . . and as I type this, I reflect on the constant begging for a snake, lizard, or whatever other critter one of the kiddos has decided is “the only thing I’ll ever ask for” THIS week!

About the Book: A book of essays by award-winning author and journalist David W. Berner is the next best thing to storytelling around a bonfire. In There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard, Berner shares stories of “a life in pets”—from a collie that herds Berner home when the author goes “streaking” through the neighborhood as a two-year-old, to a father crying in front of his son for the only time in his life while burying the family dog on the Fourth of July. And from the ant farm that seems like a great learning experience (until the ants learn how to escape), to the hamster that sets out on its own road trip (but only gets as far as the dashboard). Along the way, Berner shows that pets not only connect us with the animal world, but also with each other and with ourselves. The result is a collection of essays that is insightful and humorous, entertaining and touching.

Paperback: 138 Pages
Genre: Memoir, Pets, Essays
Publisher: Dream of Things (April 23, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0990840719
ISBN-13: 978-0990840718
Twitter hashtag: # HamsterDash

There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon,  Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore.

About the Author:
David W. Berner is a journalist, broadcaster, teacher, and author of two award-winning books: Accidental Lessons, which earned the Royal Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature, and Any Road Will Take You There, which was a Grand Prize Finalist for the 2015 Hoffer Award for Books. Berner’s stories have been published in a number of literary magazines and journals, and his broadcast reporting and audio documentaries have aired on the CBS Radio Network and dozens of public radio stations across America. He teaches at Columbia College Chicago.

Find more about David by visiting his website,, connect with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @DavidWBerner.

----------Upcoming Blog Tour Dates

Monday, August 3 @ Sioux’s Page
Sioux reviews David W Berner's latest book There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets.

Thursday, August 6 @ Selling Books
"Is Your Writing Space the Right Space" is today's topic as David W Berner writes the guest post at Cathy Stucker's Selling Books blog. Don't miss this great post and wonderful opportunity to learn more about Berner's latest book There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets.

Thursday, August 13 @ MC Simon Writes
MC Simon reviews the latest book by David W Berner There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets and offers readers a giveaway of this fabulous collection of essays.

Thursday, August 13 @ Lisa Haselton
Join David W Berner as he writes today's guest blog post at the blog of Lisa Haselton. Today's topic is: "How the Story of Your Pet Can Tell Your Story." Learn more about this and Berner's latest book There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets.

Keep up with the WOW! Women on Writing Book Blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email me at:


Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard please leave a comment about this post, (a question for Hansen or Berner would be great). The giveaway contest closes this Friday, July 31st at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day as a comment on this post.

Friday, July 24, 2015

WOW! Book Blog Tour for Eric Trant's "Steps" & Guest Post: The Grinder: A Simple MS Word Automation That Will Clean Up Your Manuscript

The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway

I'll let my host decide if she wants to edit that quote, but for me, I remember it and cite it as it was stated by a master of stating what should be obvious, but is not. I read through my first drafts with a shaking of the head. It is painful. How could I write ~that~. Good God, man, where did that come from?

I struggle with what to cut and what to keep. I usually keep more than I should, and rely on the editor or a critical reader (not a critique partner, but a reader) to help me identify the excess fat. I love it all, or I would not have written it. They tell me what I should bury in revision, what should be returned to the whitespace from whence it came.

However, even with an editor's eye and a critical reader's opinion, things such as weasels and passives can sneak up on us. A page littered with passives may say to the editor: Cut this page. It may say to the critical reader: This is boring.

Neither fully understands ~why~ they dislike the page, only it does not flow.

Furthermore, you might run into an editor (or a critique partner) who stabs every passive through the gut, condemns your adjectives and adverbs and weasel to death, until the story writhes on the page, twitches, and settles into a lifeless pulp.
Too much revision can take a good rough draft, pound out the lumps, round the edges, and untangle all the thoughtless knots—until there's nothing left but a bunch of flat, balmy words. Blech!

Sometimes the curves are what makes the road fun. Avoid straightening a draft ~too~ much, especially if it is based on someone else's style preferences (such as adverbs during dialogue tags, he wrote sarcastically).

So, with that in mind, I developed a stupidly simple MS Word script that highlighted my weasels and passives. I call it:
The Grinder

I have used it on every draft since about 2002, and it never fails to impress me how well it highlights troubled spots that are easily overlooked. It also offers the unique benefit of showing problem density within the manuscript.

For instance, a few passives are fine. I limit myself to no more than three or four per page. No problem. But The Grinder will highlight the problem areas by bolding these words, such that you can visually pick out wounded areas of your text. It also shows sparsity, and you can compare areas with few highlights to areas of dense highlights, and possibly improve your craft by saying to yourself: I write pretty good action sequences, but my laid-back scenes need work.

I recommend using The Grinder twice. First, use it on your original rough draft, prior to revision, before you allow anyone to read it.
Then run through your editing phase, which may require five or more revisions (I have 11 revisions of Steps).
Then, when that is said and done, and your editor says, Okay, we are at line edits, run The Grinder one more time. You will pick up what you added during revision, along with anything you missed during the rough draft phase. Since The Grinder only bolds your weasels and passives, it does not distract you during edits, and helps you focus on bigger picture edits, such as flow, plot holes, scenery, and so forth.
In any case, I hope you enjoy using The Grinder, and find it as useful as I have.

Click here to Download The Grinder

and now, more about "Steps":

Steps is a well-written science fiction novel you won’t want to put down. Following the Peacemaker family through their battle of survival will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait to see what obstacle is next.

Society is falling to a ravaging virus, and the Peacemaker family is stranded in the mountains of Arkansas. Forced to band with a group of deserted soldiers, they battle to survive starvation, apocalyptic cataclysms, and a growing number of dangerously infected wanderers.

As their dwindling number struggles against ever-increasing odds, they realize they are not alone in the wilderness. A large creature is present in the hills, at first seen only as a fleeting shadow.

Now the family not only faces impending death from the unstoppable virus, they must also deal with the mysterious giant, whose footprints signify that he knows where they are.

Paperback: 218 Pages
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (May 21, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1937178684
ISBN-13: 978-1937178680
Twitter hashtag: # StepsTrant

Steps is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Steps please leave a blog comment! Winner will be announced 7/31

About the Author:

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Wink and Steps from WiDo Publishing. He lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, two teenagers, a toddler, and an angel baby watching over them all. See more of Eric's work at:





----------Blog Tour Dates

Tuesday, July 28 @ Selling Books
Join Eric Trant with a guest post titled "City Lights: Why it is Important to Turn Them Off" as he visits Cathy Stucker's Selling Books blog.

Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following WOW! Women on Writing on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email me at:


Enter to win a copy of Steps by Eric Trant! Just leave a comment below. We will announce the winner NEXT Friday, July 31ST!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Not the Life I Had in Mind

"Mom, what did you want to be when you were little?"

I chuckled and answered truthfully: "A businesswoman in a suit, high heels, and pantyhose"

My seven year old daughter looked at me with that inquisitive (I see right through you) look and said "I'm glad you're just a mom"

She didn't mean any disrespect at all and a seven year old saying 'just a mom' has a totally different meaning than when one of your peers says it. She's right though. Plain and simple, I'm just a mom to her. She hardly realizes that I work from home, manage our business, and she could care less about all the other things I do all day. She wouldn't mind if I ate bonbons and watched soap operas. She truthfully only cares about my role as a mom. As long as there is a snack after school, toilet paper in the bathroom, and clean clothes in her closet she is quite satisfied that I'm doing my job. In fact, if the snack consists of chocolate chip cookies, she may even give me a raise if this really were a paying job.

This is not the life I had in mind. I thought my kids would be most proud if I had a fancy title, high power job, and a juicy paycheck. Truth is, yoga pants are fine and it's not about the balance in the checking account, it's about the tickle fights on the living room floor. For those who chose to judge, bring it on. There is a milkstain on my left shoulder, a bit of granola bar in my hair, something sticky on my yoga pants, and my lipstick wore off hours ago (or did I even put it on today?), If those things bother you, I get it...they once bothered me too. My current bosses (there are 4 of them) don't seem to care about my outward appearance. They are nominating me for employee of the month just because I bought the right brand of cereal at the grocery store and promised popcorn before bed.

This may not be the life I had in mind, but it's the life God had planned for me and it is far more rewarding than anything I had ever dreamed!