Friday, July 30, 2010

The Wildcat's Burden by Christopher Hoare - book review by Cheryl Malandrinos

 In The Wildcat's Burden by Christopher Hoare, Gisel Matah, is now the military governor of the city of Skrona in liberated Tarnland. Married, and pregnant with her first child, she knows her enemies are waiting for her to go into labor so they can pounce. A leader in a dangerous game that pits Gisel against spies, thieves and murderers, her enemies seek to steal Plan Zero and perhaps rid themselves of the Wildcat for good.

In this well-written fourth installment of the Iskander series, Hoare has given Gisel a new side--that of mother-to-be. Unlike many women in her position, Gisel is not able to sit back and enjoy this time. There are too many issues that need her attention: enemies to thwart, plots to uncover, and peace to keep in a world filled with cheats, liars, spies, and worse. Her husband, Yohan, worries over her, all the while being annoyed, knowing Gisel doesn't share everything with him.

We also meet two other strong women in The Wildcat's Burden: Lizzie and Bluebell. Lizzie's unfolding story is perhaps my favorite, and she is vital in uncovering a plot that could change the world as they know it.

This is the first book of the Iskander series that I've read, but Hoare includes a Foreword that discusses the series up to the point where this book begins, so I didn't feel a bit lost picking up the series with Book 4. Even without the Foreword, The Wildcat's Burden is an excellent stand alone, but it is nice that the author included this for the the reader; especially since there are so many characters to keep track of. Also included is an extensive Afterword that brings the reader into Gisel's future and discusses the unresolved storylines of characters that did not appear in The Wildcat's Burden.

Hoare definitely created an interesting and diverse set of characters in this book. Having not meet Gisel before now, I'm curious to know more about her past and others I met along the way.

While I can't say I would go out of my way to fill my shelves with books of this nature, I enjoyed tackling a genre I rarely read. With The Wildcat's Burden, Hoare has written a science fiction/alternative world story that will draw in lovers of this genre.

Title: The Wildcat's Burden
Author: Christopher Hoare
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
ISBN-9: 1-55404-729-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-55404-729-1
SRP: $5.99 Available in multiple electronic formats

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A founding member of Musing Our Children--a group dedicated to encouraging a love of reading and writing in young people--she is also Editor in Chief of Musing Our Children's quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens. A book reviewer and blogger, Cheryl is also a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Cheryl's first children's book will be released by Guardian Angel Publishing in the fall of 2010.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What My Editor Did for Me.

Several writers have asked me what it was like working with my editor, Leanne Flett Kruger. First of all, even typing the words my editor sends me into a grinning frenzy. Secondly, the reason I hesitated to blog about my experience was because I did so little of the work. Leanne was the one digging in and reading Broken But Not Dead over and over again. Every time I sent her revisions, she re-read my manuscript. She made the entire experience a breeze.

To begin, she did a close read. She took notes, paying close attention to the structure. In the end she looked for stylistic issues and helped me clarify the meaning by smoothing the language in a few rough spots. As Leanne put it, "Every concept, every sentence and every word in your story should have meaning and purpose within the story."

Here's what she suggested I change:
- I had labelled some of my characters with different names depending on who was speaking to them. With Brendell, sometimes I had Bren, Dell, Professor Meshango, and Doctor. I changed most of them back to Brendell. 

- In one scene in my book, a character refers to another character as Mister, yet she knows him well. I had completely missed that, but lucky for me, Leanne hadn't. Of course, I changed it to his first name.

- Upon Leanne's advise, I combined a few characters into one, making the story tighter. How many times have I read a book only to complain that there were too many characters to keep track of? Too many. Dang, I should know better.

- On Leanne's suggestion I changed the inconsistencies of my chapters length to approximately 5 - 10 pages. I had a few under 5 and one over 15 and another over 20. I looked for spots where a more natural break would occur to shorter the long chapters. I merged two smaller chapters into one to accommodate the 10 page length.

- Lastly, I fixed a choke scene. I'd forgotten to show my protagonist struggling when the antagonist used a pressure point to knock her out. It's only commonsense that when we're being choked, we'd struggle and try to break free. I'm embarrassed that I missed that the first 20+ times I read the manuscript. 

Wish I could say there was more to it than that, but that was it. And now I wait ... oh, almost forgot, my novel Broken But Not Dead is due for release by Theytus Books in July 2011. I'll post a copy of the book's cover as soon as it's chosen.

Meanwhile, here's a story from my neighbour:

   A woman was eight months pregnant with twins when she was involved in a serious accident. For 6 months she lay in a coma. When she finally woke, the first thing she wanted to know was how her babies were. Her husband, who had sat by her side the entire time, assured her their son and daughter were safe and sound with her brother.
   That news shook the new mother because she thought of her brother as less than reliable. Yet, she decided not to reprimand her husband and asked,  "What did you name our children?"
   The father shook his head. "I was so worried about you I let your brother name them. I couldn't come up with anything."
   "What! You know my brother's an idiot. What were you thinking!" But really, her babies were okay, and her brother meant well. She took a deep breath. "Okay, what did he name our daughter?"
   "Denise? That's not so bad." Maybe she had underestimated her brother. "What did he name our son?"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Penny Ehrenkranz presented me with VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD

Unaware that Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz was even following my blog, what an awesome surprise to learn that she presented me with the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you, Penny. I'm thrilled. Honestly, at first I thought it was a mistake.

Penny is one of those special people who volunteers, is a freelance writer, author, and copyeditor for MuseItUp Publishing and Damnation Books LLC/Eternal Press, and an all round terrific human being. I've always admired Penny's dedication to our craft and receiving this award from her is terrific. If you haven't already visited Penny's blog, please stop by and see who else she nominated.

For those who don't know, the Versatile Blogger Award comes with some rules:

1. Thank those who loved me enough to bestow this gift.
2. Share seven things about myself.
3. Present this honour onto 15 newly discovered or followed bloggers–in no particular order–who are fantastic in some way.
4. Drop by and let my fifteen new friends know I love them.

Thank you very much, Penny. You made my month. The fact you even know my blog exists is an absolute thrill!

Seven things about me:

1. I'm a complete mess when it comes to sic or dying animals. My experience at farm-sitting this summer had me on melt-down a few times.

2. I love kid's movies and have seen Polar Express, Shrek, The Rescuers, and Christmas Carol (to name a few) over two dozen times each.

3. I have a huge crush on late night interviewer and southern gentleman Charlie Rose. In fact, I sometimes dream about sitting at his roundtable discussing all of my bestselling novels. But first I'd chat with Tavis Smiley. Charlie would be the icing on the cake. 

4. I'm known as sensible Jo, yet I love to drive very very fast. I was clocked at 143 mph when I was a young woman. Shortly after that I started racing at the local track. Three decades later, I use cruise control to rein myself in.

5. Thirty plus years ago, my professors at SFU told me to give up writing and to go home and have babies. The resulting pity-party, thankfully, didn't last long.

6. I love technology and, if I could afford it, I'd own every devise known to man. Yet -- I'm a complete airhead when it comes to the stock market. I still can't figure how why our loonie goes up then down then up then down ten times in one week.

7. The night before a book signing or reading, I can't sleep and am often physically ill. The throwing up part lasts until I climb into the car to drive the 68 kms to town.

In no particular order, fifteen Bloggers I admire and follow and can't say enough nice things about:

1. Gary Klahanie, A Man Challenging His 'Inner Critic'.
2. Carol Garvin, Mental Meanderings on Life and Writing by Carol J. Garvin:
3. Jo Ann Hernandez, BronzeWord Latino Authors, Creating excellence;
4. Christine Hart, Thoughts on Writing and Making Things;
5. Dave Elbright, JaxPop, Haunted City Writer,
6. Keith Pyeatt, Horror With Heart, Paranormal thrills, real emotion.
7. Marta Stephens, Novel Works, A place where writers and book lovers come together;
8. Anita Stewart, A.F.Stewart's Blog, Rants, writing, and updates by fantasy writer A. F. Stewart.
9. Christopher Hoare, The Wildcat's Victory, The Official Book Blog of Soft Science Fiction/Alternative World Novelist Christopher Hoare,
10. Pat Brown, P.A.Brown,
11. Laura Best, Author,
12. Carole Anne Carr, a commonplace blog where a children's author and friends can share;
13. Cher'ley Grogg, Mirror, Mirror, Who's the Next to Die?
14. Cher Green, Footsteps of a Writer, A walk with an aspiring writer,
15. Kathryn Neff Perry, Katt's Komments,

I thought choosing 15 would be difficult, but it wasn't. These bloggers never fail to make me think, dream and aspire.

Please take a few minutes to visit these amazing bloggers.  Thanks again, Penny!

Monday, July 19, 2010


© Katherine Swarts

Everyone loves a good story--but no one likes a moral lecture disguised as a story. Here's how to make sure you create the former instead of the latter.

As plot and characters take center stage in each story, the writer’s worldview paints the backdrop. Your religious, philosophical, and ethical beliefs always seep through, whether you realize it or not.

If you don’t really care what seeps through—if you’re writing purely to entertain—you need read the following only for reference. But if you consciously want to get a point across, you may be at risk of sacrificing entertainment for preaching. Since no one enjoys being preached at, you also risk driving readers away.

You can get your point across and still be entertaining—if you:

1. Let your story stay a story. Even nonfiction—including formal sermons and lectures—works best when relevant anecdotes are included. Readers are interested, foremost, in what happens to the people in your story. The moment you pause to detail the long-term effects of Ecstasy or explain why Jennifer shouldn’t have done that, page-turning gives way to yawning.

2. When you need to describe the “hows”—as in how a machine works or what effect a drug has on a character—make the details part of the story, related to happenings that directly affect the plot. A machinist trains a newcomer how to use equipment; a pilot struggles to fly through a storm; two characters discuss their worries about a third. Stay focused on the action, and you’ll be able to slip in relevant information without sounding like an encyclopedia.

3. The “whys” almost never need be vocalized. Always let a story situation speak for itself. If your character is fired for lying on a resume, or is juggling two romantic partners neither of whom knows about the other, you don’t have to say, “Lying is a bad idea,” or “This wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t done that.” If the story is any good, readers will get the point on their own; they won’t need your finger wagging in their faces.

4. Don’t try to disguise lectures as dialogue; you won’t fool anybody. Anything that smacks of a mother saying to her child, “Now, you see how bad it was to lie?” rates a quick delete.

Even with straight facts or background information, be careful how you go about “teaching.” Never use the “as you know” approach: “As you know, Dave, we’ve both been on this project for three months, and the company’s biggest-ever potential contract hinges on it, and a lot of people will be laid off if we don’t get that contract….” This conversation is obviously for the reader’s benefit; no one really believes that Dave’s coworker would review the known facts in such detail. Any character being brought up to date should be as green as the reader.

5. Never conclude by effectively turning to the reader and saying “the moral of this story is….” Never mind that Aesop’s fables and 1980s TV cartoons did that and got away with it. Written stories require a more subtle approach, one that assumes reader intelligence. Confine the focus of “debriefing” conclusions—characters reviewing what has happened—to tying up loose ends and speculating on the (characters’) future. And never drag out an ending; make it as brief as possible. Think about what readers want to know, not about what you want to say.

6. In fact, never address any comment or observation directly to the reader. That approach was relegated to the “condescending” pile three generations ago.

Keep characters and plot in the foreground, theme in the background. There’s one other “background” element in stories—setting. That will be the subject of the later article.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Savvy Authors

I'm guest blogging at Savvy Author on Deep POV. Hope you can stop by.

--happy editting


Saturday, July 10, 2010

We Had Babies, Lots of Babies

As each hen had chicks, I moved them into the hay trailer so they wouldn't be bothered by the roosters. The only problem was 4 hens had chicks in the same day, and after going back to the hen house for the fourth hen, I returned to find 2 hens battling it to the death over whose chicks belonged to whom. I intervened by picking up one of the hens, no easy feat, and calming everyone down. Apparently Kissinger I am not. This hen isn't actually the mother of these chicks.

The larger yellow duckling was a loner deserted by his parents just a few weeks after his birth. I, of course was distressed over this, but he seems to have adapted just fine. He loves playing with new babies.

Same thing happened to this mother. Not all these ducklings are hers. I think there's a lesson to be learned here.

My grandchildren only wanted one thing, "Can I hold one?"

Not even a day old and already he's climbing. Wonder how long before I catch him up on the roof?

They are as cuddly as they look.

This little guy was born yesterday. An angel today, a pain in the butt tomorrow. Especially once he has horns.

The Twins

Sunday, July 4, 2010


What are the most important elements for a book author website?

The most important element of all is the ability for you the author to make changes yourself at a moment’s notice.  If you have an unexpected book signing come up or a fabulous book review that you want to post asap, then you need to be able to do that.

This ability use to usually be out of the question for people who didn’t know website coding (or whose spouse, child, parent, etc. didn’t know it).  People had to wait on – and pay – their website builder to make even the simplest changes.

In the past couple of years the ability to use (known as just WordPress) for both a blog and a website has changed the landscape so that the power can now be in your own hands. 

Once a WordPress self-hosted site is up, you can make changes as easily as you make changes in Word.  (Of course, there is a similar learning curve as there was with Word.)

First, a clarification.  I am NOT talking about, which is a hosted site the same way a blogger site (such as my blog is a hosted blog site.

Second, it is important to understand that you really need a web person to set up your self-hosted WordPress blog/site.  And what’s more, just any WordPress website isn’t ideal. 

You need a site built by a person who understands search engine optimization, keyword pages, etc.  Otherwise your site will be way, way back in search engine results.

Third, your website address (the URL or domain name of the site) is important.  When you use your website address on social media sites, you want it to reflect what your site is about.  If you have a book title that is not very specific, such as the imaginary “Having Fun,” you might want to get the URL   

FYI: All is not lost if you have a site now without an effective website address.  For example, my company website is actually – although after my business partner Yael K. Miller and I narrowed our company’s focus, we got the URL and redirected this URL to the home page of our site.   

Fourth, of course, you want to make it very clear where someone can buy your book – and make it very easy for people to do so. 

You do NOT want to give the link, for example, as  When people get to the home page of Amazon, they can get easily distracted and forget what book they are looking for or actually try unsuccessfully to find your book.

Make sure that the link to your book is very obvious – and have it near the top of the page and not where people have to scroll down to find it.

Fifth, make sure that people coming to your book author site know exactly what’s on offer.  Is the book fiction or nonfiction?  The first of a trilogy?  An award-winning book?  And the cover of your book should be featured prominently. 

Sixth, if at all possible, have a blog as part of your website (using WordPress for a site automatically includes the opportunity to have a blog as part of the site).  A blog is usually the best way to continually add fresh content to a website, and search engines love fresh content.  Thus fresh content on a blog can help your site rank higher in the search engine results.

Also, have a sign-up on your site so that people can automatically get your new blog posts either through email notification or through an RSS feed.  (See an explanation at )

While the above are what I consider the most important elements for a book author website, a bonus element would be offering a free gift in exchange for having people join your email list (different than your blog feed signup) so that you can keep in front of your potential fans through email marketing.  (See an example of this by getting the free blogging report at )

This email list should be run through an email marketing service rather than you adding people to your own email account.  Two main reasons for this:  An email marketing service helps get your emails through the spam filters and an email marketing service looks much more professional than sending out a group email of your own.

And if you want a WordPress expert to build your WordPress site/blog that can include all of the above elements, I recommend Doron Orenstein of Magnetic Webworks, with whom my company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing has a collaboration.  Doron builds the website and Miller Mosaic provides how-to videos to make it easier for you to manage your own site.

Read more about this WordPress program at

© 2010 Miller Mosaic, LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the social media marketing company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing.