If you Like Science Fiction …

My friend and fellow author Dale Cozort, a brilliant scientist/historian who delights in playing with alternate histories, is taking part in the Kindle Scout program. I hope you will consider nominating Dale for his new science fiction book Snapshot. Dale explains:

SnapshotI’ve been working on the Snapshot universe for over five years. I think it’s a spectacular idea. Here is what it’s about:

For eighty million years, the Tourists have been taking Snapshots of Earth, exact replicas of continents. Each Snapshot goes into its own snow-globe-shaped artificial universe. Snapshots are connected like a string of pearls by vents high over their oceans.

Snapshot people and animals quickly diverge from the real world, creating a universe where humans and animals from much of Earth’s history explore, fight and sometimes meet themselves. In October 2014, the Tourists take a North America Snapshot, cutting everyone in that copy off from the real world, but letting them fly to Snapshots where dinosaurs roam, where Indians rule North America or where Soviets or Nazis rule Europe. They may also confront the menace that lurks on the other side of a wind-swept Antarctic Snapshot.

This new Snapshot catches Middle East Analyst Greg Dunne rushing toward Hawaii to join his wife, his unborn sons and his extended family at a family reunion. The Snapshot doesn’t include Hawaii, so it cuts Greg off from everyone he loves. It also thrusts him into the aftermath of a hidden, decades-old massacre, part of a struggle between Germans from a pre-World War II European Snapshot and ranchers from Korean War-era US-53 Snapshot. The prize: a thinly settled North America-sized Madagascar Snapshot, much like the Wild West or the Australian outback. Whoever controls the Madagascar Snapshot controls communications between dozens of Snapshots.

Greg struggles to survive in this cutthroat reality, to remain faithful to a family he may never see again and to find a way back to his original Earth. He is caught between powerful opponents. A rancher who rode a hidden massacre to almost unchallenged political power faces the only survivor of that massacre, a woman driven nearly insane by the experience, but now in her own position of power, plotting revenge.

Snapshot is a fast-paced story of power and revenge set in a unique, marvelously rich universe.

If this story interests you, please nominate Snapshot for Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. It’s a quick process: Click the link https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/332ZJ8YN22MIT, click ‘nominate me’ and you’re done. If Dale’s book is selected, you get a free e-book copy. Sounds good to me!

If the direct link doesn’t work for you, go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com/, then scroll down to the science fiction and fantasy section and scroll left or right until you find Snapshot.

And oh, if you like science fiction, please check out my novel Light Bringer.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

It’s Christmas, Not Santamas

Conrad Guest, author of A Retrospect In Death and A World Without Music (plus several other books) just posted a blog about tolerance, and how there seems to be so little of it, especially now during the Christmas season.

Guest wrote: I’ve long remained publically mute on the subject of Christmas, but this year I voice my opinion. You’re offended that I celebrate Christmas as the birth of a Messiah. You tell me he is but a myth. I have news for you. Santa isn’t real. He doesn’t make toys at his home at the North Pole, nor does he circle the globe on Christmas Eve to deliver toys down the chimneys of billions of people—many who don’t have chimneys. I don’t push on you my belief in God, even though, in my mind, there is a greater chance that He exists than does Santa. But go ahead, put up on your front lawn your inflatable Santa, and the sleigh and reindeer on your roof. I can tolerate that, even if you can’t tolerate the nativity scene on my lawn, and petition City Hall to make me take it down.

nativityHis words struck a chord with me. I get annoyed with having to pander to the intolerant at this time of year. It’s CHRISTmas, for cripes sake. That’s the whole point of the day. No matter what non-Christians are trying to make us all believe, the day is not Santamas. I am sick of the constant message that we must believe in Santa Claus, sick of having that stupid myth foisted on me, sick of the eternal seesawing there is/isn’t a Santa Claus. If people are so willing to accept Santa as an icon of the season (an icon who so obviously isn’t real) then what difference does it make to them if some people use crèches or some other image to personify the day? Crèches are the spirit of the day and more fitting than santas and elves and those stupid flying reindeer. Taking that red-suited image to the height of absurdity, a neighbor has a nativity scene with a Santa praying over the baby. Huh?

I simply don’t get it. Since the non-Christian world adapted a Christian holy day for their own, then they cannot complain about the religiosity. (Supposedly the Christians co-opted a Roman holiday, so it’s ironic that the same thing is happening again but to Christians this time.) Sometimes when I see one message too many about how we can no longer say, “Merry Christmas” because it offends some people, I just want to scream, “Get over it, folks, It’s CHRISTmas. If you don’t like it, start your own damn holiday.”

The Santa myth is particularly odious since the obese gent so obviously favors the rich. It makes poorer kids feel bad that they weren’t good enough to get the rich-kid stuff they wanted. And why engender a belief in such a ridiculous myth in the first place? I knew a guy who fought in Vietnam. There they were at Christmas, hunkered down on some God-forsaken hill that they had just taken for the second or third time. They got to talking about the most disillusioning moment in their lives, and almost all of them said it was when they found out there was no Santa Claus. Why are people still perpetuating such a lie and for no particular reason?

Oops. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get on my soapbox, but as I said, J. Conrad Guest really hit a chord. Wishing you all a tolerant and happy Christmas season.

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Related post: What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving at Christmas?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Grief: The Great Learning, Day 432

I’ve saved the letters I wrote to my life mate/soul mate after he died, thinking that one day I would write a sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. I’d planned to call the sequel Grief: The Great Learning, and detail the lessons gleaned from the second and third years of my grief. Because I no longer want to keep revisiting such angst, there will be no sequel, so I’m publishing the letters here on this blog as a way of safeguarding (and sharing) them.

Although this letter was written three and a half years ago, it reflects so much of what I am feeling now. My father recently died, and I am packing in preparation for . . . I know not what.  I wish I could talk to Jeff, see how he is doing, feel his hug, bask in his smile. I don’t think I will ever lose that desire, ever stop yearning for what I cannot have. His goneness shapes my days somewhat the same way his presence used to. Everything I do is because he is no longer here.

I am more used to the idea of living alone than I was when I wrote this letter, though sometimes it still scares me. But one of the lessons grief taught me is that I can get used to anything, even loneliness and aloneness. I’m now going to lunch with women I like, so that helps.

Coincidentally, just a couple of days ago, I tossed that route beer bottle into the recycle bin, but as you can see, I still have the photo. Unfortunately, dealing with his ashes isn’t quite so easy. I still don’t know what to do with them. I’m thinking of waiting for a windstorm, opening the box, and letting Jeff take care of them himself.

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Day 432, Hi, Jeff.

Just in case you really are somewhere, I wanted you to know I haven’t forgotten you, still miss you, still wish there could have been a better resolution to your health problems than death. But what do I know? Maybe death was the best resolution. I’m not sure I see much hope of things working out for me, but I am trying. I’m getting out and doing things. It still seems as if the only way I can make sense of your death (from my perspective) is to do things I wouldn’t have done if you were alive.

I took a trip along Route 66 with some friends, which was fun. I kept a soda bottle for a souvenir. “Route Beer.” Tasted like plain old root beer, but I thought the name was cute. I’ve been going to lunch about once a week, sometimes after the grief group, sometimes with a couple of women I met there. I’m not sure I like the women, but for now, it’s enough that they like me. Yep. I’m that starved for affection.

In a couple of days, I’ll have been here a year looking after my dad. Who knows how much longer it will be. Maybe years. And then after? I truly don’t know.

I feel so hypocritical with all this grief — I wanted the horror of our life to be over, but I didn’t want you dead. Ironically, if you hadn’t been dying, I wouldn’t have wanted our life to be over, but the truth is, I wanted your dying done with. The stress was incredible for me, so I can only imagine how much worse it was for you.

My dying is still to come. It scares me to think of having to deal with infirmities alone, though I think it will be easier knowing that my death will not grieve anyone the way yours did me.

Did I tell you? I finally and forever understand what you mean by the pilot light of anger. I don’t want to be consumed by anger, but a quiet pilot light to keep me going, that is important. I can’t simply accept what life did to us — it’s not right. Maybe the universe is unfolding as it should, as people tell me, but from my standpoint, here and now, I need that pilot light. Maybe it will be a “pilot” taking me where I need to go, though I don’t know where that would be.

Part of me wants to find someone so I don’t feel so alone, but I’m not ready for that. It’s a matter of learning to deal with the loneliness. I lived with it before I met you, and I imagine I’ll learn to live with it now that you’re gone. I hope wherever you are that you aren’t lonely. I hope you’re not in pain. I hope you’re delighting in being free of that diseased body. I still have your ashes. I wish we could talk about what I should do with them. I wish we could talk about what I should do with my life. I wish . . . oh, so many impossible things.

I love you. Take care of yourself. I’ll try to take better care of me.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Raining Deer

This is the season where deer seem to rain down on us by the bucket loads, where they reign in various decorations, where they are often seen yoked together by reins.

You’d think reindeer would refer to those reins but the “rein” part of reindeer comes from the old Norse word for the creature: hreinn, so a literal translation of reindeer is actually “reindeerdeer”.

Reindeer used to run wild in Britain, but became extinct long before the Celts and Anglo Saxons showed up. Now they live primarily in the Arctic tundra and northern boreal forests (boreal seems to mean just south of the arctic, but I don’t guarantee that definition.)

But where did the idea of flying reindeer come from?

Some folks have postulated that while reindeer don’t make the fabled winter trip, people do. Donald Pfister, a biologist who studies fungi at Harvard University, suggests that Siberian tribesmen who ingested fly agaric may have hallucinated into thinking that reinddeereer were flying. Making a correlation to Santa is the idea that Shamans in the Siberian and Arctic regions dropped into locals’ teepeelike homes with a bag full of hallucinatory mushrooms as presents in late December, and since the doors of these places were often blocked by snow, the shamans came down the smoke holes. Add to that mix the fact that the mushrooms were red with white trim (spots, not fur) and the possibility of the shamans taking on reindeer spirits, you have a story not exactly fit for children. But it could explain why Santa lives at the North Pole — that’s where the story originated. (I always thought he lived there because if he lived anywhere else, Denver, for example, it could be easily proven that there is no Santa Claus.)

In 1821, the first known reference to flying reindeer found its way into the Santa myth (an interweaving of St. Nicholas and the Dutch Sinterklaas). The author of the poem “A New Year’s Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve Number III” was kept a secret, but the editor of the piece claimed the author heard from his mother, an Indian of the area, that reindeer could fly. (“ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” was published in 1923.)

Well, I hung my stocking by the chimney with care (I had to, otherwise it would have fallen down), though I have no hope that some red-suited fellow will soon be filling it. In fact, I hope he doesn’t. Would scare me half to death to see a stranger inside this house.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Bowls of Light

When I was sorting through some of my things in preparation to packing them and putting them in storage, I found a whole slew of Christmas lights. It seems ridiculous to store the lights considering how cheap they are, wasteful to throw them away, and silly to drag them to a thrift shop, so I decided to use them up. I put bowls full of lights all over the house, and oh! What a festive air!

bowl of lights

bowl of lights

bowl of lights

cookie jar of lights

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Who knew that snow is a tourist treat? I sure didn’t! I have mostly lived in a cold climate where snow happens wherever you are, but in the desert, where I have temporarily found myself, snow is so rare that people will drive many miles to see it.

And that is exactly what a friend and I did yesterday — drove almost a hundred miles round trip just to see the whiteness and throw a snowball or two. A lovely sight!

Snow

Below is a photo of the Pacific Crest Trail. Now you can see why people are concerned about beating winter when they through hike — it’s too easy to lose the trail under all that snow, and besides, it’s cold!

PCT

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Searching for the Wild Snow

I’m getting ready to head out and go searching for the wild snow.

Once upon a time, perhaps thirty years ago, more than two feet of snow fell in the desert, but I’ve only seen flurries a couple of times since I’ve been here, and whatever stuck to the ground disappeared as soon as the sun came out. So, when a friend invited me to go snow hunting, I gladly accepted. Snow!! Out here, where it seldom even rains, snow seems a mythical phenomenon. Dare I believe?

Desert Snow

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Interviewing . . . Me!

What genre are your books?

A Spark of Heavenly FireAll of my novels have elements of intrigue, adventure, mystery, suspense, romance, history, and some have a touch of science fiction. A Spark of Heavenly Fire, for example, is the story of people who become extraordinary during a time of horror — a bioengineered disease is decimating the population of Colorado, and the entire state is quarantined. One character is obsessed with finding out who created the disease, one couple tries to escape, one woman does what she can to help the survivors. A thread of romance connects all the stories. All these different stories entwined into one makes it difficult to settle on a single genre, though many reviewers call it a thriller, and my publisher, Second Wind Publishing, sells it as mainstream.

What are your favorite genres?

I like to read novels that have it all — mystery, adventure, romance, a touch of strangeness, a bit of truth — but since I can’t find that sort of novel very often, I settle for just about anything. Non-fiction, genre fiction, literary fiction, whatever is at hand.

Do you think you gain sales for your books through blogging?

I know I’ve made a few sales because of blogging, but I don’t think blogs are a particularly good sales tool. I do think blogs are wonderful for connecting with readers once readers have discovered you, they can be a great source for support and suggestions, and they are a way of meeting people who like the same things you do. Mostly though, I just enjoy blogging.

Tell us about your book, Daughter Am I.

Daughter Am I is a young woman/old gangster coming-of-age novel.

When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents-grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born-she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians-former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

What similarities if any between your other books and Daughter Am I?

The unifying theme in all of my books is the perennial question: Who are we? More Deaths Than One suggests we are our memories. A Spark of Heavenly suggests we are the sum total of our experiences and choices. Daughter Am Isuggests we are our heritage.

Do you sell your books as an eBook?

My books are all available for sale as ebooks, and the first 30% of each is also available free on Smashwords. The books are also available in print for those who still prefer to own a physical copy of the books they read.

What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?

25% of the total production of books printed by the major publishing companies are pulped, which is an incredible waste, so I think more books will be digitally printed as needed. It makes sense financially, especially if the cost of production goes down. Ultimately, e-books will become the preferred format for “disposable” books, such as bestsellers that readers will only read once.

If you could give one tip for aspiring authors, what would that be?

I’ll tell them that a book begins with a single word. Many novice writers get intimidated by the thought of writing an entire book, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it is the only goal. That’s how every book all through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book. After that, who knows, you might even reach the pinnacle and become a published author. All because you set your goal to write one word.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I have a website — http://patbertram.com — where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my books, and my events on a daily basis is here on this blog: http://ptbertram.wordpress.com

All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, and Smashwords. Smashwords is great — the books are available in all ebook formats, including Kindle, and you can download the first 30% free.

What do you do to promote other authors?

I do author interviews and character interviews, and post excerpts on my blogs, and I don’t charge a penny! Of course, since the authors get what they pay for, I can’t guarantee they will sell books because of my efforts, but they will be promoted via Facebook and Twitter. If I you are an author and interested in being interviewed by me, click here to find the directions for my Author Questionnaire. Click here to find the directions for my Character Questionnaire. And click here to Let me post your excerpt!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Drifting . . .

I’m sitting here mindlessly playing computer solitaire, not thinking much of anything, just letting old sorrows, lost hopes, and unborn possibilities drift around in my mind like flakes in an old fashioned snow globe.

It’s futile to try to sort out the thoughts. There’s no need to dwell on what is gone and what can never be — those are part of my very being, so that even when the thoughts are not recognized, I feel their importance.

snow globeNor is there any need to dwell on what has not yet happened — although those possibilities are still unformed, I feel their portent.

I’m trying not to rush through this strange hiatus between all the endings and a new beginning. So many people are gone from my life, through death, mental illness, and misunderstanding that sometimes I am overwhelmed by the complexity of starting over alone and wish to make immediate decisions and plans to give me a start on the future. But other times, like now, I am content to let the future take care of itself. There may never again be a time where so much is open to me. When I have to start making decisions, the world will narrow with each choice.

If I continue to do my mostly volunteer work for an online company, I will be tied to the computer for longer than I wish, doing work that has long since lost its appeal. If I were to walk away, I will have to embrace one further loss since this “job” has been part of my life for many years. If I were to get a real job to make my financial situation stronger, I won’t be able to take dance classes. Nor will I have time to write (or rather, not write, which is what I so often do). If I continue to take dance classes, I won’t be able to travel, or at least not much.

I am not yet ready for such a narrowing of possiblitilities even if it means embracing my sorrows and lost hopes a bit longer.

And so I drift.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The 9th Annual Short Story Challenge

A friend just sent me information about a writing competition open to writers around the world — The 9th Annual Short Story Challenge. It’s an interesting concept, one of never encountered before. It’s not my sort of thing, but I’m posting the information in case you are interested.

There are 3 rounds of competition.

In the 1st Round (January 16-24, 2015), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.

The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (March 12-15, 2015) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story.

Judges choose finalists from the 2nd Round to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (April 24-25, 2015).  A panel of judges review the final round stories and overall winners are selected.

If this sounds like fun to you, it’s easy to register.  First, download and read the Official Rules and Participation Agreement.  Once you have read and understood the terms, you are ready to register by clicking here.  The entry fee is US$45* by the Early Entry Deadline of December 11, 2014 and then US$55* until the Final Entry Deadline of January 15, 2015.

Every writer receives feedback from the judges for every story submitted, and a special review forum is available for the participants to submit their stories for review from fellow writers throughout the competition.  During the Short Story Challenge 2014, there were over 3,300 comments made on the 200+ stories submitted on the forum.  Click here to visit the forums.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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