Excerpt from “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”

ASHFborderWith all the talk of Ebola, with all the scares and scaremongering, it’s hard for me not to shudder. I’d spent years researching viruses, bioengineering, bioweapons, and human experimentation (experiments humans did on each other) for my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and though I knew what could happen, I always thought that somehow we’d be able to bypass a real epidemic. It’s still possible, though it’s also possible that by the new year, there will be 1,000,000 victims of the Ebola virus.

Here is an excerpt from A Spark of Heavenly Fire detailing some of the things I discovered in my research. Oh, my. What wondrous creatures we humans are! The red death was my own creation, based on viruses that various scientists had played around with.

Excerpt:

Greg was sitting at his computer, trying unsuccessfully to access the Internet, when he heard someone plop down in the chair behind him. Assuming Olaf had stopped by for his morning chat, Greg smiled as he swiveled his chair around.

The smile faded when he saw Clara D’Onofrio regarding him with red-rimmed, feverish eyes that glowed against her abnormally pale skin.

“Are you okay?” he asked, hoping she wouldn’t take offense.

She made a small gesture with her hand as if to brush away his concern, opened her briefcase, and removed a sheaf of papers.

“I spent most of the night researching biological weapons,” she said. “You would not believe the stuff I found. Did you know that the entire genetic code for the Black Death has been mapped, and the genetic sequences have been posted on the web?”

Greg blinked, then shook his head no.

“Also cholera and smallpox. Smallpox! Who in their right mind would mess around with smallpox? It has killed more people over the ages than any other disease, claiming at least three hundred million victims in the twentieth century alone. Why did the World Health Organization spend ten years eradicating smallpox from the face of the earth when scientists all over the world now mass produce it?”

“If they eradicated it, where did the smallpox come from?” Greg asked.

“They eradicated it in the wild, but a lot of research facilities retained samples, including Ft. Detrick in Maryland.”

Clara riffled through her sheaf of papers and plucked one from the bunch. “It says here the Russians built an underground facility capable of growing eighty to one hundred tons—tons!—of the smallpox virus every year. Get this — they modified it genetically, combining the smallpox with Ebola and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, a brain virus.”

“Jeez,” Greg said, feeling sick to his stomach. “As if smallpox by itself weren’t lethal enough.”

“Tell me about it. What’s even worse, the collapse of the Soviet Union left hundreds of biological research scientists unemployed. Many of them took the smallpox with them when they went to work for other countries like Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, India, and maybe even Israel and Pakistan. And of course, the United States.

“Can you imagine what would happen if any of the new strains of the disease escaped from the laboratory? They’d travel around the world so fast and kill so many people, it would make the red death appear inconsequential.”

“No, I can’t imagine it,” Greg said. “To be honest, I have a hard time imagining the red death, even though it’s happening now. It’s too big. Too many have died. I think that’s why I focus on the puzzle aspect — who created it, and why. It’s something my mind can comprehend.”

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

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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.

How Much of a Song Can You Quote for Your Book?

In a recent discussion about copyright in my online writer’s group, the writers were speculating about how much of a song’s lyrics they could legally use in their books.

Many of the writers suggested using just a few lines but being sure to give credit, some quoted “fair use” rulings, others said . . . well, it doesn’t matter what they said. The question of how much of a song you can use is not an opinion, but a matter of law. (Even after the correct response was given, the writers continued to speculate, so I finally put an end to the speculation by deleting the discussion.)

Fair use laws allow using bits of copyrighted materials without having to obtain permission, though what constitutes “fair use” is murky and subject to interpretation by the courts. According to the US Copyright Office, there are four factor to determine what is fair use:

music1       The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2       The nature of the copyrighted work

3       The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4       The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

My quoting this report could be (and I hope it is) a valid and fair use of the material since I am using it for purposes of illustration in a scholarly article.

Which means you can use song lyrics, right? Wrong. Song lyrics are exempt from fair use because of the shortness of the work. Using a paragraph of War and Peace is miniscule compared to the entirety of the work so fair use applies. Using a few words of a song is like quoting dozens chapters from War and Peace — the portion is too great and therefore fair use does not apply. So what does this mean? If the song is not in the public domain (and no song written after 1923 is in the public domain), you cannot use any part of the song except the title unless you get permission.

It’s tempting to use song lyrics because lyrics are a shortcut to creating mood or to developing a character, but if you don’t want to go through the sometimes lengthy wait for a response to your request (and perhaps be subjected to hefty royalty payments) then you either use the title of the song or paraphrase the lyrics in some way. You can, of course, write your own song lyrics (you are a writer, right?), or if you must quote lyrics, you can use songs in the public domain. (Most songs before 1923 are in the public domain, but check first to make sure someone didn’t copyright the lyrics of a song you might want to use.)

So, short and succinct. How many words of a song published after 1923 can you legally quote in your written work without getting permission? None. Zero. Zilch.

End of discussion.

***

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.

How to Become a Bestselling (Romance) Author

I don’t know how to become a bestselling non-genre writer, which is what I am — a non-genre writer. (Recently a reviewer took exception to my non-genre status, giving A Spark of Heavenly Fire only two stars because she expected the novel to be romantic/suspense, an action/adventure or a good mystery. She admitted the book contained all of these elements but not enough to tag the story as such. I wanted to leave a “duh” response, but I’ve been around long enough to know that arguing with a reviewer is never a good idea.) But I do know a bit about how to beome a bestselling romance writer since I’ve studied so much of their techniques in my quest to become a bestseller myself.

First, write good story, create or have a cover designer create a compelling cover that says “buy me,” and give your book a thorough edit or get someone to do it for you. A good editing is paramount. With so many romance novels on the market, you need to be a bit better than average to stand out. (Unless, of course, you are the first person to write erotic vampire bondage books or any such novelty, then of course, you can write however you wish.)

Second, finish book two and three in the series, and give them a good editing, also. Then give away the first book in the series to as many people as possible using a Smashwords coupon. Give the book away on blogs, on FB, as a mass mailing, maybe even on Smashwords itself for a short time. Sign up for a giveaway on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and wherever else you can. But this only works after the three books are published because otherwise it doesn’t gain you much of a marketing advantage. If all the books are published and readers like the first book in a series, they will buy the others. There are too many books published now for readers to want to wait for additional books in a series, which is why more than one book in a series needs to be published if you really want the marketing push to count. If the book is professional, one of a published series, is romance and especially regency romance, and has a touch of eroticism (more than a touch is even better), that’s all you have to do. Amazon’s algorithms will do the rest. Theoretically, at least.

Although social networking is often touted as the best way of promoting books, it is slow and doesn’t really help a lot in making you a bestselling author, but it can increase awareness of your books once you become known. Also, a bit of social networking can help you find other romance writers who might promote your books if you promote theirs (such reciprocal promotions have catapulted many romance authors and thriller writers into stardom). You might even find fans who will be delighted to help spread the word about your book for a bit of swag. It’s good to have a blog or be part of a multi-author blog so your readers can keep up with you, though you don’t have to blog regularly, just once a week on a personal blog or once a month on a multi-author blog since for the most part blogging doesn’t sell books.  A Facebook presence or a Twitter account is also nice, but none of these will make you a bestselling author by themselves. Oh, sure, there are people who have made a killing using Facebook, but they are generally those who sell books about how to make a killing on Facebook. And some people play the link (spam) game, posting their book links to thousands of groups on Facebook, but since most of the people in those groups are also playing the link game, the results are variable.

In today’s book world, as much as I hate to admit it, Amazon is the key.

If you don’t have a romance series or if you do have such a series and wish to give your book an extra push, do KDP select but list the book for $.99 on free days. You don’t get as many downloads as you would if the book were free, but the book stats are figured with the regular books not the free books, and so it has a longer lasting effect.

In addition, try giveaway sites like http://readcheaply.com/, 99 cent sites like http://www.pixelofink.com/sskb/ and paid sites like http://digitalbooktoday.com/join-our-team/

This is such good advice, I wish I were interested in writing romance series!

As for A Spark of Heavenly Fire: if you’re interested in seeing if the above mentioned reviewer is correct, until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory

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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.

Excerpt from “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”

ASHFborderStraight from today’s headlines! In the novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire, hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. In an effort to stop the disease from spreading beyond the state of Colorado where the disease originated, the entire state is quarantined. In this dangerous world, Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.

-

Excerpt:

After an uneventful day at work, Kate hurried home through the silent streets. More than half the houses she passed had fluorescent orange dots splashed on their front doors indicating that someone had died within. Beside some of those doors were small shrines or memorials—artificial flowers, crosses, dolls, teddy bears. Other houses were unlit, mute testimony that entire families had died.

A white unmarked delivery van stopped in front of a house that already had one fluorescent dot on the door. When two men jumped out of the truck and ran up the porch steps, she knew that soon another orange mark would appear next to the first.

She could hear the men lamenting the loss of the Broncos while they waited for someone to answer their knock. It seemed strange that they spoke of such a prosaic matter. Shouldn’t they be crying, “Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” as their counterparts during the Black Death had done?

As she neared the house, she could see the door open. An old woman with bowed head and trembling shoulders stood aside to let the two men enter.

Kate had passed the house by the time the men emerged with their burden, but she could hear the thud of the body when they threw it into the van.

She thought of Greg and how he had cradled Mrs. Robin’s body in his arms as he carried her down the alley and how he had gently laid her under a tree.

And how he had said he liked her, Kate, very much.

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

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.

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

ASHFborderI got a call last night from a woman who had recently read my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. She didn’t know whether to be excited or appalled at how closely some of the news commentaries about Ebola resemble my story. (Excited because it seemed as if the book had come to life. Appalled because it seemed as if the horrifying events in the novel were coming to pass.)

Quarantines. Possibilities of artificially enhanced viruses. Troops sent to fight the virus and/or troops sent to contain the infected areas. So much drama and controversy! Not only are these the subjects of today’s headlines, they all form the story of A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Viruses created — or enhanced — in laboratories are nothing new. Well, let’s say the theory of such atrocious diseases are nothing new. I couldn’t swear to the truth of it, and quite frankly, I don’t want to know. Sill, some people believe the 1914 flu originated with biological warfare experimentation gone out of control. Aids has always been accompanied by theories of bioengineering.

In fact, noting that outbreaks of the plague during the Middle Ages were accompanied by strange phenomena such as torpedo-shaped craft emitting noxious mists and men dressed all in black walking through the streets with long instruments that made a swishing sound like a scythe, some researchers have concluded that the Black Death was a purposely created disease. Supposedly, the power elite wanted to cut back the rapidly increasing population and dumb down the human race, or at least stop the furious pace of technology. The alchemists, a greater percentage of the population than anyone imagined, were learning about nuclear fusion and fission. The Arabs were learning about rocketry and jet propulsion. Architecture, as manifested in European cathedrals, was unsurpassed. Along with many other technological inventions, a simple binary machine—a computer—had been created. What would the world have been like without the Black Death?

Forget the Black Death. What would the world be like today without Ebola?

Even worse, what will it be like with it?

If you’re interested in my depiction of a world struggling to deal with a pandemic, I hope you will check out A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since I based them on executive orders Clinton signed into law.

Art imitating life imitating art.

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

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.

What If an Entire State Were Quarantined?

ASHFbordersmPeople are being quarantined in Texas, healthy people who simply hosted someone who was ill with Ebola. What if the disease spreads? What if more cases are found? What if a whole town or maybe a whole state were quarantined to prevent a pandemic?

This is the premise of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The disease in the story is not Ebola, the avian flu, or any known disease, but a lab-created disease that had its origins in biological warfare experimentation. This fictional disease was created to be unstoppable, to wipe out entire populations. And it fell into the wrong hands.

Because the disease began in Colorado and that is where most of the victims lived — and died — the entire state is quarantined and martial law is put into effect. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since they are based on executive orders Clinton signed into law. The wonderful thing about writing such a book is that I didn’t have to imagine any of the horrors. Our own president did the work for me.

We are coming up on the supposed anniversary date of the publication of A Spark of Heavenly Fire. (I say supposed because although it wasn’t published until March 25, 2009, Amazon lists the publication date as November 23, 2008.) I hope you will check out this still relevant novel, thinking as you do so of the small quarantine in Texas (small in numbers, and perhaps even small in consequence, but huge to the people whose freedom is being denied). It happened to them. It could happen to you.

To celebrate this faux anniversary, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. Offer expires on November 23, 2014. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

***

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.

Excerpt From More Deaths Than One

More Deaths Than OneDescription: More Deaths Than One: Bob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in Southeast Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. He attends her new funeral and sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on? And why are two men who appear to be government agents hunting for him? With the help of Kerry Casillas, a baffling young woman Bob meets in a coffee shop, he uncovers the unimaginable truth.

Excerpt:

“My dad was a CO in the war,” Beth said proudly.

Bob shot a questioning glance at Scott. “A commanding officer?”

Scott snorted. “Not hardly. I registered as a con-scientious objector.”

“He got sent into combat,” Rose said. “Can you believe that?”

Bob drew back. “Combat? A lot of conscientious objectors, including Quakers have served in the military, but they were usually given duties like medic or clerk. I never heard of any being sent into combat.”

Scott shrugged. “Well, they sent me. I don’t know if it was a mistake or someone’s idea of a sick joke.”

“Dad wouldn’t fire his weapon,” Jimmy said. “He believes killing for any reason is wrong.”

“He won’t even kill bugs or spiders,” Beth added.

Kerry laid aside her fork. “It must have been terrible.”

Rose nodded. “They assigned him jobs of a particularly filthy or menial nature, like permanent latrine duty, trench digging, and retrieval of dead bodies.”

“Someone had to do it,” Scott said.

“I know, but they didn’t have to harass you the way they did.”

“They thought I was a coward, hiding behind my religious beliefs to get out of combat duty.” He sighed. “Maybe I was.”

“No you weren’t,” Rose said fiercely. “It took a lot of courage to maintain your dignity in the face of their hatred. And you always had to dodge bullets and skirt explosions on your way to rescue injured men.”

She turned to Kerry. “During combat he had to get the wounded out of the line of fire and to help the medic care for them.”

Kerry’s eyes widened. “I can’t even begin to comprehend the strength it must have taken to survive not only a combat zone, but the torment of one’s own countrymen.”

“I had my faith to sustain me,” Scott said.

Beth shuddered. “They shot my dad.”

“The bullet gouged a furrow on my thigh, a flesh wound.” Scott smiled. “In the movies they always say, ‘It’s just a flesh wound,’ as if it’s nothing, but mine hurt like the dickens. They wouldn’t give me many painkillers, either. One nurse pompously told me they didn’t want us wounded soldiers getting addicted so they cut back, but another nurse whispered that the hospital workers had used the drugs themselves for fun. They must have received new supplies, because I didn’t notice much after those first few days—they kept me doped—but I do remember being transferred to a hospital in the Philippines.”

“Can you believe they sent him back to Vietnam after that?” Rose said. “It makes me furious thinking about it.”

Scott reached across the table and grasped her hand. “When I got back, my sergeant said to me, ‘Now that you know being a conscientious objector doesn’t keep you from getting wounded or even killed, are you ready to do your duty as a combat soldier?’ ‘I have no control over the actions of other people,’ I told him. ‘If the VC choose to shoot me, there’s not much I can do about it. The only choice I have is whether or not to shoot them, and I will not kill anyone.’ He glared at me and ordered me to get out of his sight and to keep out of his sight, because I disgraced the U.S. Army.”

Scott kept silent for a time while his family gazed sympathetically at him. Bob watched them, thinking the man had more than his faith to sustain him.

Scott drew in a breath. “Everyone still treated me the same until after the next engagement. We were under heavy fire, and many of our guys got wounded. I kept busy hauling injured men away from the front line. Afterwards, the sergeant came to me and said, ‘Glad to see you finally got some balls.’ The others guys stopped ostracizing me as if by getting shot I had passed some sort of test, like an initiation, but sometimes I could hear them snickering at me behind my back.”

“Do you think maybe you changed?” Kerry asked.

“No. Well, in little ways, of course. I became more self-confident, knowing I had never wavered in my beliefs even though my faith had been severely tested, and occasionally I have nightmares that make me sick to my stomach, but for the most part I’m the same as always.”

Kerry pushed aside her plate, folded her arms on the table, and gave Scott an intent look. “What kind of nightmares?”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I can’t.”

“Sure you can,” Jimmy said. “You always say we can do anything.”

Rose gazed at Scott with anxious eyes. “Maybe you should tell her, dear. You have always refused to talk about your nightmares, even to us, but perhaps it’s time.”

“Go ahead, Dad,” Beth chimed in. “You can tell Kerry.”

“But what if you find out my life is a lie?” Scott asked his wife. “What if you find out I’m an evil person?”

Rose looked at him in astonishment. “Evil? You?”

“In my dreams I am.”

“But those are only dreams.”

Scott held her gaze. After a moment he spoke in a voice so low Bob could barely make out his words. “In one of my dreams, the VC is firing on us. I see a man down. He’s hurt badly and is trying to crawl away. I go to help him, but before I drag him to safety, I take his M-16 from him. I don’t know why. I just do it. Then, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, I shoot the VC. I see blood spurting out of the men I shoot, and I hear their screams, but I keep shooting. When the rifle is empty, I return the weapon to the injured soldier, who is staring at me as if he can’t believe what he saw. He laughs, and I awaken with the sound of his laughter still echoing in my ears.

“All the dreams I have are similar to that one, but they involve different firefights and different men, as if I killed many times.

“I don’t know what these dreams mean. I don’t know why I dream them. But the idea that I murdered people, even if only in my dreams, makes me so sick I have to vomit. Sometimes after I’ve thrown up I feel as if I’ve gotten rid of the evil, but other times I feel as if the evil is a permanent part of me, and I wonder if somehow I did do those things.”

He looked at Bob with sad, sad eyes. “But it is only a dream, right?”

Download (free) the first 30% of: More Deaths Than One

Click here to buy: More Deaths Than One on Amazon

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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.

Dancing My Way Out of Grief

Today was a particularly intense day for me at the dance studio. I took three classes. Ballet, which wants to twist my body in ways it wasn’t meant to go. Advanced tap, where I am totally out of my depth. And advanced jazz, which wasn’t hard, just exhausting.

The difficulty of the day, particularly tap, which is hard enough for me at a beginner’s level but confusingly difficult in a more advanced class, reminded me of my first days at the studio. I started out with jazz, not knowing what to expect, not knowing I would fall in love with dance and end up taking all possible classes. Since I had no background in dance, and since the group had been together for quite a while before I joined, I was more or less just dumped in the middle of a dance and told to follow along as best as I could until the teacher could find time to work with me. I tried to emulate the others, but even the simplest steps were beyond me. But I practiced. And I learned. Even more importanjazz shoest, I learned how to learn to dance, which is vastly different from learning how to learn academic subjects. (Knowing how to learn is the key to learning, as I’m sure you know.) With more cerebral pursuits, you only have to put your mind in gear. With physical lessons, you have to put your body, mind, and soul into the experience, and once I’d learned to walk, I never had to put that much effort into learning physical things for the simple reason that I had no interest in such matters.

Last summer, before I started taking dance classes, I’d gone on excursions, traveled, visited museums, and did whatever I could to get myself to look more to the present and future rather than back at the past, but I was still subject to upsurges in grief. I was happy enough while doing such things, but as soon as they were over, the sadness descended once again. Dance was the first thing I did that rippled into subsequent days, probably because it was so difficult, all-consuming, and exciting, and it brought me to life.

Learning is my talent, my joy, the thing that makes life worth living, and dance plays into that aptitude for learning since as soon as I learn one step or one dance, there is another one to learn. Even more than that, dance helped push aside the physical memories of my shared life with my soul mate.

When someone close to you dies, especially someone whose life is connected to yours on a profound level, you remember him not just with your mind but with your body. So often, when anniversaries came around, such as the anniversary of his cancer diagnosis or the anniversary of our last kiss, I didn’t remember the day, but my body did. Visiting art museums, reading, writing, walking, helped push the mental memories of him into the far reaches of my mind, but until I began to learn how to dance, there was nothing to distance the body memories.

To a great extent, dance is about body memory. If you have to pay attention to every move you’ve learned instead of letting your body remember, you lose the rhythm of the dance as well as any nuance, and chances are, you’d lose the sense of the movement itself. (For example, in ballet class a couple of days ago, we were trying to figure out why my body wouldn’t do what the steps required it to do, and at one point, the teacher stood behind me, put her hands on my shoulders to feel my movements, and told me to walk. I couldn’t move — for that moment, I forgot how to walk. I was trying to remember in my mind how to walk rather than remembering with my body.)

It’s no surprise that some of my classmates have also suffered a severe loss, whether the death of a husband or a horrendous divorce. For us, dance is not just something fun to do, but a pilgrimage to the far reaches of our new lives.

I’ve come a long way in the year since I showed up for my first dance class. I know more than a dozen dances, know all sorts of different steps and combinations, know that no matter how hard a dance is, I will learn it.

And most of all, I know I am alive.

***

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.

Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER

Description of Light Bringer by Pat Bertram :

LBBecka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? What do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area? And how does Jane fit into the puzzle?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

Realizing Mac was waiting for her reaction, Jane said in a noncommittal voice, “You saw a UFO.”

Mac winced. “UFO? No. An FO. There was nothing unidentified about it. I knew exactly what I saw.”

“An extraterrestrial space ship,” she said flatly.

“Of course not, and aliens didn’t abduct me, either. It happened right after I closed on this property. Unable to sleep, I drove out here and was leaning against my rental car looking at the stars when the crescent flew directly overhead. I could see it as plainly as I’m seeing you right now.

“The craft was about fifteen feet in diameter, made of a composite ceramic. A remarkably conductive amalgam of the most refined copper and the purest silver coated its underside, turning it into an electrical circuit offering no resistance to the wave of electromagnetic energy it floated on. It was absolutely silent, sweeping in ions from its flight path, like a whale feeding on plankton. The ionized air around it glowed, giving it an unearthly look, but it was very much terrestrial in origin.”

Jane lifted her hands and let them drop. “How could you learn all that from one brief sighting?”

“I was part of a team working on a craft exactly like it, only we hadn’t been able to get ours off the ground, at least not then.”

She regarded him warily.

“I’m not insane,” he said, answering her unvoiced question. “I’m an aerospace engineer, retired from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.”

It took a minute or two for the significance of his story to register. “I see. You think Stellar Optics was a cover for a space telescope project, which was a cover for the real project—the development of a flying saucer.”

He didn’t respond, but he didn’t contradict her, either.

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

Update on Writing, Spirits, and Other Matters

Lately I’ve been hearing about all sorts of blatant plagiarism, where “authors” steal another writer’s published book, adding sex scenes or scrambling a few words and passing it off as their own. In one case, a plagiarist stole the exact cover of the book. In this brave new world of publishing where anything goes, it’s harder than ever to keep control of one’s own work. Once it’s in the public eye, the book is available to anyone with a few cents for an ebook download. Chances are, the plagiarized book would be lost in the millions of books now available, and even if the crime was discovered, most self-published authors don’t have the money to fight such infringements, and even if they did, it’s one person’s word against the other. Many self published authors don’t even bother to register their books with the copyright office in their country because once a book is written, it’s automatically covered under copyright laws. But courts are a different matter. They need the official copyright to proceed with trials and repercussions.

bookI’ve never quite known what to do about publishing my work. For now, I have a publisher, but when I get back to writing Ms. Cicy’s Nightmare, a murder mystery based on my dance class, I will continue publishing it on my blog, the way I started. (I am a bit embarrassed that the book is in hiatus after a single chapter, but in my defense, as soon as I cleared the month of July to write, life filled the void with all sorts of traumas and family dramas, which I am only now recovering from.) But when the book is finished? I might or might not get an official copyright. I am not litigious, so chances are I wouldn’t take any copyright infringement to court. Besides, I could easily prove the book is mine since the names of my characters will reflect their real-life personas. At least, that’s the plan. Besides, I don’t much like government intervention of any kind, even if it’s in my best interests.

The ordeals of the last month, including my father’s hospitalization, my brother’s, increased insanity and my trip to return him to Colorado have pretty much numbed my creativity. Since so many of the would-be perpetrators are on hiatus’s of their own — weddings, vacations, illnesses — I don’t have much impetus to write, but soon . . .

As for other updates:

My sister and I drank spirits to the spirits again tonight, if only to bolster our own spirits.

And lastly, I just got an email from Squidoo saying they been purchased by HubPages and that some of my content will be transferred to the HubPages site. Do you have any experience with HubPages? I’m trying to decide if I should just delete my Squidoo account and forget the whole thing or let them transfer my content.

***

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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