More “More Deaths Than One”

I seem to be fascinated by characters who die “more deaths than one.” In my novel of that name (taken from Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” — he who lives more lives than one / more deaths than one must die), poor Bob Stark returns home after living in Southeast Asia for eighteen years to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again.

The steampunk anthology I am helping put together begins with my story about Florence Giston, Flo for short. (I couldn’t resist that name. Flo Giston. Phlogiston. Seemed appropriate.) The opening paragraphs of that story read:

The first time her husband died, Florence Giston felt such feral grief, she feared she’d never survive. She’d always tried to look on the bright side of things, but she could find no bright side to this situation. Her husband was dead, and she felt as if she had died, too.

“You can’t let it get you down,” said Alexander Giston, her father-in-law. “Just because Robert and Mary died, it doesn’t mean they are gone forever.”

The second time Robert died, Florence’s already broken heart shattered beyond repair. Robert had been her whole life, and to lose him twice seemed unbearably cruel. She vowed never to go through such trauma again, yet when Al announced he intended to try to save his wife and his son again, Flo begged to go with him.

“I need to see Robert once more,” she said. “Need” seemed a paltry word to describe the yearning that clawed at her, but Al must have understood her desperation, because he agreed to let her accompany him on his second trip to their shared past.

Time travel brings with it delicious ironies. In this case, Flo’s view of Robert — and herself — isn’t exactly what she expected.

A young woman stepped outside. “What’s going on?” she asked, her voice soft and tremulous.

Flo stared at herself, at the brown lace stockings, the brown gored skirt, the brown jacket, the brown plumed hat. What was I thinking? She vowed to throw out all the brown clothes she owned, including the brown shirtwaist she now wore.

“This is dad from the future,” Mary said. “He’s come to save us from certain death.” Catching the irony in her mother-in-law’s voice, Flo wondered if she’d underestimated the woman. Mary had always seemed so drab despite the bright colors she chose to wear. Was nothing as she remembered?

“Good of him,” Robert said. There was no irony in his voice, no affection. “We can take the aeroship.”

“Well, no.” Al scuffled his feet. “I already saved you once. I came back and made you take the aeroship, and it crashed. They never found your bodies.”

Flo stifled an urge to laugh, but Robert didn’t even crack a smile. “I’ll drive the Steamer,” he said.

“Couldn’t you just stay home?” Al asked, a note of pleading in his voice.

Mary shook her head. “It’s my father’s funeral. I have to be there.”

“We’ll be fine,” Robert said. “The Stratosphere Steamer is the safest automobile on the road.”

Also the fastest, Flo thought, but she kept her mouth shut. So far, the Gistons hadn’t noticed her, and perhaps it was just as well. Robert had never seemed to be able to handle one of her; two might overtax his feeble imagination.

Appalled at the direction of her thoughts, Flo slipped back into the lab. She’d loved Robert dearly, had mourned him twice, so what prompted her to be so dismissive of him now? Remembering how besotted she’d been, she wondered if love hadn’t been the blessing she’d always presumed it to be, but had instead been a prison, keeping her emotionally shackled to a man for whom she had little respect.

This anthology is scheduled to be published in May. I’m looking forward to seeing it finally in print.

breaktime-3bsmall

***

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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Steampunk Anthology Coming Soon!

Two years ago, a couple of authors approached me about doing a collaborative novel similar to the Rubicon Ranch collaboration I’d been writing with other Second Wind authors. We invited a few other authors to do this new collaboration. Two of the authors suggested we do steampunk.I’d never heard of steampunk. Couldn’t even guess what it was. To be honest, I’m not sure I know even now what it is. Still, we all agreed. Such a collaboration is about stretching ourselves as authors, and how better to stretch than by doing something we’ve never done before.

The two authors who talked us into doing steampunk ended up walking away, leaving us with a story no one knew how to write. The rest of us decided to stick with the project anyway. Why not? We’re writers. We can fake it. We also got the internet with all its research capabilities to help us.

Wikipedia defines steampuSteamnk as “a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, horror, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is widely used — whether in an alternate history such as Victorian era Britain or “Wild West”-era United States, or in a post-apocalyptic time — that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy.”

In “How Do I Write A Steampunk Story?” Dru Pagliassotti says, “Steampunk fiction consists of two elements — the steam, or gaslamp aesthetic, iconography specific to the genre — and the punk, a critical ideology or political stance that satirizes, challenges, or subverts societal trends.”

Most of us writers were in a strange non-writing mode, so it was hard finding the time or the words. Although a chapter was supposed to be written each week, with each of us taking a turn, life often got in the way, and those weeks turned into months. Instead, the others decided we should finish the book not as a collaborative novel but as an anthology.

The anthology is almost finished now, and it’s actually quite an interesting collection of stories, all written around a single theme of time travel and “killing steam.” (The time traveler’s wife and son were killed in a steam engine accident, and since he couldn’t bring them back, he decided steam was to blame and so traveled back in time to try to divert the progress of the steam engine.)

I feel good about finally winding up this project. I have no real desire for longterm projects right now. My life is up in the air, and I don’t know from day to day what is going to happen. (Well, that’s true of everyone, of course, but generally people feel at least a bit settled.)

The anthology will be published both as a book and as a blog. I’ll let you know when it’s finally available.

***

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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Bloody Valentine Blog Hop

A. F. Stewart is hosting this blog hop to celebratate heartbreak, love gone wrong, romantic mayhem and tragedy, hopefully with that little splash of humour and blood. There is no blood in the following short story of mine, but there is plenty of hearbreak in only 100 words.

The Kiss (100-Word Story) by Pat Bertram

When Jack entered her flower shop, all Jen could do was stare. It had been years since she’d seen him, years she’d spent regretting their final quarrel, yet she still felt the same attraction. His heavy-lidded gaze told her he felt it, too.

He held out a hand, and she let him draw her close for a kiss that spanned the years. She snuggled into his embrace. Everything would be perfect now that they were together again.

“How did you know I was here?” she asked.

“I didn’t. I just came in to buy flowers.”

“For me?”

“For my wife.”

***

“The Kiss” and five more of my 100-word stories were published in the Second Wind Publishing anthology Love is on the Wind, which you can download free from Kindle or Smashwords today.

I hope you will check out these other blogs participating in today’s Bloody Valentine Blog Hop. There should be plenty of mayhem to satisfy your both your romantic and unromantic desires.

Valentine Logo

A Diamond In The Dark

GetYourBookNoticed

A Bloody Kind of Lust

Keith Pyeatts Horror with Heart Blog

Musings of Papa Zen

The Cult of Me

Bestiary Parlor: The Musings of a Zoologist

Sheila Deeth’s Blog

Ash Kraftons Demimonde

GMTA UK

Yours in Storytelling

Author JCooper

Laughing for a Living

Lift You Up

Spoiler Princess

The Curse Books

Worldbinding

Pagan Spirits book blog

Random Babble

Exile on Peachtree Street

A. F. Stewarts Blog

Story Excerpt From “Second Helpings” ~ The Gift by Pat Bertram

Second Helpings
An Anthology of Holiday Recipes and Short Stories
From Authors of  Second Wind Publishing

Second Helpings

A perfect gift for short story lovers and food connoisseurs!

From sweet childhood remembrances to fanciful solutions of family dramas to romantic relationships that begin–or end–during the holidays, Second Helpings is an anthology of stories and memories, but most especially of recipes. Our end-of-year celebrations are occasions that bring reunions with unforgettable feasts and that one special, treasured dish. At the end of each story, vignette, reminiscence, you’ll find a recipe or collection of recipes that will make your next holiday memorable as well.

EXCERPT FROM:

The Gift
By
Pat Bertram

Monica Dryden hummed along with the Christmas carols on the radio as she pulled the chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. They were David’s favorite, and she’d baked them for him every Christmas Eve for as long as they’d been together—five years now—continuing a tradition his mother started when he was a boy.

Still humming, Monica transferred the baked goods from the cookie sheet to a plate she’d purchased for the occasion—white china with a cheerful holly border. Her family had been too poor and too indolent to do much for Christmas, so making the holidays special for David brought her extra joy.

David Hollister. Even his name seemed to promise holiday cheer.

She put the plate of cookies and a glass of milk on a tray, added a sprig of holly from the bowl in the center of the table, and bore her offerings to the living room where David watched television.

He didn’t take his eyes from the screen when she nestled against him, but he didn’t pull away either, as he sometimes did. She smiled to herself, thinking how pleased he would be with the burgundy sweater and pinstriped shirt she’d bought him.

“Do you have to do that?” David asked.

“Do what?”

“You’re humming.”

She clapped a hand to her mouth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize—”

“Are those chocolate chip cookies?”

“Of course.”

He clicked off the television and turned to face her. “We have to talk.” He spoke the words softly, almost kindly, but still they chilled her.

“Talk about what?” she asked warily.

“It’s not working out.”

“What’s not working out?”

“Us. We’re not right for each other. You’re too . . . predictable.”

She stared at him as if he’d spoken in an alien tongue. “Predictable? Me? You’re the one who insists on my doing the same things the same way. Remember those throw pillows I bought? You said—”

“That’s the old me. The new me wants . . . change.”

Her head snapped back as if she’d been hit. David wanted change? Since when? She opened her mouth and said the only thing that came to her stupefied mind. “Do you want me to make you a different kind of cookie?”

“This isn’t about cookies. It’s about . . .” He looked at her, expecting her to supply the words as she often did. She usually knew what he was thinking and could easily fill in his missing words, but now she couldn’t even hazard a guess.

David’s eyes shifted from side to side as if he were searching frantically for a way out of the conversation. Finally his gaze settled on his hands. “I want a divorce.”

Monica froze, then, getting control of herself, she pulled her shoulders back and lifted her chin. “You can’t have a divorce.”

He jumped to his feet and all but screamed, “I knew you’d be difficult about this. Why can’t I have a divorce?”

“We’re not married,” Monica said evenly.

He gaped at her for a moment, then a grin that broke her heart spread across his face. “That’s right. I forgot.”

Monica slumped forward, elbows on knees, head in her hands. He forgot? How was that possible? Just last week they’d talked about getting married. No . . . wait. She’d talked about getting married. He’d nodded with a faraway look in his eyes that made her think he’d been seeing their future together but apparently only meant he hadn’t been listening.

David’s voice seemed to come from a long way off. “I’ll guess I’ll be leaving.”

Monica jerked upright. “You’re leaving? But this is your apartment.” And then, all in an instant, she understood. “Who is she?”

***

Second Helpings is available in print and all ebook formats from Second Wind Publishing.

***

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+

Murder in the Wind

Murder in the Wind is an anthology of crime/mystery short stories contributed by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. Murder, mayhem and the unexpected are rife in each riveting story.

I’m a bit biased, but my favorite story is “The Stygian Night” by . . . drum roll . . . me! As a reviewer said, “In this delicious little story by the master of misdirection, Pat Bertram so draws us into the fantasy life of would-be author Silas Slovatksy that we scarcely recognize a “real” story unfolding in the background.” Poor Silas, he wants so much to be an author, but he just doesn’t get it.

 

***

Excerpt from “The Stygian Night”:

It was a dark and stormy night.

Silas Slovotsky leaned back in his chair and studied the words he’d typed into his computer.

He grinned. Perfect. The very words he needed to set the scene. And they had the added benefit of being true. It was a dark and stormy night. Except for his porch light, of course. And the thunder and lightning—

He leaned forward and peered at the computer screen. Did the sentence seem a bit trite? Maybe he needed to spiffy it up. He opened his thesaurus to the word “dark” and ran a finger down the page. “Stygian”. That might work.

He cleared his computer screen and typed: It was a stygian night.

Nope. Didn’t have the euphoniousness of the original sentence. Perhaps if he reread what he’d already written he could figure out how to proceed.

He printed out the manuscript he’d been working on for the past four months and read the single page. Dark as Night by Jack Kemp.

A thrill ran up his spine. He could see it on the shelf in the bookstore. Kemp, King, Koontz. He’d chosen his pseudonym specifically so the reviewers could call them the unhallowed trinity. And he deserved the accolade.

A knock on the door startled him out of his dream.

Who could that be? His friends—all two of them—knew he didn’t like to be disturbed when he was writing.

***

A few of the other stories included in the anthology are:

 “A Whiff of Murder” by Lazarus Barnhill: Barnhill reintroduces a pivotal character from The Medicine People. Old, wiser, sober and cynical, Bob Vessey hasn’t lost his touch in examining crime scene evidence.

“Hanging Around” by J J Dare: This marvelous tale begins playfully with squirrels sporting around a human body, hung seventy feet off the ground and quickly suspends the reader.

“This Time” by Claire Collins: A swiftly moving, smoothly written love story that turns into serial murder and mayhem. Well, all’s fair in love and revenge.

“The Strange Disappearance of Comrade Wang” by Mickey Hoffman: Becka, an innocent and vulnerable girl, finds herself at the mercy of the authorities in a strange and hostile place.

“Murder at the Manor” by Juliet Waldron: To read Waldron’s work is to be not transported but immersed in different, distant times and places. We genuinely regret it when her story ends.

“The Spot” by Deborah J Ledford: The Spot is just what Ledford hits in this awesome little tale of revenge, remorse and restoration.

Ah, the Sacrifices We Make for the Sake of Art!

I am writing a short story to be included in the next Second Wind anthology, which is a combination of holiday short stories and recipes. At the end of my story, the wife decides to stop poisoning her husband because she realizes that even though he is not giving her what she wants, he is giving her what she needs. This change in attitude is shown by her change of cookie recipes, from an unhealthy cookie to a healthy one.

The recipes we use are supposed to be uncopyrighted, which means that to be safe, they have to be old family recipes or something we created. Oh, the pressure!!

Well, today, I finally got down to the dirty job of creating my recipe. I dragged out oatmeal, honey, applesauce, walnuts, raisins, chocolate chips, coconut, and a few spices, mixed it all together, spooned the concoction out on a cookie sheet, stuck it in the oven, and waited.

When I took the cookies out twelve minutes later, I let them cool and then . . . drum roll, please . . . I took a bite.

Ah, the sacrifices we make for the sake of art!

As it turns out, it wasn’t such a sacrifice. I got the recipe right on the first try. The cookies actually taste great and the texture isn’t bad.

Now I have an even harder job — not eating all the cookies at once. Maybe I’ll save a few for you.

(Second Wind is running a short story contest, and the winner will be included in the anthology with me and other Second Wind authors. Please click here to Vote For Your Favorite Story!)

My Publisher Is Sponsoring a Short Story Contest!

Second Wind Publishing invites you to submit an entry to their holiday short story contest.

Entries are to be holiday stories of any genre that mention a food of some kind. (The food item can be a focus of the story or simply a prop.) The winner will be included in Second Helpings, a short story/recipe anthology to be released in time for Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, New Years. So, be thinking of holiday stories with delicious recipes. The story and recipe must be your own original work since the recipe will also be published in the anthology. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. The story must not exist in print form or in any current or upcoming anthology. The story must be no longer than 5,000 words.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. There is no entry fee. The best entries will be posted on the Second Wind Publishing contest blog for everyone to read and comment. The authors and management of Second Wind Publishing will choose the three finalists, but reader comments will be taken into consideration. Entries will be judged on originality, readability, writing skills, characterization, plot, and how well they fit in with the theme of the anthology. Spelling and grammar count. The decision of the judges is final.

Everyone is welcome to vote for the winner, which is to be chosen from the three finalists. The winner will be the finalist with the most comments.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Second Helpings. The winner will also receive a coupon from Smashwords.com for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs. And the winner will receive a one year free VIP account from Angie’s Diary, the online writing magazine to help you get even more exposure for your writing. ($99 value).

All entries will be deleted once the contest is over.

The contest begins April 1, 2012 and ends June 30, 2012.

Schedule:
June 30, 2012 at 11:59 pm ET: Contest ends.
July 1 — July 15, 2012: Judging of entries by 2W (and 2W authors) to pick top three entries
July 15 — July 31, 2012: Judging of the three finalists by blog readers to pick the winner
August 1, 2012: Winner announced
October 1, 2012 Book published (In an ideal world …)

Please send your entries as a Word .doc or .docx to secondwindpublishing(at)gmail.com Be sure to replace (at) with @ and use “Holiday Contest” for the subject line.

See complete listing of rules at http://secondwindcontests.wordpress.com/

Best of luck to all of you!!

My Short Story “The Willow” Has Been Anthologized!

My short story, “The Willow,” has been published in the Second Wind anthology Change is in the Wind. Reviewer Sheila Deeth says:  “Pat Bertram’s ‘The Willow’ haunts with its beautiful portrayal of love and loss.”

I hope you will read this story. It did what I wanted, capturing the essence of timeless love and the new life that comes from loss. You don’t even have to buy the book. I’ll let you download the anthology this week for free! To download the ebook, go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/146269, pick the format of your choice, and then use coupon code HG57Y when you purchase the book. Your cost should be $0.00 (Offer expires April 17, 2012)

Excerpt from “The Willow”:

One summer day, shortly after their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Gracie was curled on the couch, proofing the catalog for an exhibit of the new modernists, when Scott trudged into the room. Gladness at the sight of him sparked a smile as always, but something in his manner . . .  a hesitation . . . made her smile fade.

“Do we have any plant food?” he asked, his words slurred.

“There should be some in the garage.” She peered at him. “Are you okay?”

“I think I’m dying.”

Gracie bolted upright, heart pounding so hard it shook her body. “What?”

“A little plant food should help.” Scott started to walk away.

“Wait! Just wait a minute, Scott.”

He glanced over his shoulder, a questioning furrow between his brows.

“You can’t just drop a bomb like that and then leave as if nothing happened,” she said.

“What bomb?”

She stared at him for a second, unable to speak, but finally managed to croak out the words. “You said, ‘I think I’m dying.’”

“I didn’t say you were dying.”

“Not me. You. You said you were dying.”

“I said the tree was dying. You never listen, do you?”

The chill in his voice froze her. All she could do was sit immobile on the suddenly uncomfortable couch and watch him. He stumbled as he left the room, and his shoulder hit the doorjamb.

Fear, like fury, flashed through her body. Something was wrong with Scott. Terribly wrong. In all their years together, he’d never spoken to her in such a tone. She hadn’t even known he had such a tone. And that stumble? He was the most graceful man she’d ever met, walking on the high beams of his buildings as if they were earth-bound sidewalks.

She chased after Scott and found him staring up at the canopy of the globe willow. Golden leaves sprinkled down on him as if it were fall instead of just beyond spring.

“Do we have any plant food?” he asked, warmth and worry in his voice.

Gracie put a hand to her mouth to hold back a dry sob. Didn’t he remember that he’d already asked her about the plant food? “Maybe it’s time for you to get a check-up,” she said.

“Me? I feel good.” He grinned at her and held out his arms. “How about a little stress release, love? That’s all I need to make me feel great.”

Blurb from Change is in the Wind:

The assignment was simple: submit a short story dealing with change. The results were astonishing, engaging, and incredibly varied. The stories compiled in this volume range from taut action drama, to stealthy intrigue, to enthralling spirituality, to tangled relationships, to timeless love renewed—or lost, to angelic second chances.  No two of the tales are remotely similar, and yet they are linked in remarkable ways. Each story is tied it to all the others in the anthology with two exquisite threads. The first constant theme is redemption; in each case there is a transformation, often painful, that brings new beginnings, new possibilities and revitalized life. The second theme is love—timeless and true—expressed in a multitude of ways, but unfailing in bringing hope and newness. Change in the Wind is an extraordinary collection of marvelous stories from gifted, eclectic writers who draw us into their worlds and leave us wanting more.

Second Wind Publishing is starting a new short story contest. Perhaps you will be included in the next anthology! For information about this new contest, click here: Holiday short story contest

Short Story Contest. No Entry Fee!

Now that you’ve blogged about what you are thankful for and stuffed yourself with Thanksgiving goodies, now that you have finished your NaNoWriMo entry and celebrated your success, now that you have survived your Black Friday shopping and have not yet gotten into the Christmas mood (or have already gotten out of it)…

Think Spring!!

Second Wind Publishing is sponsoring a short story contest. The theme is . . . you guessed it! Spring. Spring and renewal to be exact. Your stories do not have to be light and uplifting (which should be welcome news for all of you writers who pen dark fiction), but they do have to fit the theme. The story should be your own work, no more than 5,000 words, and must not have been published anywhere, not even on your own blog.

There is no entry fee.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. The deadline is December 31, 2011. The best entries will be posted on the Second Wind Contest Blog for everyone to read and comment.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Change is in the Wind. This anthology is a collection of stories by the authors of Second Wind, so the winner will be in good company. (Since I’m a Second Wind author, I will be writing a story for the anthology. Well, I will as soon as I figure out what I want to write.) The winner will also receive a coupon from Smashwords.com for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs. And the winner will receive a one year free VIP account from Angie’s Diary, the online writing magazine to help you get even more exposure for your writing. ($99.95 value).

So what are you waiting for? Encouragement? Then here it is: you can write a wonderful short story! I know you can! So please send your story as a Word .doc or .docx to secondwindpublishing@gmail.com.

For more information, click here: Second Wind Contest Blog.

Short Story Contest!!!

Second Wind Publishing invites you to submit an entry to their short story contest.

Stories are to be about spring or renewal, at least, that’s what the contest rules say, though that does not mean the stories have to be upbeat or happy. You can work against the theme — contrasting a disaster that takes place in the spring with the beauty of the season, perhaps. Of course, up beat is good, too, it’s just that most of the writers I know (including me) don’t do upbeat.

My grief book, which will be published early next year, begins: Death came in the spring. And the end of the introduction says: The spring of death gave way to the summer of grief, and grief flowed into the fall and winter of renewal. See? Who says spring has to be about happy upbeat things?

You have until December 31, 2011 to submit an entry.

Go to the Second Wind Contest Blog for rules and how to enter.

Best of luck!!

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