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.

If You Like the Movie “Enemy” . . .

If you liked the movie Enemy, you might enjoy my novel, More Deaths Than One. Both stories are about doppelgangers of a sort. In Enemy, Adam sees his other self in “reel life” while In More Deaths Than One, Bob sees himself in real life.

Insomniac Bob Stark has returned from eighteen years in SE Asia and is sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of the night reading the current newspaper when he sees an obituary for his mother, a woman he buried twenty-two years previously. He goes to her funeral and watches the service from the shadows of a lilac bush.

Clustered with their backs to him stood a man, a woman, and six children ranging in age from about two years old to about sixteen. The obituary had mentioned six grandchildren, Bob recalled. Were these six his brother’s offspring, by an ex-wife, perhaps?

One of the children, a pudgy little boy, reached out and yanked the pigtails of the taller, skinnier girl slouching next to him. She slapped him. The next moment they were rolling on the ground and pummeling each other.

The woman turned around. “Stop it, you two.”

Bob sucked in his breath. Lorena Jones, his college girlfriend? What was she doing here? How did she know these people? He certainly hadn’t introduced her to them.

Feeling dizzy, he studied her while she scolded the children. Deep lines and red splotches marred her once satiny smooth face, and her body appeared bloated, as if she had not bothered to lose the extra weight from her last pregnancy or two. Despite those changes, she looked remarkably like her college picture he still carried in his wallet along with the Dear John letter that had ended their relationship.

Lorena nudged the man next to her. “Robert Stark, don’t just stand there. Do something.”

The man she called Robert Stark turned around to admonish the children.

Bob stared. The other Robert Stark seemed to have aged a bit faster than he, seemed more used, but the resemblance could not be denied. He was looking at himself.

Although some of the themes of the movie and my book are similar — identity, individuality, irony — my story is much easier to understand, though still surprising. Best of all, you don’t have to deal with spiders, real or symbolic.

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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.

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

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

Requiem for a Website

In October of 2007, I entered a contest on gather.com — the Court TV Search for the Next Great Crime Writer contest. The winner of the contest would win a $5,000 advance and a publishing contract. My entry, More Deaths Than One, was not a detective story, and it certainly was not a cozy mystery, but it is the story of a crime: identity theft. This theft is an actual theft of a man’s identity, not a paper one.

I did very well in that contest, too. As of November 17, 2007, I was ranked number one, but I finished up about sixth or seventh. (I could tell you it was because my mother died and I had to go to California for her funeral and I broke my ankle while there and was off the internet for a week, but the truth is . . . come to think of it, I don’t know what the truth is.)

The contest started out being great fun but devolved into all sorts of infighting, faked votes, and terrible reviews that RIPwere posted for no other reason than meanness. Still, it turned out to be a pivotal point in my writing career.

I became friends with many of the contestants, and casual acquaintances with others. I met other writers that I am still connected with today.  Because of the contest, I eventually found a publisher. The link to the publisher’s website was posted as a comment on one of the writer’s articles, and since I was in querying mode, I immediately shot off a query letter. The publisher loved my book A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and sent me a contract. Turns out, I already knew him through the contest, and he asked if More Deaths Than One was still available. It was. Second Wind Publishing has now published five of my books — four novels and one non-fiction book, Grief: The Great Yearning.

Until the crime writer contest, my online presence had been confined to my blog, but after the contest I posted articles on gather, and I also migrated to other sites, such as Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. I mostly hang around Facebook now because of my discussion groups there, but I always return to Gather, especially on Thursday evening when I used to do a live chat with my No Whine, Just Champagne discussion group. I started out knowing only a few people online, now I know hundreds.

And all because of a contest.

Now, Gather is in its death throes. Because of the spam that clogged the site, Google stopped referencing its content in searches. The site has been sold a couple of times, and neither of the new owners seemed to have any interest in revitalizing this once active online writers community.

Most of my Gather posts have been posted elsewhere, usually here on this blog, but a lot of the discussion topics were too brief for a blog post, so I’ve been mining the site so my content doesn’t get lost. Considering that there were almost two hundred live chats alone in my discussion group, that’s a lot of content! I hope I get time to go through the discussions and look for pithy comments I might have made, but if I don’t, well, no problem. Maybe my comments should pass into oblivion along with the site. And who knows, maybe someday the site will be resuscitated.

Until then, rest in peace, Gather.

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

End of the Trail

Poor old Santa looks like he hit the end of the trail.

End of the Trail

If he conked out before he brought you one of my novels, you can download 20-30% free at Smashwords.com in the ebook format of your choice. Or you can read the first chapter online before deciding which one you’d like to buy.

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More Deaths Than OneBob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in SE Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. At her new funeral, he sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on?

Click here to read the first chapter: More Deaths Than One

***

A Spark of Heavenly FireIn quarantined Colorado, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease, investigative reporter Greg Pullman risks everything to discover the truth: Who unleashed the deadly organism? And why?

Click here to read the first chapter of: A Spark of Heavenly Fire

***

DAIWhen 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.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Daughter Am I

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Thirty-seven years after being abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Colorado, Becka Johnson  returns to try to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? And why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? And what do they have to do with a secret underground laboratory?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Light Bringer

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Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I.All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

Excerpt From More Deaths Than One

More Deaths Than OneYesterday, while searching More Deaths Than One for references to the scent of frangipani for my post Justifying Our Sex Scenes, I happened to find the passage below. It’s been so long since I’ve looked at the book, the story seemed fresh and new, and something I’d be interested in reading. (Which, actually, is why I wrote the book — to write something I’d like to read.) Note: ISI is Information Services, Incorporated, a corporation with ties to US intelligence agencies.

Description: Bob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in SE Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. At her new funeral, he sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on?

Excerpt:

“Here, put this on.” Bob held out a brown two-inch-wide belt.

Kerry lifted her shirt and showed him the waistband of her dark cotton slacks. “It’s elastic, see? I don’t need a belt.”

“It’s a money-belt. I got two of them yesterday, one for me and one for you. There’s ninety-five hundred dollars in each of them—”

“Ninety-five hundred dollars?” Her eyes grew round. “In cash?”

“Yes. I would have liked to get more, but that’s all we’re allowed to bring into the United States without having to fill out forms, and in our situation, that can get sticky.”

“What would happen if we brought in more than that and didn’t declare it?”

“Maybe nothing unless we got caught, but since we’re traveling with fake IDs, I’d prefer not to complicate matters. When the problem with ISI goes away, I can have some of my money wired to an account in Colorado or wherever.”

“Just some? Not all?”

“It’s safe where it is.” When she gave him a narrow-eyed look, he laughed. “I don’t seem to be able to keep anything from you. It’s in a private bank in Chinatown. Hsiang-li sponsored me, otherwise I’d have to use the same banks as everyone else, and ISI would probably have found my account by now.”

“Wouldn’t ISI have already traced the bank through your traveler’s checks?”

“My bank doesn’t offer that service. I paid cash for them at another bank that does, and since they don’t know me, that’s a dead end for ISI.”

Becoming aware he still held out the money-belt, he said, “Well, are you going to put it on?”

She took it from him, fastened it around her waist, and smoothed her shirt over it. Turning sideways to look in the mirror, she asked, “Does it make me look fat?”

“I don’t even notice it.”

She gave him a laughing glance. “Aren’t you afraid I’m going to run off with your money?”

“No. In fact, you can have it.”

She looked at him aghast. “I can’t take your money.” Reaching under her shirt, she started to remove the belt.

He put a hand on her arm. “Keep it for now. If we get separated, or if anything happens to me, you’ll need it to get back home.”

“Nothing’s going to happen to you,” she said fiercely.

He nodded as if he agreed and did not mention the sense of foreboding that made his shoulder blades itch.

***

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.

Justifying Our Sex Scenes

Lazarus Barnhill, a fellow author at Second Wind Publishing, is planning to rerelease his novels to include the sex scenes he removed for the sake of keeping the familial peace. I understand why he wants to include the scenes — he wishes to reclaim his literary perogative and publish the books the way he wrote them, which is as it should be. Besides, with the scenes included, the books will probably go viral.

Though I wouldn’t admit it to him, I like the books the way they are now, with the focus more on the mystery in The Medicine People and the romance in the Lacey Took a Holiday. The truth is, I’ve never been fond of sex scenes. I read for mental titillation — expanding my mind, letting my thoughts wander into the realms of what if — and sex scenes leave little scope for such meanderings.

Despite tMore Deaths Than Onehat, I did write one very graphic sex scene for my first book More Deaths Than One. The scene appalled my father (by then my mother was gone, so I never got to hear her words on the subject. Whew!), but that was an important scene in the book.

The story is about a man who is so ordinary he almost seems invisible. Everyone assumes they know him, seeing him as a reflection of themselves. And yet, he has hidden depths that only one woman, Kerry, managed to see. As Kerry told Bob, trying to explain why he interested her, “I’d like to say it’s because you have hidden depths, but your depths aren’t hidden, they’re obvious.” She chuckled. “Maybe you have hidden shallows.”

The graphic sex scene wasn’t with Kerry, though eventually they did make love. The scene was with Bob and another woman, a woman who taught him about prolonging the pleasure and satisfying a woman. If you didn’t know why Bob had such a talent, it would have been unbelievable when you discovered that such a seemingly weak man would have such discipline. The scene also set up the love scene with Kerry. The scent of frangipani had always reminded him of that first woman, and yet when he and Kerry finally got together, he realized that from now on, whenever he caught a whiff of that scent, it would remind him of Kerry, of the teasing look in her eyes, of the moment he fell in love with her. (But then, don’t we all justify our sex scenes as important to the book?)

Oddly, each of my novels had less sex in that the previous one, and the last one had none. It’s hard to write sex scenes that are consistently new and fresh, and I’d said it all in that first book.

Someone dared me once to write an erotic novel, and I even accepted the dare, at least verbally, but I doubt I will ever write the book. The only reason I can see for writing is to write what only I can write, and it’s hard to bring individuality to sex scenes. (Which is probably why bondage and masochism are so prevalent right now — they are different from what people are used to.) Still, I’m young in author terms. I’ve only written five books. Anything could linger in all those as unwritten books of mine!

As for Lazarus Barnhill’s books, I’m keeping the versions I have for now. When he gets rich and famous, those expurgated copies will be worth a fortune, and I will be set for life!

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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.

A Gift for a Grief-Stricken Friend

Grief: The Great Yearning by Pat BertramI haven’t really promoted my book Grief: the Great Yearning. It seemed crass and insensitive to capitalize on people’s grief, but the book has been a big help to many who have suffered a significant loss such as a husband or a parent. If you need a gift (or a stocking stuffer) for someone who is grieving, please consider giving them a copy of Grief: the Great Yearning. It might help to bring them comfort knowing that someone else has felt what they are feeling.

The print version of Grief: The Great Yearning is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. You can even give the ebook in any format as a gift. Just go to Smashwords and click on “Give as Gift”.

If there are people on your Christmas list who like to read, please check out my other books. I’m sure they’d like at least one of them!

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More Deaths Than OneBob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in SE Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. At her new funeral, he sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on?

Click here to read the first chapter: More Deaths Than One

***

A Spark of Heavenly FireIn quarantined Colorado, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease, investigative reporter Greg Pullman risks everything to discover the truth: Who unleashed the deadly organism? And why?

Click here to read the first chapter of: A Spark of Heavenly Fire

***

DAIWhen 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.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Daughter Am I

***

Thirty-seven years after being abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Colorado, Becka Johnson  returns to try to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? And why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? And what do they have to do with a secret underground laboratory?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Light Bringer

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I.All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

Making Stories Come Alive

Our characters are more than just the creatures of our story world, they are the lens through which readers see into that world. It is possible to tell a story without using this lens, but the resulting story world can be gray and lifeless. Characters interacting with that world and each other give it color, make it seem more real.

I learned this the hard way.

I wanted the hero of More Deaths Than One to appear to be an insignificant little man though he was rich, had a couple of influential friends, and once had been a secret agent. Despite several rewritings, I could not make him come alive. He seemed dull and boring rather than the mysterious character I wanted him to be, and when the information about him unfolded during the course of the novel, it too was uninteresting. No matter what I did, I could not make him or his past three-dimensional.

In desperationfireworks, I created a love interest for him. (It seems like an obvious solution, but originally I wanted him to be a loner. Oddly, the love interest made him seem even more of a loner by comparison.) When I began to see him through her eyes and her amazement, all of a sudden he burst into full color.

Using one character’s viewpoint to show another character also allows us to be enigmatic when it comes to characterization. If we as the author/narrator were to describe a character as being kind, he must be so; if another character describes him as being kind, he might be kind, but he also might be kind only to her and mean to everyone else, or he might be abusive to her and she interprets it as being kind because she is not used to having anyone pay attention to her. While learning about him through her eyes, we also learn about her.

In this same way, when we see the story world as the character sees it rather than how we as the creator of the world envisioned it, the scenery comes alive. For example, here is a brief excerpt from A Spark of Heavenly Fire:

Kate jumped out of bed like a child on Christmas morning, ran to the window, and opened the drapes.

It looked as dim as dusk. The sunless sky embraced heavy dark clouds that hung so low she was sure she could reach out and touch them. The howling wind blew a few snowflakes around and rattled her leaky window. The icy draft made her shiver.

She laughed aloud.

What a lovely day!

In this way, we learn about the weather, we learn about the character, and we make the story world come alive for readers. We make readers a part of the story because they identify with the characters. They see the world through our characters’ eyes.

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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.

Creating Incredible but Credible Characters: Sex Scenes (Part 2)

[This is a continuation of a previous post: Creating Incredible but Credible Characters: Sex Scenes (Part 1)]

The most explicit sex scenes I’ve written are in my first novel, More Deaths Than One. My character, Bob Stark, is stark in everything he does, but the more one learns about the character, the more extraordinary he seems. His first sex scene is with a stranger. Her manner seemed to be that of a person who had decided on a course of action and now wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible, but Bob turned out to be something of a pro at satisfying women. Since the skill seemed so out of character, I explained it with a flashback, though I do not advocate flashbacks during a sex scene. Of all scenes in a book, sex scenes are the most immediate, and should be done in the present, but in this case I followed an even more important rule: everything in service to the story.lovescene

He moved in her, slowly, steadily. He caught the scent of frangipani in her perfume. All at once sixteen years disappeared, and he was back in Thailand, the first time he’d gone to Madame Butterfly’s.

The sex scene that followed is graphic, too graphic to add here, but the point is the perfume. Smelling the frangipani catapulted him into a reverie, where the woman beneath him became unimportant, but later in the book when he makes love with a significant woman in his life, the scent has a completely different effect on Bob.

Twining her arms around his neck, she brought his mouth to hers. The kiss was hard and short, but immediately her lips sought his again.

He gathered her closer. Their kiss deepened.

All at once she pulled away and hopped out of bed. “Omigosh!”

“What?”

“I forgot. I have a present for you.” She flashed an impish smile and darted into the bathroom. She emerged a few minutes later wearing a dark rose cheongsam that accented the swell of her breasts and the taper of her waist. “I bought it in Chinatown. What do you think?”

He couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe. She looked flushed, radiant, beautiful.

She jutted out a hip. The side slit parted, giving him a glimpse of shapely leg.

He felt a shock that started in his groin and radiated upward. From the glint in her eyes, he knew she was aware of the effect she had on him.

He slid off the bed and moved toward her, stepping slowly and carefully as if he were in danger of falling off a precipice. As he neared her, he smelled her new perfume—frangipani. From now on, he knew, whenever he caught a whiff of that scent, it would remind him of this moment, of her, of the teasing look in her eyes.

***

This article is anthologized in the Second Wind Publishing book: NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING, which was the 100th book released by Second Wind.

“As someone who constantly evaluates novels for publication, I was astonished at the breadth and clarity of the wonderful advice contained in this handbook. It addresses concerns as grand as plot development and as simple but essential as formatting your submission. It offers crucial advice on literary topics ranging from character development to the description of action. Virtually every subject that is of great concern to publishers — and therefore to authors — is covered in this clear, humorous and enormously useful guide.” –Mike Simpson, Chief Editor of Second Wind Publishing

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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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