On the Eve of Publication…

After seeing my article, “A Book Reviewer’s Lexicon,” where I mentioned that I’d read 20,000 books, author Ken Coffman asked what books stuck out in my mind as premier ones, what authors consistently pleased me, and which books I’ve read more than once. Off the top of my head, I posted a list of books. Premier? I don’t know that they are, but for some reason, I remember the title and author years — sometimes decades — after finishing them:

Sakkara by Noel Barber
Sarum by Edward Rutherford
The River God by Wilbur Smith
The Left Hand of God by William Barrett
The Balance Wheel by Taylor Caldwell (for many reasons, both good and bad)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (because of the irony)
The Creature From Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin (non-fiction)
The Gods of Eden by William Bramley (non-fiction)
The Twelfth Planet by Zeccharia Sitchen (non-fiction)
Story by Robert McKee (non-fiction)
most books written by Antony Sutton (non-fiction)
most books written by Stephen J. Gould (non-fiction)
a few books written by Hank Messick (non-fiction)

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend any of these books. I read them so long ago, I was a different person. That I remembered titles and authors shows what an impact they had at the time. In recent years, the only book that had any impact on me was Duma Key by Stephen King. I’m ashamed to admit it, but he did get me with that one. During the past couple of decades, the only other books that have completely pulled me in are The River God and Sarum, both of which I intend to reread. The River God is a story based on scrolls found in an Egyptian tomb, and Sarum is a Michener-type book about the Salisbury Plain in England. I don’t agree with a lot of Rutherford’s history, but the book fascinated me. I want to reread Sakkara if I can ever get it again, though I don’t remember much about it except that it’s a sort of North African Gone With the Wind. (Interestingly, I don’t like Gone With the Wind, though I did when I was very young. I tried rereading it a while back, and got bored.) I did reread Tanamera, (also by Noel Barber, and a sort of Singapore Gone With the Wind) and liked it the second time, too. In fact, I will reread all of Noel Barber’s books some day. Maybe even some of Nevil Shute’s books. And David Westheimer’s.

I read The Balance Wheel during the Vietnam era. Now THAT made an impact — reading a book about the war-to-end-all-wars during a later war. If I ever come across a copy of the book, I’ll reread it. (I lent it to someone who promised — actually swore — that she’d return it but never did.)

One book that got left off the above list is The Killing Gift by Bari Wood. I read it many years ago, and always remembered it. Reread it a few years ago, and it still had the same impact. It’s one of the few I’ve kept to re-reread.

I’ve also kept a copy of The Proteus Operation by James P. Hogan, so I can reread it someday.

One author who consistently pleased me was Kate Wilhelm until she stopped writing science fiction. On my wish list would be a newly written Kate Wilhelm science fiction novel (Are you listening, Kate?), but so far she’s sticking with mysteries. (They’re mostly published by Mira, which seems like hiding a diamond in the mud.)

Interestingly, I started rereading some of the classics, and couldn’t do it. Nicholas Nickleby, Sense and Sensibilty, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. AAGGHH!!!

For about fifteen years I got so sick of the pap put out by the major publishers that I stuck with non-fiction. Read everything — history, quantum mechanics, string theory, health, archeology, etc, etc, but that got old (or I did) so now I’m back to fiction.

I’ve decided I need to get rich so I can start buying indie books. I feel like the man who kept shrinking and shrinking until finally he shrunk so much he ended up in an entirely different universe, a microscopic one. For me, the publishing world has shrunk so much that the only hope for finding the sort of books that interests me is to find another world. Which I have. The indie world. I guess I’ll just have to get people to send me books to “review.” Yes, that’s it. I’ll tell people I’ll do a review if they send me their book.

I thought that it would bother me posting this for anyone to see — it does say something about me, though I don’t know what — and I half-intended to delete it, but then it dawned on me: this is the eve of my becoming a published author. I’ve approved the proofs, so More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire will soon show up on Amazon. (They are already listed on the Second Wind Publishing site.) If a list of books I’ve read exposes me, then the books I’ve written will expose me even more.

So, here I am.

For what it’s worth.

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13 Responses to “On the Eve of Publication…”

  1. joylene Says:

    The Bleeding Heart by Marilyn French always comes to mind when I think of books that have changed me. That book made me aware of so many women’s issues when I was a young woman that I hadn’t otherwise thought of. I later read The Women’s Room because of it.

    Another one would be The Christmas Carol. I just love that book. It pleased the child in me and gave me hope over human nature.

    I’ve read several mss which have yet to be published that stand out as exceptional reads. The fact that they’re not yet published is discouraging. Why agents and publishers keep turning them down makes me wonder if those in the business have lost their minds.

    I read Message in a Bottle and gagged through most of it. Maybe it’s me?

  2. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    “If a list of books I’ve read exposes me, then the books I’ve written will expose me even more.”

    I love this line, Pat.

    I feel absolutely naked every time I think about someone reading my book.

    I’ve also had dreams in which my family disowns me after reading my book – intimate scenes, scenes that vaguely reflect family members or happenings…

    I wonder, will this feeling pass? Will I get used to it?

    Congratulations on the release of your books.

  3. Pat Bertram Says:

    Joylene, it’s not you! Message in a Bottle is symptomatic of what’s wrong with books today — books written specifically for the market and to make money (rather than through a need or desire to tell a story) and is nothing more than sentimental pap geared to evoke emotion. Apparently it works, though.

  4. Pat Bertram Says:

    Sherrie, congratulations to you, too! I’ve heard good things about your book Night and Day. As for getting used to it, I imagine you will. Entropy is the name of that game. And your family will begin to take your writing for granted.

  5. Sheila Deeth Says:

    Congratulations Pat! I loved Sarum too, and actually started reading it while visiting Stonehenge! I found myself wondering what makes a book stick in my mind. I have a family of delightfully organized people who can tell you who played what part in almost every movie they’ve ever cared about, and then some, and who wrote what book, when and why, etc. But as for me, I rarely remember who my favorite authors are or what I’ve read – I called it a talent as a child; it means I can reread almost anything and enjoy it just the same. But there’s just a few books I remember… and I don’t know why.

  6. joylene Says:

    That’s a relief. Everyone I know loved it but me. I was beginning to worry. lol.

    I feel bad because I haven’t read most of the books you mention. I did the Gone With the Wind thing when I was 14. Loved it. I never did tire of The First Deadly Sin books. I still like most of Agatha’s. And I enjoyed Margaret Lawrence’s work. Actually, she’s an idol of mine. She died before I was able to tell her that.

  7. Pat Bertram Says:

    Sheila, what a wonderful place to begin reading Sarum! I envy you that.

    I side-stepped Ken’s question about rereading books, because I reread a lot of them indavertantly. Get half way through and think, “Hey! This sounds familiar.”

  8. Kenna Says:

    This is a great post, Pat – sorry I’m just getting out here to read it. I’m a huge Gould fan, and McKee’s Story is a great resource for any fiction writer.

    When I was younger, I was a huge scifi fan, and loved Herbert’s Dune series, as well as McCaffrey’s Pern-based stories. I’ve also read a lot of pap, which is great for mind-numbing, but I find I don’t have (or make) time for most of it anymore.

    And congrats, once again, on publication!

  9. Ken Coffman Says:

    Ready or not, you’re a public figure and if your books are successful (which they will be), you’ll be more of a public figure. This means strangers will know your name and people will be interested in the details of how you think and how you came to create your work. Open that kimono and buck up! Deep inside, you know you have things to say and faith that some people (not all, of course) will be interested in your thoughts. Otherwise, you would not have been able to lay a single word on paper. And you’ve done far more than that. Who knows if you’ll catch a wave and surf to great fame? It could happen. More likely your success will be more limited. So what? Visualize and prepare for it. As I told my kids a million times: Don’t be your own worst enemy.

  10. Pat Bertram Says:

    Kenna, I have Dune set aside to reread. I read it years ago, and I liked it. Or perhaps it was another book that I got mixed up with Dune. (Happens to me a lot. I got Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory mixed up with The Left Hand of God.)

    And thank you for the congratulations.

  11. Pat Bertram Says:

    Ken, I reread your comment several times. Wise words. Strange to think about being a public figure. You’re right, to a certain extent I already am. People I don’t know read my blog and the articles I sprinkle around the internet; since most remain silent, I may never know who they are. Yet they know me. I’ve been shooting my mouth off (my keyboard off?) for a year and a half now. Have had 30,000 views to my blog (most of them in the past 6 months — it took me exactly a year and a day to get the first 12,000). If I add in all the other blogs and sites where I post, that figure swells to more than 40,000. A sobering thought. But I am ready to catch that wave. Consciously, unconsciously, subconsciously. Fearlessly. (Though a bit nervously.)

  12. Ken Coffman Says:

    If you were here, I’d give you the high-five. There’s an article coming up on April 20 about “showing up” that I think you’ll find interesting. You’re “showing up” and I’m inspired by your example. Well done, Lady B.

  13. Edward G. Talbot Says:

    Pat –

    The River God was awesome – at least one of the sequels was excellent too. And Duma Key got me as well – I’m more of a King fan anyway, but it was among his best.

    The best book I’ve read in the past 2-3 years is “The Eight” by Katherine Neville. I’d recommend it to anyone

    – Ed


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