Books for Book Lovers

When you are making out your Christmas list (because of course, you are making out a list even though it’s only August), here are some books for you to consider for your bookish friends, and for yourself too, of course, if you haven’t already read these books.

Bob: The Right Hand of God for those who love whimsical and satirical apocalyptic stories, rebellious loners, six-foot millipedes, baby volcanoes, and cities that suddenly turn into oceans. 

Click here to read the first chapter of Bob: The Right Hand of God

Click here to buy Bob: The Right Hand of God

Unfinished for those who love drama, buried secrets, stories that tell the truth about grief, and women who find themselves when they find themselves alone.

Click here to read the first chapter of Unfinished

Click here to buy Unfinished

Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare for those who love fun, dance, murder, mystery, older women who live with all the verve and nerve of the young, and perhaps me. (The main character is named Pat. Coincidence? You be the judge!)

Click here to read the first chapter of Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

Click here to buy Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

Daughter Am I for those who love road trips, treasure hunts, buried family secrets, mysteries, gangsters, young women coming of age and old folks who refuse to admit their age.

Click here to read the first chapter of Daughter Am I

Click here to buy Daughter Am I

Light Bringer for those who love precocious babies, aliens, conspiracy theories, secret underground laboratories, lost identities, and manipulative international corporations.

Click here to read the first chapter of Light Bringer

Click here to buy Light Bringer

A Spark of Heavenly Fire for those who love conspiracies with a medical twist and for those who wonder what it would be like if the world were to go through another pandemic.

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

Click here to buy A Spark of Heavenly Fire

More Deaths Than One for those who like conspiracy theories, mind control experiments, the Vietnam era and its aftermath, and a bit of otherworldly strange midst the horror.

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

Click here to buy More Deaths Than One

Grief: The Great Yearning for those who need the comfort of knowing they are not alone in their sorrow especially during the first year of grief.

Click here to read the first chapter of Grief: The Great Yearning

Click here to buy Grief: The Great Yearning

Grief: The Inside Story — A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One for those who need to learn more about the mystery of grief either because they are grieving a person who had been intrinsic to their life or because they know someone who is grieving and want to understand more about what the griever is experiencing.

Click here to buy Grief: The Inside Story — A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One

Wasting My Author Mind

I’m reading a book that was published a couple of years before The Bob mess, and it gives me the willies since it could so easily reflect what’s happening today with the vaccine.

In the novel, a super-secret organization that is not government sanctioned but that uses the various alphabet agencies as cover for their dastardly deeds is trying to create a new hierarchy. In an effort to control the population, they are injecting people who rebel against this new hierarchy with nanotech implants that assemble themselves in their bodies and brains and turn the injected people into willing robots who will do anything in response to their handlers, even kill themselves.

Not that I think that’s happening in the real world today, but the point is that it could. As in the novel, some of the major players in The Bob mess are a multi-billionaire software mogul with a god complex, a whole stratum of the population that seems to want to remake the world in a way that is inimical to another swathe of the population, and way too many ways of spying on ordinary citizens (satellites, traffic cameras, phones in everyone’s hands).

What is missing in the fictional story is a pandemic and people who are trying to inoculate the whole world with a dubious vaccine. The vaccine might be dubious only in my own mind, but truly, who among us knows for absolute certain what all is in the injection they are so obviously foisting on us? And why, if they want everyone to get the vaccine, do they show commercials of people having needles stuck in their arms? So not a way to convince the needle-phobic to get the shot! Besides which, although they want us to believe that the vaccine protects us against delta and lambda and any other variation, vaccinated people are still getting sick from those as well as the original organism. Lambda is the scariest since it’s said to be able to work around the vaccine’s antibodies.

But what do I know? None of us know the truth of The Bob, the vaccine, the variants. All we know are what we are told by news organizations and political hacks, which might be the true truth, a semblance of the truth, or a wholly manufactured truth. All any of us can do is pick our truth. Although it might seem like it, in this essay, I’m not trying to peddle any brand of truth. Basically, I’m just playing author, combining the two stories — the novel I am reading and the story we’re being told about The Bob — and extending the scenario beyond the original premises as all good authors do.

There are certainly enough wild surmises out there to add plot twists to the story: The Bob being a result of “gain of function” experimentation gone wrong; the whole mess being instigated by a prominent population-reduction activist; the entire scenario being enacted for the purpose of inoculating the world’s population with some sort of chip or nanoconstruct; a dress rehearsal for some future nefarious plot to see what it takes to get us to do what they want us to do.

Instead of wasting my “author mind” on such far-out scenarios as these, I’d be better off trying to figure out some sort of world or a bunch of characters to play with that would carry me from book to book. Because if I were to write this story that’s currently writing itself in my mind, people would yawn at the very thought and put the book down (assuming they picked it up in the first place) with a “Bo-o-o-o-ring. Been there.”

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Huge Spoiler

I recently read a book that still makes me smile even days after I closed the cover, which is a rare occurrence for me. Generally, when I finish reading a book, that’s the end of it. Very few books any more make me think or feel anything but in the moment of reading, and often not even then. But to leave me smiling? Amazing.

The book was science fiction, reminiscent of the movie Enemy Mine with Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. where two completely different beings from different planets meet and against all odds become friends. I don’t know if that was the purpose of either this book or the movie, but that’s the meaning I got from both of them.

What especially made me smile about the book was the ending, and since I’m going to tell you the story as well as the ending, I’m not going to mention the name of the book. Anyway, the story begins when the human wakes up with amnesia and discovers he is on a spaceship far out in space, which is an amusing scenario to begin with. Well, maybe not amusing, but provocative.

He eventually discovers he’s on a mission to save Earth and that all the other people on the mission are dead. And when he meets the alien, it turns out all the beings on that spaceship are dead, too, so it’s up to the two disparate beings to save their planets. Which they do, of course, because they are heroes, right? Image the fellow’s surprise when he discovers he wasn’t a hero who had volunteered for the mission but a middle school physics teacher who had refused to go when called because he loved teaching and didn’t want to give it up, and so he was shanghaied. Still, he did save the earth, and because he saved the other alien’s life (“other” because each is an alien to the other), he ended up not being able to go to back to Earth and return to his much-loved teaching job. Instead, he ended up on the other planet, which had an atmosphere inimical to human life. So the other aliens built a terrarium for him, keeping him as sort of their pet alien.

What really amused me, though, is at the end of the book, he is again a teacher, teaching young aliens about physics. So he did what he had to do and got to do what he loved to do. A person — or a character — can’t ask for more than that.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Undead Husband Thrillers

There is a subgenre of thrillers where a woman’s husband dies and then later, sometimes years later, she finds out that he is still alive.

Sometimes the widow is convicted of killing her husband, and when she gets out of prison, she kills him for real. Sometimes the widow killed her husband, and the supposed “sighting” is a hoax to flush her out. Sometimes the husband faked his death. Sometimes it’s the wife and the children who are declared dead, and only later is the husband united with the children, but not the wife.

I think about these stories as I read them, and wonder how I would react if I found out Jeff hadn’t really died. It would be impossible, of course, because I was there when he took his last breath. I even waited a few minutes before I notified anyone. And, I was there when they shrouded his body with a white blanket, covered it with a red plush blanket, and took it out to the mortician’s SUV.

Still, I wonder. What if I hadn’t been there, and they took the body without waiting for me. What if all I had was an urn they said were his ashes? If I had seen him just a few months after his death, maybe even a year or two, I would have been ecstatic. Later, of course, I might have second thoughts as the sense of betrayal set in. If I had seen him five or so years later, my first reaction might be delight, but it would be followed immediately by fury. How dare he let me think he was dead; how dare he abandon me and subject me to years of grief! Still, I’d listen to his explanation, and if it was reasonable enough, I might forgive him, but I don’t think I’d be able to pick up our life where it left off.

Now, if I were to see him, it would be completely different. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d even recognize him. Eleven years is a long time. And if I did, I’m not sure how I’d react. It would seem a betrayal of him — and my grief — not to want him in my life again, but I’m not the same person I was all those years ago. And if he was willing to walk away from me, then he wouldn’t be the person I thought he was.

His story would have to be truly remarkable to get me to believe that he didn’t simply abandon me. What if he did it to save me? He had actually talked about driving away and leaving me when he got too sick; he didn’t want me to spend my life caring for an invalid, and he didn’t want to be cared for. I can see a scenario based on this — he drove off a cliff, survived and was found, though he had no memory. Perhaps the person who found him was able to heal him. And perhaps years later, he remembered who he was but couldn’t find me.

That’s not an unreasonable scenario — there’s no way he’d be able to track me to this town. I haven’t left much of a paper trail. And yet, I still have the same cell number, and he could find me with no trouble on the internet, so he’d be able to contact me. Maybe he found out via this blog that I’d found a modicum of contentment and he didn’t want to disturb my peace.

Come to think of it, this could be an interesting book. So many of the undead husband novels end up with the husband getting dead for real, disappearing again, and — in a very few cases — becoming reconciled with the abandoned wife. But no book that I know of hints at what the reconciled life would be. The only thing similar is one of those stories where a kidnapped child finds his/her way home years later to a not-happily-ever-after ending.

Maybe someday I’ll write the book, but I don’t really want to think about the story. And I won’t until the next time I pick up an undead husband thriller.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Fifty Shades of Black and White

I’m reading Fifty Shades of Black & White: The Anatomy of the Lawsuit behind a Publishing Phenomenon, written by Mike Farris and Jennifer Pedroza, and published by Stairway Press. It took me a few pages to figure out what was going on, because although I knew there was a lawsuit concerning the Shades of Grey trilogy, I was under the impression it was Stephanie Meyers who sued the author of the trilogy for using her characters. But not so.

Fifty Shades of Grey started as fanfiction, taking a couple of Twilight characters and continuing their story. I’d never heard of fanfiction before that, but apparently, it’s a popular thing. I truly don’t understand how it’s legal to steal the characters someone else has created. Isn’t that plagiarism? I suppose it’s one thing to do it online in a group just for fun, but eventually, this particular author changed the names of the characters, published it, and went on to publishing fame. (I was going to say literary fame, but I once read a short excerpt and was appalled at the writing, to say nothing of the porn-ish subject matter.)

The myth surrounding the trilogy is that it was a self-published book that took off all by itself and ending up gleaning a multi-million contract with a big-name publisher. This was frequently talked about in groups where self-published authors hung out, because it gave them hope. After all, if one self-published author could make it big, why not them?

But that wasn’t at all true. She had a publisher. A small independent publisher, to be sure, but still a publisher. And that publisher spent a huge amount of money and time promoting the book.

And that was what the lawsuit was about — one of the publishing partners vs. the others, not between the author who created the characters and the author who also got rich off them. (Apparently, Stephanie Meyers was okay with that particular theft.)

Because these publishers had the book rights, when the book was sold to Random House, the women partners received multiple millions. Well, one of them did, anyway. She managed to keep all those millions for herself by lying and telling the others she was having problems getting the money from Random House. Eventually, a couple of the defrauded women found a lawyer who would take the case.

It’s sort of funny reading this book right now. I’ve been watching Judge Judy with the woman I help care for, and this book seem like an extension of one of those shows where friends ended up being enemies because one cheated the other out of money, but this case went miles beyond a small claims court. All I can do when watching one of Judge Judy’s cases is shake my head, and that’s all I can do reading Fifty Shades of Black & White. It simply stuns me that people can be so utterly without morals, without honesty, without dignity, without any sense of justice. If I were in that situation, I’d be so delighted with the immense riches from my share and glad that my friends also shared in the good fortune, that it would never occur to me to try to take it all.

But that’s what one woman did. And it never even bothered her.

She knew it was wrong because she tried to hide the money, forming a whole pyramid of businesses with her husband to deal with her ill-gotten gains. It shows to me the difference among people: some can do such things, justify it to themselves (or not — maybe they feel no need to justify their actions) and sleep well at night, others of us can’t.

I still remember when I stopped pointing out when a checkout clerk undercharged me. I felt like a thief, but I’d learned that it is even more complicated to right undercharges than it is overcharges, perhaps because they can’t believe anyone would be so honest (or stupid) to bring it to their attention. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had committed major larceny. Even if I had gotten away with it, I wouldn’t have gotten away with it, if you know what I mean.

Truthfully, I especially can’t imagine those numbers — the millions that were awarded to the small company for selling the rights to someone else’s work. Although I’d like to make it big and have to try to deal with such magnificent and munificent numbers, I’m really hoping I sell enough of my newest book to keep from embarrassing my publisher, the same Stairway Press that published Fifty Shades of Black & White.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE Embodies the Essence of Christmas

Washington Irving wrote: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” As I read these words several years ago, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?

ASHF

I didn’t want to write a book about war, which is a common setting for such a character-driven story, so I created the red death, an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease that ravages Colorado. Martial law is declared, rationing is put into effect, and the entire state is quarantined. During this time when so many are dying, Kate comes alive and gradually pulls others into her sphere of kindness and generosity. First enters Dee Allenby, another woman defeated by normal life, then enter the homeless — the group hardest hit by the militated restrictions. Finally, enters Greg Pullman, a movie-star-handsome reporter who is determined to find out who created the red death and why they did it.

Kate and her friends build a new world, a new normal, to help one another survive, but other characters, such as Jeremy King, a world-class actor who gets caught in the quarantine, and Pippi O’Brien, a local weather girl, think of only of their own survival, and they are determined to leave the state even if it kills them.

The world of the red death brings out the worst in some characters while bringing out the best in others. Most of all, the prism of death and survival reflects what each values most. Kate values love. Dee values purpose. Greg values truth. Jeremy values freedom. Pippi, who values nothing, learns to value herself.

Though this book has been classified by some readers as a thriller — and there are plenty of thrills and lots of danger — A Spark of Heavenly Fire is fundamentally a Christmas book. The story starts at the beginning of December, builds to a climax on Christmas, and ends with renewal in the Spring. There are no Santas, no elves, no shopping malls or presents, nothing that resembles a Christmas card holiday, but the story — especially Kate’s story — embodies the essence of Christmas: generosity of spirit.

When you are making out your Christmas lists, I hope you will include A Spark of Heavenly Fire. That should make both of us happy!

You can read the first chapter of A Spark of Heavenly Fire here: https://ptbertram.wordpress.com/free-samples/a-spark-of-heavenly-fire/

You can purchase the print book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spark-Heavenly-Fire-Pat-Bertram/dp/1630663662/

Did the Macaw Survive?

Someone wrote to me yesterday and said that Bob, The Right Hand of God was a cool book, but he felt bad about Rosemary and the scarlet macaw. Especially the macaw.

There really is no other interpretation of Rosemary’s fate than the one presented in the book, but I thought the macaw had a different end. Looking back, nowhere in the book does it say unequivocally what actually happened to the poor bird, though I had thought it’s fate could be assumed.

Apparently not.

I suppose it depends on if one believes what Bob says, and if one thought there were a stable environment where the bird could be sent, and if Bob were honorable enough to help the poor thing survive. All things that are debatable.

Now I’m curious. Do you think the macaw survived?

None of this, so far, spoils the story since these events took place toward the beginning of the book, so if you respond, I’d appreciate your not mentioning anything that might give away the story.

The book calls out for a sequel, the story of the next generation if nothing else, and your response would help me figure out if (a big if!) I were to write a sequel, whether I should include a mention of the bird or leave the poor thing to its ambiguous fate.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Everyone Should Like My Books

If someone doesn’t like one of my books, I feel as if I should apologize, as if I fell down on the job as an author.

Because everyone should like my books, right?

Well, no. Of course, I would like it if more people read my books, though inevitably that would mean more people would dislike one or two. And I would like it if everyone who read my books liked all they read, but that’s not always a feasible expectation.

People don’t all dislike the same book. For some, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare was too girlish. For some, Light Bringer was too complicated. For others, Bob, the Right Hand of God is a bit . . . I don’t know . . . blasphemous, maybe, though it wasn’t intended as such.

I do appreciate the candor (as long as they keep their disappointment between us) and despite my urge to apologize, I try not to take their assessment personally. After all, it was my vision I tried to put into words, not theirs, and to that extent, I succeeded. So, I have no need to apologize or feel bad or have any opinion about other people’s opinions.

I once saw a plaque that I disagreed with when I read it, but now I see the truth of the saying.

What other people think of me is none of my business. I suppose this is the same with my books — that what other people think of them is none of my business. It feels as if it should be my business, since after all, other people’s opinions are what fuels the book market. And writing is my business.

I do know that if one writes to please other people, one ends up pleasing no one, least of all oneself.

Still, I hope you like my books. Or at least one of them anyway.

***

Please check out my new book!

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God
Click here to purchase the Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go In the Water

Yesterday I posted a favorite scene from my new novel, Bob, The Right Hand of God. It’s such pretty imagery, one of the many scenes that would make this a perfect movie.

Did you think that’s all it was — a pretty scene. Well, at first. Then, just in when you thought it was safe to go into the water . . .

***

Please check out my new book!

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God
Click here to purchase the Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.

A Sea of Blue

The following is perhaps my favorite scene in my new novel, Bob, the Right Hand of God:

Chet ran west along the grassy swathe of what used to be Sixth Avenue, seeking the grocery store where he usually shopped. He had seen it yesterday, and he needed to stock up on all the basics, not just food but toothpaste, soap, shaving cream.

Chest heaving, he neared the edge of what was left of Denver. The grocery store was gone. The prairie had advanced a few more blocks, wiping it out. He was trying to remember where the closest stores were in the eastern section of the city when the smell of salt and fish caught his attention.

He stopped and stared. The prairie looked blue like the ocean. Colorado had once been part of a great inland sea. Was the development company bringing it back?

He trotted to the edge of the expanse. Not a watery sea but a sea of blue flowers. Blue bees, metallic-blue wasps, and delicate blue butterflies flickered among blue geraniums, spiky blue lupines, sky-blue poppies, delphinium, columbines, forget-me-nots, periwinkles, deep blue hydrangea.

Awe carried him into the blue.

He tilted his head back and watched a flock of bluebirds limned against the pale blue evening sky.

A chill creeping up his legs brought his gaze back to earth. He stood in water up to his knees.

Shivering, he waded to shore.

Although he lingered by the sea until long after the sun had slipped behind the indigo mountains, he did not see another blue flower.

***

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.