Countdown to Publication

It’s only ten days until the publication of my new novel, which will be published on October 20, 2020. If you would like to be notified by email when the book is available, click here: Bob, The Right Hand of God, sign up for email notifications, and Amazon will let you know the minute it is for sale. Meantime, here are a couple of brief excerpts to whet your interest:

The screen went black.

“Something must be wrong with the cable,” Isabel said. “I’ll call them tomorrow.”

After thirty seconds of whistles, hums, and buzzes, the picture came back on. Instead of the anchorperson, the head of a gnomish man with a round, bespectacled face, a bald pate, and a receding chin filled the screen.

“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. For another thing—”

Isabel clicked off the television and stood up. “We must have missed the news.”

Clutching the remote, she stalked to the guestroom and shut the door.

Chet continued to stare at the darkened screen. He would have liked to see more of Bob—looked like it could have been an interesting science fiction movie—but dealing with Isabel exhausted him. He didn’t have the energy to get up and manually turn the television back on.

[The next day, John the butcher stopped by Chet’s pet store with entrails and such for the reptiles. They talked for a bit, then John started to leave, hesitated, and turned back.]

“Does it feel a little strange to you today?”

“Strange how?”

“I don’t know. Just a creepy feeling I have, like a storm’s coming.” John twitched his shoulders. “Probably nothing. Maybe I let that Bob thing get to me.”

“What Bob thing?” Chet asked.

“Some guy pulled an April Fool’s prank last night. Hacked into the television signal. Claimed he was The Right Hand of God. Silly, but I’ve been feeling creepy all day.”

“I thought it was a movie.”

“Nope. A friend of mine at Channel Ten told me they lost the signal for about five minutes.”

Chet shivered. “Now I’ve got the creeps. Thanks a lot.”

And so the saga begins . . .

***

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

Oh, Look! My Book!

My new novel will be published on October 20, 2020. If you’d like to be notified by email when it’s available, click here: Bob, The Right Hand of God, sign up for email notifications, and Amazon will let you know the minute it is available.

All Chet Thomlin wants is to be left alone to care for the abandoned and neglected animals at his store, Used Pets, but his obnoxious customers and clinging mother make life miserable. And nothing ever seems to change.

On April Fool’s day, a gnome-like little man appears on television. He introduces himself as Bob, the Right Hand of God, and says that 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.

Chet laughs at the prank, but then bizarre things happen. Carrier pigeons return, millions of them, darkening the sky as they hadn’t done for over a hundred years. His mother and her entire subdivision are wiped off the face of the earth. And his friends disappear.

On Easter Sunday, a bright light appears, and Bob tells the remaining population of Denver that if they enter the light, they will be safe from the reconstruction zone. Chet watches people enter one by one, but he refuses to step forward, thinking that he’d rather have his freedom than to be in a dubiously safe place.

The light fades, and Chet gets what he wanted. He is left alone. Well, except for Bob. Bob won’t let him be. Bob calls Chet on his now defunct cellphone, taunts him, plays with his senses. Being chosen by The Right Hand of God is no fun!

Even worse, Chet gets more change than he can handle. Plumbing and all other signs of civilization vanish. Denver becomes a prairie of blue flowers that sweep into an inland sea where a prehistoric monster lives. Volcanoes grow at his feet.

And Chet has become prey.

Maybe going into that mysterious light wouldn’t be so bad after all . . .

***

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

Wahoo! My Hero is in the Zoo.

Whew. A year and a half after beginning to write my fifth novel, I have the first of three parts finished.

The book is a whimsically humorous apocalyptic novel with a heavy theme: how much freedom we are willing to give up for safety and how much safety we are willing to give up for freedom. When the world goes through a time of re-creation, most human survivors opt to go to a place of refuge, which turns out to be a human zoo, but my hero, Chip, wants to preserve his freedom at all costs. Or almost all costs. He deals with killer toads, giant bugs, growing volcanoes, and a multitude of other traumas, but he cannot deal with the end of his stash of hard candy.

I am a slow writer, but this first part progressed slowly even by my standards. The circumstances of the book caused part of the problem — poor Chip had to traverse most of the 100 pages by himself, which is a hard task for any writer. Characters — and writers — need other characters to bounce off to bring interest, conflicts, and twists to the story. And personal circumstances caused the rest of the problem: life and death (not mine) got in the way, as did learning how to use a computer, learning the internet, editing my books for publication, proofing them, learning how to promote. (Though I wonder about the last — does anyone ever learn how to promote, or do we just paddle around until our books finally sink or swim?)

But, word by word, sentence by sentence, I got those pages written, and my hero is finally safe. Now I have to start over with a new set of problems for Chip — and me. Somehow I have to get him to the point where he wants to give up safety for freedom, but after all his trauma, I’m not sure how to goad him. I thought of making the place of refuge ultimately an unsafe place, but while it would get him out of there, it would not serve the theme.

Sorry to cut this short, but I have to go introduce Chip to some of his fellow inmates. Should be interesting. In the first part Chip had too few people to deal with, now he has too many.

I can hardly wait to see what happens.

Characters Butting Heads

When I wrote the first draft of my novel More Deaths Than One (and the second draft and the third) I had the hero Bob meandering around his world trying to unravel his past all by himself, and it was boring. Did I say boring? It was moribund. The story went nowhere because there was no one for Bob to butt heads with.

As an aside: this is my current metaphor for a good story — characters butting heads with each other and spinning off in new directions. Too many authors today have their characters butting heads, moving straight back and butting heads again. If the characters don’t ricochet off into a different direction each time, you have characters that don’t change and hence you have a static story.

In the fourth draft of More Deaths Than One, I gave Bob a love interest, a waitress he met at a coffee shop. (Hey, so it’s been done before. The poor guy spent eighteen years in Southeast Asia, and didn’t know anybody stateside. How else was he supposed to meet someone?) That’s when the story took off. He had someone to butt heads with, someone to ooh and aah over his achievements, someone to be horrified at what had been done to him.

From that, I learned the importance of writing scenes with more than one character.

So why am I mentioning this?

Well, I’ve hit a hole in my work-in-progress, a possible weakness. The hero of this whimsically ironic apocalyptic novel, Chip, loses one person after the other until he is alone. (I’m not giving anything away here. I already told you the work was apocalyptic.) There will be plenty of conflict as he contends with his new environment, but it might get boring without other characters for him to interact with.

There will be no problem once he ends up in the human zoo in the second part — his problem there (though not mine as the writer) is that he will have too many people to contend with. The same holds true for the third part of the book when he escapes. So there will be only about sixty pages where he is alone.

I do have one thing in my favor. I am a much better writer than I was when I wrote the first draft of More Deaths Than One, so perhaps I can keep the story going with Chip alone. (Saying I am a much better writer now is not necessarily saying I am a good writer. The first draft of More Deaths Than One was laughably bad. That I found an agent for it says more about the agent than it does my writing. No surprise — he couldn’t sell it.)

Chip does have to be alone at the end of the first part; he has an important step to take and must be by himself to take it. He also has to go through some experiences alone because they are essentially in his mind (or at least he thinks they are), but who will he be butting heads with the rest of the time? I’ll have to think about this.

If you want to take a look at the first chapter of More Deaths Than One, click on My First Chapters off to your right.

It will not be on the test.