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/

***
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Bah Humbug

I went to see a movie at a theater today, the first time in maybe thirty years. (Yeah, came as a shock to me too when I realized that.) And it might be another thirty years before I go to a movie theater again — for sure the friend I went with will not invite me a second time. I didn’t have the proper attitude, I guess.

We saw a kid’s Christmas movie that was cute enough, but it seemed like just another stale story with an emphasis on the importance of believing in Santa Claus. Maybe the problem for me is that I never did get the whole Santa Claus thing, don’t understand why it is so vital to believe that particular myth especially since Santa has nothing to do with what used to be a religious celebration.

Although I never thought of Santa as real, I didn’t feel any less magic during the season because of the lack. In fact, I do not know of a single classmate who did believe the Santa Claus myth. There really was no way to believe since our parents insisted on our writing thank you notes to everyone who gave us a present. And for me, since I have always had a need to understand and an overweening sense of fairness, it made sense that the rich kids got a lot of presents and the not so rich only a few. But if Santa really did bring the gifts — well, he played favorites and so wasn’t worth believing in.

Mostly, for us, Santa was a store decoration, a cartoonish symbol of the season. What occupied our childish imaginations were the lights, the tree, the stockings, the crèche, the department store windows, the bustle to buy what gifts we could, making a Christmas list for our parents, the wonderful smell of holiday treats baking, the speculation of what the gifts under the tree might be, and even sometimes, the majestic church service.

And yet almost every kid’s Christmas movie emphasizes the need to believe in Santa Claus. Often, the child character is starting to disbelieve, but after meeting Santa or going to the North Pole or getting a visit from an elf, magically the child’s belief in the red-garbed gent is reinstated, which to me negates the whole theme of believing. If you see that something exists, it’s not “believing” — it’s “knowing.” If the child character sees such a mythical place as the North Pole peopled with elves and flying reindeer, then the belief would be fortified even if the kid didn’t see Santa, so again, a choice to belief in Santa is no stretch of the imagination.

I suppose belief is an important attribute, but what one believes should be more significant than a once-a-year mythic character.

Yeah, I know — I don’t have the proper attitude. It was just a kid’s movie, after all, and not at all worth mulling over. And yet, here I am, bah humbugging.

***

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.

Give a Gift of A Spark of Heavenly Fire for Half Price!

A Spark of Heavenly FireUntil November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

If you wish to give the ebook as a gift, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire, click on “give as a gift,” fill out all the information required, such as the recipient’s email address. Be sure to enter the coupon code ST33W in the designated box to get your discount.

Though A Spark of Heavenly Fire 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 begins on December 2, 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.

(Why does A Spark of Heavenly Fire begin on December 2 instead of December 1? Glad you asked that. All through the writing of the book, I kept thinking: if only people could get through the first fifty pages, I know they will like this book. So finally came my duh moment. Get rid of the first fifty pages!! With all the deletions and rewriting, I couldn’t make the story start on December 1 as I’d originally intended, but that’s okay since it didn’t end on December 25 as I had hoped. The story overgrew it’s bounds, but the symbolism still held since it ends around Easter.)

***

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.

Wishing you a peaceful day

Wishing you a peaceful day

and all your troubles far away.

Snowy peaks

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?

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 begins on December 2, 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.

(Why does A Spark of Heavenly Fire begin on December 2 instead of December 1? Glad you asked that. All through the writing of the book, I kept thinking: if only people could get through the first fifty pages, I know they will like this book. So finally came my duh moment. Get rid of the first fifty pages!! With all the deletions and rewriting, I couldn’t make the story start on December 1 as I’d originally intended, but that’s okay since it didn’t end on December 25 as I had hoped. The story overgrew it’s bounds, but the symbolism still held since it ends around Easter.)

ASHFiTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-spark-of-heavenly-fire/id407886976?mt=11

Second Wind Publishing: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=17&products_id=47&osCsid=de3fad213c6baa1c6fa9982f221c8c74

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Spark-Heavenly-Fire-Pat-Bertram/dp/1935171232/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_4

Barnes and Noble:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spark-of-heavenly-fire-pat-bertram/1100632312?ean=2940015574395

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842 (You can download the book in any ebook format, including a format for palm held reading devices!! Even better, you can download 30% absolutely free to see if you like the story.)

***

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+

What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving at Christmas?

Christmas is a hard time of year for those who are grieving. Not only does the festivity of the season remind the bereft of all they have lost, but it’s a time for getting together with loved ones, and the goneness of that one special person seems even more unfathomable when you are alone or alone in a crowd.

Grief makes everyone uneasy. It’s a reminder how vulnerable we really are. How, despite our beliefs, we know so very little of life and death. Even well-meaning people stumble around the bereft, suddenly clumsy in the face of grief, and this unnatural behavior makes the griever feel even more alone. Some people give looks of speculation, as if you are diseased and they’re wondering if they should step away so they don’t catch your illness. Or else they give you wrinkled-forehead looks of sympathy that make you feel even worse.

Shortly after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I noticed how uncomfortable people were around me, and how they wanted to say the right thing but didn’t know what the right thing was, so I offered suggestions in What to Say to Someone Who is Grieving. I can see there might be a special concern about saying the right thing at Christmas, but the truth is, there is no right thing. Nothing you can ever say will bring the bereft what they most need: life to make sense once more. (That might not be what we most want, but it is what we most need.)

If you know the person huggingly well, the best thing is a hug. If you knew the deceased, share a story. “I remember how Bob loved (or hated) Christmas.” Don’t assume that by ignoring the dead you are making things easier for the bereft. We remember, and it’s nice to know that others remember, too. One thing to never say is, “I know how you feel.” You don’t. You can’t. Even if you had a similar loss, everyone’s grief is different, every person is different, and by telling them you know how they feel, you are diminishing the truth of their grief. Also, don’t pressure them to tell you how they feel. Grief encompasses so many different emotions, it’s almost impossible to know how one feels. All you know is that you are in pain.

It seems such an emotional minefield, doesn’t it? But, whether you are family, good friends, or casual aquaintances, there is something you can say, something that is so common and almost rote that no one stops to analyze the words. And still these words manage to convey exactly what you want to say. (In fact, leaving off these words may make the person even worse since they will know how uncomfortable you are with their grief.)

So, what do you say to someone who is grieving at Christmas?

You say, “Merry Christmas.”

***

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.

Like Pat on Facebook.

“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?

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 begins on December 2, 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.

(Why does A Spark of Heavenly Fire begin on December 2 instead of December 1? Glad you asked that. All through the writing of the book, I kept thinking: if only people could get through the first fifty pages, I know they will like this book. So finally came my duh moment. Get rid of the first fifty pages!! With all the deletions and rewriting, I couldn’t make the story start on December 1 as I’d originally intended, but that’s okay since it didn’t end on December 25 as I had hoped. The story overgrew it’s bounds, but the symbolism still held since it ends around Easter.)

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Spark-Heavenly-Fire-Pat-Bertram/dp/1935171232/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_4

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842 (You can download the book in any ebook format, including a format for palm held reading devices!! Even better, you can download 30% absolutely free to see if you like the story.)

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spark-of-heavenly-fire-pat-bertram/1100632312?ean=9781935171232&itm=2&usri=pat+bertram

Nothing For Christmas

I never have enough time for all the nothing I want to do, so I decided to do nothing for Christmas. I am such a procrastinator that I will do anything to keep from doing what I’d planned to do — even if that something was nothing. On Christmas morning, to keep from doing the nothing I had planned, I decided to bake made-from-scratch carrot cake with yoghurt frosting so I would have something to eat when I finally settled down to doing nothing.

Leafing through my cookbook, I came across a recipe for cranberry sauce, and I was surprised to discover how simple it was — boil sugar and water and add cranberries. Seemed like a nice nothing thing to do, so I made the carrot cake and set the cranberries to cooking. Then it dawned on me I didn’t have anything to eat with the cranberries. So I cooked chicken and gravy, and since I just happened to have some stale bread, I made stuffing to go with the chicken and gravy and stuffing. I had to make a salad, too, because a meal is not a feast without fresh vegetables.

While all this was cooking, I happened to notice that the living room needed to be vacuumed, so I . . .

Vacuumed? Of course not. It was Christmas. And I’d procrastinated enough. I grit my teeth, gird my loins, got pumped, and did what I’d planned to do.

Nothing.

Drabbles and Dribbles

My guest blogger today is Sheila Deeth, author of Christmas! Genesis to Revelation in 100 Words a Day and Easter! Creation to Salvation in 100 Words a Day. Shiela writes: 

I drabble. Technically, since drabble’s a noun, I should say I write drabbles. They’re defined in Wikipedia as “extremely short” works of fiction “exactly one hundred words in length.” But however short, they’re still stories, with beginning, middle and end; and they might even be fun to read, like haiku supersized. 

Dribbles are drabbles with fifty words. And double-drabbles have two hundred. 

It doesn’t take much to write a drabble; just a paragraph or two. And once I’ve typed my mini-masterpiece I can edit something that needs only moments to read. I learn to check, where’s this going? Has anything changed? Did I repeat myself when I should’ve found a synonym? And what can I delete-adjectives, adverbs? 

I learn to choose between showing and telling with only words for one scene, selecting details to draw in the reader, and exercising the gentle art of leaving some things out. 

With a novel, I’ll want readers to keep turning the pages. With a drabble, I hope to keep their thoughts churning. And maybe some small idea will stick, till one day my book hits the stores and glues itself to their questing hands. 

I drabble, and this article is double-drabble sized. 

The drabble below is one of a series I’m posting on gather.com for Thanksgiving (though it’s probably got more to do with Hanukah). There’s a dribbled version underneath.

How do you rebuild what is broken and dirtied and destroyed? Where do you begin? 

They ripped out the altar and built it new. They set new stones to reform the walls and cleansed the undergrowth that had wrecked the pavement. They brought back the lamp and the incense and table and arranged them in their place. And they prepared the sacrifice. 

But all their labors were in vain; there was scarcely oil even to light the lamp. 

How do you rebuild? You pray to God. Then the teaspoon of oil lasted eight days long and the Temple was restored. 

…and a dribble? 

They ripped out the altar, reset the stones, and cleansed the undergrowth that had wrecked the floor. They relit lamps, burned incense, and prepared the sacrifice. But light faded, the oil was gone, the lantern burning dry. 

They prayed and the oil held out, restored, eight glorious days and nights.