Murder in 100 Words by Pat Bertram

Tom milled around the prison yard with the other inmates, waiting for the sound of death. There would be no stay of execution for their condemned mate, who would die in a most barbaric way.

“They don’t care that he’s innocent,” Tom said. “As are we all. The system is guilty, but no one wants to buck tradition.”

The thud of the axe made him flinch. He bowed his head out of respect for the dead.

In the silence, he heard the executioner’s voice drifting through the chicken wire fence. “It’s a big turkey. We’ll have a grand Thanksgiving feast.”

***

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.

Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER

Description of Light Bringer by Pat Bertram :

LBBecka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? What do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area? And how does Jane fit into the puzzle?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

Realizing Mac was waiting for her reaction, Jane said in a noncommittal voice, “You saw a UFO.”

Mac winced. “UFO? No. An FO. There was nothing unidentified about it. I knew exactly what I saw.”

“An extraterrestrial space ship,” she said flatly.

“Of course not, and aliens didn’t abduct me, either. It happened right after I closed on this property. Unable to sleep, I drove out here and was leaning against my rental car looking at the stars when the crescent flew directly overhead. I could see it as plainly as I’m seeing you right now.

“The craft was about fifteen feet in diameter, made of a composite ceramic. A remarkably conductive amalgam of the most refined copper and the purest silver coated its underside, turning it into an electrical circuit offering no resistance to the wave of electromagnetic energy it floated on. It was absolutely silent, sweeping in ions from its flight path, like a whale feeding on plankton. The ionized air around it glowed, giving it an unearthly look, but it was very much terrestrial in origin.”

Jane lifted her hands and let them drop. “How could you learn all that from one brief sighting?”

“I was part of a team working on a craft exactly like it, only we hadn’t been able to get ours off the ground, at least not then.”

She regarded him warily.

“I’m not insane,” he said, answering her unvoiced question. “I’m an aerospace engineer, retired from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.”

It took a minute or two for the significance of his story to register. “I see. You think Stellar Optics was a cover for a space telescope project, which was a cover for the real project—the development of a flying saucer.”

He didn’t respond, but he didn’t contradict her, either.

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER by Pat Bertram

Description of Light Bringer:

LBBecka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

As Special Assistant to the Director of Logistics and Deployment, Teodora, also known as The Fixer, had the best and brightest operatives the department had to offer. Intelligence agencies all over the world recommended their top young agents, hoping to cement their relationship to the powerful organization. The Deputy Director of the FBI himself had written recommendations for Keith Derrick and Hugh Wittier, mentioning their athletic accomplishments, superior scholastic standings at their respective Ivy League Universities, and exceptional performances at the FBI academy.

Teodora studied the two handsome young men visible on the split screen of her computer. They might have impressive pedigrees and extensive training, but they were unskilled liars. She didn’t even need the voice stress analyzer built into her computer to tell her they were deviating from the truth; changes in the size of their pupils and arrested movements of their hands betrayed them. Unfortunately, she could not tell which specific incident they were lying about; their involuntary reactions had begun as soon as Keith opened his mouth to give the report.

They would not be concerned with her knowing they had presented themselves as NSA agents; all her operatives used whatever tools were necessary to get the job done. They would not be concerned with her knowing about the stolen car; they had reported it immediately. They would not be concerned with her knowing the subject had apparently been expecting them or that he had assumed they were interested in the books he read. That left the man—the tall bearded man wearing dark sunglasses and a green tracksuit—who had come out of the bedroom aiming a pistol.

If this gunman did exist, who was he? The subject had no close friends. They only knew about Emery Hill because the operatives found a note wedged in the rear of a desk drawer when they had gone back and combed the apartment.

If the gunman did not exist, how had the subject escaped? And why? Hugh and Keith had been sent simply to ask him what he knew about his mother’s cousin and her ward.

Teodora made a mental note to have her computer technicians look deeper into the subject’s background, then gave the operatives her undivided attention.

Hugh stared out at her from the computer screen. “Why are we looking for these women?”

“They have information.”

“We still have not found out what Hansen knows about them,” Keith said, “and the only item we found in his apartment that might be germane is the photograph album we sent you.”

“Is your fax machine set up?”

Keith nodded.

She faxed them one of the photographs her technicians had altered to show what the females might look like today. Keith reached for the fax, scrutinized it, then handed it to his partner.

A faint line appeared between Hugh’s brows. “I saw the younger woman walk by the coffee shop in Chalcedony.”

Keith snatched the picture and gave it a second look. “I didn’t see her.”

Hugh lifted one shoulder in a barely perceptible shrug.

Teodora made certain that her expression remained blank, but she could not keep her heart from beating faster.

“Find her,” she said.

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

Conversation With Rami Ungar

Author Rami Ungar are doing a blog exchange today. He is interviewing me on his blog, and I am interviewing him on mine.  On his blog, I answer the questions you always wanted to know about me, such as how I got into writing and what books I would take with me if I were stranded on a desert island. So be sure to check out my interview: Conversations with Pat Bertram.

Meantime, meet Rami Ungar.

snakeRami, What is your book about?

“Snake” is about a young man (and I mean young) whose girlfriend is kidnapped over the phone. Later events cause him to have a break with his sanity and he becomes a serial killer, determined to hunt down every member of the mafia family that has his girlfriend. It’s a very dark thriller, and it’s very unusual to have the serial killer as a protagonist. I’m hoping that will allow people to enjoy the story more, though. Fingers crossed, at any rate.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I guess maybe it was the movie “Taken”. Yeah, there are plenty of similarities, but it’s definitely it’s own story. That’s actually what I wanted: I wanted to create a much darker story than “Taken” portrayed, though that was pretty dark in itself. I like to think I’ve succeeded in that respect. We’ll see what the reviewers say.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Probably time and school work. You want to devote all your time to writing, but inevitably things get in the way, and you end up taking several breaks. In the end it took me six months to write this book, though if I’d had more time to work on it, I might have gotten it done in half the time.

Tell us a little about your main characters.

First off, we have the Snake, our very unconventional protagonist. He’s gone through a great change, and it’s why he’s the killer he is now. I purposely did not reveal his real name in the novel, because I wanted to imply that we all could become like the Snake under certain circumstances.

There’s also Allison Langland, my main character’s girlfriend. Unlike other damsels in distress, she’s a bit more proactive. She doesn’t waste away in a cell hopeless or hoping to be rescued. She’s a fighter, and I love that about her. I think that’s also why the Snake loves her, come to think of it.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

I did plenty of research on New York City, where the story takes place. I also did research on serial killers and psychopathy, the better to understand what sort of character I was constructing. I even had a forensic psychologist and profiler give me his diagnosis on the Snake based on crime reports I created. All in the name of authenticity.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, it’s an unusual story, so I think that might get people interested. And if people really take the time to check it out, I’m sure a few of them will end up enjoying the story and identifying with the characters. That’s the hope, anyway.

What are you working on right now?

I’m writing another thriller novel, as well as editing the sequel to my previous novel “Reborn City”. I’m also working on interviews, blog posts, and articles. As usual, I’m busy as a bee.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

I guess I’m aiming for readers who like what I like. That means Anne Rice, Stephen King, and James Patterson, with a dash of manga and anime. Don’t know how many people are like that, but I’m trying to find them.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

I could probably spend hours philosophizing about that. There are many, many components that are needed to make a good story. But in brief, a good mastery of vocabulary, spelling, and grammar, a good plot and wonderful characters, and hard work will make for a good story.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Read, write, work hard, and never give up.

Where can people learn more about your book?

Where Snake is available: http://www.amazon.com/Snake-Rami-Ungar/dp/1495434931/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1402622066&sr=8-3&keywords=rami+ungar

Blog: http://ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RamiUngarWriter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RamiUngarWriter

Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER by Pat Bertram

Description of Light Bringer:

Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

Philip woke in the dark of early morning, forehead damp with perspiration, heart pounding from unremembered nightmares. When calm settled over him, he listened for the sound of Rena’s even breathing on the other side of the thin wall. Hearing only an indigo silence, he rose and went to check on her. Because he didn’t take the time to put on his braces, he made sure to plant one foot on the floor before swinging the other forward.

Rena’s bed was empty.

He found her on the porch, sitting on the single step, her strange cat beside her.

She turned a smile on him, as bright as the starshine.

He sat next to her. “What are you doing out here?”

“Listening to the music of the spheres.” As one, she and the cat tilted their faces to the sky. “Can you hear it?”

He angled his head. He heard crickets chirping nearby, dogs barking in the distance, and farther away a train clattering on its tracks. As he isolated each sound, he set it aside until there were no more noises. Then, as if from some vast remoteness, he heard a faint silvery tone that seemed to swell, bursting into a thousand jewel-bright notes. Every note sounded clean and sharp, a thing unto itself, but melodized into an aural patchwork quilt of intricate design.

After a timeless interval—minutes or hours, he had no way of knowing—heavy clouds rolled in, turning off the sky.

He shivered in the cooling air. Rena inched closer, put an arm around his waist, and nestled against him.

Warmth and sweet harmony enveloped them as if that aural quilt had settled on their shoulders.

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Second Wind Publishing

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER by Pat Bertram

Description of Light Bringer:

Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

The trail was a gentle decline, hard-packed, and free of rocks, as if it had been well traveled since time out of mind. It ended at a stream so clear its cobbled bed looked like a mosaic of semi-precious stones. On the other side of the stream, the tall meadow grasses, lavender in the mountain’s shadow, whispered softly among themselves.

Laughing, Rena caught Philip’s hand. “They’re inviting us to come play.” She ran the last few steps toward the edge of the water.

He pulled his hand away, hearing in his mind the sickening sound of ripping ligaments and tendons, and feeling the pain.

Walking carefully, he joined her by the stream.

“Too bad there’s not a bridge,” she said, “but the water isn’t deep. We can wade across.”

He put out a foot, drew it back. “You go. I’ll wait here.”

She nodded in understanding, and took his hand again. “That’s okay. I can go another time.”

They sat on the forested slope, listening to the whispering of the grasses increase in pitch as the day came to an end. After the sun set, they headed home in a rich, warm alpenglow that turned the world to gold.

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Second Wind Publishing

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

Creating the Fictional Town of Chalcedony

I needed a special setting for my latest novel Light Bringer. It needed to be part of the world but isolated, a place where people were free to be themselves without ridicule, where UFOs sightings could have had a major impact, where a secret government-sanctioned project could be hidden. Luckily, I had to look no further than out my living room window.

At the time, I was living in the shadow of the Grand Mesa, in ranching country, and much of that terrain formed the backdrop of my story. Chalcedony is the name of a fictional county sandwiched between Mesa County and Delta County. It is a beautiful place with mountains and valleys, wide-open spaces, cattle and horses, new buildings and old.

But beneath the mountains in this peaceful fictional world, unpeaceful things are happening.

Grand Mesa (The view from my living room window)
~~~

Calcedony County
~~~

Road Into Chalcedony
~~~

Mountain View
~~~

Another view of Grand Mesa
~~~

Chalcedony County
~~~

Luke’s Ranch
~~~

Pasture Gate
~~~

Ranch House in Chacedony
~~~

What lurks beneath these mountains? Read Light Bringer, and find out!
~~~
LBLight Bringer: Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Light Bringer

***

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 Barebones Kind of Writer?

As a project for a writing group, we were supposed to post the last sentence of a couple of our chapters, but it was hard for me to find last sentences that say much. It’s usually my second and third to last sentences that have the meat, with a final, very short sentence to deliver the punch, such as these chapter endings from Light Bringer.

She thrust the magazine at Mac. “This isn’t a picture of my parents.”
But the frantic beating of her heart told her it was.

She turned around slowly, and clutched at her chest.
The ghost cat was inside the house.
And so was something else.

Wisdom lay stretched out on the borrowed couch, eyes closed in feline bliss. The skin on its belly rippled gently as if being caressed by unseen fingers. A chuckle reverberated in its chest.

“Shakespeare was right,” Emery said. “‘Hell is empty. All the devils are here.’”

Still, I did manage to find several ending sentences that were a bit longer than most and even made a sort of sense by themselves:

Lying awake, staring at the dust motes dancing in the moonlight, he thought he could hear voices murmuring in the wind.

After the sun set, they headed home in a rich, warm alpenglow that turned the world to gold.

A skinny, hairless cat with luminous silver eyes sat on the porch and stared at them, a quizzical look on its face.

Could it be that they were all following a script of someone else’s devising?

They were met with a burst of color, a song of pure joy that seemed at odds with the harsh environment of the laboratory they had entered.

Hugh shot them a disgusted look, then he and Keith plunged into the light.

Hmmm. I might have to change my opinion about my writing. I always thought I was a barebones kind of writer, but there seems to be a bit of poesy to my descriptions, especially with longer passages, such as this one:

She looked just as he remembered. The lithe body that moved as gracefully and effortlessly as a song wafting on a breeze. The shoulder-length brown hair that glimmered red and gold in the sunlight. The smile, big and bright and welcoming. Only her clothes—a pale green blouse and cotton shorts—struck a discordant note, as if he were used to seeing her in more exotic attire.

“Hello,” she said when he neared. The single word sounded as musical as an entire symphony.

“Hello,” he said, a goofy grin stretching his face. He felt a harmonic resonance and knew, once again, they belonged together.

After several seconds, her smile faded. “Do I know you?”

“Of course. We met . . .”

He gazed at her. Where had they met? Though it seemed as if he had always known her, they must have met somewhere, sometime; but when, in his pathetic little life, could he have met anyone so special? It slowly dawned on him he couldn’t have—not until this very moment.

Ducking his head, he whispered, “I’ve made a terrible mistake. We don’t know . . . We’ve never . . .”

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Second Wind Publishing

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

***

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.

Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER by Pat Bertram

Description of Light Bringer:

Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

Where am I? A new foster home?

Philip supported his throbbing head in his hands and wondered if he’d live to adulthood.

Tamping down the pang of self-pity, he raised his head, and everything came clear. Or almost everything.

He knew who he was: the thirty-eight-year-old Philip, dressed in yesterday’s clothes. He knew where he was: the foldout bed in Emery Hill’s den. But he didn’t know how he got there. He remembered being in the car with the creature, flinging himself against the door—no wonder he felt so bruised—and the icy touch on his neck. Had it brought him back here?

He stood, rocking until he caught his balance, then staggered off in search of the coffee he could smell brewing.

When he entered the kitchen, Emery started and dropped the mug he had been removing from a cabinet. It came to rest at Philip’s feet. Wincing, Philip bent to pick it up.

“Jeeminy Christmas!” Emery exclaimed. “You about scared the intellect out of me. What are you doing here? I thought you went back to Denver. See what you’ve done? I’m already turning into a blithering idiot.”

Philip laughed, then cut it off and clutched his head.

“What’s wrong? Hangover?”

“Feels like it, but I haven’t been drinking.” Getting a mug for himself and pouring a cup of coffee, he wondered if he’d been drugged. He took a sip of the brew, which seemed strong enough to soften a stone, and barely refrained from spitting it out. “Tomorrow I make the coffee.”

“Fine,” Emery said absently, regarding Philip with narrowed eyes. “I always know when one of my students is in trouble. It’s time you told me what’s going on.”

“I was never one of your students.”

Emery waved away the remark. “Between the two of us we should be able to solve your predicament.”

“I’m not sure there is a solution. Right before I came here, two NSA agents came to my apartment.”

Emery shook his head as if to clear it. “I must have misunderstood. I thought I heard you say NSA agents.”

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Second Wind Publishing

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

Recycling Stories

Please welcome JJ Dare, friend and fellow Second Wind author. JJ writes thrillers (False Positive and False World), and is one of the collaborators on the Rubicon Ranch serial. Her Rubicon Ranch characters amuse me because they are so unrepentently manipulative and unabashedly malevolent. (How can they not be with such a father as Morris Sinclair?)

JJ is here to talk about recycling stories and finding a new purpose for them:

I’m in the midst of going through junk in my house and either trashing it, giving it away, or keeping it. I’m classifying junk as those things I have no immediate use for, things I haven’t used in years or have no idea why I kept them to begin with. I gave the cats an escape clause because they’re just too darn cute to put in the junk category. They’re useless, like a number of stories I’ve written, but I can’t seem to toss either the cats or the stories.

I’ve had some very good advice given to me the last time I bemoaned my many unfinished writings. One that kept coming up was for me to toss everything and start fresh. It sounds so good but it’s so hard to trash the stories I’ve given birth to. It’s like getting rid of a half-finished painting or musical score. I don’t have it in me to do it. I keep telling myself, I’ll finish this . . . one day.

I’ve come up with a solution. I was wondering what I could do with some of my incompletes and I hit upon an idea: I’ll quickly finish the stories that are at least halfway completed and combine two or three of these novellas into a novel. Sounds good on paper. A little harder to do in practice.

I started with three unfinished romances. I’m not a romance writer. I wrote these romances because I wanted to try my hand at every genre. I reread what I’d written and it occurred to me that these stories would be better classified as science fiction or horror.

I’m not a comfortable romance writer. Not because I have been denied romance in my own life, but because I’ve always viewed romance as a very private interaction between two people. To put that on paper unnerves me. When things unnerve me, I get weird. Hence, my romances are all off-beat and quirky. For the most part, though, the violence is low level and not too many characters die.

My comfort zone is action and suspense. I like to be on the go in my writing. For me, romance is a lot of faint female hearts, strong rescuing men and pining on both sides. That’s well and fine because fictional romance should be high illusion and a way to escape into a pleasant dream world where the male and female characters end up happily-ever-after after a reasonable amount of conflict.

For my type of writing, though, I pull from the quirky side of life (sometimes, my life). I love weird. I adore off-beat. Bizarre is a close personal friend of mine. Happy endings annoy me because I want to believe what I’m reading and happiness is a fleeting occurrence for all of us. I want a real-life ending.

I identify with strong male characters and equally strong female characters. I like no-nonsense and have a hard time writing fluff. Lately, my short stories and contributions to online collaborations have been my saving grace. I’m able to write quickly and decisively as long as I don’t have to think too hard about it.

But, I always come back to those things I have hanging around on my laptop. Trash them, give them away or keep them – I need to decide something because it’s gotten to the point where seeing them just sitting there accusingly has become depressing. The best hope, I guess, is to salvage what is salvageable and compile them as a collection.

One day I might broaden these novellas into full-length novels. But today, they will have to be Frankensteined into a patchwork monster of a book.

When you get stuck in a story, what do you do? How many unfinished stories do you have taking up space?

***

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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