Your Truest Purpose For Existing

Once upon a time not so long ago, there was a mythical social networking site for creative types called “Gather.” I call the site mythical because it seemed uncanny and serendipitous the way so many kindred spirits migrated to the site, and also because the defunct site has disappeared into the myth of memory. Was it as special as we all seemed to think? It must have been because in its short history, it affected so many of us in a positive way. In fact, many of the people I have visited on my cross-country trip were people I met on Gather nine years ago, including fellow author Lazarus Barnhill.

Lazarus Barnhill is one of those folks who seem larger than life. Charming and charismatic, unbelievably intelligent and intuitive, and so busy he’s harder to catch hold of than a wisp of cloud. (I’m getting ridiculously eloquent here, but he tends to bring out the best — and worst — in people.)

Several years ago, I interviewed Lazarus for my blog (Pat Bertram And Lazarus Barnhill Discuss Writing as Destiny), but he, being the contrary sort of individual he is, turned the tables and interviewed me. The interview was almost embarrassingly intimate, though I don’t know why. Maybe because it was the first time we ever “talked” and he seemed interested in me at a time when my life was closing in on itself. Maybe because I was open and willing to answer his questions. Maybe because he said such insightful things about my books that I felt giddy. He seemed to see more in my works than I expected people to see, perhaps even more than I myself had seen. But that is the beauty of writing one’s truth. It has a way of making itself felt.

So what does this have to do with today’s blog post? Well, I had a chance to take a look at Barnhill’s newest book, Pastor Larsen and the Rat. The story is about Pastor Larsen, who, in the face of the drudgery, church politics and frustration that are the usual professional hazards of the ministry, is faced with a dangerous and intriguing complication — Ange. No one in Larsen’s close knit congregations knew of the existence of this woman, the daughter of a parishioner who appeared just in time for her mother’s funeral. For Larsen, Ange is more than mysterious. She is alluring, wise and astonishingly intuitive. . . . And then there is the issue of the large rat that seems to be taunting the members of his church.

This is a book that only Lazarus Barnhill could have written. A pastor turned author, Barnhill knows more than most people about what goes on behind the serene countenance of a church, but more than that, he has a talent for mixing the irreverent with the reverent, the salacious with the spiritual, the naughty with the nice.

I asked Lazarus if he were afraid people would find his book controversial. He said, “To a degree. Some will find it profane. I hope some find it insightful and hopeful. Those familiar with religious bodies — and with the way spirituality operates in human life — will not be able to deny it’s honesty — not the sex part, but the organized religion part, and the divine intervention part. Ultimately I hoped when I wrote it that non-religious people would read it for the naughty romance and gain some insight into how the holy is able to work in our midst despite all that religions do to prevent it; and that religious people would ‘force themselves’ to live with the titillation in order at last to read something truthful about their gatherings.”

A love of truth in literature seems to be something that Lazarus and I have in common. Although we want people to read our books for enjoyment, being entertaining isn’t our only reason for writing. We need to tell our truth. Lazarus goes beyond that, believing that “whatever force there is out there in creation (call it God, destiny, a Higher Power or whatever you want) actually wants you to write. When you write, you are fulfilling an essential aspect of your truest purpose for existing.”

Lucky for us, Lazarus Barnhill is fulfilling his destiny.

pastor larsen and the rat

Click here to read an Excerpt From PASTOR LARSEN AND THE RAT by Lazarus Barnhill

Lazarus Barnhill talks about Pastor Larsen and the Rat here: Interview With Lazarus Barnhill, Author of PASTOR LARSEN AND THE RAT

What are you waiting for? Click here to buy the ebook: Buy Pastor Larsen and the Rat on Kindle for $0.99 kindle.

***

(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.”)

Justifying Our Sex Scenes

Lazarus Barnhill, a fellow author at Second Wind Publishing, is planning to rerelease his novels to include the sex scenes he removed for the sake of keeping the familial peace. I understand why he wants to include the scenes — he wishes to reclaim his literary perogative and publish the books the way he wrote them, which is as it should be. Besides, with the scenes included, the books will probably go viral.

Though I wouldn’t admit it to him, I like the books the way they are now, with the focus more on the mystery in The Medicine People and the romance in the Lacey Took a Holiday. The truth is, I’ve never been fond of sex scenes. I read for mental titillation — expanding my mind, letting my thoughts wander into the realms of what if — and sex scenes leave little scope for such meanderings.

Despite tMore Deaths Than Onehat, I did write one very graphic sex scene for my first book More Deaths Than One. The scene appalled my father (by then my mother was gone, so I never got to hear her words on the subject. Whew!), but that was an important scene in the book.

The story is about a man who is so ordinary he almost seems invisible. Everyone assumes they know him, seeing him as a reflection of themselves. And yet, he has hidden depths that only one woman, Kerry, managed to see. As Kerry told Bob, trying to explain why he interested her, “I’d like to say it’s because you have hidden depths, but your depths aren’t hidden, they’re obvious.” She chuckled. “Maybe you have hidden shallows.”

The graphic sex scene wasn’t with Kerry, though eventually they did make love. The scene was with Bob and another woman, a woman who taught him about prolonging the pleasure and satisfying a woman. If you didn’t know why Bob had such a talent, it would have been unbelievable when you discovered that such a seemingly weak man would have such discipline. The scene also set up the love scene with Kerry. The scent of frangipani had always reminded him of that first woman, and yet when he and Kerry finally got together, he realized that from now on, whenever he caught a whiff of that scent, it would remind him of Kerry, of the teasing look in her eyes, of the moment he fell in love with her. (But then, don’t we all justify our sex scenes as important to the book?)

Oddly, each of my novels had less sex in that the previous one, and the last one had none. It’s hard to write sex scenes that are consistently new and fresh, and I’d said it all in that first book.

Someone dared me once to write an erotic novel, and I even accepted the dare, at least verbally, but I doubt I will ever write the book. The only reason I can see for writing is to write what only I can write, and it’s hard to bring individuality to sex scenes. (Which is probably why bondage and masochism are so prevalent right now — they are different from what people are used to.) Still, I’m young in author terms. I’ve only written five books. Anything could linger in all those as unwritten books of mine!

As for Lazarus Barnhill’s books, I’m keeping the versions I have for now. When he gets rich and famous, those expurgated copies will be worth a fortune, and I will be set for life!

***

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.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I always wanted to be a reader. That’s really all I ever wanted to do. I did try writing a novel many years ago, but the words never came flowing out of me the way I thought they should — in fact, there were no words at all — so I accepted that I had no natural talent for writing. About ten or eleven years ago I decided phooey with talent, and I started writing again. I thought it would be a good way of taking my mind off my problems. I also read books about writing, publishing, and promoting, so basically I gave myself a crash course in the whole writing spectrum.

Here are some responses from other authors about whether they’d always wanted to be writers. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Siobhán Nolan, Author of “Old Man Harry”

No, I haven’t. I didn’t even consider myself a writer until I saw my book in print. That was only a few weeks ago, but there’s something so powerful about that moment when you hold your published work in your hands for the first time and can truly say to yourself, “Wow, I did it. I’m a writer.”

From an interview with Lazarus Barnhill, Author of “The Medicine People”

When I was a child of four or five, Wednesday nights were “dollar nights” at the Riverside Drive In: a whole car load of people could see the movie for a buck. My parents and sister would sit in the front seat and I’d sit in the back. Periodically during the show, I would say what the character on the screen was about to say. Eventually my parents got really tired of that and forbade it. But something took root in me even back then. As an elementary school child I would constantly start stories that ended up being only a page or two long — and made me feel like a failure. When I was in sixth grade I lay awake one night and created a story that involved every child in my homeroom class. With the blessing of Miss Roach (and, no, I did not make up that name), I laboriously wrote the story down — probably thirty-five or forty pages — and was given permission on the last day of school to read it to the class. With about five pages left (I was just about to be machine gunned by the villains, having recovered the money they stole from the bank), the principal came in and said that we were free to go to the playground or to stay inside. The students immediately bolted — not one even asking how the story ended. I decided then to write the sort of stories that people would not be able to put down . . . and I’m still working on that.

From an interview with J. P. Lane, Author of “The Tangled Web”

I’ve been a writer by profession most of my adult life, but there wasn’t any point when I thought I wanted to be a writer. I just fell into writing quite by chance – just the way The Tangled Web came about – by chance. There was no thought of wanting to write a book. One day, I sat down and started writing and about a year later, there was a novel on my computer. Mind you, I was an advertising and marketing writer and I also had articles published in major Florida publications, so I wasn’t exactly green when I ventured into the world of fiction. Advertising writing requires tremendous discipline, so I was already reasonably equipped to be an author.

What about you? Have you always wanted to be a writer? Or, like me, have you always wanted to be a reader?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

***

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.

What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?

I’ll be leaving the world my books, which are words enough, but besides that, this is how I’d like the world to see me:  “Pat Bertram has a marvelous ability to write the longest parables in all of literature. She unglues the world as it is perceived and rebuilds it in a wiser and more beautiful way.” — Lazarus Barnhill, author of The Medicine People and Lacey Took a Holiday.

Here are some other authors’ responses to the question of what words they would like to leave the world when they are gone. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Jim Magwood, Author of “The Lesser Evil”

Some goals are so worthy that even to fail is glorious.

From an interview with June Bourgo, Author of Winter’s Captive

Hmm…my writing career has come late in life for me. I have been a late bloomer with many things in my life. So I guess I would say: You’re never too old to follow your dreams and accomplish your goals. I don’t mind getting older, if I have followed my dreams. But I don’t want to get old and have regrets.

From an interview with Charlie Kenmore, author of “Earth Angel”

“There’s been a mistake.”

From an interview with Cynthia Vespia, author of “Demon Hunter: Saga”

Wow, that’s huge. I don’t know about words but I’d like to know that I made the world a better place for somebody just by being there for them. My words have always been “Live Your Dreams” Because life is short and dreams shouldn’t be dashed.

From an interview with Linda Nance, author of Journey Home

I tried…I really did and I did not give up.

So, what words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

Introducing Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel

I am involved in a wonderful project with eight other Second Wind authors. Rubicon Ranch is an ongoing collaborative novel that we are writing online. It is the story of people whose lives have been changed when a little girl’s body was found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Each of us writers is responsible for the development of our own characters. My character is Melanie Gray. She has traveled the world with her husband, a world-renowned photographer. Together they authored many coffee-table books (she did the writing, he the photographs). One of the books told about mountains of the world, one about rivers, one about oceans, one about forests, and now they have a contract to do deserts. After they rented a house in Rubicon Ranch to begin their in-depth study of the southwestern deserts, he died in a car accident.

Now, not only does she have to deal with the pain of losing her husband and figuring out what she’s going to do for the rest of her life, she needs to fulfill the publishing contract or she’ll have to reimburse the publishers, which she cannot do because the advance is all but spent. Since she is not a photographer, she roams the desert bordering on Rubicon Ranch, taking hundreds of photos, hoping that a few of them will accidentally end up being as brilliant as her husband’s photos always were. She finds the child’s body and takes photos of the scene after calling 911. At first she is a suspect but once the Sheriff has ruled her out, he requests her help in reading the desert and desert-related clues. Still, the sheriff does not trust her completely, thinking she is hiding something.

These chapters have already been posted:

An additional chapter will be posted every Monday. Please join in the adventure — it should be fun! We don’t even know whodunit and won’t know until the end.

The Best Thing About Writing Fiction

This morning, author Lazarus Barnhill posted an article on the Second Wind Blog about why he writes fiction. He wrote:

”When you write about a controversial issue, you don’t have to make it the center of your story to express it fully.  You just work it in.  For instance, when I wrote The Medicine People, I dealt a lot with the quiet underlying bigotry Native Americans and Western European descendants still harbor for one another but never express out loud.  And while it was essential to the story, it didn’t overwhelm the novel.  Stories have the power to make an issue live in the mind of the reader the way a speech never can.

“And the best thing about being a fiction writer is, you don’t have to brag to get your point across.  The best writer is one whose reader gets absolutely lost in the narrative.”

When I began writing, I had a lot to say about the way we are manipulated to suit the needs of big business and big government, and that theme underlies my first four novels. Though that theme was important to me, I tried to make the story even more important so as not to overwhelm the readers. I used up that theme, so I don’t know what I want to say in my future books, which is perhaps why I haven’t been able to write — I don’t know what I want to say, or rather, why I want to say it. I tried to write a story simply for the story’s sake, but that manuscript is stalled halfway through. I do have a theme for that — freedom vs. security vs. responsibility — but the book is not a thriller, has no mystery, is more of an apocalyptic allegory, which is something I would never read, so I don’t imagine anyone else would want to either. The point being, I write fiction because . . . Apparently I have no reason since I am not writing fiction at the moment. 

So, why do you write fiction? What is the best about being a fiction writer? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? How do you make sure readers get lost in your fiction?

Let’s talk.

The group No Whine, Just Champagne will meet for a live discussion about writing and the writing life on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:00pm ET. I hope you will stop by — it would be nice to see you. You can find the discussion by clicking here. If you can’t chat live, we can chat on this blog.

Books Make Good Christmas Gifts

Of course books make good Christmas gifts. You know that. Here’s a list of books you may not have heard of by relatively unknown writers — at least they are relatively unknown at the moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two or even all of the authors are household names by this time next year.

The Medicine People by Lazarus Barnhill is a deceptively lighthearted mystery with great characterization and surprising twists and turns.  Why has triple murder suspect and fugitive Ben Whitekiller returned to his hometown to give himself up? Click here to read the first chapter.

Staccato by Deborah J. Ledford is a well-orchestrated thriller about three world-class pianists, two possible killers, one dead woman and a great mental soundtrack for those who know music. Ledford draws you into her world and doesn’t let go until the final crescendo. Click here to read the first chapter.

Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire by Malcolm Campbell: Though Jock Stewart is a throwback to the Hollywood’s film noir reporters, Campbell’s delight in words and wordplay shows through the hardbitten shell, and the novel has a gleeful undertone. Click here to read: an excerpt or the first chapter.

Heart of Hythea by Suzanne Francis is an epic novel full of romance and adventure, with a strong female protagonist who isn’t always sweetness and light. Suzanne’s world is filled with colorful details and captivating characters. Click here to read a synopsis and an excerpt.

Dead Witness by Joylene Nowell Butler is a novel of international intrigue and danger with a hero who fights criminals and the FBI to take control of her life “with every ounce of fury a mother can possess”.  Click here to read the first chapter.

Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus Barnhill is an unlikely romance between a man who has lost everyone he ever cared about and a womanwho has been betrayed and abused by every man she has ever met.  Click here to read the first chapter.

And be sure to check out the books from Second Wind Publishing Company. You might even see a familiar cover or two.

Googling Sex With Your Sister

Who knew that googling sex with your sister was a bi-monthly activity? The last time I had a spike in blog readership it was due to an article I wrote when I discovered how many people were finding me using search terms involving sex with sisters. Sex With Sister Tips. Um…Yeah got 402 hits in July, 67 hits in August, 235 hits in September, 10 hits in October, and so far 280 hits in November. Each of these spikes in hits occurred within a short span of time, which makes me wonder what happens for a couple of days every other month that makes people want to know about having sex with their sister. On the other hand, perhaps I don’t want to know.

I’m going to miss perusing stats such as these, but if I’m going to be spending less time online, the stats will have to go. Though I find them fascinating, checking stats is an unproductive activity. Does it help me to know that blog readership is down? Does it help me to know that blog viewership is up due to sex with sister tips? Not really.

And why am I writing about this instead of promoting my blog tour? Because it’s more interesting than announcing that, once again, my host bailed on me. I posted the article on the Dragon My Feet blog so it didn’t go to waste, so if you want to see it, you can find it here: What Do You Do When You Have Too Much Background Information?

Lazarus Barnhill, a fellow Second Wind author has posted an interesting article: In Praise of Romance. It’s mostly about the Second Wind romance writers (so you won’t find my books listed), but it’s still worth taking a look at — for the question he asks, if nothing else: Can a man write a romance novel?

So what else is interesting? I spent the morning unfollowing people on Twitter who unfollowed me. If you want to find out who unfollowed you, go to Friend or Follow. It’s one of the more interesting Twitter-related programs I’ve seen in a long time. The unfollowing is the beginning of my new focus — quality, not quantity. I’m not going to automatically follow people just because they follow me. If my promotional actvities aren’t going to make me rich, then I’m going to have fun.

Speaking of fun, tomorrow should be a fun day. I’m going to be hosting romance author Judi Fennell here and at Dragon My Feet, and she will be hosting me at her blog. I will be talking about mountains and mermaids. Bet you never saw that one coming!

Don’t forget, you can download the first 30% of each of my books free at Smashwords.

Oh, and in case you’d like to follow me on Twitter, you can find me here: Twitter

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Twits and Tweets

I’ve been sitting here for about thirty minutes trying to come up with a topic for my online live chat tomorrow night at No Whine, Just Champagne on gather.com, trying to think of a bloggery for the Second Wind blog tomorrow, trying to think of something to write for my blog tonight. While I’ve been waiting for my brain to kick into gear, I’ve been doing the online equivalent of channel surfing — checking my emails, checking Facebook to see if anything is going on, checking Twitter.

Ah, Twitter. Now that’s something I can talk about. Is Twitter still a good way of connecting with people? It seems as if the only people who are adding me are multi-level-marketers, people posting links to nude pictures, people actively looking to sell me something, or people with more than 10,000 followers. I can’t imagine that any of those people will see or care about my tweets. In fact, it’s probably time for me to go through my followers and block those I’m not interested in. I should also go through the list of those I am following. When I first started with Twitter, I followed everyone who followed me, but I can see that’s no way to use the site. Maybe it’s better to have just a few followers and followings, people who actually care about one another’s twits and tweets?

I’ve read that Twitter has a 60% 30 churn rate, which means that 60% of those who sign up don’t return after 30 days. So there’s a good chance that more than half of those who follow me or who I follow aren’t even on the site. If I had the time, it would be a good idea to clean up my account, but if no one is paying attention, does it matter?

What I’m really looking for is the next fun site. Facebook is fun for me, but that’s because I’ve figured out a few things to do on the site, and I’ve actually been able to connect with people. Same with Gather. Goodreads should be fun, since it’s about books, but I find I have nothing much to say about books any more. In fact, I have four books sitting here on my desk — Steel Waters and Toxic Shock Syndrome by Ken Coffman, and The Medicine People and Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus Barnhill — books I promised to review but haven’t (sorry Ken and Laz), books I read and loved, yet the only thing I can think of to say about all four books is, “Great book. Read it.” Not much of a review, though it is the truth. So the books sit here, taunting me. But I digress.

So, what is the next fun site? If you hear of a site that’s easy to use, that get’s your name out there, that helps you make friends and connections, let me know. I need more places to check when I go surfing.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Waiting For an April Time

My bloggery of yesterday about where to go from here generated a few emails, with people telling me not to give up writing. No fear of that. Writing is a part of my life, and I still have many books in me, but I am at a crossroads, on a plateau, standing still . . . choose your cliché. (I haven’t yet told you about my love affair with Microsoft OneNote, but I just found another use for it! The WordPress article editor doesn’t add the accent mark on cliche, so I wrote the word on OneNote which does add the accent, and I copied it here. You gotta love such a versatile application!) 

I know I shouldn’t  overthink everything — as Theodore Roethke wrote: “A mind too active is no mind at all.” — but this is one time in my life that I feel like indulging myself in an orgy of thinking.  During the past eight years of learning how to write, writing my four novels, studying the publishing industry, sending out query letters, dealing with hundreds of rejections, finally finding a publisher, preparing the books for publication, and then waiting for their release, (to say nothing of learning how to use a computer, to navigate the internet, and to promote) I had the idea that I needed to write a certain way to be acceptable to a publisher. So I tried to become a writer some mythical publisher would be willing to accept. Well, unlike other authors who’s options are limited by a publisher who wants them to continue writing in the same genre — often with the same characters — I have a publisher who loves my writing and seems to be willing to publish any novel I produce. So that leaves me untethered. If I don’t have to conform to the dictates of the publishing industry, that means I have to conform to my own. Which means I have to know who I am. But the fact is, the last years of writing have changed me, so I no longer know. (Which makes me wonder: do we write a book, or does our book write us? It seems as if changes in our lives affect what we write, and what we write affects our lives and brings about changes.)

Basically, what I’m doing with all this overthinking is opening myself to the changing seasons of my life. Trying to figure out where to take my writing and where my writing (and my resistance to writing) is taking me. 

A couple of weeks ago, during my online discussion with Lazarus Barnhill (author of Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People), Barnhill mentioned that Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way suggests writing three pages every morning. Basically stream of consciousness stuff. Well, I got the book, and now I’m doing the morning pages, and surprisingly, I love it! I thought it was the puzzle aspect of writing I like. Maybe it’s just the writing. So, even though it’s not creative writing, I am doing three pages a day. And I’ve mostly reclaimed my blog for myself instead of using it to promote other people, so even though that’s not creative writing, either, it also is writing. (I am still doing a bit of promotion, though I’m gearing it more toward discussions than guest appearances. Right now I am having a discussion with Malcolm Campbell, author of The Sun Singer. That discussion about the writer’s journey will be posted on this blog in another week.)

In her book The Stillwater Meadow, Gladys Tabor wrote: “People have seasons . . . There is something steadfast about people who withstand the chilling winds of trouble, the storms that assail the heart, and have the endurance and character to wait quietly for an April time.”

Well, that’s what I’m doing — waiting (not so quietly) for an April time.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook