When in Rome

On my way to Rome, Georgia, I stopped in Atlanta to have dinner with Harold Michael Harvey, author of the legal thriller Paper Puzzle and a collection of essays about the American jury system called Justice in the Round. Over a delicious quinoa and asparagus casserole made by the author, Harvey Michael and his wife entertained and educated me with stories of their involvement with civil rights matters. The thing that struck me most about our disparate lives was that both of them had two sets of grandparents who were influential in their early years while I had none. It was strange to think that everything in our three lives led to that special dinner. Our rapport was so great, I found it hard to tear myself away, but I needed to get to Rome before dark. It is hard enough to navigate back roads in the bright of day — at night, it is almost impossible.

My next stop was with another author that I had waited many years to meet — Malcolm R. Campbell, blogger extraordinaire and author of several acclaimed books, including The Sun Singer and Sarabande. The three of us, Malcolm, his wife, and I stayed up most of the night talking. As with all my online-now-offline relationships, there wasn’t a single blip of strangeness as we sequed from our various e-methods of conversing to real life.

In the morning, Malcolm took me on a tour of the magnificent 34,000 acre Berry College campus where he once taught. The highlight of the day was the bald eagle’s nest, where one of the eaglets peeked over the rim of the nest, searching for its parents. We hung around hoping to see the adult bald eagles heading home but didn’t catch so much as a glimpse of them. (You can see the eaglets live at http://www.berry.edu/eaglecam)

We topped off the tour with a visit to the old mill on the campus, the largest overshot mill wheel in the world, or so the college brags. Water is piped up the stone column and over the wheel, causing it to turn. It still works, and on occasion they run it. Unfortunately that day was not such an occasion.

During these two visits, the authors and I solved all the ills of the world. Now if we could just get the world to pay attention!

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(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.”)

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Beginning the New Year with a Clean Slate

This time of year, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of posts giving hints on how to keep one’s New Years resolutions. Some of the advice is even good:

  • Make your resolutions public. While we might easily break what amounts to a promise to ourselves, if we tell others, we have at least a modicum of incentive to keep going.
  • Make small, realistic resolutions for change rather than large, sweeping resolves. Bad habits cannot be broken over night; if it were that easy to change, all of us would be perfect.
  • Be specific. Instead of resolving to lose weight, for example, make a pact with yourself to be at least a couple of pounds lighter by the end of the year. Plan how you will lose that weight.
  • Instead of making resolutions, set goals. Once a resolution is broken, it is broken, and it seems futile to continue, but with goals, if we fail one day, we can pick up our banner the next day and continue charging into the future.

Despite all this advice, by this second day of the new year, many of us have already abandoned our resolves, and by the end of the first week, most of us will have given up. Only 8% of us will keep those resolutions until the end of the year.

This sad statistic makes us seem wishy-washy at best and lazy at worst, but I wonder if there is something else at work here rather than a lack of . . . well, a lack of resolve.

In response to my New Year’s post, Coloring My New Year, writer Malcolm R. Campbell (whose first book The Sun Singer will soon be republished by Second Wind Publishing!!) commented: “January 1 does have a clean-slate kind of feeling to it. Perhaps it is that fresh new calendar. Maybe it’s our constant reminders to ourselves to start writing 2014 (on checks and documents) rather than 2013. For some, it’s a line in the sand between old habits and new dreams. We can use it, the new calendar, to motivate ourselves one way or another.”

And then I realized why it’s so hard to maintain our New Years goals or stick to our resolutions.

We don’t lose the resolve. We lose the clean-slateness. After only a few days, the sense of a new beginning dissipates. We’ve become used to writing “2014.” We’re back into the routine of our lives, probably more tired, more broke, and fatter than we were before the holidays. And somehow, in the comfort of our old lives, we forget the idealism we had when embracing a new year. We forget that for a moment we believed anything was possible, that we could become better, stronger, healthier, wiser, richer, more beloved if only we . . .

I abandoned the practice of making resolutions when still a child after I realized that by the end of that first week, I’d completely forgotten my resolution. (I only remembered when the next new year rolled around and I had to, once again, make that same undoable commitment.)

As an adult, I don’t make resolutions, though during the past couple of years I have tried to make each day special, to become a bit “more” by the end of they day than I was at the beginning, even if was only by a well-chosen word, the glow of a smile, a laugh shared, a moment of appreciation for the world around me.

The truth is, whether we feel it or not, each day does begin with a clean slate.

What are you going to do with your today?

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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.

Meet Malcolm R. Campbell and “The Seeker”

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasies, The Sun Singer, Sarabande, The Seeker, and the satire, Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire. He is also a prolific blogger, posting interesting articles and reviews, and collecting Book Bits, the most fascinating and relevant book-related links on the internet.

I recently interviewed Malcolm to find out more about his new book and his writing practices. The interview is posted on my Pat Bertram Introduces . . . blog, but I’m posting a few responses here to whet your appetite to read more. I hope you will enjoy meeting Malcolm R. Campbell.

SeekerCoverMalcolm, What is your book about?

In The Seeker, David and Anne meet while working as seasonal employees at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park. He comes from the Montana high county where he is at home with totem animals, magic and mountain climbing. She comes from the Florida Panhandle where she is at home with botany, beaches and coastal swamps. Their intense summer romance leads them to believe they’ll be lovers forever. Typically, the realities of college life in separate towns get in the way. Then, when David’s intuition tells him Anne is in danger, he uses ancient magic to rescue her. However, cheating fate brings consequences and misunderstandings that threaten to drive them apart.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

The story was inspired by my work as a summer employee in Glacier National Park as well as my love of both the Rocky Mountains and the Florida Gulf Coast where I grew up. To my Florida friends, my going to Montana for summer work and Colorado for summer school was tantamount to traveling to another planet. The worlds are so different. So, I wondered whether two people from such diverse regions could maintain a relationship once the summer was fading away into the past.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

David Ward is very much like me. We both love climbing mountains, following our intuition, and consorting with totem animals. In the upcoming second and third books of the trilogy, my experiences are somewhat similar to David’s aboard a Vietnam-era aircraft carrier in The Sailor, and my work as a college journalism instructor leads to David’s teaching work in The Betrayed.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

David’s grandparents, the medicine woman Katoya, and the sheep rancher Jayee, are very influential in his life. Katoya teaches in magic. Jayee teaches him logic and the practical work labor-intensive jobs. Katoya and Jayee come from different worlds, having married for reasons of necessity, so they’re at odds with each other about almost everything. I had fun writing about their love/hate relationship and how it impacted their grandson. Yet, I don’t let them steal the show from protagonist David Ward, a mountain climber who really would refer working on the railroad to going to college, and Anne who is a very earth-centered, environmentally conscious young woman who doesn’t like what we’re doing to the planet.

Click here to read the rest of the interview: Malcolm R. Campbell, Author of “The Seeker”

You can find Malcolm on his website at http://www.malcolmrcampbell.com as well as on his Facebook author’s page at https://www.facebook.com/Malcolm.R.Campbell.Author

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Uncertainty Is the Only Certainty

I started yesterday by seeing a quote online:

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. –John Allan Paulos

I thought Paulos’s words were interesting in light of the way I’d like to live after my present responsibilities end. Since I can’t bear the thought of settling anywhere, I am planning to live on the go, at least for a while, and see where serendipity and spontaneity take me. The uncertainty and insecurity of such a life style makes me a bit nervous, but I’d come to the same conclusion that John Allan Paulos did — that there is no certainty, and learning how to live with insecurity is the only security you can ever truly have.

Later, I read Malcolm R. Campbell’s blog Everything That Can Happen, Does Happen where he quoted Jane Roberts “The soul can be described for that matter, as a multidimensional, infinite act, each minute probability being brought somewhere into actuality and existence; an infinite creative act that creates for itself infinite dimensions in which fulfillment is possible.” – “Seth Speaks” (1972)

I read thUncertaintye Seth books once upon a time, but lost interest in Seth’s words when I realized that most of what he supposedly said had already touted in quantum physics, such as humans existing as possibility and electronic waves, which meant that his pronouncements could have come from Jane Roberts herself rather than from an all-knowing entity. (I also was disturbed by the assertion that Hitler was in a deep sleep for a thousand years. If time doesn’t exist outside of our material universe, then what difference does it make how long he was put to sleep?)

Although this might not seem to have anything to do with uncertainty, the idea that humans exist as possibilities, as an act rather than a physical being, is a variation of quantum mechanic’s uncertainty principle, which as far as I can tell says that everything exists in a state of infinite possibilities until it is observed or otherwise interacted with by another quantum object. (Actually, it says that either momentum or position of a particle can be precisely measured, but not both, and that the very act of measuring disturbs the measurement.)

And then, last night, quite coincidentally, I watched the 1994 movie IQ — just picked it blindly from a collection of movies. And there again, the uncertainty principle raised its head and took a long hard stare at me when Einstein and his cronies discussed the nature of the universe.

What does this mean? Probably nothing, though it does seem to show that uncertainty is the only certainty.

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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.

The Next Big Thing

A couple of months ago, Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande”, invited me to participate in a blog chain, where everyone who is tagged answers a few questions about their work in progess, their next big thing. Since then, I have been asked to participate by Sheila Deeth and Dellani Oakes, and I was tagged by Emma McCoy  and Rami Ungar.

I’m not really working on anything of my own right now. I have a half-finished novel in hiatus, disjointed chapters of another novel (my attempt at doing NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago), and a short story I intended to finish this month but keep forgetting about. So, I’ve chosen to talk about Rubicon Ranch, a serial I’m writing with several other Second Wind authors. The first book in the series, Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story is available online or as a free download in the format of your choice. Currently, we are working on the second book in the series, and when this book is finished, we will continue with the serial in the hopes that one day it really will be the next big thing.

What is your working title of your book?

Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is a continuation of the Rubicon Ranch serial. It was conceived as a blog promotion, and it captured the imagination of several Second Wind authors. We each created a character and have sole creative control of that character, which makes the serial seem like a cross between a novel and a role playing game.

What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery, suspense, thriller. Take your pick.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My character is a forty-something widow, five feet five inches tall, grey eyes, brown hair, fit, oval face, flawless skin. Does that sound like anyone you know? If not, I’d choose any famous actress to play the part to make sure the movie was a success.

What is a brief synopsis of your book?

Residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? 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.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be published by Second Wind Publishing since they are the ones sponsoring the project.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

We’ve been working on the current Rubicon Ranch story about eight months, and it’s not yet finished. You can find the work in progress here: Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t know of any other book like this. It’s written by eight different authors, each taking a turn to write their chapter. We are writing blind — no outline, no idea of who is the killer, and we won’t know until the end. The authors are all presenting their character as a villain, and at the end, we will decide which one did it.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I did a round robin with a writers group, where someone started a story, and each writer took a turn at continuing the story. So many of the authors seemed to sabotage the story and other characters by introducing ridiculous elements, that I wondered what would happen if there was a bit more control, where one author could not sabotage another’s efforts. And so Rubicon Ranch was born.

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

You can sign up on the Rubicon Ranch blog to receive notification of new chapters of Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces as they are posted, or you can check back every week. Things are heating up, and each character’s secrets are being revealed. I hope you will stop by Rubicon Ranch and join the fun! Several wonderful Second Wind authors are involved in the project: Dellani Oakes, Deborah J Ledford, Lazarus Barnhill, Mickey Hoffman, JJ Dare, Claire Collins. And me, of course.

Several gallant bloggers have agreed to continue with this blog chain. During the week of December 3rd, look for The Next Big Thing blog posts by Joylene Nowell Butler, A.F. Stewart, Sherri Hansen, Jerold Last, and A. J. Race.  It should be interesting to find out what everyone is working on!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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 inspires you to write a particular story?

Like most writers, I’ve written the beginnings of a few books that have gone nowhere. I have zero interest in pursuing them. On the other hand, for various reasons, the books I did write took hold of my imagination and didn’t let go until they were completed. For example, A Spark of Heavenly Fire came about because of a Washington Irving quote: “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.” I loved the idea of a woman who felt half-dead when everyone else was doing well, but in a time of dying, she came to life. Since I didn’t want to do a war story, I created a plague — the red death. I had fun with that, and the story so captured my imagination that I had no choice but to pursue it.

Here are a few inspirations other authors. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

I was inspired to write Disco Evil because I believe everyone deserves a fair go and that people who go out of their way to be nasty to others really do build up bad karma for themselves. I happen to like quest/adventures stories so that’s how Ghost Dance came about. Two of the women in Ghost Dance are based on certain stand up and be counted sort of ladies I know and love in real life.

From an interview of Malcolm R. Campbell, Author of “Sarabande”

“The Sun Singer” is about a young man’s solar journey. I wanted to look at the other side of the coin, so to speak, and write about the lunar-oriented ordeals of a young woman. Sarabande, my protagonist first appeared in “The Sun Singer.” However, I have written her story so that it can be read as a standalone novel, a woman’s story that could be whole in and of itself.

From an interview of J J Dare, Author of False Positive and False World

I was inspired to write about hidden government agendas and their devastating aftereffects when I thought about why we, as a nation, involve our resources in other nations’ conflicts. My biggest inspiration: the eternal, What if?

From an interview of Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead”

Honestly, one day it occurred to me that there weren’t enough stories about fantastic 50-year-old women. I wasn’t quite 50, but decided that while it might be nice to be young and beautiful like Cheryl Ladd and all those other famous ladies from my era, there’s nothing quite like the wisdom and empowerment that comes with age.

I was inspired to write the book after reading some nonfiction books about contemporary domestic slavery and human trafficking.

From an interview of Sheila Deeth, Author of “Flower Child”

Actually it was a writing competition at our local writing group. The prompt was to write a short piece inspired by music, and I had John Denver’s Rhymes and Reasons spinning around in my head — For the children and the flowers / Are my sisters and my brothers… I found myself putting a childhood misunderstanding together with my adult experience.

If you’re a writer, what inspired you to write a particular story? If you’re a reader, what inspires you to read a particular story?

Book Bits #114 – Kudos to Beauty & the Book, Roald Dahl stamps, William Gibson, Queen Elizabeth

Three reasons to read Malcolm R. Campbell‘s Book Bits #114

1. It’s the best compendium of book information orbiting the blogosphere

2. It has a link to my Pat Bertram Introduces blog where I interview Benjamin Cheah, an author from Singapore

3. It has a link to the incomparable Beth Hill’s latest article for her The Editor’s Blog.

Book Bits #114 – Kudos to Beauty & the Book, Roald Dahl stamps, William Gibson, Queen Elizabeth.

(If you would like to do an interview for my Pat Bertram Introduces blog, you can find the questions and instructions by clicking here: Pat Bertram Introduces . . . )

Seeking Stories that Live Within Us by Malcolm R. Campbell

I am delighted to welcome my guest, Malcolm R. Campbell and his newest novel “Sarabande.” Malcolm is so very generous to other authors, it’s great to be able to return the favor. Besides, he’s a fine writer who pens powerful tales, and he has better insights into storytelling than anyone I know. Malcolm says:

A living myth is told and retold as the centuries pass. Poets, painters, musicians are nourished by its imagery, and in each retelling something is added from the collective attitudes, conscious and unconscious, of the time and from the individual vision of the artist.” – Helen M. Luke in “The Laughter at the Heart of things.”

As I read Helen M. Luke’s analysis of the myth of the ring as viewed by Richard Wagner in The Ring of the Nibelungen (known as the four-part “Ring Series”) and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, I was struck by the fact this story is now part of our world view. Whether we learned of the myth through the original source materials, Wagner’s musical dramas, Tolkien’s books, or the feature film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, the story lives inside us as though it actually happened. Tolkien expressed contempt for Wagner’s version of the old Norse myth drawn from the 13th century Icelandic Volsung Saga. Yet most critics believe Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelungen (consisting of “Das Rheingold,” “Die Walküre” Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung”), composed between 1848 and 1874, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, written between 1937 and 1949, are different interpretations of the same myth, and that Tolkien was also influenced by Wagner. Myths often have as many interpretations as history as though they refer to actual events.

Listen to the discussions about J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and you will hear people talking about Harry, Snape, Dumbledore and Voldemort in the same way they speak of celebrities, world leaders and newsmakers who come into their lives television, concerts and the Internet. All of these people, fictional or actual, are larger than life. While novel readers and film audiences know there is a difference between Tolkien’s characters and Rowling’s characters on one hand and well-known people within our culture, all of them are part of our shared story.

Earlier generations were impacted by Star Trek and Star Wars events and characters just as strongly. We know the difference between fictional characters aren’t read and that real people aren’t fictional, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all the same. While even the most fanatical fans don’t expect to see Captain Kirk, Spock, Frodo or Hagrid searching for salad greens in the produce department at Kroger or addressing Congress about the state of the galaxy, the worlds of those characters is part of our lives as though it’s a living and breathing reality.

Most authors don’t write with the expectation that their stories will impact readers with such force that the characters will suddenly take on independent lives of their own. At best, authors hope their stories and characters will seem real while their books are being read. For a reader, there’s nothing better than plunging into a good story, becoming enchanted by it, and following it with the fervor they follow family dramas and the biggest news stories of the day.

Yet some stories catch our fancy and stay with us long after we put the book down or leave the theater. Those are the stories we seek because they take us on flights of fancy, display new worlds before our mind’s eye, and take us on physical and emotional journeys that expand our lives and enrich our imaginations. Ask any reader what his or her favorite books are, and s/he will tell you about good guys and bad guys and things that go bump in the night and awesome landscapes that are just as much a part of his or her life as co-workers, neighbors and family.

As readers, finding such novels is part of a never-ending quest for a real page turner of a story we will never forget because it lives inside us and evolves every time we read it, talk about it and think about it. As readers, we love our living fiction.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of three contemporary fantasies, Sarabande (2011), Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey (2010) and The Sun Singer (2004).

Click here to read an interview with: Malcolm R. Campbell

Click here to read an excerpt of: Sarabande

Tell Them Pat Sent You

I am doing NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), which is why I am temporarily back to blogging the way I started out — a post a day. It’s been fun; I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed blogging. I started this blog soon after I hooked up to the internet because I heard that all authors should have a blog as the foundation for promotion. I hadn’t a clue what a blog was, hadn’t any idea what blog platform to use, but wordpress seemed intuitive to me, and so I signed up — a bit timidly, I admit. That timidity didn’t last long. I took to blogging like a frog to a bog, and never looked back.

The fun of blogging comes in saying whatever you wish, but the most fun is saying something that touches people enough that you get comments and have conversations. Thank you, everyone, for making this such a great experience.

A special thank you to frequent commenters: Carol Ann HoelMalcolm R. Campbell, Carol J. Garvin, Sheila Deeth, Joylene Nowell Butler, Leesis. Not only have they helped me through a very dark time in my life, which is reason enough to salute them, they all have wonderful blogs of their own. Clicking on their names will take you to those blogs. If you leave a comment, tell them Pat sent you.

Thinking Inside the Box

Sometimes it amazes me that there is an entire world one can enter through the portal of a electronic box. The only reason this doesn’t always amaze me is that I tend to take the Internet for granted, which, perhaps, is a sign of my addiction. The cyber world is infinitely fascinating and filled with exciting possibilities. A potential friend could lurk behind an anonymous blog view. A possible fan might discover one of my books because of a guest appearance on a blog. I might learn something new on a discussion thread, or I might read a comment that fires my imagination.

I’ve put my addiction to the Internet to good use. I’ve wanted to do all I can to give my books a good send-off, and since I started from zero, I had to learn how to blog, to discuss, to connect on the internet. That in itself satisfied my creative bent for a long time, but now the doubts are starting to creep in. I’m getting known as a blogger and a promoter, but am I getting known as an author?

At Sun Singer’s Travels, author Malcolm Campbell asks: Are you tired of spending more hours a week on Facebook than you are writing? Are you tired of writing more words on all your blogs than you’re writing in all your novels? And, do you ever wonder if you’re becoming less yourself by trying to think of a constant stream of posts, status updates, comments and links that match all the latest trends enough that somebody will notice and stop and look for a moment?

Such interesting questions, ones I hadn’t asked myself until recently. I used to think that I am more myself online than offline, but now I am beginning to wonder if I am losing my offline self. Are my posts and comments reflecting me, or are they creating me? Am I still a writer, or have I simply become a blogger? I know that whatever I am doing is helping establish my online presence, but will it sell books?

I do believe in the Internet. I think the future of books (or at least my books) will come from online promotion, but I’ve begun to realize that promotion is a marathon, not a sprint. It also seems silly at times, a matter of “The House that Jack Built.” Every day I write and promote an article on my blog that promotes the blog where I have another article that’s supposed to promote the book that I wrote. Whew! Sometimes I even write a second article to promote the one on my blog that promotes the one on someone else’s blog that promotes the book that I wrote.

I have ten days left of my Daughter Am I blog tour, and then it will be time to re-evaluate my online life.

All these words just to announce today’s blog tour stop: The Challenge of Research. You can also register to win a free print copy of Daughter Am I.

Description of Daughter Am I: When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians — former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

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