If you Like Science Fiction …

My friend and fellow author Dale Cozort, a brilliant scientist/historian who delights in playing with alternate histories, is taking part in the Kindle Scout program. I hope you will consider nominating Dale for his new science fiction book Snapshot. Dale explains:

SnapshotI’ve been working on the Snapshot universe for over five years. I think it’s a spectacular idea. Here is what it’s about:

For eighty million years, the Tourists have been taking Snapshots of Earth, exact replicas of continents. Each Snapshot goes into its own snow-globe-shaped artificial universe. Snapshots are connected like a string of pearls by vents high over their oceans.

Snapshot people and animals quickly diverge from the real world, creating a universe where humans and animals from much of Earth’s history explore, fight and sometimes meet themselves. In October 2014, the Tourists take a North America Snapshot, cutting everyone in that copy off from the real world, but letting them fly to Snapshots where dinosaurs roam, where Indians rule North America or where Soviets or Nazis rule Europe. They may also confront the menace that lurks on the other side of a wind-swept Antarctic Snapshot.

This new Snapshot catches Middle East Analyst Greg Dunne rushing toward Hawaii to join his wife, his unborn sons and his extended family at a family reunion. The Snapshot doesn’t include Hawaii, so it cuts Greg off from everyone he loves. It also thrusts him into the aftermath of a hidden, decades-old massacre, part of a struggle between Germans from a pre-World War II European Snapshot and ranchers from Korean War-era US-53 Snapshot. The prize: a thinly settled North America-sized Madagascar Snapshot, much like the Wild West or the Australian outback. Whoever controls the Madagascar Snapshot controls communications between dozens of Snapshots.

Greg struggles to survive in this cutthroat reality, to remain faithful to a family he may never see again and to find a way back to his original Earth. He is caught between powerful opponents. A rancher who rode a hidden massacre to almost unchallenged political power faces the only survivor of that massacre, a woman driven nearly insane by the experience, but now in her own position of power, plotting revenge.

Snapshot is a fast-paced story of power and revenge set in a unique, marvelously rich universe.

If this story interests you, please nominate Snapshot for Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. It’s a quick process: Click the link https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/332ZJ8YN22MIT, click ‘nominate me’ and you’re done. If Dale’s book is selected, you get a free e-book copy. Sounds good to me!

If the direct link doesn’t work for you, go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com/, then scroll down to the science fiction and fantasy section and scroll left or right until you find Snapshot.

And oh, if you like science fiction, please check out my novel Light Bringer.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter 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.

Balm to a Writer’s Bruised Psyche

Not only do I not understand this new publish-anything world, I don’t understand this everyone-is-a-reviewer world.

It used to be that professional reviewers (I am including reviewers employed by newspapers and magazines in this category) pretty much decided what were considered worthwhile books, and readers either paid attention to those recommendations and bought the books or ignored the recommendations and bought whatever they felt like. Today, anyone is a reviewer, whether s/he is qualified or not. All it takes is an opinion. The thing is, readers who see those reviews don’t take them as an opinion. They give them the same credence they gave the professional reviewers.

To be honest, I don’t know if it’s better to have a certain literary elite passing judgment on the books or if it’s better to have casual readers doing it. Either way, people are “grading” books based on nothing more than a whim. And those whims can destroy a writer’s career, or at least keep people from buying her books.

Light Bringer is my magnum opus, the result of twenty years of research into myths, both ancient and modern. I created an entirely new worldview based on these myths, one that could very well be true if the Sumerian cosmology and today’s conspiracy theories are true. According to the editors and agents who rejected the manuscript, it was unsellable. It had too many science fiction elements to be commercial and not enough science fiction elements to be science fiction. Because of this, I purposely did not send Light Bringer out for review. People generally hate books they can not categorize, and at best, Light Bringer has a narrow niche. Still, a few readers have given the book glowing reviews, so when a reviewer contacted me recently asking for a copy of the book to review, I sent it to her.

I don’t know why she wanted to review Light Bringer.  As it turns out, she’s a romance reviewer, and Light Bringer is not a romance and was never promoted as such. Even worse, she hadn’t a clue what the book was about. To be fair, she is used to paranormal romances she can quickly skim through, but I don’t want to be fair to her since she wasn’t fair to me. She wrote a terrible review and posted it on the review site. Why? What’s the point of posting a terrible review of a book you don’t understand? It’s not as if I asked her to review the book. She asked me. Adding to the insult, the review doesn’t even make sense. If it didn’t have the name of my book on it, I would never have recognized it as my story.

On the other hand, some people do understand Light Bringer and they honor the book with their poetic descriptions.

Sheila Deeth wrote:

Pat Bertram’s novel soars in her descriptions of mystery and scenery. The song of the rainbow flows through the characters, binding them together, while the silence of the great unknown drives them and pulls them apart.

The unknown, when finally revealed, is satisfyingly strange, though, unlike many of the characters, I maintain a healthy respect for the integrity of scientists and science. Romantic subplots are simultaneously lyrical and down-to-earth; dialog is natural and sometimes laugh-out-loud fun; secrets of history and astronomy are intriguing; and the whole is a fascinating read — a touch of old-fashioned sci-fi, blended with modern magic and corporate greed, shaken, stirred and conspired against, then woven into beautiful words.

Aaron Paul Lazar wrote:

I’m already a fan of Pat Bertram’s books. I’ve read them all and loved them deeply. But LIGHT BRINGER was something completely new and surprising… surprising in its freshness, originality, its genre bending brilliance. Part thriller, part fantasy, part sci fi, part mystery…its plots were large and complex, encompassing themes that plague us every day; offering social and world commentary blended with weather trend observations (where ARE all those tornadoes and tsunamis coming from??) I do believe Bertram has defined a new genre, and it is a pure delight. Fresh. Original. Riveting. The characters are real and engaging. I particularly enjoyed the bit of romance between Luke and Jane — yes, another subplot. I couldn’t put it down and extend my highest compliments to Ms. Bertram for her supremely smooth writing — there are no hiccups in this book. Very highly recommended.

Ah, balm to a writer’s bruised psyche.

M.I.C.E. (Types of Stories)

I thought we’d talk about M.I.C.E. No, not the little furry creatures, but Orson Scott Card’s list of types of stories. In How to Write Science Fiction, he says there are 4 types of stories: Milieu, Idea, Character, Event. These are skewed toward Science Fiction, obviously, since he is a science fiction writer, but they seem fit with all stories/novels.

The Milieu is the world — the planet, the society, the weather, all the elements that come up during the world creation phase. Every story has a milieu, but in some stories, the milieu is the point of the story. It follows the basic structure of Gulliver’s Travels — an observer goes to the strange place, sees all the world has to offer, and comes back a new person. The Milieu story obviously starts when the stranger arrives in the world and end when he leaves (or decides to stay for good).

The Idea is about the new bits of information that are discovered in the process of the story by characters who did not previously know that information. Idea stories are about the process of finding the information. The Idea story begins by raising a question; it ends when the question is answered.

The Character story is about the character’s character. It’s about the transformation of the character and the character’s role in society. The attempt to change doesn’t have to be a conscious decision, it can be unconscious, a seizing of an opportunity that takes him in a new direction. The Character story begins when something happens to make the character so dissatisfied with his present role that he begins the process of change. It ends when the character settles into his new role (happily or not) or gives up the struggle and remains in the old role (happily or not).

The Event story is about a change in the universe, a disorder, and the story begins when a new order is about to be established. The Event story begins when when the world becomes disordered and ends when a new order has been established. (Or when the world descends into chaos).

So, are there other basic types of stories? Do your stories/novels fit one of these categories? What is your Milieu, Idea, Character, Event? Most stories have more than one of these elements, so how do they fit together in your stories?

Guesting at Grasping for the Wind!

I am a guest blogger at John Ottinger’s Science Fiction Fantasy News and Reviews blog, Grasping for the Wind. Please stop by and say hi. It will be nice to have company. It’s my first blog appearance for Light Bringer, my first as a science fiction writer (though to be honest, I’m not sure I am).

I never set out to write science fiction, but a funny thing happened on the way to writing Light Bringer, which was conceived as a thriller debunking UFO myths. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about UFOs and UFO technology, when I came across Zecharia Sitchin’s idea of the twelfth planet. . . .

That’s how my guest post begins. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Thank you!! Your support has always been appreciated, especially now as I am beginning a new phase of my life.

Searching for a Genre

I had a book I wanted to write, so I wrote it, following the dictates of the story without regard to the conventions of genre. Now that book — Light Bringer — is close to publication, and I have a problem. How do I sell it?

I received several rejection letters from publishers and editors over the years saying they liked Light Bringer, that the story was unique and well-written but they’d have to pass because they didn’t know how to sell it. My reaction each time was, “What????” I mean, it’s a book — you put it on the shelf in a bookstore and wait for people to buy it, right? Not quite.

Genre is how we classify books, but more than that, it’s about reader expectations. For example, a thriller is a wild ride with a hero and a villain in mortal combat. Readers expect the story to be exciting, the conflict to involve high stakes, the suspense to be cutting. Generally, the story is told from both points of view — the hero and the villain. Light Bringer is suspenseful, does involve high stakes —  the fate of the Earth — and it does have a villain and a hero, but (here is the crux of the matter) which character is the hero, and which is the villain? Besides, as those publishers and editors told me, the book has too many science fiction elements to be sold as a thriller. They also said it doesn’t have enough science fiction elements to be sold as science fiction. Since they didn’t know how to classify the book, they didn’t know how to sell it.

Now that Light Bringer is about to be released by Second Wind Publishing, I need to figure out who will be most interested in reading the book. Readers are quick to penalize writers for failing to live up to genre conventions, and Light Bringer has no clear genre. It’s too contemporary for science fiction, too outrageous for mainstream, too straightforward for a literary novel, too philosophical for action/adventure, too mythic for an historical, too mundane for fantasy, too scientific for magical realism, too western for urban fantasy, too . . . well, you get the point.

In truth, Light Bringer is  more “myth fiction” than science fiction. Instead of basing the story on science (though there is much that is scientific in the book), I based it on myths: ancient myths, modern conspiracy myths, UFO myths, flood myths, historical myths, pyramid myths. The story is the culmination of a lifetime of research, and in following the research wherever it led, I ended up the premise of Light Bringer. Perhaps I discovered some long-hidden truth. Perhaps I created a separate truth. Perhaps I conjured a fantasy.

Whatever it is, Light Bringer deserves a chance. Suzanne Francis, author of The Heart of Hythea called it brilliant. Malcolm Campbell, author of The Sun Singer said “Light Bringer is TYPICAL BERTRAM: plots within plots, multiple characters with multiple agendas, fast moving, more than enough mystery and intrigue for everyone, satisfying conclusion. Great book.”

So now comes the hard part — finding readers.

If you’re interested in taking a peek at Light Bringer, you can find the beginning of the story here.

The Transformation of the Hero

One of the best books about writing I ever read was David Gerrold’s Worlds of Wonder. It’s a how-to for writing science fiction and fantasy, but it’s applicable to all writers since, in the end, we are all creating worlds of wonder.

The aspect of the book I would like to discuss is the transformation of the hero. In the beginning, the situation is introduced and the hero discovers she has a problem. She attempts action and, though she gives it all she has, she is beaten by the problem. She gains a deeper understanding of the problem, then tries again, exhausting all possibilities she knows. All that is left is what she doesn’t know. Finally, because some event occurs or some person says something that triggers the hero’s realization of what she has to do, the hero goes through a shift in being, a reinvention of herself, and confronts the problem directly.

This transformation of the character is the reason you’re telling the story. A story is an account of how a particular person who started out like that ended up like this.

Most problems are about not handling the problem. By choosing to make the situation the problem, the hero creates herself as the source of the problem. Until she recognizes her own authorship of the dilemma, she cannot create herself as the source of the resolution. She has to give up whatever investment she has in not solving the problem. The hero has to be awakened to the possibility that there is another way to think about this. Another way to be.

So transformation is not only the re-creation of the hero as the owner of the situation, it is self-empowerment as well.

In science fiction and fantasy, this transformation is not metaphysical but real. In the process of transformation, not only is the hero changed, but the world in which he exists is also transformed.

In all other fictions, this transformation is more internal, but still real.

I have been thinking about transformation lately as pertaining to my real life. In order to become one of those rare writers who can support herself with sales of her books, I need to transform myself into an “Author,” to recreate myself as if I were a character in one of my books. Don’t know how to do it, and the only reason I’m mentioning it is to show the validity of the hero’s transformation.

So, what problems confront your heroes? How do they attempt to solve them? How are they thwarted? And finally, how do they recreate themselves to solve the problems?

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