The Wilds of Civilization

After eleven years, Sheila Deeth, a fellow author and one of my very first online friends, has become an offline friend! It was a true delight to see her in person, but the truth is, it has made no change in our relationship. We were friends who knew almost everything about each other, and we are still friends. In fact, as with other online friends who have become all line friends, there wasn’t a second of awkwardness. We simply moved from a written relationship to one with sound.

People always worry about my visiting people I don’t know, but after so many years of sharing blogs and books and publishers and moments of our lives, we do know and trust each other. (Assuming one person can truly know another.) And so it was — a simple segue into a new phase.


I’d been following online the trauma of Sheila’s flooded basement and its resurrection, and I so wanted to see her library. Instant library envy! After seeing it, I teased her that I might never leave. A roomful of books — wow!

Although she mentioned their disappointment in not having a view, I thought they had a fabulous view. Who needs a distant backdrop when one has such great beauty beside one’s own house? I have lived in desert areas my whole life — and make no mistake, Colorado is a desert with one benefit, its white gold (snow) that makes it possible (assuming that one does not have a brown thumb as I do), with a lot of effort to carve out a colorful space for yourself. Seeing so much almost effortless green seems miraculous to me.


One thing I love about traveling and visiting people is that for a short time I get to borrow someone else’s life, and that night I got to share in Sheila’s after dinner ritual — a cryptic crossword puzzle. I had often come across the puzzles, but the things were too cryptic for me, with a code language all its own, and they helped me crack the code. If I ever come across another such puzzle, I will attempt to solve it, and think of that lovely evening.

Before I left, Sheila took me to the Pittock Mansion


to see a panoramic view of Portland.

Although I had planned a trip into the wilds of nature, I ended up a trip into to wilds of civilization, and what an adventure!


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, 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.”)


The Blooming Desert

The desert is blooming, and so, I hope, am I. Each day I do a bit more, stretching my poor deformed limb, trying to get back into my life, whatever that might be.

No — not my poor deformed limb. My exquisite limb. As Sheila Deeth, friend and fan extraordinaire, suggested, paraphrasing the blurb at the bottom of my posts, “’an exquisite wrist, wrenching to move, and at the same time full of profound promise’ perhaps?” I like her phrasing so much better than the way I describe my wrist! And I’m sure the wrist would appreciate the new appellation because it is trying so hard to move! It’s not the limb’s fault it doesn’t look the same as it used to. (Though who am I to judge? I don’t look the same, either!)

Today I used both Pacerpoles (I’d been using the right-handed trekking pole as a cane), thinking the left pole would give my wrist a workout, and sure enough, it did, though I had to carry the pole part of the way. Still, any usage of the wrist, no matter how painful, is a step in the right direction.

And, even better, both my exquisite wrist and my exquisite self were rewarded with these exquisite images of the blooming desert:


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.

Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story — Review by Sheila Deeth

Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative trilogy that was written online by me and several other authors from Second Wind Publishing. We started out with the murder of a little girl, and though we never knew where we were going (the murderer wasn’t chosen until the very end) or what the other writers were doing, we actually ended up with a book that seemed as if it had been planned from the beginning.

Sheila Deeth, inveterate reviewer (she’s rapidly becoming one of Amazon’s top reviewers) and author in her own right (Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and Imaginary Numbers, are all coming soon from Second Wind Publishing) had this to say about Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story:

Rubicon RanchI read occasional chapters of this novel online while it was being written. But now, at last, I’ve been able to read the whole thing in one setting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Different authors pen chapters from the points of view of different characters. But the end of each tale meshes perfectly with the next, and the story progresses, through twists and turns (and death), to its mysterious, perfectly logical conclusion, while the reader is left to guess, imagine, wonder, and reflect.

The inhabitants of Rubicon Ranch are a mixed bunch, with accidental killers, accused pedophile, angry son, angry widow, and singularly dubious strangers staying at the local B&B. In classic Agatha Christie style, they might all have reasons to kill, and to hide, in a desert development where even the sheriff has his secrets. But which one, or ones, did the deed?

Feisty widow Melanie teams up, reluctantly, with the handsome sheriff. Seeing the world through a camera’s eye, and describing it with a writer’s sense of detail, she’s either the best at hiding her motives, or else she just hasn’t looked in the right place yet. Their tense relationship is fun, filled with promise for future books in a series that’s most un-traditionally written, but classically cool and enticing.

The desert’s pretty cool too—seriously hot, beautifully described, thoroughly genuine, and with snakes in the grass. I really enjoyed this delightfully traditional, thoroughly modern mystery.

Disclosure: I bought this when it was free and can hardly believe it took me so long to get around to reading it. —Sheila Deeth

You too can download a copy of Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story. Just click here: Rubicon Ranch on Smashwords to download in the ebook in the format of your choice. Or you can read it online here: Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story.

Or you can sample the first chapter here: Melanie Gray. Melanie Gray is my character, and is the character who connects all the books.

Promoting Other Authors

Author, blogger, reviewer Sheila Deeth, interviewed me for her blog, and here is one of the questions she asked, followed by my response:

You are always such an encouragement to other writers, posting excerpts, interviews, character interviews, offering advice, sharing experiences. . . . What do you think drives your generosity?

I don’t consider such online activities as generosity, just part of the internet experience. I never quite knew what to do on Facebook, for example — I don’t like games or sharing cute animal photos or any of the other things that clog the news feed — so I built up a couple of discussion groups. It gave me a way of interacting with people and besides, I love talking about the whole writing process. As for the interviews and such. Well, that was a fluke. My personal blog is blue, but I figured out how to change the color, so just for fun, I did an orange blog, a green one, a red one, a purple one, and then I had to figure out what to do with all of them. A book blog and an interview blog seemed the obvious use for two of them since I came in contact with so many authors. The interview blog especially has a fairly good rating, and it seems a waste if I don’t have an interview to post, so I keep promoting it.

In the back of my mind, I hoped that all the author karma I’m building up would somehow help catapult my books to stardom, but so far, it hasn’t happened. But that was never the point of promoting authors on my blogs. As I said, that was mostly a fluke.

(You can find the rest of the interview here: My thanks to author Pat Bertram)

That is only part of why I promote other authors on my blogs. The truth is even less altruistic than I made it sound. I’ve had those two author blogs for several years and just posted sporadically until a couple of years ago. After the death of my life mate/soul mate, I got addicted to a few of the games on my computer — Spider Solitaire, Mahjong Titans, and FreeCell. I so desperately needed for something to work out, I kept playing the games over and over until I won. I couldn’t redo my life, so there was some sort of comfort in redoing something — anything — until it came out right. And the games were a way of taking a vacation from the pain that all but consumed me at times.

When I realized how obsessed I had become, I decided to go cold turkey and give up the games, but I still needed something to do to break the hold of grief when it got too much for me to handle, so I substituted blogging — posting excerpts and author interviews to promote other authors in addition to daily blogging here on Bertram’s Blog. I figured that at least I would be doing some good with my online activities, which is something that cannot be said about computer games.

As for why I keep up with promoting other authors now that my grief is dissipating . . . well, it’s the right thing to do. If you want me to interview you, you can find the questions and instructions here: Author Questionnaire


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+

How has your background influenced your writing?

I always thought I’d be a writer, so when I was twenty-five, I quit a job to write a book about a love that transcended time and physical bonds, told with sensitivity and great wisdom. Unfortunately, I discovered I had no talent for writing and no wisdom, so I gave up writing.

After I discovered I didn’t know how to write, I did temporary work for several years to gain experience of life. Or at least life as it pertains to work. I worked at hundreds of different companies doing everything from filing to billing to bookkeeping to operating a switchboard to selling cars to being a legal secretary. When I wasn’t working, which was frequently, I read. All those thousands of books seeped into my subconscious, and gave me a feel for storytelling, and so when I took up writing again, I had more of an idea of how to tell a story. I just had to learn the specifics, such as show don’t tell, which I did.

Two years ago, my life mate/soul mate died, and the only way I could handle my overwhelming grief was to pour it out onto pages of a journal, letters to him, and blog posts. When I discovered how much those blog posts meant to people who had also suffered grievous losses, I compiled my writings into a book about my first year of grief called Grief: The Great Yearning, which has recently been published by Second Wind Publishing. And so, quite by accident, I ended up writing the story of a love that transcended time and physical bonds, told with sensitivity and great wisdom. I just never knew that the story I’d always wanted to write would be mine.

Here are some ways their backgrounds influence other authors. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Sandra Shwayder Sanchez, Author of “The Nun”

I was a child people called “an old soul” . . . an aunt said I seemed to look right through people and I do remember having insights about what was going on inside the heads of adults and often felt very sorry for them. My mother used to discuss Freudian dream interpretation with me and that fascinated me as well as the mythologies and fairy tales I enjoyed reading. So it was I think inevitable that I would write books in which the world of our dreams and the world of consensual reality interface and merge with almost imperceptible boundaries.

From an interview with Dale Cozort, Author of “Exchange

I grew up in a fair-sized city, but I spent a lot of time with relatives in the country, so I probably write rural life a little more authentically than someone without that experience. I also have a computer background, so there is always a little bit of the techie in my stories. I have to dial that back so it doesn’t get in the way of the story.

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

I call myself a mongrel Christian mathematician. I think my mixed-up background helps me (or forces me to) see things from a slightly different perspective. Being an English American does the same thing — it makes me more aware of how many of my assumptions are cultural, so it lets me explore characters who might make different assumptions.

So, how has your background infuenced your writing?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire and follow the instruction.)

Introducing Sheila Deeth, Author of Flower Child

Sheila Deeth grew up in the UK and has a Bachelors and Masters in mathematics from Cambridge University, England. Now living in the States with her husband and son, she enjoys reading,writing, drawing, telling stories, running a local writers’ group, and meeting her neighbors’ dogs on the green.

I first encountered Sheila Deeth during a writing contest on four years ago. I was impressed by the wonderfully encouraging and insightful remarks she made on the various entries, and during these ensuing years, we’ve continued our connection via our blogs, facebook, twitter, gather, and now google+. She is a staunch supporter of small press writers — her reviews are as encouraging and insightful as the comments she leaves on our blogs. I treasure the reviews she did of my books (reviews I did not ask for but were so generously given), and she’s introduced me to many wonderful new novels and novelists.

Today, it’s my turn to introduce a wonderful new novelist: Sheila Deeth. Sheila has mastered various story forms (including the shortest of forms, the 100-word and 50-word drabble), and today she is celebrating the release of her short novel, Flower Child with a blog tour, of which I am pleased to have a small part.

Her stories, book reviews and articles can be found in VoiceCatcher 4, Murder in the Wind (a mystery anthology published by Second Wind Publishing, which includes Sheila’s prize-winning story “Jack”), Poetic Monthly, Nights and Weekends, the Shine Journal and Joyful Online. Besides her Gypsy Shadow ebooks, Sheila has several self-published works available from Amazon and Lulu, and a full-length novel under contract to come out next year.

Today I am interviewing Sheila on my “Pat Bertram Introduces . . .” blog. Please stop by to say hi. If you have not yet met Sheila, please introduce yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Wishing Sheila all the best — she deserves it.

Click here to find the interview of: Sheila Deeth, Author of “Flower Child”

Click here to read an excerpt of: Flower Child

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.

My Journey As a Writer

During my Daughter Am I blog tour, I have talked a lot about my writing life, I have done several interviews, I have even shown photos of my workspace, but today’s stop is by far the most candid. I worry sometimes that I’m telling too much — do people really need to know what an incredibly long journey my quest to become a writer has been? It’s an unending journey, to tell the truth. In the past eight years, I have learned how to write, but I want — need — to become the best possible writer I can be, and so I continue to learn.

I also worry that this long hiatus where I haven’t been writing will kill the urge to create, yet I know it’s in the times of not writing that my brain collates what it has learned, and so when I sit down to write I don’t have to think so much about not using adverbs, for example. I simply don’t use them. I first noticed this trait during the writing of A Spark of Heavenly Fire. I wrote the first fifty pages or so and then stopped for the summer. When I went back to writing in the fall, I felt more assured, more competent, and the writing came easy. Well, easier. Writing is never easy for me, except when it comes to stream-of-consciousness blogging. That I can do!

I always need to stretch myself as a writer, so I doubt I will ever become prolific. I also doubt I will ever do any sort of sequel that uses characters I’ve already created, unless, of course, I decide it will be a challenge. I seem to have the strange propensity for writing books I don’t know how to write, and so I always seem to be starting from scratch. I’m not the first writer to discover that writing never gets easier– it just gets harder in different ways.

I’m straying a bit from the subject, which is today’s blog stop. This is a special day for me. I am at Sheila Deeth’s blog, and she has been a staunch supporter from the moment we met online. It’s no wonder she asked such an interesting question, and it’s no wonder I let down my guard and answered.

So, please visit Sheila and me as we discuss: One Writer’s Journey.

Daughter Am I Blog Tour 2009 Schedule

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I Enjoy Keeping Men Up Late at Night!

A couple of days ago I received an email from Aaron Lazar, author of Tremolo: Cry of the Loon. He said: “I started A Spark of Heavenly Fire last night and am HOOKED, big time! I read 100 pages (usually I fall asleep when reading in bed after a few pages) and dreamed about it all night. Wonderful! Can’t wait to read more, Pat. You’ve got a winner here.” Today he wrote: “Read another hundred pages last night. I’m mad with you! I didn’t get enough shut eye! HAAAAA!”

I do enjoy keeping men up late at night! I like keeping women up late at night, too. During all these years of wondering what it would be like to have people read my published novels, this is one aspect I never took into consideration — how wonderful it would feel to know that I am keeping people up past their bedtime so they could read a few more pages. Such an awesome power!

In November, I posted a bloggery, “What If People Like My Books?” I had been so focused on getting published, that for some reason until then it never occurred to me to wonder what it would be like if people actually enjoyed my novels. After 200 rejections, I was poised to deal with more of the same, but so far I have received only positive feedback. It’s an incredibly affirming experience to have people peek into your mind, to become intimately involved with your creation, and to get what you’re saying. So much of me is in the books that I thought I would feel exposed, but I don’t for the simple reason that the books no longer belong to me. They belong to anyone who reads and enjoys them.

Wanda H. wrote:  “I’ve now read both books! They were both spellbinding and kept me engrossed until I finished. It was hard to put them down to sleep and not to pick them up again in the morning and instead go and do things.

My favorite is A Spark of Heavenly Fire. I love the characters and the action and the . . .  well, everything. But it only edges out More Deaths Than One by a bit.

I now see what you mean about an unnamed genre. Kind of a big picture conspiracy, behind the scenes machinations and how that affects the little guy (or gal) on the street. You did such a terrific job. I know you’re going to enjoy tremendous success not only with these books but also with the books you’ve yet to write.

Anyway, just to gush a little more…. I love your work! You rock!”

Sheila Deeth, who won the first autographed copy of my book because of her wonderfully imaginative entry for my More Deaths Than One Contest, wrote an incredible review of the book.  She starts out: The first three pages of “More Deaths than One” have to constitute a serious contender for the best opening scene of a novel. Two main characters are introduced, a garrulous waitress and a taciturn hot-chocolate customer. They meet. She talks, a lot. He reads the paper. “And Lydia Loretta Stark was dead. Again.” With two such immediately real and appealing characters, and a line like that, I’d challenge anyone not to want to keep turning the pages. more  . . .

So . . . what if people like my books? I feel honored, and if truth be told, a bit humbled.

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Drabbles and Dribbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and a dribble? 

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

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