Creating the Fictional Town of Chalcedony

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

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

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

Grand Mesa (The view from my living room window)
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Calcedony County
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Road Into Chalcedony
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Mountain View
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Another view of Grand Mesa
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Chalcedony County
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Luke’s Ranch
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Pasture Gate
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Ranch House in Chacedony
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What lurks beneath these mountains? Read Light Bringer, and find out!
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LBLight Bringer: Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Light Bringer

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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.

Shamrock-N-Sirens Readers’ Event Introduces . . . Me!

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12 Day Reader’s Event SHAMROCKS-N-SIRENS
Click here for all the contests and a chance to win a set of special mugs:
SHAMROCKS-N-SIRENS … AN IRISH EVENT!!!

I am participating in a twelve-day readers’ event in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. My day to be interviewed is today, so please stop by 12 Day Reader’s Event SHAMROCKS-N-SIRENS Welcomes Featured Author Pat Bertram  (or if you’re leary about entering a non-G rated site, you can see the interview at Pat Bertram, Author of “Daughter Am I”.

I answer questions with world-shaking impact, such as where and when I do my writing, how I write, my favorite quote, and what thing I would never leave behind were I to attend a St. Patrick’s Day party.

And best of all,

From now until March 18, Daughter Am I is on sale for $2.99 on Kindle at: Amazon

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Introducing Joylene Nowell Butler, author of “Dead Witness” and “Broken But Not Dead”

Someone left a comment on my blog the other day, then apologized for intruding where he didn’t belong. This worried me. I wondered what I had done to make anyone feel unwelcome. Then it occurred to me that I have made so many friends here that perhaps it seems like a private blog. When you talk about the important things in life (writing, grief, life itself) you connect quickly, even though the commenters might live in such mythical places as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Georgia (USA).

Joylene Nowell Butler was one such commenter who has now become a friend. We have never met, might never meet (though I would like to), but the connection is very real. She eased a terrible time in my life with her wisdom and sympathy, with her steadfast presence. I’m ashamed to admit, I am remiss about returning the favor and visiting her blog, A Moment At A Time On Cluculz Lake, though I intend to get over there more frequently. She has insightful posts, wonderful guests, and gorgeous photos of Cluculz Lake in Canada.

Joylene is the author of suspense thrillers Dead Witness and Broken But Not Dead. In honor of our friendship and the publication of her second book, I am gifting her with a mini blog tour.

I am interviewing her today on another of my blogs. Click here to find the interview: Pat Bertram Introduces . . . Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead.” I always enjoy hearing (seeing) how other authors view writing and the writing life. Don’t you?

Click here to read an excerpt from: “Broken but not Dead” by Joylene Nowell Butler

More than three years ago, I posted an invitation to interview characters, and she was one of the few who took me up on my offer. It impressed the heck out of me! (That was how and where we met.) Here is that interview: Pat Bertram Introduces . . . Valerie McCormick, Hero of “Dead Witness” by Joylene Nowell Butler

Click here to read an excerpt from: “Dead Witness” by Joylene Nowell Butler

Thank you for everything, Joylene. I hope you have a fantastic New Year, filled with hope and peace and many wonders.

More Names Than One: Fiction Made Real

The other day I was getting gas when a truck pulled up next to me. It looked familiar in a dream-like way, but I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I started driving away that it dawned on me what I was seeing. A truck delivering Singha beer. I’d needed a Thai beer for my novel More Deaths Than One and just picked the name out of a guidebook, but somehow it didn’t seem real. At least not until I saw that truck. Here is the excerpt from the novel where I mentioned the beer:

In his short-sleeved shirt imprinted with red, green, and yellow parrots, Bob felt like a tourist. He even found himself gazing around as if he’d never visited the place before.

He saw a couple of the other regulars, a German and an American—both mercenaries—but most of the people were strangers to him, including the four men sitting at the next table. They seemed to be Americans of the right age to have fought in Vietnam. A man in a Yankees baseball cap waved his arms for emphasis.

“I did my job,” Bob heard him say. “Then I got out and continued on with my life. Everything’s great. My life is full. It happened so long ago. I don’t understand what the big deal is.”

The haunting strains of “Hey Jude” filtered through the room.

“What are you going to have?” Kerry asked.

“A Singha in honor of Harrison. It’s a local beer he liked. Also a hamburger with fries.”

When a giggling young waitress approached, Kerry ordered hamburgers, fries, and Singhas for both of them.

Hamburger Dan brought their drinks.

Setting them on the table, he gave Bob a penetrating glance. “It is you. I wasn’t sure at first. How’ve you been—”

Before Hamburger Dan could speak his name, Bob said quickly, “Gandy. I’m Rick Gandy and this is Julie Walsh.”

Hamburger Dan’s eyebrows rose. “I see. Does this have anything to do with the two men sitting in the booth across the room?”

Bob lifted his drink to his lips and gazed over the top of the mug. The men in question leaned back in their seats with studied nonchalance, but their eyes were hard and way too alert—cop’s eyes.

“My supposed friends?” Bob asked.

“Right. They’ve been in and out for the past six weeks or so, but after you called they started spending a lot of time here.”

“Something you should know. Your phone is tapped.”

Hamburger Dan stiffened. “What’s going on? What are you involved with?”

“I have no idea, but I’m looking into it.”

“You?” Hamburger Dan had the grace not to smile, but Bob could sense his incredulity.

Seeing the light of battle in Kerry’s eyes and her mouth opening to come to his defense, Bob laid a hand on her knee. She closed her mouth, but her jaw remained set.

The waitress brought their hamburgers. The delicious aroma of grilled meat made Bob’s stomach growl with hunger.

“I’ll leave you to your food,” Hamburger Dan said. “I shouldn’t stay here too long anyway, don’t want to draw the attention of your friends.”

Kerry’s gaze followed him as he moved off, then it shifted to Bob.

“How come he talked to you like that? Doesn’t he know you’re the Bob Noone character in Dark Side of Heroes?”

“I doubt it. Now that Harrison’s gone, you’re probably the only one who knows. And if by chance Hamburger Dan does know, he still wouldn’t be impressed. He’d think Noone was a wimp.”

“Oh.” She took a big bite of her hamburger and ate it slowly. “How did you come up with the names Rick Gandy and Julie Walsh?”

“They slipped out. I decided we shouldn’t advertise the names we’re traveling under.”

“Good thinking.” She chewed on a French fry. “I’m beginning to have as many identities as you. It’s confusing.”

Bob nodded. Munching on his own hamburger, he let his glance fall on the other bar patrons.

“Mike seemed like a brother to me,” the man in the Yankee baseball cap said, tears brimming over. “I tried to save him, but there was nothing I could do.”

The men with the cop’s eyes stood, took a final look around, then sauntered out of the bar, still main-taining their casual air.

Bob felt his shoulders sag with relief.

As he continued to eat, he could hear the gaunt man playing “Let It Be.”

More Deaths Than One is available at Amazon, Smashwords, and Second Wind Publishing.

Light Bringer Has Finally Been Birthed!!

It’s been twice nine months since Light Bringer was accepted for publication, but it has finally arrived!! Born on March 27, 2011, it weighs a mere one pound, and is 8.5 inches tall. Small for a human baby, but just the right size for a newborn book. I counted all it’s Ts and Os, and am pleased to announce they are all there. (One defect did show up, a tiny beauty mark, or rather a lack of one — for some reason, a period was left off on a sentence at the end of a chapter, and all the book’s midwives failed to notice). Still, the newborn is beautiful, and when it has been out in the world for a while, perhaps it will make its mark. It was created out of love, and no matter what its destiny, I am proud of my newborn.

If you would like a chance at winning an ebook of Light Bringer, go to the launch party on the Second Wind blog and tell them you would like to read the book. Leave your comment at: New Release Launch Party.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Light Bringer

Click here to read the back cover copy and an excerpt: Light Bringer

Click here to buy: Light Bringer

Light Bringer is also available from Amazon and Smashwords.

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.

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.

A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #6

A Spark of Heavenly Fire takes place during the month of December. To celebrate, I am posting outtakes from the book. Like movie outtakes, these are scenes that were deleted from the final version.  Posting them is not as easy as it sounds. Since the original version is no longer in my computer, I have to retype the pages from my handwritten draft copy.  Still, it’s fun being able to revisit some of my original scenes. Hope you enjoy this look at my characters. Oh, and if you’d like to see a photo of the handwritten book, you can find it here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire Pre-Anniversary.

Traffic on I-25 was bumper to bumper, so Jeremy took side streets to get to the private airfield on the outskirts of Denver. While he was still almost a quarter of a mile away, he could see that his white jet was not positioned at the head of the runway, ready for take-off.

He refused to let this setback interfere with his holiday mood, but he did intend to let Rick Jones, the owner of the airfield, know that he, Jeremy King, did not appreciate such slip-shod service.

At least Rick would not be hard to find. He was standing at the entrance to the airfield, talking to two men in their twenties who were wearing army uniforms and carrying rifles.

Jeremy pulled up alongside the three men and opened his window.

Rick poked his head inside. “Sorry, Mr. King, but no planes are allowed to fly today. Something about restricted airspace.” He gestured to the other two men. “These guys are privates in the National Guard. The black guy is Marvin and the redhead is Bill.”

Jeremy motioned for Rick to move back. He got out of the car and confronted the privates “Do you know who I am?”

“Yes, sir,” Bill said. “You’re Jeremy King. But we still can’t let you take off. Even if you were the president, we couldn’t let you go up today. Our orders are to make sure all planes remain on the ground.”

“We’re to detain anyone who resists.” Though Marvin’s tone was mild, his stance imparted a definite threat.

Jeremy looked longingly at the runway, remembering a movie he had done about a guy who had made a run for it in an airplane. The airplane chase scene had been acclaimed for it’s realism, but now he could understand how silly that scene really had been. Only in the movies could someone his age outrun two young guys with rifles, hop into a small jet that was still in the hangar, taxi to the runway, and take off, all without sustaining so much as a scratch.

He glanced at Marvin and Bill, who now had their rifles trained on him.”

“Don’t try anything, Mr. King,” Marvin said.

Jeremy held up his hands. This was America, for cripes sake, and he was Jeremy King. Who the hell did these guys think they were?

“How much would it take to let me go up,” he asked. “A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand?”

Bill looked as if he might be considering the offer, but Marvin poked Jeremy in the stomach with the rifle and said, “We have our orders.”

Jeremy managed a lighthearted laugh. “Just kidding.”

Marvin stared at him for a moment, then shouldered his rifle.

“Can I have your autograph, Mr. King?” Bill asked.

“Sure.” Jeremy pulled a wallet-sized publicity photo out of his pocket, signed it, and handed it over. “You want one, too?” he asked Marvin.

Marvin hesitated, then he nodded. “For my mother. She thinks you’re great.”

“Your plane is ready to go,” Rick said. “We refueled and did the pre-flight check.” He grinned sheepishly. “My guys were so thrilled to be working on Jeremy King’s jet that they gave it a thorough going over. As soon as the restriction is lifted, you can take off on a moment’s notice.”

Jeremy started to get back into his car, then stopped abruptly. “You never told me what’s going on. Why the restriction?”

Marvin squared his shoulders. “Need to know basis, Mr. King.”

“We don’t know. No one told us,” Bill said at the same time.

“Do you know how long the restriction is going to last?”

“Sorry, don’t know that either,” Bill said, “but I don’t think it will last long. How can it? I mean, it’s one thing to restrict small planes, but the airliners? Those companies are too big. They won’t stand for it.”

Rick looked shocked. “You mean DIA is shut down, too?”

“Didn’t we tell you?” Bill said. “All air traffic is being curtailed.”

The unmistakable sound of fighter planes filled Jeremy’s ears. He looked up to see six jets flying in formation.

Marvin repositioned his rifle. “Except for military traffic, of course.”

See Also:
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #1
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #2
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #3
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #4
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #5

A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #5

A Spark of Heavenly Fire takes place during the month of December. To celebrate, I am posting outtakes from the book. Like movie outtakes, these are scenes that were deleted from the final version.  Posting them is not as easy as it sounds. Since the original version is no longer in my computer, I have to retype the pages from my handwritten draft copy.  Still, it’s fun being able to revisit some of my original scenes. Hope you enjoy this look at my characters. Oh, and if you’d like to see a photo of the handwritten book, you can find it here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire Pre-Anniversary.

The mansion on Seventh Avenue that housed the Bowers Clinic had stood empty for many months before Dr. Bowers discovered it.

Though the simple classical lines of the façade had promised large, airy spaces, the rooms had actually been small and dingy with few windows. Full spectrum fluorescent lights, pale gold paint, and a forest of greenery, however, had transformed the dreary interior into an elegant medical establishment.

The Bowers Clinic had been a place of refuge for Kate, but now, walking up the curved driveway, butterflies filled her stomach. No, nothing as gentle as butterflies. Death’s head moths, perhaps.

She felt as if she were a heroine in one of the gothic romances she had relished in her youth. Here was the requisite brooding mansion, the glowering skies, the looming trees.

What was that? She lifted her head. There is was again — the sound of long, yellowed fingernails clawing at a window.

She scanned the front of the building, but saw nothing amiss. She stopped to listen. The eerie rhythmic sound was coming from behind her.

She looked back. An old homeless woman was laboriously pushing an overflowing shopping cart along the sidewalk. For one endless second, Kate stared into the woman’s eyes, then the old woman smiled — a sly, knowing smile.

Panicked, Kate raced up the driveway and into the clinic. While struggling to catch her breath, she surveyed the plant-filled reception room. Everything looked shockingly normal.

Two of the patients glanced up at her; the others continued to leaf through magazines or gaze into the distance. All had the resigned, almost shell-shocked look of refugees, but that, too, was normal. Though the doctors at the clinic prided themselves on their efficiency, they still kept their patients waiting much too long.

A little too melodramatic? Just a touch! I had fun writing this bit but it really had no place in the story.

See Also:
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #1
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #2
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #3
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #4

A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #4

A Spark of Heavenly Fire takes place during the month of December. To celebrate, I am posting outtakes from the book. Like movie outtakes, these are scenes that were deleted from the final version.  Posting them is not as easy as it sounds. Since the original version is no longer in my computer, I have to retype the pages from my handwritten draft copy.  Still, it’s fun being able to revisit some of my original scenes. Hope you enjoy this look at my characters. Oh, and if you’d like to see a photo of the handwritten book, you can find it here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire Pre-Anniversary.

Only a few hardy souls had braved the frigid early morning air: joggers in bright warm-up suits, an elderly couple swaddled in layers of heavy clothing, a scantily clad young man running as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

Kate frowned. Shorts and a tee shirt in this weather? Oh, well. He was young and obviously in good shape; probably no harm would come of it.

The runner neared, moving so swiftly and lightly his feet barely touched the ground. As he passed her, Kate caught a glimpse of a rapturous smile.

And bright red eyes.

She whirled just in time to see the runner spewing blood and swiftly, like a mannequin, toppling into his vomitus. Heart pounding, Kate ran to help. She knelt down beside him to take his pulse. Prickles of fear crept up her spine when she realized he was dead.

First Rachel Abrams, now this young man.

For just a moment Kate felt disoriented as if the earth had slipped on its axis.

Another jogger, a middle-aged man with well-groomed hair, joined the growing crowd of spectators. Kate caught a whiff of aftershave. What kind of man shaves before jogging? She eyed him curiously. The same kind of man who wears designer sweatpants with creases ironed in them, she noticed.

Kate thought it odd that such a fastidious person would stoop so low as to gawk at a corpse; then she saw the look on his face. Fear, maybe. And recognition.

“Dead?” the man asked quietly.

“Yes,” Kate answered. “Did you know him?”

“No.” He tugged at a nonexistent beard. “Yesterday, a colleague of mine died the same way. What the hell is going on?”

“I don’t know,” Kate said. “I’m not sure I want to know.”

The man nodded. “I know what you mean. It’s too bizarre, like something out of a horror movie. The colleague who died was a quiet, unassertive man, but yesterday he showed up for work dancing and jiggling as if he were hopped up on amphetamines. He charged around the office, ranting that the Broncos really stink again this year, and if they didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, he’d never buy another ticket. When I asked him if he felt all right, he beamed at me and said he felt great, had never felt better in his life. Then he vomited blood, and fell down. Dead.” He snapped his fingers. “Just like that.”

I thought this jogger was a well-drawn character, but since he added nothing to the book besides an iteration of how people were dying from the red death, he really served no purpose, so out he went. The dead runner made it into the final version, but instead of the second death, he turned out to be the first death Kate experienced — and experienced physically. He toppled into her arms.  Rachel was moved from the first scene of the book to an unimportant second scene. Poor Rachel. Like the colleague in the above story, Rachel felt great for the first time in years, and then she died.

See also:
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtakes #1
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtakes #2
A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #3