Author Pat Bertram Talks About Consistency

I am very happy to welcome the talented Pat Bertram to the Den today for a stop on her whirlwind blog tour for her latest book, Daughter Am I.
  Hopefully you won’t have any trouble viewing the cover here. :-) 

A little bit about the book:

When twenty-five-year-old Mary 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 with Tim Olson, whose grand-father shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim must stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

“A delightful treasure-hunting tale of finding one’s self in a most unlikely way.” –– Publisher’s Weekly

I’m currently in the middle of Pat’s second novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire and am enjoying the read thoroughly.  I mean, it has a deadly disease (I’m a sucker for plagues), romance and suspense.  What else do I need?  The fact that it’s a well-written page turner is also a plus, of course!  Pat doesn’t waste any time getting to the action and her narrative skills are superb.  

 A little about A Spark of Heavenly Fire just ’cause I like it so much:

In quarantined Colorado, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death, insomniac Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Her new love, investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover the truth behind the red death until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.

“Bertram’s characters are heartbreaking and real. I love Kate. Absolutely love her.” –Rachael Wollet, freelance editor

Some good stuff here, yes? Yes!   

And now, please welcome Pat Bertram to Zhadi’s Den as she talks a little about the importance of consistency in writing!  If you need me, I’ll be curled up in the corner reading more of A Spark of Heavenly Fire…

 

“Consistency makes a good pumpkin pie — you don’t want globules of pumpkin ruining the texture of the smooth filling. And consistency makes a good story — you certainly don’t want globules of untruth ruining the texture of your readers’ belief. I admit I’m stretching for a seasonal analogy, but still, the point is that readers will forgive a writer anything except inconsistencies that make them stop and think, “I don’t believe that.”

 

I started reading a fictionalized version of Princess Di’s accident — according to the author, she didn’t die, but was given a new identity and is living in Texas. Let’s forget that this book is inconsistent with my reading habits. I do not read books about celebrities — this one just fell into my lap and I was desperate for something to read. Let’s forget that this story is inconsistent with what we’ve been told about the accident, because perhaps the author can somehow reconcile his reality with ours, though I will never know. The internal inconsistencies — the inconsistencies that the author himself created — made it impossible for me to finish.

 

Supposedly, the man who created the post-accident life for Diana also spirited away the Shah of Iran. According to the author, the Shah lived fifteen years beyond his supposed death in 1980. The operation was so secret and so successful that no one knew about it. But . . . It took only this one very high profile achievement to assure a solid client base. Word travels quickly in the very elite circles of power. Now the demand for his services is always in excess of his ability to produce.

 

What?????? If no one knew that the Shah survived his death, how could word travel? And if word did travel, how could such high profile clients remain “dead,” especially since most of them were hiding from those in the elite circles of power?

 

It’s almost impossible to keep inconsistencies from slipping into a story, which is why self-editing, though vital, cannot be the final editing process. We see consistency, because we see what we meant to say. Others only see the inconsistency. I am grateful to one of my editors for finding this particular inconsistency in Daughter Am I. The editor wrote, It’s not clear here whether or not Mary completely removed her shirt. If she did, when she stood up and ran to the bathroom, then turned around and had the conversation with Tim, she’d have been completely topless. Given their feelings for each other, and their state of undress, it seems unlikely they would have been able to have such a lengthy conversation without biology taking over sooner.

 

Oops. I completely missed that. Mary took off her shirt so Tim could massage her sore back, and when the massage turned heated, Mary (engaged to someone else) runs from her feelings and hides in the bathroom. Inadvertently, I had her brazenly opening the bathroom door, standing half-naked, and starting a casual conversation — not at all what my poor innocent Mary would have done. After traveling halfway across the country in the company of seven old gangsters (well, six gangsters and one aged ex-night hall dancer) she’s lost most of her naiveté, but still, she would not have flaunted her naked breasts.

 

Naked breasts may pale in comparison with undead princesses, but the inconsistency could have dammed the flow of the story for discerning readers. So, the moral of this tale is, if you remove your heroine’s shirt or other apparel, make sure you remember her state of undress.”

 

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. 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.  To follow the rest of Pat’s blog tour as well as read the previous tour posts, go here.

Hungry For Your Love released today!

 

Looking for some romance?  A fan of zombies?  Interested in seeing how the two genres combine?  Check out Hungry For Your Love at Ravenous Romance!   This unique anthology includes stories by yours truly (that’s me, writing under my own name this time), Kilt Kilpatrick, Isabel Roman, Brian Keene, and John Skipp…er…I mean, Gina McQueen.  Who we think is John Skipp in drag!  And plenty of other authors whose work I can’t wait to devour…  

Sorry… I had to say it.   

A Repost!

I’ve been such a slacker about posting lately, I thought I’d repost one I wrote for the marvelous blog Pens Fatales just so people don’t think Zhadi’s Den is dying here!  I highly recommend you visit Pens Fatales often – it’s on my hit list even when I don’t leave comments.  Always entertaining and the team is a wonderfully talented bunch of swell dames.

 

When Juliet Blackwell asked me to write a post about character for Pens Fatales from the perspective as a writer and an actress, I pushed thoughts of impending deadlines to the back of the old brain pan and said ‘yes.’  Various writing related blogs talk a lot about creating characters: the pros and cons of pulling them from real life; how to make them realistic and/or interesting; what to name them; and so on and so forth.  Lots of diverse advice and — like a salad bar — writers can pick and choose what works for them. 

 

Actors have a lot of choices as well (and boy, will some actors talk your ear off about those choices if you give them half a chance) when developing a character.  The choice of which way to turn can be a huge issue. I actually had an actor in my Murder for Hire troop argue with me when I told him he had to exit left.  He objected, saying his character would stride forward, not turn.  I pointed out the only off the stage and back to the dressing room in this particular venue was to the left. We did not get along well.  Ah well, such real life anecdotes, while annoying as hell at the time, gave me much grist for the writing mill when I wrote Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon. 

 

Sometimes the choice is as simple as following orders; some directors are very particular about performance specifics.  Writer/directors are even worse. But at least when you combine the two, you don’t feel like you’re being Pushmepullyou’d. 

 

Some actors build elaborate back-stories for their characters, even when the part is a walk on with one or even no lines. You’d be amazed at how many background characters could tell you details ranging from their first kiss to what their favorite brand of ice-cream or underwear is. And again, if you ask them, they would be delighted to enlighten you. 

 

I worked with one actor who played the villain in CAUSE OF DEATH, a low budget movie put out by the same people who produced PRINCESS WARRIOR (my claim to low budget, fashion terrorist fame. More on PW in a sec).  D had a list of demands he gave us before production started, including (to name but a few): several pairs of expensive leather gloves; certain designers for his wardrobe; and (my favorite) NO Rollo’s in the craft service area.  Rollo’s, in case you’re not familiar with them, are little pieces of milk-chocolate enrobed soft caramel. He insisted these demands were necessary to help him fully immerse himself in his character.  I wanted to immerse him in a large body of water and hold him down for a few minutes.  He got what we gave him and I made sure to have a constant supply of Rollo’s on set.  D ate most of them. Go figure. He managed to find his character. Actually D found more character than need.  Some truly glorious over-acting occurred. 

 

For me, I never thought a lot about background, etc., when I was cast in a role.  I mean, Eliza Doolittle is pretty much Eliza Doolittle.  And Kate from Taming of the Shrew is a no-brainer. Although I chose (augh! I made choices and didn’t even realize it!) to make her sympathetic as opposed to an uber-bitch out to screw with patriarchy just because it was fun.  My best and favorite role was Amanda in Noel Coward’s Private Lives.  In case you’re not familiar with the play, it focuses on a divorced couple who discover that they are honeymooning with their new spouses in the same hotel. Realizing they still love each other and regret having divorced, Elyot and Amanda abandon their mates and run off together to her apartment in Paris. Before long it becomes clear that while Elyot and Amanda cannot live without each other, nor can they live with each other. They argue violently and try to outwit each other, just as they had done during their stormy marriage. During the course of the play, Amanda breaks a record of Elyot’s head.  The actor playing Elyot happened to be my ex-boyfriend.  We’d broken up right after we were cast in the roles. When I went into rehearsals, I was still in love with him. He brought his new girlfriend (who he moved into his apartment the day I left) to all the performances.  By the end of the play, I was over him.  In between, I thoroughly enjoyed breaking records over his head.  Finding the character was amazingly simple in this case and it is honestly the best performance I’ve given in my life. 

Princess WarriorThen there’s PRINCESS WARRIOR.  Juliet has seen it.  I know she’s snickering while reading this and she is right to do so.  It is a terrible movie, known for having the longest and dullest wet T-shirt contest in cinema history.  I used the experience in a book (not finished) about low budget Hollywood and include here an excerpt that is very close to my real life experience. I’ve changed the names of the director/producer to protect the guilty.   

 

 

“So you’re here to read for our villainess, Curette.  Let me tell you a little bit about the story so you’ll have some context for the scene.  By the way, are you comfortable with the sides?  Do you need more time?” 

            The only correct answers to those questions were respectively ‘yes’ and ‘no’, so that’s what I said.  Besides, it was the truth.  My stage fright had subsided and the butterflies in my stomach had regressed into nice calm cocoons.  I was ready to channel my inner Captain Kirk.

            “Great!  Okay, so Curette and Ovule are sisters, princesses on a planet in a galaxy somewhere far, far away.”  He grinned, pausing, so I gave a ‘hah hah, aren’t you clever’ laugh in response.  “Their mother, the queen, is dying and passes on the royal Seal of Power to Ovule even though Curette is the older sister ’cause Curette’s evil.” 

            Of course she is, I thought.  She’s brunette.

            “So Curette tries to kill Ovule, who escapes to present day earth in a teleporter.  She transports into a strip bar and meets our hero, Darren.   He thinks she’s crazy, but falls in love with her anyway and helps her hide when Curette and two of her evil minions follow in the teleporter.   So it’s basically a classic tale about good and evil, very black and white, no shades of gray.  Any questions?” 

             My only question was how he gave that entire rundown without taking a breath, but it didn’t seem relevant so I shook my head. 

            “Great!  Don’t worry if you make a mistake, you can read it more than once if you want.  It’s a short bit, so the main thing is to have fun with it.  I see Curette as an old fashioned bad guy, black and white, she’s bad and she loves being bad! So have fun and be bad!  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.” 

            Okay, so this called for evil Captain Kirk, possibly Turnabout Intruder, ‘I’m really a woman’ Captain Kirk.   I could do that.

            “Great!  Okay, whenever you’re ready.” 

            I took a deep breath, thought “I’m captain of the Enterprise!”  and dove right in.  

            Have you ever seen what a white hot spoon does when inserted into a human mouth?”  I asked, enunciating and rolling the words out with relish.  It sort of…cleaves to the roof of the mouth and the tongue.”  Pause for evil – yet subtle –  chuckle.  If I had a mustache I would have twirled it. 

            Let me make myself very clear, sister.”  I stared at both James and Manny and narrowed my eyes.  And if you don’t give me the Seal of Power, sister, your precious boyfriend will be something short when it comes to the more… oral pleasures of life.”  Pause.  No?  Very well.  Bulemia—” Dramatic pause with evil smile  “– hand me the spoon!”   

 

The end result?  I gave great white hot spoon. And I got the part.  My performance is somewhere between a female Tim Curry a la  Rocky Horror Picture Show and generic villainous from hell.  My motivation?  Mom always loved Ovule better.  If you’d like to read more about the making of Princess Warrior, go here .  If you want to watch it with MST3K type commentary, come on over to my place!  Just bring a bottle (or three) of wine ‘cause I can only stand to watch it while tipsy. 

 

I’ve done a few projects where I  wrote or co-wrote the scripts.  Murder for Hire is a good example, as is a horror/sci-fi film called PALE DREAMER.  We cast it, made a trailer and got a lot of interest in the project, but the film never did get produced, more’s the pity.  Although the part of Jeanette was not originally written for me, I knew I wanted to play it even while we were writing it.  Strong, ornery women are the most fun to play and I was cast opposite Ken Foree (if you’re a horror geek, you’ll recognize his name as the lead in George Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD). Also cast were Josef Pilato (another Romero favorite) and Brinke Stevens (former Marine Biologist turned Scream Queen).  I was in heaven.  Yes, I am a horror geek. Anyway, the trailer (co-directed by Brian Thomas – also co-writer – and Jeff Varga – also the producer) is linked here for your viewing pleasure. 

When Cat Toys Go Bad

Make it stop!!!One of the many cat toys in our house is a little mouse that squeaks when the cats bat it or pick it up. I came home from work Friday night and heard a strange noise, and found the squeaky mouse in one of their water bowls.

Squeak squeak. Squeak Squeak.  Underwater, mind you. 

So I took the mouse out and tried to dry out the excess water with a paper towel, all the while listening to the squeaks speed up and slow down. Tossed it on the ground and for TWO HOURS it continued to squeak without provocation, slow, then fast, then outraged, then back down again.

Squeak squeak.  squeaksqueaksqueak!  SQUEAK!!!!  

The cats were fascinated at first, circling it in small packs, one moving in to bat it, another picking it up and running with it . After an hour of this, they got upset and brought the mouse into the kitchen where I was cooking and dropped it near me. They stared up at me as if asking me to make it stop. I told ’em it’s what they got for dropping their toys in the water dishes. They do this a lot.

Finally one of our younger cats, a little plump black kitty, came up to it, her tail puffed up like a bottle brush, and the most disconcerted look on her face. When she gets upset, she (and our big white cat Foster) both look like the Staypuff Marshmallow Man in GHOSTBUSTERS when it frowns. Anyway, she did that, ran up to the mouse with a meow and proceeded to smack it repeatedly, WHAP WHAP WHAP! Then she ran away. So we finally put it downstairs where it eventually stopped squeaking unless played with. Highly amusing.

Zombie Love!

Coming out on Halloween with Ravenous Romance,  an anthology for all you zombie lovers out there!  My short story “First Date” is in there, along with Kilt Kilpatrick’s “Last Times at Ridgemont High.” And they said it couldn’t be done…