Jack, the Torment Demon, from Shadows by Joan De La Haye

Bertram: Who are you?

Jack: I’m a Torment demon who will drive you to suicide. I’ll even help you pull the trigger. It’s all in a day’s work and I love my job.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Jack: I live in the Shadow World when I’m not tormenting some idiot human.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Jack: Of course. Why wouldn’t I be the hero? Just because I’m a demon doesn’t mean I can’t be the hero.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Jack: My latest victim doesn’t want to believe I’m real. It really irritates me when people do that. I’m not simply a figment of the imagination.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Jack: Oh, I’m the very heart and soul of conflict. I get bored very easily and causing conflict is the best way to liven things up. Wouldn’t you agree? 

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Jack: My friends have long since withered to dust. All I have now are the people who I torment and others of my kind. They aren’t exactly the friendly type. I don’t care how others perceive me. I’m not who I am by choice, so you and everybody else can think what you like.

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Jack: What part of ‘I’m the hero’ didn’t you understand?

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

Jack: My goal is to make you kill yourself and if I get to make you scream along the way – well, that’s just gravy.

Bertram: What makes you happy?

Jack: The sound of someone’s agonised screams has always put a smile on my face. I also love popping open a bottle of Champagne when yet another soul becomes mine to torment for all eternity. Of course I never tell them that will happen before they blow their brains out. The look of shock on their faces when they realise their fate makes it all worth while.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Jack: Well, considering I can’t die, there isn’t all that much that scares me, but the council members, who run the Shadow World, always manage to scare what’s left of my humanity right out of me.

Bertram: What makes you angry?

Jack: I get very angry when my victims ignore me or try to pretend that there’s nothing wrong.

Bertram: What makes you sad?

Jack: It upsets me when my victims give in, when they stop fighting. Why do people give up so easily?

Bertram: What do you regret?

Jack: What kind of a question is that? Don’t you have anything better to do than ask ridiculous questions? Why would I have regrets? I’m a demon. Demons don’t have regrets, do we?

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Jack: One of my slaves betrayed me, murdered my family and turned me into this fearsome, horrible creature.

Bertram: Have you ever failed anyone?

Jack: Yes, I failed to protect my wife when I was mortal. As a result both she and our unborn child were murdered in a foul and unspeakable manner.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Jack: If I promise that you’re going to die screaming – you will die screaming.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Jack: I have my own code of honour, so in that way I would say – yes. I am honorable.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Jack: I quite enjoy listening to Queen. Their ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’ is now one of my favourite songs. I’m thinking of making it my anthem.

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?

Jack: My leather biker jacket is my favourite item of clothing. It makes me look really mean.

Bertram: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with a man or a woman?

Jack: I would definitely prefer being stranded with a woman. Their screams are just so much more interesting. There’s something about the pitch when a woman screams. It sends shivers up my spine.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Jack: Well, my future is looking pretty interesting at this stage. I’m going to have a lot of fun with a girl called Carol. You’ll read about her in Shadows and I think you’ll agree that she deserves me. Then I’m going to pay Sarah another visit. I’ve missed her.

See also: On Writing Shadows by Joan De La Haye
               
Starting an E-Publishing Company by Joan De La Haye

Henri Forain, a Vampire from Chronicles of the Undead by A. F. Stewart

Bertram: I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Forain, I think. You claim to be a vampire?

Henri: It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance as well, and feel free to refer to me as Henri.  As for my claims, I make none.  I am a vampire.

Bertram:  Do you really expect me to believe that? Isn’t it more probable that you are suffering from delusions?

Henri: I realise the concept is difficult to comprehend for those with diminutive minds, but that does not make me delusional.  Your inability to accept does not alter the truth.

Bertram: What is the truth?

Henri: How many times must I repeat myself?  I am a centuries old vampire!

Bertram: When did you become, ahem, a vampire?

Henri: I was born in France, in the year 1527.  I have been a vampire since the year 1557.

Bertram: How did you become a Vampire?

Henri: I came from a reasonably well-to-do family, two parents, two brothers; we were wine merchants in the Bordeaux region.  I became a vampire when I met a woman; she made me a very seductive offer and I have never regretted anything.  I consider choosing to be a vampire the true moment my existence began.

Bertram: Interesting. How do you justify this existence? Don’t you have to kill to feed?

Henri: Of course I kill, that is part of the pleasure. But, many men kill; at least I have better reasons.

Bertram: What has been the worst thing that you have done to another person? 

Henri: I truly do not believe your readers wish to hear such terrors.  I am quite fond of playing with my food.  Repeatedly, and intensely.

Bertram: Oh. Perhaps we better avoid that subject.  Have you ever harmed someone you loved?  Have you loved?

Henri: Yes, I loved the woman I spoke of, the sweet one who brought me to my destiny.  And yes, I’ve harmed her; we have delightfully harmed each other quite often.

Bertram: Ah, yes, well; perhaps on to the next subject.  What is your religious view of things?

Henri:  I have no quarrel with religion, though I hold no beliefs myself.  When one lives through the conflicts caused by religious differences, you cease to put faith in doctrine.

Bertram: What about other aspects of faith? For instance, do you think redemption is possible?

Henri: I have no idea. I have no interest in it.

Bertram: What do you believe is your responsibility to the world?

Henri:  My responsibility is to myself, the world is capable of destroying itself adequately without my aid.

Bertram: What is the most frightening potential deformity or defacement you can conceive of?  What makes it so frightening?

Henri: Being mortal.  It is weakness, my existence is far superior.

Bertram: I never had any desire for immortality. But each to his own, I suppose.

Henri: I must be off about my business. If you wish to know more about me, you can find me at Squidoo, whatever that is.

The Vampire Eleanor de Burgh from Chronicles of the Undead by A. F. Stewart

Bertram: Who are you?

Eleanor: I am misunderstood.  Your human idea of vampires is so limited, you still insist on portraying us as evil for merely surviving.    I have lived for centuries, through years of your history, watching and learning.  I have adapted to changing culture, always with impeccable taste.  The parties I used to throw in Paris were the toast of the city; even a Dauphin attended one.

Bertram: What is your story?

Eleanor: I was born in 1291, in England.  My life was typical of the time, married off young to an older man.  My life was under the total control of a rather abusive husband, until I choose to embrace life as a vampire, and became liberated.  I had to kill my husband to achieve that, but I did enjoy that piece of sweet revenge.

I fled to France to avoid any messy accusations of murder, and lived there for several centuries.  I met Henri Forain there, in 1556, and fell in love.  At the time it seemed a wonderful thought to turn him, and we would live forever as vampires; alas the romance did not last.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Eleanor: Not as a rule, I prefer to settle things amiably. I much prefer seduction to conflict, but I am not adverse to violence when the situation is in need of it.  It is very unwise to cross my wishes, very few individuals try.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Eleanor: As a killer, I would suppose, at least the ones that still breathe.  Not entirely untrue, but still a quite harsh description. 

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Eleanor: My greatest achievement is surviving:  my husband, war, fools, death, even my relationship with Henri.  I am also well read, quite musical, and the perfect hostess.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Eleanor: Immortality, strength, speed, all the usual vampire enhancements.  I am also very good at lying.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Eleanor: Do you honestly think I’m going to enlighten you on that topic?  Do not be absurd.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Eleanor: Oh many.  I paint, embroider, cook, play the pianoforte and the lute. I also have skills a lady does not discuss in an interview.

Bertram: What do you want?

Eleanor: Blood.  Preferably warm.

Bertram: What do you need?

Eleanor: Blood.  Oh, and perhaps a few more pieces of expensive jewellery for my collection.  Money is always welcome as well; a lady must pay the bills.

Bertram: What do you regret?

Eleanor: Not killing my husband sooner.  And turning Henri into a vampire; he caused a great deal of trouble over the years.

Bertram: What is your biggest disappointment?

Eleanor: Henri, I wish he had been a better man and vampire.  I truly did love the man, in the beginning, but he changed as the years passed and became such a displeasure to me.

Bertram: Has anyone ever failed you?

Eleanor: A long list of men, most of them are dead now.  Some of them were even tasty.

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Eleanor: One or two souls; they did not survive to do it again.   As I said, it is unwise to go against my wishes; it can even be fatal.

Bertram: Have you ever betrayed anyone?

Eleanor: Yes, but they were only human; mere food.  I do not feel guilt over betraying the trust of prey.  And there was Henri, but he deserved it.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Eleanor: Sometimes, when it suits my purposes.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Eleanor: No, quite the opposite.  You are a fool if you trust me.

Bertram: Are you healthy?

Eleanor: I do not age, I do not become sick.  I am far better than healthy, I am flawless.

Bertram: Was there ever a defining moment of your life?

Eleanor: Becoming vampire certainly defined, and enhanced my life.  I highly recommend it.  There is nothing quite so sweet as the taste of blood after a good chase.  And a lady never has to worry about aging.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Eleanor: Endless and decadent, full of poor souls to feast upon. I have nothing else to say to you, but if you insist on knowing more about me, you can get the information here.

Niall Campbell, the Hero of Invisible Hand by Larry Mason

Bertram: What is your story?

Niall: I was recently released from captivity and have returned to the U.S. in 2028. Things seem to have changed. The computer sees and hears everything anyone does. There must be some vast conspiracy going on but I can’t seem to tell who is behind it or what their motives are. I am determined to do what I can to rescue my daughter and her family but they seem to not notice being oppressed.

Bertram: Who are you?

Niall: I am a former developing nations education consultant who was kidnapped by terrorists and seemingly forgotten when the world economies nearly collapsed. I have been held for 15 years in the mountains near the Afghanistan border. If you want to know more about me, you can read the entire novel at http://www.nopom.info or listen to it in MP3 from there (no ads) or read the novel on Gather.com and see the comments of others.

Bertram: Let’s finish this interview first. Where do you live?

Niall: I have been moving pretty much since I came back. I couldn’t stay with my daughter because that would be imposing. I rented a small house for a couple of months near Washington, DC and took work driving a garbage truck. Then I moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico and worked as a computer operator in the large computer center there.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Niall: I thought I was but the further along I go the more I begin to wonder.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Niall: To find out about this computer controlled society and how to defeat it, at least to the extent of escaping with my daughter and her family. It’s like fighting smoke, though.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Niall: Absolutely not. I was held captive for years as a result of conflict. I have never been the fighting sort. But my experience has made me somewhat paranoid. I take some drugs to help with that but there’s still that suspicious edge. I don’t know whom to trust, if anyone.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Niall: In some ways, yes but in other ways I stand my ground. If I see I am in the wrong I will admit my error but if I feel I am in the right I am braver than I thought.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Niall: As an ordinary, late middle-aged guy who had some strange events happen to him.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Niall: As a nice guy who seems to not understand how things work now. As a guy who puts his foot in his mouth from time to time but who is willing to pull his weight.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Niall: How can I tell? I don’t know who they are or where they are. But they must be watching and hearing every thing I do and say because that computer is everywhere.

Bertram: How does your author, Larry Mason, see you?

Niall: He seems to think I only exist to show how this scary system works. He has me asking questions and arguing with people and even going to school. Of course it has been interesting, I’ll give him that.

Bertram:  Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Niall: Pretty well. He seems to have interviewed my parents and talked to my ex-wife and even explored my dreams several times. There isn’t much about me that he doesn’t know.

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

Niall: Yes. I have to save my family and myself.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Niall: I survived physically and pretty much mentally 15 years of being held hostage in pretty impoverished confinement (dirt floor, little exercise, mostly solitary). I helped set up public school systems in third world nations. I have a really good daughter of whom I am quite proud.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Niall: No, I am just an average guy in most ways.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Niall: No. Other than the trauma left over from my captivity. The drugs and other treatment I received after release helped with that though there are still some problems.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Niall: Nothing but a good liberal arts education and that 20 years out of date. It’s hard to find a career when everything has changed so much.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Niall: Funny you should mention that. The change in the nature of the money seems to be at the root of all these changes I am experiencing. I don’t have any troubles in the sense of not having enough to buy food or housing, I seem to have almost gotten rich somehow while I was out of the country. But money just isn’t the same as it was. I can buy things with it but I can’t give it to anyone else. And there are all these people who wear white clothes and have no luxuries who can give other people money but can’t have any themselves. In fact, I don’t actually need to have any money at all. People will just give me food and clothes and a place to live and not expect anything from me at all. They say the people in white pay them.

Bertram: What do you need?

Niall: I need to understand what’s going on here.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Niall: I am afraid of that computer system with its eyes and ears everywhere keeping trace of everything I do. Yes, I know it’s helpful sometimes like when we were hurrying to the hospital it cleared the traffic and made all the lights green and warned people that we were coming and it even got the guy who was driving us to come by and pick us up. But it can be a terrible tool for any totalitarian government. They have to be controlling everybody with it. I just can’t find anybody that’s being made to do anything. Nobody be me seems to worry about it at all. They treat it like a well trained dog or like a servant. Well, I do call it “Jeeves” myself since it seems to act like a superior butler when we talk but that thing gives me the willies.

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Niall: Am I lucky? You think 15 years of abject poverty and threats of death and torture are lucky? But on the other hand, I did get through it sane, sort of, and I did live to go home, such as home is now. I guess, on balance, I have been rather lucky.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Niall: I try but sometimes you just can’t.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Niall: To the best of my ability. I think an honest person would say I was honorable.

Bertram: Are you healthy?

Niall: Well, I am still underweight and those years of malnutrition have not done me much good but it may have lengthened my life. It sure made me appreciate good food, being clean, and plumbing.

Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?

Niall: Yes, it was a pretty good childhood growing up in central North Dakota. It taught me a lot and we loved each other in my family.

Bertram: What in your past had the most profound effect on you?

Niall: My captivity, obviously.

Bertram: What in your past would you like to forget?

Niall: Nothing really. Of course I suppose there are parts of my captivity that I have forced myself to forget already.

Bertram: Have you ever had an adventure?

Niall: You mean besides being kidnapped? Yes, I was kidnapped a second time though that wasn’t nearly so bad in some ways. Of course, the second time I had to worry about someone else who may mean more to me than I realized. But only time will tell about her. Yes, her being kidnapped, too, did make the second time quite different from the first.

Bertram: Was there a major turning point in your life?

Niall: That’s hard to say. If there was I certainly didn’t realize it was a turning point at the time. Perhaps one day I will look back and say yes that was it, that incident in the bar or, perhaps, landing at the airport in D.C. or maybe just riding the bus back from Albuquerque to the payer school when I finally realized… But then, maybe there wasn’t any real turning point, maybe it was all just sort of a long, smooth curve.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Niall: Secret? Why would I tell you if there were? Why are you asking me all these questions? What business is it of yours who and am and what I think? I don’t think you have any business prying into my private life that way. You aren’t even a payer. I’m leaving. Goodbye.

Glen Wilson, Hero of Five Ken Coffman Novels

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict, Mr. Wilson?

Glen Wilson: No. Fundamentally, I’m a coward. On the other hand, I have a destiny. When I’m in trouble, things might get bad and I might get hurt, but my life is reserved for some higher (or lower) purpose. I don’t know and I don’t care what that purpose is. I want to stir things up and live as interesting a life as possible. Also, I want to find the stupidest, most rotten, evil, human trash and poke my finger in his (or her) eye.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Glen Wilson: My friends love me unconditionally. I am their fearless leader, their wise mentor, and their hero. Otherwise, why would they hang around? Look at them. Gerusha, my lovely wife, a former barista at Starbucks. Walter Crowley, whom you may know by his magic show stage name: Dr. Zalooq. He’s a little scary, but no one knows more about human nature. Bennie Jackson, my young black friend, one of the top-200 intellects in the world. Murphy, a former cop from Orlando. She doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, but she’s tough and a great person to watch your back when things get dodgy. And the rest? Angela, Elke, Emma? If asked them to hack off an arm and hand it to me on a plate, they’d say “Which one?” I feel like I’m more defined by my enemies and I think you’ll notice they are mostly deceased. The butcher of Lyon? Holly, the psycho hell-cat bitch? Erik, the murdering, white-trash bass player? Do you see a pattern? They’re all deceased. Maybe you’d be safer if you stay on my good side, if you can find it.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Glen Wilson: Grinning as they take their last breath.

Bertram: What are the last three books you read?

Glen Wilson: I don’t read books, they are a waste of time.

Bertram: How does your author, Ken Coffman see you?

Glen Wilson: I already said I don’t read, what is your problem? I don’t have a lot of time, are we done?

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Glen Wilson: I am my own hero. I don’t know how the world will thrive without me showing the way and taking out the trash.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Glen Wilson: I don’t have any skills. Skills are boring and overrated. I have friends with skills, that’s close enough.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Glen Wilson: I never worry about money and I don’t understand people who obsess over it. Life is short. There is no time to waste. I have what I need and if I don’t have it, then I get it. There’s a lot out there. If nothing else, figure out which direction the big economic machine is rolling and push that way. You’ll be rewarded for it. Money is a tool, not an end goal. Get over it.

Bertram: What do you want?

Glen Wilson: Fate makes them cross my path and I deal with them. I’ll do that until my final day on earth. Also, I’d like a beer if you have one. Not watered down alligator piss, give me a big beer with flavor or nothing, thanks.

Bertram: What do you believe?

Glen Wilson: I believe if I wrap my hands around your throat and squeeze as hard as I can, you’ll soon be dead. I suggest you stop trying my patience.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Glen Wilson: Being bored.

Bertram: What is your biggest disappointment?

Glen Wilson: Moshi. My sad, doomed friend in Alaska. She deserved better than what she got. If there is a God and I ever stand before him, we can discuss his role in this sad affair after I blacken his eye.

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Glen Wilson: Yes, of course.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Glen Wilson: I’m honorable if you are honorable. If you have a black soul then I am your worst enemy.

Bertram: Do you have any handicaps?

Glen Wilson: Duh, are you blind AND stupid? Look at this hand. See the two fingers missing? I’m incomplete. I hate that almost as much as I hate stupid, unobservant people.

Bertram: Was there a defining moment of your life?

Glen Wilson: Yes, weren’t you paying attention? When I was eight, a big kid beat the crap out of me and I realized that I’d rather die than be defeated. One day, this will be the end of me, but I noticed that if you stand and fight to your last breath, you will always win. Or die, of course. One day, I’ll die. So what? Not today and you first.

Bertram: Do you have a favorite beverage?

Glen Wilson: Yes, beer, because it’s good. Where is it? It’s been two minutes.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Glen Wilson: I like the blues because it is real. Besides, with a mutilated hand like this, it’s all I can manage on the guitar.

Bertram: Name five items in your briefcase.

Glen Wilson: Let’s take a look. I have half a sandwich, a fifth of tequila for medicinal purposes, my passport, a couple thousand dollars in cash and an old 1911 Colt .45.

Bertram: What are the last five entries in your check registry?

Glen Wilson: I work exclusively in cash. If you need a check, Murphy will write one.

Bertram: If you were at a store now, what ten items would be in your shopping cart?

Glen Wilson: Would two six-packs be two items or twelve?

Bertram: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

Glen Wilson: How stupid do I look to you? A woman, of course. While we’re daydreaming, can we make her a mute? Yeah, a well-endowed mute would be my choice.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Glen Wilson: At some point, my destiny will unfold and we’ll see. I’ll leave this veil of trash and tears with my hands wrapped around the throat of a world-class asshole and leave things better than the hopeless, screwed-up way I found them. Don’t worry, I’ll leave you, yes you, with plenty of work left to do. That’s all, I’m done. If I ever see you again, you’d better be carrying a beer and list of better questions or we’ll have trouble. Read me?

Bertram: Thank you for talking to me, Mr. Wilson. One final question: In what Ken Coffman novels do you appear?

Glen Wilson: Ken wrote Steel Waters, Glen Wilson’s Bad Medicine, Toxic Shock Syndrome. He wrote Alligator Alley and Twisted Shadows with Mark Bothum.

Jakob Faircrow, one of the main characters in Wintermoon Ice, the first book of The Sons of the Mariner series by Suzanne Francis.

Bertram: Who are you?

Jakob: Jakob Tomas Faircrow

Bertram: Where do you live?

Jakob: On Earth, in a place called Cloudy Bay.  But I’ve lived a lot of other places too.  Suzanne liked me so much she decided to use me in Sons of the Mariner, but I started out in Song of the Arkafina, in a book called Ketha’s Daughter.

Bertram: What is your story?

Jakob: I came to Earth to protect Tessa Kivelson.  We have a connection from before this life that I don’t understand.  I love her very much, and she somehow tolerates me too.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Jakob: I’m the screwup of my own story.  If you want hero you should talk to my twin brother Lut.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Jakob: I’m haunted by the memory of my dead wife, who eventually comes back to life in a horribly twisted way.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Jakob: It embraces me, and I have to fight back.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Jakob: Never.  I’d have to turn my back on it, and that would be a mistake.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Jakob: She makes me seem a lot more sensitive than I really am.  Suzanne writes for other women, and they like to read mushy stuff.  I don’t mind too much–it pays the bills.

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Jakob: My father.  He was a God — the Mariner, but he never used his power indiscriminately.  He wanted a simple, quiet life with the people he loved.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Jakob: I have the physical strength of ten regular guys.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Jakob: See above.  My strength makes me dangerous as hell.  Especially to people I care about.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Jakob: I can navigate the worlds between.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Jakob: I don’t care about money or personal possessions.

Bertram: What do you want?

Jakob: To stay out of trouble.

Bertram: What do you need?

Jakob: My girlfriend Tessa.  She is my rock and my harbor.

Bertram: What do you want to be?

Jakob: Calmer and more rational.

Bertram: What do you believe?

Jakob: That the world is a dangerous place.

Bertram: What makes you happy?

Jakob:  Eating fast food.  Watching old movies with Tessa.  Going fishing with my brother.  Staying in one place.  The passage of time.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Jakob:  Too many things to mention.  The Gyre is a dangerous place.

Bertram:  What makes you angry?

Jakob:  Stubborn people who won’t do what’s good for them.

Bertram:  What makes you sad?

Jakob:  Thinking about Maia.

Bertram:  What, if anything, haunts you?

Jakob:  That my father left without saying goodbye.

Bertram:  Have you ever failed at anything?

Jakob:  I’ve failed at everything.

Bertram: Has anyone ever failed you?

Jakob:  I don’t give them the chance.

Bertram: Have you ever failed anyone?

Jakob:  Every woman in my life.  My mother died because of my stupidity.  My wife died because I failed to protect her.  It’s only a matter of time before I screw up my relationship with Tessa as well.

Valerie McCormick, Hero of Dead Witness by Joylene Nowell Butler

Bertram: What is your story?

Valerie: I witnessed the execution of two FBI agents while I was in Seattle, and the FBI kidnapped me so that my family and the killers believe I’m dead.

Bertram: Who are you?

Valerie: Valerie McCormick, wife & mother, bookkeeper.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Valerie: Prince George, B.C. Canada is where my family are. I’m stuck in Santa Cruz, Cal.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Valerie: I’m not a hero, but I do believe you have to fight for those you love. My girls think I’m a hero though. They’ll understand once they have their own children, that I’m just a mum.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Valerie: The FBI are failing to convince the killers that I’m dead, and those bad men may go after my children.

Bertram: Do you have a problem that wasn’t mentioned in the story?

Valerie: I don’t think so.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Valerie: I wouldn’t say “embrace” is accurate. I can cope.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Valerie: Running never solves anything.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Valerie: I think I’m a good mother, a good person. I try not to judge others.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Valerie: They say I’m good company. And I listen well.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Valerie: I hope I don’t have any. I guess the men trying to kill me are my enemies. They don’t know me.

Bertram: How does the author, Joylene Nowell Butler, see you?

Valerie: Joylene accepts me the way I am. She even says she wishes she were more like me. That’s sweet. She told me to tell you that Dead Witness went to press 2 weeks ago for the second time and should be available at Chapters.Indigo and bookstores across Canada by the end of November, 2008.

Bertram: Do you think Joylene portrayed you accurately?

Valerie: Yes, we’ve gotten to know each other very well over the past 15 years. I think too well maybe. I have no secrets left.

Bertram: What do you think of yourself?

Valerie: I’m a good mother. I strive to be a good example always.

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Valerie: My brother. He raised me after our parents were murdered. FBI agent Mike Canaday. But please don’t tell him I said that.

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

Valerie: I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my children safe, even if I have to pretend I’m dead.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Valerie: I raised 3 wonderful girls. I coached softball and we’ve won the trophy the last three years. Not that winning is everything. I finished the marathon.

Bertram: Do you talk about your achievements?

Valerie: No, I think it’s more important to be an example.

Bertram: Do you keep your achievements to yourself?

Valerie: Yes, unless talking to my girls about them makes life easier for them.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Valerie: Losing my parents at such an early age, helped to prepare me for what’s happening now.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Valerie: I’m growing fond of Canaday. I can’t see how that’s a good thing.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Valerie: I can write. I like working with people.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Valerie: Other than our business failing? No.

Bertram: What do you want?

Valerie: I want to believe that Canaday knows what he’s doing, keeping me from my children.

Bertram: What do you need?

Valerie: I need to go home and fight the killer on my own terms.

Bertram: What do you want to be?

Valerie: I’m 38. It’s a little late for that.

Bertram: What do you believe?

Valerie: I believe God has a plan. I don’t know what it is. I just have faith everything is for a reason.

Bertram: What makes you happy?

Valerie: Hearing my children laugh. Seeing their smiles. Being there when they understand something for the first time.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Valerie: I’m afraid I’ll never see my girls again.

Bertram: What makes you angry?

Valerie: That I’m relying on strangers to protect my children. That should be my job.

Bertram: What makes you sad?

Valerie: When people hurt each other for no apparent reason other than they can.

Bertram: What do you regret?

Valerie: I regret that I never told my parents I was sorry. I thought I’d have time.

Bertram: What is your biggest disappointment?

Valerie: That Ed won’t accept me for who I am. He’s been trying to turn me into someone else since our wedding day.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Valerie: My parents murder. I have nightmares about that night.

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Valerie: Blessed.

Bertram: Have you ever failed at anything?

Valerie: My marriage hasn’t been good for a long time.

Bertram: Has anyone ever failed you?

Valerie: When I was young, I thought my parents had by dying.

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Valerie: Not that I’m aware.

Bertram: Have you ever failed anyone?

Valerie: I feel as if I’ve failed my girls. I should be with them.

Bertram: Have you ever betrayed anyone?

Valerie: No.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Valerie: I try very hard to.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Valerie: I think so.

Bertram: Are you healthy?

Valerie: Very. Thank God.

Bertram: Do you have any handicaps?

Valerie: No.

Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

Valerie: No.

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Valerie: It was fine. My parents were wonderful. My brother did his best after they were gone.

Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?

Valerie: Yes.

Bertram: Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?

Valerie: I don’t know.

Bertram: Did you get along with your parents?

Valerie: Yes, until I turned fourteen.

Bertram: What in your past had the most profound effect on you?

Valerie: Losing my parents.

Bertram: What in your past would you like to forget?

Valerie: Those few months after they died was pretty bad. I wasn’t always very nice to my brother.

Bertram: What in your past would you like others to forget?

Valerie: I hope my brother forgets what a brat I was.

Bertram: Who was your first love?

Valerie: Tommy Framer, my childhood neighbour.

Bertram: Who is your true love?

Valerie: Don’t tell Canaday, but I suspect he is.

Bertram: Have you ever had an adventure?

Valerie: Apparently I’m on one now. It feels more like a nightmare.

Bertram: What is the most important thing that ever happened to you?

Valerie: The birth of Megan, Christine, and Brandi. They’re my life.

Bertram: Was there a major turning point in your life?

Valerie: I seem to be dwelling on this a lot: my parents murder.

Bertram: Was there ever a defining moment of your life?

Valerie: I think it’s happening now.

Bertram: Is there anything else about your background you’d like to discuss?

Valerie: No. I live in the present.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Valerie: My brother’s right. I shouldn’t have married Ed.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Valerie: You can’t take any of this stuff with you. Nothing but life should be prized.

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

Valerie: Writing short stories and magazine articles. Running marathons,

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Valerie: I love the smell of lawn clippings. It means re-growth. A new beginning.

Bertram: What is your favorite color?

Valerie: Blue. It’s a happy colour.

Bertram: What is your favorite food?

Valerie: I love pizza. Pizza night was always so much fun. It meant I had more time to spend with my girls.

Bertram: What is your favorite beverage?

Valerie: I love water. Very cold.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Valerie: I love Cher’s love songs. I like the Beach Boys.

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?

Valerie: My jeans. They’re so comfortable. And my PJs.

Bertram: Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.

Valerie: Hand cleaner, change purse, measuring tape, Kleenex, business cards.

Bertram: What are the last five entries in your check registry?

Valerie: Nothing very exciting: grocery store, hardware, gas station, paper boy, renew library card.

Bertram: What are the last three books you read?

Valerie: Don’t tell anyone, but I read Romance.

Bertram: If you were at a store now, what ten items would be in your shopping cart?

Valerie: Toilet paper, (4 girls in the house), bread, eggs, milk, yogurt, breakfast bars, dog treats, wrapping paper (always need some), romaine lettuce and cheddar cheese.

Bertram: If you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?

Valerie: Stop the atrocities women are subjected to in the Middle East.

Bertram: What makes you think that change would be for the better?

Valerie: It’s the 90s and they still stone woman who commit adultery.

Bertram: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

Valerie: I hope this doesn’t sound sexist, but I’d rather be stranded with a man with muscles. Someone not afraid of heights.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Valerie: If everything works out, and I’m praying it does, I see myself surrounded by giggling grandchildren.

Wil VanLipsig from “Lone Wolf” by Dellani Oakes

The year is 3032 and mankind has expanded far beyond Earth’s galaxy. Matilda Dulac is a member of the Galactic Mining Guild. With her lover, Marc Slatterly, she works in a small mining ship in deep space. Their well ordered life if suddenly thrown into chaos when one miner arrives with a load of Trimagnite, a highly toxic liquid ore. Enter the Lone Wolf. Wil VanLipsig, known as the Lone Wolf, arrives to take the Trigmagnite off their hands. Is it a coincidence for him to show up on Marc’s ship years after Marc thought he’d killed Wil? Or is this the beginning of something far more insidious? Lone Wolf is the first book in a new science fiction series by Dellani Oakes.


Bertram: What is your story?

VanLipsig: What makes you think there is one?

Bertram: Who are you?

VanLipsig: Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, Galactic Marines, retired.

Bertram: Where do you live?

VanLipsig: On my ship, the Loup Garou.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

VanLipsig: I’m the hero of every story.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

VanLipsig: Some psycho son-of-a-bitch wants me dead and then he wants to take over the universe. The usual.

Bertram: Do you have a problem the wasn’t mentioned in the story?

VanLipsig: Yeah, I’m 86 years old, look like I’m 26 and I’ve been changed so much by the Marine doctors, I don’t think I’m even quite human anymore.

Bertram: Do you embrace or run from conflict?

VanLipsig: I embrace and make love to conflict. It is the pattern of my life to live in and tame chaos. I never run from conflict. I look it in the eye and roar until it backs the hell down.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

VanLipsig: I am death, pure and simple. If you see me coming, then you’ve got about 10 seconds to say your prayers.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

VanLipsig: I don’t really have any friends.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

VanLipsig: My enemies don’t see me. I kill them before they know I’m there.

Bertram: How does your author, Dellani Oakes, see you?

VanLipsig: The author thinks I’m dead sexy, smoking hot, seriously jacked and dangerously seductive. And she’s right.

Bertram: What do you think of yourself?

VanLipsig: I’m the coldest hearted bastard this side of the galaxy.

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

VanLipsig: Get the other bastards before they get me.

Bertram: Do you keep your achievements to yourself?

VanLipsig: I don’t talk about them, most are classified. The only ones who know what I’ve done are the others who were there with me — that’s if they lived through it. Most of them are dead.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

VanLipsig: My battle plans have made the textbooks and are required reading at the officer’s academy.  One general said, “VanLipsig’s battle plans are a symphony of destruction with each movement bathed in the blood of the enemy.” I have to admit, I’m proud of that.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

VanLipsig: I can’t carry a tune.

Bertram: What do you want to be?

VanLipsig: You mean when I grow up? Honey, I’m so old now, no one knows what to do with me. I’m making this up as I go along.

Bertram: What do you believe?

VanLipsig: I believe in honor and I adhere to it. Not everyone agrees with my code of ethics though.

Bertram: What makes you happy?

VanLipsig: Matilda makes me happy.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

VanLipsig: Losing Matilda. She’s the only thing that’s important to me.

Bertram: Who is Matilda?

VanLipsig: Matilda Dulac. My true love.

Bertram: What makes you angry?

VanLipsig: John Riley makes me angry. The rat-faced bastard is making me look bad.

Bertram: What do you regret?

VanLipsig: I regret that I wasn’t there for the people who needed me.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

VanLipsig: The faces of everyone I’ve ever had to kill.

Bertram: Are you lucky?

VanLipsig: For now. Eventually that luck will play out.

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

VanLipsig: Yeah. And I killed her for it.

Bertram: Have you ever betrayed anyone?

VanLipsig: Never. That would be dishonorable.

Bertram: Have you ever failed anyone?

VanLipsig: Pretty much every day, I imagine.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

VanLipsig: I don’t make promises. I’ve found they are impossible to keep.

Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

VanLipsig: My left eye is a cyber eye and I have a deep scar on my left cheek. I also wear an eyepatch.

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

VanLipsig: My father was a sadistic bastard who beat me for every possible infringement of his authority. Eventually, I opposed him in everything, because I refused to believe he could ever be right.

Bertram: Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?

VanLipsig: According to my old man, hell opened its doors and spit me forth.

Bertram: Did you get along with your parents?

VanLipsig: I cared about my mother, she was a great lady. I hope I see my old man in hell.

Bertram: Who was your first love?

VanLipsig: A girl I knew back home, Cherise Layfette.

Bertram: What is the most important thing that ever happened to you?

VanLipsig: That’s a tough one. Probably the most important thing was when the Marine doctors did their enhancements. I haven’t been the same ever since.

Bertram: Was there ever a defining moment of your life?

VanLipsig: Meeting Matilda.  She has made me become the man I wanted to be and couldn’t seem to find on my own.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

VanLipsig: If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret now, would it?

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

VanLipsig: Who has time for hobbies? Well, wait a minute, does sex count?

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

VanLipsig: “The 1812 Overture”, it reminds me of a simpler time.

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?

VanLipsig: I don’t really care what I wear as long as it doesn’t bind in the crotch or itch. But I always have my gun belt, even if I’m otherwise naked.

Bertram: Name five items in your pockets.

VanLipsig: Pocket humidor full of cheroots, lighter and my gun. I don’t carry anything else. Too much stuff slows you down and can identify you when you’re dead.

Bertram: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

VanLipsig: What the hell good would another man on an island be? A woman, preferably a brunette with lots of stamina and a killer figure. It would be nice if she was intelligent too, but that’s not a requirement.

Oscar Stone, family friend of Gus LeGarde, of the Gus LeGarde Mystery series.

Bertram: Mr. Stone, I hope you don’t mind being interviewed because of your connection with Gus LeGarde. It appears he’s a bit busy with his large family and gardens right now. It’s not that we aren’t interested in you, Mr. Stone, but Professor LeGarde has been featured in quite a few mystery books lately that have been piquing the interest of local readers. 

Oscar: I most certainly object to being interviewed for who I know, not for who I am. However, while my life as a historian and nature photographer is decidedly fascinating, it isn’t newsworthy. And Gus has been through some hair-raising adventures over the past few years, which do warrant discussion. We are all rather proud of him, and think of him as quite the hero, don’t-you-know? 

Bertram: I’ll bet. Well, let’s start at the beginning. How did you meet Gus? 

Oscar: Gus LeGarde and I have been friends for the past few decades. When Gus’s parents died within a few years of each other, he went through a serious depression. It was all my wife Millie and I could do to help him get through it. Just after Gus’s mother died, our son, William, was killed in action in Viet Nam. Millie and I were distraught, and Gus and his wife, Elsbeth, kindly drew us into their lives. That’s when we basically “adopted” each other. 

Bertram: I’m sorry about your son, Mr. Stone. I’m sure my readers would join me in thanking him for his service to our country. Now, let’s talk about Elsbeth. What’s the story there? The author, Aaron Lazar, paints quite a picture of her murder. 

Oscar: Ah, Elsbeth. I never knew a more fiery woman. She was beautiful, dark, wild. And, oh, what a pianist. She was about to begin a worldwide tour as a concert pianist when their daughter Freddie was born, and she gave it all up to stay home with the baby. Of course, that was almost thirty years before she was murdered. 

Bertram: What about the murder? 

Oscar: It’s an exceedingly unpleasant topic. Normally, I wouldn’t discuss such private issues with you. However, since Gus has authorized the series to be published, I suppose it’s acceptable, in this case. 

The short version is that Elsbeth contracted cancer – it settled in her temporal lobe. We went years thinking she had a mood disorder, like bipolar. There was even a diagnosis of schizophrenia. She went through a number of neurologists. When the cancer was finally detected, it was too late. And the suicidal depression, caused by a tumor that affected the part of her brain that controls these things, overwhelmed her many a time.

We all thought she’d jumped off the cliffs of the Letchworth Gorge because of it. Later, of course, we discovered that Harold, Gus’s son-in-law, pushed her. He was trying to cover the embezzlement of her inheritance. He found her depression a convenience – especially since she’d tried suicide several times – and it was well documented. I believe Mr. Lazar refers to this in his accounts of Gus’s life throughout the series. It was awful. Just awful. We all thought she’d really jumped, until Harold was later revealed to be a monster. He’s still in jail, of course. Thank God. 

Bertram: What about Gus’s house? Is it really as large and homey as Lazar paints it? 

Oscar: It is. We gather on Sundays for Gus’s family feast. He’s an amazing chef, with a talent for comfort food with a gourmet twist. He has a flare for it, that’s for certain. One thing Lazar may misrepresent is the cleanliness of their home. Gus hates to do dishes. And the great room is often covered with toys and evidence of his grandchildren’s forays into mischief. 

Bertram: Who is “we?” Are all the people in Lazar’s books really in Gus’s life? 

Oscar: Oh, yes. All of them, and more. Well, let’s see. Of course Millie and I are always there. There’s Gus’s new wife, Camille, and her daughter, Shelby. She’s going to be quite the vocalist, let me tell you. But I digress. Camille’s mother, Madelaine, is Gus’s secretary. She’s romantically involved with Officer Joe Russell, who’s a wonderful lawman with a very healthy appetite. They live in Camille’s old Cape Cod, just down the road. Gus’s daughter Freddie, now divorced from Harold, lives with Gus and Camille with her three children: Johnny, Marion, and Celeste. They are all cared for by the most capable housekeeper and nanny, Mrs. Pierce, who stayed on after caring for Elsbeth in her final days. Of course, that was five years ago now, although it seems like just yesterday. 

Bertram: What about the giant? 

Oscar: Oh my goodness! I forgot about Siegfried. Of course. Our gentle giant. Siegfried was Elsbeth’s twin brother, Gus’s brother-in-law. Dear Siegfried has suffered from great challenges in his life, not the least of which was a childhood boating accident that left him slightly impaired. But he’s a veritable gem. He lives in the carriage house beside Gus’s barn, works at Freddie’s veterinary clinic, and helps out around the property by watching the children and chopping wood. Oh, and he also tends the barn animals, two horses, dogs, chickens. Siegfried has shown amazing courage on more than one occasion, and has saved Gus’s life several times. To be fair, Gus has done the same for him. It’s been rather crazy around here lately. Too many villains invading our peaceful little town. 

Bertram: How accurate are Lazar’s books? I mean, regarding the actual plots. Does he embellish? Or are they relatively factual? 

Oscar: They’re pretty factual. I have read all of Lazar’s books, including his rough drafts for the unpublished works. He honors me by including me in his “inner circle” of readers and critique partners. Actually, my wife Millie and I do this together, and we do find plenty of typos. He tends to get carried away in the stories, and often forgets important things. Like my camera. He almost called it a Nikon in the first book, and it’s a Leica! I’ve had to correct him on a number of items. But for the most part, he and Gus spend a lot of time together going over the actual events and timelines. Occasionally he waxes a bit poetic, delving into the descriptions of our valley in flowery detail. I would be more to the point, don’t-you-know? But I suppose it works. His readers seem to enjoy the books. 

Bertram: You’ve read all . . . ten? Eleven? What’s your favorite, so far? 

Oscar: Oh, my. That’s a tough one. I have soft spots in my heart for all of Lazar’s books. I love Firesong, because that has such lovely historical connections with the Underground Railroad. And Counterpoint gives a great account of the ice storm. Then again, Mazurka is a waltz through Europe, rather delightful. Of course, the ones that feature me are probably my favorites, but don’t forget, two of these eleven books introduce another set of characters. Sam and Rachel Moore, who live not far from us, agreed to let Lazar document their recent adventures. Rachel is very brave, a strong woman. She has MS, don’t-you-know? 

Bertram: You didn’t tell me your favorite book, Mr. Stone. 

Oscar: You must forgive the aging brain of an octogenarian. I tend to ramble. All right then, if you are going to push, I suppose I would choose Tremolo. I love the way Lazar pits the innocence of Gus’s childhood against the evil of the thief and murderer he faced in Maine as a child. And the descriptions of the Maine lake are just invigorating. Quite pristine and makes me imagine the aroma of pines, don’t-you-know. 

This young man has had a devil of a time finding a publisher with deep pockets. If you have any connections with powerful NYC publishers, you must certainly put in a good word for him. He’s a good fellow with a large family of his own, you know. He needs a nice advance. 

Bertram: I certainly will, Mr. Stone. And I understand how difficult it is to break into the business. I have a few novels of my own, and understand the predicament all too well. 

Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Stone. Perhaps we’ll talk again, and next time I’ll ask all about your work as East Groveland historian. 

Oscar: You’re quite welcome, young lady. And I’d be happy to regale you with the tales of long lost precious documents and local grave robbers. But we’ll save that for another time. I need to let Tinkerbell out to go potty. She’s dancing at the door. Drive safely, now. And watch out for villains.

Chip, the Hero of Her Work-in-Pause, a Whimsically Ironic Apocalyptic Novel (Part I)

Bertram: I’ve been trying to write freeform in an effort to get your story moving. You’re on your way home now, and your neighborhood is still intact, or as intact as it was the last time you saw it. The change from open prairie to city disconcerts you, or does it? I’m still not sure who you are or what you want. You want freedom, of course. No one to bother you. No one to tell you what to do. No one to change the world on a whim.

Chip: At least you got me away from that danged volcano. You should have done it a long time ago instead of making me run and run for months on end.

Bertram: Life got in the way, you know how it is.

Chip: No I don’t. You barely wrote me into the world and then you left me to fend for myself.

Bertram: It wasn’t fair, but I’m here now.

Chip: You’re not. Your mind is still somewhere in cyberspace. You’re wondering what you’re missing. Who’s emailing you? Who’s commenting on your articles? How many people are reading your other blog? What’s going on in your discussion group?

Bertram: Okay, you got a point. My attention is divided, but . . .

Chip: Buts and more buts. That’s all you ever offer me. What you need to do is get your mind here with me in this crazy world that changes by the minute. No wonder you don’t know who I am. I don’t know who I am because you’re not writing me.

Bertram: If we’re casting blame here, why aren’t you helping me to move the story along? Usually after 15,000 words, I have a feel for my characters, a sense of who they are, and what secrets they hoard, but you–you don’t tell me anything about yourself.

Chip: How can I? Growing up, my life was never about me. I didn’t have much chance to develop a solid identity. My father died when I was young, and my mother was a narcissist who always put herself first. I know she had to work two jobs to support me, and I’m grateful. I really am. She went through a lot for me. People didn’t treat her well at work. The women were jealous of her looks, and the men never saw anything but her big breasts. Yet she fought her way to the top of the company and ended up retiring with a great pension. Poor mother didn’t know what to do with herself after she retired, so she came to visit me. For six months.

Bertram: That doesn’t explain why you aren’t helping me write your story. We know what happens to you—

Chip: Maybe that’s why I don’t want to help. Maybe I want the world to go back the way it was. I was happy, except that I couldn’t get my mother to leave.

Bertram: Were you happy?

Chip: Sure. I had my store. I loved the animals in my charge, and I miss them. I know you said you sent the frilled lizard home to Australia and the Scarlet Macaw home to the rainforest, but I have only your word for it. I’ve never seen them there. And then all the other animals, like the poor blind seeing-eye dog. What did you do with it? A generic remark that it’s in a better place does not answer the question. Is it with the wolves? Is it young again? Is it sighted?

Bertram: You sound like a whiner here, and yet I never saw you as a whiner. A bit weak, perhaps—you never got up the courage to ask your mother to leave. I had to et rid of her for you.

Chip: I did ask her to leave. Many times. But she didn’t go. What was I supposed to do? Throw her out the door? Drag her to her car? Change the locks when she went shopping?

Bertram: Do you think maybe you wanted her to stay? Maybe you’re a mama’s boy. Maybe you liked having her take care of you AND you wanted your freedom. Since you couldn’t have both, maybe you got in the habit of blaming her for your inadequacies.

Chip: Inadequacies? You think I’m inadequate?

Bertram: I think you’re perfect for your job—a rather ordinary character who becomes extraordinary because of what happens to you.

Chip: Inadequate and ordinary. Thanks a lot.

Bertram: You do have a few qualities that make you stand out—your way with animals, the way you identify with them rather than with humans.

Chip: That is a good quality, one I would have chosen for myself if you hadn’t bestowed it on me. What other qualities do I have that make me stand out?

Bertram: You’re reasonably bright—

Chip: Reasonably bright is a good quality? Sheesh.

Bertram: And you have a strange sense of honor. I like that you saved Nicholas Nickleby to read after you fudged on reading it during college.

Chip: I was embarrassed at having to rely on cheat sheets from the internet to write that paper, but my job had to come first or I wouldn’t have been able to afford college. I will read the book, just not now. It makes me think of all that’s lost.

Bertram: What do you miss from the old world? I mean besides working at your store. You never seemed to do much else.

Chip: I spent a lot of time planning my animal refuge, but when you destroyed the world, you destroyed my dream along with it.

Bertram: Maybe I made your dream come true. I returned your animals to their natural habitats.

Chip: But I didn’t have anything to do with it.

Bertram: So what you’re objecting to is that I saved you animals and you didn’t?

Chip: No. Yes. I don’t know.

Bertram: Precise response.

Chip: I don’t need your sarcasm. I could be doing . . .

Bertram: Could be doing?

Chip: Anything but talking to you.

Bertram: I really want to know. What would be doing if you weren’t talking to me?

Chip: Going home. I have a cat waiting for me. You’ve left us alone so long, it’s probably gone by now.

Bertram: Not yet, he’s still waiting for you. And he’s doing well. He’s quite a self-sufficient creature, you know.

Chip: It. It’s an it, not a he. “He” presumes humanness, and it’s a higher life form than any human I’ve ever met.

Bertram: Okay. It’s waiting for you.

Chip: I hear that patronizing tone in your voice. I don’t have to put up with it.

Bertram: Oh, but you do. I’ve pledged to write 2000 words tonight, and since you’re not giving me anything to work with, we’re going to keep at this until you do.

Chip: What do you need from me?

Bertram: Something to make you real in my head so that I can hardly wait to work on your story everyday. Something that excites me so that I can’t stop thinking about it.

Chip: No one can do that. You’ve read so much you’re jaded, and now you expect me to supply the excitement you once found while reading. At least you’re working again.

Bertram: But the writing is awful. I can’t use any of it for the book.

Chip: So? I thought the point was to write whatever flows out of your mind.

Bertram: I didn’t expect such drivel. I’d hoped for magic.

Chip: We all hope for magic. Few of us get it.

Bertram: Now we’re getting somewhere. Did you hope for magic?

Chip: Maybe.

Bertram: Then you got it, didn’t you? One day your world was the same as it always was, and the next . . .

Chip: It changed. Nothing is the same. Nothing is real.

Bertram: How does that make you feel?

Chip: What are you, my therapist?

Bertram: Just answer the question.

Chip: It makes me feel frightened. Awed. Unsettled. Lonely. Desperate. Excited. Except for the bugs. I can do without those.

Bertram: You have to admit, it’s interesting for a character who professes to love animals to have an aversion to bugs.

Chip: Big bugs. Two-inch beetles. Seven-foot millipedes. Next thing I know, you’re going to have dragonflies with six-foot wingspans.

Bertram: Great idea, but I don’t want to overdo the bug thing.

Chip: Believe me, I don’t want you to overdo it either. Can I go home now?

Bertram: As soon as you give me something to work with.

Chip: It’s going to be a very long night.

See also: Pat Bertram Introduces Chip, the Hero of her Work-in-Pause, a Whimsically Ironic Apocalyptic Novel (Part II)