Interview with Maribeth Shanley, author of “Crack in the World”

4912933c709924e57407a34b134ecc223749ed5f-thumbWhat is your book about?

CRACK IN THE WORLD tells the story of Emily, who is molested by her father. Emily is a member of a large family as she becomes increasingly isolated and all alone. After moving to Rhode Island she develops a strong outside support group comprised of Martha, a neighbor and grandmother, Sean, Martha’s grandson and Jeannie, a young girl Emily’s age. It is this support group that inspires Emily to defy her father as she turns her world upside down and takes control of her future.

I love your title. When terrible things happen, we often feel as if we have fallen through a crack in the world. What inspired you to write this particular story?

I’ve always wanted to tell the world my story. I know how important it is to talk about this thing because it’s still so alive and well in our human society and, in particular, my family. Someone needs to expose this dirty little secret which has the power of destroying a victim’s future. I originally wrote a memoir and gave it to my girlfriend (among others) to read. She told me it was good, but, more importantly she told me that I was a writer. Then, she suggested that I write a non-fiction novel. She loved my description of the first time I became intimate with my husband. She said, “It’s steamy, Maribeth. You have a knack for romance novels.” That was all I needed. I think I wrote the original story in less than two months. My same girlfriend read it and said, “I read a lot. I believe this could become a best seller.” Not to sound cocky, but I do too.

You’re so brave to write this story. Why will readers relate to your characters?

Because they’re real and I think we all know them by other names. Martha is gentle and wise and someone we all feel drawn to. Sean, who was brought up in a loving home environment with a strong mother and, of course, Martha as female role models, is every woman’s dream male.  Jeannie is wise, worldly and smart-mouthed; just what Emily needs to bring out her guts and glory side. Emily…oh, Emily, she’s bright, loving and oh so innocent; but not so innocent that she hasn’t been in waiting for just the inspiration she needed to take back her power from her narcissistic father, Joe. Sarah, Emily’s mother, we all know. She’s downtrodden by her bully husband. Joe’s a jerk, period; and Emily’s siblings are just living life without molestation.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

Yes. I mostly used the Internet to get weather in Rhode Island correct and many other facts in the book which I checked for, e.g., when did I-pods first go on the market. I came away realizing that, basically anyone with a talent to write can do it. There’s so much information on the Internet to fact check and get time-lines correct.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

When I wrote the original version (the ending changed) I just knew when the story had ended. I’m a person who follows her gut and I’ve become pretty good at knowing things like that. I’ve finished the sequel, A VIEW INTO THE UNKNOWN and was able to end it at the end. Again, I walked away satisfied that I told the story the way it was supposed to be told.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of work to get to where I am. Emily and I are very much the same person. She looks on the sunny side of life, rather than living in the darkness her father tried to bestow upon her. She also looks for the good in people, although she isn’t gullible. She knows evil when she sees it. She’s a fighter and proves that.

When I finally moved away from my parents’ home, I searched for ways to change my life. My first year of college I took a Sociology course and read a book, PRESENTATION OF SELF IN EVERYDAY SOCIETY, by Erving Goffman. It changed my life because, for the first time, I realized that I was the author of my life and future. All I had to do was write a best seller and I’ve been writing it ever since. Even prior to that, I looked for a mate who would love and respect me and, damn if I didn’t meet Bob the night I moved away.   Several years ago I realized that, although I had worked hard on undoing what my father did to me as I put it in the proper perspective of my life, I had a lot of internal turmoil going on and it was causing me to feel unhappy. At the time I felt as if I should just accept that I would never be completely happy. But…that’s not me. So, I decided to look for an answer to the internal turmoil. In the meantime, I went back to meditating to an audio program called HOLOSYNC because I knew it had worked. I did begin to meditate again and low and behold I was able to unravel all my unconscious fears which caused me dysfunctional behavior and which was the root of my unhappiness. One day, as I was driving, I realized that I was and am happier than I ever thought possible. In the sequel, I give Emily Holosync as well. In the end, she finds the happiness she craves.

How lovely that you finally found happiness. Apparently, writing makes you happy, too. At what age did you discover writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing; however, I discovered it while I was beginning to heal. My mother’s death set my healing in motion. Before then, I was skillful at keeping the lid on that Pandora box. When I began to feel all the emotions of what happened to me, I knew I needed professional help. I not only spent about nine months in therapy, but I read a very powerful book called THE COURAGE TO HEAL, written by two females who talk candidly about molestation. It became my bible as it also became Emily’s. Authors Ellen Bass and Laura Davis encourage the reader to begin writing down feelings, thoughts and anything else that needs to come out. I have a huge file full of things I wrote including a letter to my father while he was still alive which I mailed. Over the years I’ve culled through the file and marveled at what I wrote. It gave me the courage to begin writing. My meditation, has set my talent free to write with confidence.

When where you first published? How were you discovered?

CRACK IN THE WORLD is my first published book. It was published this year. After writing the book and believing I had something worth publishing I began trying to figure out how to get published. Most people I talked to sarcastically told me, “Good luck.” I don’t think anyone believed I could find a publisher. I was hounded by self-publishing companies but my husband advised me not to go that route. I also decided not to self-publish. My line of thinking was…so what if you self-publish. What happens when you get it published? All you have is a book. So, I began to search the Internet and found a site (can’t remember what site) that listed over 100 publishing companies. The site discussed the query letter, etc. I simply began sending out query letters until one day, Mike Simpson, responded telling me I had a story that needed to be told. He gave me some much needed tips on how to structure the story and invited me to resubmit which I did. The rest is history.

Too, this is the history of who I am. I am a firm believer in BELIEVING. If you believe something can happen, it will. I was determined to be published. I never, ever give up. In fact, Bob calls me a bulldog who just won’t let go of that damned rag. When I make up my mind to do something, I just do it.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I’ve already begun writing two additional books which I plan to complete. I love writing basically women’s books with lots of romance and wonderful, naughty sex. I also want to incorporate other social wrongs into my stories such as sexism, date rape and the like.   One book I have in mind will deal with another realm, maybe an alternate universe. Too, I want to write a few children’s books under the pseudonym, Molly B. Goose. I raised two rescued ducks last summer as well as an injured goose this year. I want to teach children to respect other living creatures even though many of their parents don’t. I keep all these ideas in a computer file which is backed up on a separate hard drive.

What writer influenced you the most?

I have a confession to make. I don’t read as much anymore as I used to. I’m more a movie buff. In fact, I’m hoping that CITW and my sequel are made into a movie or miniseries. My major in college was film and television production and direction. The biggest kick in the butt would be to be part of making that movie or miniseries. When I used to travel for a living I read a lot of Steven King and John Grisham. I love things that go bump in the night. The sequel to CITW has reincarnation as a sub-plot. I also love how Grisham deals with social issues. When I was a little girl I read all the Nancy Drew books. I love sleuthing. In fact, years ago before going to college I was going to join the police force so I could become a homicide detective. In terms of being influenced, I’m the consummate romance lover.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

I sent a copy of my book to Oprah Winfrey. I used to live in Nashville, TN and knew her father owned a barber shop in Nashville. I did some research and found the address. Oprah now owns the shop after saving it from foreclosure and the street it’s on has been renamed after her father. I sent the book to him and asked him to give it to her. Who knows if anything will come of this; but, I do know that, because she was also molested it’s a subject near and dear to her heart. If she actually gets the book, I expect to hear from her one day. I’m now sending my book to some of the South Carolina women’s magazines asking that it be reviewed. I’m also going to set up a book signing with Barnes and Nobel and have already talked to the Business Development Manager about doing that. I’ll go to other local book stores and do the same. I use FB to promote my work as well. I also have a website, www.maribethshanley.com. I’m so open to finding out how to optimize social media to get my name and books out there and read.

Do you keep a pen and notepad on your bedside table?

I keep one close by at all times. I get many ideas while watching movies, etc. as well. Good lines inspire me so I write them down. I’ve also used a photo to inspire me to write, e.g., what do you see in this photo?

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

Excited!

Would it matter to you if you were never published? (In other words, would it matter if no one ever read your books?) Why or why not?

Yes, it actually would matter. I’ve done enough writing for myself and have that file I mentioned full of my writings. I now wish to write in hopes of inspiring others with my stories. Also, yes, it would matter if no one read my books. What’s the point of writing if no one reads them?

Do you have a saying or motto for your life and/or as a writer?

Yes I do, and I firmly believe this motto. I am living proof that it works. That motto is: Your life is your story. You are the author. Create a best seller! I’m putting that on my bookmarks which will also become my business cards.

I’ve been trying to adopt that same philosophy, because it is true, our lives are our story. One last question: Where can we learn more about your book?

From the Second Wind Publishing site: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!maribeth-shanley/cdgr

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Help Solve a Real Mystery!!

My guest today is Sue Senden, and she has an unusual story to research and tell. Sue says:

Most families have some sort of secrets they prefer to gloss over or rewrite their history in some way. In my family, there was the grandfather I never met, Henry. He died long before I was born. No one ever talked about him. He was as elusive as smoke. It took many years to learn why. When I finally discovered some information about him, it was the beginning of a mystery, of a quest and a need to discover what all had happened.

My grandfather was the skeleton in my closet.

He was murdered.

Murder is not something that happens and it is over once the case is closed. It is a crime that goes on affecting people for generations. This is a murder mystery within my own family the weight of that event has permeated my life to the depths of my being. It was a crime no one in the family talked about. My grandmother never spoke of her slain husband, so we knew little about him, my mother and her sister were children when it happened, and they suffered their own traumas over the event they witnessed.
So, I am setting out on a quest to find out more about him, his death and the murder. Since the records are old, little is on the internet, and I must travel to where the crime occurred and dig into the archives for some answers.

This murder is set in a turbulent and desperate era against a backdrop of crime, political corruption, great wealth and the power it wielded. It made headlines from coast to coast. It could have been a crime created by the best noir writers of the era, but it was not a story made up in the mind of a writer, it happened. It happened to my Grandfather; it happened to my family, it happened to me for I carry the remnants of that tragedy in the fiber of my being.

It is a story I want to write. It is the story I must tell. It is a book I will write.

That is where you come into this project. By your generous support, I will be able to travel half way across the country to see the records first hand and hopefully even find someone still alive who recalls this case. It is not something that can be done vial the internet, it must be done in person.

I do not know where it may lead me. I do not know if there will be complete answers. I expect this quest will generate more questions that will take me in new directions. I will chronicle this adventure into the dark past of my grandfather’s life and death. Come with me. Help me get some answers and heal an old wound that has scarred my family for generations.

The paranormal aspect: A strange event happened recently, my grandfather, Henry, came to me in a dream and said, “Research my past.” Please help me find out what he wants me to know.

***

If you’d like to help Sue find the solution to this mystery, please check her out on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1448775067/skeleton-in-my-closet

Anne Lyken-Garner, Author of “Sunday’s Child”

Welcome, Anne. What is your book about?

Sunday’s Child is the inspiring, true tale of a little girl struggling to rise above appalling living conditions, poverty, violence and abuse.

How long did it take you to write your book?

It took me just 28 days to put the content on paper. I edited it for the next year, and it took me all of 8 years to get it published after nearly 100 rejections and a couple of near misses. In fact, a couple of months after finding a publisher, another I’d contacted asked me to send the entire manuscript because they were interested to read it.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Writing a true story is obviously different from writing fiction. I didn’t want to include the mundane parts of my life which no one was interested in. I picked out the parts that made an impact on me (unfortunately, a lot of them were negative) because I felt they would also impact people who were reading it. I mainly used the people involved to tell the story. I used a lot of dialogue to give life and meaning to what they were saying. I also wanted the readers to get a genuine glimpse into the personality of the people involved, so I used the way they spoke to bring this to the fore.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

I ended this part of the story when the path my life was taking took a turn in another direction. I saved this other half for the follow-up book which will be called, Fair of Face.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

This is an easy one. I wrote this book to all those who feel they’re being held down by their past, whether it’s physical abuse, support deprivation, feeling unloved, downtrodden etc. I want them to see that it’s possible to lift the shackles they think you have to live under, just because they were put there by someone bigger and stronger.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

The obvious challenge was exposing my life story. It’s not and will never be a comfortable thing to do. Once it’s out there, it can be perused by anyone and be open to mockery, disdain etc. People can judge you because they think they can analyse you now that they know so much about your life – even if they’ve never judged you in the past.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

Yes. It clarified my story and put the events that happened to me in my childhood in a special place – a place they belong – in the past. Now it’s all written down it doesn’t have to stay in my head anymore. It belongs on paper and that’s where I want it to stay.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I don’t limit myself to a certain amount of words per day. I’m also a blogger and freelance writer, so I write to earn. I can’t say this is enjoyable writing. I feel that making myself write a number of words per day is like putting a prison sentence on my creativity. I hasten to say that this is merely a personal judgement. I know this kind of thing works well for many writers. I do have a writing timetable, which I try to stick to.

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

Yes, any time of day when the kids are not around

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on a healthy eating programme I will be contracted to write. I wrote it a few years ago, but I want to put some additional information in. I’m also waiting for the go-ahead to put in the final edits on my book about raising children, based on my qualifications and experience as a youth counsellor/worker. Also, after marketing Sunday’s Child I’ll be re-writing the follow-up to get it ready for next year.

Where can we find out more about you?

You can find me on my How To Build Confidence blog. All my confidence-building articles here are gleaned from my life’s experiences, which have taught me that your past doesn’t have to shape who you are today.

Christine Lindsay, Author of Shadowed in Silk

What is your book about?

SHADOWED IN SILK is about a woman who feels invisible. The people, who should love her, ignore her—her father, her husband, her aunt who raised her. It’s about Abby Fraser who wants the eyes of true love to look into her face and really see her. It’s also about the people of India who felt invisible to their British rulers.

I love the blockbuster novels—Far Pavilions, Shadow of the Moon—by MM Kaye who no one can beat when it comes to novels set in the flamboyant British Raj. I wanted to write gripping romantic adventures like she did, but from a Christian viewpoint.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

First of all, I am a British Immigrant. So I fit into both categories—the Brits in India and in the American POV of my character Abby. But there are aspects to Abby’s spiritual and emotional journey that are like mine. As a young woman I failed morally and became pregnant when I was not married. I relinquished my child to adoption to a good Christian family, but that kind of experience leaves scars. It took me a long time to understand who I was from Christ’s viewpoint. In other words—how He saw me after He had washed my sins away.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

My all out favorite is Major Geoff Richards. His sterling Christian honor and Godly tenderness are like that of my husband, David. Geoff is suffering from shellshock from the First World War, and he cares deeply for the men of his regiment. He’s a true soldier’s soldier, terribly gallant. And he’s a real softie when it comes to the Indian orphans at a Christian mission, and toward his two cavalry steeds, Samson and Goliath.

Who is your most unusual character?

Tikah is the most unusual, and for most of the story she’s a mystery. She’s a Muslim girl who has been for many years the mistress of Abby’s husband. This alone makes her Abby’s enemy. But both Tikah and Abby have to learn that what really matters in life, is how God sees them. It takes a former Hindu widow who is now a Christian to teach them this.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

I did a great deal of research—everything from autobiographies of military men in the British Cavalry, to woman of great distinction in the Raj, to humble missionaries. Political memoirs of Gandhi and Nehru and Indian Independence, the Third Anglo/Afghan War, Indian customs, flora, fauna . . . Must be around 20 or more books I read. British Raj Cookbooks—that’s how I learned that a favorite of English children growing up in India was a chapatti spread with marmalade.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

If it weren’t for the message that I want to get across, I wouldn’t be writing. I want to tell others through fictional stories about the emotional and spiritual healing they can receive through a surrendered life to Christ. I want them to learn like Abby and Tikah how much they are loved by the Son of God—how He sees them, and hears them when it appears no one else does.

How has your background influenced your writing?

My mother used to tell me stories around our kitchen table, of our Irish ancestors who served in the British Raj. So for me adventure wasn’t just the cowboys and stagecoaches of my western home, but the red carpet pomp of the English in India—that jewel of the crown.

But I grew up poor due to an alcoholic father who abused my mother. So for a long time, I felt small and insignificant. So much of what I write comes from the emotional healing that I found in Christ.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

I never start writing until after I’ve had my morning devotions. I can’t put a word on paper without praying that what I write will honor God, and further His kingdom.

What are you working on right now?

Two books—one is a historical romance set in Washington State that is currently called Sofi’s Bridge. It won the 2010 RWA “Touched By Love” Contest. And it’s about a young woman who desires to build bridges.

I am also starting the sequel to Shadowed in Silk, called Captured by Moonlight. It’s the story of two characters from Shadowed in Silk. My little Hindu widow who is now a Christian will be kidnapped and imprisoned by her former in-laws. And Laine, an English nurse who has lost not just once in love but twice, is imprisoned emotionally, and shuts out all overtures of love.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

I try to write a story that a person could read if they know Christ as their savior or not. My characters will often come from a non-believing background, and they will struggle with the moral issues that the people of today struggle with. I want to write in a way that people who are not perfect can relate to. At the same time, I have characters who are Christians, but who also must deepen their relationship with God. We all have room for growth. And we were all ‘saved’ from something.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

I have to laugh at this as it may sound horribly brutal. But I have no problem killing my characters off at all.  In all of my books I kill off at least one secondary character, sometimes more as is the case of Shadowed in Silk.

I love having my strongest Christians die. I often cry as I write the scenes where they are ready to meet their Lord. And sometimes bad characters have to die too. I try hard not to think of their eternal situation, and remind myself that they are fictional characters—not flesh and blood—and I am not God.

What are your current writing goals and how do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

The marketing and promotional aspects are awful. I love talking to people and making friends, but it’s not easy to always be talking about myself. The phrase “I must decrease in order for Him (the Lord) to increase”  is running through my head quite a bit these days as I try to do my part in the marketing of my novel. It’s not just me that it affects, so I must do my part. But I hope I never sound pushy, but that I encourage someone in everything I say or write.

Have you written any other books?

I have a full manuscript that went through the gamut of the publishing houses, and has yet to find a home. It’s a contemporary novel of a birthmother who goes into an emotional tailspin after she is reunited with her birthdaughter. She relives the original loss of relinquishing her child when she meets the girl who is now 16. My main character, Kerry, runs away to Ireland where she discovers to her shock that the biological father of her child is not dead as she had been told. As that book is set in Ireland, I have my characters not only find healing from the trauma of adoption reunion but they must also stop an IRA rogue terrorist from setting off a bomb.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Drop by my website www.christinelindsay.com or contact me by email at Christine.lindsay.writer@gmail.com  I’d love to get to know you.

The E-book for Shadowed in Silk can be found anywhere that Ebooks are sold. But here is the Amazon link . http://www.amazon.com/Shadowed-Silk-Christine-Lindsay/dp/0976544490/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303435156&sr=1-1

As of Sept. 1, the printed version will also be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

Click here to read an excerpt from: Shadowed in Silk

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)

Aphrodite and Eros from Mortals, Gods, and a Muse by Suzette Vaughn

Bertram: What’s your name?

Aphrodite: Depends on whom you ask.

Bertram: I’m asking you.

Aphrodite: I am Aphrodite, Goddess of love.

Bertram: What would others call you?

Aphrodite: Sherry called me Star, thinking she could just make up a name for me.

Bertram: Why didn’t you tell her your name was Aphrodite?

Aphrodite: When I tried to talk, she couldn’t hear me. It was very frustrating.

Bertram: She couldn’t hear you? You were quiet?

Aphrodite: Idiot, no! She physically couldn’t hear me. The words were coming out of my mouth and she looked at me as if it was my problem?

Bertram: Okay you rude goddess, what is your role in Sherry’s story?

Aphrodite: If I still had my powers, you’d be a frog right now. I, of course, had to fix her little love life. How was I supposed to know she was his true love?

Bertram: Sherry was whose true love?

Aphrodite: Lysander’s, of course. The Eros family line. Don’t you understand anything?

Bertram: I understand that talking to you is like talking to a stubborn mule. Let’s take this one step at a time. Who is Lysander?

Aphrodite: Lysander was the last male born to the Eros family line.

Bertram: Good, now we are getting somewhere. So, you made a love match of Sherry and Lysander since you are the goddess of Love?

Aphrodite: Not me! They did that all on their own. Well, he did that from Hades. I took away the love of Eros, God of Love, and kind of cursed the family and well…I don’t want to talk about that.

Bertram: Well, please sit down and stop pacing around the room. We can talk about something else.

Aphrodite: Fine! I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for Sherry, the insufferable twit.

Bertram: So what did you do to the Eros family?

Aphrodite: You said we wouldn’t talk about that.

Bertram: I didn’t know the Goddess of Love could shoot flames from her eyes. So, what would you like to talk about?

Aphrodite: I thought I was here to talk about me, not them!

Bertram: If you don’t want to talk about their love life, how about yours?

Aphrodite: I have no love life since Eros put me in that stupid box. He really is a hot head you know.

Bertram: You’re calling him a hothead? I mean, so… why did he put you in a box?

Aphrodite: I said I don’t want to discuss that. I’m done.

Bertram: Where did she go? She just disappeared. Well, I guess this interview is over. Note to self: remove Sherry Duncan and Suzette Vaughn off my Christmas list for this.

Eros: Thank Zeus she’s gone, Miss…Miss, please snap out of it.

Bertram: Oh my, it’s warm in here. I’m feeling a little dizzy.

Eros: I get that all of the time. You’ll be fine in a moment.

Bertram: You promise? I’d like to know how you’re going to make it fine?

Eros: Stay on task now Miss…you were asking about Sherry and Xander?

Bertram: Ohh yes, those people. Okay, Sherry and Lysander, but first, please tell me your name? You look like a god.

Eros: I am a god. You want an interview do you not?

Bertram: Interview? I can think of better things to do with our time together. Sorry. You’re a little distracting. Was that your girlfriend that just poofed out of here?

Eros: My ex by about three millennia.

Bertram: So you’re single?

Eros: Yes my dear, I am, but we are not here for me, are we?

Bertram: We can be.

Eros: I am getting nowhere here.

Bertram: You could be.

Eros: Now listen here. I came to talk to you, not for you to be looking at me like that.

Bertram: How could you love that vicious Goddess? Sorry, I mean, how did she get out of the box? And is there a way we can put her back in… forever?

Eros: I could put her back but she is serving a new purpose. Xander let her out, he figured out the riddle to the box, so he was the one to break the curse.

Bertram: So that’s where Sherry comes in? She had to put her back?

Eros: Well the way it was supposed to go, Aphrodite was to find Sherry and lead her to Xander. But there were… complications, and well…Xander ended up in Hades.

Bertram: Aphrodite sent him there didn’t she, that bit.. er.. bites. That bites.

Eros: Well in a way, yes, and then it was up to Sherry to bring him back

Bertram: How did Sherry get him out?

Eros: She had to figure out how to open the box herself.

Bertram: Did she shove Aphrodite in it when she got it open?

Eros: No, she got her second chance with Xander, which we all should know, second chances at love don’t always happen, and still the story didn’t end there. For once Aphrodite was smart and stayed far away.

Bertram: Anything else you want to tell me, perhaps over dinner?

Eros: And drinks. Have you ever seen Mount Olympus in the fall?

Mortals, Gods, and a Muse written by Suzette Vaughn