Isiah, Protagonist of the Dark Fantasy Novels “RealmShift” and “MageSign” by Alan Baxter

Bertram: Who are you?

Isiah: My name is Isiah. I am the agent on earth of an entity called The Balance and my lot is something of a cursed existence. But I like to think that I make a difference.

Bertram: What is your story?

Isiah: My story is long and complicated and begins in the highlands of Scotland hundreds of years ago.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Isiah: I have so many problems that it’s hard to know where to start. A scumbag murderer by the name of Samuel Harrigan is eluding me, and I really need him to do something for me. The Devil himself is after Samuel too, so Lucifer is a pain in my arse. Then again, maybe my biggest problem is that The Balance won’t let me go and have a normal life. But I probably wouldn’t know what to do with a normal life if I had one. So yeah, I’ve got a few problems but there’s no point moaning about it.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Isiah: I can’t really seem to avoid it, but I have to admit that I love a good fight.

Bertram: How do your friends see you? How do your enemies see you?

Isiah: My friends often become my enemies and my enemies have been known to become my friends. It’s a hard thing to keep track of in my line of work. I guess my one true friend is Gabriel, but he’s pretty busy a lot of the time. You know, god’s work and all that.

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Isiah: My hero is the everyman that takes the time to stop and think for themselves. My heroes are the people that go quietly and productively through life without any adverse impact on their fellow man. They’re pretty few and far between, sadly.

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

Isiah: Harmony. Not too much to ask, is it?

Bertram: Do you talk about your achievements?

Isiah: I try not to. I’ve achieved a lot of things that I’m not really very proud of and I’ve achieved some things that are so monumental that no one would really believe me. Not to mention what a braggart or a bastard I might sound if I went on about them.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Isiah: I’ve had hundreds of years and spent a very long time training in all kinds of skills. I can manipulate matter and energy, I can affect peoples’ thoughts, I can fight like a demon. In fact, I often have fought against demons. So yeah, I’ve got skills, but I’ve had plenty of time to acquire them.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Isiah: No. It’s easy to make some pretty shrewd investments when you have as long as I’ve had.

Bertram: What do you believe?

Isiah: Well, isn’t that just the big question? More importantly, what do you believe?

Bertram: Have you ever failed at anything?

Isiah: Many, many things. Hopefully my successes go some way to rectifying those failures.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Isiah: I do my damndest to be, but the nature of my life often takes away that option.

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Isiah: I don’t really remember. But I know it was hard.

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

Isiah: I guess that would be jumping off a cliff after Megan was killed.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Isiah: My humanity. Because every day it seems to slip a bit further away.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Isiah: Cherry blossoms in spring sunshine. One of the purest things in nature. I try to get to Japan every year to bask in that beauty if I can.

Bertram: What is your favorite color?

Isiah: Does anyone really have a favourite colour? I don’t.

Bertram: What is your favorite food?

Isiah: I don’t need to eat any more, but I do enjoy a really good steak.

Bertram: What is your favorite beverage?

Isiah: A nice cold beer. Nothing fancy, just a good honest beer.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Isiah: I like music with electric guitars. I was so glad when they appeared.

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?

Isiah: I guess it would be my leather jacket. It’s been with me a long time now and feels a bit like an old friend.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Isiah: More of the same. I don’t see people changing any time soon.  You seem quite interested. If you want to know more about me, Alan Baxter tells my story in RealmShift and MageSign.

Candace Saunders heroine of the novel THE LIST by Carmen Shirkey

Bertram: Who are you?

Candace: My name is Candace Saunders. I’m a 30-something single woman who’d looking for Mr. Right.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Candace: I live in the suburbs of Washington DC. They say it’s one of the best places to meet singles, but clearly, “they” have never tried to date here.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Candace: You see, I have this list. It’s a list of characteristics that I want in my future husband, boyfriend, whatever. My friends think the list is a little restrictive. Come on, it only has 50 qualifications, it’s not like it’s 100 or anything.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Candace: I think I’m a cute, funny, blonde chick who just wants to fall in love – with the right guy.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Candace: They think I’m a cute, funny, blonde chick who has expectations that are a little bit too high. But they love me, and support me no matter what. Plus, they make me laugh, so bonus!

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Candace: This Carmen Shirkey chick told my story pretty well — THE LIST just won the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Award in the Romance category! She’s a bit judgmental about my List, but she wouldn’t be alone.

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

Candace: Every bad date I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of them. There was the guy who dressed like a That 70’s Show extra and fought medieval battles on the weekend. There was the guy who was in Sex Addicts Anonymous. Then there were the hoards of others that didn’t stand up to my scrutiny.

Bertram: Who was your first love?

Candace: Probably John Taylor, from Duran Duran. I had a Mrs. Taylor t-shirt.

Bertram: Who is your true love?

Candace: See, that’s the problem. I’ve met two men. One gets lots of checks on my “list-mus” test. But then there’s this other guy. He’s my anti-list. He’s a blue-collar bartender, he’s got hair longer than mine, he’s got tattoos – all these are must NOTS on my list. But I’ve fallen for both. Who should I choose?

Bertram: What is your favorite color?

Candace: Blue is my favorite color, because it makes me feel happy. But black, now, black is my favorite color to wear, because it brings out my sexy side. Plus, it makes me look skinnier.

Bertram: What is your favorite food?

Candace: I’m a steak and potatoes girl. My friends can order my steak for me, I’m so predictable. Filet mignon, medium-well (and don’t burn it!), with a baked potato.

Bertram: What is your favorite beverage?

Candace: I like to order Sex on the Beach at my favorite bar, Harlow’s. I like it because it’s sweet, and you can’t taste the alcohol. It’s also a good numbness-inducing drink for enduring bad dates.

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?

Candace: What woman doesn’t love their favorite little black dress? The one that makes you look five pounds slimmer, and makes the boys drool.

Bertram: What is your favorite TV show?

Candace: I wish they’d bring back Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That was a well-written show, and really funny!

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

Candace: Well, if I didn’t have my best friend Monica with me, I’d be terribly bored, and I’m sure I wouldn’t laugh at all. So I’d probably pick her. But once I meet my Mr. Right-for-Me, I don’t know if I could live without him. If you want to know more about me, you can find the information here: http://www.tinyurl.com/buythelist

Danielle Michele Fleming, Heroine of the Novel Shadow Song by Lorina Stephens

Bertram: What is your story?

Danielle: All I wanted was a home, a place where, and people with whom, I could breathe, free of the guilt of these dreams that dog my days, and free of the long arm of my Uncle Edgar. Ever since the July Revolution in France – I believe that was 1830 and I was just a child – I feel as though I’ve been on a long journey, both geographically and emotionally. It is amazing to me what moment can ensue from a slip of paper.

Lorina Stephens chronicled my story in her novel, Shadow Song. The novel is available through online booksellers worldwide, select bookstores in Canada, and directly from Lorina Stephens.

Bertram: Who are you?

Danielle: My name is Danielle Michelle Fleming. I suppose if life had been different, if Papa and Maman had not died, I would have grown to be Lady Fleming, but my life was to take a different course. Instead I became a member of the Midewewin, the Ojibwa medicine society. Of course that was after I escaped from Uncle Edgar.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Danielle: On the land. Where else would I live? It’s been so long since I had servants and walls I think I would find that confining now. For shelter we use a bark wigwam. During the summers we join our clan at Manitowaning. The winters we travel north to hunting grounds.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Danielle:  I’m no hero, but, yes, the story called Shadow Song, is about me. It’s also about Shadow Song, the man to whom I owe my life and my love.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Danielle: Why ever would someone wish to embrace conflict when they could know days of contentment? No, conflict is my uncle’s domain. It is he who destroys everything in the name of his unholy revenge.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Danielle: Yes I ran. For my very life I ran. But sometimes we are forced to stop running, to face our demons, to sacrifice everything in the name of peace.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Danielle: I’m sure people around me think me either impertinent or an outsider. As a child I learned early to observe, to learn, to survive. As a woman I learned if I wanted a place to call my own I would have to find it within myself. While Shadow Song’s clan accepted my presence, I was acutely aware I was an outsider.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Danielle: I have only one enemy – Uncle Edgar. How does he see me? I think I am an obsession, an annoyance, a toy with which he plays.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Danielle: She loves me I believe. I think she sees me as an indomitable spirit.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Danielle: How could she not? You could say we occupy the same inner landscape.

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Danielle: Shadow Song would have to be my hero. From the moment he stepped out of the green forest I was mesmerized by his knowledge, his power, his kindness. He offered me a home when no other would.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Danielle: Aside from having studied for and being accepted into the Midewewin – which is no small achievement – I learned how to survive in the wilderness, how to read people, and how to interpret these dreams priests has always told me were evil.

Bertram: What do you regret?

Danielle: So many things. How do I even begin to list my regrets? But, then, that has been my life, a series of actions from others that created havoc in my life, things I could not control, nor would have been equipped had I even the experience.

Bertram: What is your biggest disappointment?

Danielle: Ah, that is something I cannot tell you. You’ll have to read my story to find the answer to that.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Danielle: Probably to a fault. But then I had a mentor who lived his life by an exacting standard of honor. I could do little else, nor would I have wanted to.

Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?

Danielle: Parts of it, yes. I remember sunlight gleaming on the white marble floor of the foyer, like lace where it passed through the transom over the front door. There were lilies, white and frail, in a vase on the table against the paneling. The lilies’ fragrance was pungent, like a drug to calm the nerves.

I remember escaping from Uncle, paddling with Shadow Song out onto the massive freshwater sea. I watched it all with wide eyes, sure I would miss some wonder if I didn’t look everywhere at once. There were gulls pencilling long arcs on an endless blue sky, swooping down on the shoals they fished. Thousands of them there were. And ducks. And geese. I’d never seen so many waterfowl.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent? Why?

Danielle: Lavender. It is a perverse thing, because it reminds me of Paul Rogette, the guide who brought me through the wilderness and introduced me to Shadow Song. When we parted he gave me a tea tin, a small clay doll he’d made, and a bottle of lavender water. I kept all three, long after their usefulness had failed.

Bertram: What are the last three books you read?

Danielle: Books are a rarity in the backwoods of Upper Canada, but I read one over and over again, Paradise Lost, by Milton. You could say it was a book to which I related.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Danielle: I’m not sure, to be honest. I suppose you’ll have to read the end of my story to find out what my future might bring.

Shadow Song, by Lorina Stephens, is available from in print and eBook format from online booksellers worldwide, select bookstores in Canada, and directly from the author at http://www.5rivers.org 

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

Chip, the Hero of Pat Bertram’s Work-in-Pause, a Whimsically Ironic Apocalyptic Novel (Part II)

Bertram: Continuing our discussion from October, Chip, tonight is again about word counts, not adding usable words to the manuscript, so let’s see what we can accomplish. The last time we talked, you were running from the volcano.

Chip: For two months, you left me there, running and running and getting nowhere. It was a nightmare.

Bertram: Life gets in the way. I can’t live at your whim.

Chip: My whim? When is any of this my whim? It’s not even my choice. You choose for me.

Bertram: Well, I am your writer.

Chip: But what kind of writer are you? Isn’t a writer supposed to write — always?

Bertram: Not you, too. I get enough of that crap from other writers and books on writing. Who ever thought that one up, anyway? We don’t do anything always. Except breathe.

Chip: I know. You’ve said that before. Enough with the excuses. Can we get on with this?

Bertram: This meaning the interview?

Chip: This meaning my life. You’ve written me into escapades with giant bugs, devil toads, killer rivers, and all sorts of unutterable changes to the earth, yet I never seem to get anywhere.

Bertram: You’re where you’re supposed to be.

Chip: I’m supposed to be in this zoo? Why?

Bertram: You know why.

Chip: Right. Your precious theme. Freedom vs. Security vs. Responsibility. What’s with that? Real writers just write and worry about the theme later. Besides, who cares about theme when they’re reading an adventure story or a science fiction epic or whatever this is. 

Bertram: A whimsically ironic apocalyptic allegory.

Chip: Yeah, like that’s going to sell.

Bertram: But it’s the story I want to write.

Chip: Then write it. Don’t piddle your time away on the Internet.

Bertram: I don’t piddle. I work. I’m trying to promote the books I’ve already written.

Chip: That’s just your excuse. You like surfing cyberspace and talking to people.

Bertram: So?

Chip: Soooo . . . you’re supposed to be thinking of me!

Bertram: I do think of you, but you’re not giving me much to work with. You just wander around —

Chip: Wander? Is that what you think I’m doing? No wonder you’re getting nowhere. Wander. Sheesh.

Bertram: Then what are you doing?

Chip: Learning. Trying to find foods that aren’t feel-good.

Bertram: I liked that idea. What’s wrong with feel-good foods?

Chip: When was the last time you ate something that made you feel comfortable with yourself and your environment? Never, I bet. Food is supposed to nourish. Period. I don’t trust the stuff they feed us in here. And that Francie — she doesn’t understand. She thinks I’m being irresponsible by tasting the vegetation in here. I know it’s dangerous, but I’m trying to take responsibility for myself so I don’t have to rely on my keepers for every little thing. And why do you keep throwing me and Francie together? Don’t even think about having us end up together. She reminds me of my mother, and you know what I think of her.

Bertram: Why aren’t you this forthcoming when I sit down to write?

Chip: Because . . . I don’t know. You tell me. You’re the big shot writer. I’m just the dupe.

Bertram: You consider yourself a dupe? Don’t you realize you’re the hero?

Chip: I’m no hero. Sure, I dived into that ungodly river and rescued the pitbull, but that wasn’t heroic. It was . . . instinct.

Bertram: You don’t think acting instinctively can be heroic?

Chip: Heroism is more than a simple unthinking act. It entails overcoming fear, risking death, self-sacrifice.

Bertram: You did risk death. That seems self-sacrificing to me.

Chip: How could it be self-sacrificing if I didn’t stop to think that it was self-sacrificing? I just did it.

Bertram: We’re getting way off track. This isn’t supposed to be a philosophical discussion but a strategy session to figure out where we go from here.

Chip: I know where I’m going: to search for food. But I can’t do that unless you buckle down and write.

Bertram: Okay, okay. I can take a hint.

Chip: Sheesh. That was no hint. It was a full-blown declaration.

Bertram: So give me something to work with.

Chip: Here’s the deal. I’m standing at the fence, looking out at the world beyond the refuge. A bird as big as a jetliner flies over the land but swerves before it reaches the refuge as if it senses a barrier. Then I feel fingers on my throat, choking me. I try to turn around to see who it is, but all I can manage is to turn further into the strangler’s clutches.

Bertram: How do you feel about that?

Chip: How do you think I feel? I . . . can’t . . . breathe . . .

See also: Pat Bertram Introduces Chio, the Hero of her Work-in-Pause, a Whimisically Ironic Apocalyptic Novel (Part I)

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.

Alison Quin, Hero of an Unwritten Novel by Kenna Coltman

Bertram: Who are you?

Alison: Alison Quin, wife, mother of five, and independent environmental management consultant.

Bertram: What is your story?

Alison: Well, my life was pretty boring . . . until I killed my biological father (long story). I had good reasons for killing the a-hole — for one thing, he killed my mother and framed my dad (the man who raised me). That doesn’t even count what a jerk he was to me while I worked for him. Let’s leave it at this simple fact — the man deserved to die. It got my dad out of jail, so it was worth the nightmares I have every night, now.

Bertram: Where do you live? In Wapanebi, Ohio — a rust belt town in the northeast corner of the state, right along the lake. It’s named after the Wapanebi Creek, which has its mouth at Wapanebi’s lake front.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Alison: I wouldn’t call myself a hero. Perhaps a victim — but even that doesn’t sound right. Maybe someday I’ll work myself out of the pickle I landed in when I killed my biological father. You see, this mob enforcer, Cappy, witnessed the whole thing. Now he’s using it to blackmail me into performing hits for the mob. Guess you could call me Hit Mom.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Alison: My first adventure as Hit Mom involves a contract to kill David Leukens. I thought it would be difficult, but the more I find out about him, the more I think killing him won’t be so hard.

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

Alison: I don’t think so, though I suppose being raised by a man who drank to drown the memory of disposing of his beloved wife’s body probably didn’t lead to the happiest childhood. I don’t recall being particularly unhappy as a kid, though. I’d say my childhood was pretty normal — though that seems an odd statement knowing what I know now. I love my dad — we had to rely on each other to make it, because there wasn’t anybody else. That’s not to say I didn’t resent the drinking, and having to do all the work around the house that a mother would usually do. But to me, it was normal.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Alison: Heck, no. I hate conflict. I avoid it at all costs.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Alison: Yep.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Alison: I think I’m a pretty good Mom (hopefully my kids would agree). I’ve had five kids, and I have the stretch-marks and baby fat to prove it. I do have pretty blue eyes, but they’re in the middle of square face that really isn’t classically pretty. Luckily, my husband is blinded by love — he tells me I’m beautiful all the time. Honestly, I have to bite my cheek to keep from laughing at him. I’m intelligent — my smarts are the one thing I’ve always had going for me. And I am pretty darn good at my chosen profession.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Alison: I don’t have a lot of friends — I tend to be a hard person to get to know. My husband is my best friend, and he sees me as beautiful (we already talked about that) and intelligent. My best friend from college is like a sister to me (or at least what I imagine a sister would be like) and she says I’m one of the smartest people she knows. My other good friend, Sally, says I’m a bitch, but she is too, so I think that’s just our relationship — it’s different. I have other casual friends, most of whom probably see me as a devoted wife, mother and daughter — and I am. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the people I love safe.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Alison: I’d like to think I don’t really have many enemies, but I guess that’s changed now. My number one is probably the mob, and they seem to think I’m useful, though I think I frustrate Cappy just a bit. It’s really my own fault I’m in this mess. I’m not saying I wouldn’t kill my biological father, again — but I’d be damn sure nobody was watching. My other ‘enemy’ would probably be Detective Leo Percival — he’s the guy who investigated my biological father’s death. He can’t prove it, but he suspects that I killed him. Again, I don’t really think Percival is a bad guy — in fact, really, he’s one of the good guys, and in all honesty, I kind of like him. If only he wasn’t always trying to trip me up and make me admit I killed my father. I guess that makes him an enemy. I’m really not sure how he sees me — I guess you’ll have to ask him.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Alison: She thinks I’m wonderfully flawed — huh. I don’t think it’s a flaw to do things to protect the people you love. Guess it all depends on your point of view.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Alison: I guess. The two short stories are pretty accurate depictions. I’ll wait to judge the novel when it’s done.

Bertram: What do you think of yourself?

Alison: I think I pretty much covered that in the answer above. I’m not a bad person — but even good people do bad things. The bad thing I did is just a little worse than most people would admit to.

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Alison: Hmmm, that’s a good question. I think my dad is a pretty amazing person, knowing what I know now. He lived with some pretty terrible, and underserved, guilt over my mom’s death, and yet managed to give me a pretty decent childhood, all things considered. To me, that’s heroic — doing what has to be done to ensure the happiness of those you care about. I like to think I’m following in his footsteps.

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

Alison: My goal, at the moment, is to keep from going to jail for murdering my father. If I could, I’d love to get out from under the mob, but right now they’re holding all the cards. I haven’t quite figured that problem out yet. I keep thinking maybe Percival could help, but he’s way too intent on putting me in jail right now.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Alison: I guess my five kids are probably my greatest achievements. They’re my legacy.

Bertram: Do you talk about your achievements?

Alison: No. I wouldn’t want my kids to get big heads.

Bertram: Do you keep your achievements to yourself?

Alison: Naw, I let my achievements run free, though they do have a pretty strict curfew.

Sandra Scott, a first-year English teacher from Tales Out Of School by Shirley Ann Howard

Bertram: In Tales Out of School, you come across as bright, attractive, and personable, Sandy. Why all the self-doubt? 

Sandy: I don’t think I have self-doubt. I just question everything . . . three times. I learned it from my mother; it pervades all areas of my life. 

Bertram: In what way? 

Sandy: I prepare for my classes as if I’m rehearsing for Broadway and lie awake at night worrying about my students. Andrea is in over her head with boys at age fourteen. Rico’s chronic absence is putting him at risk for failure. And homework, I’m not at all sure what to do about that. 

Bertram: Homework completion is a problem? 

Sandy: Mega. I try to encourage the kids as much as possible and refuse to be critical like my mother. It’s important to me to maintain a good relationship with them. I like the kids and I enjoy teaching them, but they could learn so much more. There’s a whole world waiting for them, if they would put in a little time outside of class. Lenny tells me I’m doing fine and urges me to relax. He’s another problem. He’s crazy about me, but . . . we won’t even get into my relationship with him. 

Bertram: Why not? What more could you possibly want? 

Sandy: I want him to want me . . . more often than he apparently does. He gets busy with his work and doesn’t even feel the need to call me. 

Bertram: When he’s with you, does he show love and affection? 

Sandy: Sure, but is that what our relationship is about? Off the planet sex? I’m looking for commitment . . . dare I say it? Marriage. 

Bertram: And Lenny is looking for? 

Sandy: A Ph.D. in Biochemistry. He’s totally immersed in his dissertation right now, a study of speeding up the regeneration process in certain ocean species. It’s time-consuming and difficult work, I appreciate that, but he could at least call. I lie awake at night worrying about him. It seems every time we go somewhere together, a minor catastrophe erupts. Like the time we went on the deep water excursion to collect specimens in November. Skiing in New Hampshire with him is always an adventure. Then there was the time we went to Montana; he actually had the nerve to tell me about Cindy there. 

Bertram: It sounds like you’ve been involved with him a long time. 

Sandy: I first met him when I was a freshman in college . . . by the buffet table at an awards reception in his honor. I was there to interview him for the university newspaper. He caught me when I slipped on a chunk of pineapple someone had dropped on the floor. The next thing I knew I was in his arms, our eyes met, his musk made me dizzy… you know the story. And if you don’t, you can check it out at www.ShirleyAnnHoward.com.

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.