Pat Bertram, Author of A Spark of Heavenly Fire

ASHFbordersmTell us a little about A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

A Spark of Heavenly Fire tells the story of insomniac Kate Cummings who gathers her courage and strength to find new a new life and a new love when all around her people are dying of a bioengineered disease.

What inspired you to write A Spark of Heavenly Fire?

In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I talk (or rather my characters do) about biological weapons, biowarfare, and bioengineered organisms because I thought the reality was more frightening than fiction. For example, The World Health Organization spent years and a heap of money to eradicate smallpox, yet smallpox in ever more virulent forms is stockpiled in labs all around the world. Spooks the heck out of me! I thought it was an important topic, but mainly I wanted to tell the story of ordinary people who become extraordinary in a time of great upheaval.

There is a tremendous comparison between the two women in A Spark of Heavenly Fire. Was this intentional?

Yes, they are both female archetypes, Kate is the mother/nurturer and Pippi is the woman searching for love, and together they drive the story. I wrote the book to prove a quote by Washington Irving: There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. It’s their strength that carries the day in the face of the plague, the atrocities, and the recovery.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

My biggest challenge was finding the beginning of the story. I liked the story, and I kept telling myself that if people could just get through the first fifty pages they would like the story, too. Then one day it dawned on me that the solution of getting readers beyond the less than sparkling beginning was to get rid of the first fifty pages. So I junked those early chapters, wrote a new beginning, and then the real challenge began — finding a publisher. After two hundred rejections, I finally found a publisher who loves the book.

Have you written any other books besides A Spark of Heavenly Fire?

Yes. More Deaths Than One was published by Second Wind Publishing at the same time as A Spark of Heavenly Fire. It’s the story of Bob Stark who sees his mother’s obituary in the morning paper, which stuns him because he buried her two decades ago before he the country to live in Southeast Asia. So he sets out to discover how she be dead again.

Daughter Am I, which was published a few months later than A Spark of Heavenly Fire, was conceived as a way to combine two of my interests at that time — early gangster history and the mythic journey. (You might not recognize the similarity between Daughter Am I and Star Wars or The Wizard of Oz, but all three are based on the same mythic journey template.)

More recently published are Light Bringer, a novel that pieces together ancient myth and modern conspiracy theories to create a chilling look at the world, and Grief: The Great Yearning, a compilation of blog posts and journal entries I wrote after the death of my long-time life mate/soul mate.

Does writing come easy for you?

No. When I sit down to write, my mind goes blank. Other people can write a book a month. They can let the words flow. I have to dredge each word out of my mind. Yet, when my books are finished, there is an inevitability about them as if they were inspired, not perspired (at least it seems that way to me). But I don’t believe that they are “destined.” It’s all the little choices I make along the way that creates the inevitability. When you start writing, you have the entire world to choose from, but as you make choices — genre, setting, characters, plot, etc, etc, it narrows the story world and keeps narrowing it until it seems inevitable. Yet it all comes from the thousands of choices that we made.

What are you writing now?

I have what I facetiously call a work-in-pause since I’m not actually working on it at present – I’ve been doing other things, such as blogging and trying to promote my books. My poor WIP is a whimsically ironic apocalyptic fantasy, which is totally different from anything else I have ever written.

Did you ever write or create a story and afterwards discover that it fit a genre you had never written in before?

I’m not sure that this question fits with what I write. All my novels are basically genreless in that they encompass many genres — suspense, mystery, romance, thriller, bits of science fiction. My publisher released them as mainstream, which is not exactly a genre, but simply a way of classifying the books for the website.

Have you ever created a character who was totally unlike anyone you had ever known, and yet was totally believable?

My characters may not be like anyone I know in real life, they encompass bits of characters I have read in books or seen in movies. Is it possible to write a character totally from scratch? I don’t think so — everything we do and have ever done is part of us, and comes out in the work in some way or another. As for believable characters — that’s for readers to say, not me. (Even as a reader, I don’t really relate to characters. I relate more to stories.)

What advice would you give to new writers?

A book begins with a single word. The thought of writing an entire book intimidates many novice writers, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it’s the only goal. That’s how every book through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book.

Also, writing is not always about writing. Some authors can sit down and let the words flow and lo! There is a story! Other authors have to think about what they’re doing. So ask yourself, what story do you want to write? Why? What do your characters want? Why? How are they going to get what they want? Who is going to stop them getting what they want?

Bertram’s novels on Amazon

Bertram’s novels at Second Wind Publishing

Pat Bertram’s novels are available in all ebook formats at Smashwords. Also, 30% of each novel is available as a free download. Click here to find: Bertram’s novels on Smashwords.

C. A. Milson, co-owner of ASJ Publishing

Welcome, C. A.! What made you go into publishing?

The choice to be a publisher was the result of some bad choices and experiences I have had along the way since I was first published in 2008. My wife and I discussed the options, read alot of information of the industry and decided that it was the best choice for us to pursue.

What is the general background of your company?

ASJ Publishing was formed by my wife and I. ASJ are the initials of my wife’s name. We started the idea of ASJ Publishing in 2010, but it was not until this year when we started to take the idea public.

How do you decide to publish one book and not another?

We do get a few submissions, but not all of them we take on board. It is not an easy thing to deicde sometimes, but what it does come down to is the story has to be interesting; Not only for us but also for the readers

Some people think that with more titles available today than at any other time in history, the novel as an art form is dying. Do you agree?

I would have to disagree on that one. Writing a novel is never an easy task. I know, as I have wrote a few myself.  🙂 But as long as there are readers, the author has an audience. With the release of iPad’s, Android, taking the e-book to the reader has never become easier. So along with making a novel available in paperback, we can now make it available whether a person can get digital.

What challenges do you and your company face?

The only thing we face is more exposure to the market. Now while Facebook certainly has merits for sponsored ads, there is more to marketing than the internet. So it is finding that niche that we are focusing on in 2013/2014

What is the most rewarding part of being a publisher?

One of the rewarding things of being a publisher is seeing the work of our previously unpublished authors on print. Seeing the proof of their novella in our hands is a real rewarding experience, and we hope that our authors would feel the same, in seeing their work is out there.

Do you publish anything or just certain genres?

At the moment we are open to a wide range of genres, such as erotica, children’s, sci-fi, horror, drama, and also selected non-fiction and “how-to” titles.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

If you are an aspiring author, my advise is that you research the market. There are a number of publishers out there who will charge fees for reading your MS, and even charge bigger fees to publish your e-book. Believe me, I see the ads on facebook everyday. As an author myself, you have to question why a publisher would want to charge you fees to publish your work. Any reputable publisher will never do that.

Have you always wanted to be a publisher?

No. After I became a published author, my goal was to write more books, and live my life like that. But, life has a way of expanding one’s thinking, and in 2010, our life expanded not only to publishing, but also into the world of film.

What are your future plans? What will you bring to the literary world besides more stories?

For 2013, we are investing heavily into our writers, by getting their books to the main international book fairs, as well as some other ideas we have in the pipeline. We will also be filming 3 movies of our own.

What do you do to sell the books you publish, for example, where do you advertise?

Right now we are focusing on Amazon, Lulu, Kindle, and also our distribution network through Lightning Source/Ingram. We also run offers from time to time on Kindle for free download day to help boost sales, as well as run targetted facebook ads. There will be more in the way of advertising in 2013.

Can we find your books in stores or are they just online?

They are mostly online right now, but in Q1 of 2013, we will be taking that a step further by opening up to paperback sales through Ingram.

Why should readers check out the books you publish?

Our authors come from a wide range of backgrounds, from all walks of life, and they all have a great story to tell, whether it is a bedtime stroy for their children, or a horror story to scare themselves, or even a sizzling erotic novel to arouse their senses.

Are you satisfied with the financial return on your investment of time and resources?

Not yet. Any new business will take at least 2 years to see any ROI (Return on investment). That is just a plain fact of being in business. There is no such thing as “get rich quick”, unless you happen to win the lottery. But honestly, if you decide to be a publisher for the monetary rewards, then you’re in the wrong business.

Would you recommend anyone else go into the publishing business?

That would mean they would be competing with me. So no. 🙂

Has the availability of POD and E-books made it easier for you to publish more client’s work since you no longer have to invest in large runs, shipping, etc?

Not really as some books have different formatting requirements, as well as finding the right people to work with to create a good book cover or illustrations. Being a publisher is alot more than taking someone’s MS, publishing it on Kindle and giving a copy to the author. No, it is alot more. There are editors to hire as well as illustrators and graphic artists. The book cover (or illustrations n a children’s book) has to be perfect, and the editor has to know their job to have the manuscript polished and ready. Sure, anyone can do the former and do a half-assed job of publishing a book for the sake of it, but what kind of publisher would that make them?

What can you offer a writer in terms of brand and marketing that makes your percentage worth the author’s while?

Going to blow our own trumpet here Pat if you don’t mind What we do for authors is not only have their MS ready for publication, but also we send their book to the international book fairs, create a facebook page for their book, pay for sponsored ads, get a professional book trailer made (for selected titles)

Do you set up signings for the authors and then publish the ‘tour’?

While we do a few things already, we do ask our authors to set up any “virtual book tours”

How do you acquire your talent? Open Submissions? Recommendations? Reading Periods? Placing Ads?

Right now we are placing various ads and we do have an open submission process.

Do you charge your authors for any services?

Absolutely not.

Where can we learn more about you, your authors, and the books you publish?

People can find out more about us at: