Manuel Enriques, Hero of Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes

Bertram: What is your story?

Manuel: My story is still being written, but a portion of it is chronicled in Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes.

Bertram: Who are you?

Manuel:  My name is Manuel Enriques and I am confidential aid to Governor Ferdinand Deza.

Bertram: Where and when do you live?

Manuel:  I live in the beautiful town of St. Augustine in the Florida territory.  The year is 1739.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Manuel:  What is a hero? A man who does what he must to protect that which he holds dear. I am such a man. If that makes me a hero, then I accept this role gladly.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Manuel:  The problem is that there is a pesky British spy wandering around causing trouble. The beast is wily and sly, but I’ll catch him, have no doubt.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Manuel: Conflict is in many forms. If it is in the form of a beautiful woman, I embrace and make love to it. If it is in the form of this annoying little fly speck of a spy, then I spit on it and grind it to dust beneath my heel.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Manuel: I haven’t many friends, but those are very close. They see me as strong, intelligent, passionate with women, stubborn and capable. How do you see me, cariña?

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Manuel: My enemies never see me. They are dead long before that. If by chance they do catch a glimpse, it is as of the face of death.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Manuel: Ah, my beautiful Dellani. If it were not for Gabriella, such stories we would write together! She sees me as romantic, passionate, handsome, slightly dangerous, and very well appointed.

Bertram: Well appointed?

Manuel: You will have to read my tale to find out what I mean by that.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Manuel: As accurately as any woman may know a man’s heart, yes.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Manuel: That is perhaps not a question I should answer here, eh, cariña?

Bertram: What makes you happy?

Manuel: Would you like to me say something poetic like a beautiful sunset or the seagulls above the water? I am not poetic man. What makes me happy is very simple, my love for Gabriella. It drives me, moves me to be the best I may be.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Manuel: I am afraid that what I am capable of will one day consume me. And I am terrified that I will lose Gabriella.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Manuel: In a soldier’s life, are there not many things to haunt him? What haunts me, cariña, is better left forgotten.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Manuel: Always. It is a point of honor.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Manuel: As much as I am able to be given circumstances.

Bertram: That sounds like a very cagey answer.

Manuel: And it is the only one you shall get.

Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

Manuel: Oh, yes. I am very well appointed.

Bertram: You would love for me to ask again what that means, wouldn’t you?

Manuel: No, I would like you to read the book and find out.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Manuel: My most prized possession? Must I have just one? Perhaps my pistol. Or my best pair of boots? No, not really, although I am rather fond of these pants.

Bertram: Oh? Why is that?

(All PB gets is a sly grin and a slow, wicked wink.)

Bertram:  Where can I find to book so I can read more of your story?

Manuel: You can find it at Second Wind Publishing, LLC and at Amazon.

Archie Lees, hero of Uncorrected Proof by Louisiana Alba

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Archie: Heroes? Do they really exist? Between rash fools and idle cowards, falls the almost accidental shadow of me. Violence is not my natural way, but I wasn’t going to be pushed around by Tony Gamenmann or any of them! Well so I thought. That said, I’m the only one who cared enough about Ellen’s disappearance to risk actually doing anything. I stood up to Hec, the ex-intelligence heavy, the fix-it man who tried to fit me up in that Manhattan doss-house – that was some corridor shaker – okay he’s piling on the years and pounds, but I hung him out to dry. 

Bertram: Do you run from conflict? 

Archie: No. But neither do I run towards it. 

Bertram: How do your enemies see you? 

Archie: That I’m easy. Hah! 

Bertram: How does your author, Louisiana Alba, see you?

Archie: I think he thinks if he gives me enough rope I’ll hang myself and save him a few pages of work. The truth is I know him better than he knows me and had his number throughout. He got me me in the end with that plot twister (deus ex macchina, if you ask me). Okay I didn’t see it coming and it was, I guess, in the story, but it left my fate ambiguous as a consequence and I’m not too happy about that. Though staying off death row, whatever my current circumstances, is a trade off I can live with. Tomorrow’s there to solve all that. 

Bertram: Do you think Alba portrayed you accurately? 

Archie: Lou tried hard but you know I think I’m a better writer and could have done a better job and will next time.

Bertram: What do you think of yourself? 

Archie: I am one hell of a writer.

Bertram: Do you have a hero? 

Archie: After Achilles you mean? Bukowski. Joyce, followed close by the list of literary heavies as long as 20th century literature is wide. 

Bertram: Why do you see yourself in Achilles? 

Archie: He was a man who knew how and when to procrastinate. Lou just wanted to be ‘literary’. Some authors are like that. Lou laughs when I say that. Can you hear him now? He reckons I’m a big head with a bad case of genre-itus. What does he know. It’s Homer, Shakespeare and me against Lou Alba. Who would you put your money on?

Bertram:. Do you have a goal? 

Archie: (Like Don Quixote) I want to be myself. 

Bertram: What are your achievements? 

Archie: Surviving my story not enough for you? 

Bertram: Do you keep your achievements to yourself? 

Archie: Apparently I do, or else I wouldn’t have ended up in the soup at the end. 

Bertram: What do you want? 

Archie: Justice. 

Bertram: What makes you happy? 

Archie: Giving that Hispanic kid fifty bucks in the games parlour after the kid beat me at coin soccer, that made me feel good. He didn’t believe my motives were honest, but he got the money (and he won it fair and square) so that’s what counts. 

Bertram: What are you afraid of? 

Archie: That there’s no end to injustice.

Bertram: What makes you angry? 

Archie: Injustice. 

Bertram: What makes you sad? 

Archie: Injustice. 

Bertram: What do you regret? 

Archie: That I wasn’t smart enough to do enough about the injustices I saw. 

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you? 

Archie: My own words. That and getting that editorial job instead of telling Ellen the truth right out about my novel… that haunts as much as it hurts. 

Bertram: Are you lucky? 

Archie: Do I sound like it? It’s not all my fault though. With Lou as advocate a character need eyes in the back of his head. 

Bertram: Have you ever failed at anything? 

Archie: I should have killed that scribbler myself – I got blamed for it anyway. 

Bertram: Have you ever betrayed anyone? 

Archie: Apart from myself, no, well not in the author’s version of me anyway. Did I betray Hec?  I took his money and knocked him into a sad heap in that hotel, but as it wasn’t his money anyway and he was nothing to me, why should I think twice about him? He should thank me; I surprised him into a character recognition of his own. You know what they say, when the going gets tough the tough get going. I got going. Achilles could have said that. As for Ellen, a self-interested sort like her can look out for herself. Alessandro? You can’t betray someone that immoral. Ditto for Tony G  and Menny Lowes. Cal? That’s where it gets to the most complicated. When I heard he was dead I thought: I have really done it now. But he wasn’t dead. I should have realised he was too smart for all of them. And who’s on the cover my book?  Cal.

Bertram: Are you honorable? 

Archie: I thought I was too powerless to be anything else. I am and was surprisingly honest, and will be in the future, just you wait and see.

Bertram: Are you healthy? 

Archie: Rudely. 

Bertram: Do you have any handicaps? 

Archie: Apart from my way of thinking? Maybe I trust others I have regard for a little too much. I’m a bit naive like that. But you know we characters are often thrust into these situations without help. Lou kept so much of the backstory locked up. What’s a protagonist supposed to do in the court of literary adventure without knowledge of crucial backstory facts? 

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

Archie: I’ll claim the fifth on that.

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

Archie: Finding out there were scribblers out there mean enough to steal another scribbler’s words. There were two in my case. 

Bertram: What are the last three books you read? 

Archie: The Year of the Death of Riccardo Reis. Ham on Rye. The Fall. In the Midst of Death. Not necessarily in that order though, if I recall correctly…

Bertram: Where can someone find out more about you?

Archie: At Elephantears Press or from Louisiana Alba

See also: Uncorrected Proof by Louisiana Alba

Kendra DeSola the Hero of School of Lies by Mickey Hoffman

Bertram: What is your story?

Kendra: I don’t have stories, I have issues. I’d tell you about them but you’d be sorry you asked.

Bertram: Who are you?

Kendra: My name is Kendra DeSola and I teach Special Education in a city high school.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Kendra: Well, I think I am but I have been told I wouldn’t get any awards for my behavior.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Kendra: I’m sort of being set up. First I thought it was just to make me look like a child molester, but things went down hill after that.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Kendra: No, it finds me because I keep asking too many questions.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Kendra: An idealistic and strong-minded young woman.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Kendra: A pig-headed compulsive who has a mother hen complex. Hey wait, those are my friends?

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Kendra: Now you have me confused. I’ve been called a snoop, I can say.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Kendra: She thinks I can get out of all the dubious situations she writes me into without long-term consequences. Me, I’m not sure about that.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Kendra: Of course not. I would never lie…

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Kendra: Definitely. I can figure out what people are really thinking and if they’re lying to me or not.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Kendra: Maybe it’s a weakness to not give up on kids that nobody else wants to deal with. Sometimes that feels like a weakness. Or maybe a punishment.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Kendra: I can think really fast when I get into trouble.

Bertram: What do you want?

Kendra: I wish I could get rid of some of the rotten people I work with. Oh god, that doesn’t sound good, after what happened. I must mean that if people really knew what goes on, there would be a lot of changes in the schools.

Bertram: What makes you angry?

Kendra: I don’t like being lied to and I don’t like being discounted because I teach Special Ed.

Bertram: What makes you sad?

Kendra: Professionally, the fact that nobody wants my kids in the schools. Personally, I’d rather not say.

Bertram: What do you regret?

Kendra: I regret not being able to stop what I think was a murder. Those damn cops, they didn’t believe me!

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Kendra: The sister of a coworker told me I didn’t care about him until it was too late.

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Kendra: You mean, like they betrayed a confidence? I have to say no because I’m pretty cautious about who I trust. In fact, I’m not sure I like all your questions but I’m trying to be patient here or my author will be very angry with me.

Bertram: Have you ever failed anyone?

Kendra: You have to ask them. My author thinks I might have. What does she know?

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Kendra: Um, well. Usually. When they deserve to be kept.

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Kendra: It was okay until my older brother got set up to look like a drug dealer and went to jail. By the time the truth came out he’d already served several years!

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

Kendra: If anyone saw the slanderous email about me, I hope they forget that fast!

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Kendra: That trouble at Standard High, I know some stuff.

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

Kendra: I play on line fantasy computer games and I love home decorating.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Kendra: Anything that doesn’t smell like my classroom.

Bertram: What is your favorite food?

Kendra: Cheese crackers because I don’t have to cook them.

Bertram: What is your favorite beverage?

Kendra: I love coffee, I have to say. Maybe because I can cook it.

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

Kendra: What are you, the FBI? The detectives didn’t even ask for that!

Bertram: What are the last three books you read?

 Some boring thing about bilingual education, the book I got written into “School of Lies” and I reread “Lord of the Rings.”

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

Kendra: I’d do something to shelter all the homeless animals. Right now I’m–oh, I can’t tell you that because I’m not supposed to give anything away.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Kendra: I will be teaching for a long time but I’ll be in a decent school before long, I just know it!

Bertram: You said you got written into School of Lies. Where can I get a copy of the book?

Kendra: I got mine from Second Wind Publishing, LLC. It’s also on Amazon.

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.

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)

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

Wil VanLipsig from “Lone Wolf” by Dellani Oakes

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

Bertram: What is your story?

VanLipsig: What makes you think there is one?

Bertram: Who are you?

VanLipsig: Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, Galactic Marines, retired.

Bertram: Where do you live?

VanLipsig: On my ship, the Loup Garou.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

VanLipsig: I’m the hero of every story.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

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

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

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

Bertram: Do you embrace or run from conflict?

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

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

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

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

VanLipsig: I don’t really have any friends.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

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

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

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

Bertram: What do you think of yourself?

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

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

VanLipsig: Get the other bastards before they get me.

Bertram: Do you keep your achievements to yourself?

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

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

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

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

VanLipsig: I can’t carry a tune.

Bertram: What do you want to be?

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

Bertram: What do you believe?

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

Bertram: What makes you happy?

VanLipsig: Matilda makes me happy.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

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

Bertram: Who is Matilda?

VanLipsig: Matilda Dulac. My true love.

Bertram: What makes you angry?

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

Bertram: What do you regret?

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

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

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

Bertram: Are you lucky?

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

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

VanLipsig: Yeah. And I killed her for it.

Bertram: Have you ever betrayed anyone?

VanLipsig: Never. That would be dishonorable.

Bertram: Have you ever failed anyone?

VanLipsig: Pretty much every day, I imagine.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

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

Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

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

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

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

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

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

Bertram: Did you get along with your parents?

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

Bertram: Who was your first love?

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

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

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

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

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

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

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

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

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

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

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

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?

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

Bertram: Name five items in your pockets.

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

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

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

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)

Doug from the Novel Fate and Destiny by Claire Collins

Bertram: Doug, I’ve been told you are a quiet person, so I’m going to be gentle in my questions. Let’s start with you telling me your story?

Doug: I dunno if I have a story. I did some bad things and I had to make them right. I didn’t really want to hurt anybody.

Bertram: Okay, so let’s start with who you are?

Doug: My name is Douglas Mancuso. Everybody just calls me Doug, except my cousin Lenny. He calls me Dummy all the time.

Bertram: Lenny doesn’t sound very nice.

Doug: Lenny ain’t nice at all. He’s been mean and pushed me around since we were kids.

Bertram: Why do you hang around him?

Doug: Oh, I don’t anymore. I got Nancy now. But I was lonely as a kid. Nobody wanted me around except Mama and Lenny.

Bertram: I saw a twinkle in your eye when you mentioned Nancy. Who’s she?

Doug: Nancy owns the diner in town. She makes the best meatloaf and mashed taters I’ve ever had. And her pie.. uh, well there’s just nothing like her pie.

Bertram: How’d you meet Nancy?

Doug: Well, Sheriff Parker and his sister Doreen left me at Nancy’s when they went up the mountain at the end of town to check on Andrew and Destiny.

Bertram:  Yes, Destiny and Andrew. They said you’re kind of a hero around here. What do you think of that?

Doug: Shucks. I really ain’t no hero. It was all my fault to start with. I just made it right. Destiny was the real hero. She came out strong and she trusted me when she probably shoulda shot me instead.

Bertram: What did you do so wrong?

Doug: Well, I kinda shoved her out of a moving truck. But I swear, I thought she was dead when I did it.

Bertram: Why did you think she was dead?

Doug: Cause I tried to kill her. Lenny made me do it. I didn’t want to.

Bertram: So how did you make things right?

Doug: Sheriff Parker told me I can’t answer that. It’s classy filed information.

Bertram: Classy fi- oh, you mean classified?

Bertram: The recorder can’t hear you nodding Doug. Please answer so I can write it all out later.

Doug: Yeah, classy-fied. Sheriff Parker told me I can’t tell you some things ‘cause there’s another writer who talked to all of us. I think her name was Clara. No, that’s not it. Claire. Yeah, Claire Collins came up here and she’s taking the whole story to make it into a book. You gotta get her book to find out the rest.

Bertram: Well thank you for talking to me Doug. I will see if I can get a copy of it. What’s it called?

Doug: She called it Fate and Destiny. She tried to explain why she didn’t call it Andrew and Destiny, but I didn’t really get it.