Constance Fairchild Hero of The Mills of God and The Well of Souls by Justin R. Smith

Bertram: What is your story?

Constance: I’m an 18 year old girl who likes to write poetry and study the Ancient Egyptian language.

OK — that’s being evasive. I’m also rather wealthy (my Board of Directors has the preposterous idea that I own 10% of the American economy).

I’m breaking an age-old family rule by mentioning that — our family has always valued anonymity. I suspect my grandfather had a Wall Street Journal editor murdered to keep him from publishing a story about us.

No danger of that happening to me, (at least now): I’m the only one left in my family.

My grandfather (or his minions) had my parents murdered when I was 14 — and then they murdered my aunt and uncle. After my grandfather died (of a stroke!) his subordinates planned to kill me too.

Bertram: Who are you?

Constance: My name is Constance Fairchild. I guess I answered some of this above.

OK — I guess I have to bring this up too. Promise you won’t laugh at me, though (some people do): I believe in reincarnation and recall a past life (by the end of The Mills of God, in complete detail). I have psychic powers too. In The Well of Souls, these powers become positively terrifying (but they save my life).

Bertram: Where do you live?

Constance: Right now, I live in New York City — in the penthouse of the Park Place Hotel with my housekeeper Matilda Appleby. My grandfather bought the hotel so he’d have a secure place to stay when he was in town.

I still operate it as a hotel, though. I love the hustle and bustle, comings and goings, conventions, etc. And I suppose it makes me feel less lonely.

In The Well of Souls, my adopted son, Tim, and his cat, Hamlet, live with Tilda and me.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Constance: Of course!

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Constance: In The Mills of God, I walk a tightrope, struggling to survive and protect my friends. In The Well of Souls, I battle conspiracies to take over the American government and a terrorist plot to blow up New York City with a 20 megaton hydrogen bomb.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Constance: No, but it always embraces me.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Constance: Never!

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Constance: As a shy, introverted person with a good heart.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Constance: The same way, I hope!

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Constance: As a introverted dingbat, probably. Actually some members of my Board of Directors also think that of me. My friend, Derek Kolodny (deputy director of the CIA), says being underestimated by one’s enemies is always a good thing.

Bertram: How does your author Justin R. Smith see you?

Constance: As his favorite character, I hope! Actually, I can’t speak for him; he has enough trouble speaking for me.

Bertram: Do you think Justin portrayed you accurately?

Constance: He’s a stickler for accuracy! The man is positively obsessive!

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Constance: I have many heroes: the great mathematician Leonhard Euler, the philosopher and detective Emmanuel Kant, and the greatest poet in the English language, Emily Dickinson.

Bertram: Do you keep your achievements to yourself?

Constance: Yes. My small circle of friends know about them. They are the only people I’d ever want to impress.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Constance: My brains and psychic abilities.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Constance: I’m shy and terrified of many social situations.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Constance: Those are the only troubles I don’t have!

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Constance: It depends on your definition of luck. Most people think I’m very lucky because I’m wealthy.

I’m not a party animal who enjoys expensive jewelry and fast cars — the trappings of wealth. I’m the kind of person who brings a book to a party — and reads it! My housekeeper, Tilda, says I’m the anti-Paris Hilton: if I ever ran into her, there’s be a nuclear explosion.

Bertram: Has anyone ever failed you?

Constance: My parents, in many ways.

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Constance: Yes, my first boyfriend.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Constance: Always!

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Constance: I try to be.

Bertram: Are you healthy?

Constance: Yes.

Bertram: Do you have any handicaps?

Constance: No.

Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

Constance: What do you mean? A birthmark behind my right ear in the shape of a scimitar? No.

OK, I’m a bit — how shall I say it? — large-chested and men are always hitting on me (when my bodyguards aren’t looking).

I inherited that from my mother who always claimed to have been an actress. I never found any movies with her in them, though. Maybe she was a porn star who Father became infatuated with. Maybe that’s why Grandfather despised her so. Maybe Grandfather’s minions only intended to kill Mother and Father was collateral damage.

My God — your innocuous question has stirred up so many others!

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Constance: I was raised by nannies and, whenever I got so attached to one that I called her “mother,” my biological mother fired her.

I must have filled a hundred spiral-bound notebooks with my musings, my poems, and a diary of all my dreams. I called these notebooks ‘my research’: My past life undoubtedly influenced me as a child. It was no accident Nanny nicknamed me ‘the professor’. There are no accidents.

I lived in the grim concrete canyon of Park Avenue South, in a twenty-four-room apartment on the fifteenth floor. My room was the first off the main hallway, and my window overlooked an inner courtyard. Even now, I remember that clearly.

I had a print of Hieronymous Bosch’s Hay Wain on the wall opposite the window. It was inspired by the Flemish peasant saying, ‘Life is a wagon of hay and we all run after it grabbing as much as we can get.’ The central panel depicts a hay wagon with a mob of people chasing it. Men kill each other and women prostitute themselves for the hay. The right edge of the panel shows the people physically changing into the animals they’d always been. And the right panel shows them entering the gates of Hell. On the rare occasions she entered my room, Mother called it ‘That horrid thing!’

Perhaps she saw herself among the writhing throng.

Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?

Constance: No.

Bertram: Did you get along with your parents?

Constance: On the rare occasions I saw them, yes. When they threw parties and receptions, I was confined to my room or told to go to a movie. Many of their friends didn’t know they had a daughter.

The year before they died, Father promised we’d spend Christmas together as a family. On Christmas Day, my nanny told me they’d flown to Paris the night before.

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

Constance: My past life gave me the skills I needed to survive.

Bertram: Who was your first love?

Constance: A crazy German performance-artist named Walter Hildebrand.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Constance: My most prized possession is a computer printout I found in Switzerland. It’s covered with two seemingly random arrays of numbers. As for why I value it so much — you have to read The Mills of God.

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

Constance: Writing poetry. Here’s a sample, from The Well of Souls:

Childhood is a difficult time —
Each season — an arduous birth.
Playing amid unnoticed grime —
Drawn taut between Heaven and Earth.
Graven masks in memory’s shadows —
From times and tales long lost
Haunt their moonlit meadows,
Endowing lives — storm-tossed.
Each awakening stirs a fear —
No adult’s terror can match: —
To pristine eyes — new worlds appear —
New minds must grasp from scratch.
Where they find childhood’s courage, though —
Is a secret — only children know.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Constance: I love classical music. My favorite composers are Beethoven and Sibelius. I love the regal bearing of Beethoven’s Ghost trio, and the refined terror of Sibelius’s 4th symphony.

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?

Constance: A dress and piece of jewelry that I’ve only worn twice. They are my parents’ last gifts to me and my most treasured keepsakes. My parents were going to visit me at school in Switzerland and give them to me as a graduation present.

The jewelry is a diamond tiara my grandfather commissioned from Cartier’s, supposedly modeled after the tiara Napoleon gave to Josephine.

The dress is an ankle-length evening gown. Tiny black fish-scales cover it, each reflecting an iridescent rainbow in the light. When I wear it, my slightest movements send cascades of color rippling up and down my body.

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

Constance: A pocket computer so I can jot down poems when they occur to me. A lipstick. A hair brush. A can of mace. A sheaf of papers needing my signature, from my company, Horizon International Corporation.

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

Constance: I don’t know. My accountants handle that for me.

Bertram: Thank you for being so candid. If someone wanted to know more about you, who should they contact?

Constance: Justin R. Smith, the author of The Mills of God and The Well of Souls. http://www.justinwordsmith.com/ 

Oh, and here’s a picture me writing out my responses to your questions:

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.

Sophie Nieman, heroine of Hand-Me-Down Bride by Juliet Waldron

Bertram: What is your name? Who are you?

Sophie: My name is Sophie Neiman, and I’m the second daughter of Albert and Anna Neiman of Osnabruck, in Northern Germany. I have four sisters, one older and two younger.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Sophie: I am an immigrant, and today I live in German’s Mill, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Sophie: I’m the heroine.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Sophie: I have many problems, but the biggest is how to help my mother and my sisters back in Germany. They are now very poor, because my Papa died. Although he was an official in the City of Osnabruck, his pension was not enough for us all to live on. My mother works as a governess. My oldest sister, Ursula lives with Uncle Rudolph and cares for him and his household, but he is stingy and unkind. I agreed to travel to America to marry a wealthy older gentleman who wanted a “pure German” bride for a second wife, but the morning after we were married, I awoke to find him dead. Herr Theodore did not include me in his Will, so now I have nowhere to live and no idea of how to support myself.

Bertram: Do you have a problem not mentioned in the story?

Sophie: No. I have many problems to solve, but they are all part of my story.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict? Do you run from conflict?

Sophie: I would rather avoid conflict, because I was raised to obey those in authority. However, I have my pride and a strong sense of right and wrong. If you treat me unfairly or condescend to me, I will challenge you.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Sophie: My family has fallen on hard times, but I am still a lady and a dutiful daughter. I understand that life is not a bed of roses, and that personal sacrifice is often required. I try not to brood or be sorry for myself, although sometimes it is not easy. I try to live by the Golden Rule. Secretly, I am hot-blooded. Falling in love came close to destroying me, so, here in America, I keep a tight rein on my feelings. I don’t trust men.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Sophie: As a reserved person who does not easily show her feelings, but who has a kind heart. A church-going Lutheran lady, who, nevertheless, is not afraid to get her hands dirty and work.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Sophie: As a cold opportunist, who agreed to immigrate and marry Herr Theodore strictly for his money.

Bertram: does the author see you?

Sophie: As a proud, brave, and well brought up young woman who is willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill what she sees as her duty to her beloved family back in the old country. Sophie tries to follow through on the obligations she has, but life has a way of throwing her curves she doesn’t expect. She is more adaptable than she gives herself credit for.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Sophie: Yes.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Sophie: I can play the piano and sing. (People always seem to enjoy it.) I can sew my own clothes. I have good taste in literature and music. My biggest achievement is that I dared to come to America to marry a man I’d never seen because my family was depending upon me. It might seem desperate, but it was also the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

Bertram: Has anyone ever failed you, betrayed you?

Sophie: Yes, my best friend Lisel and Herr Captain Frederick, back in Osnabruck. They ran off together, although they both knew I was in love with him. My poor friend Lisel paid for her mistake, because Frederick proved to be nothing more than a wicked seducer, who dishonored her and abandoned her. I wish I could help her, but I do not know where she is anymore.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Sophie: Yes.

Bertram: What in your past would you like to forget? Or perhaps something you wish had never happened?

Sophie: Even more than wickedness of Captain Frederick, I would like to wish away the death of my sister, Anna. She had consumption and we managed to find the money to send her to the sanatorium, but she did not recover. She was so young! God has certainly taken her sweet soul to his bosom.

Bertram: Do you like to remember your childhood?

Sophie: Yes! The early part was so happy for our family. We were not rich, but we had a nice apartment and we were respected because Papa was a high clerk in the Osnabruck court. My Papa indulged us all. We went to school and studied music, too. After my studies were done, I could read, all I ever wished to.  We walked in the parks on nice days, and had dinner with friends. Sometimes, we hired a carriage and visited the countryside for picnics. After our Papa died, we lost so much! Our lovely apartment and my piano and the books were the first to go. Some of Papa’s “friends” and their families were no longer in evidence, and we were lonely. Mama found work, and she was so tired and sad all the time, it was almost as if we had lost her, too. Next, my big sister Ursula left us to go work for Uncle Rudy on the other side of the city. That was when I began housekeeping and sewing and looking after my little sisters, Rosemarie and Lizbet. I worked very hard so that my mother would not have to come home and feel that things were not well-taken care of.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Sophie: How close I came to running away with Captain Frederick myself. My days and nights were full of dreams of him, of yielding to his passion, but somehow, even though he asked me to come away with him, thinking of my mother and my sisters—of my father and what he would have thought—kept me from doing so. If I were more impulsive, I might have ended up like Lisel, disgraced and lost. Deep in my heart I know I am not more moral than my friend, only more cautious.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Sophie: I think it is the honeysuckle. I blush to admit it, because honeysuckle grows all over the front porch at the millhouse, where my husband used to sit with me while we were courting.

Bertram: What is your favorite color?

Sophie: Green, because that is a color we didn’t see much of in the poor neighborhood we lived in after Papa died. Here, in German’s Mill, there is so much green! So many beautiful trees, like the big Linden trees next to our house, or the poplars which line the roads, or the sycamores down by the river! All the fields are a bright sunny green in the springtime. Also, I love the fine Philadelphia green linen dress my Aunt Ilga bought me to wear.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Sophie: I love Bach most of all. His music speaks to my soul and quiets all my sad and stormy thoughts. I wish I played better, so that I could play more of his music. Herr Schwann, at our church, has been giving me lessons, but we are all so very busy all day here, and so very tired at night, it is hard to always practice.

Bertram: What is your favorite hobby?

Sophie: I am learning to ride a horse, one which my dearest Karl Joseph has purchased for me. I never could have imagined having such a privilege, and it is the greatest fun to ride her out into the countryside. Her name is Polly, and she is gentle and sweet-natured. I love to go to the stable and brush her. I feel like pinching myself every time I see her there, munching her hay. I can hardly believe that such a fine creature is mine!

Bertram: What is your favorite food?

Sophie: I love chicken with dumplings, and have learned to make them from the best cook in all America, the woman who cooks for us at the millhouse, Mrs. Divine Daniels. She also makes the very best cherry dampfnudeln (sweet dumplings with cherry sauce) I have ever tasted, either here or in Osnabruck.   

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

Sophie: I wish everyone would be kind to each other, that they would not judge each other before they really know them. So much unhappiness and sorrow could be avoided if we would all give each other the benefit of the doubt, if we would not condemn others just for preconceptions we have about them. I have learned this only through experience.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Sophie: I hope that my birth family will be with me again, right here in America. As much, or possibly more, I also hope that I and my dearest husband will live happily ever after, right here in German’s Mill, Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in finding out more about me, Juliet Waldron told my story in Hand-me-Down Bride.

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

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)

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.

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)

Gabriella Deza, from “Indian Summer” written by Dellani Oakes.

Bertram: To get us started, tell us a little about yourself.

Gabriella: I am Gabriella Deza, youngest daughter of Governor Ferdinand Deza. I live in the village of St. Augustine, Florida territory. The year is 1739.

Bertram: What is your story?

Gabriella: I haven’t much of one yet, I’m only just 15, but what there is of it is told by Dellani Oakes in Indian Summer.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Gabriella: Me a hero? Heavens, no! That would be Manuel Enriques, my father’s aid du camp and the love of my life.

 Bertram:What is your problem in the story?

Gabriella: Quite by chance, I found out a terrible secret. British spy is trying to capture the fort and take over the town.

Bertram: What did you do? Did you embrace the conflict or did you run from it?

Gabriella: I’ve never wanted to embrace conflict, but one must face it bravely. Troubles are sent by God to test us. Am I going to argue with Him? I never run when I can fight.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Gabriella: Headstrong, demure, capable, passionate, honest, loving. I am these things and ever so much more.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Gabriella: Oh, yes, Dellani Oakes portrayed me very accurately. She seems to have seen into my heart with great alacrity.

Bertram: What do you think of yourself?

Gabriella: I think I am all those things and more. For one so young, my life suddenly became rather complicated.

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Gabriella: My father, Manuel, and Sailfish are my heroes. They are all so brave and noble. Though, in their own way, all men are heroes, don’t you think?

Bertram: I suppose they can be. But I’d rather talk about you. Do you have a goal?

Gabriella: My goal is to marry Manuel as soon as possible. I love him more than I can possibly express. I want to be with him forever. He is my own, true love.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Gabriella: I’m too young to really have many of those. Although I have made Manuel love me and I have done everything I can to help him and my father keep their secrets and save the town.

Bertram: Those sound like achievements to me. Do you talk about what you did, or do you keep it to yourself?

Gabriella: What need have I to brag? God sees what I have done. If He deems it worthy, than others will hear of it in time. Manual and Papa know what I have achieved. For now, that is all that is important.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Gabriella: My faith in God is my greatest strength. My faith has seen me through very trying times. I would not be the woman I am without it.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Gabriella: My passion for Manuel is nearly my undoing. All he need do is look at me and I go weak in the knees.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Gabriella: I speak English and French in addition to my native Spanish. I ride a horse very well and drive a buggy as well as any man.

Bertram: What do you need most in life?

Gabriella: I need the wretched spy disposed of so that  our town will be saved and I may marry the man I love.

Bertram: What do you want to be?

Gabriella: I want to be a wife and mother, what greater purpose is there for a woman save to go into holy orders?

Bertram: What do you believe?

Gabriella: I believe in God and I believe in the love of Manuel and my family. I also believe in my own abilities to cope with any situation life presents.

Bertram: What makes you happy?

Gabriella: Many things make me happy, but when Manuel kisses me, I can’t think of anything but how happy I am. There is only one thing which would make me happier, and that would be to marry him.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Gabriella: I’m terrified of losing Manuel. If he were to die, what would become of us? Papa says only he can save us in this troubled time. If I lost him, I would have no reason to live.

Bertram: What makes you angry?

Gabriella: The fact that wretched spy is trying to kill us all! He is someone we know, a person who pretends to be our friend. He has all but ruined my life. If I had the skills, I would find and slay him myself.

Bertram: What makes you sad?

Gabriella: The loss of my mother makes me sad, as does the death of Manuel’s beloved aunt. Though they are in a better place, I miss them both very much.

Bertram: What do you regret?

Gabriella: That I with all my education, I never learned how to shoot a pistol.

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Gabriella: Yes, the man who spies on us, using our friendship against us. He betrays me, my family, and my home. I hope I have a hand in bringing him to justice.

Bertram: Have you ever failed anyone?

Gabriella: I hope not. I will only have failed them if I do not find the spy and send him to God early for judgement.

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Gabriella: Delightful in so many ways, but also sad because we lost Mama when I was five and Grandmama not long after. However, Papa and his new wife, Clara, have provided a loving home for the four of us. My older sisters, little brother, and I have lived in relative comfort our entire lives.

Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?

Gabriella: Oh, yes, very much! I have wonderful memories of my childhood.

Bertram: Who was your first love?

Gabriella: My first and only love is Manuel. I never realized how much he loves me nor I him, until he declared his love for me on my birthday. He is the most magnificent man alive and I love him more than my own life.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Gabriella: My peso necklace, because Manuel gave it to me. Though my parents gave me pearls for my birthday, the peso shows Manuel’s love for me. He can’t ask me to marry him, it wouldn’t be proper, but that shows each of us our promise to wed.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Gabriella: Sandalwood., because that is the scent of Manuel’s soap.

Bertram: What is your favorite color?

Gabriella: Apple green, because it was Mama’s favorite as well, and I am most like her of all three of us girls.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Gabriella: The flamenco I danced with Manuel.

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing

Gabriella: The apple green dress I wore to my party. It is the first dress I wore that showed everyone I am now a woman. And because Manuel and I danced the entire night together when I wore it.

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

Gabriella: I think I’d like the Spanish and the English not to hate one another so much.

Bertram: What makes you think that change would be for the better? There would be less fighting and conflict in the world.

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

Gabriella: Do not think badly of me of saying this, but I would want to be stranded only with Manuel.  I can think of no one else with whom I have enough in common to spend any period of time. Only if we were married, of course. Anything else would be scandalous!

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Gabriella: I see my future happily married to Manuel, having his children and loving him for the rest of my life.

Bertram: I hope you get your wish. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.