Posts Tagged ‘Pat Bertram’

It’s Saturday, and I’d like to be sleeping in. However, weekends don’t mean I’m slacking off. Or maybe I am, but I don’t consider it slacking off. I’m just working in a way most people don’t see as working. Anyway, welcome back to the Ten Day Book Challenge, brought by my cousin Matthew. Here are the rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Today’s book is special for me, as it was part of the reason I took up a history and studied the Holocaust in college. Allow me to introduce The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth.

An alternate history story, Roth inserts himself as the childhood narrator in an America where Charles Lindbergh gets elected President of the United States during the rise of Nazi Germany and Hitler. Lindbergh acquiesces to the wishes of the America First crowd and declares America neutral when it comes to events transpiring in Europe. However, moves made by the government under Lindbergh makes Roth’s family and many Jews suspicious that Lindbergh may secretly be a Nazi sympathizer or pawn. And as time goes on, events transpire to make that fear seem very reasonable.

Alternate history is supposed to give us a view of what could’ve happened if a few things were different, and The Plot Against America does just that. While I do find it difficult to believe that Lindbergh was a Nazi sympathizer, it does go to show what could’ve happened if his America First policies did shape America for a few years, as well as if more anti-Semitic practices or ideas were made law. But it also shows what could happen if a young boy in America saw his very people suddenly under threat, at risk by something behind-the-scenes, and how his family reacted to that. It’s not just interesting, but engrossing and makes you think about how only a few minor things could have seriously changed America’s destiny.

From what I hear, a TV miniseries based on the novel is in development under the guy who created the TV show The Wire. Honestly, with the resurgence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in America, I can’t imagine a better time to adapt this story. Hopefully it gets a good network or streaming service that will ensure it’s seen by a lot of people. And in the meantime, I hope you take the time to check out the book. Believe me, it’s worth a read.

Today, I’m tagging my friend Pat Bertram. Pat, I know you’re busy these days, but I think it’d be cool if you could do this. Good luck if you can!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back later today with a review of The Nun. Until then, I hope you’re enjoying the weekend. I know I plan to.

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You know, for a little while now, I’ve been pondering something. I’ve heard a lot of people refer to certain stories as “slow burns.” Heck, I even called my friend/colleague Pat Bertram’s book Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare a slow burn mystery when I reviewed it on Amazon (and I highly recommend you read it, BTW). But what exactly makes a story a “slow burn?” Sadly, searching in Google didn’t pull up a lot of information, and I needed a short break from working on Rose (which is going great, BTW), so I thought I’d share my observations on the matter.

So what is a slow burn story? Well, to put it simply, it’s a story that doesn’t try to rush itself or keep escalating things as the story goes on. Instead, the story takes its time getting to the story’s resolution, using an intriguing set up, good characters and character development, and little bumps in the excitement levels to keep readers invested in the story. A good example of a slow burn would be a romance that, instead of having the characters hook up within the first half of the story and then showing them struggle to stay together, or having the characters finally confess and kiss at the end of the story after a number of travails, the story takes its time establishing these characters, the development of their relationship, and then showing the hook up, all without any big drama or too huge plot twists.

Getting an idea for them yet? And you’re probably familiar with a lot of these stories, even if you don’t know it. Many of these slow burn stories are pretty calm for up to the first two-thirds, with little intervals during that time that ramp up the excitement for a brief period, before they have an explosive final third (not always but often). A good example of this is The Shining, both the book and the movie. Unlike other King stories like It, where things are big and scary from the very beginning, The Shining takes its time building things up. It lays the groundwork, showing us these very real characters and their struggles, the isolation they feel, and the true nature of the Overlook. On that final one, King really takes his time. We get brief glimpses of the truth of the hotel, and each glimpse gets nastier every time, but it’s not until the final third that things really hit a head and things become truly exciting.

Another facet I’ve noticed about slow burns (the ones I’ve come across, anyway) is that there’s a sort of reluctance on the parts of the characters. In The Shining, none of the three main characters want to be in the hotel, but they all have to be so they can survive as a family, and it’s with a certain reluctance that the characters, especially Jack, acknowledge that there’s something seriously wrong with the hotel they can’t handle and that they have to get the hell out of Dodge. Dracula is often described as a slow burn, especially in the novel and in the Nosferatu adaptations, and without a doubt the characters are reluctant to be in the machinations of a centuries-old vampire. And in Pat’s novel Madame ZeeZee, the first-person narrator is very much reluctant at first to look into the strange events that occur at the titular character’s dance studio. It’s only as things progress that she finds herself really looking into things.

So that’s slow burns for you. But how do you write them? If I had to guess, I’d think it would have to do with moderation, specifically moderating the amount of excitement in the story. With most other stories, the norm is to build the excitement until the climax of the story when things get really explosive. But with a slow burn, it’s more like you’re doing a mostly flat Richter scale graph with only slight bumps here and there until the very end when things get super exciting (if you decide to write the story that way, that is). Doing that might take some practice, however, so I would recommend doing that practice and just allowing yourself to get good at them. Don’t get upset if you’re not good at it at first; we all start somewhere, don’t we?

In the meantime, if you’d like to read some good slow burns to get a good idea for them, here are some of the ones I’d recommend: The Shining by Stephen King; See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (see my review of that novel here); HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (see my review of that here); Final Girls by Riley Sager (see my review for that here); and of course Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare by Pat Bertram, which I reviewed on Amazon. All of them are excellent slow burns, and I can’t recommend them enough. Definitely check them out if you’re curious.

What observations have you made about slow burn stories?

Which slow burns have you read recently? Would you recommend them?

Hello, Followers of Fear, and welcome to our first author interview of the year. Today we have a previous guest who has been my friend for a number of years. She’s written several books and has even visited my house when I was still living with my dad, the first author friend/blog friend to ever do so. And today, she’s here to talk about the two books she published in 2017, Unfinished and Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare (I’ve requested my local library to order copies, and I’m still waiting to hear back). Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Pat Bertram!

RU: Welcome back, Pat. It’s good to have you here again. Now as I mentioned above, you published two books in 2017, Unfinished and Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare. Please tell us what they’re about.

PB: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare is about fun, dance, and murder! When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Pat starts writing, and then . . . the dying begins.

Unfinished is about buried secrets and a woman finding herself when she finds herself alone. While sorting through her deceased husband’s effects, Amanda is shocked to discover a gun and the photo of an unknown girl who resembles their daughter. After dedicating her life to David and his vocation as a pastor, the evidence that her devout husband kept secrets devastates Amanda. But Amanda has secrets of her own. . .

RU: You weren’t writing fiction for quite a while. What made you get back into it?

PB: I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and besides, both Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinished deserved to be written. So I just . . . wrote.

RU: I love it when a story makes you want to write it. So tell us, what was the inspiration for the two novels?

PB: That’s easy. The inspiration for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare came from my dance class. It was their idea, and they provided the fodder for the characters. Inspiration for Unfinished came from my life. Too often, I have read novels where the spouse dies, and after a few perfunctory tears, the one left behind continues as if nothing ever happened. Grief does not work that way. It’s not so much that we go through grief, but that grief goes through us, and I wanted to show the truth, both about the changes such an upheaval brings and the courage it takes to accept those changes.

RU: Now, Madame ZeeZee’s was based on you and your dance class and classmates. How much of them and of you made it into the novel?

Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare by Pat Bertram

PB: Many of my dance class mates — and the teacher! — made it into the novel. For the sake of reader’s sanity, a couple of times, I combined two or three women into one character. (Too many non-essential characters in a book confuse me as a reader, and I can only assume others are the same). And, though he isn’t a classmate, a fellow I know by the name of Rami Ungar made it into the book. As for me — well, Pat is Pat. At least, I think she is. I know one thing — if I ever decide to write a series, I will use Pat as the main character. It was incredibly easy writing myself as a character — I didn’t have to create characteristics, either positive or negative, and the character arc came naturally.

RU: I love that we’re both characters in your book! And your characterization of me is a lot nicer than what most people give me when they write me into a story.

What about Unfinished? Did you or anyone else you know make it into that book as characters?

PB: I seem to write only about me anymore. Although I gave that poor woman a different name and a different life, she was definitely me. At least everything she felt, I felt.

RU: What were your biggest challenges writing these novels and how did you overcome them?

PB: The biggest challenge is always me. Some writers can sit down at a keyboard and the story flows from their fingertips as if it wants to be written. In my case, I have to drag every word from somewhere deep in my brain, and sometimes the effort is more than I want to make.

For Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, when I got tired of trying to figure things out or to search for the proper words, I went to class and asked the appropriate “character” what she wanted me to do. It’s amazing how simple that makes everything! Other times, I used something that happened in class to push me along.

For Unfinished, I had to persevere. Make the determination to finish the book and just do it. It was hard, though, dredging up all those feelings.

RU: Are you working on anything now?

Unfinished by Pat Bertram

PB: I am finishing a fifty-day blog challenge, to blog every day for fifty days. And I have a sort of apocalyptic novel I am decidedly NOT working on. I have a mental block against the poor thing because I was working on it when Jeff (my life mate/soul mate) died, but one of these days, I will get my head in gear and find the determination to work on it.

RU: And finally, what are your writing goals for 2018?

PB: I intend to keep up the daily blogging, at least a while longer. In May, I plan to take a road/camping/hiking trip along the Pacific coast (or near the coast anyway), and I hope that experience will bring me insights for fabulous blog posts. As for fiction — well, real life has me in its clutches. Hopefully, I will be able to free myself one day and get back into the alternate reality of fiction.

RU: Well, thank you for joining us Pat. It’s always a pleasure to speak with you.

If you would like to check out Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, or any of Pat’s other books, you can check out her Amazon page. I also highly encourage you to check out her website, her blog, and her Facebook. Trust me, she’s someone full of strength and insight, and you can benefit from knowing her.

And if you have a book coming out in the near future, hit me up on my Interviews page, and we’ll make some magic happen. Have a great evening, Followers of Fear. Until next time (probably Saturday), pleasant nightmares!

Pat Bertram with her famous blue 1972 Volkswagon.

Pat Bertram with her famous blue 1972 Volkswagon.

Earlier this week I had a most pleasant surprise: my friend and fellow novelist Pat Bertram came to Ohio to visit.

Now, through the powers of the Internet, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a variety of authors and editors and just plain lovers of literature. I’ve read hundreds upon hundreds of their blog posts, reading about their new books or their thoughts on the Craft of Writing, reviews on books or movies, milestones in their careers or lives or whatever. And through podcasts or videos, I’ve even been able to hear their voices.

Never had the opportunity to meet them though. Distance in real life has made that difficult. Until yesterday, that was.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Pat Bertram, let me introduce her to you. She’s a writer out of Colorado who has written four suspense novels and one memoir on grief. She’s a very smart woman whose posts focus on her life and the strange things that happen in it, as well as writing and reflections on the many experiences she’s had. For the past couple of months, Pat’s been travelling across the country, seeing new sites, hiking and camping and staying with friends. And when I found out she was going on this big trip, I asked if she wouldn’t mind visiting me in good ol’ Ohio.

Not only did Pat say she would, she ended up staying overnight at my place (which is also my dad’s place, considering that I’m staying with him until I move into a place of my own).

Honestly, I was a little nervous. This was the first time I got to meet one of my online friends in person. Without the context of a blog and all the commonalities that we as bloggers have, would we get along? Pat was also staying overnight, so would it be a pleasant stay or would things go south at some point?

Me with Pat's car.

Me with Pat’s car.

Turns out, it was an unnecessary worry. From the moment we met, we had plenty to talk about. I was so curious to hear about Pat’s adventures, from her camping trip to some of the strange people she met (she told me one story about a family in the Blue Ridge Mountains she stayed with who could be the basis for a horror story someday). And Pat was really interested in my family’s Passover traditions, which I (and later my dad) were all too happy to explain. And that wasn’t the full range of our conversations: we talked about writing, childhood experiences, how you never know what will go viral, my family’s complicated structure (ask about me about why I have three mothers, but only two live in Columbus. I dare you!), where we hoped we might go in our lives from here, ballet, Tarot, and more subjects than I can remember, let alone list. We talked late into the night and quite a bit of the morning when we met for breakfast. We were talking even while we were taking photos and while I was helping her load up her car. We were talking right before she drove away!

As you can probably tell, this was a really fun experience for me. And it also made me realize something. Part of my worry was that Pat and I are such different people. I’m an eccentric young adult who still doesn’t have a car and, while well-traveled for someone of my age and means, still has a lot to experience in this world. Pat, on the other hand, is a much more reserved and introspective person who has been driving the same car since she got it over forty years ago and has had a lot more experiences in her life than I have. Without our blogs or Facebook as buffers, I feared we couldn’t connect to each other in the real world because of those differences.

The reality is, we’re both human beings. And that’s really all that matters. We’re both human beings, and human beings have endless ways to connect. Even without a blog or computers to act as connections. Heck, sometimes you just need to meet someone and you can connect with them: my dad met Pat, after only finding out a few hours beforehand that she was coming over to stay, and they immediately got to talking. You’d think they were older friends than I was with her, the way they got on!

Like I said, I had a great time. And so did Pat, even if she didn’t get a T-shirt that said “I SURVIVED A NIGHT WITH THE UNGAR FAMILY.” I was very sad to see her go, but I’m glad we had this chance to connect with each other in the real world. I hope that we get to meet again someday, and that all my future meetings with online and author friends in the real world go just as well.” Because in the end, I think we can all make a connection, no matter what our experiences in

Selfie with Pat/

Selfie with Pat.

life have been. And those connections can lead to the most wonderful memories being made.

And if you’d like to meet Pat for yourself, check out her blog here. Trust me, she’s having some really interesting adventures, and you’ll want to keep up with her on them.

*Just remember that before we meet I know who you are and I feel cool with us meeting. Otherwise it could get creepy very fast. And not in a way I like.