Happy (Belated) Bloggiversary to Me

I seem to be losing track of dates lately. Not days of the week, of course — I am always aware of what day it is to make sure I don’t miss a dance class — but the days of the month seem to be escaping me.

I’d planned to do a grief update at four and a half years, and although yesterday’s post was coincidentally about grief, the fact that it was my four and a half year anniversary didn’t even register. Nor did it register that it was the 27th. The day that my life mate/soul mate died — the 27th of the month — has always brought with it a special awareness, and yesterday that awareness went missing. It’s possible, of course, that subliminally I did remember, hence the mention of grief, but it could also be that I was simply reaching for a blog topic and seeing a friend reading Grief: The Great Yearning spurred me to write what I did.

Another blog post I’d planned to do was my blog anniversary post. On September 24, 2007, I posted my very first bloggerie, and September 24, 2014 came and went without any sort of awareness of the 7th anniversary of this blog.

Still aballoonsnother post I’d planned to do was a concurrent celebration — the anniversary of three years of daily blogging. During the first four years of blogging, I posted only three or four times a week, but on September 24, 2011, I made a 100-day commitment to post a daily blog, and I continued to post every day once that initial commitment was fulfilled. I was particularly interested in this anniversary because I’d planned to rethink the daily blogging — it’s not always easy to post every day, especially now that the traumas of my life are settling down a bit so that I have less to write about. (And, of course, I’m dancing more, so I have less time to write.) Yet, subliminally, I must have made the decision to continue, because here I am, still blogging each day.

When I started this blog, it was a way of getting a head start on promotion for when/if I got published. After I got published, it was supposed to be a way of promoting my books. But, as I’ve learned, blogging, like all social networking efforts, has minimal effect on book sales.

[Social networking only helps create a web presence. What makes a huge difference in sales is playing Amazon’s algorithmic games, trying to get on one of their seemingly endless bestseller lists and letting the algorithms catapult you to stardom. But, silly me, I am carrying on my own private war with Amazon (I think they exert too much control over the book business) and so, to use a very trite and quite disgusting metaphor, I’ve cut off my nose to spite my face. Facebook works to a certain extent if you join a zillion groups and frequently post links to your books in those groups, but that isn’t networking --- it’s spamming.]

Although promotion is no longer a factor (well, not much) in keeping up with this blog I do like writing and publishing my articles. I feel safe here, and that feeling of safety gives me the freedom to say what I want, no matter how personal. Four and a half years ago when my life mate/soul mate died, his death catapulted me into such a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life. And even though grief is mostly leaving me alone now, I’ve continued the policy of writing about the various traumas and conflicts of my life.

It’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges come my way, this blog will be here for me, even if I do forget my bloggiversary.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Finding the Wildness

Look what the goddess does when she is sad:
she takes up a tambourine, made of taut skin
and rimmed with castanets of brass,
and she begins to dance. The sound of flutes
blares out wildly, reaching even to the depths
of the underworld, so loud, so clamorous is it.
Look what the goddess does when she is sad:
she finds the wildness in herself, and as she does
she finds that there is joy there too.
~ Greek dramatist Euripides

A reader left this lovely poem as a response to my post In the Presence of Death…, and Euripides’s words are so very apropos. Although I am far from being a goddess, I am hoping to find the wildness within. And I am dancing.

I don’t dance wildly — the classes I take are all classical dances with practiced steps and choreographed movements, but dance does speak to something wild deep inside of me. For someone who’s life has always been about words — both reading and writing — dance is a way of reaching the wordless depths, of finding the woman beneath the trappings of civilization and expectations and other people’s stories. I sense it’s also a way of awakening more of the wildness within, bringing with it the strength and courage to live fully and gracefully.

I once read an article that talked about stream-of-consciousness being the brain’s default mode. The journalist reported that in depression, the default mode network appears to be overactive, that a depressive brain shows a pattern of balky transitions from introspective thought to work that requires conscious effort, and it frequently slips into the default mode during cognitive tasks. A depressive brain also shows especially weak links between the default mode network and a region of the brain involved in motivation and reward-seeking behavior.

This could be the reason why blogging is so easy for me and writing fiction so hard. Blogging for me is stream-of-consciousness writing and brings immediate rewards, while writing fiction is more cognitive and takes more conscious effort than I am sometimes willing to spent. (A fellow writer once described writing as a mental prison, and while most authors seem to find freedom in fiction, I find it restrictive, especially since the rewards of a finished project are delayed for sometimes years.)

But dance . . . ah, that transcends both stream-of-consciousness and cognitive thinking. It’s a matter of concentration and memory, of training the body to do your will (or rather, your teacher’s will). And where there is neither stream-of-consciousness nor cognition, there is no depression, no sadness. Or so it seems.

Although I still have upsurges of sadness when I am alone, I am seldom sad in class and never depressed. I don’t always find dancing joyful. It’s often hard for me and frustrating at times when my body simply will not do what I will it to do, or when I cannot get what seems to be a simple step. But dancing is always compelling, even when it is difficult — especially when it is difficult. The discipline of stretching just a bit further or reaching a new understanding of a movement, helps dig beneath what I know of myself, helps find the wildness in me. There is joy in that, and joy is its own reward.

There is also joy, of course, in dancing in unison with other not-so-young women who are also dedicated to the art, and there is vast joy in having learned a new dance, particularly for someone such as I who never in her life conceived of such a possibility.

During class, after we warm up, before we work on the current dance, we practice the dances we already know. And each time we dance one of those numbers, there comes a point in the dance where I can feel a huge smile on my face as I realize that oh! I am dancing! And for that moment, I feel like a goddess.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Blogging and Disloyalty

Sometimes I feel disloyal blogging about all the problems I have with my family’s various infirmities, whether physical or mental, as if I am betraying them, my father and brother especially. And yet, these problems are the same ones other people are struggling with — aged parents and dysfunctional siblings or offspring. It’s in talking of these matters that we discover how un-unusual the problems are — we all have seem to have the care of someone thrust on us, disrupting our lives.

Some people have to deal with various other problems, of course, such as caring for a spouse’s infirmities, but I don’t have much to say about such matters since my coupled days are behind me.

While my life mate/soul mate was dying, I seldom talked privately and never publicly about his decline or the problems it caused me — that truly would have felt like a betrayal, as if I were exposing him or as if I were talking about matters that did not belong to me. To cope, I simply drew within and continued to live as best as I could. His death catapulted me out of that state, enatugofwarbling me to launch my angst-ridden cry into cyberspace. I’m not sure he would have approved of my being so open about my feelings, but by then, he no longer had a say in my life. Besides, my grief belonged to me alone.

I doubt I will ever feel that intense loyalty again, which is good. I no longer want or am able to live in the empty spaces in my soul.

Last night I blogged out my frustration with my father’s panic attack and the mindlessly mean way he acted. It enabled me to sleep peacefully (well, sort of) last night and wake up encouraged enough to go on.

The time is coming, perhaps soon, when my father can no longer be allowed to have his way about staying alone when I am out of the house, but despite the minor emergency last night, I’m inclined to let things remain as they are awhile longer. He is terrified of losing control, and he is someone who has always had to have steely control — of himself, his family, his surroundings. (You’d think I’d take delight in this gradual erosion of his control, considering how domineering he was in my youth, but I find no joy in watching his decline.)

Still, disloyal or not, I will need to continue blogging about my problems as life and death persist with their game of tug of war. It’s a matter of my survival.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Fowl Day

Today was clear, dry, and hot. The outside temperature reached 100 degrees, which could be why we didn’t have fowl weather on such a fowl day. (Fowl weather, I imagine, is weather that gets the geese flying south for the winter.)

I’m no spring chicken, which is especially apparent on fowl days such as this. I’ve been running around like a . . .

chickenNope, I can’t say it. I’ve never seen a chicken running around with its head cut off, though I suppose the bodies of chickens can last a few seconds without their brain — after all, the expression “hen-brained” must have come from somewhere. Still, whether I use the chicken metaphor or stick to the unfeathered truth, I have been rather busy today, running seemingly unending errands, dealing with visitors and various hospice workers, fighting an invasion of ants.

When I was out, I stopped to see a small camper for rent, a refinished 1955 Field and Stream 14-foot trailer. I’m not actually looking for something like that. I’m not sure my car could tow it, don’t particularly want the problem of parking it somewhere, and I’m afraid I’d feel cooped up. (Aha! Another fowl metaphor!) Still, it’s fun thinking about perhaps crisscrossing the roads in a portable roost to see what is on the other side of the country.

As much fun as it has been to use so many fowl metaphors, one I will never use is “henpecked.” I once saw a poor hen-pecked rooster, and oh, what a sad and bloody sight that was.

I hope you have a ducky day today!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly FireandDaughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

For All of You Who Are Experiencing Grief

I always know when someone who is grieving has discovered my blog — the number of views increases dramatically while the number of visitors stays the same. Only an intense loss (or upcoming loss) keeps someone here long enough to read a sampling of my grief posts.

Although I am on the downward slide of grief, every day someone else encounters the shock of grief that bewilders, steals their breath, shatters their lives, and makes them question their very being.

A long time ago, long before the internet and blogs, I used to write soul-searching letters, similar to my blog posts. I never expected my friends to save the letters. I was young, changing rapidly, and the letters reflected my thoughts about life at any given moment. Once, years after such a spate of letters, my then best friend called me, told me she’d found a stack of letters. She read portions of them aloud to me, and laughed. She couldn’t understand my hurt — she’d seen how far I’d come, and she thought I’d be as amused as she was by my younger self. I tried to be a good sport, but her laughter seemed such a betrayal, I never felt the same about her again. Nor did I ever feel the same about writing letters. In fact, I never wrote another personal letter again lest my feelings linger far beyond their meaning.

Then came blogging and the loss of my life mate/soul mate. I wondered if I would ever regret pouring out my soul on this blog as I did in those letters, but I understood how important it was for both me and my fellow bereft to try to find words for what we were feeling, so writing such personal posts never bothered me. I also knew that if anyone laughed, they were more to be pitied than castigated — only profound and complicated love leads to such all-encompassing grief, and if they’d never felt such grief, well, there was nothing I could do about it. Writing about my grief was simply a risk I took.

But no one laughed.

At the beginning, my grief posts reflected the feelings of me and others in my grief age group (those who lost their mates a few months before or a few months after I did). But grief is eternal. We may not still be lost in the anguish of new grief, lost in the confusion of grief that lingers beyond what family and friends think acceptable, or lost in the maze of trying to create a new life for ourselves, but someone is.

For all of you who are experiencing grief, know that I’ve been there. I understand at least a little of what you are going through, and my heart cries out to you. People who dealt with profound grief before I did told me that someday I will find renewed interest in life, generally (though not always) within four to five years. It was true for them. It was true for me. And it will be true for you.

Until then, wishing you peace.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Dear Diary

I always loved diaries when I was a kid. Blank diaries, that is. The lovely cover. The tiny key that could lock the book so no one could see the secrets confided within. Every time I got a present of a diary, I would think about all the wonderful thoughts that would eventually be written, but invariably, after an initial entry professing my intentions to write every day, the diary would lay fallow. Blank. Not surprising. Not much happened seemed to happen to me. School. Home. Library. Church. That was the extent of my life.

I’m not sure my life is more exciting than those long ago non-diary years, but I am more aware of my emotions and thoughts, so now this blog often resembles a diary, one I have been writing in daily for a few years now. Three years, I think. Maybe four.

I never intended this to be a diary. Years ago, I’d read that a blog was necessary to help build an online platform for authors and so, even though I hadn’t a clue what blogging was, I started this blog. At first it was impersonal — posts about writing, books I’d read, my efforts to get published, but after my life mate/soul mate died, I couldn’t stop bleeding my grief onto this blog. Now, anything goes. So . . .

Dear Diary,

I had another good day today. Took a couple of dance classes, started learning a new dance in jazz class and another new dance in Hawaiian class using an ipu (a Hawaiian gourd drum). When I got back to the house, my sister had prepared a feast for us, a bit of celebration. (Because we needed something exciting in this house where we are looking after my 97-year-old father, who actually is strong and well enough to do more for himself than he does. Because she is leaving next week since she isn’t really needed here. But mostly just because . . .)

I wasn’t going to walk tonight (I’m still recovering from allergy-induced chest congestion), but after such a feast, I’d better make the effort. I’ll write more tomorrow. I promise.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Key to Copyediting and Proofreading

Someone asked me today how long it takes me to write a blog, and I’m sort of embarrassed to admit it takes me about three hours from start to finish. I read once that a blog should take no more than twenty minutes to write, but that doesn’t make sense to me. How can anyone write anything of worth in so short a time, especially if a bit of research is involved? Still, three hours seems excessive, though to be honest, at least half of that time is taken up with editing and proofreading.

Proofreading is a problem for all of us, whatever we write — novels, newsletters, blogs. Our brains are structured to see what isn’t there, to fill in the blanks, to rearrange letters and words to make sense. I’m ssre you hvae seen a demontrasion lkie tihs keybefroe, a clveer gcimmik ot sohw you waht I am takling aoubt — that the brain can read jumbled words as long as the first and last letters are in the right place. (At least to a certain extent — sometimes it takes a while for us to make sense of what we are seeing.) Our brains are trained to see whole words. If we have to read each letter, laboriously spelling out the word, by the time we have finished reading two or three words, we would long since have forgotten what we’d already read.

This ability to read works against us when we write, or rather when we edit or copyedit because it’s so hard to pick out misspelled words even with a spell checker, especially if the misspelling is a real word in itself. Tow and toe, for example. Or point and paint. Even worse, we see the center of things. Our brains fill out the edges, and so often, that’s where we find errors — on the top two lines of a page, the bottom two lines, the first and last word on a line.

I know a few keys to improve your copyediting. The best way, of course, is to get someone else to do it. We know what we want to say, so our text makes sense to us no matter how convoluted it is, but so often fresh eyes find mistakes we missed every time we read it. If you have to do your own copyediting, you can work from the end of the piece to the beginning — that way you don’t get caught up in the brilliance of your own rhetoric. You can pay particular attention to the edges of your text, doing the edges as a separate edit, or you can temporarily make the text a different size. If you normally use 12pt Times New Roman, switch to 14 or 16 point. That way the words that were at the edges of the page have been moved to a different place, which makes it easier to see mistakes. (You have to change the size of the font, not merely zoom to a larger view because zooming doesn’t change the placement of words.)

Using these copyediting suggestions, I can improve my text and make sure there are few errors, but doing the whole thing still takes me three hours. No wonder I don’t have time for working on my novels!

[Click here to find out Why Mistakes Happen]

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Planning Epic Transcendental and Mystical Journeys

I am so beyond stressed out from taking care of my father’s latest medical crisis, my brother’s continued mental problems, and my own lack of sleep because of caring for them that I can no longer find comfort in planning epic transcendental and mystical journeys. But here is an update for those of you who have expressed concern about my idea of walking up the Pacific Coast to Seattle.

Although I would take precautions, there is no doubt such a walk could be dangerous, but for now, that is not something I want to consider. In the past eight years, I’ve watched three people die slowly and painfully from cancer, and now I am watching my 97-year-old father die even more slowly from old age. Not taking the trip because of possible dangers would be merely saving myself for even more probable trauma in the future. Life itself is a danger. It does terrible things to people, taking everything they have until there is nothing left but a husk of skin and bones.

Despite all my thinking and blogging about an epic adventure, there is a chance this walk is merely a fantasy. I am not sure I have the physical capabilities of walking so far or spending so much time outside. I am not sure I can carry enough water and emergency supplies. And to be honest, I’m not sure I really want to do it — the thought could simply be a means of mentally escaping an untenable living situation. Still, if I take the trip, or try to take it, I will be as prepared as possible without carrying the whole world on my back. I’m looking into such things as mylar emergency blankets, down vests, bear spray (I figure if it can ward off a bear, the spray could ward off any human predator, too). I am also researching the best way of carrying things, and no, it isn’t on the back, it’s on the head, but that I won’t even consider. I want to look as if I am on a walk, not backpacking through the wilderness or trekking around East Africa.

The walk is only one possible adventure I am considering. I started out planning an extended cross-country road trip, perhaps visiting the national parks, sometimes camping out with full camping gear and sometimes staying in motels to catch up on civilization’s offerings, and this is still a possibility, especially if my car is running. (If I were to walk up the coast, I’m not sure what I would do with the vehicle during the year I would be gone.) Another possibility is to somehow use my ancient VW as a means of promoting my books, maybe painting it by hand to attract attention or letting people who buy a book sign my car while I am signing their boobedk. (Although I like that idea, I’m not sure how to market it. Marketing, unfortunately, is not my forte.)

And it’s possible I wouldn’t want to stop taking dance lessons, in which case I would take shorter long walks to prepare for the epic walk or go on weekend camping trips to gain experience in the outdoors. (Besides, my dance teacher says she doesn’t want me to stop, and it’s been a long time since someone wanted me around just for me, not for what I could do for them.)

In other words, despite all my blogging, thinking, talking, I have no idea what I will do when my responsibilities end.

Well, I do know one thing. I will sleep, or at least try to. Being responsible for others’ care is exhausting.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Finding Something to Blog About Every Single Day

Today I celebrate my 1010th consecutive blog post. (I’ve published a total 1,629 posts, but the first 519 were before I started daily blogging.)

When a friend expressed amazement that I’m able to blog so much, I explained that it’s easier to blog if you write every day or at least on a regularly scheduled basis rather than doing it whenever you find something to say. If you blog sporadically, you feel as if your articles need to be important, so you don’t write. If you blog regularly, you relate a significant detail of your day, make your articles important by relating them to you, or find the youseetimmy in your topic.

(In the movie Speechless, Michael Keeton tells rival speechwriter Geena Davis that her speeches lack a youseetimmy. He explained that at the end of every episode of Lassie, Timmy’s father sat him down and explained the lesson of the tale, “You see, Timmy . . .)

Somedays, onumbersf course, it’s hard for me to find a topic — no event of the day and no thought frittering around in my head seems worth focusing on, so I just write something, anything in the hopes of stumbling upon an interesting idea. I fail often, of course, in the interest department, but sometimes what I think is uninteresting captures the attention of the Google gods and I get a lot of views. Since apparently I have no idea what others will find appealing, by blogging every day, I increase my chances of saying something profound or maybe even popular.

Although blog experts stress the necessity for sticking to a single focus for a blog, I’ve not been able to do that since my foci have changed over the years. At first I wrote about finding a publisher, then I wrote about finding readers. For a while I wrote about writing but I quickly gave that up when I realized how pathetic it was for a neophyte author to be giving tips on how to write. Too many writers who haven’t a clue what they are doing tend to parcel out advice as if they were dealing out doughnuts. For example, one self-published author explained how to write a grieving character, and proceeded to show the character going through all the so-called stages of grief in one brief bit of dialogue. Not only was this person dispensing erroneous information about writing, the person was also dispensing erroneous information about grief. Eek. I’m not a neophyte author any more, but still, the idea of publishing writing tips seems pathetic. The only people who would be interested in such posts are other writers, and they are busy publishing their own writing tips.

Finally, I started writing about me — my grief, my life, my dreams, my plans, my activities — so now the focus of this blog is me. You don’t get a narrower focus than that! I mean, out of the 7,237,175,306 people in the world as of today, there is only one of me.

On the days when I have nothing to say or no inclination to say what I do have to say, discipline keeps me going. I’ve been blogging every day without fail for almost three years — 1010 days to be exact. Not to blog would be a significant disruption of the pattern of my days, and hence would give me something to blog about. Ironic, that.

Still, there will come a time when I forget to blog because my mind is elsewhere or a time when I cannot blog because my body is elsewhere.

Until then, here I am — finding something to blog about every single day.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Easy Does It, and Other Notable Blog Posts From Second Wind Publishing

The Second Wind Publishing blog always seems to have interesting posts. For example, Harry Margulies, author of The Knowledge Holder, wrote Easy Does It, a wonderful blog about character names that really hit home. One of the many reasons I can’t read fantasy is the fantastic names the authors come up with. Harry’s plea for simple names is humorous and fits my philosophy. My characters are named Bob and Mary and Kate and Phillip. Nice simple names for not so simple characters.

Jay Duret, author of the soon-to-be published novel Nine Digits, wrote Nom de Plume, a funny look at how his pseudonym evolved as his he evolved. For me, it was the other way. I chose as a nom de plume a variation of my name that I wasn’t using at the time simply because it sounded authorly, and somehow I have evolved into that name. Now it’s the one I use both online and in the real world.

Harry Margulies’s most recent post is The Enchanted Food Network, a humorous look at cooking, food networks, and the fantasy of never having to use a Brillo pad.

A year ago, Coco Ihle, author of She Had to Know, wrote Belly Dancing…Dangerous?, which planted the seeds of dancing in my head. I didn’t actually start taking lessons until six months later when I happened upon a nearby studio, but if it weren’t for those seeds, I might not have gone inside and talked to the studio owner. And it changed my life.

Other articles to check out on the Second Wind Publishing blog: A Love Letter to My Magnolia, by Carole Howard, If You Got Transcended Would You Know It? by Lazarus Barnhill, and What is Your Character’s Favorite Color? — by Pat Bertram

rangel

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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