Phobophobia, or the Fear of Fear

Through stories, we learn how to deal with our fears, especially if we are the ones writing the story. If you novelize your fear of being eaten alive by monsters from outer space, then the terrestrial ones eating you alive don’t seem so monstrous. If you watch a movie about aliens taking over your body, then the terrestrial one that’s taking over your mind might not seem quite so alien. You don’t think you are being eaten alive or that your mind is being taken over? Well, you are and it is — it’s called aging. Little by little, the you that you know is being supplanted by a creature you could never fathom being. Some people turn into querulous beings totally unrecognizable from the daring-dos of their youthful selves. Some turn into their mothers. Some . . . Well, I’ve scared myself enough.

fearAccording to author Lee Child, we don’t write what we know — we write what we fear. Perhaps this is true. My books are filled with fears — fear of being at the mercy of mindless governments and corrupt corporations, fear of deadly and unstoppable diseases, fear of the loss of self, fear that our memories lie. Since all of these fears can be lumped into one group — fear of powerlessness — I wonder if all fears came down to that same thing. Mine do, anyway.

I checked out a list of phobias to see what sort of things people are afraid of, and now I’m in danger of becoming a phobiaphobe. Or a phobiaphile. Although I am sympathetic to anyone caught in the horror of a phobia, I do enjoy the names. Names such as levophobia, kainophobia, lachanophobia, mageirocophobia, melophobia, nomatophobia, nyctohylophobia, paraskavedekatriaphobia. Great names for dreadful conditions.

Okay, I’ll let you off the hook so you don’t turn into a Sesquipedalophobe (someone who fears long words). Here’s what the above-mentioned words mean:

  • Levophobia — Fear of things to the left side of the body
  • Kainophobia — Fear of anything new
  • Lachanophobia — Fear of vegetables
  • Mageirocophobia — Fear of cooking
  • Melophobia — Fear of music
  • Nomatophobia — Fear of names
  • Nyctohylophobia — Fear of dark wooded areas
  • Paraskavedekatriaphobia — Fear of Friday the 13th

The one fear I hope no one ever gets is patbertramophobia. So not good for me as a writer!

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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.

Writing Outside The Box And The Box Springs

I just watched the most fascinating sex scene ever to be filmed. There was no nudity, no touching, no erotic talk, nothing that resembles any sex act we have ever seen or experienced (unless, of course, I’m even more naïve than I imagine), and yet the scene is sensuous and compelling, the characters are intensely and totally involved with each other, connecting on a level most of us can only hope for. And we are left with no doubt that we have seen two people making love in a mutually fulfilling way.

knifeThe movie? The Girl on the Bridge, a 1999 French movie shot in black and white and shown to US audiences with subtitles. He is a not-so-lucky knife thrower who lurks around bridges to find his assistants, woman who don’t care whether they live or die. She is a depressed young woman who has never done a single thing right in her life, not even drowning herself.

One day on a bridge, they find each other, and their luck changes.

And so does ours, because oh, my — such a poetic way to spend hot afternoon. (Hot because of the summery weather. What did you think I meant?)

I’m not sure the knife scene holds up as erotic if you haven’t seen the buildup during the earlier part of the movie, but if you’re interested, you can see the scene here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKqQl3D4AzI

It’s a good reminder that we writers need to be able to write outside the box and the box springs.

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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.

 

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

ASHFborderI got a call last night from a woman who had recently read my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. She didn’t know whether to be excited or appalled at how closely some of the news commentaries about Ebola resemble my story. (Excited because it seemed as if the book had come to life. Appalled because it seemed as if the horrifying events in the novel were coming to pass.)

Quarantines. Possibilities of artificially enhanced viruses. Troops sent to fight the virus and/or troops sent to contain the infected areas. So much drama and controversy! Not only are these the subjects of today’s headlines, they all form the story of A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Viruses created — or enhanced — in laboratories are nothing new. Well, let’s say the theory of such atrocious diseases are nothing new. I couldn’t swear to the truth of it, and quite frankly, I don’t want to know. Sill, some people believe the 1914 flu originated with biological warfare experimentation gone out of control. Aids has always been accompanied by theories of bioengineering.

In fact, noting that outbreaks of the plague during the Middle Ages were accompanied by strange phenomena such as torpedo-shaped craft emitting noxious mists and men dressed all in black walking through the streets with long instruments that made a swishing sound like a scythe, some researchers have concluded that the Black Death was a purposely created disease. Supposedly, the power elite wanted to cut back the rapidly increasing population and dumb down the human race, or at least stop the furious pace of technology. The alchemists, a greater percentage of the population than anyone imagined, were learning about nuclear fusion and fission. The Arabs were learning about rocketry and jet propulsion. Architecture, as manifested in European cathedrals, was unsurpassed. Along with many other technological inventions, a simple binary machine—a computer—had been created. What would the world have been like without the Black Death?

Forget the Black Death. What would the world be like today without Ebola?

Even worse, what will it be like with it?

If you’re interested in my depiction of a world struggling to deal with a pandemic, I hope you will check out A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since I based them on executive orders Clinton signed into law.

Art imitating life imitating art.

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Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

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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.

What If an Entire State Were Quarantined?

ASHFbordersmPeople are being quarantined in Texas, healthy people who simply hosted someone who was ill with Ebola. What if the disease spreads? What if more cases are found? What if a whole town or maybe a whole state were quarantined to prevent a pandemic?

This is the premise of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The disease in the story is not Ebola, the avian flu, or any known disease, but a lab-created disease that had its origins in biological warfare experimentation. This fictional disease was created to be unstoppable, to wipe out entire populations. And it fell into the wrong hands.

Because the disease began in Colorado and that is where most of the victims lived — and died — the entire state is quarantined and martial law is put into effect. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since they are based on executive orders Clinton signed into law. The wonderful thing about writing such a book is that I didn’t have to imagine any of the horrors. Our own president did the work for me.

We are coming up on the supposed anniversary date of the publication of A Spark of Heavenly Fire. (I say supposed because although it wasn’t published until March 25, 2009, Amazon lists the publication date as November 23, 2008.) I hope you will check out this still relevant novel, thinking as you do so of the small quarantine in Texas (small in numbers, and perhaps even small in consequence, but huge to the people whose freedom is being denied). It happened to them. It could happen to you.

To celebrate this faux anniversary, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. Offer expires on November 23, 2014. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

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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.

What Is Your Subconscious Obsessed With?

So often when I am at a loss for a blog topic, Facebook comes to the rescue. Today, was such a day. A friend posted a link to a quiz, “What is your subconscious mind obsessed with?”, and I was bored enough to play along.

Like all such quizzes, there were several questions I found impossible to answer, such as what is my favorite cartoon. Considering I don’t ever watch cartoons and have no idea what any of the cartoons were, I just randomly picked one. Another question was food. I have no preference, really, so I again, I just randomly chose. Same with my favorite day of the week. Who has a favorite day of the week? I never even considered such a thing, so I chose Wednesday because today is Wednesday and I had dance classes. Some of the other questions offered options such as “other,” which made it easy not to choose any of the silly options. I did have a hard time with one question — choosing a quality — because I admire most of the qualities, but I chose loyalty as the best of the lot.

My results weren’t at all what I expected. Apparently, my subconscious is obsessed with the need to be loved. They results said, “You need to feel the warmth and appreciation from the people around you. Without a friendly reminder of how much you are loved or appreciated you start to feel as though things have gone awry with the people around you. There’s nothing wrong with this immense need for love. Be proud that you are so compassionate and caring that you respect and welcome these emotions. Not only do you need to be loved, but you enjoy the act of loving as well. You are kind and compassionate. Even simple interactions reveal your tender heart. We’re all humans and need to be loved; you however, have an extra special sense of gratitude when it comes to being loved.”

Seems sort of pathetic, really, being obsessed with the need to be loved, so I redid the quiz. Chose a different cartoon at random. Chose a different food. Chose Tuesday as my favorite day of the week, and perhaps it is my favorite day — that is when my week truly begins because Tuesday is when my dance classes begin for the week. I even chose a different quality — intelligence this time.

I waited eagerly for the results, hoping for something less pathetic than an obsession with needing to be loved. Happiness, maybe. (Most people seemed to get happiness.) Or knowledge. I’ve always been on a quest for the truth. Some people got sadness, which I wouldn’t have been surprised to get. Some got sex or food or responsibility. (Responsibility would also have been a good fit since I am responsible for my 97-year-old father and his house.

So what did I get after all the changed answers?

The same thing: the need to be loved. Sheesh.

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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.

Is It Fun Being You?

I watched a tape of an old “Boston Legal” show the other night. Although I don’t particularly like the series — it was mostly smugly rich lawyers in a large firm behaving badly — the byplay between William Shatner (Denny Crane) and James Spader (Alan Shore) was riveting. You don’t see many instances of male friendship in movies or on TV, which is compelling enough, but the two characters often talk about matters that are beyond the general fare of television. (Not that I would know — I seldom watch television, though I have a couple of series and a couple of partial series on tape for no other reason than that I have them.)

One such conversation occurred during the show I viewed. Denny, despite his growing Alzheimer’s, had just experienced a triumph over his ilness by having a significant impact on a trial, and afterward while decompressing with Shore on the balcony of Denny’s office, Denny says, “It’s fun being me.” Then he turns to Shore and asks, “Is it fun being you?”

Such a simple question, one I had never considered. Is it fun being me? Although I can’t get the question out of my mind, I truly have no answer to it. I have fun, of course, and while fun is not my raison d’etre, perhaps it should be. Life dumps plenty of sorrow and responsibility on me — I certainly don’t need to heap more problems on myself, and besides, having fun would help balance my life.

But that was not the question. Denny did not ask, “Are you having fun?” He asked, “Is it fun being you?” — which is something completely different.

I’m the one in glasses.

I’ve always taken life and myself too seriously to have fun being me. Oddly, Alan Shore once described me when I was young without knowing he was doing so. As he says to one of his female associates, “When I look at you, I see one of those little schoolgirls, running around in her plaid skirt, always to class on time, the first to raise her hand, the neatest of . . . penmanship.” Yup. That was me.

I’m trying not to take things so seriously, though it’s hard when I seem to be always in the middle of other people’s life and death situations. Still, I need a more lighthearted approach than simply not taking life so seriously. Since I will need to find a new focus for the next twenty or thirty years (assuming I live as long as my mother did) perhaps that focus should be not just being me as I’ve been trying to do, but having fun being me.

And I’ve already taken the first step. Dance class is teaching me many things besides dancing: to be accepting of (and maybe even celebrating) imperfections in me and everyone else; to be committed to something life changing outside my normal purview; to find joy in movement, especially synced movement; to be happy in the moment; and most of all, to enjoy being someone who enjoys dancing.

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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.

Get Better Acquainted with Your Devil

I don’t follow astrology, but occasionally a friend sends me a link to particularly interesting horoscope of mine, such as this one:

“My definition of a devil is a god who has not been recognized,” said mythologist Joseph Campbell. “It is a power in you to which you have not given expression, and you push it back. And then, like all repressed energy, it builds up and becomes dangerous to the position you’re trying to hold.” Do you agree? I hope so, because you will soon be entering the Get Better Acquainted with Your Devil Phase of your astrological cycle, to be immediately followed by the Transform Your Devil into a God Phase. To get the party started, ask yourself this question: What is the power in you to which you have not given expression?

Even if this particular prognostication isn’t true (and I seldom find horoscopes to mirror anything in my daily life), it is germane to all of our lives. For example: grief. If we repress grief, it assumes an enormous power over us for the rest of our lives, but if we make friends with grief, or at least acknowledge it and let it run its course. Grief isn’t either a god or a devil of course, but it does seem to be a great evil. It can also be a force for good if you let it, helping turn you into the person who can survive an inimaginable loss.

gift2I’m not sure what devil phase I’m in now, what power in me I haven’t yet expressed. Nor do I know what position I’m trying to hold. If this horoscope is true, I will find out soon enough. And if it isn’t true, well, it poses an interesting question. I don’t like repressing any sort of energy, because it takes so much extra energy to keep anything repressed, but if I am repressing something, chances are I wouldn’t know what it is that I am repressing.

Someone once told me I am suppressing my creative energy since I’m not writing fiction, and I suppose it’s possible, but the truth is, there are all sorts of ways to be creating, including blogging and dancing, both of which I am doing. Besides, writing isn’t a god for me — it’s always been an intellectual choice, rather than something I’m compelled to do.

It would be more interesting, of course, if the alleged energy I am repressing is something I don’t know about, because the surprise of finding it and unrepressing it would be fascinating. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m all that fascinating. Still, I’ll be open to both my Get Better Acquainted with Your Devil Phase and my Transform Your Devil into a God Phase. Could be illuminating.

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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.

 

Happy International Day of Peace

I’ve been scrolling through my Facebook feed, checking to see what is happening in the online world. Most people seem to be experiencing momentous events, passages, tragedies and triumphs. But not me. Not today.

No one in my little household died. No one got sick. No one has a birthday or an anniversary. No one had an accident. No one was born. I didn’t adopt a dog or take a cat to the vet. I didn’t get a job or lose one. I didn’t go to the beach or cruising on a lake. I won no awards. Didn’t get a fabulous review of one of my books (not even a bad one). I didn’t travel to far away lands or even close ones, for that matter. I didn’t cook anything special.

All I did was a few minor chores around the house, looked after my father’s needs, and relaxed. It was the perfect way to spend the International Day of Peace — at peace.

Wishing you peace, not just today but every day.

peacesign

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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.

Back to Living a Quiet Life of . . . I Don’t Know

My sister, who has been here helping look after our 97-year-old father, left this morning, and shortly after she took off for places unkown, I went to dance class, leaving him alone. When I checked on him upon my return, he didn’t seem to have been affected by either of our absences, just went about his life as usual.

I’ve lost track of how many times he’s seemed to be at the end of his life, prompting me to plan my immediate future. The first time, I planned a cross-country trip to promote my books. I started gathering the promotional materials, even went so far as to roadwrite all the independent bookstores in the country. He returned to his normal self, scotching my plans, which was just as well — I got such an abysmal response to my USPS mail campaign, that I lost all interest in visiting the bookstores in person. (I didn’t send just a Hi-I’m-an-author-buy-my-books promo. I sent gift certificates for ebooks and offered to interview each of the storeowners for my interview blog to help promote their stores. Not one responded.)

The second time, I planned to walk to Seattle, either via the Pacific Crest Trail or the various coastal trails. (California, Oregon, and Washington all have a coastal trail in the process of completion.) I spent weeks trying to figure out the logistics of such a trip, taking into consideration my age, the state of my fitness, and the prodigious amounts of water and other supplies I would have to haul. Just about the time I realized how improbable (if not impossible) such a trip would be for me, my father got better.

There were a few other quickly aborted plans during some of his short down times, such as my getting a teardrop trailer, perhaps, or renting a room in a house to make it easier to continue taking dance classes. During this last near-death turn of events, I didn’t even bother to plan (though I did have a few nights of panic when I realized I have no idea how or why or where I will live after I leave here). I finally understood the futility of expecting or fearing anything when it comes to such a tenacious old man. And sure enough, he’s dragged himself back to life.

One of my siblings suggested putting him in a nursing home, but there is no reason for such an action. He’s on hospice, so I have help when/if I need it, though he has refused to wear a medical alert bracelet that would connect him to hospice in an emergency and he has refused to have someone come stay with him when I’m gone. Still, I’m only out of the house about twenty-four hours a week (you know where I am a lot of that time — dance class!). I keep my phone with me when I’m away, and I’m in the house all night every night. (And if he gets worse, my sister has promised to come back.)

Now that both my dysfunctional brother and helpful sister are gone, I’m back to living a quiet life of . . . I don’t know. Waiting, perhaps, though I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. Maybe my own life, whatever that might be, though for now, this is my life. Or more precisely, dancing is my life, and being here for my father allows me to continue taking dance classes.

At least he’s still alive. To be honest, the thought of perhaps having to live for a few days with a dead body in the house creeps me out.

***

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.

In the Presence of Death…

When one is dealing with the dying or the very old, one ends up having some strange discussions. The most bizarre conversation came about on Tuesday afternoon. The hospice social worker was here to discuss various matters and to bring us current on the procedures hospice has already taken care of and to let us know what they will doing in the future.

To me, one of the greatest benefits of hospice is that no matter what happens or what you need, there is but a single phone call to make — to hospice. Hospice does the rest. The social worker reminded me of this and said to notify them when my father was gone, and they will call the designated mortuary and arrange for the body to be picked up.

RIPI knew hospice performed that service, of course, but this is where things got weird. “Since this is a private home and not an institution,” the social worker said, “according to the law, the mortuary has up to a week to collect the body.”

“A week?” I all but shrieked. It seemed impossible that a body could be allowed to remain in a private residence for so long. At the very least, it has to be insanitary. “But what do we do about . . . ?” Since my father was sitting right there, I didn’t want to put my concerns into words, but the woman understood I was referring to smells and decomposition.

“There shouldn’t be a problem for a week,” she said. “Just close his door. If you’re worried, you can always pack ice around the limbs. That will help.”

My first thought was relief that we have so many gel-packs stored away. My second thought was a bit of macabre humor: so my father is lying there, ice packs around his slowly decomposing body. And what would I do? Go to dance class, of course.

I truly doubt I’ll have to deal with a body in the house for a week. When my mother died, this same mortuary arrived within three hours, even though they are 121 miles away. But yes, if my father lay here dead for a week, I would continue with my dance classes.

It makes sense, of course. My presence would have no effect on him, he would have no need of my help, and there wouldn’t be much for me to do since another sister is in charge of funeral arrangements. But still, the thought of dancing with a dead body in the house does seem a bit coldhearted, and I’m sure people would be appalled.

And yet . . . when else should one dance? If dancing is life, and life is dancing, then it is in the presence of death that we need dance the most.

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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.

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