The Story of a Cover

Despite my hesitation about writing a murder mystery starring my dance class (killing friends is a good way to lose friends), I wanted a cover for the as yet unwritten book to help ease me into the project. Grace, the woman who’d volunteered to be the victim, agreed to be the cover girl.

On Tuesdays, ballet comes first, then Arabic. One Tuesday, we were just finished practicing our final combination of ballet steps—glissade, arabesque, pas de bourrrée, assemblé—when Grace arrived, already dressed in her green and beige silk belly dance skirt.

I waved at the older woman. “I brought my camera. I need a photo of your corpse. Will you play dead for me?”

Grace laughed. “Sure. Where do you want me? Over there by the barre?”

I glanced at the corner of the studio she indicated, and shrugged. “Sure. Anywhere is fine.”

I’d expected to have to take several shots to get the pose I wanted, but Grace sank to the wooden floor as gracefully as she did everything else, and lay in the ideal pose.

Right then I knew I could kill Grace. She was just too damn perfect.

And now, finally, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare,my sometimes amusing, always riveting novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class is available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

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Pat Bertram is the author of four other 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.

Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

I didn’t want to kill Grace—it was her idea. I’ve literarily massacred hundreds of thousands of people, so it shouldn’t have been difficult to do away with one petite older woman, but the truth is I couldn’t think of a single reason why I—or anyone—would want Grace Worthington dead. Though most of us humans frown on murder, we do grudgingly admit some folks are so villainous they need to be eliminated, but no one would consider Grace a villain. She is charming, kind, with a smile for everyone, and the ghost of her youthful beauty is still apparent on her lovely face.

Besides, killing a friend is a good way to lose that friend, and dance class would not be the same without Grace.

I was still trying to make up my mind about killing Grace when several of us dancing classmates met for lunch. After nibbling on salads and sandwiches, we rose and gathered our belongings. I’d hung my dance bag on the back of my chair, and I yanked the bag with more force than I intended. The bag swung out and narrowly missed hitting Buffy Cooper, a tanned, elegant blonde a couple of years older and a couple of inches shorter than me.

Buffy deadpanned, “I’m not the one who volunteered to be the murder victim.”

That cracked me up, and right then I decided I had to follow through with the project. I mean, really—how could I not use such a perfect line?

I turned to Grace. “How do you want me to do the deed?” Since she’d initiated this lethal game, I thought it only right that she got to choose the means of her demise. So much fairer than the way life works, wouldn’t you say? I mean, few among us get to choose our own end. Life, the greatest murderer of all time, chooses how we expire, whether we will it or not.

Grace laughed at my question and said she didn’t care how she died.

But I cared.

Death is often messy — and smelly — with blood and body wastes polluting the scene, and I did not feel like dealing with such realities, especially not at Madame ZeeZee’s Dance Academy.

So begins the story of Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, my sometimes amusing, always suspenseful novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class.

Now available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

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Pat Bertram is the author of four other 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.

“Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare” is Now Available!

Killing friends is a good way to lose friends, even if the murder is for play. 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. Then the murders begin. Tapped by the cops as the star suspect, author Pat sets out to discover the truth curtained behind the benign faces of her fellow dancers. Does one of them have a secret she would kill to protect? Or is the writer’s investigation a danse macabre with Pat herself as the bringer of death?

This sometimes amusing, always riveting novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class is now available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare 

***

Pat Bertram is the author of four other 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.

Wordlessly Hibernating

Almost every day, it seems, I get on the computer to write a blog and end up playing an hour or two of various solitaire games before shutting down without ever having written a word to post. Haven’t even written a word to add my work in progress, either. I seem to be in a sort of wordless hibernating mode. I can’t even say I’m waiting for anything, except for maybe something worth waiting for.

During all those long years of grief, I expected something astonishingly wonderful to happen because only something stupendous could balance out the horror and impossible pain of Jeff’s dying. I no longer expect that awesome thing to happen, though I suppose it’s still possible for something miraculously good to happen. I’ve had many great experiences during the past seven years, but the only things that “happened” all on their own were the not-so-wonderful things such as my father’s death, my having to leave another home, and destroying my elbow/wrist/fingers. The good things didn’t just happen; I had to push for them, such as learning to dance, taking a cross-country trip, finishing two of my WIPs. And now I seem to have run out of pushability.

I still do push myself, of course, but I don’t seem to be able to push myself beyond a few simple tasks. I manage to get to my dance classes. I exercise my hands to try to get them to work better. (The hands work for most important things, such as driving and typing and gripping a ballet barre, but the fingers tend to act more like claws than human fingers.) Because of the intense heat, I hadn’t been walking, but now it cools off a bit after the sun sets so I can walk a couple of miles before dark. That’s a long way from the hours I used to be able to ramble, but I’m hoping to build up my strength again. I still have intermittent dreams of an epic hike, but that epic hike has shrunk from something like walking across the country or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to maybe a week or so of back-packing. (Still an impossible dream at the moment because I can barely carry myself along, let alone a thirty-pound pack. And anyway, thoughts of an epic hike seem to surface when I want to run away from life, and I seem to be doing that just fine in my current hibernating state.)

It feels good to be out walking again, so I’m glad I can push at least that much — somehow I feel most myself when I am walking — and there is always something lovely to see, such as the owl tree I often stop to touch to connect in a hands-on way with the wonders of the world.

Hope you are doing well and surviving this intense summer.

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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.

Review: ‘Unfinished’ by Pat Bertram

The Sun Singer's Travels

Author Pat Bertram, who previously explored her own encounter with the loss of a loved one in Grief: The Great Yearning (2016), has brought her wisdom into the world of fiction in Unfinished (Stairway Press, June 27, 2017). The story will capture your heart and soul, while shining a spotlight on the fact that most people want those who grieve to get over it quickly because they make us uncomfortable.

Like many spouses, Amanda Ray defined herself as one half of a married team, leaving her without a sense of self when her husband David dies at 59 after a long illness. Her husband was a minister. Amanda’s role as the traditional minister’s wife  (hostess, assistant, secretary, and help meet) didn’t lend itself to separate goals or careers.  While she doesn’t know if she would cope with her loss differently if she’d had her own career to fall back on…

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Excerpt From UNFINISHED

Amanda put a hand over the hole in her chest and was surprised to discover that under her white cotton blouse, her body remained intact. “I miss you, David,” she murmured. “Dammit, I miss you.”

A sudden fury swept over her. “Why did you leave me?” she screamed. She ran back to his closet, grabbed a handful of clothes, and dumped them on the floor. A muffled thud caught her attention, but it took a moment for the truth to soak into her grief-fuddled mind. Something weighty had been stashed among the clothes. She scrabbled about in the pile of garments and pulled out a threadbare terrycloth robe that seemed inordinately heavy.

For a second, Amanda considered reburying the robe in the heap of clothing. David had always been a private person, but during his last year, he had become furtive, and he would not appreciate her ferreting out his secrets. “Well, David,” she said aloud. “If you didn’t want me rummaging around in your life, you shouldn’t have died.”

Still, a feeling of dread made her hesitate. Summoning the strength of her anger, she thrust a hand into the robe’s pocket. Her heart thudded when she felt the shape of the cold metal object. Gingerly, she pulled the piece out of the pocket and stared at it. It couldn’t be real, could it? But the weight told her the small revolver with the two-inch barrel was genuine.

Click here to buy Unfinishedhttps://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Pat-Bertram/dp/1941071651/

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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.

UNFINISHED is Now Finished and Available on Amazon

Amanda Ray thought she’d grow old with her pastor husband David, but death had other plans. During David’s long illness and his withdrawal from her, Amanda found solace in the virtual arms of Sam Priestly, a college professor she met at an online support group for cancer patient caregivers. Amanda thought that when their spouses were gone, she and Sam would find comfort in each other’s arms for real, but though David succumbed to the cancer that riddled his body, Sam’s wife, Vivian, survives. Vivian had been in the process of divorcing Sam when she fell ill, and after the diagnosis, Sam agreed to stay with her until the end. Since Sam plans to continue honoring his vow, Amanda feels doubly bereft, as if she is mourning two men.

Rocked by grief she could never have imagined, confused by her love for Sam and his desire for her to move near him, at odds with her only daughter, Amanda struggles to find a new focus for her suddenly unfinished life. As if that weren’t enough to contend with, while clearing out the parsonage for the next residents, Amanda discovers a gun among her devout husband’s belongings. Later, while following his wishes to burn his effects, she finds a photo of an unknown girl that resembles their daughter.

Having dedicated her life to David and his vocation, this evidence that her husband kept secrets from her devastates Amanda. If she doesn’t know who he was, how can she know who she is? Accompanied by grief and endless tears, Amanda sets out to discover answers to the many mysteries of her life: the truth of her husband, the enigmatic powers of love and loss, and the necessity of living in the face of death.

Does this story sound interesting to you? If so, you can now purchase the print version of UNFINISHED (published by Stairway Press) on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941071651/

Although the feelings of grief Amanda experiences are based on my emotional journey during my first two months of profound grief, the story itself is fiction. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to deal with not only the loss of one’s mate, but the loss of the idea of one’s mate. Well . . . yes, I guess I can imagine how it would feel, because I wrote the novel! I hope you will read UNFINISHED. It’s an important book because too few fiction writers portray the truth of new grief, and that lack leaves the newly bereft feeling isolated and as if they are the only ones dealing with grief’s craziness.

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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.

A Fresh Chance to Take the World by Storm

While going through the first throes of grief, I was astonished by how little authors knew about the enormity of grief and its impact. In one book, the new widow cried the first night, then woke up the next morning determined to put her grief behind her, and she never shed another tear. In a second book, the only concession to grief was a single sentence, “She went through all five stages of grief.” Yikes. How ignorant (or lazy) is that? Grief is not merely a brief spate of sorrow that is easily suppressed. It is a complicated process that involves — and completely disrupts — every part of you: your mind, body, soul, spirit, ego in an ever expanding spiral of “stages”.

Because of such authors, I decided to tell the truth of grief, and so I started blogging about what I was going through. I also considered writing a novel about a woman dealing the agony of grief, but I thought it would be too hard to portray in a positive light a woman who cried all the time. It is a caveat in the writing community that if your characters cry, your readers don’t, which could be why most books featuring a widow or widower take place three to five years after the loss.

Still, I wrote a novel about a new widow and her first two horrendous months, which will soon be published:

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.

During David’s long illness and withdrawal from life, Amanda found solace in the virtual arms of Sam Priestly, a college professor she met in an online support group for cancer caregivers. Amanda believed she and Sam would find comfort in each other’s arms for real after their spouse’s deaths, but miraculously, Sam’s wife survives the cancer that killed David. Rocked by unimaginable grief for her husband, confused by her love for Sam and his desire to continue their affair, and at odds with her only daughter, Amanda struggles to solve the many mysteries of her unfinished life: the truth of her husband’s secrets, the enigmatic power of love and loss, and the necessity of living despite the nearness of death.

The publisher (Stairway Press) says Unfinished is a fresh start for me to take the world by storm. Even better, my first readers think it’s a powerful story!

“Unfinished” is a novel of loss, love, and personal discovery. Told with realistic intensity, this story about surviving life while in the throes of soul-changing sorrow shows that grief never dies, but those left behind can learn to live again. —J.J. Dare, author of False Positive and False World

While finding your high school best friend has become a talented writer may not be a surprise, I can honestly say it has become a delight. I have now read all of Pat’s work to date and marvel at the honesty of emotion with which she writes. As a reader, I delight in Pat’s ability to develop characters, to portray our complexity as human beings. Pat’s characters in “Unfinished” challenge our beliefs with their ability to hold a dialectic, and just when you feel you know how this is going to lay down, more is revealed! And, as a therapist, I value this as I offer “Unfinished” to my grieving clients. Pat’s experience makes the reader uncomfortable at times giving us permission to embrace our grief “and let it take you where you need to go” eschewing the judgment of others about “not grieving right,” as we work our way forward [coming to see grief as a gift]. As well, it allows those not yet touched by grief to understand and support, not exhort closure, widening the book’s audience. Unfinished is an authentic gift. —Mary Strasser, MC, LPC, LISAC

So, look for Unfinished. Coming soon!!!

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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.

 

 

End of the Great Yearning?

My last upsurge of grief came exactly one month before the seventh anniversary of Jeff’s death. That upsurge was so severe, my grief felt raw, as if he’d recently died. I feared a terrible month leading to the anniversary, but there were only a few moments of sadness after that horrendous day. In the two and a half months since the anniversary, I haven’t experienced much emotion, either sad or glad. (Hence the sporadic blog posts.)

It’s as if the great yearning that gripped me for the past seven years took a sabbatical. There’s been no particular yearning to go home, no unbearable yearning to see Jeff once more, no yearning to know where he is or if he is. There’s been no yearning for adventure, no yearning for experiences to prove that I still exist, no yearning for meaning or knowledge or wisdom, no yearning for an end to the loneliness. There hasn’t even been any yearning to express myself. Just a barely swinging emotional pendulum and a quasi-quiet mind.

I thought this hiatus from yearning was due to my arm — not just the shock of the fall, the months of pain, and the horror of having a deformed arm (if you could see my arm, you probably wouldn’t notice the deformity, but what I see and feel is far from normal), but also the torpid backlash from the highly traumatic experience. For more than four months, I’d been mostly housebound and isolated, and I thought the restricted life helped me welcome aloneness. Recently, though, I read that in year eight of grief, people begin to feel a little tired of working so hard that they let go of the busyness, pull back, and go in their alone zone. Apparently what I thought was a stage of my physical healing was actually a stage in my grief healing, though I suppose it could be both — coming to terms with the physical trauma could have helped me come to terms with the residual loneliness of grief. (If this woman’s timeline holds true, next year I will be ready to question my old dreams and start new ones. These dreams are supposed to be magical because they will be from the new me.)

Whatever the reason for this equability, this lazy pendulum swing, this hiatus from yearning — whether it’s due to the destroyed arm or the grief timeline — it’s been . . . different. I’ve been indulging my indolence because . . . well, because . . . why not? Nothing pulls at me. Nothing pushes me. I’m sure some day adventure, responsibility, or need will call to me once more but for now, simply living is enough. After my long months of isolation, I’m gradually picking up my life where I left it when I fell — taking an occasional walk, going to dance classes now and then. Next week I will probably be back at all my dance classes (with a third ballet class thrown in for good measure) as well as continuing my own version of physical therapy.

(The doctor hasn’t yet prescribed therapy sessions for my destroyed arm/wrist/elbow/fingers because he said all the therapist would do is sit me in a corner and have me work my immobile wrist and fingers, and that I can do on my own. Next month, though, I will probably start more advanced therapy. I’m doing well on my own — I can now drive, type, open bottles and doors, make a fist, do curls and overhead presses with a five-pound dumbbell, hold on to a ballet barre, do the requisite hand movements for Hawaiian dances — but I still have a long way to go.)

Oddly, this “active passivity” (for lack of a better term to describe my current state of mind), hasn’t dimmed my appreciation for the small miracles of living. Yesterday I went to lunch with three other women, and in the middle of the meal, it awed me to think of all the life choices and coincidences that led us — a woman born in Taiwan, one born in Singapore, one in Los Angeles, and one in Denver — to that very place.

Soon there will be a couple of more miracles in my life (and yours!) — the publication of two new novels, the first new Pat Bertram books in five years. Next month look for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, a mystery involving my dance class, and Unfinished, a novel about a grieving woman. (I’ve read too many books where someone dies and no one goes through grief except for a brief bout of tears, or the author tosses in a single sentence about the character going through the five stages of grief, or the author completely skips the first horror of grief and picks up the story years later. I wanted to do tell the truth and show the strength that comes along with the constant tears of breath-stealing grief.)

For the moment, though, I have no real plans and no plans to get plans. I’ll just accept this (possibly temporary) lack of yearning the same way I accepted the great yearning that propelled me for so many years.

Wishing you blue skies and clear days until next time.

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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.

Blue on Blue

Blue on blue actually refers to the photo below, a toy VW bug on top of my VW regulation-size VW (you might have to click on the image to see the tiny car), but it can also refer to my current life. Though I don’t particularly like admitting it, I have been a bit blue lately. Healing is frustrating because it takes so darn long, but not healing is even more frustrating because . . . well because it’s frustrating. It’s hard not being able to do simple things that I used to be able to do with my hand/wrist/arm, and when I can do things, it’s not without pain. Some wrist mobility I can never get back because of the plate holding everything in place. At best, using the hand feels awkward, though I can drive and type, so that’s good

Then there is the whole financial thing, which I try not to think about because at the moment, I can do nothing about the situation. I have a new book coming out soon (Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare) and that should fix all my financial woes, right? Yeah, right. But, in a perfect world, it could happen.

And this thirty-day diet I am on that is supposed to give me energy and get rid of any inflammation seems to sap whatever energy I have. But there is just a week left, and although I hadn’t planned on deviating greatly from the diet (I do think staying away from wheat and sweeteners is a good idea, for example) I can’t help thinking of all the things I could make next week if I had the energy — made-from-scratch brownies, pierogies, bread, hamburger rolls (aka Bierocks or Runzas).

But there are other shades of blue besides the gloomy blues in my life such as the bright blue sky and the risible blue of smiles. Not much makes me smile right now, but there are some things. My current work in progress has some amusing moments that made me smile when I read it. Recently when I was out walking, I got caught in a hail storm (yep, hail in the desert!) and for some peculiar reason, despite the discomfort of being very cold and very wet, being out in that storm made me smile. A new dance I am learning makes me smile. (Actually, two new dances make me smile — an Arabian ballet from the Nutcracker and a Samoan dance to the tune of “We Know the Way” from Moana.)

And the blue toy VW made me smile. It’s one of those pull-back cars that speed along by itself, and that, too makes me smile.

So, blue on blue. Nowhere near as bad as it sounds.

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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.