And So It Begins . . .

The real estate agent was here today, taking photos of the house and putting a lock box on the door. She was kind to me, understanding that it’s different for me than for my siblings. For them, selling the house is just a task to be completed or ignored. For me, it’s . . . well, it’s the first step into a whole new anchorless life.

Having anchors isn’t always good because anchors keep us trapped. But anchors also keep us grounded, connected. And I will no longer have an anchor. First Jeff (my life mate/soul mate) died, then my father (not that I was deeply connected to my father, but I did come to look after him after Jeff died, which gave my life an anchor), and now his house is being sold. All I have left will be a storage unit full of stuff. (And friends. I do have a lot of those, both online and offline.)

It feShipels at time as if I’ve stepped off a curb into empty space, and I’m sure that feeling will be even stronger in the days to come.

No one, including me, thinks the house will be on the market long. It’s too nice, too almost-new with a fantastic view. And it’s in a wonderful, quiet, safe neighborhood. The thought of a quick sale is good because I won’t be inconvenienced for very long by visiting realtors and buyers. (Should be interesting. They want me out of the house when lookers come. “Just take a short walk,” they said.) But then, after the house is sold . . . (here again are those ubiquitous ellipses signifying nothing!)

Yesterday I felt as if I were being punished for coming here to look after my father. Today I’ve gained a bit of equilibrium, though the tears I couldn’t stop shedding yesterday are still close to the surface.

Ah, those pesky tears! They make me feel like such a baby, but I’ve come to understand that most often my tears aren’t a result of self-pity. They are more of a reaction to the incomprehensible. And unfortunately, I keep running into emotionally unfathomable and intellectually inconceivable situations. In other words — life.

Not only am I losing my anchor, I’m feeling rudderless. (Weird that I’m using all these nautical clichés — me, who’s never been on a boat in my life except for a ferry once eons ago, and an amphibious vehicle a few years back). I’ve mostly finished my packing. Except for furniture and what I need for daily living, the house is empty.

I’m living out of tubs. In this case, “tub” is not some sort of nautical term, but is literal. I have small tubs for my personal items so that I can quickly scoop them off the bathroom countertop and stash them out of sight. Same with my dishes and computer accessories.

And so it begins, another transitional stage in my life.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Wishing I Were Strong

It’s been a hard day today. I’m not exactly sure why things hit me wrong, but there it is.

The day actually started out fine. I finished making my jazz costume in time for tomorrow’s pre-pre dress rehearsal for an audition next week. (We’re auditioning for a performance at the end of the month. — A jazz dance.)

And then things went down from there. I got a call from the executor of my father’s estate. He’s signed with a real estate agent, and the house is going on the market. He was short with me, probably because this whole thing is as stressful for him as it is for me, and his shortness, more than the thought of actually putting the house on the market, upset me. I felt as if I had no control over any aspect of the coming events. Which, of course, I don’t.

For just a second I thought, “I don’t have to do this. I can go home.” Then the real panic set in when I realized I don’t have a home. I can’t go home to Jeff, can’t go anywhere because I have yet to find someplace to live.

Although I’ve tried to be strong about having my life turned upside down once more, the truth is . . . cripes, I don’t know what the truth is.

Maybe there is no truth to anything. Maybe we just do the best we can and then . . . and then, we do the best we can again. And again.

I’ll be okay tomorrow. And I’ll be okay when the house is sold — if worst comes to worst, I can grab a couch in a friend’s house or go to a motel. It’s just today I’m having problems with.

I wish I were as strong as people seem to think I am.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Now Interviewing Authors

I was talking to someone who writes childrens’ books. He has a publisher, but is on his own to find an artist. He said he hates working with artists, that they make him want to pull out his hair. I understand because I feel the same way about writers. (Except for you, of course!)

I have a couple ofearf blogs where I promote other authors because . . . To be honest, I forget why. Maybe because I thought by helping other authors, the karmic energy would help catapult my books out of obscurity, but it didn’t work that way. And now doing the author interviews has become a bad habit.

I’ve been posting a lot of such interviews lately, and oh, my. I have come to believe that authors don’t know how to read. Or maybe they have such an overweening sense of entitlement because of their “talent,” they think the directions don’t apply to them. Whatever the reason, too many of them don’t follow directions, give only half the required information (such as book title), leave off the questions and post answers that make no sense without the questions, and the most heinous sin of all — write boring responses.

I’d mostly been taking a break from this self-imposed task, so I thought I’d be able to handle the idiocies of it once again, but apparently not. Of course, it could be I’ve just gotten too crotchety to take lightly the idiocies of the world.

I like being nice, but not when being nice makes me feel . . . not nice.

Still, I do have the blogs, and I do have the time, so if you wish me to interview you, and if I haven’t scared you off, click here to find the directions for my Author Questionnaire.
Click here to find the directions for my Character Questionnaire.
Click here to Let me post your excerpt!
And please, please click here learn How To Do an Online Interview

I promise I won’t be crotchety. At least not much.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Four Years and Eleven Months of Grief

Today marks four years and eleven months since my life mate/soul mate died. Next month it will be five years. I haven’t been actively mourning the entire time he’s been gone so the title is misleading on that account, but the world changed forever when he left, catapulting me into a world of grief that will always be a part of me.

These lonely years seem unfathomable to me on so many levels.

Unfathomable that I have survived the horrendous pain and angst of grief that made it impossible to catch my breath at times.

Unfathomable that I’ve managed to live without him.

Unfathomable that I am still here.

Unfathomable that I still get up every morning.

Unfathomable that I have found much happiness, and unfathomable that I still am beset by sadness.

Unfathomable that I smile so easily and unfathomable that I am just as easily brought to tears.

Unfathomable that he’s been gone so long — it seems just a few months ago we made our final goodbyes.

Unfathomable that he was ever a part of my life — our life together seems like a faded dream.

Unfathomable that I will not be going home to him now that I no longer have to look after my father.

Unfathomable that the world continues to spin, the sun to shine, the moon to glow, the winds to blow.

Unfathomable all the nevers —  never see him again, never see his smile, never hear his voice, never cook another meal with him, never watch another movie with him, never discuss another book, never . . . never . . . never . . .

Unfathomable that I still yearn for him.

Unfathomable.

GTGYwp

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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 Kind of Screwtape Letter

One thing I love about the internet is that you meet people you’d probably never meet in real life. Either they are mired in a different profession, live halfway around the world, or are of a poles-apart generation.

Just like real life, online folk can break your heart or make your day. Rob M. Miller is one who has been very kind to me. He recently said (wrote):

There are lots of facets to you, no doubt, but of equal certainty, one of them bears the hallmark of a warrior. I like that — a lot. You’re the best.

Oh, I so needed to hear those words, especially from someone I admire, like Rob.

Rob is knowledgeable, witty, and generous to other writers. His infrequent comments to members of Suspense/Thriller group on Facebook are memorable and worth repeating. In fact, I’ve posted a couple of those comments here on this blog to make sure they didn’t get lost in the great maw of Facebook. (Is Talent More Important Than Passion andPersistence? and How many subplots in a novel areacceptable?)

When I posted a new rule to the group a few days ago telling the members they were not allowed to discourage other writers, Rob was the lone dissenter. Not that he thought it a bad rule, more that it was too specific, making new rules for other offenses probable and ultimately chaotic in the same way the tax code has become incomprehensible and unwieldy. To that end, he posted a kind of Screwtape Letter to break the rule without breaking the heart of it. (The Screwtape Letters is a satirical and spiritual novel written by C. S. Lewis.) Rob’s letter was just as satirical. And written off the cuff in a few minutes. Oh, my. To be so talented!

Besides wanting to break my rule, Rob wished to show (as he said) the use of figures of speech, and, in this case, the use of an extended figure(s). Personification, of course, was used by having an epistolary piece written by the Devil, but the overall figure was that of tapeinosis, which means to say something in the negative to infer a positive. More modern examples of this figure is when one might hear a person say something akin to: “That movie looks bad … can’t wait to see it,” or calling something “the bomb,” or describing something as “sic,” meaning it’s “cool.”

In other words, by writing a letter to discourage authors, Rob actually encouraged us. Even I have the urge to write!

Thank you, Rob, for letting me post your wonderful and witty piece.

A Kind of Screwtape Letter by Rob M. Miller

Haven’t written in awhile?

Didn’t know “a while” should be two words?

Then maybe you should quit.

After all, writers write. Everyone knows that!

Don’t like the process? Are you like that primadonna:

“I hate writing … but love having written.”

Then maybe you should quit.

Have poor english, but great story …

… spot-on English, but a lousy tale?

Do quit, quitquitquit.

Why face all those ugly hurdles:
• the impossible-to-write query that works
• the agent you’ll never land
• the house for which you will NOT get signed

Quit, quit, quit.

You’ve bills to pay, are already retired (and surely way, waaay too old), are caring for an ailing loved one, and gawd! there’s those kids to raise, have been told you’ve no talent—and they were right!—are better at doing this, or that, or the other thing, but not really writing.

Not at all.

And you already know that.

The many rejection letters have proven it.

Just quit.

The challenges never end: all that marketing, Facebooking, blogging, websiting, plugging, blurbing, and what-the-hell’s a tweet?

Just stop.

And do remember, even if you’re successful, even if you were to write the Great American Novel, like with Harper Lee, I’ll make sure your troubles never end, with exploitation, impossible schedules, horrible critics, IRS hassles, and crazed number-one-fans just waiting to hobble your ankles.

I’ve no stomach for writers. They’re human, yes. Some are ugly, some are fat, some have this disorder or that, some are indefatigably optimistic, while others are suicidal, there’s writers with talent, many with only a smidge, some want to publish, some do not care, but all are drawn to the page, compulsively or intermittently, but drawn all the same. They are dragon fighters, archers, brave men and women (even when they do not know it), courageously putting down what others are unable or unwilling to put down.

I hate them.

Do me a solid then and quit.

I might even give you a break now and then—just to show my thanks.

With both fiction and non, writers illuminate on the human condition, and I most certainly do not want that.

All my best,

Most affectionately from your left shoulder,

Scratch

***

SideshowAbout Rob M. Miller: With a love for reading and writing that started in his youth, Rob has traveled far to get to the place where he can now concentrate on breaking into the horror market.

Born and raised in the “micro-hood” of Portland, Oregon, he grew up as the oldest of three children, the son of a book-lover and a book-hater.

It was after two years of free-lance stringer work, and a number of publishing credits, that he tired of non-fiction and decided to use his love of the dark, personal terrors, and talent with words to do something more beneficial for his fellow man -– SCARE THE HELL OUT OF HIM.

Rob edited and contributed to Sideshow, a horror anthology.

Kindness and Generosity Trump Free Speech

People who don’t like the way I run my writers’ group on Facebook often cite “free speech” as a reason for leaving.

I suppose they have a point. The group has a very narrow niche — discussions about the craft of writing and the sharing of tips and techniques. Nothing else. All the crap that destroys the value of other writing groups, such as promotion and discourtesy, is simply not allowed. The offending posts are deleted, and often the violators are banned. Making matters worse (from my detractors’ point of view), I don’t keep many posts permanently. Too often, the discussions are repetitions of those that have already gone sheriffbefore, and how many times can you pay attention to the same people claiming the same bad writing techniques are acceptable? Once is too many, in my opinion. Still, I don’t police the comments for good information. (In fact, I seldom police comments, though sometimes someone will contact me to point out a nasty remark, and sometimes I stumble upon an inappropriate remark, such as one member trying to discourage another from writing.)

But it does make me wonder at times if I have the right to delete disrespectful comments and posts that have overstayed their welcome. Maybe it’s just me who finds them repetitive and offensive. But . . . (There’s always a but in my posts, isn’t there?)

Offline conversations have an expiration date. They only hang around as long as one person remembers what was said, and sometimes the conversations are so unmemorable no one remembers them an hour or two later. We don’t walk around like cartoon characters with permanent dialogue bubbles over our heads, making our words available for everyone to see ad nauseam. (Literally, to the point of nausea. Who could deal with all that vomitus?)

That’s all I try to do — keep the discussions fresh.

I’m not really a fan of free speech anyway, at least not the way most people use the term. The USA First Amendment gives us and the press the right to express our opinions without government interference, which is important. According to Cornell Law School, however, the Supreme Court recognizes that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. Also, the level of protection any speech receives depends on the forum in which it takes place.

So basically, freedom of speech is whatever the Supreme Court says it is. Pornography. Bullying. The right to fling insults. That’s what they protect at all costs. But say something against the government or mention God in certain venues, and wham. The gates of free speech close.

Despite what people seem to think, there is nothing in the constitution about all of us being able to say whatever we want whenever we want. The only concern here for me is that free speech in no way pertains to insignificant venues such as my group. We’re on our own. And in my world, kindness and generosity trump free speech anytime.

If you are concerned about comments you left here on this blog, don’t worry. Only spam is deleted. I’ve kept even the insulting comments, though my first impulse was to delete them. But here, I only have my own sensibilities to worry about. When it comes to a group, especially a long-standing online writers group, it’s more important to create a safe environment where incipient writers as well as professionals feel free to talk about their writing woes.

Oh, heck. Maybe that’s all rhetoric and I’m just a petty despot exerting whatever power I can.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Curiosity, the Passive Cousin of Passion

I hear a lot of talk about passion. Characters, of course, are supposed to be passionate. Apparently, passion is what makes a character compelling and memorable. Who can forget Scarlett O’Hara, with her overweening and narcissistic passion? Like her or hate her, people find it hard to look away. Her passions make her the center of attention for everyone, including herself. Well, everyone except for me. Her passion exhausts me.

We living characters are exhorted to be passionate also, to embrace life and follow our passions, which sounds like good advice for those with high levels of energy. I am too phlegmatic to be truly passionate, though I have my moments, particularly when unfairness comes into play. I despise unfairness. Yeah, I know — life is unfair, but why should it be? Is that a natural law of the universe? Thou shalt be unfair? But I digress. As you can tell by the title of this post, the topic is not unfairness or even passion, but curiosity.

Curiosity is every bit as important a motivator as passion when it comes to life and reading. I am not one for romance novels. The passion is not to my taste, and there isn’t much curiosity involved. You know the characters will get together if the story is a category romance. And you know they won’t get together if the story is not a category romance. Did Lara and Dr. Zhivago get together? Did Cathy and Heathcliff? Did Scarlett and Rhett? (As an aside, you and I would never use such spellings of names. Double tees for both major characters? How coincidental — and cutesy — can you get?)

I’ve always been motivated by curiosity, the passive cousin of passion. When it comes to reading, I want to know who did it, how they did it, why they did it. Curiosity has often kept me reading far into the night.

Desert pathsIt’s the same with life. During the long years of grief for my life mate/soul mate, it was curiosity that kept me going. (I describe him as my soul mate for lack of a better term. Despite the passion such a term might seem to invoke, we were not passionate people, not romantic, not even especially happy, but we were connected — for good and bad — on what seemed to be a cosmic level. Of course, for all I know, it could have been a folie à deux.)

I once wrote: I called for you when I was out walking in the desert today, but you didn’t answer. Well, of course you didn’t answer — you’re dead.

I kept walking, following the winding road wherever it took me. No view on the road was different from another. The road didn’t lead to any particular place. The point was just to go. To see. And so it is with my life right now. I have no real reason to do anything. There is no meaning in my life, no reason to live except for curiosity.

Since his death, I’ve often wondered what will happen to me. Where would life take me? Who would I turn out to be now that I am . . . just me? That same curiosity will continue to keep me going into whatever future there may be.

When I researched long-term walking, I came across mention of a woman who called herself the Peace Pilgrim. In her forties, the Peace Pilgrim responded to a spiritual awakening by getting rid of everything she owned, and setting out on foot to promote peace. She traveled for tens of thousands of miles with only the clothes on her back and a pen, toothbrush, comb, and map in her pockets.

I envy the belief, focus, and agenda that allowed her to travel so lightly. I’m not sure I am capable of the sort of belief it takes to travel with nothing but the clothes on my back. Don’t have an agenda, either, but as a friend told me, “I don’t think you need belief or agenda…seems to me you just need curiosity!”

Yep. Curiosity. Not passion, just curiosity. The need to see what is around the next bend. If I’m lucky and willing to take risks, the power of curiosity could lead me into a lot of adventure!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

“You’re Not a Writer”

I have a writer’s group on Facebook with a very narrow focus. I say right up front in the description: “This is a discussion group for the sole purpose of sharing writing tips and techniques so that we can improve our writing.” Nothing but discussions about the process of writing are allowed in the group — no promos, no links to blogs, no sharing regardless of how inspiring the shared photo/article might be, no pleas for “likes”, no discussions of how to self-publish or how to get published or how to sell books. Just writing.

bookAs people try to change the focus of the group to meet their own agendas, the list of “no”s gets longer to keep the basic intent, but there really aren’t rules. Just that single focus — sharing writing tips and techniques so we can improve our writing.

I really hate policing the group — deleting inappropriate posts and remarks. Actually, no I don’t. Since this is a group for writers, one would think they also know how to read — specifically, read the description of the group — so I do feel righteous about banning those who post promos or indulge in self-aggrandizement. Also, since this isn’t a typical online forum but my personal group, a group I’ve kept going for more than seven years, I don’t see any reason to retain discussions that have outlasted their use — for example, when someone asks a question related to their work or when the comments get personal or too repetitious. I don’t particularly like deleting these discussions, but I consider such culling good for the group — keeps it focused on what matters. Writing.

What I do hate, however, is when someone who has interesting ideas tries to subvert the group in ways that are too subtle for me to point out without my coming across as a termagant.

One such writer recently joined, and although the discussions he started were lively, his comments were geared toward his writing career. I deleted one discussion that talked about his achievements, agent, and publisher, more out of irony than anything else. He had posted a nasty comment about a promo that I hadn’t deleted fast enough to suit him (I have a life, folks! Well, dancing), and his discussion itself was a barely concealed promo.

He emailed me, demanding to know where his discussion went. I explained that this was a group to discuss writing, not the business side of publishing. I mentioned that many discussions were left up only a short time, and that in fact, I often deleted my own discussions in the interest of fairness. Things settled down for a while until I noticed an appalling response he left for someone else. Another member asked for help in finding the motivation he needed, and this fellow wrote: “If you can’t sit down and write, it’s because you’re not a writer.” Oh, my. That sure got my dander up.

So I posted a new rule to the group:

I’m adding a new rule, which should have been able to have gone unstated: any member who discourages or tries to discourage another member from writing will be removed. This is a group for all writers, from the wildly prolific to those who struggle for words, from professionals to those who are still dreaming of writing.

He commented: “That’s one more rule than I can keep up with.” His parting remark to me was that my group was like “free speech day in Red China.”

I responded: In the world out there, people may be free to say anything they want, but in here, we are kind, even if it kills us. And if it does kill us, well, there are thousands of writers here who could write a book using kindness as a weapon.

I just checked the group membership list. He’s removed himself from the group. Can you tell I’m relieved?

It’s funny that I have such a strict policy about being kind to other writers because I’ve lost respect for writers as a group. It was different for me when books seemed to be an organic thing that just appeared out of nowhere, but this whole “author as entrepreneur” movement has destroyed that illusion. I get to where the sight of book promos turns my stomach. Making matters worse is the issue of the poor editing I so often encounter regardless of who publishes the books, authors or major publishers.

And yet, and yet . . .

The process of writing is available to all, regardless of what I or anyone else thinks. No one has the right to discourage someone from writing. Besides, by keeping the focus of the group tightly on the craft of writing, I am doing what I can to improve the quality of writing in today’s books.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

The Current Year Will Bring Me Much Happiness

I went to Sacramento for a couple of days to set up my books at a special-ed teacher’s conference. When I opened my suitcase to unpack, I found a little surprise — a note from the TSA telling me they had searched my checked bag. (They also had searched my carry-on bag. Apparently, books are so dense, they show up as fog on the screen.) This was the first time I’d checked a bag — I prefer to travel light, but the suitcase was mostly filled with books, and I knew I’d never be able to lift it up to fit in the overhead bin — so I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily, I didn’t lock the bag. So, no harm done.

We had Chinese food while I was there, and since my friend doesn’t eat sweets, I ended up with both fortune cookies. The first one I opened said, “The current year will bring you much happiness.” That pleased me until it occurred to me that perhaps that particular fortune was meant for my friend. So I opened the second cookie. It said, “The current year will bring you much happiness.” Apparently, this is going to be a good year!

I sold a few books in Sacramento, which was nice. Visited with the friend who had invited me to share her table, which was nicer.

Already my fortune is coming true!

selling books

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Fishing for Life in Sacramento

I’m going to turn off my computer for the next forty-eight hours and take myself on a fishing trip. Not to fish for fish, of course — such a hobby is only peaceful for the one fishing; the poor fish are scared, hurt, and fighting for their life — but to fish for life. See what happens when I am disconnected from my usual online pursuits. (The last time I took time away from blogging, I was spending all my time with computer tech guy trying to fix a program that hogged my CPUs, so it wasn’t much of a disconnection from my computer.)

I’m planning on selling my books at a conference in Sacramento with an author friend. I’ve known her so long, it’s strange to think I’ve only visited with her once before. (We met online through our mutual publisher.)  Should be fun, just taking off for a couple of days. Seeing what I can see. Feeling what I can feel.

If you want to contact me, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days. Or whenever.

fishes

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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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