I attended a book club meeting yesterday evening. The women had read Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, and they invited me to give a presentation. “Presentation” sounds grandiose when in fact the only thing I present is me. My book club presentations are no more than sitting around chatting with the members. It’s always pleasant (and rare!) for me to get a chance to talk about myself and my books, and I had a great time.
It wasn’t until this morning that I realized how often I mentioned Jeff and grief, and for just a moment I felt bad about that. Not that I was maudlin last night, but it’s hard for me to talk about my life and my blog and especially my books without referring to either of those influences. Two of my books (Grief: The Great Yearning and Unfinished) are specifically about grief, and Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare delves more into how the women in Madame ZeeZee’s dance class feel about the murder than most mysteries do. (It’s hard for me to let even fictional deaths go unhonered. Death is such a life-changing event for all concerned, and too often in fiction death becomes an almost casual — and causal — plot point.
Still, I think I presented myself in a pleasant manner. There were only a couple of times I fumbled for words. (Note to self: next time you are asked to speak about your books, memorize the quote that inspired you to write A Spark of Heavenly Fire!)
The most disheartening moment was meeting a woman who hiked with a local group. (Although I know many of the people in that group and had often been invited to hike with them, I have dance class the day they hike and never managed to get to a single one of their outings). Meeting the woman wasn’t disheartening, of course, since she was quite nice. It’s that she destroyed an ankle on one of the hikes and will never be able to hike again, though she does seem to be able to walk okay. (I think it was this very same group where several years ago a man died on the trail.)
I have to admit, her predicament gave me pause. What if I fall out in the wilderness while on a hike? Being with a group does not prevent such a mishap, nor does it make it easier to extract the injured hiker. But I cannot let fear keep me from my mission. Once fear takes hold, it becomes easier to give in to other fears and harder to do anything that involves the slightest bit of risk, which would be paralyzing since simply living (and even living simply) carries an element of risk.
And anyway, of the three major injuries in my life, two were when I was with others, and one — my arm mishap — happened in the city within fifty feet of hundreds of peoples, not one of whom heard me scream.
In light of this hiker’s situation, the women seemed appalled when they found out about my plans for a solo adventure. Not that I blame them considering my own reaction, but I said “Who is there to go with me?” They all looked away because there is no response to that.
I better stop thinking about this experience. The more I reconsider, the more of a downer it seems for that poor book club. I can only hope my bright smile offset some of the unpleasant truths about my life that I foisted on them.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.