Nothing Important to Say

It seems odd to me that during the four years I blogged every day, I seldom found myself with nothing to say, but now that I blog only when circumstances allow, I have a hard time finding anything to say.

I suppose when one is involved in the discipline of daily blogging, it’s not the words that count so much as the discipline, so I felt free to expound on any topic, no matter how trivial or inane, but now I feel I should have something important to say.

And I don’t.

I could, of course, write about the silly book I read today by a brand-name author, where every character used “proverbial” clichés:

Capture the provesmileyrbial brass ring
Out like the proverbial light
Bite the proverbial bullet
Kick the proverbial bucket
Shining like the proverbial beacon
Deer in the proverbial headlights.

If only one character had used the word “proverbial” to preface every cliché-ridden speech, then I could chalk it up to a character flaw. But when all the characters proverbialized, then it was obviously author laziness. Prefacing a cliché with ‘proverbial” has been used so often it has become a cliché in itself. Even worse, it says that the writer is too lazy to come up with something original, but since she coyly admits she’s using a cliché, it’s okay. But it’s not okay, even if you are a multi-million dollar author.

Or I could write (again) how strange it’s been without my car, which is still being prettified. (He says I almost waited to long to have the body work done, but how was I to know the thing would still be running after 43 years?) I’ve been without my car for so long, it will seem even stranger when I finally get it back. But there’s really nothing else to say about the matter. The car will be done when it’s done, and then I might find something to say. “Hooray,” if nothing else.

I could write about all my recent insights. But . . . um . . . um . . . I can’t think of any.

I certainly don’t want to write about my loneliness. I’ve looked forward to being by myself this weekend with nothing to do, but along with the wonderful aloneness came the not-so-wonderful loneliness. I don’t want to seem as if I am feeling sorry for myself (even if I am) because I only have things to be grateful for. I’m grateful I have a lovely place to stay, even if only for a few more days. I’m grateful I have more than enough to eat. I’m grateful I have dance classes and feet to dance with. I’m grateful I have no debilitating illnesses or painful ailments. I’m grateful I have friends who take pity on my unvehicled state and give me rides.

Most especially, if you’ve read this far, I’m grateful for your indulgence. Maybe tomorrow I’ll think of something important to say.

***

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.

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Twitter

Twitter BirdTwitter.com is a microblogging site where you post 140 characters at a time. I’ve written 100-word stories, 100,000-word novels, blog posts of various word counts, but anything that can be said in 140 characters or less almost doesn’t seem to be worth saying, so I’m having a hard time finding a home in the Twitosphere (or do I mean the Twitterverse?). Still, I’ve learned a few things about this twitterish world.

1. Tagging your tweets. You add tags to your tweets by using hash marks. For example, when I tweet this post, if I add #twitter to my tweet, people who are interested in finding out who is tweeting about Twitter can search for #twitter, and discover all recent posts with that hash mark. One of the most popular hashtags for writers is #amwriting.

2. The difference between # and @. # is how you index your posts so other people can find them via the search function. Don’t use the hashtag for your name because no one will be looking for you that way. Use @ with your Twitter user name. (For example, @patbertram.) People can then click on your name and be taken to your profile. If @ is at the beginning of the tweet, then only the person you mentioned will see it, so if I put @patbertram at the beginning of a tweet, no one would see it but me. If you want to just mention the person rather than leaving them a message, put the @ in the middle or at the end of the tweet. That way anyone can see the tweet.

3. Retweeting. If you see something interesting, retweet it. (If you don’t see the double arrows at the bottom of a tweet, hover your cursor over the the tweet and they should appear.) This helps interesting posts get more exposure, and introduces you to a wider audience so that you will eventually get retweets.

4. Respond to people who respond to you. Respond to interesting comments. Twitter is like a crowd of people all talking at once, so there are many different conversations going on at any one time.

5. Favorite-ing. Under each tweet is a star. If you click on the star, you “favorite” it. It’s a way of acknowledging that you read and liked something. It’s also a way of bookmarking items so that you can find them again. (You just go to your profile and click on “favorites.” It should be just off to the right of your profile picture, It’s a lot easier to find a tweet in that list rather than on your Twitter home page.)

6. Trending topics. On the right sidebar of your Twitter home page, there is a list of “trends.” These trends are topics that are currently popular (as in right-this-very-minute popular) and are compiled from the most retweeted tweets. Browse the trends or jump right in and contribute to the cause. It’s a great way of joining the crowd.

7. Lists. You can create lists of people you’d like to keep up with so they don’t get lost in the ever moving Twitter stream. To make a list, click on your photo in the upper right hand corner, click on “lists.” Look to the right hand side of the screen and click on “create a list.” There is also a link to click to learn more about lists.

8. Graphics. A friend who is an expert at online promo suggested that I use photos to illustrate posts on twitter. When I started with Twitter, photos weren’t shown in the feed, but now they are, which makes them very important. She also suggested doing graphics for my books for twitter and FB. A graphic is just a background image with a brief hook and a photo of the book cover, something compelling to catch the eye. Once you have made a couple such graphics, you can use them over and over again, posting them on alternate days, or however you’d like to use them. It’s fun to make the graphics. If you have a photo editing program like photoshop elements, you can make them using that program. Or you can do them online using a site like canva.com. You can find a couple of examples of such posters here: Pat Bertram – Timeline Photos | Facebook. Don’t forget to use # before keywords so others can find your graphic when they look for similar posts.

9. Pin. You can pin your graphics or any tweet to the top of your twitter profile. After you have posted your tweet, look for the three dots at the bottom and click on them, then click on “pin to your profile page.” That way, anyone who goes to your profile page will see it. 

10. Interact with people! If someone responds to your tweet, respond back. If you see something of interest, reply or retweet. Twitter is a like a world-wide cocktail party. Stroll around and listen in.

If you have any other suggestions, feel free to offer them!

Thank you. @patbertram

***

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.

Alone in a Stranger’s House

This is the fourth house I have stayed in since I left my father’s house, and the first one where I’ve been totally alone for any length of time. I’m tiptoeing around, feeling a bit guilty about borrowing another orangeroseperson’s luxury, especially since I don’t know the people all that well. (I know the woman from Hawaiian dance class, but I’d only just met her husband.) She assured me I am doing her a favor by being here since she doesn’t have to worry about stopping the newspaper, putting a hold on her mail, and risking the death of her plants, but still, I feel as if I’m encroaching. I suppose it’s this hesitancy to encroach that makes me an ideal housesitter — I’m not disrespectful of other people’s space and belongings.

They’ll be back at the end of next week, and when I mentioned the possibility of my leaving after the end of those ten days, she said, “Oh, no. You’re staying through Saturday, at least.” Her book club meets that day, and apparently, I will be the main attraction, the sacrificial lamb, or the guest of honor. Not sure which. With any luck, my car will be done by then, and I’ll be able to go to my storage unit and dig out my books. And if not, maybe I can find a ride. It will be nice to play author for a change.

People still tell me I need to make plans for my future, that I need to move on, but this is how I am moving on — embracing the uncertainty of life. Some people understand my reluctance to settle down, especially those who have also lost parents, spouses, soul mates, but others look at me with bewilderment, as if I am an alien species.  For now, though, I’m enjoying this catch-as-catch-can existence. It helps me appreciate the immediacy of life, concentrating on today, and not callalilylooking too far in the future. I have a comfortable place to spend this cloudy and humid night, and for several nights to come. After that, things will work out or they won’t, but either way, those future “things” whatever they might be, have nothing to do with today.

Today I had dance classes. Today I had lunch with a friend. Today, my friend and I explored my new neighborhood, peeking through wrought iron gates to see the secret community hidden within. (Lovely stone houses, so at odds with the usual bland stucco and tile architecture of this area.) Today I read a book. Today I ate well, maybe too well! Today I watched the birds at the bird feeder and the hummingbirds at the hummingbird feeder. Today I took photos of flowers that caught my eye. Today I have my computer set up, which always gives me a feeling that all is right with my world. Today I am blogging, and so I know all is right with my world, even if — especially if — I am alone in a stranger’s house.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter 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.

Death of a Blog Reader

I never got a chance to meet Mildred Gordon, but she became a dear friend.

About a year ago, I noticed that she was liking all my blog posts on my Facebook page. Didn’t know who she was or why she had liked my page. I didn’t know why she read my blog posts, but every day, I got a notice from FB that “Mildred Gordon” had liked my post. I didn’t think she ever left comments, but one day (I’m ashamed to admit that it took me a long time) I realized that the woman named “sumalama” who left comments on my blog was the same as the woman on Facebook who “liked” my posts.

geraniumsShe became one of my staunchest supporters, liked the idea of my embracing adventure, loved that I danced. She offered me a couch whenever I needed one.

To be honest, although I “knew” her, I didn’t know much about her, just what I gleaned from her comments. She once commented that someone had recommended she read my grief posts, and she was glad they did. And so our connection began.

Another time, she wrote: “Pat Bertram, you matter because when I read your blog posts I can forget about my problems and just get lost in your words. Thank you. Please keep writing!” Later, through other comments, I got an inkling of what those problems were: “Friends and family are getting me through metastasis bone cancer. Wish they weren’t so sad for me…I’ve lived a long and happy and adventurous life!”

“Dance for you is what Tai Chi is for me. Even though I can no longer do it, just thinking of the different forms calms me, relaxes me, brings me peace. Lying in my bed, I can imagine myself flowing through the forms, like a slow motion dance, and I am one with it.”

And I learned a bit about her adventures: “Pat, one step at a time. I have started over many times and that’s how I’ve always done it. And I’ve done it alone, with small children. I am not worried about you, now that you have the dance to feed your being.

The kids and I lived homeless in another country for 6 months, many years ago when they were 5, 4, and a newborn. It wasn’t easy. But we survived. And are the better for it. And now this new journey of mine, with cancer, has my friends worried/bothered for me like your friends are for you.

Let them worry, let them be bothered. It’s their choice. Me? I am truly excited for you and can hardly wait to see what your blog shares about the new life you will form!

Best of luck and have fun! Hugs, Millie

And then suddenly, the “like”s and comments stopped. Worried, I emailed her, using the email address she’d used for WordPress comments, but got no response. I didn’t really expect any — any time I’d contacted someone via such an email, I got no reply, as if perhaps I had stepped over a boundary I shouldn’t have.

Today I checked her Facebook profile, hoping to find an explanation. And I did.

Mildred died on May 20th. A celebration of her life was held on May 31st, while I was dancing on stage. Although I didn’t know about the service at the time, my dancing was a much better memorial to her than the tears that are now blurring my eyes.

I’m sorry I never got to meet ”sumalama.” (Sorry I never asked what that meant.) But I am so very glad we connected.

Thank you, Millie, for enriching my life. Best of luck and have fun! Hugs, Pat

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter 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.

Taking the Love/Hate Challenge

RAMI UNGAR THE WRITER has nominated me for a love/hate challenge. What I have to do is write ten things I love, ten things I hate, and then challenge ten other bloggers to do the same. I hate this sort of challenge, but love that someone nominated me. (See? Already I’m in the spirit!)

Broken heartThe truth is, there are not many things I love. Dancing of course. Having friends. Freedom. Being published. All the rest of the positive things in my life fall under the category of necessities or disciplines or values.

Although I like walking, it’s more of a necessity — I need to walk. It clears my head, comforts me, makes me feel connected to the world, and provides a means of getting from place to place when I am without a car.

I like blogging, but it’s a discipline as well as a necessity. I need to blog to connect with myself and my online world, but if I don’t adhere to the discipline of blogging every day or whenever I get a chance, I won’t. I’m basically indolent, (a nice way of saying lazy) and need to keep myself focused, otherwise I won’t do anything.

Other things I like, such as my computer, smartphone, and 43-year-old VW fall more under the category of added value than love. Those machines add value to my life, facilitating my connection to the world. (Hmmm. Do you see a pattern here? Walking makes me feel connected to the world. Blogging connects me to myself as well as the online world. And my various machines facilitate those connections.)

There are even fewer things I hate. The top of my hate list is injustice. I despise injustice of all kinds and don’t understand why people/things can’t be fair. I also hate feeling pressured or cornered. Left to my own devices, I am fair, kind, generous. But if I feel pressured, I get resentful and maybe even petty.

So, under the assumption that you too hate feeling pressured or cornered, I won’t list you by name, but I nominate you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, and you. What do you love? What do you hate?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter 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.

Tortoise Sitting

My computer has been in storage the past month. I’d been staying with friends, and I didn’t really have a place to set up my machine. Nor did I have enough quiet and alone time to do all the work I needed to do. So I just went with the flow of my friend’s life. Now I am tortoise sitting for another friend while she’s on vacation. Actually, I am housesitting, and Franklin goes with the house. He doesn’t need much care. I’m tortoisejust supposed to make sure he has plenty of water, kale, petunia petals, and some b-vitamin pellets, which seem to be the extent of his diet. [As an aside, what is a “housesit ting”? MSSpellcheck says housesitting is not a word and wanted me to change it to “housesit ting”. Huh?]

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening on the computer, catching up on some of the emails and housekeeping chores (or rather, computer-keeping chores) that have piled up in my absence, and it felt good. Like coming home. It was amazing how little I did yesterday, but the time flew. When I looked up from my computer, the sun had been long gone, and it was past time to retire for the night.

Other than having a couple of computerized weeks coming up (I am housesitting for one friend this week and then for another friend next week, so I’ll have alone time and a place for my computer) I have no plans. Well, a belly dance performance in December, but that’s a long way off.

I really can’t make plans even if I wanted to — I have no idea when my car will be done, though I have it on good authority they are working on it. The husband of the woman who recommended the body guy went to see what was going on (I think she felt guilty for recommending the fellow), and the husband saw them sanding the car. The body guy apologized to the husband — not to me, to him. Men!!! Still, it’s nice to know that at least a bit more has been done.

Although I didn’t have my computer during the past month, I did have a phone that connected to the internet, so I could continue my research into backpacking, but it’s good to have other things to do online now. The more I read about backpacking long distances, the more it seemed ho-hum. As if everyone in the world were planning some sort of epic walk. I suppose it’s possible they are — I seem to follow trends unwittingly. First writing, now talking about long-distance walking. Just goes to show I’m nowhere near as individual as I think I am. (The truth is, though I don’t like to admit it to myself, I am exceedingly normal, which is how I knew that whatever craziness I felt during my grief process was normal.)

I’m doing well. Despite my precarious-sounding situation, I’m content. Happy even. I hope you are, too.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter 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.

The Magic of Blogging by Email

I’ve been practicing posting by email to make it easier to blog when my only access to the internet will be my phone. It wasn’t as difficult to post by email as I thought it would be.

The first thing I needed to do was to get a special email address. To do this, go to your dashboard and click on “my blogs.” The easiest way to find “my blogs” is to go to your blog, hover your cursor over “my site” on the left navigation strip, then click on “WP Admin.” You should see “My blogs” on the left sidebar close to the top.

Click “enable email” for the blog you wish to post to via email. That will give you a special email address. I input the email address in my phone so I don’t have to ever think about it again, and now it’s ready whenever I need it.

To post by email, go to your email on your phone and open a new message. The recipient, of course, is that secret email address WordPress assigned to you. The subject line is the title of the blog. The body of the email is the blog itself. An attached photo will show up on the bottom of the email. Apparently, as of now, there isn’t a way to align the image via email. If you want to realign it — to add it to the top of the blog or to wrap text around it — you have to edit the post on your computer.

There are some really cool aspects of email blogging, for example, the shortcodes. [category a,b,c] will post categories. The categories must already be ones you use on your blog. The brackets are part of the shortcode, and there can be no space before the word “category” or after the last category you use. (In this case, the letter c.) You don’t even have to use the whole word, just the first few letters, but I haven’t yet tried out that tip.

For tags, use the shortcode [tags a,b,c]. Again, no space before the word “tags” and after the last tag. Be sure to separate tags with commas. New tags will be automatically generated; they don’t already need to be in use on your blog.

If you attach more than one photo, they will show up as a gallery. If you want each one posted individually, use the shortcode [nogallery].

These three shortcodes can be placed anywhere in the email and it won’t affect the text of your post.

Magic!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter 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.

Testing 4 5 6

(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.”)

***

Yesterday I tried out the post by email feature on WordPress but forgot to add tags and categories. so today I need to try to do that too. I’m disappointed that the photos appear at the end of the post rather than at the beginning or in line with text, but I’m pleased that I can post at all. The main problem is that the photo appeared after my signature line, so I’m experimenting with putting the signature line first. If it’s too annoying let me know and in future posts by email I’ll just leave it off or just not worry that the photo is tacked on as an afterthought.

I’m also trying to do this without wifi because obviously if I’m out in the middle of nowhere I’ll be lucky to have a signal of any kind and definitely no wifi.

I took my last walk in the neighborhood today, and then ended out in the desert. I’ll miss that easy access to the wilds, but there will be more wilds in the future. This is an interesting time in my life, that’s for sure.

Testing 1 2 3

I figure since my internet access might be a problem, I should learn how to blog by email. I read the tutorial but there is no way to find out if I learned anything unless I test myself. Okay let’s do it. Abracadabra! Post!

***

Posted via phone. Since this smartphone is probably more intelligent than me, blame any mistakes on the phone.

***

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.

Desert Procrastinations

I have about 12 hours of work I have to do this weekend, so like any well-disciplined person, I got up early, went right to work . . . and checked out Facebook and emails on my computer. Then, because apparently I hadn’t procrastinated enough, I spent a couple of hours resurrecting old email addresses. They hadn’t been used in so long, I had to go through a lot of rigmarole to prove I was human and that these near-defunct emails were mine. (Tell me honestly — can you remember the exact day you opened your email account? And if you have one that’s been inactive for a long time, can you remember the exact day you last used it? Well, gmail expected me to remember. Sheesh.)

Actually, a couple of the email addresses were not strictly mine — they were emails I set up for Jeff. (I don’t have any idea why I decided to keep them alive. But they are available if he ever decides to contact me.) A couple of other addresses were emails I had set up years ago when I was playing around with downloading music. In one case, I used the email a single time before it became flooded with so much spam, it became unusable. (It’s not often you can tell exactly where the spam originated, but since that was the only thing I had done with that email, it was obvious.)

Realizing this online activity wouldn’t get my work finished (or even started), I turned off the computer and went for a walk. A long, long walk. It felt good to stretch out. Felt good to visit the desert again. (Felt even better not doing my work!)

desert knolls

I had a few pangs of nostalgia thinking that in a couple of weeks this near-private patch of desert will no longer be mine. I’ve grown fond of the stark landscape, the tans and taupes,

the rare but brilliant spots of color.

poppy

Still, the thought of all the new places I might walk offset the wistfulness.

When I returned from my walk, I got right to work . . . on this blog.

I just can’t seem to force myself to get the 12-hour task done. The job is tedious and almost anything would be more fun. Watching water boil, for example, would be more fun. Or watching rocks race each other across the desert floor.

Maybe I’ll get up early tomorrow. Start working before I know what I’m doing.

Yep. That’s what I’ll do.

For sure.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter 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.

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