Fabulous Review of UNFINISHED

Getting a good review is always heartening for an author, but even more gratifying is when the reader/reviewer “gets” the story.

Unfinished was a hard book for me to write because it called up the horrific and inexplicable emotions I experienced during the first few months after the death of my life mate/soul mate, but knowing that others appreciate Unfinished makes the dredging of my grief worthwhile.

I hope this review by Sheila Deeth, author in her own right, will intrigue you enough that you’ll check out Unfinished.

Sheila Deeth‘s review of Unfinished:

Beautifully balanced blend of grief, romance and mystery

Many things are left unfinished when a life is cut short, even if the ending is long and slow, well-predicted, and sensibly prepared-for. Words are left unsaid, secrets left untold. And relationships tremble in the wind of passage. Platitudes offer neither comfort nor wisdom, and grief is a full-time job.

Pat Bertram’s Unfinished invites readers into that grief, while adding layers of mysteries, hints of betrayals, and conversations beautifully recorded of honest recognition. “One of the ironies of grief is that… when people should be looking out for you, you have to… make allowances for their discomfort,” says one character, while others tell Amanda she should pick herself up.

Unfinished is a beautiful combination of intriguing fiction and informative wisdom, leading readers along the path of grief, through byways of longing and guilt. Faith is respectfully recognized and recorded, but never a call for commitment—it’s what others believe, including Amanda’s husband David, but it’s not part of her life.

The story tells of David’s illness, the temptations of drugs to kill physical pain and the internet for mental and emotional hurts, and the aching need for human interaction. It’s a story of betrayals past and future, secret and open, and of a woman slowly coming to terms with life on her own. Mystery perfectly balances grief, the plot moves forward decisively even while Amanda digs into the past, and the dialog is convincing and wisely thought-provoking.

Good fiction with wise lessons, pleasing humor and wounded depths, Unfinished is a book you’ll keep to reread when it’s unfinished.

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

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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

***

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.

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.

***

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.

 

 

A Halloween Fable by Pat Bertram

Once upon a time,
Long ago and far away,
Lived the queen of the witches,
Griselda the Gray.
If you think all witches are tall and thin,
You are wrong about that.
Griselda the Gray was short
And extremely fat.
Like everyone else,
Griselda tried to be good.
Griselda never did anything bad
Like normal witches should.
This upset the other witches
Because they had to copy their queen.
They had to be nice
When they wanted to be mean.
So they all got together
And mixed up a brew.
They gave it to Griselda
When they were all through.
The brew was so rotten
Griselda had a fit.
She screamed and yelled
And hollered and bit;
She howled and cackled
And made such a noise
That the other witches were happy
And began to rejoice.
“Griselda is bad
And we are glad.
Griselda is ghastly
So now we can be nasty.
Oh, what a happy, horrible day!
Hurrah for our queen, Griselda the Gray!”

The moral of this story is that witches should
Never try to be very good.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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+

Fun with Fiction

Madame ZeeZee's NightmareYesterday and the day before, I did errands and chores so that I would have three danceless and carefree days for a writer’s retreat.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the mental discipline to work so continuously on a novel. Now that I’m in the swing of things, I make sure I write every day to keep up the discipline.

It’s also been a long time since I’ve had so much fun with fiction, but perhaps that’s because I am integrating my blogging style into my current novel, a story that takes place in the dance studio where I have classes. There are plenty of hard-boiled mysteries out there for lovers of sordid urban backgrounds and those who prefer graphic sex or violence or both, so I feel no need to indulge those tastes. Instead, my poor detective — based on me — is more of a thinker. Let’s hope she finds the truth in the end.

Excerpt from Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare:

I lay back on the pillow, arms behind my head, and thought about Margot and me and how, through a convoluted series of events, we ended up in the same place.

Because every action impinges on every other action, even down to the most minute particle or wave, the confluence of our lives would have had to begin billions of years ago, when the universe burst into being. Through untold eons the Everything developed increasingly complex life forms, and finally, it created a semblance of a human being. A million years later, our present species sprang forth, and many thousands of years after that, I was born in the United States of America. I — a bookish child with no talent or energy for physical activities — grew up, loved deeply, got married, became widowed, and traveled a thousand miles to Peach Valley to care for a dying old man.

One day, while waiting to meet a woman from my grief group for lunch, I noticed Madame ZeeZee’s studio, took a chance, and went inside. I never had a list of things I wanted to do before I die (does anyone have a list of things they want to do after they die?) because I want the miraculous: a love I never knew. And that’s what happened with dance.

Margot’s individual journey started nine years after mine when she was born in Lithuania with a love of dance. Her life of physical and mental discipline ended in murder and a six thousand mile trip into the unknown. And somehow, those two cosmic journeys—that of the bookish child and the ballerina—bisected at Madame ZeeZee’s studio.

Not a nightmare, but a marvel.

***

(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.

On Writing: Dredging Up Emotion

When I started writing novels, I wrote longhand because I didn’t have a typewriter or a computer. After I got a computer, I continued writing longhand. I believed that I had a better finger/mind connection writing by hand than I did typing and, in fact, many researchers have discovered the truth of that connection.

After a few months of being on the internet and having a computer, I became comfortable writing my blogs on the computer. It was easier not to have to retype my words, and luckily, I didn’t have any problem figuring out what to say or how to say it.

I have recently resumed writing novels, and I have no inclination to go back to longhand. For one thing, I now have a hard time holding a pen for any length of time without my fingers cramping, and for another, I can’t read my handwriting and type at the same time. If I can see the written page, I can’t see the words on the computer screen. If I can see the words on the computer screen, I can’t see the written page. Just one of the many ironies of dealing with a body that is slowly aging. (I’m grateful it’s aging slowly and that I haven’t yet reached the falling elevator stage of getting old.)

computerI have discovered a couple of interesting points about writing a book on a computer. It goes so much faster. I can type almost as fast as I can think of things to say, which sometimes is a glacial pace and other times like a running faucet. And I feel the emotions of my character. Perhaps I feel the emotions because they are mine. The main character is a writer named Pat. Coincidence? Maybe. Even I no longer know for sure. (I am getting confused which dance class is real — the one on my computer screen or the one in the studio. The other day in the studio, I talked about a classmate “Jackie” and everyone looked at me as if I were nuts. I could be. Jackie was the alias I gave to one of our classmates for the book.)

I still feel that there is a better connection with my mind when I write by hand, but I think it’s a mind connection rather than an emotional one, and it took me too deep. Typing on the computer may not deliver ponderous thoughts to the page, but it does help me dredge up emotions, which aren’t quite as deeply buried.

For example, as I wrote the following paragraphs, I could feel the anger building, and the anger stayed with me even after I closed my computer. I don’t know if that’s good for my peace of mind, but if the anger comes through to the reader, that’s great.

Excerpt:

I froze. I didn’t just go rigid, I also got chilled, as if my internal temperature had dropped about twenty degrees.

As one, Rose, Kim, Buffy, Rhett, Lena, and Allie turned to stare at me. If Madame ZeeZee noticed, she would have been pleased to see their acting as a single entity. Margot and Jackie followed the other women’s example and glanced my way, but the two ballerinas didn’t seem to know what was going on. And maybe they didn’t know. They hadn’t been at the lunch where we’d discussed ways of killing Grace.

Deep inside my arctic body, I found my voice. “Why are you looking at me? I’m not the one who came up with the insulin scenario.”

“But you’re the one killing us,” Rhett said.

I went from ice to fire in an instant. “What the hell is wrong with you people? Do you really think I’m so powerful that my thinking of writing a story about murder will kill you? If so, you’d better be damn good to me, or I’ll write you off next.”

Jackie laughed. “You tell them, Pat.”

“Grace’s death was your fault,” Lena said.

I whipped off the belly dance skirt I’d donned a few minutes before. “I can’t do this. I’m sorry Grace is gone, but I’m not the one who initiated some insane pissing contest that got her killed.” I grabbed my street shoes, and opened the door. “I’m going home to put all of you in my book. Goodbye.”

The door closed slowly, as if their silence were a physical presence so great it couldn’t be contained. Right before the door completely shut, Rose’s words drifted out. “Did ya’ll hear that? Did she really say ‘pissing contest’?”

Ah, so much fun!

***

(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.”)