Fan Mail Brings Me Grief

Grief: The Great YearningI must be only author who grieves when she gets emails and comments from readers. For most authors, fan mail is a wonderful and affirming event. It is for me too, but the affirmation is usually accompanied by my tears because most often when readers write to tell me how much one of my books meant to them, they are referring to Grief: The Great Yearning.

It’s nice to know that people who are going through grief find comfort in my words, but oh, it breaks my heart to know that yet another person is dealing with the devastating loss, disbelieving shock, unfathomable pain of losing a spouse.

Those who haven’t lost their life mate, soul mate, partner, the person who makes life worth living, the person who connects them to the world, cannot comprehend the reality of the situation. In fact when people tell me they can’t imagine having to deal with such loss, I tell them not to even try. There is no way anyone can imagine the physical, mental, spiritual, emotional upheaval such a loss brings. And yet, the people who reach out to me in their grief know. As do I.

And so I weep.

The tears don’t really help anyone. We all have to find our own way through the horror, and yet, there they are, these prisms refracting my soul. Still, I do love hearing that my words mean something to people, that they brought a bit of comfort. It helps give meaning to those long years of pain.

If you are suffering a soul-numbing loss, maybe you, too would find comfort in my words. And I promise, despite my tears, I’m always glad to hear your story.

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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.

Shhh. I’ll Tell You a Secret

My father’s house is sold, and I have thirty days to get out. There is a fourteen day contingency removal, so for the most part, I’m not going to do anything for those two weeks except enjoy the calm before the chaos. The following two weeks will be hectic because I’ll have to try to get rid of what little furniture is left, find a storage unit and move my stuff into it. And, of course, look for a room to rent.

When I first found out about the sale, I had an adrenalized few moments when I realized how imminent the future is. (Though technically, the future for all of us is eternally imminent and comes relentlessy at the same pace — one minute at a time.)

But today? I’m not concerned at all.

Many years ago, I saw an episode of “Taxi,” a ridiculous and at times sadistic series staring Danny DeVito that I couldn’t see the point of. (To be honest, I can’t see the point of most television, so that’s nothing new. It’s why I never watch TV. Well, except for last night. Someone mentioned that “Dancing with the Stars” was on, and I wanted to see what the hoopla was about. Didn’t see the point of that show either. People dance and other people rate them. Ho hum.)

Anyway, in the episode of “Taxi” I watched, one of the drivers who had poor English rented a fabulous place. He thought he was paying rent for a year and about died of shock when he realized it was just for a month. So what happened? He and all his Taxi buddies made use of that house for the month, really lived it up. The idea of such an all-then-nothing gesture really captured the imaginations of both Jeff and me. We called the experience “taxi-ing it” and often talked about doing something totally out of character by spending our savings on some extravagant gesture — a lake house for the summer, perhaps, or a trip to Norway.

It was all talk.secret Neither of us ever had the courage or foolhardiness to do such a thing because we knew the truth. At the end of the month, we’d be broke, maybe even destitute. And besides, there was his ill health. All our savings went to pay our living expenses during his protracted dying.

But this last month here in this enormous, almost new house, I’ll have to opportunity to taxi it — enjoy the space, the quiet neighborhood, the fantastic view, the nearness to the desert and the dance studio with no regard for the future.

And when the month is over, well . . . Shhh. I’ll tell you a secret. I love not knowing what I will do. I love not caring. I love taking it a day at a time. I love believing that, one way or another, things will work out.

When I am ejected from this house, the world will be at my disposal. I’m looking forward to seeing what mischief I can get myself into. And oh, I will be so disappointed in myself if I don’t find more ways of taxi-ing it.

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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.

I Don’t Want To Do What People Want Me To Do

It’s amazing to me that no matter how much you do for people, there is always someone wanting more.

I’ve been dealing with a group of new authors, trying to ease their way into social networking, promoting them via my interview blog, teaching them how to blog and whatever else they need to do and yet that isn’t enough. They want me to coordinate a review exchange.

Nope. Not going to happen.

I tried to do an excerpt exchange with one of my Facebook groups, and it worked for a while, but what happened is what always happens. A few people end up posting excerpts for everyone, and the rest go along for the ridesmiley. And posting excerpts is easy. It’s not like having to spend a week or two slogging through a book and then trying to find something positive to say because you can’t say what you really want to: “This book stinks. All the perfume in the world won’t make it any less offensive.”

Unless a review exchange is done right, it comes across as exactly what it is — an exchange. Even if the review is honest, it is still quid pro quo, though considering how many books sailed to stardom on paid-for reviews, it’s a small payoff.

Even if all the authors did what they agreed to do and read the books and posted the reviews, I’m still not going to do coordinate the exchange. I’ve spent most of the past seven years promoting other authors because . . . well, because I could and because I had the time. But with my life about to change in ways I can’t yet guess, I simply cannot take on any more. And more importantly, I don’t want to do what people want me to do.

It seems as if so much of my life was about doing things I didn’t want to do, and I’m tired of it. I’ll still have to do plenty I don’t want to do because there is the small matter of needing to make a living. I’ve been coasting the past five years living with my father and taking care of him, and I might be able to coast a couple of more years, but then . . . well, I’m not going to think that far ahead. Either things will work out or they won’t, and I’m not going to waste my time wondering about something that may or may not happen. For all I know, I could end up selling a gazillion books, becoming Oprah Winfrey’s best friend, or going walkabout and with no need for money.

Meantime, I am doing what I can (within limits — the limits being no reviews and no coordinating review exchanges) to help other authors. If you wish me to post an excerpt from your book, you can find the submission directions here: Submitting your excerpt. I’ll be glad to post your excerpt. Just don’t ask me to review your book. You have no idea how jaded I really am, and I guarantee you would not like what I have to say.

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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.

Promoting LIGHT BRINGER

Light BringerWhen I mentioned to a friend that I promote my publisher and pretty much any author who asks me to, she asked why I didn’t promote myself.

To be honest, I thought I was promoting myself in a minimalist, non-spammy sort of way, writing blogs and keeping up with people on Facebook, but apparently, I’m not doing a very good job of promoting. My books are fading into obscurity, and this blog, too, is sliding down in the ranks.

Right before he died, Jeff told me that since I had written such good books, it was my responsibility to see that they sold. I’m glad I don’t have to admit how dismally I am doing, especially with Light Bringer. Light Bringer was published as a memorial to him on the first anniversary of his death. Although it had been written while he was still alive, it was the only novel I wrote that he didn’t get to read, so I’d like others to read it in his place.

The problem I have with promoting this book is that anything I could say to attract the right readers would also give away a major part of the plot. It begins ordinarily enough with strange lights in the sky, a way too precocious baby, NSA agents coming to the door of a man’s apartment, the man being rescued by an invisible owl-like creature and miraculously finding himself in the same town where a youngish woman is searching for the mystery surrounding her birth. (Those sort of things do happen to you every day, don’t they?)

It ends with the two protagonists, a bevy of antagonists, a ghost cat, the invisible owl man, and a whole slew of conspiracy theorists all clashing in a resounding riot of color in a secret laboratory far underground in Western Colorado. Whew! I didn’t give anything away, but I didn’t exactly get this into a one-sentence response to what Light Bringer is about.

If I tell people this is my magnum opus, they shy away, but the truth is, I spent my whole life doing research for this book, though of course, I didn’t know the research would culminate in a such a story. I just went where the research took me.

And worst of all, there is no true genre for this novel. The mention of crashed space ships and aliens make this seem like a science fiction book, but oddly, the book was never meant to be anything other than a way of putting together the puzzle of our origins, relying heavily on Sumerian cosmology and modern conspiracy myths.

In “Light Conquers All,” a guest post I did for Malcolm R. Campbell, author of Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire, The Sun Singer (which, with any luck will be republished during this millennium), and the proud owner of even more blogs than I have, I talked about the plot demanding “extensive information about mythology, conspiracies, UFOs, history, cosmologies, forgotten technologies, ancient monuments, and color. Especially color. Color is the thread connecting all the story elements, and all the colors have a special meaning. (You can find a brief listing of color meanings here: The Meaning of Color.)”

Try distilling that into a single (short!) sentence!

Click here to read an Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER

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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.

A Fighting Optimist

I was on the yearbook committee senior year in high school. I can still remember sitting in someone’s living room looking for quotes to put under our classmates’s photos. We were laughing and having a good time matching our friends with the appropriate saying until it came to my photo. A few hems and haws and a lot of silence. I was never quite sure what silence meant, but I just shrugged and picked my own quote: The only truly happy man is always a fighting optimist. (I was naïve about feminist ways at the time and took “man” to mean “humankind.” I still don’t make an issue of such words — I include myself in even if the male-oriented words were meant to include me out.) Some people called me negative back then (or rather pessimistic since “negative” as a buzzword didn’t show up until much later) but I knew the truth: I was a realist who fought to be optimistic.

Double RainbowIt’s odd that I have remembered the quote all these years when so much else has slipped into the muck at the bottom of my mind, but perhaps it’s because I often think of it. This is a world where optimism and positivism are almost religions, and if you don’t believe, or if you believe in truth no matter what form the truth takes more than in being positive at all costs, you’re called negative.

My copy of the yearbook is long gone. (I lent my high school yearbooks to the son of my mother’s best friend because he wanted to look up a girl he was infatuated with, and I never saw them again.) So when that quote popped into my head again today, I looked it up online to see where it came from. The quote I used is only half of it. The full quote is: The only truly happy man is always a fighting optimist. Optimism includes not only altruism, but also social responsibility, social courage and objectivity. — W. Beran Wolfe, author of How To Be Happy Though Human

Natural optimists might be happy, but so often they live in a fantasy world where the truth is fogged in under a pink cloud of hope, denial, and lack of objectivity. (I’m not referring to you, of course.)

It’s entirely possible I misinterpreted the quote — he seems to be saying that to be happy you need to be optimistic and fight for what is right, not just fight to be optimistic, but either way, the saying seems to hold true.

So what does this have to do with my present life? Not much, I suppose, except that I notice more moments of happiness and optimism — feeling uplifted even when there is no particular reason to feel uplifted. It’s as if somewhere inside of me, something is smiling.

Twice in my life I heard a voice deep inside of me speaking without my volition. The first time was a few minutes after I met Jeff, the man who was to share my life for thirty-four years. “But I don’t even like men with beady brown eyes and blond hair,” the voice wailed. I didn’t hear it again until a year before he died. At the time, we knew he was bad off, just not how bad. I’d made a point of hugging him every morning, thinking that each hug would be the last. One morning I inadvertently touched his ear, and he shoved me away. (I now know the cancer had crept up his left side from his kidney to his brain, and every bit of that quadrant was one huge mass of pain.) We were connected in some profound way that neither of us understood, and I thought that when he died, he’d pull me with him. But that day when he pushed me away, I heard the voice again. “You might be dying, but I have to live,” it said. And I knew then that he would be dying alone.

I wonder if that’s who is smiling inside me, whoever or whatever it is that spoke those two times.

I’m sitting here smiling at the whimsical thought. Who knows? It could be true. Maybe someday I’ll even meet her. Or be her.

Meantime, during the not so uplifting times, I will still fight to be an optimist.

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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.

I’ve Got Nothing to Say Except . . .

HELLO

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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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A New Crop of Writers

I’ve been helping a new crop of writers get a toehold in the social networking world, and many are already discouraged because they are not getting immediate results. Social networking is not like advertising. It’s like . . . hmmm, let me think . . . It’s like going to a movie theater and trying to sell your books to the people around you when all they want to do is watch the movie. Even worse, there are other writers in the theater trying to do the same thing you are, so the viewers are not just focused on the movie, they are purposely shutting out everything else. The challenge is to get their attention and make them more interested in you and your book than in the movie.

That’s what I never figured out — how to grab people’s attention online long enough for them to buy a book. Some people have bought my books, of course, and many of these people have become good friends, which has its own rewards. In fact, a couple of years ago when I realized that the vast majority of my almost 5000 Facebook connections had zero interest in me and only wanted to peddle their own books, I culled my list to a more manageable number. I still don’t know most of the people I’m “friends” with, but there is a growing number of people I do know, which makes Facebook seem so much friendlier. But my books are still slowly fading into obscurity.

The problem with using social media for book marketing is that the majority of the people I’m connected to are other authors. Authors do buy books, but mostly, they are trying to sell their own books. Readers buy books, of course, but generally they read the same authors they have always read (don’t get me started on James Patterson!) with a couple of new authors thrown in to season the pot.

Whenever a book goes major big time like 50 Shades of Gray, it goes big because non-readers buy it. Which means we can’t promote to other authors and we can’t promote readers, so we need to promote to non-readers, who, of course, will not pay attention because . . . they don’t read unless a book goes big.

That is the conundrum I have struggled with for seven years. The best thing, of course, would be if I were the first (or even second) to try something new. The first guy who promoted his books on FB sold a lot of books, but he made his fortune with his subsequent book on how to make a fortune selling books via Facebook.

It’s hard to explain all this to newly published authors. And I don’t really want to, anyway. One of the new crop might be able to figure out a fabulous new idea for promoting that I can steal!

Meantime, I’m doing interviews with these authors on my Pat Bertram Introduces . . . blog. Feel free to join the fun!

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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.

Pinning Interest in Pinterest

In a recent discussion about promotion for writers, someone asked what the benefit of Pinterest would be for authors.

I answered: I’m not a fan of Pinterest, so I can’t really tell you the benefits. I do know authors post all sorts of things related to their books, things they are interested in, quotes, whatever. The truth is, though, that anything you do on the internet helps get you noticed, which is a good thing. The secret is to do what is fun for you. Me, I prefer blogging, with a bit of Facebooking. I mostly use Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Linkedin to post blog links. I also used to be a major presence on a couple of now defunct social networking sites that I enjoyed.

Sherrie Hansen does a lot with Pinterest. Maybe she can help answer your question. Sherrie? Sherrie? Any thoughts about Pinterest?

I’ve known author Sherrie Hansen for several years now (online only so far), and she is someone I have grown to admire tremendously. By day, Sherrie operates the Blue Belle Inn B&B & Tea House and tries to be a good pastor’s wife. By night, she writes. I don’t know how she ever manages to do anything else, but she also keeps up with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and probably all the other networking sites, too. And she posts a perfect blog every month for the Second Wind Publishing blog. She uses many lovely photos, tells a bit about her life and how it intersects with her novels, and ends with an inspiring message. Can’t get much better than that! Question Marks and Other Things That Make You Think by Sherrie Hansen is her most recent post. Check it out.

Sherrie kindly posted the following response to my question:

I agree with Pat completely when she said, “Do what is fun for you.” I love Pinterest and think of it as a big file cabinet with color-coded folders for fun things – except that I don’t have to dig through a bunch of papers when I want to go back and find what I need.

One fun way to use Pinterest is to make a folder for each of your books and use them like a story board – pictures of people who look like your characters, links to the location where your story takes places, sites you’ve used for research, clothes of the period or style your characters would wear, basically whatever you want handy when you’re working on your book, and whatever gets you in the mood to write or helps you to visualize people and places important to the story. I’ve also tagged the style of font and photos I want to use on the cover.

On a personal note, I use Pinterest to pin things that I like – songs I want to learn so I can play them with my music group, ideas of things to make with my nieces and nephew, places I’ve traveled to or want to see one day when I’m rich, recipes to use in my tea house or at church events, garden and landscape ideas, and of course, my love of rainbows. If nobody ever sees them but me, that’s fine, because I like using it to organize the things that are important to me and to keep track of things I don’t want to forget about. If someone looks at my pin and thinks – I have a lot in common with this person, or hey, we like almost all the same things, or wow – this lady has great taste, and wants to give my books a try, that’s wonderful. And I have had that happen.

When you pin things, you can click a box to have them shared simultaneously on Twitter and or Facebook. The general rule for social media is to post 80% personal posts so that you are building relationships (which is what social media is all about), and no more than 20% business posts designed to promote yourself or your books. When it comes to sharing personal things or what’s going on in my head, or the bigger scope of my world, it’s a lot easier to quickly pin something than it is to stop and try to think of something clever to say about my day. Both are windows to your personality. Both are important… but it’s nice to have variety – and pictures for those of us who are visual learners and relaters.

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Thank you, Sherrie. You’ve even got me interested in playing around with my still mostly empty Pinterest site.

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Sherrie Hansen writes romance. Her novels, Shy Violet (coming soon), Blue Belle, Wild Rose, Thistle Down, Love Notes, Night & Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily & Merry Go Round are available from SecondWindPublishing.com.

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 times 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.

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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.

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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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