The Nature of Dilemma

I walked out of dance class yesterday. I can’t even remember the last time I walked out of anything in anger. Now that I think about it, though, I wasn’t really angry. Just fed up.

I’ve mentioned before that I have problems with one of the women — a total narcissist. I get tired of the almost constant sound of her voice and the way she makes everything about her, but more than that, I get tired of how she treats me.

And yesterday I’d had enough.

It’s my own fault, really. Sometimes we as writers have the power to make things happen. When I was writing A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I always saw a silver Toyota Tacoma in the grocery store parking lot. I used the vehicle for the book, and oddly, after the truck was stolen in the story, I never saw that Tacoma again. Made me wonder if somehow I managed to get it stolen in real life.

Then, when I was writing Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, I didn’t want to use her real car — a PT Cruiser — since it could identify her, so I changed her vehicle to a Kia. A couple of days after I gave her the pseudonymous car, she drove to the studio in her new Kia.

Such things are common occurrences for me, but never before have I conjured up a person.

Those of you who read Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare are familiar with a character named Deb. This character started out being based on the idiosyncrasies of a couple of women in class, but I skewed the character far from those women to fit the needs of the story. This skewed character seemed to see herself in competition with the narrator (whose name, coincidentally, is Pat), and this competition, one way though it might have been, fueled the story.

When I was able to return to class after my various surgeries, lo and behold, there was Deb. Her name and physical description are not the same as my fictional Deb, but the rest of it is pretty darn close, perceived competition and all.

Did I conjure her? I doubt it, but still, whether her emergence is my fault or not, this woman is in my life, or rather, in my life as long as I continue to take dance classes. It’s only two months until my trip, which will give me a break from all that has been bedeviling me, so I’ve been trying to ignore the woman, stay as far away from her as possible, and to hold my tongue to keep the peace, but yesterday I simply did not want to have to deal with her anymore.

As I was going out the door after the incident that fueled my need to leave, she continued with her unwanted comments. I just wish narcissists would understand that not everything is about them, that other people have their own lives and needs separate from theirs. But then, if they understood that, they wouldn’t be narcissists.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to rewrite the story to make Deb nicer and less of a narcissist, and it’s too late to make her vanish since her fate was already written. (And anyway, when I write things on purpose hoping they will happen, they never do.)

So I have the dilemma of getting her out of my life and missing out on the good parts of dance class or keeping the status quo.

Not a fun dilemma. But isn’t that the very nature of dilemma? If the choice were easy, it wouldn’t be a dilemma.

For now, I’ll continue going to class. Maybe something will happen to tip the scale one way or another.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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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Having Fun Would be Fun

Lately, I seem to have problems getting along with people. It seems that I’ve gone from attracting people to actually repelling them. Or it could be me needing to get away from life in the slow lane and moving into an even slower lane.

I still have a couple of months before I take off on my Pacific Northwest trip to see my sisters. I’ll be camping along the way — and hiking — so I should have plenty of time to deal with no one but me. Until then? I don’t know. Bite my tongue, I guess.

Luckily, I will be able to get away for a while this weekend. It’s not much of a getaway, actually — just a concert, shopping, and gambling. (Big gambler that I am, I might even spend five whole dollars!) But it is a change. I’ll miss my faux backpacking trips, but it’s probably a good idea to give my body a rest.

One thing I’m hoping from this change of pace is a mental reset. When I came back from my cross-country trip, I’d planned to finish all my works in progress. I did finish two, but the third one sits moribund. In my defense, after I finished the first two books, I fell and pulverized my wrist, destroyed my elbow, and broke my arm in dozens of places. The resulting surgeries, drugs, and continuing recuperation have taken a toll on my creativity.

Despite what I wrote yesterday about still being a writer whether I finish that last work in progress or not, I really would like to finish it. It would be good not to have it in the back of my mind (not that it’s much of an inconvenience, because if it were truly nagging at me, I’d be writing it).

Unfortunately, when it’s done, I’ll have to decide what to do with it, which could be a large part of my motivation for not writing. I’d like to find a publisher who would actually help me promote, but that seems to be a dying breed. And to me, just posting a book on Amazon is not my idea of being published. (Besides, I truly do not like how much control they have of the book market.) Nowadays, though, there is no way around dealing with them unless I register the book with the copyright office and then just give it away as a download on my website.

But first, I have to finish writing the book, and to do that, I have to get my creativity switched on.

It seems like a lot to ask from one quick weekend getaway — reset my life so I can a) stop repelling people: b) get back into the discipline of writing; and c) find the sweet spot of creativity.

But even if all that doesn’t happen, just having fun would be fun.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Still a Writer

My publisher sent me a message a while back asking that I continue to write. He said, “You’re a wonderful writer and you do no service to yourself, Literature or anyone by saying you’re not going to write.” I did write after that message — long after. I finished two of my started books — Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinished — but I still have one decade-old story that’s languishing. Someday I hope to finish it. Someday I WILL finish it.

I had added “writing” to the list of daily resolutions I’m trying to get a head start on, then I took it off.

Anyone who writes is, of course, a writer, though it used to be that “real writers” were chosen by faceless editors working for megacorporations, but now there are many different roads to publication.

It used to be that money made a writer. If you earned your living by writing, you were a writer. Sometimes it was acclaim by the self-appointed literati that made a writer. And sometimes it was fame that made a writer. But mostly, it was sales. Money.

It still is sales that make a writer . . . to a certain extent. I know many so-called writers who toss out a book they wrote in a month with little editing, and people buy the books for some unfathomable reason. (Unfathomable to me, anyway.) I know other writers — excellent writers who actually have something to say, who work at their craft, and who write the best book possible no matter how long it takes — who have few sales.

So what makes a writer? Since writing is basically a form of communication, perhaps readers make a writer. And I have readers galore — on this blog, anyway. Some of my posts have had more than 10,000 readers. (But, keeping things realistic, some of my best posts had less than 10 views.) Maybe it’s the ability to touch people’s lives through words that make a writer, and that I have done by being willing to open up and tell the truth about my life.

And if telling the truth about one’s life makes you a writer, then simply living until hit by the urge to put that life into words, is also writing.

What it comes down to, then, is I do not need to resolve to write. Whether I write or not in any given day, I am still a writer.

 

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Una Tiers Interviews Madame ZeeZee

Interview by Una Tiers, author of LETTUCE READ WILLS, DOROTHY DAISY, NOT SAFE FOR THE BANK(ER), JUDGE vs NUTS, and DIE JUDGE DIE, available at http://amzn.to/1cOxMz6

I want to introduce you to my fellow writer, Pat Bertram. She has authored several books and is a particularly generous person when it comes to helping authors. Today I’m interviewing one of her most recent characters, from her book, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare.

Welcome, Madame ZeeZee, and thank you for taking time to sit down with us. For those who aren’t familiar with you, you run a successful dance studio where there was a recent murder of one of your students. Since that time, inconsistent stories about you have surfaced. I’m certain you would like to set the record straight.

Inconsistent stories about me? I never heard any. Too busy with my studio, I guess.

We notice that you don’t advertise for new students. How do people find you?

At the beginning, it was word of mouth, but after the murder and all talk on Facebook and Twitter and the local newspaper, I got a lot of new people. Most left after a few classes. People today have no discipline. They think they can come to class and start dancing with the group without even learning the steps.

Madame, rumors are that the dance studio is owned by a reclusive retired movie star who values her privacy. Please give us a hint of who it is.

Retired movie star? No. Retired professional dancer? Yes. You want a hint of who owns the studio? It’s me. And I’m not reclusive. I just like being quiet when I go home after work.

While you’ve always denied being related to Shirley Maclaine, are you sticking to that story?

Of course I’m sticking to that story. It’s the truth. I’ve danced with Shirley, but I’ve danced with a lot of other people, too, like June Allyson and Dick Van Dyke.

You rarely dance with your classes. Do you practice alone or take classes elsewhere?

My dream is to go back to Hollywood and take classes when I retire from my studio, but it’s too long a commute from Peach Valley. I do dance with my classes, especially the more advanced ones. We perform at luaus in the summer and on various other occasions, so if you know anyone who’d like to hire us, let me know.

We understand you’ve been married several times, would you tell us the number or if it is indeed over twelve?

What? You must have me mixed up with another Madame ZeeZee. I’ve only been married twice.

Would you ever relocate for love?

No. I’m happily married. And even if I weren’t, I wouldn’t relocate for love. I’m too independent, I guess. Besides, my house is exactly the way I like it, and I intend to stay there until the end.

How many countries have you lived in as an adult?

As an adult? One. Maybe two depending on how you define “lived in.”

In the book, Pat seemed to blame herself for the deaths of your dancers. Do you blame her, too?

Pat thinks too much. She needs to learn to just let things go. If I blamed her, I’d have to blame myself and all the rest of us who talked about killing Grace, but it wasn’t any of our fault. Well, except for the murderer. She was totally at fault.

If you could choose one author, living or dead, to read about your story, who would it be?

Pat Bertram, of course, but she wouldn’t need to read about my story because she wrote it.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes. Never stop dancing.

Thank you, Madame Zee Zee.

And thank you all for visiting with Madame ZeeZee and Una Tiers. Be sure to check out Interview with Fiona Gavelle, a Character in “Judge vs Nuts” by Una Tiers.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Saunters With a Backpack

Part of me actually seems to think I am backpacking in the desert on the weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), though what I am really doing is sauntering with a backpack and then going back to my room and collapsing. Makes me wonder: if I am fulfilling some masochistic need to wander carrying an extra twenty-five pounds, will I still want to go on a wilderness trek by myself when I take my trip to Washington state this May? I mean, if I’ve already done it, what’s the point, right?

And yet, I’ve already walked a hundred thousand miles in my life, and I still like walking, so I imagine it’s just a matter of continuing to get used to the backpack. And besides, all it takes is one little thing to get me all excited about adventuring again. (Adventuring beyond “my” desert, that is.)

And I am excited. Today I received the loveliest gift — a travel journal, but like no travel journal I have ever seen. Some of the pages are lined, of course, but some pages are blank, some have a pretty border, some are a brown kraft paper (is that redundant?), some are gridded like graph paper, and intermingled among all these different pages are glassine envelopes and storage pockets.

I tend not to use fancy books with empty pages because I like the promise the blank pages seem to make, and if I do decide to use such a book, I will write a few things then get bored with it, as with the diaries I used to get occasionally as a little girl. In fact, my travel journal for my cross country trip ended up being more of a ledger to keep track of mileage and expenses than a journal. Not a fun memento, but a valuable one for keeping track of dates repairs and maintenance were done on the car. (In my favor, I did keep up my blog, so it’s not as if all those adventures when undocumented.)

But this travel journal feel different. It seems to urge me toward adventure. And oh, what fun I will have trying to fill all the different kinds of pages! If nothing else, finding joys to fill the journal will force me to look at things in a different way. And if by chance I don’t fill the book on this spring journey, I will simply have to plan more adventures.

It will give “work in progress” a different meaning. Instead of sitting at a computer trying to finish my novel, I will have to go out and see what I can discover to add to my travel journal.

Sounds like fun.

Meantime, I have my saunters with a backpack to keep me busy

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Review: ‘Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare’

Great review from Malcolm R. Campbell, author, blogger, and reviewer extraordinaire.

Malcolm's Round Table

If you’re taking a dance class and its members find out you’re a writer and ask you to write a murder mystery about the class, what will you do? I happen to know author Pat Bertram has been taking a dance class or two or three and that her friends thought such a novel would be a real hoot.

That said, I’m surprised that Pat’s publisher didn’t put a disclaimer at the beginning of the novel that claimed “No dance class members were killed during the writing of this book.” But, Pat and her publisher Indigo Sea Press threw caution to the winds, so one wonders where the fiction begins and the truth ends–and vice versa.

The result is a very readable hoot.

When the students at a small town’s studio class find out that one of them is an author, they think it would be fun for her to…

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Unfinished

My latest novel, Unfinished, is the story of a woman who discovers that her deceased husband kept secrets from her. But she has secrets — and unfinished business — of her own. A novel for those who love drama, buried secrets, stories that tell the truth about grief, and women who find themselves when they find themselves alone.

Excerpt:

Amanda still couldn’t bear to get rid of the rest of David’s clothes, but she needed to do something to keep from dissolving into tears once more. She’d cried enough to last her a lifetime, yet tears continued to damn up, ready to spill when she let her guard down.

On the shelf above the clothes rack in his closet, Amanda found a stack of shoeboxes. David won’t need his shoes. I can get rid of them.

Inside one of the boxes, Amanda found a small doll with mismatched arms and legs and a sneer painted on the muslin face—her one attempt at making a doll for the annual Christmas Bazaar. She’d thrown it away, embarrassed by her failure, but apparently David had dug it out of the trash and kept it all these years.

Tears stung Amanda’s eyes. Oh, David, how can you be gone? You were such an appreciator—you appreciated everyone and every good they did. The world is smaller without you in it.

Holding her breath, wondering what else David had kept, Amanda sifted through the box. A few pennies. A flyer for a book sale she’d held at his first church. A couple of indeterminate designs she vaguely remembered doodling on a phone pad. A stack of notes in her own handwriting. “I’m at the Woman’s Club dinner tonight, David. There’s stroganoff and a salad in the refrigerator for you and Thalia. Don’t forget to heat the stroganoff.” “Taking Thalia to the doctor. Just a small cut, but she might need a stitch or two. Back soon.”

All her notes were the same. Stark messages with no endearments, no words of love. Amanda wished she’d told David more often how much he meant to her. They’d never been a romantic couple, and David had been uncomfortable with professions of love, but still, she should have told her husband frequently that she loved him. And now she’d never have the chance. Too damn much left unfinished.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Golden Day

Yesterday seemed a particularly bright and golden day. (I was going to say, “compared to the rest of the country,” but that’s not fair — it was golden in its own right.) A long summer of excruciatingly hot days (way over 100 degrees) does have a bright side — winters that aren’t as bitterly cold as cooler climes. Although we’ve gone through a cold spell here in the desert, yesterday was warm and sunny and perfect for my two short walks.

Normally, I would have walked more, of course, perhaps even ventured into the desert, but I’m still feeling the effects of my New Year’s flu. (Though to be honest, it might not be the flu but the salad with Romaine lettuce I ingested the day before the symptoms began.)

But this isn’t a post to talk about dreary things. It’s a day for gold.

As I was striding backpackless up the street, I saw a bit of color out of the corner of my eye. I went to investigate, and lo and behold, there were these beauties, basking in the pale winter sun. I’m not sure if these gazanias are a sign of perseverance or the first tenuous hope for spring, but they certainly cheered my day.

Then later, when I took the other small walk, I ended up seeing not gold at my feet, but gold in the sky.

Robert Frost claimed that nothing gold can stay, but what does it matter as long as we have gold for even a single day.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

 

Conversations with . . . Me!

For those of you who have read Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, you might remember Rami Ungar, the wannabe writer cop who kept bedeviling poor Pat.

Today I’m being interviewed by the real Rami Ungar, a real writer, on his blog. It was an interesting interview — for me, anyway — because his questions made me think about my two newest books and to see them in a different light. Please check out the interview here: Conversations with Pat Bertram

At the beginning of the interview, Rami mentions that we met during my cross-country trip, which is true. Rami and his rabbi father invited me to a family dinner when I passed through Ohio, and they apologized profusely for the poor fare. Because it was Passover, there were various dietary restrictions, but even if the food hadn’t been gourmet quality (it was truly delicious), I would have been delighted with the meal. I mean really — Passover with a rabbi? How cool is that! (Another couple of firsts for me: first Passover meal, first visit with a rabbi.)

There was a lot of talk that night — religion, writing, comedy, travel — but what I will always remember is the joy of that simple sentence, a strange one to me, a common one to them: “Pass the matzo.”

Be sure to check out Rami’s post for more about our visit:
https://ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/a-wonderful-visit-meeting-with-pat-bertram-in-person/

If that isn’t enough information about me, you can find a previous interview here: First Conversation With Pat Bertram

And interviews with Rami: Conversation With Rami Ungar and  Meet Rami Ungar.

Whew! I’m sure there are plenty of other links connecting the two of us, but these are more than enough for now. Is it any wonder that this fellow writer sneaked his way into my book about older women dancing — and murdering?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

 

Starting the Year With a Feeling of Dread

In a post I wrote six years ago, I mentioned that I was starting the year with a feeling of dread. Back then, I didn’t know what brought on the feeling, but I have the same feeling this year, and I do know what is causing the dread.

I don’t like talking about my financial situation because it makes me look like a fool, but the truth is, I spent most of the last decades looking after sick and dying relatives. At the time, it seemed the right thing to do (and I still know it was), but it left me without any retirement. I’ve been living off savings and a small inheritance, and this year there will come a time when I have to make some hard decisions, such as where to live and where to get a job. (The only thing I am qualified for is taking caring of folks, and I simply cannot do that anymore.)

Knowing that this decision was coming was a big impetus to getting my works in progress finished, but I destroyed my arm before I could finish the third book, and I haven’t been able to get back to it. Maybe I will finish it this year before my life changes beyond recognition . . . again.

I’ve drifted this past year, and unless I make those hard decisions, I probably will continue to drift until the money for one more grand adventure is gone and the need to settle into a new and unwelcome life becomes dire. (Oddly, the decision to get up and go on that last big adventure is just as hard as the other decisions because once the adventure is done, then those other changes will have to be made.) Status quo will hold until May when I head up to Seattle. On that camping/hiking trip, I will face the reality of what I am capable of, and if it is possible to live a nomadic life for a while.

(I have two dreams — one, to hike one of the long trails, and the other to be nomadic for a year to see what if anything will happen. It’s entirely possible both dreams are leftovers from my grief days. It’s also possible they stem from the unwillingness to do what I must to take care of myself. Whatever the reason, I do yearn for a spiritual journey, a vision quest, something that catapults me into “more.”)

I have not cried at all since March 26th, the day before my seven-year grief anniversary, the day before I got the external fixator off my destroyed arm, but in the middle of last night I woke with tears on my face, whispering, “I am so afraid, Jeff.”

I have been very good about living in the day and for the day, without too much thought for the future or too much looking to the past, but all this talk of a new year must have gotten beneath my defenses. (And then, there is this dang flu that came to visit me, which doesn’t help matters.) Admittedly, with the state of my arm this past year, there was really no other choice but to live in the day, to heal and exercise the poor limb, but it is slowly getting to the point that no further progress can be made, so I will have to live with the weakened arm.

There is nothing I can do about anything today — not the finances, not the fear, not the flu — so I’m going back to bed.

I hope all your decisions this year will be easy ones.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.