Creative Play

I haven’t used my Dragon speech recognition software for a couple of days, and I need the practice. So here I am, talking to you.

Oh, who am I trying to kid — I really just wanted to play with my new toy!

It’s funny, I got this software so I could work on my books since I am not doing anything right now except healing, but I haven’t been working on my books at all. My current book is one about a grieving woman during the first couple of months after her husband died, and it’s rather a painful story. The problem is that to continue writing the tale, I have to reread it to see where I am, and I haven’t felt like going back through all that agony. I did do one thing to forward the progress on the book — I sent it to the woman who encouraged me to write it so she could read it and tell me what she thinks, and she loved it. So that’s good to know. Actually I lied — I did do one other thing to further the story. I decided to leave the ending ambiguous, just hinting at where she might go and what she might do, because after all, at two months after the death of her husband she would have no clue who she will become. I’m still not sure who or what I’m going to become, so how is that newly bereft woman supposed to know anything about what her life is going to be?

In the end, I guess you can say I’ve been writing. If typing is considered writing, and now if speaking can be considered writing, then why can’t thinking be writing also? (This is what we writers do: find ways to convince ourselves we are working when we are not.)

As for my life. That’s going about as well as my writing, which is to say not much of anywhere. Dance classes started for the year yesterday, and I didn’t go. I’m not supposed to do anything that strenuous until I get the external fixator off my arm. Instead, I stayed in my room and played with watercolors. I am no artist. Not even any inclination to be an artist. But somebody gave me the watercolors and I figured I should at least attempt to use them. Luckily, the paper she sent with the paints is postcard size, just large enough to balance the frustration of not knowing what I am doing with the fun of doing something. A large sheet would be way too frustrating for me, though if I had copious paints rather than the small watercolor set, it might be fun splashing paint on a larger page.

The weather was also nice enough for me to take a walk today, which always makes me feel at least somewhat alive.

And now I am playing with my incredible Dragon.

I have noticed a special effect with using the Dragon and talking out loud to write—the headphones, microphone, and the sound of my voice creates a special and private space. I don’t know if the headset will block out a lot of noise, because I can still hear the traffic outside the window, but it helps me block out the noise and concentrate on the words inside my head. Obviously, since I have not added any words to my book in progress, I don’t exactly know how beneficial the Dragon is going to be, but I have a hunch it’s going to be just fine. I have never been an inspired writer, a writer who sets her fingers on the keys and the story forms without  her actually thinking it out. I have to dredge the words one at a time out of my mind, so I might as well go one step further and say them aloud. Oddly, during my last few writing sessions I’d found myself mouthing the words before I typed. Perhaps I was practicing the Dragon long before I even got it? (An aside: as intuitive as the Dragon is, it does not recognize when I am asking a question. I still have to tell it to put a question mark at the end of the sentence.)

I don’t know if you can tell that I am smiling as I am speaking, but I really do get a kick out of this program. It’s magic. I speak and words appear on the page. Awesome.

Well once again it’s been nice talking to you. Literally, talking. I hope you managed to do some creative work today, or creative play. Talk to you again soon.

***

The painting below is my first attempt at watercolors. I call it Cloudy Day. Why orange clouds? Why not?

cloudy-day

***

(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.

Getting Used to the Way Things Become

Someone left a comment on my blog yesterday wondering whether the depression I mentioned was actually grief, and the tears that came to my eyes told me she was right. I had been fine with my injury until Christmas Day, and then I lost it. I haven’t felt that sad for I don’t know how long, but on that day I couldn’t stop crying. I was desperately lonely, afraid because I don’t know what’s going to happen with my arm and how it can affect my life, and more than anything I just wanted to go home. Now that the holidays are passed and we are more than a week into the new year, I am mostly back to normal — whatever normal means — taking each day as it comes and trying not to panic about the future.

It seems funny to be leaning back in a chair, feet up on a desk, and talking my way into a blog using speech recognition software, but it’s actually a lot more natural than clicking away at a keyboard. And less lonely. After Jeff died, I used to go out to the desert and talk to him. I seldom talk to him anymore, but I know a lot of people who still talk sunsetto their deceased spouses even after many years. I always knew it was a way of keeping in touch with the loved one, or at least feeling some kind of connection, but now I understand it’s also a way to offset some of the loneliness. I wonder if we need to hear the sound of our voices, that if we don’t talk we somehow feel less alive. Does it matter if there’s nobody there to listen? There’s no one here listening to me talking, but I suppose I could assume you’re listening, though not at the very moment I’m speaking, which does make this sort of a conversation.

Because of my grief posts I end up “meeting” a lot of bereft spouses, people who once had a life companion and now are alone. I worry about them, and I worry about myself. There are some things in life that can never be undone. The dead do not come back. A new love or a new marriage does not erase the old one. (And a mangled arm no matter how painstakingly fixed does not miraculously become brand-new.) In a little over two months, it will be seven years since Jeff died, and that still matters to me. He was such an important part of my life and his being gone is an important thing of its own.

Sometimes I’m glad he’s not here to have to deal with my injury. There is nothing he could do about it, and it would only make him feel bad, though it would be nice to have someone help put the splint on every night, keep me company, and do the thousands of small things that seem impossible with one hand. I try not to listen to the voice in my mind that says the accident would not have happened if he were here, but it’s true. If I were still living our shared life, I would never have been scurrying across a dark parking lot in the middle of the night. I would have been home with him. But life does what it will, and we are left to cope as best as we can.

One thing the fall taught me is how quickly things change. (Or rather I should say re-taught me, because death has already taught me how quickly things change.) There I was heading for my car that night, happy, contented, healthy, and the next thing I knew I was in the emergency room with an arm that will never look the same, feel the same, or act the same. It just goes to show that any plans we make can be derailed in a moment.

We do get used to the way things become, and often after a bad incident we convince ourselves that it was actually a good thing. For example, if somebody got in a car accident and met his future wife in the emergency room. But generally we just try to make sense of things, and if good things happen after the bad incident, or if we make good things happen, we tell ourselves we were lucky. I wonder if there will ever come a time when I say this accident was a good thing? I suppose it’s possible that this speech recognition software will change my writing habits and catapult me into bestseller dumb. (I was trying to say bestsellerdom, but I loved the way the speech recognition software translated the term, so I kept it.) It’s possible that I don’t write as much as I could because I’m lazy. It takes a lot of effort to either write by hand or sit at the computer and type, and now that I have the opportunity to relax and spout off as I wish, it might make a difference. We’ll see.

It’s been fun talking to you. Talk to you again soon.

***

(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.

Dragon Myself Back to Writing

I haven’t been blogging lately, partly because I have nothing to say or rather nothing I want to say —I have been too depressed to want to share what I’ve been feeling, though depression does go with the territory of being housebound — and also because it’s too hard to type one-handed. (I fell and destroyed my left wrist and elbow a couple of months ago.) Yesterday I installed Dragon speech recognition software on my computer, so now I can blog without typing. I’m not sure if it will change my “voice” or if dragonI will even be able to think while talking, but at least it gives me something new to play with and something new always offsets depression.

It’s funny that the depression didn’t come from the injury so much as being alone in a room for days on end. It’s my room not a hospital room, but still fate has brought me to the thing I’ve dreaded all these years — stagnating alone in a solitary room. I’ve been desperately wanting to go home, but it always comes down to the same thing — I have no home except this temporary one. But maybe that’s the truth with all of us, that whatever home we have is temporary because life itself is temporary.

It seems strange that even though only the arm is injured I am housebound, but there is a whole lot I can’t do. I can’t go walking unless the day is warm and the street dry because another fall at this time would be disastrous, and I have to use a trekking pole to help keep my balance since the broken arm is in a sling. I can’t drive so I am dependent on willing or mostly willing friends to take me wherever I need to go. Mostly I’ve been reading, playing solitaire, checking Facebook for interesting articles, and trying to take care of myself.

Caring for myself is hard. I can’t cook except for simple things, so I mostly eat prepared salads and frozen dinners. Can’t even take a shower by myself. Luckily, an occupational therapist comes once or twice a week to help. I will probably have the external fixator on my arm for another three weeks, and the fixator makes doing anything even more difficult. When the fixator finally comes off, of course, it will be months before I will gain some use of my arm. I really hated the thought of not being able to write during all that time, especially since I got such a good start on my latest book before the accident, but hopefully Dragon will drag me kicking and screaming all the way to the end of the story.

I am writing this blog with Dragon, though I am not sure that technically it can be called writing if one is speaking. I suppose I should say I am composing this blog, but what the heck — it all looks the same at the end no matter what tool one uses to get there.

For the most part, I’ve been accepting of my injury. There’ve only been a few times when I panicked at the thought of not gaining full usage of my wrist and elbow, but mostly I’ve been taking things as they come. Now that the swelling is down, I can see that the doctor is right — there is considerable deformity. Depending upon the mobility I regain, or don’t regain, I might need another surgery in a year, which might also fix some of the deformity. Once the fixator is off, I will do whatever I need to do to get as much mobility as possible, and then wait and see what happens.

Meantime, there is Dragon. The program is actually easy to use. The main problem I have as a temporarily one-handed person is putting on the headphone so I can use the microphone, but so far I have managed. If nothing else I can wear the headphone around my neck.

It’s been good talking to you. I hope you’re having a good year so far.

***

(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.

Having a Human Experience

I did a Bollywood dance performance eight nights ago, and a few minutes later, I was lying in the parking lot outside the theater screaming in agony. Apparently, as I crossed the parking lot to my car, I tripped over a free-standing cement parking curb. Shattered my left wrist. I drove myself to the hospital (I didn’t want to leave my car in the lot, and somehow, fueled by adrenaline and unreasoning pain, it seemed the most expedient solution for getting to the emergency room.)

After a night in the ER, I was admitted to the hospital until they could do the surgery a couple of days later. When they got me on the cart to wheel me to the operating room, they told me the only panties I could wear were the mesh hospital panties, and since I was already wearing those, I didn’t think anything of it. Then, before they wheeled me away, the nurse came and pulled off the panties under the mistaken assumption they were not allowed. And I started crying. Up until then, I’d accepted the pain, the emergency room, the drugs, the hospital stay and everything else that happened to me with equanamity (or the numbness of shock?) but the removal of the panties did me in. I felt unutterably vulnerable and alone.

I still do.

I’m out of the hospital, dealing as best as I can with drug-fuddled mind and only one usable hand/arm. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself, and mostly succeeding, but this is the culmination of a very traumatic ten years. It started with the death of the brother closest to me in age nine years and eleven months ago. Since then, I have had to deal with my mother’s illness and death, my life mate/soul mate’s long dying and subsequent death, my elderly father’s care and his death. Also, I broke an ankle, scalped myself, lost a tooth, and now have multiple fractures in my wrist/arm.

Lots of life — and death — going on.

But for now, what’s important is the current injury.

People ask me how I am interpreting this particular experience and what the message is. I am trying not to find messages. Trying to see the fall as simply an accident because anything else, such as the possibility that internal conflicts could manifest themselves physically, is simply too frightening.

Although I don’t believe in rites, such as funerals, I went to my mother’s funeral to see everyone in my family one more time. But shortly after I got there, I broke my ankle. Spend the viewing at the ER and the funeral at the bone specialist’s office.

And now, once again, I’d been faced with doing something I didn’t want to do — that dance performance. I really, really didn’t want to be part of a multi-day show and even told my class if they badgered me into it, something bad would happen. Somewhere along the line, I stopped saying no and ended up being understudy for that one particular show because they truly did need me. I enjoyed the performance, did it perfectly. And then, a few minutes afterward, I lay screaming in the parking lot.

If there is a message, it’s for me to stop doing things I don’t want to do. Or more accurately, to stay away from internal conflict. (There are actually two internal conflicts at play here — the dance recital and the book I am writing. I don’t want to write it, but I want to finish it, and now I am forced to take a hiatus.) But the truth is, I don’t want to believe that there is any correlation between internal conflict and broken bones. Way too frightening!

It’s better if I think of this latest trauma, as with all my traumas, as my being a human person having a human experience.

If I say it enough, I might actually come to believe it.

***

(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.”)

Grief, the Internet, and Other Unpolitic Matters

It seems funny to me that I managed to write a blog post every day for more than four years, and now I can’t come up with four posts a month. There is so much I don’t want to talk about. Or rather, that I do want to talk about but don’t think it . . . politic. (Weird, isn’t it, that talking of politics is no longer politic? Not that I particularly want to talk about what’s going on in the world, but it’s hard not to want to have my say.)

During all my years online, I’ve heard people say that the internet is a harsh place because people hide behind their online personas and spew filth, but until this past week, I’ve never encountered such hatred and anger. Online, people are screeching about racists and xenophobes and misogynists and bigots, but offline, people are respectfully and calmly talking about why they voted the way they did, and not one of them voted for racism. Except that in today’s world, if you disagree with standard group-think for any reason, the first word that comes up in retaliation is “racist.” Or “anti-feminist.” As if the only reason to vote for a Broken heartwoman is that she’s a woman like you. (Apparently, women are not allowed to look beyond gender to the issues dear to their heart.)

None of this has anything to do with me, really, but I see the hurt caused by such divisiveness. I have never lost so much respect for so many people so fast as I did this past week. The election results didn’t upset me. I know that historically any Republican president brings out the activists, which mitigates the power. But the hatred and lies and name calling is something I can do without. Not only am I a person who wants everyone to get along, but such contention exacerbates my ongoing sadness.

When I was writing my dance class book, I was in a good place mentally. But now . . . not so much. I’m not experiencing grief; really, it’s more that all the vehement rhetoric makes me miss the one person I knew who could look rationally and historically beyond the hype on both sides to the truth, who understood my feelings, who knew my thoughts and agreed with them because they were his thoughts too. I realize having such a person in my life was a blessing, but sometimes it’s hard to still count that particular blessing because it ended so very long ago. In a few months, it will be seven years since he’s been gone. Long enough to forget occasionally that I had him in my life, but not long enough to completely fill the hole he left behind.

Working on my current book, a novel I started six years ago about a woman who lost her husband to death, is resurrecting the sadness, which shows me grief is still there, buried under my renewed equanimity. (I never used to be an emotional person, but his death slammed me way off course.) I periodically think about scrapping the book. I don’t know if anyone will ever read it. A grieving woman is not the sort of heroine that people seem to admire. A person experiencing grief is at the mercy of her hormones and brain chemistry, her emotional and spiritual tornadoes, the sheer debilitating exhaustion of the process. No amount of determination, no power-woman tactics can get you through it. Only going through it can get you through it.

Such a character and her manifest weakness, no matter how temporary, is not exactly something most people find inspiring. And yet, that’s the whole point of the book. To show the truth of grief. I got so sick of books where the woman lost her husband, cried herself to sleep, and woke up the next morning thinking, “Okay, that’s done with.” Or as one author wrote, “She went through all five stages of grief.” Yeah. That’s deep.

There is a reason why books featuring fictional widows and widowers generally start three to five years after the spouse’s death — those first years are not pretty.

And my poor heroine’s story is the first two months after her husband’s death. Oh, my. What have I gotten myself into!

But, despite my misgivings, I keep plugging along with the book and my life. And maybe someday both will find an acceptable resolution.

As for the world outside my own little world? Nope. Not a hope. People have become too addicted to their own opinions to ever see the truth in the opposition. The situation would break my heart if it weren’t already broken.

***

(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.

My First and Only Sort-of Political Post

I’m smiling today, not in celebration of a Trump victory or a Clinton loss, but because, well . . . because it’s a new day. The sun is shining, I have nothing to do but write, and history has been made.

This 2016 political campaign was set up to be an historical election from the beginning — the total political insider vs. the total outsider. Not racists and misogynists vs. liberals. Not good vs. bad (because all voters did the best they could with a bizarre candidacy). Not urban vs. rural, though that’s the way it turned out to be. Not rich politician vs. poor politician because both runners had more money at their disposal than most cities do. Not hate vs. . . . well, not love, that’s for sure because from what I could see, Hillary lovers/Donald haters have nothing but hate — or at least contempt — for the folk who elected him. It wasn’t even intelligence vs. ignorance, because a huge portion of The Donald voters approached the election with intelligence while many of the Hillary folk came from a position of ignorance with no clue why people would vote for such a buffoon.

Hillary was slated to be the first woman president. What we got instead was the first non-politician/non war hero president. History.

Though it seems like this was a male vs. female race, it was all about the insider vs. the outsider. The Clintons did not spring up out of the pack, being chosen by “we the people” for their stellar qualities. They were chosen in college and have been groomed for their leadership positions their entire lives because of their charisma and their ability to talk a whole bunch of people into doing what the power elite want. (Ever wonder what all those standardized tests were for? Well, now you know one reason — to give the power elite a clear vision of who we are and how they can use us.)

[As an aside: Nixon was found and groomed by Prescott Bush, the daddy of the first Bush president, after Nixon answered a classified ad. Remember when Nixon said “they” wouldn’t have him to push around any more? It wasn’t you and me he was talking to. It was his handlers. The power elite.]

Yep. The power elite. Do you really think a president has all that much power? Take comfort in knowing that while the US president is powerful, there are other forces, such as the puppetmasters, that are way more powerful. These international power brokers don’t care who wins because they win either way.

(You didn’t know I was of a conspiratorial bent? That I am against government of all kinds? That while I know of the power elite, there is no way I approve of such a shadow force? Then you haven’t read my books. In More Deaths Than One, I tell of the mind control experiments the government has perpetrated on unsuspecting citizens. In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I talk about biological warfare, again, some of which was done on US citizens. In Light Bringer, I pull from Sumerian cosmology by way of Zecharia Sitchen showing the possibility that this movement toward a one-world government is more than 7,000 years old; also William Bramley, author of The Gods of Eden had some influence on my novel.)

Have you ever wondered why Donald chose to run? Did he wake up one morning and think, “Geez, I think I’ll run for president”? I do. I wonder who contacted him. Or who he contacted.

The Electoral College was set up to keep out those not qualified to be president because it was believed that the people weren’t intelligent enough to vote for the right candidate. (Also to give the states themselves a voice because after all, we are a nation of states. If it weren’t for the states’ rights, we’d have a couple of urban areas control of the entire country.) I figured that if Donald got the majority vote, the Electoral College would give it to Hillary, and they still might. The Electoral College, which votes on December 19, does not have to follow the votes for their state — they can vote for whomever they wish.

December 19 is the real election, the one that will determine who is president.

Hillary got the popular vote, but Donald won the electoral votes, so it’s vaguely possible she will still get the presidency if enough republicans decide to protest Donald’s election. If Donald’s election is upheld, it will make me wonder why he was chosen, by whom he was chosen, and ultimately, for whom he will be working. (Have you ever wondered why so many new presidents age rapidly their first year in office? They find out the truth. Some say that’s why JFK was assassinated — he was insistent on being a real president, not just another figurehead.)

Although I am basically apolitical, I am aware that historically more good is done when a Republican is president, not because of him (or, one day, her) but because when a Republican is president, a whole slew of sleeping grass roots organizations come out of hibernation and provide a foil for his policies. When a democrat is president, these organizations go to sleep because they think all is well with the world. Is it any wonder that all of the major U.S. wars in the 20th century—World War I, II, Korea and Vietnam—were entered by Democratic administrations? Harry Truman, a Democrat, is still the only world leader to use a nuclear bomb on a population. So, something to think about. Donald being president for “all the people” as he claimed might actually come true, because one way or another, whether for him or against him, people will work for the greater good. (I already see signs of those grass roots growing. Lists of pro-women, pro-lgbt, pro-abortion, pro-imigrant and anti-bigotry organizations are being shared on FB.) And, power elite or not, true power — the power of numbers — is in our hands if we work together.

Campaign rhetoric is just that — rhetoric meant to get the votes. Nothing new there. If you were to read Lincoln’s campaign speeches, you’d see that sometimes he said he’d abolish slavery, sometimes he said he wouldn’t, depending on the beliefs of people he was talking to. The truth will out in the coming years, but I do not think this election has set us back a hundred years. It’s always about today, this very moment, and today is the same as yesterday. All else is speculation.

I have removed a whole slew of FB friends not because of their political beliefs but because of their nastiness. Cripes, get a grip, folks. I realize a lot of people are angry, many are scared (including some who voted for Donald), others are grieving. But this win isn’t the end of the country. The president, whoever it might be, isn’t the United States. The USA is you and me, our neighbors and friends, our church members, classmates, and fellow workers.

I hear democrats screaming about the idiots who voted for racism and misogyny, but those histrionics are just that. Histrionics. Although I know a lot of people who voted for Donald, not one of those friends voted for racism or misogyny. These people (with misgivings for the man they voted for) generally voted against something — against late term abortion, against the status quo, against illegal immigration (because, duh, it’s illegal), against the New World Order, against Hillary herself. A few people I know were gung-ho Trump supporters, but they came to their position with a wide view of the world. Still, whatever the reasoning behind the votes, these people are United States citizens. The neo-liberals are not the only people in the country. This nation is made up of all kinds, and all deserve a voice.

So please, stop the nastiness. Be kind. This is a new day. The sun is shining — or not. And we are alive.

Peace to all. And to all, a good day.

Light Bringer

***

(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.

Dona Nobis Pacem

Thousands of bloggers from all over the globe are Blogging for Peace today.

One subject. One voice. One day.

Words are powerful . . . this matters.

peace blog

***

(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+

Trying to Fill the Hole in My Book

When my life mate/soul mate died, I went into a tailspin of grief that lasted years. It came as a shock to me because I thought I was stoic and had my feet so solidly on the ground that I would be sad and lonely and then get on with the business of grief. The sort of grief I felt, I had never heard of before. I’d seen a few characters in movies shrieSunrise/Sunsetk in agony at their husbands’ funerals , but these theatrics always seemed more for effect than as a sign that half their soul had been ripped away.

The few mentions of grief in novels were pretty lame. One book said, “She went through the five stages of grief.” That was the only mention of how the woman felt after the death of her husband, and it especially seemed phony because there are not five stages of grief or seven. There are an infinite permutation of emotions that come again and again in ever widening spiral until finally the spiral is wide enough you don’t feel the loss every moment of every day.

A character in another book cried one night, then woke up the next morning, with a determination to be done with tears, and she was. Again, this was a phony reaction. Sure, we can be determined to be done with tears, but grief has physical life of its own, throwing hormones out of whack and interfering with brain chemistry. Those physical effects cannot be ignored. They are there whether you want them or not. It’s not just that we go through grief, but grief also goes through us.

So, being both a writer and a woman who experienced grief, I decided I needed to write a novel about a woman going through grief. I wrote much of it during National Novel Writing Month the November after his death so I could show the emotions while they were fresh. To do the daily word counts required to “win” the challenge, I wrote whatever chapter came to mind.

Now, all these years later, I’m trying to put those scattered chapters into a reasonable facsimile of a novel. I’ve had to get rid of thousands of redundant words, had to winnow out many of the paragraphs that talked about her pain rather than showing her going through grief, and I have to struggle to make her likable even though she doesn’t much like herself. (Many of us don’t like ourselves when we are grief-stricken.) We are so bludgeoned into believing that we must be upbeat at all costs, that crying is for sissies, that emotions are to be controlled, that a character going through grief sounds like a whiner or a loser or a weakling.

I had envisioned the ending of the book as her driving off alone, probably because since I am alone, I can’t envision a different life. And anyway, it’s too soon for her to hook up. If I keep that same ending, I have a huge hole in the book, not just a lack of about 25,000 words, but a lack of character growth. You can’t have a woman whining and crying and screaming for most of a book, and then suddenly, it’s over with. What a cheat for the reader! If you suffer through all that sorrow, you need a bigger payoff. (Of course, in life there generally is no payoff, but in a story, there needs to be.)

So, this is what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks when I haven’t been blogging — trying to figure out how to dig myself out of the hole. No success yet. Although I wanted to finish this book, I might have to set it aside when I get all those original chapters typed up and inserted into the proper place in the story. You can’t survive with a hole in your heart where love once lived, and a book can’t survive with a hole in its heart, either. I do have a cyber romance for her. I suppose I could fill that out a bit. I also have a a mystery about why her husband has a gun — I suppose I could fill that out too.

But still, the hole is there.

Could it be because I still have a hole inside me? If so, there’s not much I can do about it. Apparently, that hole is here for good.

***

(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.

Out With the Old, In With the Older

Two-and-a-half years ago, when one of the women in my dance class found out I am an author, she suggested that I write a book about our class, and even volunteered to be the victim. I thought about it for more than a year, planning the story and trying to figure out a way around the many problems I could see, such as the women hating what I’d written about them. During a pleasant interlude, a little over a year ago, while staying with a friend, I started writing the book. And there it sat, all this time. Seven weeks ago, after making a commitment to write 250 words a day, I dug out the book and worked on it.

And now it is finished! I will let it sit for a while until I can read it with a fresh mind, then go over it one more time. And then — who knows. My publisher and I are at a standstill. He thinks he should have final say about such matters as typos and formatting because he is funding the project, and I think I should. I would rather not have the book published than give up even those simple rights, so who knows what will happen. Either way, it wouldn’t be published until latesmiley next year. Meantime, I am offering to send the manuscript to folks who want to read it in exchange for noting any typos they find. Let me know if you want to be one of these first readers.

Today, I dug out another unfinished manuscript. This one is much more complicated. I started writing it in November of 2010, a few months after Jeff died. I wanted to try NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — where writers are challenged to write 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. The only way I could manage the word count was to write chapters as I thought of them. So now I am faced with a stack of unrelated chapters with a lot of repetion and no idea  how to string them together. Even worse, they are all hand written, so I also have to type them. Worst of all, scenes I thought I’d written, I hadn’t, and now I don’t remember what needed to go into those crucial scenes to make the story work. Eek.

I do have the first fourth of the book typed and in chronological order, but it shows a woman in the first throes of grief, and I worry that her many tears and screams would be off-putting. Still, that is a job for the editing process, when I’ve gotten the story into a first draft. But, mingled with the tears are hints of a deeper story. A gun hidden in a closet. A suicide note. A box with gun oil and stained rags. A file that was password protected. Oh, and a cyber affair.

The woman was married to a preacher and will be evicted from the manse, which adds even more pathos to the story, but I can’t find the eviction scene. Maybe I decided they had bought a house, and she turned it over to her daughter? I guess I’ll find out in the writing! I do like the idea of one trauma piled on another, though. The woman seems a bit weak, all those tears and whines about not knowing who she is if she doesn’t know who her husband was, and putting her through more stress than a person can handle would be a good way of seeing what she’s made of.

I’d actually planned to finish another book first, one I started the year before Jeff died. It will actually be easier from a writer’s point of view because the book is three-fourths finished, and I know what the story is, but it’s harder from an emotional point of view. The idea came from him, and it hurts that he won’t be in at the finish.

Still, it’s best to do the emotional books first, get them out of my head.

Since, apparently, I am working backward, the final book will be the complete revision of my first book. The idea still intrigues, but I started it long before I learned how to write, maybe seventeen years ago, so I will probably have to start from scratch. There is a sex scene in the book, though, and I hope that is salvageable since each book I write seems to become more chaste than the last.

Meantime, I am dealing with this mess, trying to wrangle it into a cohesive story.

Ah, the fun that awaits me!

***

(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.