Testing 1 2 3

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

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

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Nothing to Do

It seems strange to have nothing to do. The house is empty except for small pockets of the clothes and accoutrements of my life. The furniture is gone and my possessions are stored, which means no movies to watch, no books to read. Just my computer to use. Normally having only a computer wouldn’t be a problem since I frequently spend most of the evening online, but the only seat left in the house is a kitchen stool that is not kind to my tailbone. I could go for a walk, but after two hours and forty-five minutes of dance classes today in addition to the mile walk there and back, I’m ready to relax. But there’s nothing to relax with.

miningWhen I first mentioned my idea of an epic walk, a friend asked what I would do with all that time. I had no answer but it’s a valid question. What does one do with time? We fill our time with the chores and piddling tasks of tasks of living, and the time that’s left over, we fill with movies, television, books, magazines, lunches and dinners out with friends. But what does one do if one can’t do any of these things? Since I can’t walk for more than two hours a day especially if I am carrying a pack, there will be a lot of empty time. I could write, of course, but it’s hard to write with an increasingly untamed mind. (Many authors can sit down and watch the story unfold before their eyes, but I have to excavate every idea, every word from the morass at the bottom of my mind, and at the moment, I seem to have misplaced my mining equipment.) Would I be bored? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s just as possible that time will do what it always does, expands or shrinks to fit the available tasks. (The less you have to do, the less time you have to do it in.)

Tonight is easy. I’ll finish this blog, sign a friend up for a March of Dimes walk, download and install the available computer updates for my machine, play a few games of solitaire, and then suddenly, the evening will be gone. But what if I were out by myself somewhere, sitting in a tent, doing . . .

I don’t know. What do you do when you have nothing to do, nothing you can do? If I’m lucky (or unlucky?) someday I’ll find out. Meantime, I hear a game of Spider Solitaire calling my name.

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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.

Wanderlust and Wonderlust

I can already feel the wanderlust taking over, which is not altogether a good thing. I said I was going to leave my fate up to the fates, but this wanderlust is starting to dictate my future. For example, I talked to a woman today who is looking for someone to rent a room from her elderly mother, so that her mother will have companionship, and I’m hesitating. For one, I don’t want to be a companion — I need time to write and do other solitary activities when I am not walking or dancing. For another, the rent she is asking is too high since they want more from me than simply money. And finally, the place is far from the dance studio, she has a rambunctious dog, and has no internet service.

old woman

Do you see the old woman? Do you see the young woman?

And yet, at one time, it would have seemed a good deal to me. The silly thing is the woman’s age. The daughter went on and on about all the things her mother is still capable of doing, such as driving short distances and doing a bit of grocery shopping. Then she listed the things her mother was not capable of doing, such as yard work, getting herself to doctors’ appointments, and picking up a week’s worth of groceries.

I envisioned someone decrepit, and there is no way I want to deal with another old, sick, or dying person, so I asked the mother’s age. I had to have her repeat the number three times because I could not believe it. This elderly woman is my age.

Huh? I’m not elderly. Not even close! I’m not sure what the beginning date for “elderly” is, but I’m not there yet. In fact, according to the US Census, I’m still middle aged. Rapidly sliding down the banister to old age, as are we all, but I am not elderly. And certainly not suited for being a “companion.”

Still, I’ll have lunch with the woman and her daughter next week. Can’t hurt, and for all I know, we could hit it off. I do understand the mother somewhat, even unseen and unmet. The poor woman lost her husband five years ago and her brother (who lived with her) a few months ago. So much sadness and sorrow is enough to throw anyone off kilter.

Meantime, I’m savoring every minute of dance class, and dreaming of the wonders that await me when I begin my wanders.

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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.

The Courage to Remember

One of the lies we’ve been told about grief is that we should put the deceased out of our minds to keep from being so sad, but the truth is that it’s important to remember . . . anything.

Carrie Jane Knowles, author of the soon-to-be re-released memoir, The Last Childhood (a book about the impact her mother’s Alzheimer’s had on their family), wrote a blog today: Art as an Act of Memory. She talks about the devastating effects of not being able to remember even the simplest things, and mentions a far-flung theory she’d read that Alzheimer’s patients developed the disease because they wanted/needed to forget.

Of the four of us, I’m the only one still living.

I am not a believer in blaming the victim for a disease, but this particular idea has merit. We spend most of our lives burying that which is too painful to remember, whether the memory of loved ones lost to death, world-wide tragedies, wars, deprivations, abuse, that it seems impossible so much buried pain could leave us unscathed.

As Carrie Knowles says, with all the “tragedy we’ve witnessed in recent years, what chance do we have of not developing Alzheimer’s? How will we have the courage to remember?”

Courage. So much of life is about courage, about living despite the tragedy in our lives, about remembering no matter how much sorrow it brings us.

Philosopher Eugene T. Gendlin wrote: What is split off, not felt, remains the same. When it is felt, it changes. Most people don’t know this. They think that by not permitting the feeling of their negative ways they make themselves good. On the contrary, that keeps these negatives static, the same from year to year. A few moments of feeling it in your body allows it to change.”

At times I’ve felt strange about continuing to write about the effects of the death of my life mate/soul mate five years after the fact, but from the beginning, I knew it was important to feel whatever I was feeling. Not that I could have buried the feelings — I don’t have that sort of discipline — which is just as well.

I am starting my life from scratch, or at least mostly from scratch. I’ll have a storage unit full of things that I can’t yet get rid of, a brain full of fading memories, a soul full of old sorrows, and a psyche that will always feel the absence of the one person who connected me to the earth. And I’m okay with that. What I wouldn’t be okay with is if any of those things held me captive. I have a world to explore, adventures to embark upon, experiences to savor. My moments of sorrow will only add piquancy to my future if I continue to have the courage to feel and the courage to remember.

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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.

April Fools

When someone sends me an email, I figure it belongs to me, so I have no compunction about sharing it. Here is a letter I received today. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It is from my clever and witty (and weird) publisher.

jugglingDear Author, as you know a great percentage of the royalties we receive and forward on to our authors comes from Amazon. We have been notified that Amazon, following upon the success of Bitcoin, has decided effective June 1, 2015, to move to an alternative form of currency. It is doing this strictly on a trial basis with a small portion of its business concerns. Unfortunately for us, since they started in book/publishing, Amazon is going to use this new currency initially as payment and receipts for book sales. Those of us whose titles are carried by Amazon must submit to the use of this new currency if we are going to continuing using their services. 

The exchange rate will be 7 to 8, meaning that you will receive 1 new standard of Amazon currency for every 1 American dollar. The new currency, because it centers around literature, books and publishing, will be called Amacoin Litibook, or just “litty” for short. Therefore, if you earned $80.00 American dollars, your royalty will actually be ©70.00 “litty,” or if you earned $100.00, you’d receive ©87.50 litty. Because this new exchange rate may be somewhat difficult to figure, we’ve decided to create a chart that will make the actual payment you receive easier to figure as it will clearly show the “lit scale.” Henceforth, those who do well in royalty earnings will be said to be “all lit up,” while lesser sales will be referred to as “half lit” or “un lit.” 

Please let us know if you have any questions about this new change in your royalty payment procedures. And happy April Fools’ Day.  –Your Publisher

And happy April Fools’ Day from me, too!

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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.

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.

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