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.

Fun with Fiction

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

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

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

Excerpt from Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare:

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

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

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

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

Not a nightmare, but a marvel.

***

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

Happy Ninth Bloggiversary To Me!

I created this blog exactly nine years ago today, back when I hadn’t yet become a published author, back when I didn’t even know what a blog was. I’d read how important blogging was for authors, both as a way of getting known and as a way of connecting with readers, so I decided to “act as if” I were going to be published in the hopes of making it happen. I had nothing to say, no one to say it to, no reason to say anything, but I didn’t let that stop me. I started blogging on September 24, 2007, and haven’t stopped since, though admittedly, I don’t post as much as I once did.

Did acting as if I were goinballoons1g to get published work? Perhaps, though there is no direct connection that I know of. Still, one and a half years after starting this blog, my first two books were published, I now have five books published by Indigo Sea Press — four suspense novels and one non-fiction book about grief. More importantly — at least blog-wise — I am still blogging, still making connections, still making friends. Still having fun.

One thing I never expected when I set up Bertram’s Blog, is how much I would like writing and publishing my articles. I feel safe here, away from the constant promos, ideological ravings, and mindless ratings on other sites, and it gives me the freedom to say what I want, no matter how personal. Six and a half years ago, my life mate/soul mate died, and his death catapulted me into such a world of such pain that it bled over into my posts. This blog became a place where I could try to make sense of what I was going through, to offer comfort and be comforted, to find my way to renewed life. This blog sustained me during the years I cared for my father, and it gave me a place to rest after my father died, when I was thrown out into the world, alone and orphaned. And this blog offered me a place to call home when I set out alone on a five-month, 12,000 mile cross-country road trip, gave me a place where I could talk about all the wonders I was seeing. Often on that trip, when I was between visits with online friends, I thought of William Cowper’s words: How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude! But grant me still a friend in my retreat, whom I may whisper, solitude is sweet. And this blog became a place where I could whisper, “Solitude is sweet.”

It’s nice to know that whatever life throws at me, whatever problems I encounter, whatever challenges and adventures come my way, this blog will be here for me.

Although I’d planned to post every day when I started blogging, during the first four years I only managed to blog three or four times a week, but exactly five years ago today, I made a 100-day commitment to post a daily blog, and once that initial commitment was fulfilled, I continued to post every day for four and a half years. I probably would still be blogging every day except I got out of the habit of daily posts while on my great adventure because so often on the road, I had no internet connection, not even with my phone. And now that I have the internet again, I have few internal (or external) conflicts to give me blog topics.

But still, the blog is here, always welcoming me when I do find something to say, generally once or twice a week. (I am still writing every day, of course, but now I am working on another novel.)

During the past nine years, I have written 2,163 blogs, received 14,835 comments, and garnered 528,360 views. It amazes me that anyone wants to read anything that I write here. This is so much a place for just letting my thoughts roam, for thinking through problems, and (I admit it) for pontificating a bit. It’s been a kick, writing this blog, and I want to thank all of you for indulging my whims and whimsys.

Thank you for reading. Thank you all for your comments, your likes, your support. They have meant more to me (especially this past six and a half years) than you can ever imagine.

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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.”)

On Writing: Dredging Up Emotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

Jackie laughed. “You tell them, Pat.”

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

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

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

Ah, so much fun!

***

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