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.

***

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.

Strange Twist Of Fate

Yesterday was a strange day. First was all the frustration with the intermittent internet connection and getting that repaired. In the middle of all that, while I had a few minutes of connection, I tried to make sense of Twitter and researched book promo again. (Like my internet connection, my research has been intermittent, searching for answers until I get frustrated then days or weeks or months later, trying again.) And then the strangest of all . . .

I’d gone to the Sierra Club conditioning walk in an effort to walk more. (Ever since I started yammering about an epic walk of some sort, I’ve been walking less, as if talking about it precluded actually putting one foot in front of the other.)

On the way back, I was driving down a mostly empty street. I was on the far left lane, and I could see someone paused in the center turn lane. As I neared that vehicle, it suddenly swung out in the street and crossed directly in front of me. I had no time to put on the brakes, so I veered into the curb, hoping to get away from her. Apparently, she had been trying to get into the driveway, and never did anything to avoid me. Didn’t put on the brakes, didn’t try to get away from me, didn’t do anything, actually. So I ran into her.

It scared the heck out of me, seeing this car perpendicular to mine and not being able to do anything to avoid a collision, and yet, I was able to slow down enough that not much damage was done. A bit of a bent fender on my car, an indented scratch on hers. She jumped out of her gray Hyundai and blamed me for driving with my lights off. Huh? How could I have seen the road if my lights were off? By that time, of course, my lights were off. When I shut off my engine, the headlights go off in a battery-saving effort, and since I had turned off my engine, the headlights were off, too. But she kept on and on about how it was my fault.

The cops showed up, and talked to us separately. One police car had been driving by and might have called for backup, or maybe someone else had called them and he waited until the others came. But two or three vehicles pulled up at once (one could have been an ambulance, I’m not sure. As I recently wrote, I’m not the most observant person in the world.)

From the cops’ point of view, the whole matter was trivial, and so they didn’t write a report. (At least that’s what they said. I’m sure they logged it into their call records or whatever they do to keep track of their activities.) It’s possible the other woman talked them out of filing a report because they told me she agreed to take care of her damage if I took care of mine. Some people think this sounds strange, but I understand. The cops hadn’t seen how close to death I had been. If I’d been second slower or her one second faster, she would have rammed into the side of my car, and who knows how badly I would have been hurt. I was just glad the ending of the story was so felicitous. The tow truck driver they called pulled my fender away from the tire, put on my spare, and that’s all it took. At one point, I told the cop I couldn’t stop shaking. He shrugged and said, “This is all very minor.”

Luckily, I hadn’t yet taken the VW into the body shop to do what restorations they can and I hadn’t yet gotten new tires. (I would have had to get them in a few months, so I’m getting all new tires instead of just the one.)

Oddly, I’ve been extra careful lately when driving, feeling some sort of doom in the air. Even odder, I didn’t really have any reaction to this strange twist of fate except the physical result of adrenaline. No anger, no tears, nothing but confusion about how it could have happened.

I consider myself fortunate. Death was riding on my shoulder (or maybe it was standing on the shoulder of the road waiting), and it decided it had no use for me. At least not yet.

***

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 Internet, Twitter, and Other Frustrations

Frustrations abound, the most significant one being a spotty internet connection for two days. It took almost the whole day yesterday to post one not-very-interesting article. Today I’ve been trying to research Twitter and the best way to use the site. I can’t see Twitter as a way of making friends like I’ve done here on this blog and on Facebook, but several people have told me it’s a good way for an author to sell books. Of course, they have also told me I won’t sell books via Twitter because my books are not sold as cheaply as self-published books, so who knows if Twitter will make any difference in my life, but it’s worth a try.

chickenSo many things are confusing when it comes to Twitter. For example, you can only follow 2,000 people, yet the most active people on the site follow more than 10,000. (Apparently, at some point, the cap is lifted.) The limit has something to do with keeping out robot accounts and controlling spam, but it doesn’t make much sense because the number of tweets a person can tweet a day is capped at 1000. I don’t care who you are. Posting 1000 times a day constitutes spam in my opinion!

The most confusing thing is that Twitter will tell you what you are doing wrong, such as unfollowing too many people in a day, but they won’t tell you how many people you can unfollow. I can see the bewildered look on your face as you wonder why you would want to unfollow someone you followed. Well, once you hit 2,000 followers, apparently you can’t add more until you have approximately that many following you, so if you want to follow someone specific, you have to unfollow someone else.

There used to be a service called TwitCleaner that would tell you who unfollowed you (a lot of folks will follow you, hoping you will follow then back, and once you do follow them, they unfollow you) but Twitter changed their API (application program interface), making the service ineffective and it went out of business. Now, though, you can do some of it yourself. If you go to your twitter page and click on “following” you will see all your followers and if they are following you back. If they don’t follow you back and they aren’t someone you are interested in, they are safe to unfollow.

Another thing that is so very confusing is that you can set up your blog and various other sites to post directly to Twitter, which is what I used Twitter for — a place to automatically link my blog posts in the hope of getting someone interested in my articles. But — and this is a big but — what Wordpress posts is the title and link and your name (and theirs), and you get almost no views that way. People like color, graphics, hints of what the blog is about, hashtags (hashtags are like tags on wordpress; they give people a way of finding your posts) and if your blog post is automatically posted on Twitter, all of that is missing.

It’s like hootsuite.com. A lot of people use sites like that to post articles and comments to all their sites at once, but anything posted from hootsuite is posted outside the parameters of (for example) Facebook’s algorithms. Those algorithms are what dictates who and how many gets to see what you post, and they reward those who garner a lot of interactions. But if you post via a secondary site rather than directly to FB, your “pebble” leaves no ripples.

Then there is the egg situation. If you don’t post a photo for your profile, the empty space where your photo would be looks like an egg, hence the name “egg” for those with no profile picture. Very few people want to deal with blanks, so the general consensus is to ignore eggs. And yet, sometimes eggs are simply those with no time to fill out the information. So do you follow eggs or not?

Lots to think about while I’m waiting for the internet provider repairperson to come. And that, of course, will add to the frustrations, because you and I know the truth. When they get here, the internet will be on one of it’s “up” cycles.

But it’s all part of the game. I’m just glad I’m able to play it, frustrations and all. Maybe someday I’ll even figure out how to make all this information work for me.

***

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

***

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.

Sitting on the Wall

It’s hard to get anything done when I’ve spent half the day outside sitting on the wall separating my dad’s property from the one next door so that people looking at the house can have privacy, but luckily, I don’t need to get anything done. I can simply sit and enjoy the blossoms dancing in the warm winter air. (80 degrees today. And it’s still technically winter!)

It’s funny that I dreaded this period in my life when the house was on the market making my time not my own, when homelessness (or rather rootlessness) was incipient, when things were about to change in some as yet unfathomable way. But none of this is bothering me at all. In fact, other people are more concerned about what I am going to do than I am.

Either things will work out or they won’t. It’s as simple as that. And if they don’t work out, there is nothing I can do now to make them work out because I don’t know what the conditions will be at that particular time, so there’s no point in worrying about it.

My situation is apparently one that galvanizes imaginations. Each person’s suggestion for what I should do is more a response to their own yearnings and inclinations than to my needs. Buying an RV and living in an RV park was one of today’s suggestions. The woman admitted it is what she would do and thought it was a good idea for me. And yet, if I did get an RV, why would I stay in one place? The whole point of a recreation vehicle is to go recreationing.

But there are dance classes to take into consideration  . . .

I have offers of spare rooms and couches for a few days that I can accept in an emergency. Or I could stay in a motel. Or take off on a road trip. Or any number of things.

People keep telling me I have to make a decision, if not now then soon, and I just shrug off that dictum. Again, this advice is more of a response to their fearful imaginings than my reality. I don’t have to make a decision. I can simply do whatever is I feel like doing when the time comes. Knowing me, I’ll probably cry. Grief seems to rise up during times of change, because I am reminded of why I am so rootless, but even that is okay.

But for now I am enjoying sitting on the wall and letting the future take care of itself.

***

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.

The Most Observant Person in the World

I do not know who the most observant person in the world is, I just know it’s not me.

When I took my car in to a new VW mechanic (new to me), he told me I should be using 91 octane gasoline. That stunned me. I’d never used anything but the cheapest regular gas. In fact, since these old air-cooled engines are not exactly luxury models, I figured they were built to use plain ol’ regular gasoline. When I voiced my surprise, he said that the octane rating was marked inside the gas flap, but that it had probably been worn away.

I had to laugh today when I opened the flap to get gas. There is was. Not even faded after 43 years. I have opened that flap a thousand times or more over the years. I wonder when I stopped noticing the message? Years. Maybe decades.

I must have seen it when the car was new. Odd that it never occurred to me what the words meant even though the notification was in German. Odder still that all the mechanics I’ve had over the years told me plain old regular was okay.

I just checked my manual — I still have that after 43 years, too. Apparently, since I’d been driving VW bugs for years before I got one of my own, I never bothered to read the manual, because the necessary octane was listed there, too. And so was the information I’ve been seeking ever since lead was removed from our gasoline supply — Yes, I can use unleaded gas. VWs were built specifically to use unleaded gas. I had a small stock of lead substitute that I’d been using, and it worried me what I would do when it is gone, because when it is, it is gone permanently. Not available anywhere.

One of these days I should read the whole manual to find out what else I never knew. Or not. The car has managed to survive all these years, and now that I’ve found a real VW mechanic, it runs like it always did.

I’ve known for a long time that I’m not observant, so I try to pay particular attention to things. The bark on a palm tree.

palm tree bark

The tiniest wildflowers,

The prickles on a baby Joshua tree.

joshua tree

If I keep at it, maybe I will become the most observant person in the world, but honestly, I’m fine with just noticing . . . anything.

***

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.

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.

***

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.

A Life That Ambles

I haven’t been walking in the desert lately. I’ve been mostly wearing myself out packing, and when I do walk, I’m going to or from dance class on city streets.

daffodils

Cities have their advantages.

Where I used to live in rural Colorado, there wasn’t much in the way of amenities, except things for cattle and horses, like alfalfa fields.

alfalfa

So I enjoy the lovely and whimsical sights that cities offer.

20150311_141025bd

Class was cancelled today, and since there is little heavy work to be done to sap my strength, I took myself out to the desert.

desert

Walking in those barren, path-strewn hills, I was reminded of my life — lots of paths going nowhere, somewhere, anywhere. The straight path to . . .  wherever . . . is there, but it eludes me. I am left to clamber around the expanse, not knowing if there is a pattern to my life, not knowing if I am going anywhere in particular, not knowing much at all, if the truth be known.

And yet, hidden in the barren expanse are magical vistas,

desert

colorful gems,

cactus flower

and lovely surprises.

natural rock garden

There is a lot to be said for a life that ambles — literally and metaphorically — without a set destination. Such a life might not afford the luxuries that money provides, but oh, the benefits to such a life are beauty and joy.

***

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.

The Reality of the Realty Situation

People find it appalling when I tell them the realtor asked me to leave the house when someone comes to look, but oddly, it doesn’t bother me. As a writer, I understand perfectly.

In the literary world, there is a thing called the “fictive dream.”

heavenFrom a writer’s standpoint, the fictive dream is when the writer forgets the words s/he is writing and instead sees the characters as alive and moving about his/her mind as if in a dream. The more the writer works on the story, sharpening the words and images, the vision becomes “more lucid until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”– John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

From a reader’s standpoint, the fictive dream is when the reader is drawn into the story, so much so that the outside world fades from mind, and they are living the story like in a dream.

A skilled writer knows how to pull readers into the story. Unskilled writers often use various tactics that draw attention to themselves, and those self-aggrandizing elements destroy the fictive dream and catapult reader out of the story.

(I know the fictive dream more from a reader’s POV since I was a reader long before I was a writer, and I often let myself be pulled into the story. I know how to write to keep the dream going, but I have never experienced the writer’s fictive dream. Writing for me is more of a slog than a dream — I have to pull the story out of the slushpile I call my mind, one word at a time.)

In the real estate world, there is something called the buyer’s dream (and if there isn’t, there should be). Would-be buyers need to imagine themselves in the house, want to dream of their new life in the house they are looking at. If they can imagine it, they will be more inclined to buy. The presence (or near presence) of the person currently living in the house pulls lookers out of the dream, breaking their connection with the house and the real estate agent. This might not be fatal, of course, but it does make sense that buyers need to bond with both the house and agent, and the presence of anyone else breaks that bond.

So far, only one person came to look at the house when I was here. (The rest of the time, I’ve been gone.) With nothing else to do, I sat on the small wall dividing this property from the next, and basked. Scents of new blossoms drifted to me on quickening air currents, as did the sounds of birds singing in the warm sun.

I don’t often have an excuse to just sit and feel my connection to the world, and lately, I haven’t been creating the excuse.

I’d been dreading this particular phase in my life, having to live pristinely with everything packed out of sight and being at the mercy of lookers and realtors, but it seems as if the reality of the realty situation will have its merits.

***

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

I’ve Got Nothing to Say Except . . .

HELLO

***

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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