End of Internet Service

This will be my last day of wireless service, at least of the guaranteed/secured variety. I will have access to wireless at public locations, of course (assuming I want to bring my computer to such places) and I will have my phone. But easy access will be gone until I again stay at a house with wireless.

I have rented a room in a house where I will be able to also house my car. Wireless? Garage? It would have been a hard decision to make, but in truth, it was the only viable place I could find. I spent one appallingly depressing day checking out various places, and oh, my. One house was basically a warehouse for old, used up men, one of whom was a stroke victim who had not fully recovered, and another who was slowly being consumed by Alzheimer’s. Another place was okay, but the person renting the room was using it at the moment, so basically it would have been a bed in the middle of chaos. And the third place. Eeek. I am not a neatnik by any means, but the place was littered with trash and stunk. Oh, my.

But, with a bit of effort and luck, things did work out. If the only drawbacks are no internet, a long commute, and a morose roommate who keeps to his side of the house, then I came out ahead, especially since the mastewindr bedroom I will be renting comes with a lock and a key. And anyway, no internet means no distractions, so perhaps it would lead to working on my book.

The place I’ve been staying the past couple of nights has no heat, and I’ve been freezing, which has made me wonder about my sanity in attempting a cross country trip in winter, even if only along the lower edge of the country. But I am getting restless and need an adventure. Besides, the whole point of an unsettled life is to take what comes, and winter is definitely coming. And I am going.

I will still have my phone to keep in touch. Will let you know what is going on as I find out. Meantime, keep warm!


(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.”)

So, What Am I Doing?

What I am doing? I don’t really have an answer to that. At least, not an interesting one. I’m still researching the gear and clothing I will need for my road/camping/hiking trip, though I’m a bit sick of the whole thing. Too much thinking about silly stuff, such as the efficacy of base layer fabrics and waterproof outer layers, what type of potty — if any — to get, what sort of first aid and emergency products I would need. Admittedly, this research will not seem so silly when I am trying to stay warm and dry in an El Nino deluge. But for now, it seems like . . . oh, horrors . . . shopping. (I’d be one of those people who still wore the same clothes they’ve had since high school except that I outgrew them many pounds ago.)

jugglingI’ve been doing some volunteer work, helping a new company develop its social networking sites. Been reading unnoteworthy books for the simple reason they are close at hand. Been destroying my teeth. (Well, one tooth. Apparently, sitting for hours at the computer, elbow propped on the desk, chin in hand is like gritting one’s teeth, only worse.) I’ve been playing an insane number of solitaire/spider solitaire/free cell games, and, of course, I’ve been taking dance classes. (We’re learning Italian dances to perform at a spaghetti dinner next Saturday, which is perhaps the only new thing I’ve been doing.)

For the most part, I’m just living. I haven’t been hiking much, or even walking more than a few miles a week. It was easy to roam the desert when I lived just a few blocks away, easy to hike up in the Redwoods and on the beach when I had someone to ferry me to the starting point and pick me up at the end, but somehow, the mere act of driving anywhere puts me out of the mood for walking.

I’ve been trying to find my next temporary place of lodging, and even though it will be for only six weeks, no place seems to fit my requirements. Too restrictive, unfriendly dogs, no internet, bad parking, shared bathroom, all things I’d just as soon not have to deal with even for so short a time. So I’ve been going around and around in my head, trying to weigh drawbacks against positive points. I finally had to laugh at myself. It’s this sort of roundaboutation that inspired my desire for a long trip in the first place. Just to go and to let go. To have nothing to think but the moment.

And then there is the added frustration of my publisher going out of business with one publishing company and starting another separate company. I don’t know the reasons for the change, but if I want my books to be published (and not by me), I pretty much have to go along with the deal. So here I am, with internet an iffy proposition, and my needing to change all the buy links on my website, blogs, and social networking sites. Eek. I’m wondering if I can just remove the links and not worry about fixing them, but still, one way or another, there are a lot of links to attend to. More mental activity going nowhere.

See? Lots of living, none of it interesting.


(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.”)

Timely Musings

When I woke this morning, the ambient light seemed much brighter than I would have expected for the early hour. I experienced a moment of disorientation, then it occurred to me that last night might have been the end of daylight savings time. I say “might have been” because ever since I have begun using my self-updating phone for all time-checking needs — wristwatch and bedside alarm clock — I have put all reminders of clock-changing out of my mind.

clockFor just a few minutes, this morning, I felt as if the world had changed while I’d slept. If I were out by myself somewhere, with no way to check unchanged clocks, and with no hint of the change, I’d have no idea what if anything had transpired during the night, and wouldn’t have known what gave me that feeling of unease. I’ve woken with that same sense of disorientation at other times, though, for no reason I could fathom. Perhaps we gain and lose time on a regular basis, but since our clocks are synced to the change, we never know.

When I was young, I took an informal poll. Whenever the days seemed to pass quickly, I’d ask people how the time seemed to them, and invariably, the day seemed to pass quickly for them too. Same with days that moved interminably slowly. Since not everyone experiences the same flow of life at the same time — concentrating on a task, which makes the time seem to go fast, or focusing on an upcoming event, which makes time seem to go slowly — I figured there was a possibility that time did in fact have a natural flux. Seconds might vary ever so slightly, making the minutes a tad longer or shorter, and by the time those variations added up in the hours, we would feel the difference. As long as our clocks followed the ticking of the seconds, no matter how long or short, we’d never know time moved at its own whim.

Adding to this strange but timely musing are the findings of quantum researchers, that measuring creates the actuality. Maybe our time measurement instruments (including heart beats and pulses) actually create time. (Maybe that’s why a watched clock never seems to move? Or should it be the other way, that a watched clock makes time move faster?)

The even odder thing to consider is that despite the dubious gift of an extra hour today, there are still but 24 hours in a day. That didn’t change. Only our instruments changed.

One year, I so hated the idea of daylight savings time that I refused to reset my clock. I automatically adjusted the time in my mind, so it wasn’t a problem, though it was for other people. I remember my panic-stricken brother running out of my apartment when he saw the time, thinking he was late to pick up his fiancé from work, and the almost sheepish phone call a few minutes later when he asked if I knew my kitchen clock was off. I’d forgotten by then of course, so used was I to making the mental adjustment. I never did that again — leave the clocks unchanged.

And now I no longer have a choice. My clock makes the change itself.

As, perhaps, clocks have always done.


(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.”)

Adding “Script” to “Nondescript”

I just read a description of a character as “nondescript,” which made my hackles rise. “Nondescript” is a way of saying someone is so ordinary that no one would notice the character and be able to describe him later, but for an author to use the word “nondescript” is a cheat. As an author, you have the ability (and responsibility) to describe your characters, no matter how nondescript. As readers, we need a bit of “script” to put the character in mind. It doesn’t take much, perhaps something like, “there was nothing remarkable about the fellow — not his lusterless brown hair, his round face, or even his well-worn jeans.” See? A description!

The thing that made the non-description of this nondescript character so heinous was a later description of the character as wearing an ill-fitting wig. Huh? An ill-fitting wig is certainly a description, and takes a character out of the nondescript category.

eyeThere is no such thing as nondescript anyway. I was sitting here trying to imagine a character so bland as to truly be nondescript, but everything I could think of tended to be a “script.” Most people have moles, so the mention of a mole, while ordinary, would be a bit of description. Everyone has a nose — big, small, ski slope, well-proportioned, hooked, babyish — though generally we only remark on those that fall beyond what is considered “normal.” But still, the mention of a nose gives some description. And lips — size and color varies. Eyes vary also — size, spacing, color. (I always tell people I have eye-color eyes since the color doesn’t really exist anywhere that I have seen. I used to call my eyes gray, though they are more of a dark blue gray with a brownish halo around the iris than a true gray. Now I call them hazel, though generally, hazel is considered a greenish brown.)

But back to non-descript. Try to think of a description of a nondescript fellow, and I guarantee you will come up with a description that will make him unique. Admittedly, any description will give readers the idea that the particular body part mentioned was important, even if it’s not, such as the mention of a mole. As I said, most of us have moles, so there is no reason to mention them, and yet, there they are. (In grade school, one of the boys in my class used to count the moles on my face. So embarrassing! And yet, I was one of those mostly unnoticed children.)

Apparently, nondescript is a recurring issue with me because I found another blog post I wrote about the same topic: Describing the Nondescript. In that post, I confessed my own use of “nondescript” in my books, but I guarantee, I will never use the word again. I hope you can say the same.


(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.”)

At Home No Matter Where I Am

When one moves to a new house or apartment, it seems to take forever to get settled in, but when one lives more of a nomadic life, it takes almost no time to become entrenched.

I’ve been housesitting for about seven weeks now. The owners will be returning in a few days, so I spent yesterday morning clearing out the bulk of what I’ve had here with me and settling the items in my cleanstorage unit. Admittedly, many of the things I stored were purchases for my upcoming camping trip, such as my tent and camping lounge chair rather than items I’d removed from storage for personal use. (BTW, that folding lounge chair is huge!! It folds up way bigger than the specs said, and barely fits in my car but will be a great camp cot.)

It feels funny buying things. I don’t like shopping, don’t like “things” and yet, my upcoming road/camping/hiking trip is so far out of my normal lifestyle that I have very little that translates from a sedentary life to a mobile one.

I’ve been getting most of the stuff I need online. Whenever I go to a sporting goods store, I can’t find what I want and can’t find anyone to help me. But I can research online without trudging down huge aisles of stuff that I don’t want and that wouldn’t fit even if I did want. Besides, some of my gear comes from specialty companies, such as Pacerpoles and Solo Stove, a camping stove that uses bits of twigs for fuel. Not that I plan on cooking (I don’t cook now, at least not much), but it will be nice to be able to have a warm drink on a cold night and to have a hot water bottle to warm the bed. (I’m chilled at night now, and it’s a torrid 72° in the house. But then, I’m adapted to the heat, and — fingers crossed — I’ll adapt to the cold.)

I’ve been spending so much time preparing for my trip that it didn’t really hit me until last night that I’m planning on camping in the winter. Winter? I must be out of my mind, especially since this will be my first attempt at such an escapade, and most especially since this will be an El Nino year. Even along the southernmost border, the weather could get very cold and very wet. Eek.

And yet, why not? I will be staying with friends along the way, and in between, if it’s too wet for camping, I can get a motel. Besides, it’s all about the adventure. Seeing what I can do with what life throws at me and seeing what I can throw back at it.

Still, I will be prepared for emergencies, if not mentally, then physically, with a carload of warm clothing and survival gear. And, of course, I’ll have my phone, along with a solar charger (assuming there will be some sun somewhere) and an external battery. With a phone, I should be able to keep track of the weather, even if only sporadically, and make plans accordingly. Adventure is one thing. Danger is something entirely different, and it’s not on my agenda.

I seem to be getting far from my original premise of this blog about how quickly I manage to get settled in now that I’m sort of nomadic, but perhaps I’m still on target. After all, no matter where I am, there my home will be, and it will be nice to feel at home wherever I am.


(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.”)

When the Ugly Duckling is Just a Duck

A couple of women in dance class today were talking about aging and how it was an adjustment when they no longer turned heads. Not a problem, they said. Just an adjustment.

SThese women are still lovely, and I can imagine they were real head-turners when they were young, but not everyone has that same experience. For some of us, the adjustment was not learning we no longer turned heads, but accepting the knowledge that we would never would turn heads.

The lure of the ugly duckling story looms large in girlhood. I suppose even the pretty girls long to be a swan, unable to see until — perhaps it was too late — that they’d been swans all along. (In the case of the two women in class today, they might in fact have been swans of the Swan Lake sort since both had studied ballet for many years.)

I’m long past the moment when I realized this ugly duckling would never be a swan, long past the days I wondered what it would feel like to be a head turner. There is something to be said (though I’m not sure what, hence this short post) for being an ugly duckling that grows up to be merely a duck. There is beauty in that, too.


(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.”)

Building a New World for Myself

When a writer builds a world for her novel, she can either begin with the known earthly world and add details to make it her own, or she can create a world from scratch, building the world from the outside in. First, the broad view of how the world looks, smells, feels. Second how the inhabitants make this world their own with cities, farms, and designated wild areas. Third, the infrastructure of this world — the basic divisions of society including cultural, racial and governmental . Fourth, the creatures of the world and how they relate to their environment and each other. Finally, the minutiae of life in this special world — how and what the inhabitants eat and drink; how they deal with bodily waste, move around, survive, find comfort.

heavenI  frequently think about a writer’s need for worldbuilding now that I am carving my own world out of the known world. I’ll be leaving in a couple of months for a road/camping/hiking trip, and though the first three steps of worldbuilding are already in place (I am going adventuring to see what is there, not creating the environment itself), I hope to find new ways of relating to the world and its creatures. To this end, all the minutia of life in this new world has to be thought out.

For example, when some people take off on such a trip, they acquire a recreational vehicle, a home away from home that is larger and more luxurious than the places most of the world’s population live. Other people go minimal — taking just what they can carry on their backs.

Me? I’m far from wanting the conspicuous consumption of the monster RVs, or even the convenience/inconvenience of a camper, but I’m also not yet ready for a minimalist adventure. I will have a car (though my automobile is rather minimalist, now that I think about it. An ancient VW Beetle is about as minimal as you can get and still be driving an enclosed vehicle). I will stay with friends occasionally or in motels when inclement weather so dictates. But for the rest of it, I have to create my own world. What sort of shelter will I use? How will I stay warm? What will I sleep on? How will I deal with body functions in the middle of a frigid night? What will I wear? What will I eat? How will I cook? How can I create a modicum of comfort?

So many details!

I’m not going off on an expedition to a remote corner of the galaxy, where I need to bring everything for survival. I probably will never be more than an hour or two drive from civilization, where I can rectify any oversight or under buying, but still, the point is to be as self-sufficient as possible. Or maybe not. Maybe the point is to prepare as best as I can and see happens.

One of the things I want to seek on this expedition is darkness, places that are far from the light pollution of cities, where stars are so numerous you feel as if you are falling up into the sky. Last night I had a vision of myself in a lounge chair, lying under the stars, and letting myself fall into the infinite sky. Romantic, I know. The truth is probably more dangerous and uncomfortable — frigid temperatures, no protection from the small creatures of the night, and none from the large bidepal ones. But still, I’ve been searching for a strong and comfortable folding lounge chair to make my vision a reality.

Other details I still haven’t worked out, such as disposal of body waste. I had planned on getting a portable camp toilet since I’m not sure I have the muscle tone to squat for as long as I would need to do to my “duty,”  but so far I haven’t found one I like. Maybe plastic bags and kitty litter would work. And maybe I am stronger than I think.

Some people find my preparations amusing, and to be honest, sometimes I do too. But I also find the mental exercise a challenge — rethinking every part of life to see what the alternatives are.

In this, too, my preparations reflect the way a writer builds her world, because isn’t writing about rethinking life as we know it to see what the alternatives are?


(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.”)


I’ve been managing a blog for an online company on a voluntary basis, and all of a sudden today, things erupted in a mess. One person posted a bloggerie with a bit of eroticism that offended another blogger. Eroticism is inappropriate in a g-rated blog, but somehow, before I ever got wind of the contretemps to fix matters, the whole thing was blown out of proportion, and one of the parties involved quit. Now I feel heartsick and wonder what the heck I’m doing getting involved in such a situation.

Even before this happened, I’d grown tired of the online world and wanted a break from the internet, so I was going to accept the offer of a place to stay next month where there is no internet. As it turns out, before I could accept, I was disinvited. It was a strange deal — the rainwoman needed someone to fix meals for her for six weeks, look after her dog two or three weekends, and drive her when necessary. All in return for a small wireless-less room. That would have been okay, but she wanted me to sign a contract saying, I think, that I would work so many hours and then be out of her house by a certain date. (Apparently, she was afraid I wouldn’t leave, though she should have been more worried I wouldn’t stay in such cramped quarters.) Since I wouldn’t sign a contract (it seemed as if I were doing more of a favor for her considering what she wanted me to do in exchange for a place to stay and I don’t think favors should be contracted) she disinvited me.

Not a problem. Now that I have my car back, I can stay at a motel if I can’t find a room to rent, but my willingness to be without the internet did point out to me how disenchanted I am (at the moment, anyway) with online life.

To tell the truth, I’m disenchanted with offline life, too. Not sure why. Just going through a phase, I guess.

I do know I need an adventure, something fun, but for now, the rains are mostly keeping me inside. Roads out of the high desert were closed for a while due to cars trapped in mudslides, and that has made me wonder about the wisdom of my winter trip. Admittedly, I will be hanging south, away from the worst of winter’s work, but the forecasts are for cold and copious precipitation even in normally moderate climates. Still, I am planning the trip, planning to camp even in inclement weather (making sure to bring enough food, water, warm clothing and quilts for any emergency), though who knows if the weather will permit such an excursion. Adventure is one thing, foolishness another.

Meanwhile . . .

One day at a time.


(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.”)

Pitching a Tent Without Pitching a Fit

A while back, I ordered a backpacking tent, but since my first camping trip will be more of a car camping expedition, I searched for a second tent. It didn’t need to be big, but I wanted more than just a waterproof coffin to sleep in. I liked the idea of being able to stand up and maybe move around a bit, and I didn’t want to have to scramble out of a miniscule door when I was half-asleep to answer nature’s call. (To be honest, I wanted room so I could set up a camp potty so I wouldn’t have to go scrambling outside in the middle of the night.)

I found what I thought was a tent taller than it was wide (which is how the picture looked) but it turns out the tent is hexagonal and the angle of the photo was deceptive. It turns out the tent was about 10 feet wide and six and a half feet tall.

Still, despite incredulous questions as to why I would want such a large tent (this from people who own humongous RVs), I ordered the tent. Because it was a discontinued model, it was cheap, so if it doesn’t work out, I don’t lose much. In fact, all I have to do is sleep in the tent three or four nights instead of at a motel those nights, and the thing will have paid for itself.

I was worried about setting up the tent — most 6-person tents have more than one person to help with set up, and all I have is me — but the tent it
self was easy. The rainfly was a different matter. I think anyone would have had a problem getting that rainfly up and over the top of the six-and-a-half-foot-tall tent without it sliding off, so I don’t feel bad that my first two attempts didn’t work out. It will be easier in the future because now I know how to toss it over the top of the tent, what the fly actually looks like, and what side faces out.

I’d be sitting in the tent enjoying my accomplishmet if it weren’t so hot in there at the moment. (Almost 100 degrees outside and not a hint of a breeze. Eek.) One good thing about the height of the tent
— if it’s too hot to sit inside, I can always enjoy the shade it provides. (I’m wondering if I slip a space blanket between the rainfly and the tent if it will deflect some of the sun’s heat. Or not use the rainfly, but attach a tarp on the sun side for clear days.) But the tent is mostly for nights. And mostly to keep me from thinking about bugs and small animals pestering me — and festering me — while I sleep.

The tent will fun for a while at least, like the playhouse I never had, and it will give me an idea of what — if anything — I can handle when it comes to intermittent nomadic living. (As much as I can plan anything, at the moment, I am planning a couple of months on the road, then coming back here for a couple of months if I can find a place to live, and then . . . who knows.)

I’ll air the tent out for a bit, then fold it up and pack it away. I have a hunch putting it away is the real challenge! (If the tent looks amateurish, all loose and wobbly, it’s because I didn’t staked it out. It’s hard to pound a stake into concrete.)

It might not seem like much of a step toward adventure, but by such small steps, a new adventure begins.


(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.”)

Mini Adventure

Note to self: Do not take empty backpack to grocery store.

I needed a bit of adventure today. Since I don’t seem to see the sense in driving somewhere to walk, I decided to do a sort of hiking tryout starting from the house I am currently sitting. I donned my new hiking socks, new hiking shoes, grabbed my new pacerpoles. At the last minute, I decided to take another campingpair of shoes in case I happened to encounter issues with the stiffly new shoes, so I stuffed the old ones in my backpack (not a daypack) and headed out. The only unpaved area to walk around here is a vast field with paths leading to a shopping center, so I figured while I was there, I would pick up a couple of things at the grocery store. Those “couple of things” turned out to be an assortment of oranges and apples, eggs, a couple of canned goods, a few protein and fruit bars, and various other things my hungry/thirsty self seemed to think it needed. All fit in the pack, but eek. It weighed at least fifteen pounds.

The 2 1/4 mile hike to the store was downhill, and with an empty pack and my new pacer poles, I just skimmed along the pathway. The way back, obviously, was uphill, and with all that weight on my back and hips, I did more plodding than skimming, though I can’t blame it all on the weight of the pack. By the time I headed back, the moderate temperatures had blazed into the high nineties. (I don’t often finish a bottle of water on such a short hike, but I’d drained the whole thing before I got back.)

It turned out I didn’t need the extra pair of shoes. The socks did what they promised and kept me blister free. The pacerpoles also did what they were supposed to, kept me upright, shoulders relaxed and back, and distributed the weight more evenly. The only problem is, now my whole body aches, not just my feet!

I don’t suppose this is much as adventures go, but it satisfied something in me, smoothing out my sorrows, giving me a chance to use the hiking gear I’ve been assembling. I hadn’t planned on starting out walking with a fifteen pound pack — I’d thought eight pounds was more of a beginning weight — but I managed to get back all in once piece and uninjured. Always a good thing!


(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.”)


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