Rear Window

Time for another fireside chat, euphemistically speaking. The heat I’m feeling is not the breath from my Dragon, the speech recognition software I am currently using, but from the sun burning through my window. After several days of cold, rain, and wind, the sky is temporarily clear and the sun is scorchingly hot. For the first time in my life, I feel inclement weather in my bones and muscles, in increased pain. But ah, with the sun comes a better outlook and acceptable levels of pain, if there is such a thing. (This reminds me of an incident that happened in the hospital after my first wrist surgery. The nurse asked me what my goal was for the day. I said, “You mean like running a marathon?” She said, “No. Regarding your pain.” I responded, of course, that I wanted zero pain. The nurse laughed. I still don’t understand why the laugh. Isn’t that what we all want, zero pain?)

I’ve always tried to take care of myself, augmenting fairly good genetics with supplements, healthy foods, and exercise, so I have not had to deal with a lot of excruciating pain except for occasional ailments. The thought of having to live with chronic pain is daunting, especially because the pain came in an instant. One moment I was fine — happy, healthy, and relatively carefree — and the next moment I was on the ground screaming in pain. And now nothing will ever be the same. I’m planning on doing whatever I can to gain a painless existence, but that will always laughably be a forlorn hope. I have already reached the age where small aches are a daily occurrence and healing a painstaking matter. However, after yesterday’s weather-induced agony, today’s sunny prognosis is a real blessing, and it assures me that there is hope no matter how forlorn.

One of the many benefits of modern medicine, or so I always thought, was the ability to remove physical pain from our lives, but I am learning that many of the miracle drugs merely take the edge off the pain. In itself, that’s a good thing, but it still leaves behind one heckuva lot of unpleasantness. Perhaps, in the end, I won’t have to deal with as much unpleasantness as the orthopedic surgeon claims I will. Perhaps I will find a way to turn off my reaction to the pain so that it’s just another sensation. Perhaps I will learn to heal myself. Perhaps a lot of things. All I know is that today, sitting here in the sun, staring out the rear window, I feel pretty damn good.

In the early days of my incarceration in this room, I’d look out the window and muse that this must be the absolute worst performance ever of the movie Rear Window because, unlike Jimmy Stewart, I couldn’t see much of anything. Cars in the mid-distance. Cactus close in. But no murderous folk. No folk at all for that matter. But today it makes no difference that I can’t see anything happening outside that window. All that matters is that inside, by the window, my life is happening.

It’s been nice chatting with you. I hope you are also having a relatively pain-free day.

The watercolor below is my most recent offering, an almost obscenely cheerful and optimistic image, and way out of character!

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

Final Edits, Perhaps

I received the final edits for my novel Light Bringer, which will be published later this month. I had a couple of editors go over the book to look for any problems; when I get the proof copy, I want it to be strictly a copy-editing job — checking for typos, the letter I that mysteriously transforms itself into the numeral one, and other such exacting details. When I sent Donna B. Russell the manuscript to edit, I enclosed a message:

Donna, I hope you enjoy this book as much as you did Daughter Am I. Thirty years of research, about six years of writing from start to finish — it’s my magnum opus, though it won’t be so magnum if no one likes the opus.

When Donna sent the manuscript back with the edits, she replied, 

In your last e-mail, you said, “It’s my magnum opus, though it won’t be so magnum if no one likes the opus.”  I don’t think you have to worry about that because I’m sure Light Bringer is much closer to an “opus” than an “oops.” *S*  You have a good beginning, building tension with Helen driving in the snowstorm and finding a baby on her doorstep, and a superb ending.  The double plot twist at the end was absolute genius — a kind of literary whiplash, but in a good sense.  Your vivid descriptions helped me “see” not only the people, but the scenery and locations.  You made them very real.  You made me care about the main characters, and developed both the good guys and the villains very well.

One of my favorite passages in the book didn’t have to do with the main story, but with Hugh’s father (p. 218):

“His father, who had endured years of agony while dying of pancreatic cancer, had once told him pain created its own reality. He said he could no longer remember what it felt like before the pain began, nor could he imagine what it would feel like when it ceased. Nothing else ever existed, or would ever exist, except the eternal pain.”

You’ve captured exactly how many feel who live with chronic pain on a daily basis.

Below are the line edits and some suggestions.  I hope they are helpful.  I wish you all the best with Light Bringer. — Donna

How can you not feel like a real author when people are going around quoting you! Okay, just one person, but still . . .