Peachy Keen

The tenth anniversary of my birth into the online world, the tenth anniversary of my dipping a toe into the blogging stream, passed by unnoticed. For all those years, the internet was a place of refuge for me, a way of both slipping away from and embracing the traumas of my life. For an entire decade, I had to care for the sick and dying; grieve the deaths of loved ones; handle the loss of homes, friends, hopes, and security; deal with the pulverization of my wrist, arm, and elbow. And I survived it all.

Now, this virtual place of refuge has become less of a haven and more of morass of passions, opinions, issues, and divisiveness, making me feel estranged in this oh, so strange non-land. During the decades I lived with Jeff, I had no fear of delving into the truth and voicing my thoughts no matter how far out of the ordinary because they were always received with his respect and understanding. I have tried to continue the path of truth, but in an indoctrinated world, a world where propaganda rules and reason is trumped by passion, I have been rendered mostly mute, which is okay. It’s better for my sanity if I live in the world in I see before my own eyes rather than the world reflected in the vitriolic eyes of the unsocial media.

It’s also better for me to live with my own emotions, not just online, but offline. When my own wild emotions — grief, anger, fear — began to fade, I still felt as if I were drowning in sorrow. Other people’s sorrows. Staying away from those particular people and their problems (no matter how cold that makes me seem) has brightened my life considerably.

Someday, I am sure, I will take to blogging regularly again. Someday . . . when I have something to say.

Meantime, I am trying to wean myself away from Facebook, trying to empty my mind of extraneous thoughts (though, to be honest, my mind is already mostly empty), and trying to enjoy my unlonely solitude — when I am alone, that is. I still take frequent dance classes, and once in a while I even go on a small adventure, most recently to pick peaches in an orchard less than three miles from where I am staying.

(I had to smile at the discovery of the peach orchard. In my latest book, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, I called this community Peach Valley and commented, “nope, no peaches, and not much of a valley, either.” I sure was wrong about that!)

I still have no clue where my life will lead me but there is so much of the country I haven’t seen, so much I haven’t experienced, that I am contemplating another long trip after my hand is completely healed. (The fake elbow works fine but the hand and wrist still don’t always behave, and sometimes they are very painful, though for the most part, they do what I need them to do.)

But for now, there is dancing.

And fresh peach cobbler for dessert.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

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Is There Life Without the Internet?

I spent most of yesterday updating my virus protection software. For some reason known only to the computer gods and gurus, simple tasks that should be done in a matter of minutes take hours upon hours. I ended up downloading the program and removing it twice, talking to several different billing and tech people (and some I’m not even sure work for the company — if you google “Trend Micro contact”, you get all sorts of phone numbers, only some of which go the to actual company.) And because they couldn’t simply credit my account with a refund and use that money for the second download I had to pay twice (though they did promise a refund for one of the downloads. Wink. Wink.).

Although I could write a whole post (perhaps even an amusing one) about my experiences with the update, mentioning it is by way of a prologue. I’ve used Trend Micro from the beginning, and it’s been good protection, so I’ve been sticking with them, but yesterday, halfway through the process, I told them I was so unhappy with their service, I was ready to throw away my computer. For just a second, I meant it, and I felt free. And then the truth hit me.

untiledMy life is almost all online. Sure, I could take walks, but who would I tell about my insights? I could write my thoughts, but who would read them? Who would talk to me about Is Introspection Possible? and What Is Luck?, my Soul’s Journey and Living Light and Free? This blog has seen me through some terrible times in my life, and some good ones. It was here that I first announced I’d found a publisher, first promoted my books, first talked about the agony of my grief, had my first inklings that there might someday be happiness for me again. I cannot imagine my life without it. But this is not the only thing I’d have forego.

Without the internet, I’d have no life as an author. I could still write books, but who would talk to me about them? I could perhaps still check with bookstore owners and see if I can do book signings, but what if I wanted to publish another book? Book files are all digital now. How would I get the manuscript digitalized so I could send to my publisher?

There is too much of my life I’d have to do without. I have friends in the real world, which is nice, but I also have friends in the cyber world — people from all around the world — that I’d never get to talk to or email again. I’d never get to check in Facebook again. Well, maybe that wouldn’t be such a loss, but still, it is a part of the online experience, and I’d miss all the people I’ve friended and those I haven’t yet met.

And Rubicon Ranch — the collaboration/serialization I’m writing with other Second Wind authors — I’d have to give up on that, too, just when all the authors are learning to have fun with it and run with it.

Every day online offers the possibility of something wonderful happening. So, after my whole online life flashed before my eyes along with the vision of what my life would be like without the internet, I girded my loins, gritted my teeth, stepped once more into the fray, (feel free to add whatever other clichés you wish), and finally got the job done. Now I just have to wait to see if they follow through on their side with the refund.

Either way, I’ll still be here.

***

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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

Gather ‘Round and You Shall Hear . . . The Story of My Online Life

In October 2007, I entered a contest on gather.com — Court TV Search for the Next Great Crime Writer contest. The winner of the contest would win a $5,000 advance and a publishing contract. My entry, More Deaths Than One, was not a detective story, and it certainly is not a cozy mystery, but it is the story of a crime: identity theft. This theft is an actual theft of a man’s identity, not a paper one. So it did fit with the contest, though from reading the first chapter (all that was posted online for the contest), many people assumed it was a supernatural tale — as the blurb says, When Bob Stark returns home after spending eighteen years in Southeast Asia, he discovers that his mother Lydia Loretta Stark is dead again. When he attends her second funeral, he sees his brother, his college girlfriend, and . . . himself.

I did very well in that contest, too. As of November 17, 2007, I was ranked number one, but I finished up about sixth or seventh. (I could tell you it was because my mother died and I had to go to California for her funeral and I broke my ankle while there and was off the internet for a week so I couldn’t solicit votes, but the truth is . . . come to think of it, I don’t know what the truth is.)

The contest started out being great fun but devolved into all sorts of infighting, faked votes, and terrible reviews that were posted for no other reason than meanness. Still, it turned out to be a pivotal point in my online life and my writing career.

I became friends with many of the contestants, and casual acquaintances with others. (As Jeffrey Siger, one of the contestants said, it’s “sort of like the camaraderie born of battle or surviving a natural disaster: never to be taken as an endorsement of the event that engendered such strong ties among the the participants.”)

I met the group The Writin’ Wombats on Gather because of the contest, and ended up hanging around with them for all these years. Because of the contest, I eventually found a publisher. The link to the publisher’s website was posted on a Wombat thread, and since I was in querying mode, I immediately shot off a query letter. He loved my book A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and sent me a contract. Turns out, I already knew him through the contest, and he asked if More Deaths Than One was still available. It was. Second Wind Publishing has now published five of my books — four novels and one non-fiction book, Grief: The Great Yearning.

Until the crime writer contest, my online presence had been confined to my blog (I’d only had a computer and the internet a few months) but after the contest I posted articles on Gather, and I also migrated to other sites, such as Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. I mostly hang around Facebook now because of my discussion groups there, but I always return to Gather, especially on Thursday evening when I do a live chat with my No Whine, Just Champagne discussion group. I started out knowing only a few people online, now I know hundreds.

And all because of a contest.

So, what was the pivotal point of your online life?