Echoes

Writers need to watch out for echoes — a duplication of words, phrases, effects, details, scenes that reverberate in readers’ minds and dilute the work. As an example: originally I’d written the first sentence of this blog as “Writers need to watch out for echoes — a duplication of words, phrases, effects, details that echo in readers’ minds and dilute the work,” but the second “echo” echoed the first and diluted the effect of both, so I changed the second “echo” to “reverberate.” In the same way, if you have two scenes that make the same point without adding anything new, then the scene is not only redundant, but echoes in readers’ minds, and makes them feel as if the story is going nowhere.

Sometimes, however, an echo can be used to good effect in writing, such as when you’re trying to play on a theme, but it’s especially effective in photography. A roof can be an interesting subject for an image, but showing the roof against an analogous background — peaks against peaks — can strengthen the image rather than dilute it.

There is no shortage of peaks around here — roof peaks, mountain peaks, hill peaks — and I was able to find shots of peaks perfectly echoed against peaks to illustrate my point.

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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.

Deep Thought. Or Not

When you’re looking at the world, don’t forget, the world is looking back at you.

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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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Grief: Looking at the World Through a Camera Lens

My publisher suggested adding photos to my soon-to-be-published book about grief, and I jumped at the chance. I’d recently read David Ebright’s YA novel Reckless Endeavor, and was impressed by how much veracity just a couple of photos gave his story, so I was glad of the opportunity to do the same for my book. The only problem is, I have almost no photos of me and my life mate. We simply did not take photos — not of the places we lived, and not of each other. It’s not that we weren’t visually inclined, it’s that we lived in the moment. If you take a photo of the moment, the shoot becomes the moment and you lose the moment itself.

A couple of years before he died, I was gifted with a digital camera, and I took hundreds of photos of trees, animal tracksa cattle drive, some yaks in a nearby field, wildflowers (well, weeds) along the lane where I walked. It helped me get through what I thought were the worst years of my life, the years of his dying. Oddly, during all that time, I only took one photo of him, and that was by accident. We always wanted to see the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, but since the road leading to the canyon was gravel, it was too hard on our old cars. We promised each other that if we ever had the use of a rental car, we would take the trip. That August, I rented a car so I could visit my brother, and when I returned, I suggested we finally go see the north rim of the canyon. He didn’t want to make the trip since he was so sick, but at the last moment, he agreed to come with me. It’s a good memory. Just him and me and the ground that fell away just beyond our feet. I had my camera, and since I knew I’d never be back, I snapped a few photos, and he ended up being in one of those pictures. It still makes me cry, that photo. He’s standing with his back to me, staring at  . . . eternity, perhaps. Did he know he had just a few more months to live? I sure didn’t, or perhaps I was simply refusing to face the truth.

The year after he died (which actually was the worst year of my life), I took thousands of photos. The world had turned black and white, and it was only through the lens of a camera that I could see color and life. I roamed the neighborhood and the nearby desert, looking for visual treasures.

And then suddenly, a few months ago, I stopped carrying my camera around. Apparently, despite my continued sadness, I’m back in the moment, living life at full strength rather than diluted through the lens of the camera. I didn’t even realize how far I’d come until I started hunting photos for my book and realized I’d stopped taking pictures.

(I did manage to scrounge a few photos for the book, though not as many as my publisher wanted. And we’ll be using the only photo of the two of us for the back cover even if it is fifteen years old.)

Surprised By Life

I have relocated, and am now staying with my 93-year-old father. We’re muddling on okay together, we two virtual hermits who have lost our mates. He keeps to his schedule, and I keep to mine, though my schedule is less structured than his. I try to take a walk most days, and I bring my camera with me to see capture whatever beauty I might see. It’s a practice I started a couple of years ago to help me with my writing, a way to replenish my creative wells.

I had forgotten that this valley, like the mesa where I had been living for the past two decades, is surrounded by mountains, so mountains still form the backdrop of my life, making me feel a bit more at home than I expected from such an alien place. And it is alien — high desert rather than high plains, and city rather than country. I’d expected to have to walk along suburban streets, getting lost in the labyrinth of subdivisions, but on one of my first treks, an arroyo beckoned — sort of an alley way between houses — and I took that untraveled path. (Well, not exactly a path, more like a place for flash flood waters to run off. Good thing the day was clear and dry.) And then there I was — in the middle of the desert. Yup. Just me and mountains and knolls and sandy roads. And a few very tiny flowers struggling to live in the bleak sand and heat. (Seems like a good metaphor for my life right now.) Surprised the heck out of me.

Life has held many surprises for me lately, most of which were not good, and since I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m headed, I’m sure life will continue to surprise me.

(These yellow flowers are those on the bushes in the other photos.)

Tripping Over Words, Rocks, and Other Things

Today when I was out walking, I took a rockier route than I normally do. I wanted to photograph some shaggy beasts that live down the road. I was paying more attention to the creatures instead of where I put my feet, and I went sprawling. The whole thing was a bit ridiculous. I’d taken the same walk yesterday for exactly the same reason, though yesterday when I tried to take the photos, I discovered the camera batteries were dead. On my way home, I tripped on a branch embedded in the ground and fell. So today, I very carefully stepped over the branch and tripped on a rock. Sheesh.

I did get some photos, though the beasts were too far away for me to get a good image. I think they might be yaks, but it’s hard to tell.

The point of this article is that if you trip over a rock or a branch, you have to pick yourself up and continue on your way. Assuming you’re not hurt, of course. (This is hilarious! MsWord has just told me “you’re” should be “you is.” As in “Assuming you is not hurt.” Yikes!) If you trip over words while writing . . . ah! What joy. You can go back and untrip. Nothing is permanent. Everything is subject to deletion, insertion, revision. (You really didn’t expect me to let a chance to moralize about writing slip by, did you?)

So what does this have to do with my Daughter Am I blog tour? Not a thing. However, since you asked –

Today I am being interviewed at the D.C. Examiner: Pat Bertram discusses her obsessions, reading, and latest projects.

I am also discussing my writing space at Savvy Verse and Wit: Pat Bertram Shares Her Writing Space.

You can also download 30% of Daughter Am I free at: Smashwords.

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