Proposal for a Book About Grief

The time has come to talk of many things . . . well, one thing anyway. Grief. I need to get going on the proposal for a grief book about the second year and beyond, so I would appreciate any suggestions of topics that you think should be included.

Some topics are obvious, such as The Five Major Challenges We Face During the Second Year of Grief and Meeting the Challenges of the Third Year of Grief.

Although I’ve never heard anyone but me and subsequently my blog readers talk about it, apparently there is another massive grief upsurge at the eighteen month mark, which probably should be mentioned.

Also, a few theories I came up with on my own, such as The Half-Life of Grief and Grief and Our Lizard Brain should be included because they are important insights into the grieving process and why it takes so long to come to an accommodation with grief.

During the course of the book, I need to assure people that they are not crazy, that it is normal to still be having upsurges of grief into the fourth year and well beyond when they have lost a fundamental part of their life, such as a spouse or a child. I think it’s important to somehow let the bereft know that it is not their family and friends’ responsibility to keep track of their grieving process. It is theirs alone.

Should I include a chapter geared toward those who haven’t experienced such a great loss to help them understand what their bereft friends and family are going through? Or would this be outside of the scope of this book? Even if the folks the chapter would be intended for didn’t read it, perhaps it would give the bereft one the confidence to speak up rather than wondering if in fact their family and friends are right about them?

Mostly, I want to tell people the truth about grief (my truth anyway), not try to comfort them or offer the typical platitudes such as “grief takes as long as it takes” (because really, when you think about it, that doesn’t say anything at all while giving people the idea that maybe they aren’t doing grief right if it is taking them so long). By the second year, the bereft know grieving is hard, and I think more than anything else, they want that hardship to be recognized and not disregarded as if it were something akin to a self-willed temper tantrum. (Well, more than anything else, what the bereft really want is their loved one back, but giving them this would be beyond the scope of my book.)

At the end of the book, there should be an explicit or implicit promise that yes, as hard as grief is, they can find a renewed interest in life.

Is there anything else you can think of? Anything you would like to see addressed? Any part of the grief process that seems to be overlooked by grief professionals? Anything that I’ve written over the years that should be emphasized?

Thank you for your help. And thank you, from the very depths of my being, for all the support you have given me (and my writing) over the years.

***

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.

Feasting My Eyes and My Soul

I’d never had any particular interest in seeing Crater Lake, probably because the photos of the lake are so ubiquitous, but everyone I talked to about my return trip recommended that I go. So I did. And wow. Photos simply do not do the place justice, not even my photos. The park is astonishingly beautiful, from Annie’s Spring on the way to the crater,

to the sculpted cliffs,

to the mountains in the distance,

to the lake itself.

If anything, the day was too perfect, at least too perfect for a photograph. While my eyes could distinguish the edge of the lake where the cliffs were mirrored in the water, the camera could not, so the photos came out looking weird with those upside down cliffs.

And yet, totally awesome. I’d planned to stop by, take a photo, and wander around for a few minutes to stretch my legs, but I ended staying most of the day. I simply could not stop feasting my eyes and my soul.

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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.

The Wilds of Civilization

After eleven years, Sheila Deeth, a fellow author and one of my very first online friends, has become an offline friend! It was a true delight to see her in person, but the truth is, it has made no change in our relationship. We were friends who knew almost everything about each other, and we are still friends. In fact, as with other online friends who have become all line friends, there wasn’t a second of awkwardness. We simply moved from a written relationship to one with sound.

People always worry about my visiting people I don’t know, but after so many years of sharing blogs and books and publishers and moments of our lives, we do know and trust each other. (Assuming one person can truly know another.) And so it was — a simple segue into a new phase.

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I’d been following online the trauma of Sheila’s flooded basement and its resurrection, and I so wanted to see her library. Instant library envy! After seeing it, I teased her that I might never leave. A roomful of books — wow!

Although she mentioned their disappointment in not having a view, I thought they had a fabulous view. Who needs a distant backdrop when one has such great beauty beside one’s own house? I have lived in desert areas my whole life — and make no mistake, Colorado is a desert with one benefit, its white gold (snow) that makes it possible (assuming that one does not have a brown thumb as I do), with a lot of effort to carve out a colorful space for yourself. Seeing so much almost effortless green seems miraculous to me.

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One thing I love about traveling and visiting people is that for a short time I get to borrow someone else’s life, and that night I got to share in Sheila’s after dinner ritual — a cryptic crossword puzzle. I had often come across the puzzles, but the things were too cryptic for me, with a code language all its own, and they helped me crack the code. If I ever come across another such puzzle, I will attempt to solve it, and think of that lovely evening.

Before I left, Sheila took me to the Pittock Mansion

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to see a panoramic view of Portland.

Although I had planned a trip into the wilds of nature, I ended up a trip into to wilds of civilization, and what an adventure!

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, 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.”)

 

Trip, Life, and Book Update

Planning is what we do before the adventure begins. Once the wheel is on the road or the foot on the path, you have to take it as it comes. In my case, the “taking it as it comes” started long before the plans were even finalized. Originally, I was going to have a six week adventure, possibly even more, but that was cut short when I agreed to do a dance performance at the beginning of June. (I couldn’t pass up a chance to wear my belly dance costume again!) So the six week adventure became four weeks. A terrible cold knocked that four weeks down to three.

Finally, I am well enough (I hope!) to leave tomorrow.

I’ll still be able to see the people I planned to visit, but the extended camping and hiking trips on the way to Seattle have been cancelled. In a way, I don’t mind — I’m still not completely well and I don’t want to take a chance on getting pneumonia, but more than that, when left to my own devices, I tend to just drive, only stopping for the night when I am too exhausted to continue. I really get into the Zen of driving — letting thoughts drift into my mind and then leaving them in the past as I continue to drive into the future.

Although I desperately need a wilderness trek, there is much wilderness within a day’s drive of where I am staying in the desert, including access to the Pacific Crest Trail and various national parks so it’s not as if this was my only chance to tree bathe. And who knows — if I feel well enough after I’ve made turtles (the chocolate/pecan/caramel kind) with my sisters in honor of our mother on Mother’s Day weekend, I could still do a camping trip in the Olympic National Park. (That was one of the camping trips I had to cancel because of my illness.) And perhaps even a short backpacking trip, but that’s up in the air since I’ve spent much of the past three weeks in bed and have little strength.

The one bright spot in all of this is that I finished my decade-old novel!! I hope I didn’t rush the ending to get through, but I had already made all the points I needed to make, and I couldn’t figure out a second-to-last twist, so I mostly summarized their idyllic existence in their near-Eden before I hit them with the big whammy.

I still don’t know what I am going to do with the book. I do not like Amazon, so I don’t want to “publish” it there, I don’t have a publisher for it, and I don’t want to do the horrific work of finding one, so as of right now, I am just sending a PDF to anyone who wants to read it. If you want to read the book, leave a message in a comment, and I will send the PDF to you. It’s not my typical story with a mystery — it’s more of a sometimes humorous, sometimes horrifying apocalyptic novel where God decides to recreate the world. If you do read it, I would appreciate a notation of any typos you might find as well as any sections that drag or speed by too fast.

See you on down the road!

***

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.

Free Review Copy of Unfinished

Stairway Press has just informed me they have review copies of UNFINISHED to give away! If you would like to review this novel about the secrets a grieving widow uncovers when she goes through her deceased husband’s effects, please leave a comment on this blog. Reviews are to be posted on Amazon and at least one other place, such as your blog if you have one, Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. Stairway Press would also like permission to post the review on their website.

The review doesn’t have to be brilliant, just a few words to tell your honest opinion of the book and how it made you feel.

If you’ve already read the book, and have not left a review, please leave a review on Amazon. As Stairway Press said to me in a recent email, “Your book is good. It should please readers and fan word-of-mouth flames. But, it’s just sitting there looking at us as if it expects us to do something.”

So, let’s do something! Even if you don’t want to review the book, please share this post so that it can reach as many people as possible. Thank you.

Click on the cover below to read the first chapter and see if Unfinished is something you’d like to read and review.

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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.

Author Arc

There are only two days left of my novel writing month. Unlike the National Novel Writing Month in November, which is about writing 50,000 words in a month, I had no goal except to work on my book every day. The first four days of March were dedicated to editing and reading what I already had written — it’s impossible to finish writing a book if you don’t know what it’s about, and I’d let the poor thing lie fallow for so many years, I’d forgotten many of the details.

Two days of the month were wasted from a novel writing point of view as I celebrated Jeff’s death with tears and sorrow (though not, of course, wasted from a purely personal point of view). I did open the manuscript and stare at it for a while both those days, which has to count for something.

It is interesting that I should be working on this particular book around the anniversary because it was the last book where Jeff offered any input — he always helped with making sure the men thought and acted like men. Some people were disappointed with my last two books —  Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinished — both of which were written long after his death so they lacked the male point of view that kept my first four books from slipping into girlishness. And I have to admit, both Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinished are “girlier” than my first four novels, which I doubt Jeff would have liked. But the way I figure, if he didn’t want me to write fiction geared more for women, then he shouldn’t have died.

I have a hunch my male characters in the book I am writing now are losing their edge, but I don’t think it matters. The theme of the story is freedom. How much freedom we are willing to give up for safety, how much safety we are willing to give up for freedom, and in the end, since freedom is an illusion, it’s about embracing responsibility. So, if in this third part, the characters are different from the first two parts, it can be chalked up to character arc rather than author arc.

Usually about this time, as I am sliding down to the end, I have another book in mind, but not this time. One idea I had was to write a murder mystery when/if I ever hiked long sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’d probably scare myself half to death writing about death in the wilderness on such a hike, but it certainly would give a book immediacy if I were sort of living it as I wrote it. Another idea is to do a sequel to the book I am now finishing. Two babies were born in completely different circumstances in this newly created world of mine. One of the babies is named Eve. The other Adam. It does call out for a sequel doesn’t it? And yet, this book is more or less a one-note story. Once the gag is played out, I’m not sure what’s left.

Anyway, considering how long I’ve been working on this book, I shouldn’t count my ending before it’s hatched — if I get sidetracked again, it could be years before I get back to it.

I will extend my novel-writing month into April, however, even though I only have half the month to write since I will need at least a week to prepare for my trip. (It’s not just a road trip and a camping trip and a hiking trip, but also a backpacking trip, a city trip with a fancy night on the town, and various and sundry other excitements.) After that week of preparation, I will be leaving. Although I have been calling this my May trip, I will be leaving in April since I have to be back the last week in May to practice for a performance. Let’s hope I don’t lose the dances somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. They were both difficult to learn.)

Does talking about my book constitute working on it? No, I guess not. So, back to work I go, constructing a world and many dangers for my poor characters to suffer through.

***

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.

Reviewers Wanted!

Stairway Press has just informed me they have review copies of UNFINISHED to give away! If you would like to review this novel about the secrets a grieving widow uncovers when she goes through her deceased husband’s effects, please leave a comment on this blog. Reviews are to be posted on Amazon and at least one other place, such as your blog if you have one, Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. Stairway Press would also like permission to post the review on their website.

The review doesn’t have to be brilliant, just a few words to tell your honest opinion of the book and how it made you feel.

If you’ve already read the book, and have not left a review, please leave a review on Amazon. As Stairway Press said to me in a recent email, “Your book is good. It should please readers and fan word-of-mouth flames. But, it’s just sitting there looking at us as if it expects us to do something.”

So, let’s do something! Even if you don’t want to review the book, please share this post so that it can reach as many people as possible. Thank you.

Click on the cover below to read the first chapter and see if Unfinished is something you’d like to read and review.

***

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.

Free Samples!

If you have not yet read any of my books, or if you haven’t yet decided which of them to read, here is an opportunity to sample all of them. Simply click on each of the titles below to read the first chapter free online.

    • Unfinished — While sorting through her deceased husband’s effects, Amanda is shocked to discover a gun and the photo of an unknown girl who resembles their daughter. After dedicating her life to David and his vocation as a pastor, the evidence that her devout husband kept secrets devastates Amanda. But Amanda has secrets of her own…
    • Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare — When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Pat starts writing, and then . . . the murders begin.
    • A Spark of Heavenly Fire — In quarantined Colorado, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease, investigative reporter Greg Pullman risks everything to discover the truth: Who unleashed the deadly organism? And why?
    • Daughter Am I — When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead.
    • Light Bringer — Thirty-seven years after being abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Colorado, Becka Johnson returns to try to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? And why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen?
    • More Deaths Than One — Bob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in SE Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. At her new funeral, he sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on?
    • Grief: The Great Yearning — Not a how-to but a how-done, a compilation of letters, blog posts, and journal entries Pat Bertram wrote while struggling to survive her first year of grief. “This is an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”

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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.

Spending My Words Wisely

I hope you’re not expecting words of wisdom tonight — I spent all my wise words on my book.

Yep. My book. Imagine that! Although I don’t hurt from whatever popped in my thigh yesterday, I thought I should take it easy, so I spent the day inside. Writing.

It’s been years since I spent so much time in one day on a book, and it was actually fun. I had several stray scenes that I’d once written but had no idea how to incorporate into the book, and now they are all connected to the story but one. That one remaining stray scene is a sex scene that I don’t really remember writing, but I’m glad I did because I don’t have much inclination to write sex scenes anymore, and it was an important scene. So yay! The scene is already written. Problem solved.

Except for that one scene, though, I am to the point in the book where I can write chronologically again, which will be good since telling the story as it happens keeps me in the story.

One thing that might be disappointing is that so many of my minor characters are more caricatures than fully rounded characters, but since most of them are going to disappear, does it matter? Besides, the story is from a single point of view, and since the hero was the group outcast and scapegoat, there wasn’t really much opportunity for him to get to know them.

Since the beginning of March when I embarked on this personal novel writing month, I have added a good 3,000 thousand words to the story, though I still have a minimum of 15,000 to go. I worry that the book will be too short — generally stories that take place in alternate or fantasy worlds are rather long, but those books are usually also told from multiple points of view with multiple subplots. But when you have a single main character, once that character has changed to become what the story needs him to become and has done what the character needs to do, the story must come to a close.

Meantime, my hero has embarked on a journey, so there is still a long way to go, both in the writing and in the story.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Here is a very brief excerpt from my book that amused me today:

Unable to see more than a few inches in front of him, he stopped. He felt a hard push on his back and realized the sheep was prodding him with a hand-like hoof. Or a hoof-like hand. His brain seemed to skip a cog, and for a moment he had the light-headed feeling that none of this was real—not this world, not the storm, and certainly not the sheepish humanoid. Another prod from the sheep. The cog slipped back into place, and he bowed under the weight of reality.

 

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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.

Polka-Dotted Loin Cloths

I have my decade-old manuscript open on my laptop, so the first thing I see when I lift the lid is the last thing I wrote. And this is what greeted me today:

The polka-dotted loin cloths and cave girl outfits did not disappear, but Bob did.

Seeing that sentence amuses me and makes me excited about working on this new/old book. Not excited enough to actually write, you understand, but enough to keep me thinking about writing. Still, any kind of excitement when it comes to my writing is a good thing.

Actually, I have been writing a few words each day — nothing immortal, just brief bits to connect stray scenes. Much of what still needs to be written are the day-to-day activities of the characters, with enough interaction between the secondary characters and the hero so you get to understand them and their group roles and perhaps care when they meet their ignominious end.

After that, there is the whole last part of the book where the characters that remain find a place to settle down before they are whapped with one final horror.

But, until then, a whole lot of daily details need to be written. Thousands of words worth.

You never know — I might actually write a few of those words today.

Well, perhaps later.

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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.