Whose Story Is It?

I woke this morning with the perfect plot for my next book, though I’m not sure I can write it because it’s not my story. In the writing, it will become my story, of course, taking the characters in directions they wouldn’t go in real life, but the people involved in this would-be plot are the starting point, and one person already told me he didn’t want me to put him in book. Or maybe he said he didn’t want to be the villain. Or the victim. One of those. Then he sort of backtracked and said it didn’t matter, so I don’t know where I stand.

Even without his permission, I could still write the book and see what happens. If none of the characters are recognizable in the end, then it wouldn’t matter whose story I started out with in the beginning.

Figuring out who the story is about is one of the first steps to putting a book together. And in this new book, as in Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, the story would be mine and the main character me. Or not. Let’s just say a character named “Pat” with a penchant for hats, who might or might not be me, would be the narrator.

This fictional Pat would buy a house in a town where many people had lived their entire lives (some returning as older adults to the very house where they’d grown up). During renovations of the house and property, many small mysteries would arise. The house itself would be a character, the way it wraps itself around Pat and makes her feel at home, and conversely, the way a visitor was made to feel unwelcome by a ghost only the visitor could see. And the fellow who didn’t want to be in the book would be there in spirit if not in a fully-developed character because he’s the one who, in fixing the place, finds many of the puzzles.

It’s possible there would be enough with just the house and possible ghost to write a cozy mystery, leaving the harder-hitting story I thought of this morning for a later book, but I don’t have all the pieces to the ghost story yet.

And then there’s the additional matter of not having the push to write — getting the house and garage fixed, daily blogging, and attempting to get back into an exercise routine — takes up most of my available “push.” For now, I’ll let both stories stew in my brain pan and see if they coalesce into one cohesive whole or if they remain two different stories with many of the same characters.

The only books I’ve written since Jeff died were all grief infused, even the fiction. Some people thought the grief in Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare misplaced because it overshadowed some of the lightheartedness, but that’s what the narrator “Pat” was feeling at the time. Besides, I do find it ludicrous that so many mysteries and thrillers are steeped in countless deaths, and no one gives even a passing thought to the emotional toll.

It would be worth writing another book just to see where that “Pat” is now, and if her new-found peace shows up in the story.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

Librarier

There is an anecdote going around the internet where a mother asks her little girl what she wants to be when she grows up.

The girl responds, “A librarier.”

“Don’t you mean a librarian?” the mother asks.

“No,” the girl says. “A librarier. Someone who goes to the library and reads.”

This could be a true story because kids can be that precocious, but even if someone besides a little girl made up the word, it’s a good one. And since I identify with the term, I would modify it to simply mean “someone who goes to the library.” I don’t do well reading in public — I need the mental space and freedom to relax into the book, and I can’t do that — don’t want to do that — when people are around. I feel too vulnerable.

Since I’m such a good and reliable librarier, I get to check out more than the maximum. (Being a “good girl” sometimes has its privileges!) But I still go quite frequently.

I have a friend who also reads a lot, but she does read at the library. She once said to me, “People always tell me that life’s too short to spend it reading. I say life’s too short not to spend it reading.”

That’s basically my philosophy. In my younger years, that’s what I did — read. It’s all I ever wanted to do. It’s not a good career choice since there’s no money in it (I could have been a librarian, I suppose, but then I’d have to watch everyone else read while I worked, and that’s not the same thing.) Still, I managed to mostly read my life away.

After Jeff died, everything changed, even reading. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t stand to read fiction. Too many books involved death, and I couldn’t face that faceless beast. Other books involved couples getting together, which was excruciatingly painful since I no longer had anyone. Still other books involved couples not getting together, which was just as bad, because it reminded me of my situation. And I was too unfocused to read non-fiction.

I did struggle with books for a while, but when the library closed for asbestos cleanup, I didn’t miss reading. I did buy an occasional book, but my finances don’t really lend themselves to such an indulgence.

Now, though my finances are even in greater disrepair than ever before, I have a library a few blocks away, a decade’s worth of reading to catch up on, and even better, death’s sting has receded.

So once again, I am a librarier.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

UNFINISHED

Amanda Ray thought she’d grow old with her pastor husband David, but death had other plans. During David’s long illness and his withdrawal from her, Amanda found solace in the virtual arms of Sam Priestly, a college professor she met at an online support group for cancer patient caregivers. Amanda thought that when their spouses were gone, she and Sam would find comfort in each other’s arms for real, but though David succumbed to the cancer that riddled his body, Sam’s wife, Vivian, survives. Vivian had been in the process of divorcing Sam when she fell ill, and after the diagnosis, Sam agreed to stay with her until the end. Since Sam plans to continue honoring his vow, Amanda feels doubly bereft, as if she is mourning two men.

Rocked by grief she could never have imagined, confused by her love for Sam and his desire for her to move near him, at odds with her only daughter, Amanda struggles to find a new focus for her suddenly unfinished life. As if that weren’t enough to contend with, while clearing out the parsonage for the next residents, Amanda discovers a gun among her devout husband’s belongings. Later, while following his wishes to burn his effects, she finds a photo of an unknown girl that resembles their daughter.

Having dedicated her life to David and his vocation, this evidence that her husband kept secrets from her devastates Amanda. If she doesn’t know who he was, how can she know who she is? Accompanied by grief and endless tears, Amanda sets out to discover answers to the many mysteries of her life: the truth of her husband, the enigmatic powers of love and loss, and the necessity of living in the face of death.

Although the feelings of grief Amanda experiences are based on my emotional journey during my first two months of profound grief, the story itself is fiction. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to deal with not only the loss of one’s mate, but the loss of the idea one had of one’s mate. Well . . . yes, I guess I can imagine how it would feel, because I wrote the novel! I hope you will read UNFINISHED. It’s an important book because too few fiction writers portray the truth of new grief, and that lack leaves the newly bereft feeling isolated and as if they are the only ones dealing with grief’s craziness.

You can you can purchase both a print version and Kindle version of UNFINISHED (published by Stairway Press) on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941071651/

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Oops

Oops. I’d completely forgotten I was supposed to be writing a 1920s murder mystery for a dinner in February, and it needs to be done by the middle of January.

When I agreed to do write the mystery, I had plenty of time, but I frittered that time away on . . . well, on living. So now I’m trying to catch up.

I sort of have an idea of who will be the victim, who the killer is. I know where all this takes place: one night at a speakeasy. I know an Italian dinner will be served. I know there will be a representation of at least some of the iconic elements of that 100-year-old decade besides the speakeasy: jazz, gangsters, flappers. Other than that, I haven’t a clue how to go about concocting such a mystery. Obviously, the first part of the dinner is about laying the background for the characters and why someone wanted to do the dastardly deed. Then, even more obviously, there needs to be a dead body. And finally, at the end, there needs to be a way for everyone to figure out who did it.

I’m not sure how to lay the clues. Or what the clues should be. I could write this as a mystery story, and then extrapolate the guessing game from that, but considering how long it takes me to write fiction, it might not be done until next year, especially since they want it to be funny, and funny takes longer.

Still, that’s not a bad idea, writing the mystery as a story. Once I have the whole story, I could possibly work backward. More importantly, it would give me bits of dialogue to hand out to guests, because it’s hard to tell people what they need to be saying if I don’t know.

All done in less than a month? With Christmas coming? Yikes!

Maybe I can start tomorrow. But no, I am helping with a fundraiser at the museum. Maybe Monday? But Monday I am going to the big city (or what passes for a big city in these parts) with a friend who has a doctor appointment. Maybe Tuesday? But Tuesday, I am going to a meeting to help brainstorm ideas for AARPs Livable Communities program.

It’s beginning to look as if the mystery will have to write itself.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

100 Word Story: A Different Perspective

Tom milled around the prison yard with the other inmates, waiting for the sound of death. There would be no stay of execution for their condemned friend, who would die in a most barbaric way.

“They don’t care that he’s innocent,” Tom said. “As are we all. The system is guilty, but no one wants to buck tradition.”

The thud of the axe made him flinch. He bowed his head out of respect for the dead.

In the silence, he heard the executioner’s voice drifting through the chicken wire fence. “It’s a big turkey. We’ll have a grand Thanksgiving feast.”

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Friends Reading Friend’s Books

I visited with a friend this afternoon — I wanted to show her some ornaments I’d bought from another friend, to see if she wanted me to order any for her — and I was amused to see my book on her coffee table. The book is certainly in good company! And it sure tickled me to know she’d been reading it.

It really has been nice, having people I know read my books. Luckily, so far, they’ve liked what they read.

Luckily, too (for you anyway), I have nothing else to say on the matter, so you can spend your time doing something more interesting than reading blogs on the internet. Like reading one of my books, perhaps?

Here is the link for Daughter Am I: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002ZVOH2Y/

And here is the link for my author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Pat-Bertram/e/B002BLUHUY/

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

A Long Slow Conversation

For the most part, despite writers’ groups and online discussions, writing is a solitary occupation. You spend years writing a book, months rewriting it, and perhaps a year or two editing it. (Unless you are participating in National Novel Writing Month as hundreds of thousands are doing this November, then you spend . . . gasp! . . . a whole month writing your book!)

During the time you are writing, you have only your vision to sustain you. You wonder if anyone will ever buy the book. You wonder if anyone will like it. You don’t need acclaim, because writing is an end in itself. Still, readers connect the circle between you and the culmination of your vision, and in an odd sort of way, they finish the book. They take your vision and make it their own.

Many writers don’t consider readers during the writing process. They write solely for themselves and are proud of that fact, but what they don’t realize is how often their story fails to reach beyond the confines of the cover to allow the reader to participate in the story.

I write for myself in that I can only write what I can write. Even though I know the kinds of books that sell in great numbers, I’ve never been able to make that leap. My mind simply rebels — it wants to write what it wants and when it wants. Currently, my mind doesn’t seem to want to write any story; it simply wants to steep in the story I am presently living: new house owner. One day, though, a new story will pop up that I want to write. (I’m already trying to figure out who in my new town will be the victim of my next “Nightmare” story, the sequel to Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare.)

Although I can only write what my mind will allow, I still take potential readers into consideration. I wonder what readers will think. Will they understand my references? Will they find the humor? Is my writing clear enough? I like thinking that perhaps someday a reader will share this as yet unwritten product of my mind.

Malcolm R. Campbell, author of Conjure Woman’s Cat, wrote: “Whether it’s a book, poem, post, review, article or news story, I always hope somebody will say something. One never knows. It’s a slow conversation, so much time having gone by between the moment when something was written and the moment when somebody tells you they found it.”

Such a wonderful description of writing/reading — a slow conversation. I know I’ve read many books where I felt the author and I were having a conversation, silent though it may be. I read and I think about what I read.

It’s quite a heady realization that now I am a writer with readers of my own. I hope they enjoy our long, slow conversation.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Candlestick

I’ve blogged several times lately about the mystery I wrote for a family night in the local historical museum. Yesterday I posted the scenario, so if you want to try your hand at figuring out who did it, you can find the list of suspects and their alibis here: Spur of the Moment Murder Mystery.

(For history buffs, the historical allusions in the game are correct — Clay Allison did kill Deputy Faber. Rutherford B. Hayes had just been publicly inaugurated as the nineteenth president of the United States, and he’d lost the popular vote but won the most electoral college votes after a ferociously disputed ruling by a Congressional committee. The suffragette referendum in Colorado had just been defeated. Clay Allison had surrendered after the Civil War, and some accounts say he escaped the firing squad the night before he was to be killed; other accounts say he was pardoned. In real life, he died ten years after this fictional murder — he was thrown from a freight wagon and a wheel rolled over his head. I am sure he would have preferred my scenario to the ignominy of his actual death.)

So, in our little game, who did kill desperado Clay Allison?

Well, Colonel Mustard didn’t do it, and he didn’t have a candlestick, and he wasn’t in the library. He was, in fact, in the bar at the time of the murder. The bartender attests to that.

Mrs. White did not kill Clay. She was, as she claimed, hosting a suffragette meeting in the schoolhouse. Flyers and posters attest to the meeting.

Professor Plum did not kill Clay. His birth date, clearly stated on the suspect list shows that he could not have shown up in town until decades after Clay was killed since he was not born until after the murder.

Miss Scarlet did not kill Clay. She was, as she claimed, with Mr. Green.

Mr. Green did not kill Clay, because although he denies knowing Miss Scarlet, it is apparent he is lying. A photo shows the two of them together, and the bartender can attest to their relationship. So, since he is a proven liar and Miss Scarlet is a proven truth teller, we have to believe that the two were together when Clay was killed.

So that leaves Mrs. Peacock. Mrs. Peacock killed Clay. She was furious that Clay went free after the judge ruled that Clay Allison’s actions in killing her brother Deputy Farber were self-defense. Apparently, after donating one of the deputy’s spur to the sheriff’s department, she continued to carry the other one around. We don’t know if she’d planned to kill Clay or if she did it on the SPUR OF THE MOMENT!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Spur of the Moment Murder Mystery

I missed the murder I created for the museum because I still haven’t gotten over my cough, so I’m reprising the mystery here. This is the scenario I wrote:

It is Monday, March 5, 1877. Rutherford B. Hayes has just been publicly inaugurated as the nineteenth president of the United States. Hayes lost the popular vote but won the most electoral college votes after a ferociously disputed ruling by a Congressional committee. People are out late, some celebrating the victory, some drowning their sorrows at having a Republican in office.

At 9:10, Clay Allison was killed outside the jewelry store, and at 9:15 pm, revelers discovered the body.

There are many suspects.

Colonel Mustard, the blacksmith, born in 1832, was at the garrison in Gainesville, Alabama when Clay and his Confederate unit surrendered at the end of the Civil War. Mustard swears that Clay had escaped the night before he was to go before a firing squad, and this does not sit right with the Colonel. The Colonel says he was in the saloon when Clay was killed.

Mrs. White, schoolmarm, born in 1824, says Clay deserved to be shot for mangling the English language. Clay had bragged that he was a shootist, and Mrs. White says there is no such word. She also says she was at a suffragette meeting that evening at the schoolhouse. The suffrage referendum had just been defeated in Colorado, and she and other women in town were determined to get suffrage for women in Colorado.

Mrs. Peacock, candy-shop lady, born in 1842, is the married sister of Deputy Charles Faber. Clay had gunned down the deputy after the deputy had demanded Clay and his brother relinquish their guns. Mrs. Peacock is not only grieving the loss of her brother, but is fuming that Allison went free after the judge ruled Clay Allison’s actions self-defense. She claims to have been home alone.

Professor Plum, a professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, born in 1878, is writing a book about Clay Allison. He came to town to learn more about what actually happened between Clay and Deputy Faber. Plum claims that Clay was long dead by the time he arrived in Las Animas to do his research.

Miss Scarlet, dance hall girl, born in 1860, hated Clay Allison for promising her marriage and a life of respectability and then reneging on the deal. She claims to have been with Mr. Green when the incident occurred.

Mr. Green, bank teller, born in 1847, says he was not with Miss Scarlet, had never even met her. He claims to be an upstanding citizen with pretentions to being bank president one day, though he does admit that Clay Allison tended to play fast as loose with the ladies in town, and should be shot on general principles.

Rules:

Look for clues in the above suspect list and in the photographs provided. FYI: the bartender corroborates the alibies of anyone who said they were in the saloon.

Check off the characters as you learn they didn’t do the dirty deed. When you sort out the truth from the lies, whoever is left, then, must be the killer. Keep in mind, not everyone will tell the truth.

o Colonel Mustard
o Mrs. White
o Mrs. Peacock.
o Professor Plum
o Miss Scarlett
o Mr. Green

***

Mr. Green and Miss Scarlet

___________________________________________________________________________

So, who dunnit? Who killed Clay Allison?

In case anyone wants to figure out who the killer is, I’ll wait until tomorrow to post the solution.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

More Murder Mystery in the Museum

Thanks to everyone who has contributed ideas to the murder mystery game we have planned for the local museum. Although I was able to use only one or two of your ideas for the game, I will keep the rest to help me with the book. (I’m thinking that my next book should be based on this museum experience, though instead of a fake body, we find a real body.) The book will be in the present, so I should be able to make use your ideas such as time zone variances and medical conditions; unknown twins, seamen, and parrots.

Meantime, I’ve been researching Clay Allison, and I found suspects in the history of the times. (After all, it is an historical museum event.) I’ve figured out how to present the clues for everyone except Colonel Mustard and Mrs. Peacock, but if I don’t, I don’t suppose it matters. In the end, it could come down to a guessing game. This, then, is what I have written so far:


Spur of the Moment Murder Mystery

It is Monday, March 5, 1877. Rutherford B. Hayes has just been publicly inaugurated as the nineteenth president of the United States. Hayes lost the popular vote but won the most electoral college votes after a ferociously disputed ruling by a Congressional committee. Citizens of the town are out late, some celebrating the victory, some drowning their sorrows at having a Republican in office.

Revelers discovered the body of Clay Allison outside the jewelry store at 9:00pm. There is no lack of people who want Clay Allison dead.

Mrs. Peacock, born in 1842, is the married sister of Deputy Charles Faber. Clay had gunned down the deputy after the deputy had demanded Clay and his brother relinquish their guns. Mrs. Peacock is not only grieving the loss of her brother, but is fuming that Allison went free after the judge ruled Clay Allison’s actions self-defense. She claims to have been home alone with her husband.

Colonel Mustard, the blacksmith, born in 1832, was at the garrison at Gainesville Alabama when Clay and the others in his Confederate unit surrendered at the end of the Civil War. Clay claimed he’d been pardoned, though Colonel Mustard maintains that Clay had escaped the night before he was to go before a firing squad. Twice Clay had escaped justice, and that does not sit right with the Colonel.

Mrs. White, schoolteacher, born in 1824, was overheard telling a friend that Clay Allison deserves to be shot for mangling the English language. Clay had bragged that he was a shootist. “Shootist?” said Mrs. White. “He just made up that word.” Mrs. White claims to have been at a suffragette meeting that evening at the schoolhouse. The suffrage referendum had just been defeated in Colorado, and she and other women in town knew they’d have to form a political coalition to work on getting suffrage for women in Colorado.

Professor Plum, a professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, born in 1878, is writing a book about Clay Allison. He came to town to talk to Clay, though Clay seemed disinclined to tell him the truth of his life, which enraged the Professor. Professor Plum was seen in the vicinity of the jewelry store around the time of the murder, though this seems to have been a nebulous sighting at best.

Miss Scarlet, dance hall girl, born in 1860, hated Clay Allison for promising her marriage and a life of respectability and then reneging on the deal. She claims to have been with Mr. Green when the incident occurred.

Mr. Green, bank teller, born in 1847, says he was not with Miss Scarlett, had never even met her. He claims to be an upstanding citizen with pretentions to being bank president one day, though he does admit that Clay Allison tended to play fast as loose with the ladies in town, and should be shot on general principles.

Rules:

Look for clues in the above history, in the various exhibits, by talking to the characters. Check off the characters as you learn they didn’t do the dirty deed. Whoever is left, then, must be the killer.

o Mrs. Peacock.
o Colonel Mustard
o Mrs. White
o Professor Plum
o Miss Scarlett
o Mr. Green

So who killed Clay Allison? How was he killed? Why was he killed?


And there you have it (as of right now anyway), my murder in the museum scenario. It’s subject to change of course, if I come up with more history or better ideas.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.