Creating a Story

When I first moved here and started having work done on the house as well as working around the place myself, I kept finding odd things, such as a deep pit under the enclosed back porch, a bloody shirt that had been buried, bone fragments. Back then, I considered writing a “Pat as protagonist” mystery using all these various oddities, but at the time, I had no interest in writing. Now that I’m getting the itch to write again, my own experiences seem like a good place to start.

My sister, who spent a couple of nights here, wouldn’t sleep in the second bedroom because she claimed the ghost of an old woman sat and watched her. I’m sure it was some sort of lucid dream because no one around here remembers anyone dying in this house. Still, that old woman seems to have served herself up as a handy victim.

I have no idea where to go with the story, which makes sense since if it turns out that the fictional woman was murdered here and her body disposed of, perhaps in the cistern under the porch or maybe in the dungeony basement, I can’t see that there would be any resolution to the story.

Would you dig up part of your house on the mere suspicion that someone was buried there? (I really would like to know.) I sure wouldn’t, especially since I spent so much money pouring a new basement floor and redoing the back porch (foundation, new sewer line, new floor).

And anyway, if it happened a long time ago, the person who did the dastardly deed might even be dead now, too, so there’d be no resolution to that, either — no bringing the killer to justice. I suppose the mystery could be why she was disposed of in whatever way I choose to deal with her, but there’d still be the problem of no ticking clock. If it happened a long time ago (even a decade or so ago is a long time) and no one seems to miss the woman or even know or care what happened to her, where’s the urgency to solve the mystery?

Obviously, there is no urgency for me to write the story, either, since it’s been percolating (albeit exceedingly slowly) in the back of my mind for more than two years, and it will probably be another year before all the current foci of my life have been dealt with so as to give me the mental space to write.

In all my previous books, I knew how the story started, and I knew how it ended, so it was just a matter of making the convoluted journey from one point to the other. It’s entirely possible that this book will be different, in that I might not have a clue how it ends. Or even begins.

If, in fact, it ever does begin.

***

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

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Yesterday was an errand day. A friend and I went to a nearby town to shop for necessities, and since plants are one of my necessities, I bought a chrysanthemum. I stuck the pot in a hanging planter, and will enjoy the color until it’s gone, then I’ll put it in the ground.

Today was a digging day. No, “digging” is not a new euphemism for “great,” like a shortened version of “hot diggity dog.” Nor is it a euphemism for a terrible day, like wanting to dig a hole to hide in.

A digging day is merely a day for digging. But then, you knew that.

I spent some time digging in my future micro meadow, though with as little as I am able to dig each day, and considering how long it will take me to dig up all the old Bermuda grass and weeds, it’s beginning to seem like an macro meadow of vast acreage instead of a mere 200 square feet or so.

I also took time out to winterize my greengage plum tree by making a dirt barrier around it and filling it with mulch. I did the same thing for the tree that died back. It was supposed to be a six-foot tree, but all that survived the winter was one tiny branch right above the graft site. I cut off the tree above that branch, and it’s grown a bit. Maybe it will continue growing. If not, well, I have a replacement on the way. Luckily, they won’t be sending the new tree until the end of winter instead of the beginning as they did last year, so it should be able to settle in before it has to deal with the cold and snow.

The most exciting thing I did today was count my wildflower seeds. Well, a quarter teaspoonful of them anyway. The directions say to plant a maximum of 75 to 150 seeds per square foot depending on soil conditions and how colorful of a meadow is desired. I dreaded doing the small chore, imagining seeds all over my kitchen, but in the end, it was easy. I laid out a white piece of cardboard, sprinkled on a quarter teaspoonful of seeds, and then moved them around with the tip of a small knife. In case you’re curious, there are 100 seeds in a quarter of a teaspoonful.

Tomorrow is a car day. The mechanic seems to be well again, so we’re going to try once again to get the brakes fixed. If for some reason he isn’t there, or if he doesn’t feel up to doing the work, I’ll turn around and come home. It’s not as if it hasn’t happened before, though one of these days, the work will be done. That would be a surprise for sure!

And the day after that? It will be a work day, but anything beyond the scope of yesterday, today, and tomorrow is too far away to even think about.

***

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

Pat As Protagonist

Ever since I mentioned that I am getting the itch to write again, I’ve been becoming more involved in the process. Not involved in the actual writing, you understand, but involved in the thinking of writing.

A blog reader I respect gave me a good reason for not doing a sequel to Bob: The Right Hand of God — he said what comes next is best left to the imagination of the reader. I appreciate that. I’m not sure I want to go back to that world, anyway. Being involved in a world in flux was interesting at the time, but if I were do an Adam and Eve sequel, it would be years later, the world would no longer be in flux, and Bob would have gone on to another job. Which would mean it would be like any story of young people roaming around a fictitious world doing . . . something. Still, I do see Eve standing at the gate of the compound (Eden), while the polka-dot snake urges her to leave. As fun as that beginning would be, I have no idea whatsoever about what comes after that. So I will leave her standing there, trying to get the courage either to listen to the snake or to stay where she is.

I doubt I’d ever again be able to write the sort of books I started with — those first four suspense novels were the reflection and culmination of all the research Jeff and I had done, first on our own, then during our years together. I don’t think I want to delve into conspiracy theories any more. No, that’s not true. I know I don’t want to delve into conspiracy theories any more. All the shenanigans of the past couple of years — politics, pandemics, propaganda — has made any possible fictional story seem pale by comparison.

I thought of writing a book about a woman who is looking in a mirror, and her reflection does something different from what she is doing, but I’m not sure I want to delve into that story, either. Sounds like madness — both the story and the writing of it — though it might make a nice short story. And I do need a couple of more short stories to fill out an anthology of my shorter works, but not quite yet.

I have no interest in writing anything more about grief, either fiction or non-fiction, mostly because I have nothing more to say. Any protagonist, however, would have to be an older widow, probably years after the death of her soul mate, because I can no longer imagine any other character. I certainly can’t imagine a young protagonist — I don’t remember what that was like. Nor can I imagine a happily (or unhappily) married protagonist. Secondary characters can be anyone, but to get into the head of a major character vastly unlike me takes a leap I can no longer make. That’s okay, actually. I’m fine with writing about an older woman on her own, trying to live life the best she can on her own terms. It might not be the sort of book that would be published by a real publishing house, but I have no intention of trying to get someone to publish any future books. I’m to the point where I have no interest in setting myself up for rejection. If I ever publish another book, I’ll do it myself.

I haven’t been able to figure out what the underlying theme of a potential novel would be. A mystery, of course, but beyond that, I didn’t really know until today. Three separate incidents — a conversation, an email, and a blog comment — all seemed to point the way.

The conversation was about my book Daughter Am I, and how much the reader enjoyed the way the young woman gathered up old folks as she went about her task of finding out who her grandparents were. It reminded me how much I enjoy that particular storyline. First there’s one character on a quest, then two, then three, then . . .

The email was part of a discussion with a friend about getting older and how this particular birthday (the same one I had a few months ago) is scary because it’s about stepping into the unknown future of aging. This is a decade of rapid aging, and it is scary if you think about how close we are getting to a time of infirmity, but we still just march along, doing the best we can. She also mentioned a show she’s watching about all sorts of misfits who try to change their lives by participating in a dance production, which sounds like fun.

And the comment was left on an old post: Resuming my Lonely March into the Future, about well, about resuming my lonely march into the future.

Oh, and there was a fourth thing — the perfect name for a fictional town popped into my head while I was writing this blog.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to write another Pat book because too many local people are asking me to write one in the hope that they will be in it, but I’m not interested in putting real people in my books any more, at least not where they can recognize themselves, because that really is a good way to lose friends, and since I am here for the duration of my life, I can’t afford to alienate anyone.

Combining all this, it seems as if my next book should be another Pat-as-protagonist book, about setting up house, gathering confederates (perhaps people who are all lost in some way), and marching relentlessly into the future despite wonky knees, all the while solving some sort of mystery. Perhaps a murder that had unknowingly been done in Pat’s house years before.

Of course, by the time I actually clear my head of all the clutter and sit down to write, I might end up with something completely different, but this “Pat moving to a new town, gathering misfits, and solving a crime” scenario seems to be where my mind is heading at the moment.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times

An Itch to Write

I can feel an itch to write coming on — not just to do my daily blogging stint, or to write about grief, but to immerse myself in a story.

I’m not there yet. Too many things are calling for my attention to allow me to let “real life” take a back seat to a fictional life. “Real life” is in quotation marks because no one knows to what extent this life is real. It might be just a figment of our collective imaginations, a fiction that we create together. At least that’s what both the quantum physicists and the tarot seem to preach.

In my tarot readings this month, I’ve been getting the moon card rather frequently. The moon stands for imagination as a force. It also warns against the pitfalls of believing too much in what we perceive as reality, because what we observe can only reflect what is real the way that the moon reflects the light of the sun. This card might be echoing my interest in writing, or it might be that the card is creating that interest in me. It’s hard to tell with the tarot. Either way, it does seem to indicate a time of illusion.

Not that any of this has to do with writing specifically. It’s just that when I am focused on the outward life I see, I cannot focus on the inner life I might perceive.

As time goes on, my focus will change. As the hardscape of my yard becomes more fixed and my gardens become more viable, I will have a lot more free time (mental free time, that is), especially in the winter. My job will be coming to an end at some point. I originally agreed to a year and then contracted for another six months, but as I get even older, I’m not sure if anyone will trust me with their elders. My senzaburu (1000 origami cranes) will be done by the end of the year. And the hidden object game I have been fascinated by for the past year is becoming less fascinating now that I’ve opened all the locations. There is a new location every month, which revs up my interest, but even that might not be enough to overcome my creeping boredom with the game.

As my current areas of focus gradually become blurred, that’s when one of the stories rattling around in my brain will take root.

I’ll be interested in seeing which idea plants itself. (If you have a preference for any of these story ideas let me know.)

1) A sequel to Bob, The Right Hand of God, perhaps? If you end up with two characters named Adam and Eve, it seems almost an obligation to write their story. 2) A sequel to Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare? After all, the main character (me!) is alive and well in Colorado, and seems to be calling out for a new episode in her fictional (and oh so murderous) life. 3) A ghost story? The only ghost I ever created is a ghost cat in Light Bringer, so it might be interesting to bring a different sort of ghost to life. It’s possible 2 and 3 could be the same story. 4) A novel of psychological terror where the poor protagonist isn’t sure if she is going crazy or if she is seeing ghosts? It’s possible 2, 3, and 4 could be the same story. 5) A story based on a tarot reading, with each twist and turn dictated by the cards? It’s possible 2, 3, 4, and 5 could all be the same story, a combination of any two or three or each could be a separate tale. 6) A completely different story, one that hasn’t made itself known to me yet.

All that is in the future. My current foci — my house, my yard, my job, the hidden object game, the tarot, the senazburu, my daily blog offering — are still with me.

But someday . . .

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times

Cheap Writing

I’m reading a book by an author I can generally tolerate despite his obviously manipulative style, but this particular book irritated me from the first page.

One of the characters is a teenager. And like almost all teenagers in adult books, this one is rebellious, insolent, arrogant, and downright nasty. And those are her good qualities. Well, her only qualities.

Since this author is so manipulative, it’s possible he chose the character as one who would be, with only a few strokes of his keyboard, instantly recognizable to his readership, but if so, why? Why do so many teenagers in books have to be like this? The character has ruined more stories for me than even the serial killers who so lovingly demonstrate every single cut and cherish every single drop of blood. It’s as if no one will believe that a teenager can be other than appalling, especially since the parent’s inability to deal with the inexcusable behavior often serves as a subplot. If the teenager is as nice as many I have met (and as placid as I once was), then bang, there goes that subplot, and the author would have to think of another one.

It’s also a cheap subplot (sometimes even the entire plot) because the more terrible you make the teenager, the more obvious the character arc when the kid grows up. Whatever happened to subltety?

I suppose, since this author tends to play with such archetypes rather than breathing life into a creature of his own, it makes sense he’d build a story on such a flimsy pretext. Unfortunately, as bad as things are at the beginning of the book, things promise to get a whole lot worse by the end. Assuming, of course, I stay to the end. I might consign the kid to the fires of unreadable books long before it gets to that point.

What I would really like to see is the opposite (and occasionally, an author does present such a change) where the parent is rebellious (without being abusive) and the teenager has to deal with the moodiness. Or even better — no teenagers at all.

I used to read young adult books way into my adulthood because I enjoyed the theme of a misfit standing up to the world and its conventions, finding a fit, and becoming their own person, but I seldom come across such a storyline any more. (That also used to be plot of the Regency romances I read in my youth — the main character was always a societal misfit who ended up finding a fit. But that storyline has been suffocated under the current fad for stories that skirt the edges of porn.)

Obviously, I can’t do anything about books with horrid teenagers except not read them, and if I had time to go to the library, or if I had other book to read, I wouldn’t give this one another minute of my time.

What I can do, though, is eschew such cheapness and triteness in my own writing.

And yes, I will write another novel one day.

Perhaps.

***

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 Virus by Any Other Name

In the following scene from A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel about a novel disease that was first published in 2009, investigative reporter Greg and his editor Olaf are talking about an article on the pandemic Greg is hoping to write.

—-

“How’s the research coming, Greg?” Olaf asked, a shade too heartily.

“I feel as if I’m drowning in paper.”

“So I see,” Olaf said, laying a hand on the stack of articles. “Mind if I look?”

“Help yourself. They belong to the newspaper.”

Olaf settled himself in his customary chair with a handful of the papers. A minute later, he raised his head.

“How do these guys get anything printed? If my reporters turned in work as incomprehensible as this, they’d be out of here so fast they’d think they were flying.” He glanced at the papers and shook his head. “Even the titles are incomprehensible. ‘Imitating Organic Morphology in Micro-fabrication.’ I don’t even know what that means.”

“Me neither,” Greg said, thinking if he had to wade through this sort of stuff to learn about the red death, the earth would fall into the sun long before he read half of it.

Olaf tossed the sheaf of papers back onto Greg’s desk. “Better you than me.”

“What do these guys do?” Greg asked. “Take a course in obfuscation?”

“Probably. Convoluted writing and obscure terms are a way of intimidating the uninitiated, keeping the profession closed to non-scientists, and adding to the scientific mystique. Just think, if diseases had names like Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, doctors wouldn’t make anywhere near the amount of money they do now.”

Greg laughed. “That’s an idea. They do it for hurricanes, why not everything else?” He mimed seizing the phone and dialing. “Mr. Olaf? I can’t come in today. I’ve got the Bob.” He hung up his imaginary receiver and looked inquiringly at his boss.

Olaf nodded. “Works for me.”

—–

And it works for me.

By the time this new virus was well-publicized, I was already sick of the fear mongering. For example, one of the first studies of the possible effects of this pandemic claimed that 80% of the world’s population would die. It was that first insane projection from which all the other insanity came.

The truth is, most people did not get infected, and of those infected, most did not get sick, and of those who got sick, most did not die.

Again, as with my post yesterday, I am not trying to denigrate anyone’s experience. For those who suffered deaths in the family, severe illness, isolation from family, or financial hardships, it was a terrible thing. But for most of us, the worst was the fear. It was reprehensible the way people who should have known better — the political hacks representing us, the media, the idiotic folks who put sick people into nursing homes where so many elderly lived — exaggerated the truth and caused immense (and in many cases, unnecessary) fear. There is a good chance we would not have been that much worse off if we had all just gone about our business, but too much jockeying for position was being done by people in power or people who wanted power, and truthfully, I think their tactics were so successful that they ended up buying into their own propaganda of fear.

And the manipulation is still going on. A vaccine of sorts is available for those want it, but the next move is to make the vaccine mandatory to “protect the vaccinated.” Huh? I thought the purpose of the vaccination itself was to protect the vaccinated. And if the vaccine isn’t a real vaccine, one that does protect the recipient, when are they going to get a real vaccine so that those who want to be fully protected can be? As with everything else that has gone on the past two years, the truth is hard to come by. What we are told might be the true truth, a semblance of the truth, or a wholly manufactured truth.

To keep from validating any of the shenanigans that is going on surrounding this virus, I have refused — and continue to refuse — to use any of the official names the parasite is given. Hence, “The Bob.” My own private rebellion.

I mean no insult to any Bob living or dead, of course. I named the disease many years ago back when I didn’t know any Bobs, and reusing the name for this virus seemed a good way to keep myself from succumbing to the fear and intimidation that the media and our so-called leaders apparently want us to feel.

Living In Fear

Almost all new books mention, in some way, “The Bob.” Of course, the authors don’t know enough to call it “The Bob,” so they call the virus by other names that don’t really mean much. It was bad enough living through the upheaval; it’s a whole lot worse having to relive it in books. Sometimes, the reference is simply a placeholder, to give people an idea of when the story takes place, which is never a good idea because it dates the book, and readers in the next few years who prefer only current books won’t be interested. Other times The Bob is a major plot point. Either way, it doesn’t interest me. It seems perhaps sacrilegious to say this, considering the trauma so many people suffered during the past year and a half, but whether The Bob is mentioned merely to set the time or is an intricate part of the plot, it seems . . . trite. And even worse than trite — a cheap shot to get people personally involved in the story instead of using good writing to get engage readers.

I could be wrong, of course. Others might like to see their “Bob” experiences from a different point of view, to gain a bit of perspective.

The author of the book I am currently reading talks about how worn down people are from more than a year of worrying about their families and themselves; how weary they are of having to wear masks and keep their distance from others; how exhausted they are from isolation and loneliness and grief; and especially, how tired they are of living in fear.

I do understand that many people got deathly sick, that loved ones died, that some people suffered tremendously from isolation, but those things alone, I would think, would preclude people from reading about the horrors they lived through.

Notice I say, “the horrors they lived through.” Despite what I wrote in the first paragraph, that it was “bad enough living through the upheaval,” the truth is, for me, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it made no difference to my life. Well, except for the mask, but since I was seldom around people and seldom went into a store, I rarely had to wear it.

I never worried about myself, never was afraid, never was lonely (except for a few times that had nothing to do with The Bob). Most of the people I cared about were already dead, and those still alive were taking care of themselves. I didn’t have any travel plans to call off, and as for local events, I’d mostly stopped going to those before they got cancelled. (I’d gained too much weight for one thing; the food was generally something I shouldn’t eat, for another.)

So I stayed home and read. I did see a few people, but always the same ones — the woman I worked for as well as an occasional friend or two. And that is exactly the life I would have lived even if The Bob had never made itself known.

I’m not denigrating anyone’s experience. I know it was a rough time for a lot of people, but it does seem strange to me that in this, as in so much else, what might be good for one person is terrible for another. Still, we each have our own nemeses.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I read that women with O positive blood got The Bob less frequently and not as bad as people with other blood types (it has to do with the protein coating on the cells). Unfortunately, it is definitely true that women with O positive blood are especially tasty to mosquitoes that carry various deadly viruses.

It just goes to show, if one thing doesn’t get us, something else will, though with the mosquitoes as with The Bob, I do the best I can. I won’t live in fear.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Creating a Murder

I met with a friend today to do a bit of brainstorming for the murder at the museum event, but we got stymied when it came to figuring out physical clues. We never got further than my original examples of a weapon, a blood spot, a fingerprint, and some sort of photographic clue. In my own mystery stories, I’ve depended on conversations, especially when one character contradicts another because physical clues always seemed so Nancy Drew-ish. And yet, that’s what I need for this event — clues for the participants to find. Even though I can think of things to plant around the museum, I can’t figure out how any of those clues would lead people to suspect a particular character.

Because neither of us were able to come up with anything other than what we already had, we went on to discuss the victims. Since the event will be called “A Murder of Crows,” by definition, that means that two or more people will have to be victims. My idea is a married couple — traveling salespeople. Perhaps the man sells men’s haberdashery and the woman sells women’s unmentionables. I envision them killed in their bed, but I have no idea how someone would kill two people without one or the other being aware of it, though it’s possible only one of the couple was the intended victim, and the other woke up and saw the killer.

But I haven’t a clue why anyone would want to kill one or both of these seemingly innocuous characters. We discussed the possibility of the couple being spies, but there doesn’t seem to be anything noteworthy happening in this area around that time (1900), nor does there seem — at first glance — to be anything spy-worthy about that time in the USA, either. If we jettison the spy idea, we could have the couple ending up with some sort of contraband — an Indian relic, for example — and the owner wants it back or a greedy person sees it as a source of personal riches.

There are lots of other possibilities, of course. Most of the costumed characters would need to have to a motive, otherwise, there’s no real game. Often in a mystery story, you start out with no one who has a motive, so the detective needs to search out a motive to discover the perpetrator, but I don’t think that sort of scenario would be feasible in this case. Too much work for the participants.

Which means that I would have to come up with a motive to assign to each of the characters. Possibilities are: robbery, jealousy, vengeance, lust and passion (as in a crime of passion), money, loathing, anger, fear, mistaken identity, covering up secrets and lies, prevention of a greater crime (killing an assassin, for example)

I won’t have another meeting on the topic until next week, so it will give me a chance to let things stew in my brain pan. With any luck, I’ll cook up a likely scenario and plenty of suspects.

***

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

Murder Mystery Proposal

I submitted a proposal to the museum today for the murder mystery they’ve planned for the end of October.

The first mystery I created was based on a Clue game, so all the character’s names were colors. Various comments and suggestions from people gave me the idea of bird names. The victims could be a couple surnamed “Crow,” and the event could be called “A Murder of Crows.” Not everyone knows that a group of crows is not a flock but a murder, but that shouldn’t make any difference to the game.

Crows have nothing in particular to do with this area, though this part of Colorado is a good site for birding. (Except when it comes to me. Out of the 400 species that have been sighted, I’ve seen only a dozen or so.) Because of a lack any historical connection to crows, my proposal was just a first draft to get things going. Still, the museum director seemed to like the idea.

One of the characters could be a woman reporter, whose name could be Brenda Starling or more probably, Nellie Starling since Brenda Starr wasn’t created until the forties and Nellie Bly was active during the historical time of this event.

I’d also like one of the victims to be a ghost, roaming around looking for either her husband, their killer, or both.

And there’s a local medicine man who would make a good huckster.

My job is done for a while. The next steps need to come from other people, such as signing up people to play various characters and finding out noteworthy local events from that time. And I need help figuring out the visual clues, though I have a hunch that will be left to me.

I did have visual clues the first time, such as a photo of a man with a saloon girl he claimed never to have met, but since the museum is rather large for such a small town, I think clues like that got lost. This time, I figure we can put a silhouette of a crow by any clue, photographic or otherwise, to give people a hint.

I’d like to use fingerprints somehow. It’s possible I could just put a photo of a fingerprint by the crime scene and then simply tell people who it belonged to, though the person would deny committing the crime. Another possibility is to give all the characters a photo of a fingerprint they can hand out so people can check who the fingerprint belongs to, but the logistics of doing that seem a bit too complicated.

What makes this sort of game hard to create is that it has to be enigmatic yet logical, as do all mysteries. It also needs to be convoluted yet easy enough to solve so that even kids can play.

Until the museum folks gather some of the information I need, I don’t really have to do anything else to put it all together. Except think, of course. It always helps me to play out various scenarios in my head before I lay them out on a page.

A big thank you to everyone who gave me suggestions for this project. It certainly makes it easy for me to come up with a proposal when all I have to do is collate other people’s 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

Black as Ink

A phrase in the book I’m reading slapped me in the face. It wasn’t a literal slap, of course, but the phrase was so incongruous that it took me out of the story as surely as a slap would have done. What was this brutal simile? It wasn’t anything special, to be honest. In fact, it’s so common as to seem almost invisible, but I noticed it.

As black as ink.

That’s it. Not a big deal, right? And yet, when was the last time you saw pure black ink? For me, it was decades ago, when I bought some calligraphy supplies with the thought of learning how to do fancy lettering. That ink truly was black, totally opaque, without a hint of light or any other color. Even back then, black wasn’t the only ink available for calligraphic needs, or any needs. My mother used a fountain pen for many years, and that ink was blue. When I was in school, perhaps middle-school age, cartridge pens were all the rage, and I used the peacock ink. Such a gorgeous color! And not black.

Nowadays any ink we see is generally in ballpoint pens, and although black used to be the prevalent color, blue now seems to be preferred for official documents, which is odd to me. Doesn’t blue tend to fade into the “blue nowhere” of computer screens? And yet, any bank document or other official paper I’ve had to sign recently required a blue signature.

I once had a multitude of pens with bright non-black colors. I just checked my ballpoint pen stash, and I have a red ink pen as well as a green one, though the green is dried up. So, since I tossed it out, I guess I can’t count green among ink colors. Nor can I count purple, though once I had a ballpoint pen with that color ink that I used up.

There are still a lot of pens around with black ink, though none of those inks are truly black. Some are charcoal, some are rather translucent with a tinge of blue or red, others are a muddy black, and some are licorice color (which is a very, very dark brown unless one is talking about red licorice).

Some printers do use ink instead of toner, and again, there are more colors available — and necessary — than black. My printer uses cyan, magenta, and yellow, which along with the black, can create just about any shade or hue of any color.

If the book had kept my interest, this rather inoffensive though clichéd simile would have passed unnoticed, so that’s two strikes against the author — ill-chosen words and a less than compelling story.

I’m just glad that people who read my books are kinder than I am, and refrain from pointing out my own literary faux pas. I do try to remove anything I would not like to see in a book, but some phrases are so common as to be invisible — such as “black as ink” — so who knows what cringeworthy phrases are buried in all my rhetoric.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God