Unwanted Thoughts

It’s interesting to me that so many of my daily one-card tarot readings talk of good fortune, windfalls, and such. I don’t really believe what the cards say because each reading negates the previous one, and the cards aren’t always positive, but I have come to believe that things are going to go well for me financially. So when things don’t, I feel affronted. I mean, how is my house insurance going up by 25% good fortune? It seems like a huge increase, though perhaps with more people staying home there are more claims? Or the weather in the area has been more damaging this past year? Or the company took a huge hit because of all the wildfires in the Colorado last year?

This particular area has inordinately high insurance rates, anyway, but whatever the reason for the increase, it isn’t good fortune! Or maybe it is? I guess I could consider myself fortunate that I’m not one of those who had to deal with damage.

It’s things like this — huge increases in expenses that aren’t reflected by increases in income — that made me not want to ever own a house, but I’d be paying it one way or another anyway. If I were still renting, the rent would go up to reflect the current insurance rate.

Luckily, once I get over the panic and affront of the higher rate, I’ll be okay for now because I am working, and so will have enough to pay the bill. Even more luckily, once it’s paid, I won’t have to think about it for a year. It does make me glad I didn’t reward this particular insurance company by switching my car insurance over to them. I would have saved a bit on the house insurance, but my car insurance would have gone way up, so I’d still be in the same position.

I did talk to my insurance agent in case there was a clerical error. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an error, though she too was shocked by the huge increase. She’ll look around to see if she can find a better deal for me, but back when I first got the insurance, this current company was by far the better price.

I really shouldn’t even be writing about this — it’s not anyone’s problem but mine — but it is on my mind, and writing about what I am thinking is how I get rid of unwanted thoughts, and I really don’t want these thoughts in my head!

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Peace Without Words

Someone asked me if I would purposely stress myself out to get into a creative mood, and my response was an unequivocal “Absolutely not!” I’ve had enough stress in my life to ever want to put myself in such a state, but I have to admit, being stressed out, in pain, or even just confused makes it easier to write. If I am in a mellow mood, which is where I try to be — balanced and in harmony with myself and my surroundings — I find it hard to find something to write about.

Writing has generally been a release for me. If I put chaotic feelings into words, they become more orderly and easier to deal with. There is also a lot to say when one is struggling to find one’s way, but once there, there’s not much to talk about.

Writing fiction is also a release of sorts. If a story is in my head and is struggling to get out, then I have to write it to put it and my mind to rest. But if no story wants to be born? Then there’s nothing really to say. (Though I suppose there will come a time when I decide to write another story just for something to do. In that case, I will then try to put a story in my head.)

So here I am, in a pleasant and harmonious state, trying to find something interesting to write about. After 480 days of straight blogging, I’m not about to give up for a lack of words. Nor am I about to grope around in my mind for the stress that once was there or to do something to unbalance myself (though I don’t know what that would be).

I’m lucky, actually, to be in such a state. There have been many years where I needed the words to relieve the stress that it seems ironic to think I would need stress to find the words.

Someday, I’m sure, there will come an upsurge of grief, a problem with other people (though to have problems with people, you have to be around them, and with this isolation, I hardly see anyone except the woman I visit a few times a week.

Meantime, I will enjoy the peace, even if the peace comes without words.

***

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

Hesitating

The demise of Adobe Flash Player made my old web builder defunct, so I’ve had to create a new website using a more current web builder. Although intimidating at first, the new web builder was actually easy and fun and intuitive. (I prefer intuitive programs because I don’t have to watch boring videos or read long articles of instruction. I can simply . . . do.)

Now, to the best of my knowledge, the new website is finished. I just have to click “publish” for it to go live, but I hesitate to take that final step. I don’t know why. It’s not as if the world as I know it will end. The old site will end, of course, with no way to get it back, but most of what was on there is posted in other places, so I can recover any information I inadvertently leave off the new site. And I can always redo the new site if I need to make changes.

But still, I hesitate.

Partly, I don’t want to have to go through the site once it’s published to make sure I did everything right. I’ve read through everything so many times that I’ve developed a blind spot for those words. Partly (even though this justification of my procrastination is something I just now thought of rather than a real reason for delaying), the longer I wait, the fresher those words will seem and so I’ll be able to read them as they are rather than as I wish them to be. And partly . . . who knows. Stubbornness, maybe, or contrariness. Although I like the new site better than the old one — it’s much more professional and easier for people to use — I’m still being forced to change, and I don’t like the feeling of being herded.

So I hesitate some more.

I’d considered pausing here and hitting the “publish” button so I could brag that I did it, but . . . well, I didn’t.

Maybe this weekend I’ll gather the courage to publish my new site. Or not. We’ll see.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

Note to My Grieving Blog Visitors

During the past ten years and ten months, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, I have been writing about my grief. My grief. Not yours, not anyone else’s. Mine. Many people find comfort in reading about my struggles to live with my grievous loss. Others find resonance with what they are feeling. But whether my grief posts strike a chord with you or not, they are ultimately my thoughts, my feelings, my attempts to make sense of my life both before he died and afterward.

I am not a therapist. I am not an expert. I have no degrees. I have only my own experience of grief to guide me through the chaos, and I don’t pretend to anything more.

I don’t object to your reading what I write; after all, that’s why I post my thoughts on a blog rather than in a private journal. I don’t object to your printing out a blog or two to take to your therapist (as many have) so that the therapist can understand more about the grief experience.

I do object to your chastising me. If you don’t like something I write, if it doesn’t make sense to you at your grief age (how long it’s been since your spouse died), it might in later years. Or not at all.

My experience strikes a chord with many people who have lost “the one,” which made me realize how un-unique my grief is. But although grief is universal, how we express it isn’t. Some people get sick. Some get angry. Some scream. Some cry for months on end. Some do all of those and more.

If you’ve lost someone dear to you to death, chances are I know how you feel. And you know how I felt and still sometimes do feel. Empathy works both ways. I don’t castigate you when you disagree. And you shouldn’t castigate me. I am not the voice of your grief. What I say changes nothing about what you are experiencing.

Often over the years when people were less than kind, I wondered if it were time to pack it in, but enough people find my words and my story inspiring that I keep going. But I don’t have to continue to write updates about grief and what I’ve learned. I don’t get paid for this. It’s not a job or even an obligation. I do it because I feel, I think, I empathize, and I write. It’s who I am.

I’ve written close to a million words about grief. I’m sure I’ve shed a pint of tears if not more while doing so. I certainly don’t need anyone to add to my grief. I always apologize for inadvertently wounding people because I am sensitive to people’s feelings, but there really is no need for my apology. I don’t set out to hurt anyone or even to help anyone. I simply feel it’s important to tell what grief is like — my grief, anyway — rather than what the so-called experts think it should be. If you don’t like any of my words, so be it. It’s not a personal affront. I don’t even know you, though if you’ve read many of my posts, you know me.

So think about that before you rail against me. If I had stopped writing about grief the first time someone told me how wrong I was, either by what I wrote or that I continued to write about grief long past the first few months, thousands of people would not have found the comfort they need, the understanding they sought, the courage to continue living another day.

Neither would I. And probably, neither would you, otherwise you wouldn’t have come here to read about my grief.

***

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

Free Samples!

If you’ve been wondering about my novels but have been afraid to take a chance on buying a book, below are the links to all the first chapters.

I hope you will take a peek.

Bob, The Right Hand of God (Absurdist, Urban fantasy)

Unfinished (Drama, mystery)

Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare  (Mystery, Dance)

Light Bringer (Suspense, Science Fiction)

Daughter Am I (Mystery, Road Trip,)

A Spark of Heavenly Fire (Drama, Suspense)

More Deaths Than One  (Thriller)

All books are available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Pat-Bertram/e/B002BLUHUY/

Searching for a Tagline

I’ve been struggling with my new website, and I’ve mostly learned how to use the website builder, or at least as much as I need to know for right now. I’ve pretty much set up the bones of the site; now it needs to be fleshed out with information about me and my books. The book part, while time-consuming, is easy. It’s just a matter of coping and pasting the blurbs and such that were on the old website.

The “about” needs to be updated. I can no longer brag about being a nomad as I did in the previous bio since I am as unnomadish as a person can get — the furthest I’ve been from home in the past few months is a mere handful of miles. But the bio is really just a matter of finding something to say about me. Whatever it is, it won’t be on the homepage; people will have to go looking for it, so it doesn’t have to be as catchy as some of the other parts of the website, such as the tagline.

Taglines are hard. You have to give the essence of your books or yourself in a matter of a few words. This morning I woke up thinking that “Author of provocative fiction and profound works of grief” would be good, but a few hours later that tagline seemed as if it would be too off putting for people who are simply looking for a bit of information about grief. Of course, search engines wouldn’t be sending them to my website for such information — they’d send grievers to one of the grief posts on my blog. Chances are, the only people who would end up at the website would be those who were specifically looking for information about me.

More importantly (to me anyway), I’m trying not to second guess myself too much and to stick with the first ideas that come to mind. Still, I want to hook people into staying, not push them away with pedantry.

So, what about “Author of intriguing fiction and insightful works about grief”?

Originally, I just used, “Author of fiction and non-fiction,” but that is boring and uninspiring to say the least.

If you have any suggestions for a tagline, I’d be glad to hear it.

***

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

Too Many Days

The past couple of years, I couldn’t find a calendar, not even one for sale in the stores I frequented, so I downloaded a calendar template and printed out my own calendar. It was a nice simple calendar with large enough blocks for writing notes. Since it was just plain paper, not glossy, I was able to use a pencil, which I prefer because of its erasability. (My spell check does not like that work and keeps changing it to eras ability, whatever that means.)

I went ahead and printed out a calendar this year, and then I got a couple of calendars in the mail. And then another. And yet another. I’ve lost track of how many calendars I have, but I feel the weight of all those days.

With a single calendar, each year has but 365 days. With a surfeit of calendars, it feels as all those days (365 per calendar) are stacked one on top the other. That’s way too many days for me to deal with!

I’m being a bit facetious here. I know that no matter how many calendars I have for 2021, there will still be only 365 days for the year, but I feel all those calendars reaching out to me, wanting to be filled.

But truly, one day per day is more than enough! Though that thought does lead to a story idea — some poor benighted character burdened with more than one day every day.

Luckily, I am not a character (except in my novel Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare — I was a character in that book), and once I get rid of all those extra calendars, I’ll do fine living but one day each twenty-four-hour period.

***

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

Moving On

The first time I’d heard the phrase “moving on” was a few months after Jeff died, and thereafter I heard it frequently.

Although people often think they are helping by urging grievers to get over it and move on with their life, they are merely showing that they themselves can’t handle the griever’s grief; showing that they can’t handle the new person the griever is becoming. Friends and family want grievers to be the way they were before their loss, and the griever can’t be. Loss changes you. Grief changes you.

Sometimes when people urge grievers to move on, they are not expressing insensitivity so much as a misplaced understanding of the nature of grief. (Which is why my book Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One was written both for grievers and for anyone who wants to understand this thing we call “grief.”)

The truth is, grieving is how we “move on.” Grieving for a spouse is a process, a process of change from a person with a mate and shared life to someone who can deal with the absence, loss, aloneness.

“Moving on” or “moving forward” isn’t just used about grief. It’s used for almost everything, and one of these phrases frequently shows up in tarot card interpretations, such as the card I picked today that is supposed to be about overcoming fears and boldly moving forward. The phrase also appears frequently in novels and in discussions about writing, such as moving the plot forward, or the characters moving on from . . . whatever.

All of sudden today it struck me that I don’t even know what that means. “Moving forward” seems to connote a linear path, which might work for writing, given that the plot has to go from beginning to a satisfying end, but in life, there truly is no forward movement except that which we impose on our lives, such as time or age or career success or even traveling. We feel like we’re moving forward when we walk or drive somewhere, but that’s mostly an illusion. Unless we are permanently moving to a new house or new property, we eventually return to where we started, so that turns out not to be a forward motion at all.

The universe seems to be built more on circular motion, atomic particles and heavenly bodies are always in motion, orbiting around each other, making their way around empty space, but not really going anywhere because if there is not really a “here,” there can’t be a “there” to move on to. It seems as if motion is important, but not necessarily forward motion. For all I know, we could be moving backward, and it is just the way our brain interprets things to make it seem as if we are moving forward.

A kaleidoscope comes to mind. If all the energy that ever was exists today, then a turn of the scope brings us to what seems a different place, but is really all the same place. Karma and the idea that what goes around comes around also connotes a circular life. As does a gyroscope.

A tarot card I randomly picked twice in the past three days was about fluctuation and change. It suggested that a person who is in harmony with her life is one who can adapt to all the changes that comes her way, and keep on moving, Like a gyroscope that only holds its position when it is spinning,

But not “moving on”. Just “moving”.

Assuming we are supposed to be moving on, moving forward, moving toward something, where are we supposed to be going? Well, death, we are all moving inexorably toward death, since death is our end on this earth, but is that really a forward movement? After a certain age, it seems more as we are being pushed rather than moving on our own initiative. But other than that, what are we supposed to be moving toward? Enlightenment, maybe, though that brings up the issue of what is enlightenment.

In the case of grief, even though I am not actively grieving and haven’t been for a long time — I seldom even feel nostalgic anymore — I never actually “moved on,” never “got over” it. It’s more that the loss became subsumed into the very fabric of my life.

Admittedly, I might simply be sensitive to the phraseology because of all the people who used these words or variations of them to urge me to get over my grief, but they still seem to be rather meaningless terms no matter how they are used.

***

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

Fifty Shades of Black and White

I’m reading Fifty Shades of Black & White: The Anatomy of the Lawsuit behind a Publishing Phenomenon, written by Mike Farris and Jennifer Pedroza, and published by Stairway Press. It took me a few pages to figure out what was going on, because although I knew there was a lawsuit concerning the Shades of Grey trilogy, I was under the impression it was Stephanie Meyers who sued the author of the trilogy for using her characters. But not so.

Fifty Shades of Grey started as fanfiction, taking a couple of Twilight characters and continuing their story. I’d never heard of fanfiction before that, but apparently, it’s a popular thing. I truly don’t understand how it’s legal to steal the characters someone else has created. Isn’t that plagiarism? I suppose it’s one thing to do it online in a group just for fun, but eventually, this particular author changed the names of the characters, published it, and went on to publishing fame. (I was going to say literary fame, but I once read a short excerpt and was appalled at the writing, to say nothing of the porn-ish subject matter.)

The myth surrounding the trilogy is that it was a self-published book that took off all by itself and ending up gleaning a multi-million contract with a big-name publisher. This was frequently talked about in groups where self-published authors hung out, because it gave them hope. After all, if one self-published author could make it big, why not them?

But that wasn’t at all true. She had a publisher. A small independent publisher, to be sure, but still a publisher. And that publisher spent a huge amount of money and time promoting the book.

And that was what the lawsuit was about — one of the publishing partners vs. the others, not between the author who created the characters and the author who also got rich off them. (Apparently, Stephanie Meyers was okay with that particular theft.)

Because these publishers had the book rights, when the book was sold to Random House, the women partners received multiple millions. Well, one of them did, anyway. She managed to keep all those millions for herself by lying and telling the others she was having problems getting the money from Random House. Eventually, a couple of the defrauded women found a lawyer who would take the case.

It’s sort of funny reading this book right now. I’ve been watching Judge Judy with the woman I help care for, and this book seem like an extension of one of those shows where friends ended up being enemies because one cheated the other out of money, but this case went miles beyond a small claims court. All I can do when watching one of Judge Judy’s cases is shake my head, and that’s all I can do reading Fifty Shades of Black & White. It simply stuns me that people can be so utterly without morals, without honesty, without dignity, without any sense of justice. If I were in that situation, I’d be so delighted with the immense riches from my share and glad that my friends also shared in the good fortune, that it would never occur to me to try to take it all.

But that’s what one woman did. And it never even bothered her.

She knew it was wrong because she tried to hide the money, forming a whole pyramid of businesses with her husband to deal with her ill-gotten gains. It shows to me the difference among people: some can do such things, justify it to themselves (or not — maybe they feel no need to justify their actions) and sleep well at night, others of us can’t.

I still remember when I stopped pointing out when a checkout clerk undercharged me. I felt like a thief, but I’d learned that it is even more complicated to right undercharges than it is overcharges, perhaps because they can’t believe anyone would be so honest (or stupid) to bring it to their attention. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had committed major larceny. Even if I had gotten away with it, I wouldn’t have gotten away with it, if you know what I mean.

Truthfully, I especially can’t imagine those numbers — the millions that were awarded to the small company for selling the rights to someone else’s work. Although I’d like to make it big and have to try to deal with such magnificent and munificent numbers, I’m really hoping I sell enough of my newest book to keep from embarrassing my publisher, the same Stairway Press that published Fifty Shades of Black & White.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE Embodies the Essence of Christmas

Washington Irving wrote: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” As I read these words several years ago, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?

ASHF

I didn’t want to write a book about war, which is a common setting for such a character-driven story, so I created the red death, an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease that ravages Colorado. Martial law is declared, rationing is put into effect, and the entire state is quarantined. During this time when so many are dying, Kate comes alive and gradually pulls others into her sphere of kindness and generosity. First enters Dee Allenby, another woman defeated by normal life, then enter the homeless — the group hardest hit by the militated restrictions. Finally, enters Greg Pullman, a movie-star-handsome reporter who is determined to find out who created the red death and why they did it.

Kate and her friends build a new world, a new normal, to help one another survive, but other characters, such as Jeremy King, a world-class actor who gets caught in the quarantine, and Pippi O’Brien, a local weather girl, think of only of their own survival, and they are determined to leave the state even if it kills them.

The world of the red death brings out the worst in some characters while bringing out the best in others. Most of all, the prism of death and survival reflects what each values most. Kate values love. Dee values purpose. Greg values truth. Jeremy values freedom. Pippi, who values nothing, learns to value herself.

Though this book has been classified by some readers as a thriller — and there are plenty of thrills and lots of danger — A Spark of Heavenly Fire is fundamentally a Christmas book. The story starts at the beginning of December, builds to a climax on Christmas, and ends with renewal in the Spring. There are no Santas, no elves, no shopping malls or presents, nothing that resembles a Christmas card holiday, but the story — especially Kate’s story — embodies the essence of Christmas: generosity of spirit.

When you are making out your Christmas lists, I hope you will include A Spark of Heavenly Fire. That should make both of us happy!

You can read the first chapter of A Spark of Heavenly Fire here: https://ptbertram.wordpress.com/free-samples/a-spark-of-heavenly-fire/

You can purchase the print book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spark-Heavenly-Fire-Pat-Bertram/dp/1630663662/