Being Silly

As I was sauntering along today, carrying twenty-eight pounds on my back, the whole thing — the weight, the pretend backpacking treks, the dream of a hugely long hike — suddenly seemed utterly silly.

I suppose if I could see any changes — more muscle tone, a sleeker body, greater energy, anything — it wouldn’t seem so ridiculous, but I don’t see any difference in me at all. I am carrying more weight in the pack than I did at the beginning, but I don’t think it’s because I’m stronger; it’s more that I carried less than I could when I started this project. Back then, I couldn’t carry much because I couldn’t sling the pack onto my back. Once I figured out that it was easy to put the pack on while sitting on the bed, I was able to increase the weight.

But that brings up another silly issue — in the backcountry, there are no beds, so I researched how to put on a pack out in the wild (hoist it up onto a bent leg using the haul strap, hold the haul strap with the left hand, put the right arm through the right shoulder strap, hump it onto your back and then put the left arm through the strap), but that’s difficult to do even without a weak and wonky left arm. I thought of using a rope to haul the thing up my back, but sheesh — talk about silly!

I guess none of this is any more foolish than the rest of my life, such as spending years writing books only a few folks read. Or taking ballet classes when one is leaden footed. Or learning to dance when one can’t distinguish one note or instrument from another. (In class the other day, I was told to do a certain move when the steel guitars started. Total blank. Hadn’t a clue.) Or driving a forty-six-year-old car. Or . . .

Come to think of it, is anything in my life not silly?

But then what do I know — perhaps silliness is the point of my life. Of any life. Maybe God created us and the world and even the universe in a fit of silliness and then went on to more important things.

Since I have nothing more important to do at the moment, I’m stuck with my silliness. At least I’m consistent, but then, consistency is foolish, too.

As if all this weren’t silly enough, I spent the past half hour trying to find the perfect positioning for the image of the bed in this blog post.

Yikes.

***

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.

Audio Books

People often ask me if my books are available as audio books. (Okay, one person asked.) It used to be that some Kindles would read a print version of a book to you, but apparently that option has disappeared, so the only other option is an audio book.

To make an audio book, you have to find a narrator, preferably a professional narrator so that the book isn’t full of ums and ers and throat clearing. Ideally, the narrator must make each voice distinctive. All that runs into money.

To give you an idea of how much money, I am including here an excerpt from a company that distributes ebooks:

To assist with your budgeting, here are some rough guidelines on cost: Each hour of recorded content comprises roughly 9,000 words, which means a 26,000-word novella might run about three hours and a 100,000-word book would run about 11 hours. Narrators typically charge between $150 and $400 per finished hour.

Going by this formula, a mediocre narrator for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare would cost me about $2,300. Maybe someday I’ll make enough off my books that the cost will be worth it.

Meantime, I have a cheaper option. If you want an audio version of any of my books, call me, and I’ll read aloud to you.

***

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.

Prevailing

A friend who follows astrology told me that March 20 (yesterday) begins a time of great change for me, and although no astrological prediction pertaining to my life has ever come true, this one almost did.

After yesterday’s dance class contretemps (hey! I spelled contretemps right without needing spellchecker to correct it for me, though I did need spellchecker to check the spelling of spellcheck), I’d had enough. I simply did not want to play in that sandbox anymore (and sometimes, it does feel as if we are in preschool rather than postschool), so I called my dance teacher and told her I was taking time off.

A long silence, then, “How much time are you taking off?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Ten days. Ten years. I just can’t do it any more.”

She said I was too good a dancer, and she refused to accept my resignation. I’m sure part of her consideration was the performance we will be doing at the beginning of June, but also as a good friend and a lifelong dancer, she has some inkling of what dancing means to me, though it’s hard to explain.

It’s not for exercise — I get plenty of exercise on my own, and would do even more if I weren’t going to class. It’s not for camaraderie, because I’m reverting back to my hermitic ways, and being around people exhausts me. It’s not for fun or enjoyment, though the stress-free classes give me both. It’s more of a thing of energy, of nourishment for my spirit, and too often lately a black miasma hangs over the class that others sometime respond to, but apparently only I can feel.

Still she does know of a lot of the byplay between me and the other characters, and she told me not to let anyone take dance away from me.

I agreed to stay. For a while. So the big change — not taking dance classes anymore — did not happen. But I also firmed  my decision to step up my training saunters with the backpack to allow for a different sort of change.

In the middle of all this, I realized something — no matter what happens, I will prevail.

Did you notice above where I called my classmates “characters’? I meant characters in a book, which they all are — characters in Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare. It seems to me that a lot of what happened in Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare is happening in a sort of parallel reality in class, with the Deb character playing out her solitary (and totally inexplicable) feud against Pat and pulling those who don’t know the truth in to her mind-set of “Oh, poor me. Look what Pat’s doing to me.”

It’s entirely possible I am the villain — writers don’t always recognize the truth of their characters. But I do know one thing — no matter what happened (happens) to any of the other characters in the story, at the end, Pat did prevail.

***

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.

Maybe Something Is Working

Yesterday I had to cut my backpack saunter short because of a cramp in my calf. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t want to keep on going and maybe make things worse. This answers a question I’ve been pondering about whether I should take my supplements with me on a backpacking trip — both times I ended up with a bit of a problem — the calf this week and the thigh last week — came after several days of being too lazy to take a handful of pills. As silly as it is to get nutrition (and fractured nutrition at that) from various capsules and tablets, apparently, these supplements do help keep me active.

Another potential problem is that I do the backpacking practice from Friday to Sunday, and people who only exercise on weekends often end up with injuries. I figured I wouldn’t have a problem because the days I don’t hike, I take dance classes, but perhaps it’s time to change my hiking schedule. If I only saunter a couple of miles, I have no problem doing other physical things, so I am going to attempt to take shorter saunters more frequently to see if that will help build strength.

It’s one thing if I never build up enough strength to do some sort of epic hike, but it’s another thing entirely if I am prevented from even attempting the dream because of injury. (Besides, one iffy limb is enough!)

Because of the calf situation, the friend who keeps me company while I struggle with the backpack on Sundays suggested we practice tap instead. So that’s we did. And then, when I got back, I still went trudging for a couple of miles. I don’t feel as if I’m getting any stronger, and yet I can remember that just a few weeks ago such a walk carrying a weighted pack would have worn me out. So, maybe something is working?

It seems odd to me, even now that I’m focused on finishing my decade-old work in progress, I am still interested in an epic hike.

In a mythic hike.

I recently came across a really great hiking term — MYTH: Multi-Year Thru Hike. Isn’t that a cool acronym? A MYTH could be something more practical for me to work toward — doing the whole Pacific Crest Trail, but not all in one year. It sounds like it would be a lot more fun that way, especially since so many people who do the thru hike in one year (five months, actually), seem to feel lost afterward, or depressed, or suffering various ills. (Generally, those are younger folks, so I doubt I’d have the same reaction, but who knows.)

Still, a hike of any magnitude is far in the future. More immediately is my May trip. Even more immediately, as in right now, I have a literary trek to take. My characters are about to leave the oasis where they’ve been resting and are heading out across the desert. Considering how frequently bits of my novels come to life, I won’t be too hard on them lest it backfire on me.

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.

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.

A Whole Lot of Connecting Going On

pexels-photo-220067.jpeg I’ve had a fabulous week so far. Dance classes were wonderful. The people who spew negative energy (or maybe they just soak up all available energy, which feels like the same thing) were absent, so only those of us whose energies flowed together were in class. Yeah, I know — that’s not why most people take dance class, but for me, that energy is the real joy. I absolutely love dancing in a group when everyone’s steps match, when every arm movement is the same. It’s odd even for me to realize how much the independent iconoclast that I am can enjoy such an interconnected activity, but that could be why I like it — it’s not part of my usual hermitic life.

Another great thing that happened was that I finally figured out what to do with my Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. I’d come to hate the group — there were always problems, the most recent one concerning the image of my books on the header. Since I don’t allow promotions in the group, many people objected to my promoting my own books. And for some reason, there was an upsurge of such complaints yesterday. I finally got angry and said, “I have tried everything I can to accommodate people, but no matter what I did, there were problems. If could delete this group, I would. My compromise is the header. Anyone who objects can leave the group.” One sage woman responded, “I don’t see where there’s a ‘compromise’ in allowing only a promotion of the admin’s work. Maybe the page title should be singular, not plural.”

So that’s what I did — changed the group’s name to Suspense/Thriller Writer (meaning me!). And I very blatantly put up a new header to showcase all of my books. I also changed the group’s description to reflect that it’s a discussion group connected to my author page on Facebook. I don’t know why, but it makes me smile to think of reclaiming the group for my own. If anyone doesn’t like it, they can leave.

Today I tried hiking with a pack again. I wasn’t out long — only about an hour, but it felt good. It didn’t feel as if I were exacerbating whatever bit of my thigh I tore last week, but I’m glad I took it easy. The funny thing is, the pack actually felt comfortable, and it wasn’t until I got back that I realized I hadn’t used the sternum strap. The strap is supposed to help support the load and to keep the pack from shifting from side to side, but if most of the weight is on my hips, I’m not sure the strap is necessary. Still, I will experiment. It’s possible I need a strap, just not the one that comes on the pack.

And best of all, I’ve been writing! After all these years, I finally feel as if I am connected to the story again.

This post started out as a list of things that made me smile this week, but I just realized there is a better theme here: connectivity. Feeling connected in dance class, connecting my Facebook group to my author page, connecting the shoulder straps with the sternum strap and the pack to my body, and connecting to my writing. A whole lot of connecting going on!

Wishing you joy of your own connections.

***

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.

Group as Character

I’ve been working on my decade-old manuscript, and it’s actually going well. I just have one problem you might be able to help me with.

Several of the characters are part of group, and the group will be disappearing en masse. The fact of the disappearance won’t be shocking because such things have already happened in the story, though it will sadden the two left behind and help set up the final act of the story.

I’ve been mostly developing the group roles and trying to present the group itself as a character rather than the individuals in the group because none of them individually advances the story. Consequently, I haven’t done much besides give the individuals brief profile sketches and conflicts within the group, but now I’m wondering if that’s enough.

Since the story is told from a single viewpoint — the main character — any development of other characters has to come from what that one character can observe. A couple of the characters hate the hero and would not tell him anything, so I haven’t given them much of a background, but should I find a way to tell their backstories? Is it necessary?

WRITERS, how fully do you develop your minor characters, especially characters who are going to be killed off?

READERS, how fully do you want to be invested in such characters? Would you feel more cheated if you had to invest time and emotion in such characters only to find out they weren’t pivotal to the story, or would you feel more cheated by not being able to invest emotion in them at all?

***

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.

Blogging, Writing, Planning

This doesn’t seem to be a night for writing a blog — I’ve been sitting here playing games for the last hour with a totally blank mind — and yet, I hate to break the habit of daily blogging. It’s one of my few creative disciplines, and generally, if I let myself take a night off, the next thing I know, weeks have gone by without a single post.

To be honest, I already broke the string of daily blogs at about day 101, but since it was a mistake — I thought I posted something but didn’t — it didn’t affect the habit. But I suppose that raises the question — is it better to blog with nothing to say, or is it better to keep my computer closed?

Well, since I’m here, I might as well bring you up to date on the plans for my May trip. So far, I haven’t done much except schedule visits with friends on my way to Seattle. I had planned to camp at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but the roads to campgrounds and dispersed camping areas are not paved, and I’m not sure I want to risk getting caught on muddy roads, especially since I would be there in the middle of the week when there would be no park personnel.

I’m thinking now I’ll drive in to the plain as far as I can on the paved road to see what if anything I can see — last year there was a super bloom of wildflowers, but this year, because of the lack of precipitation, they are not expecting much color at all. (Same with the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, but one can hope! I sure would like to see those orange fields again.)

I might end up spending that first night in a motel, which doesn’t seem very adventurous, but I’m not sure I’d make it all the way up to The Pinnacles National Park, which was to be my next stop. (My map says it’s a national monument; apparently, somewhere along the way, it got a promotion.)

I still have weeks before I go, so I’m not particularly concerned about not having any plans yet. I wish I could be totally spontaneous, just take off and see what happens, but I know what would happen. I would drive until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, get a motel room, then finish the drive the next day. Admittedly, that sort of trip is its own form of adventure, but not the eye-satisfying, spirit-expanding commune with nature that I crave. And anyway, I might have to do that sort of drive on the return trip to get back before the Memorial Day weekend, and I’d prefer not to do it both ways.

Well, what do you know — I wrote a blog tonight after all. Now let’s see if I can manage to do my novel writing stint, too.

***

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.

Doing Not Much

It’s been a long time since I’ve done nothing. Every day, there is a compelling item on my calendar — either dance classes or backpacking practice — but ever since I popped something in my thigh on Friday, I haven’t done anything. Well, nothing physical, that is. I’ve been taking it easy, reading and writing. Mostly writing.

I still don’t know what happened to my thigh. The tiny pop I felt/heard was definitely some sort of tear, but it doesn’t seem to have caused major damage. There is no bruise, no pain, no limitation of movement except for the limitations I’ve put on myself. I was concerned about exacerbating the tear, but with no real effects from the pop, I don’t suppose it’s necessary to continue resting. Too bad. I’ve really enjoyed these two days of doing not much.

If all continues to be well, I will go to my dance classes this week and hope that by Friday, I will be able to practice backpacking again without ill effects. Unfortunately, I will probably have to reduce the weight in the pack, so that will set me further back in the conditioning process than I want to be, but better such a setback than shouldering the same poundage and destroying my thigh permanently.

Even if I couldn’t go hiking today, I can do it vicariously through my poor benighted (and gaily bedighted) hero since, oddly, he is setting out on a journey across the desert. (Well, not so oddly considering who the author of this journey is!) Luckily, when I go out to the desert for real, I get to wear clothes that cover almost all exposed skin. My poor hero is clad only in that silly pink and lime green polka-dotted loincloth.

Maybe I’ll write an oasis to give him a break from the relentless sun.

But first . . . more of doing “not much.”

I hope you are having as enjoyable day as I am, and with as little to do.

***

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.