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.

Warm War

A blog reader mentioned that he is wondering to what extent life will be altered by our experiences over the last year or so, and now I’m wondering, too. I have thought about the future now and again, not the particulars so much as the fact of it: no matter what happens with The Bob, our lives will be changed, it’s just that I don’t know — can’t know — how far reaching these changes will be.

It seems to me that the world will settle down eventually into new patterns, but again, there’s no way of knowing right now what those patterns — economic, social, political — will be. There’s also no knowing if those in power will ever let us know.

All of this rearranging of the world, our mores, what we’re willing to give up to for a facsimile of safety reminds me of a world war, because that is what happens during a world war. Everything is different, chaotic, but eventually life settles back into a new pattern, and younger generations never realize things were ever different. For example, think of all the millions of people who are alive today who have never experienced a world without airport security and checkpoints. They’ve never gone to the waiting room with their departing loved ones, never stood at the window waving good-bye as the airplane took off.

I’m sure, in that same way, upcoming generations will accept as right and proper whatever the world becomes after The Bob, because they won’t know anything else.

This obviously isn’t a hot war, with military conflicts killing off the young and strong. Nor is it a cold war being fought mostly with propaganda and fear, where countries are in a perhaps fatal stalemate, waiting for one or another to tip the balance of power. So what is this that we’re going through? A warm war? People are dying in vast numbers, though for the most part, the casualties of this war aren’t the young and strong but the old and weak. (A friend believes this is all about depopulation, though again, there’s no way to know for sure. There are always a dozen or a dozen dozen reasons for any worldwide conflict, with everyone involved trying to gather more power for their own particular interest groups.)

As I said, there’s no way for me to even begin to guess what the end result will be. We’re simply not being given enough information about important matters such as who, actually, was tweaking this virus, who let it loose and why. Was it on purpose? An accident? All these are the same questions my characters in A Spark of Heavenly Fire asked when a deadly organism was unleashed on the world, but that was a novel, and novels need some sort of resolution. Not so “real life.”

It’s easier to speculate about alterations on a more personal level, since although I don’t know all the particulars of The Bob and the reasons behind it, I do know how it is affecting my life. So far, I’ve managed to stay healthy, but a lot of that is due to spending most of my time alone. It’s hard to catch something from yourself, though I have done that — allergy attacks that become so devastating they might as well be a infectious disease. Mostly, though, I have managed to maintain my health during this time — no colds or flu or anything catching — which tells me that staying away from people is good for my health.

I’ve always been a bit of stickler when it comes to opening doors, such as those to a public restroom, making sure I use a paper towel to turn the door handle, and that won’t change, though I won’t feel as abashed about it. Nor will I ever use a public restroom again except in a dire emergency.

I’ve always been a bit antsy about standing in lines, and I will no longer do so unless people keep their distance. I have never liked people breathing down my neck, and even more so now.

I have a hunch, as things get back to a state that at least feels normal compared to the siege mentality we are now experiencing, I won’t be as loose and free as I was during the previous few years. I won’t be as willing to attend events where more than a few people are present, won’t be as willing to embrace strangers as I did, won’t be as determined to be sociable. It was always hard for me to be outgoing, but I did make the attempt because not to do so would be limiting my life in an unhealthy way, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to the point where I feel the necessity.

But then, what do I really know? This warm war will change us, all of us, even me. And the “me” to come might be more willing to be bold, to get out in public and let life — and death — fall where they may.

***

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel of a quarantine that predated this pandemic by more than ten years, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

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/

Not Cowering, Not Courageous

What if there were hundreds of thousands of people dying in Colorado alone, not just the 987 who have died so far? Would you have the courage to live, to fall in love, to open your home to those less fortunate, to try to find out who unleashed the microscopic beast as my characters in A Spark of Heavenly Fire did?

Apparently, I wouldn’t. I’m following orders and staying home. Alone. Not much courage in that. No spark of heavenly fire, either, that’s beaming up and blazing in this dark hour of adversity.

I’m not exactly cowering, but I am paying attention to the stay-at-home order even though most people in my age group aren’t. Little by little they are claiming their lives, going out and doing non-essential things, getting together in small groups. If my knee were healed, I might join some of them, especially those who meet outside, but my knee makes me feel vulnerable. I’ve also spent so much time alone that I fear my immune system isn’t exactly in tip-top shape, so I’d be especially susceptible to any small illness that comes along.

So, not cowering, not courageous. Just pragmatic.

I do worry, though. I have spent so much time in the years since Jeff died trying to be sociable despite my inclination to not go out, that I fear this time of being forced into staying home will make it all but impossible for me to gain the energy to overcome my natural hermit tendencies. I used to say “yes” to all invitations because that forced me out of my nest, but now I find myself saying “no.” Eventually, people will stop asking.

Although I do believe that The Bob was never severe enough to merit the measures that were taken to keep us home and to “flatten the curve” to keep the ill from overwhelming hospitals (the projection of deaths was built on a flawed model that was discredited months ago), I would probably have stayed home anyway. I tend to catch things easily and be sick longer than most people — and did so even when I was younger — that I have learned to take extra precautions, though I admit, those precautions probably would not have been as strict as the stay-at-home orders.

Luckily, I have the choice. Luckily, I have a lovely house in which to stay home.

And luckily for you, for the next month, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available as a free download from Smashwords in all ebook formats. You can find the book here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

I figure that by the time the world gets back to normal — or as normal as it will ever get — people will be sick of the very word “quarantine,” and won’t want to have anything to do with novel diseases or diseases in a novel, which is why I giving it away now. I hope I’m wrong about people not wanting to read about devastating diseases after this is all through because A Spark of Heavenly Fire is more than a story about a pandemic — it’s the story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled.

It certainly is not about a woman who stayed home. Where’s the story in that?

***

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.

At it Again

It seems rather unfair that while we are dealing with isolation and the effects of the current crisis, we are still having to field spam calls and emails. You’d think they’d give us a rest from their machinations, but apparently uncertain times make people ripe for the picking. And these callers are not minor players, but corporations in themselves — big business.

Something else that’s adding to the burden of isolation is this allergy season. Everyone I know who has been sick enough and worried enough to get tested for The Bob turned out to be negative for any virus and positive for allergies. Is this a worse allergy season than normal? I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be any information on any other medical crisis. All that anyone talks about is this novel virus, which I have dubbed “The Bob” because of a bit of dialogue in A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Speaking of other medical crises — whatever happened to the seasonal flu? According to various articles before the onslaught of The Bob, this had been a particularly bad and atypical flu season. It started earlier than normal and with the wrong flu strain. Generally, the A types of flu came first, followed by the B types, but this year, the B came first, followed by a long A and B surge. According to the CDC, as of February 12, 4.6 million flu cases had been diagnosed so far this year. Then came all the talk about a novel virus, and that was the end of the information about this atypical flu season. What happened to it? Did it simply disappear? No one is saying.

Oops. Here I am at it again — talking about the ramifications of The Bob. I was going to stay away from any more discussion about this situation because it seems to upset people, but then came a whole slew of spam calls as well as learning about friends’ allergy problems, and it got me started questioning again.

Well, in for a penny in, for a pound or maybe, since I’m not British, in for a dime, in for a dollar. A friend sent me a link to a television interview with two doctors from Accelerated Urgent Care in California who have studied immunology and microbiology extensively. Whenever they’d say something that echoes my concerns — that isolating healthy people is damaging in the long run because it is the contact with all sorts of pathogens that builds up our immune systems, and that delaying non-viral-related hospital visits will place an undue strain on hospitals after the restrictions are lifted — the interviewers would interrupt and try to get them back on the party line: lockdown good; business as usual bad. The doctors very patiently stuck to their script and managed to say what they needed to, not just about the immune system but about seeing abuse and suicides on the rise.

Although it seemed to make the interviewers nervous, the doctors weren’t wearing masks because, as the doctors explained, they knew the truth how the immune system worked. They also said now that so many people have been tested and found to have or have had the disease, the fatality rate is so very much lower than was predicted. And that hospitals are way below capacity, doctors and nurses are being furloughed, and that anyone who dies with the coronavirus is considered to have died of the corona virus.

Perhaps that’s where all the seasonal flu deaths have gone? Swallowed up in The Bob statistics?

I don’t know, but it is a question I don’t see answered anywhere.

In case you haven’t yet downloaded a free copy of my novel  A Spark of Heavenly Fire about a novel pathogen that caused a pandemic and forced Colorado to be quarantined, click here to get your free ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

***

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.

Unspeakable Truths

I don’t know the truth of what’s going on. No one knows, though most of us read a few articles, see a few videos, watch the news, talk to friends, and so we think we do. Not even the people the “conspiracy theorists” think are behind the current situation know the truth. There are folks so deeply entrenched into the power structure of the world economy and have been for so many years, that we see only their minions.

Although I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, I have spent most of my life researching conspiracies, trying to find the truth. (Keep in mind that researching back then wasn’t a matter of googling a few sites and watching a couple of videos. It meant books, and books, and more books. It meant studying research papers and tracking information through various sources.)

That’s all I’ve ever been interested in — the truth. Whether it’s the truth of religion, politics, history, science, life, death, it’s all fair game to me. Truth has been a lifelong pursuit. In fact, when I was in eighth grade, we were assigned to create the front page of a newspaper, including headlines, articles, etc. My newspaper was all about the meaning of nursery rhymes, and back then it took some digging to find out some of those meanings. For example, “Ring-around the rosy” originated as a rhyming song about the black death —“We all fall down.” Mary, Mary, quite contrary supposedly tells a grim tale about Mary Tudor.

One thing I did learn during a lifetime of research (two lifetimes if you include Jeff’s historical research in addition to mine) is that often a so-called conspiracy is merely a plan someone or a group of someones makes and doesn’t tell anyone.

Is what’s going on today fulfilling some people’s agendas? Probably. However it started, however anything starts — whether by accident or design — there is always someone who is ready to make a profit from it, either in money or power. There will also always be people who believe there is an agenda even if they can’t agree on what that agenda might be, and there will always be those who don’t. It doesn’t make a difference, really. We still have to deal with each day as it comes and to protect ourselves however we can.

Although I have been trying to find out how some influential people are using this situation to promote themselves and their businesses (destroying small businesses in the process), I don’t know if I care what the truth is. Whether this is the simple pandemic we’re told it is or whether there is some nefarious purpose behind it, knowing won’t change anything. Besides, the truth doesn’t always set us free. Sometimes it only serves to make us sad and weary and so very, very discouraged.

When I was writing A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel about biological warfare that mirrors this situation in sometimes eerie ways, I needed a substory and, as often happens, I found a clue in the very next book I read, and the pursuit of that clue led me to a place called Pingfan and added a depth to my novel I could never have imagined.

By that time, I thought my knowledge of man’s and woman’s inhumanity to their own kind made me shockproof, but even I was appalled to learn about Pingfan. For those who have read A Spark of Heavenly Fire — no, I did not create Pingfan. I don’t have that sort of inhumane brain. General Ishii created the place.

General Ishii was the leader of the Japanese germ warfare program. It’s ironic, but the Japanese had no interest in biological warfare until the Geneva Protocol’s 1932 ban on biological weapons. Ishii concluded the ban meant they were an effective means of fighting a war, so he persuaded the imperial army to let him establish a biological warfare installation. The army granted permission in 1937.

They built the installation in Manchuria near a village called Pingfan, forty miles outside of Harbin, and it was huge—a town in itself, actually, and self-supporting. In addition to living quarters and the research facilities, which included a separate compound for plague research, there was a school, a railroad siding, an administration building, a crematorium, a powerhouse, a hospital, an airbase, and farms for raising food and livestock. A high wall topped with barbed wire hid the facility from view. A moat lay beyond the wall to trap any intruders, and an electrified fence surrounded the inner perimeter to prevent escapes.

Three thousand doctors, scientists, technicians, and soldiers worked there. The output was staggering. They grew and experimented with all kinds of diseases and bio-weapons. And they had the capacity for producing twenty million doses of vaccine annually. Radiating out from Pingfan were eighteen other biological warfare stations, each staffed with three hundred people. Many of those stations were on mainland China. The whole program was administered by an organization with the innocuous name of Boeki Kyusuibu, which means Anti-Epidemic Water Supply Unit.

The Japanese conducted their experiments on Chinese villagers and POWs—mostly Chinese, but also American, British and Australian prisoners. (Many of the soldiers from the Bataan death march ended up there.)

Hundreds of American POWs died torturous deaths, and if by chance any of them survived one experiment, they were immediately put to use in another. Thousands upon thousands of Chinese were also killed—at least a hundred thousand, perhaps as many as a million—but the Japanese admitted to only a thousand. (And now the Chinese have their own bio-labs.)

The Japanese conducted all sorts of experiments.

Using planes, they scattered rice and wheat mixed with plague.

They dropped anthrax bombs designed to shatter into a thousand pieces of shrapnel. A single scratch from one of those fragments caused death in ninety percent of its victims.

They injected their victims with diseases, fed them cultures of diseases, exposed them to clouds of diseases in gas chambers, then killed them at various stages of the diseases, and performed autopsies on them. They performed some autopsies while the victim still lived.

They poisoned thousands of wells in Manchuria with cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Interestingly, a regiment of Japanese soldiers unknowingly drank from one of those wells. Thousands died.

They also infected fleas with botulism, put them in balloons, and let them go, hoping they’d reach the United States. Many of the balloons did reach the western coast, but luckily the fleas had all died.

In addition to bacteriological experiments, the doctors had conducted experiments on frostbite. Victims were taken outside in the coldest months of the year and forced to immerse their hands and feet in barrels of cold water. They were kept outside until their extremities froze, then were taken back inside so the doctors could investigate means of treating frostbite.

The doctors had also done blood work experiments. In an effort to discover if blood other than human could be used to treat wounded soldiers, prisoners had been drained of their own blood and infused with horse’s blood. All died.

After the war, Ishii ended up in the custody of the United States. He told them about his germ warfare program in exchange for immunity. The U.S. concluded that the potential benefits of the research outweighed the demands of justice. No war crimes were ever brought against Ishii, and the whole thing was covered up. Ishii retired to a village named Wakamatsu-cho, where he lived on a pension provided by the U.S. government until his death in 1959.

None of the other doctors involved ever charged with war crimes, either.

The pathology squad leader who had conducted live autopsies became a professor at Kyoto University. He later became a professor emeritus of the university and a medical director of the Kinki University at Osaka.

The doctor who had fed typhoid germs in milk to prisoners, and who had been responsible for certain types of germ bombs, became a professor of bacteriology at Kyoto University.

The frostbite expert joined the faculty of Kyoto Prefectural Medical College and later became its president.

The premier germ bomb expert joined the Japanese National Institute of Health, where he continued his bacteriological research.

The hematologist opened a blood bank that eventually became one of the most successful multi-national medical supply and pharmaceutical companies in the world.

The only reason any of this became public knowledge is that many years later, when some of the American victims applied for help through the VA, they were told their records were sealed, and that what they had experienced had never happened. They fought for their truth, and won.

Was that the end? Of course not. There’s always someone trying to make a bad thing worse. For example, the Russians built an underground facility capable of growing eighty to one hundred tons—tons!—of the smallpox virus every year. Even worse, they modified it genetically, combining the smallpox with Ebola and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, a brain virus. Worst of all, the collapse of the Soviet Union left hundreds of biological research scientists unemployed. Many of them took the smallpox with them when they went to work for other countries like Libya, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, India, and maybe even Israel and Pakistan. And of course, the United States.

So, do I think some powerful people are using this current situation for their own ends? You bet. Do I know that those ends are? I can guess, but even that would fall short of the truth, because some truths are so horrific and unspeakable that only masterful psychopaths can imagine them. I no longer even have the heart to write about such crimes, which is why only my first four books are based on various conspiracies.

If you’re interested in reading A Spark of Heavenly Fire, it’s still available as a free download from Smashwords. Click here to get your free ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

***

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 E-Book!

For the next month, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available as a free download from Smashwords in all ebook formats. You can find the book here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

I figure that by the time the world gets back to normal — or as normal as it will ever get — people will be sick of the very word “quarantine,” and won’t want to have anything to do with novel diseases or diseases in a novel, which is why I giving it away now. I hope I’m wrong about people not wanting to read about devastating diseases after this is all through because A Spark of Heavenly Fire is more than a story about a pandemic — it’s the story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled.

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?

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 the world, but mostly Colorado where the disease originated. 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.

It sounds like us, today — the crisis crystalizing our lives and showing us what we value most.

Click here to get your free ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

Below is the video trailer for A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

***

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.

The Bob

In the following scene from A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel about a novel disease, 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. From now on, I’m going to call this current novel virus “The Bob.” No insult meant to any Bob living or dead, but I need a different name to call this disease because I am already sick of seeing its name wherever I go on the internet and hearing it out in public. And anyway, I named the disease many years ago back when I didn’t know any Bobs.

***

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.

Living in my Own Story

I am feeling very déjà-vu-ish these days, as if I’m living in the pages of one of my books. (A Spark of Heavenly Fire is the story of a quarantine in Colorado where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. Insomniac Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay. This is a story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled. And is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1630663662/)

Now that was a real pandemic, my red death. What we’re going through now is . . . I don’t know what it is, but it seems more fictional than my fictional disease. Truly, this panic over a rather tepid pandemic has me mystified. Maybe young folks would have an excuse because they haven’t lived through any of the previous named flus (Russian, Swine, etc.) , but most of them seem to be blasé since they are not being hit hard. But for the rest of us? I really don’t get it.

The Russian Flu killed 1 million from 1889 to 1890

The Spanish Flu killed 40-50 million from 1918-1919 (20% of the world’s population)

The Asian Flu killed 1.1 million from 1957 to 1958

The Hong Kong Flu killed 1 million between 1968-1970

The Swine Flu killed 200,000 between 2009 to 2010

Seasonal Flu (the various flus that hit us every year) kill between 300,000 to 600,000 every year.

The Coronavirus has killed 6,500 from Nov 2019 to March 15. 2020, which means we’re almost halfway through the typical period it takes for one of these named flus to run its course. People keep citing statistics, such as the rapid spread rate, the extreme potency of the organism to prove how important the hype is. And yet it is nowhere near as potent or rapid spreading as all the previous flus no one cared about.

The closest thing to this particular reaction that I have seen was the swine flu of 1976. There was a panic to create a vaccine with the ultimate goal of vaccinating 80% of the citizens of the USA. They reached 25%. And all that panic came from a single death. One death. That’s it. The vaccine caused more deaths than that, along with major problems for a lot of the vaccinated people, including an increase in reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Because of that ridiculous mess, and because of being forced to get such a dangerous vaccine or risk losing my job, I will never follow the party line (either party line) when it comes to any sort of flu, epidemic, or pandemic, no matter how wild or how tepid.

Yes, I know. People are dying. For them and those who care about them, it’s a sad and terrible thing, but going by strictly by the numbers, it’s not that big of a thing. And it might never be. I’m not saying taking precautions is wrong, because it isn’t. In fact, most of the precautions, such as washing one’s hands, staying home when sick, and distancing oneself from those who are ill are things we should have all been doing anyway. If we had, there’s a good chance the deaths from seasonal flu would not be nearly as great.

Even if it turns out there are 200,000 to a million deaths from this thing, it’s still pretty much status quo for a virus, whether novel or known.

The main difference between this and previous outbreaks is, as one friend pointed out, an overactive media and an even more overactive social media, both of which seem to revel in riling people because riled people are involved people. (Involved in the story, that is, not necessarily involved in finding solutions to the story.)

I love the internet. I love interacting with people all over the world. But this current reaction has me wanting to hunker down and quarantine myself from all the hype.

Luckily, a friend is coming to stay for a couple of days, so I’ll have other things to think about than living in my own 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.

Virus!

With all the talk about corona virus and how it’s probably a man-made (or woman-made, for all I know) organism that escaped from a lab, it would be remiss of me not to mention my own organism, the red death. The red death only resides within the pages of A Spark of Heavenly Fire, so it cannot harm you (though it might scare you), but it’s deadly for all that. In fact, it’s so deadly and spread so fast from it’s origins in Colorado, that the entire state is quarantined.

You don’t think that’s possible? The technology already exists, and where people manage to break out of the quarantined area, you better believe that people from the surrounding states would not hesitate to shoot an escapee.

Inside the quarantined state, hundreds of thousands of people are dying in Colorado this unstoppable red death, and though many people have given up hope, insomniac Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay. This is a story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled.

So, if you wish to take a break from talk of the rather tepid coronavirus (the “normal” flu is much deadlier) and experience what a true epidemic would be like, you can read an excerpt of A Spark of Heavenly Fire here: https://bertramsblog.com/free-samples/a-spark-of-heavenly-fire/ and you can buy it from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1630663662/

***

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