Writing My Life

I’m writing a short story for the Second Wind Publishing holiday anthology, and it just occurred to me that the main character is the first one I have created since the death of my life mate/soul mate who isn’t a grieving widow.

I started a novel a couple of years ago, wanting to capture what it felt like to lose a spouse while my feelings were fresh, but I haven’t finished the book. The pain that seeps into the story is too raw for me to handle yet, and besides, I still don’t know what the point of the story is. Is it primarily to show what it feels like to grieve? Is it primarily the mystery of why her minister husband would get out of his deathbed to kill a neighbor? Is it primarily the mystery of who she is now that she is no longer a minister’s wife? Is it a story of renewal, love, acceptance? Unless I figure it out, that poor widow is doomed to grieve forever in the pages of that unfinished manuscript.

The next piece of fiction I attempted was in Rubicon Ranch, a collaborative mystery series I’m writing online with other Second Wind authors. My character is Melanie Gray, a writer whose husband died in a car accident, but certain inconsistencies are showing up in the investigation, pointing to something other than an accident. Melanie’s attempts to come to terms with her life and to find the truth of his death are a couple of the unifying themes in the series, though they are not the focus of the stories.

The third piece of fiction I wrote was “The Willow,” a short story I did for Change is in the Wind, a previous Second Wind anthology. My character in that story is a woman who found renewal in the spring of her second year of grief.

My fourth project is a steampunk collaboration I am doing with several authors I met online. It should come as no surprise that my character is grieving woman. The deaths of her husband and his mother are the catalyst for the story, since her father-in-law goes back in time to try to save them. This sentence hints that maybe her grief (and mine) is waning: Flo stood motionless and stared at her husband. She wanted to run to him, to embrace him, but he looked different somehow. Unapproachable. There seemed to be a bit of flabbiness around his middle, a discontented tilt to his head, a defeated slump to his shoulders. What had happened to the radiant young man she remembered? Had her vision of him changed over the past year, become idealized? Or had she stopped seeing the truth of him even before he died?

In the story I am currently writing, the character’s boyfriend doesn’t die. He leaves her. She doesn’t go into paroxysms of grief, at least not much, but she does cut her hair in an entirely unconscious symbol of mourning (so biblical!). I had her lopping off her long tresses more out rebellion than out of sorrow, since he had always demanded that she didn’t change.

It is strange to see such a pattern show up in my writing. From stark grief, to sustained grief, to a semblance of peace, to seeing the deceased as not so perfect, to easing the focus on grief. Apparently, no matter what I write, I am somehow writing my life (though oddly, the characters are getting progressively younger).

I’ll be interested to see what I write next.

My Short Story “The Willow” Has Been Anthologized!

My short story, “The Willow,” has been published in the Second Wind anthology Change is in the Wind. Reviewer Sheila Deeth says:  “Pat Bertram’s ‘The Willow’ haunts with its beautiful portrayal of love and loss.”

I hope you will read this story. It did what I wanted, capturing the essence of timeless love and the new life that comes from loss. You don’t even have to buy the book. I’ll let you download the anthology this week for free! To download the ebook, go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/146269, pick the format of your choice, and then use coupon code HG57Y when you purchase the book. Your cost should be $0.00 (Offer expires April 17, 2012)

Excerpt from “The Willow”:

One summer day, shortly after their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Gracie was curled on the couch, proofing the catalog for an exhibit of the new modernists, when Scott trudged into the room. Gladness at the sight of him sparked a smile as always, but something in his manner . . .  a hesitation . . . made her smile fade.

“Do we have any plant food?” he asked, his words slurred.

“There should be some in the garage.” She peered at him. “Are you okay?”

“I think I’m dying.”

Gracie bolted upright, heart pounding so hard it shook her body. “What?”

“A little plant food should help.” Scott started to walk away.

“Wait! Just wait a minute, Scott.”

He glanced over his shoulder, a questioning furrow between his brows.

“You can’t just drop a bomb like that and then leave as if nothing happened,” she said.

“What bomb?”

She stared at him for a second, unable to speak, but finally managed to croak out the words. “You said, ‘I think I’m dying.’”

“I didn’t say you were dying.”

“Not me. You. You said you were dying.”

“I said the tree was dying. You never listen, do you?”

The chill in his voice froze her. All she could do was sit immobile on the suddenly uncomfortable couch and watch him. He stumbled as he left the room, and his shoulder hit the doorjamb.

Fear, like fury, flashed through her body. Something was wrong with Scott. Terribly wrong. In all their years together, he’d never spoken to her in such a tone. She hadn’t even known he had such a tone. And that stumble? He was the most graceful man she’d ever met, walking on the high beams of his buildings as if they were earth-bound sidewalks.

She chased after Scott and found him staring up at the canopy of the globe willow. Golden leaves sprinkled down on him as if it were fall instead of just beyond spring.

“Do we have any plant food?” he asked, warmth and worry in his voice.

Gracie put a hand to her mouth to hold back a dry sob. Didn’t he remember that he’d already asked her about the plant food? “Maybe it’s time for you to get a check-up,” she said.

“Me? I feel good.” He grinned at her and held out his arms. “How about a little stress release, love? That’s all I need to make me feel great.”

Blurb from Change is in the Wind:

The assignment was simple: submit a short story dealing with change. The results were astonishing, engaging, and incredibly varied. The stories compiled in this volume range from taut action drama, to stealthy intrigue, to enthralling spirituality, to tangled relationships, to timeless love renewed—or lost, to angelic second chances.  No two of the tales are remotely similar, and yet they are linked in remarkable ways. Each story is tied it to all the others in the anthology with two exquisite threads. The first constant theme is redemption; in each case there is a transformation, often painful, that brings new beginnings, new possibilities and revitalized life. The second theme is love—timeless and true—expressed in a multitude of ways, but unfailing in bringing hope and newness. Change in the Wind is an extraordinary collection of marvelous stories from gifted, eclectic writers who draw us into their worlds and leave us wanting more.

Second Wind Publishing is starting a new short story contest. Perhaps you will be included in the next anthology! For information about this new contest, click here: Holiday short story contest

Short Story Contest. No Entry Fee!

Now that you’ve blogged about what you are thankful for and stuffed yourself with Thanksgiving goodies, now that you have finished your NaNoWriMo entry and celebrated your success, now that you have survived your Black Friday shopping and have not yet gotten into the Christmas mood (or have already gotten out of it)…

Think Spring!!

Second Wind Publishing is sponsoring a short story contest. The theme is . . . you guessed it! Spring. Spring and renewal to be exact. Your stories do not have to be light and uplifting (which should be welcome news for all of you writers who pen dark fiction), but they do have to fit the theme. The story should be your own work, no more than 5,000 words, and must not have been published anywhere, not even on your own blog.

There is no entry fee.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. The deadline is December 31, 2011. The best entries will be posted on the Second Wind Contest Blog for everyone to read and comment.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Change is in the Wind. This anthology is a collection of stories by the authors of Second Wind, so the winner will be in good company. (Since I’m a Second Wind author, I will be writing a story for the anthology. Well, I will as soon as I figure out what I want to write.) The winner will also receive a coupon from Smashwords.com for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs. And the winner will receive a one year free VIP account from Angie’s Diary, the online writing magazine to help you get even more exposure for your writing. ($99.95 value).

So what are you waiting for? Encouragement? Then here it is: you can write a wonderful short story! I know you can! So please send your story as a Word .doc or .docx to secondwindpublishing@gmail.com.

For more information, click here: Second Wind Contest Blog.