In Pursuit of Dreams

The only thing wild about my backpacking saunters yesterday and today was the wind. And oh, my, was the wind wild! It seemed that no matter which direction I went, I was always heading into the gale. Several times, gusts blew so strongly, I could not take a single step forward until the wind stopped to take a breath. I’d just as soon not be out in the wind, but if I didn’t walk when it was windy, I wouldn’t walk at all. (We’re in the windy time, though truthfully, almost all times are windy here except for a few weeks in the middle of summer when any air movement would be welcome, and in the middle of winter.) Still, my hikes yesterday and today were about a half-hour shorter than the ones I’d been taking — not only is the wind hard to hike in, it frazzles my nerves until I want to scream. (Actually, come to think of it, I did scream once or twice, but that didn’t slow the wind velocity one whit.) That I went out at all just goes to show how dedicated I am in pursuing my impossible dream. (Though I have to admit, if the only weather I ever encountered on a wilderness trail were such unremitting winds, the dream of a long-distance hike would die unborn.)

I’m hoping I will be as dedicated this month to the dream of finishing my decade-old work in progress, a book that was started so long ago that the word “Internet” was still capitalized.  I’ve lived so much in that time, written so much — blogs and other books — that it’s hard to put myself in the mindset of the story. If, as in a dream (the night kind, not the hopeful kind), all the characters in my story are different manifestations of my own persona, then how can I still be those characters when I am not them anymore? (Oddly, although much has changed in the past decade, the unsightly fad of young men wearing pants that hang below their underwear is still prevalent today. And of course, politicians are still lying.)

There is no wind in the book to frazzle my nerves, so yesterday I figured I’d spend an easy hour and a half writing, but after discovering that it’s almost impossible to continue writing a dormant book without knowing what the story is about, I spent the time reading the first half of what I had written.

I found myself smiling at the humor. Found myself pleased at the way I foreshadowed the ending in the first few chapters. Found myself chagrined that although I’d written the book to be timeless, I succeeded — the human politics and policies that so dismayed my poor hero continue to this day. As does the struggle to find a balance between freedom and safety.

Today’s “writing” session should be as easy as yesterday’s — I still have to finish reading the manuscript before I can add any words to the story, so there will be no writing. And no wind.

When I do finally propel the story forward, I hope I will do justice to my hero. It was a lot easier to write from a male point of view when I had Jeff to help keep the hero psychologically true to his gender. Perhaps if I inadvertently skew the poor character closer to my own gender bias, readers will accept the change as part of the character arc.

Assuming, of course, there are any readers. Although most of my published books are genre benders, this one is so different, it doesn’t bend any genre — it sidesteps genre altogether.

***

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 Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #3

A Spark of Heavenly Fire takes place during the month of December. To celebrate, I am posting outtakes from the book. Like movie outtakes, these are scenes that were deleted from the final version.  Posting them is not as easy as it sounds. Since the original version is no longer in my computer, I have to retype the pages from my handwritten draft copy.  Still, it’s fun being able to revisit some of my original scenes. Hope you enjoy this look at my characters. Oh, and if you’d like to see a photo of the handwritten book, you can find it here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire Pre-Anniversary.

One of Hollywood’s highest paid actors, Jeremy King had a tendency to take himself and his status too seriously, but here, on his vast Montana ranch, he felt centered. A man, not an icon.

After a satisfactory day riding fence, he crawled into bed so blissfully drowsy he felt no need to take a sleeping pill.

His wife Nora rolled over into his arms, enveloping him in her inimitable scent: jasmine, cinnamon, woman. He felt a momentary tug of arousal, but it dissipated when she didn’t respond to his exploratory kiss. Before he even had time to register a flicker of disappointment, he fell asleep.

To his annoyance, he woke an hour later. As he started to get out of bed, Nora grasped his wrist.

“Don’t go,” she said, still half asleep.

“I have to. This damn prostate.” He gently disengaged her fingers and headed for the bathroom.

When he returned, Nora was sitting up, the heirloom quilt clutched to her throat.

“Don’t go,” she repeated.

“I won’t.” He laughed humorlessly. “Not for an hour or two, anyway.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“It’s late, honey. Go back to sleep.”

“I had a dream.”

Jeremy yawned. “Can’t it wait? We can talk tomorrow before I leave.”

“I don’t want you to go to Denver,” Nora said. “Something terrible is going to happen to you there.”

“I’m only going to be gone two days, just long enough to shoot a few exterior scenes. That’s all.”

Jeremy’s latest film, Cry of Hope, was the story of a Colorado cattleman who, while trying to survive a severe drought, discovers that his son has leukemia.

Test audiences had been singularly unmoved. In an effort to rescue the movie, the producers had decided to shoot a few more scenes showing the rancher’s despair. Jeremy had readily agreed to take the extra work; he was at that age where one disappointing film to could an end to a long career.

Nora knew this too, so why was she giving him grief? Maybe she was lonely now that their two children were away at college.

“Why don’t you come with me?” Jeremy said. “Go shopping at Cherry Creek Mall, eat at some fancy restaurants.”

“You think that’s what this is about?”

“Look, it was just a suggestion.”

“Oh, never mind.” Nora flopped down on the pillow, pulled the covers up to her chin and turned her back on him.

Jeremy had just about drifted back to sleep when Nora sat up again and turned on the light.

He squinted at her in the sudden brightness. For just a second he wondered who the worried old woman was. What had happened to the slim, raven-haired beauty he had married twenty-five years before?

With a pang of compassion, he sat up, put his arms around his wife and pulled her close. “What is it, honey?”

Nora started to cry, loud gulping sobs like a child.

Jeremy patted her back and made soothing noises.

“I don’t want to lose you,” she said after she had calmed down.

“You’re not going to lose me. What can happen in Denver? There’s no earthquakes, no hurricanes, no tornadoes, no tidal waves or flash floods. There’s an occasional blizzard, but eh weatherman says it’s going to be clear this week-end.”

She pulled away from him to study his face. “You’re making fun of me.”

“No, I’m not.” He smiled at her. “Well . . . maybe a little.”

She snuggled back into his arms. “The dream really scared me. You and someone else — a girl, I think — were alone in a very desolate place. There were a few skeletons of buildings in the background, and some trucks and bulldozers parked haphazardly around an immense smoking pit, but that was all. The sun was just setting. Because of the smoky haze, the sun was red, like the sun of a dying planet, and it made everything else look red, too. Blood red.”

Jeremy felt Nora shudder. “It’s just a dream,” he said. “Remember when I was doing The Sultan’s Pride? You called me in Mozambique, all frantic because you dreamed I was going to be tortured. You were right. I was. But it was just a scene in the movie. And that time you dreamed I was going to be hit by a car and end up in a coma? Another scene from one of my films.”

“I still feel terrible about accusing you of having an affair with your co-star while you were making Mesa Grande — what was her name? Janet Richards? — but I did see the two of you in a dream.” Nora sighed. “You must think I’m a foolish old woman.”

When he opened his mouth to speak, she kissed him, stifling his protests. “You’re a good man, Jeremy King,” she said, then she turned off the light.

Within minutes, she was sound asleep. Jeremy, however stared up at the ceiling, unable to get her words out of his head.

His affair with Janet Richards has been very discreet, so it had come as a shock when Nora had confronted him with it. He had managed to sidestep a battle by swearing the affair was nothing more than a protracted love scene that had been cut from the movie, but he had never understood how she had found out about it in the first place. Could she really have seen it in her dreams?

An hour later, still wide awake, Jeremy took two sleeping pills.

I always liked this scene. It put a different slant on Jeremy’s flirtation with the gorgeous Pippi O’Brien, and it foreshadowed the terrible sight that greeted them when they fled Denver, but too much of Jeremy at the beginning pf the book overwhelmed the story and made it drag. I can’t believe I had the courage to eliminate it. 

Read the first chapter of the published version here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire 
Free download: get the first 30% of A Spark of Heavenly Fire free at Smashwords
Read blurb at  Second Wind Publishing: A Spark of Heavenly Fire
Blatant hint: Books make great Christmas gifts!