Dear Neutral Gender, Anthropomorphized, Parental-Unit Nature:

I put up with a lot from the sadistic creatures you seem to love so much (you’ve made so many of them!): stings, bites, nips, scratches, rashes, hives, unwilling blood donation, as well as various and sundry other unpleasant reactions resulting from the activities of your offspring. I have never fought back; I’ve never even killed a fly. When your beloved minions enter my abode, I gently catch them and take them outside. When I’m outside, I take the laissez-faire attitude that the outside is their home, and I am the intruder.

Oh, sure — I do use mosquito repellant (a natural one, not something poisonous like Deet), and I have knocked down wasp nests to keep those kamikazes from dive-bombing me as I enter and leave my home (my home, not theirs), but otherwise, I’ve let your creatures do what they will.

But yesterday, as I was standing innocuously, talking to a neighbor over the fence, a red fire ant attacked me. Oh, my. What a horror! The pain was like a hot knife sliding into my flesh. Even worse, it bit me not once, not twice, but five times. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

I’ve been stung by hornets that didn’t feel as bad. I’ve been bitten by dogs that didn’t hurt so much. I’ve been splashed with boiling oil, resulting in second and third degree burns that didn’t burn as hotly. I’ve had bee stings that didn’t swell as much. I’m battling dozens of mosquito bites at the moment, and the totality of those bites, as horrifically aggravating as they are, can’t compare to the brutality of those ant bites all up and down my leg. Even after I iced the bite sites, even after I applied insect-bite soothing creams, even after taking a pain pill and an antihistamine, the agony stayed. And stayed. And stayed. The pain is not as harsh this morning, but still, I’ve had enough.

I’m through. I’m through with being your plaything. Through with being a victim of your casual cruelties.

No more!

I’m giving due notice. Remove your troops immediately or I will declare war. Admittedly, all of the ants on this property combined probably weigh more than I do, and their arsenal is effective and very painful, but mine is more deadly. Well, it will be as soon as I figure out what my weapon is.

So take heed! This human you’ve treated worse than a worm has turned.


Fed-up in Colorado


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

Things Are Tough All Over…

Even Santa has to downsize and economize.

Santa's sleigh


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Comment Spam

Sometimes the most amusing comments that are posted on the internet are the mangled bits of spam that clog the blogoshere. Here the most current ones that graced this blog:

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This last one actually makes sense, but then it would have to since it’s promoting a site called “genius love” (a site so dangerous, my internet protection wouldn’t let me check it out):

6. The difficulties you meet will resolve themselves as you advance. Proceed, and light will dawn, and shine with increasing clearness on your path.

File Not Found

While searching for information about ravens for my upcoming chapter of Rubicon Ranch, the collaborative novel project I’m involved in, I clicked on a dead link. Instead of getting a generic “error” page, I landed on the following, which was just too amusing not to share:

The page which you requested was not found on this server, or the server was instructed not to let you have it. There could be a number of reasons for this error. The most common include:

– The Web Master for this page is a Lazy Git. The page which you requested may not have been built yet, and as such is not available for viewing.

– The page which you are looking for may have moved, or been deleted.

– The Web Master may have been working on these pages very late at night, and run out of caffeine. This causes frequent minor errors such as misspelled hypertext links, misplaced files, and mystery documents which disappear into thin air (or thinner electrons). You may have been directed to the wrong page. Mea Culpa. I’ll try not to do it again.

– You yourself may be working under the influence of too little caffeine, and have typed in the address incorrectly. Double check the address, and try again.

– The little spiders living in your computer are feeling neglected, and have decided to play tricks on you. Tell them you love them, beg with them, plead with them, and try reloading the page. Maybe they’ll give you what you’re looking for on your second attempt.

– You might simply not exist. This server regularly refuses service to people who do not exist. Double check your reality, and come back when you have the answer to life, the universe, and everything. (Are you really sure it’s 42?)

If all else fails, you could try sending email to the webmaster with a description of the problem you encountered, and perhaps the universe will see fit to serve you better in the future.

Thank you for your understanding, tolerance, and sense of humor.


The website I stole that from is: Shades of Night/Aviary.

It’s good to know about the neglected spiders in my computer. I cajoled my arachnids and told them I loved them and still, the page didn’t load. But my computer works much better now.


“If Dreams could be bottled… if the essence of Night could be distilled and captured in a jar… Who would not have a storehouse of poison and passion?”

Another Great Blog to Bookmark!

If you haven’t checked out the Second Wind Blog, you’re missing out on a treat. With more than fifteen writers posting articles, there is something for every taste, from Noah Baird’s hilarious take on life to JJ Dare’s more philosophical bent, from Sherrie Hansen’s inspirational articles to Norm Brown’s blend of mysticism and reality. Here you can find contests, interviews and excerpts. You can even find me occasionally!!! So what are you waiting for? Stop by Second Wind Publishing Blog and check it out. Here are a few great articles to get you started:

DO YOU GESTALT? by Nancy A. Niles talks about role playing to get to know your characters.

Traveling Thoughts by Mairead Walpole talks about the magic of the Florida sun.

Top of the World at Just the Right Moment by Norm Brown talks about a stunning moment when he was in the right place at the right time. And check out his classic Do Not Lean, which was “Fresh Pressed” here on WordPress.

The Trouble With Birthdays by J. Conrad Guest is a celebration of life, baseball, and summer. And If the Novel is Dying, What’s That Say About Imagination? is a celebration of reading.

Writer Beware–POV Confusion/Character Overload by Juliet Waldron explains the dangers of too many point of view shifts.

Chemistry and Subtext by Lucy Balch tells how writers can enhance the budding romances in their books.

How living in Germany Helped Me Become a Better Writer by Coco Ihle talks about the importance of detailing subjects familiar to the author, but possibly unique or unconventional to someone else.

The Joys of Lying to Children by Noah Baird I had a hard time choosing which Noah Baird post to highlight, but lying to children is perhaps even funnier than Vasectomies For Beginners by Noah Baird. Or not.

Compelled to Compare by Sherrie Hansen talks about appreciating what she has, both as a woman and a writer, but my favorite is Don’t Keep Me Hanging Too Long!

Are You Happy? by J J Dare talks about being happy and feeling heated rush the assassin feels right after he pulls the trigger. Um, yeah. You’ll have to read the post. Or this read this one instead: Goodbye, Mr. Phobia by J J Dare.

Writing what you know by Nichole Bennett talks about writing what you’re comfortable with and researching the rest.

On Butt Glue, Diplomacy, and Lying: Lessons Learned by Laura Wharton talks about the lessons she learned in her first year as a published writer.

Isabella’s Smile and the Miracle in Dakota Park — by Calvin Davis is a delight parable for writers and everyone who needs a bit of assurance that sometimes the impossible is really possible.

Excuse me? What? by Dellani Oakes talks about the ways in which writing is like childbirth. If you’re an author, you will probably agree.

Killer Cocktail Events in Minnesota by Christine Husom talks about the Midwest Booksellers Association annual trade show. Be sure to stop by and tell her about trade shows you’ve gone to.

Interview With Deborah J Ledford, Author of Snare and Staccato

Excerpt From “School of Lies” by Mickey Hoffman

and don’t forget the Second Wind Short Story Contest!! The deadline is December 31, 2011, so you still have plenty of time to enter.

Nothing For Christmas

I never have enough time for all the nothing I want to do, so I decided to do nothing for Christmas. I am such a procrastinator that I will do anything to keep from doing what I’d planned to do — even if that something was nothing. On Christmas morning, to keep from doing the nothing I had planned, I decided to bake made-from-scratch carrot cake with yoghurt frosting so I would have something to eat when I finally settled down to doing nothing.

Leafing through my cookbook, I came across a recipe for cranberry sauce, and I was surprised to discover how simple it was — boil sugar and water and add cranberries. Seemed like a nice nothing thing to do, so I made the carrot cake and set the cranberries to cooking. Then it dawned on me I didn’t have anything to eat with the cranberries. So I cooked chicken and gravy, and since I just happened to have some stale bread, I made stuffing to go with the chicken and gravy and stuffing. I had to make a salad, too, because a meal is not a feast without fresh vegetables.

While all this was cooking, I happened to notice that the living room needed to be vacuumed, so I . . .

Vacuumed? Of course not. It was Christmas. And I’d procrastinated enough. I grit my teeth, gird my loins, got pumped, and did what I’d planned to do.


Waiting for the Ball

Originally, my first book was going to be released in September and the second in October, then both were going to be released at the beginning of November, now I’m looking at December.

I understand about publishing delays, but my publishing date always seems to be just out of reach. It makes me feel as if I’m in a strange game where the quarterback told me to go long and he’d pass me the ball. So there I am out in left field, waiting to dunk the ball or perhaps dropkick it home. Play after play, down after down, inning after inning I stand there, bouncing on the balls of my feet, hands in the air, planning my victory dance. But I never get the ball.

I can see everyone else on the team running around the bases, throwing passes, making baskets. Empty-handed, I wait. And wait. Eventually, I know, I will get the ball. But will I remember what I’m supposed to do with it?

What Kind of Blogger Are You?

All bloggers are created equal. We start out with a blank template, an idea, a hope of words to come, but we do not stay equal. In my journeys around the blogosphere, I have noticed many different kinds of bloggers. What kind are you?

Blogger – one who blogs on a regular basis.
Clogger – one who clogs cyberspace with unused or abandoned blogs.
Plogger – one who plugs away at their blog, managing one or two posts a week.
Slogger – one who blogs occasionally. Halfway between a clogger and a plogger.
Logger – one who logs in frequently to check stats and comments.
Flogger – one who blogs to sell a product or an idea.
Glogger – one who guzzles while blogging.
Catalogger – one who blogs while holding a cat in their lap.
Kittylogger – one who blogs while a kitten sits on the keyboard.
Epilogger – one who blogs about the end of the world as we know it.
Monologger – one who blogs on and on about a single topic.
Dialogger – one who carries on digital conversations with commenters.
Decalogger – one who blogs about the Ten Commandments or other religious topics.
Decilogger – one who has ten or more blogs.
Analogger – one who doesn’t blog, doesn’t know what a blog is, or doesn’t own a computer.

How Often Has This Happened To You? (Close Encounters Of the Buffalo Kind)

When I was out walking the other morning, enjoying one of the last hot days of summer, a dusty red pickup pulled up next to me. A man with a weathered face tipped his hat and said, “Howdy.”

Well, no. He didn’t tip his hat; he wasn’t wearing one. And he didn’t say “howdy”.

What he said was, “Some wild buffalo got loose. We’ve penned them in the next field for now, but they are very dangerous. So be careful.”

“Do you think it will be okay for me to finish my walk?” I asked.

He hesitated. “I wouldn’t recommend it. The fence is flimsy and may not hold them. If they come after you, they will take you down and stomp you to death.”


So I did what anyone would do. I hastened home.

Got my camera, hastened back down the road. And there they were. I turned on my camera and . . . nothing. Thinking the batteries must be dead, I hastened back home, put in new ones, but the camera still didn’t work — probably because of a loose connection. A bit of finagling, and finally I got the thing turned on.

And took my pictures.

(If the photos seem a little fuzzy, it’s because the buffalo were the equivalent of a long city block away, buffalo do not stand still, and I was unsteady because of all that hastening.) 



Write Lofty and Carry a Big Chisel

Like other construction worker, we creators of word worlds own toolboxes filled with necessary implements. We have hooks to hook the reader, glue to glue their attention, a feather or two to tickle their funny bones.

We find nails to nail our points and hammers to hammer them home. We find nuts and bolts to connect our story elements and trowels with which to lay a concrete foundation. And we find pliers for getting the attention of agents and editors, because we all know that task is as difficult and painful as pulling out our own teeth. (Word of caution: Do not use pliers on said agents/editors. They might take offense and refuse to look at your work.)

We need awls and augers (maybe even augurs) to poke holes in our inflated prose, and we need saws to cut away the deadwood. And we definitely need screwdrivers to screw up our courage and we need screwdrivers to drown our sorrows when agents/editors/critics shoot us down again. (A bulletproof vest would also come in handy, but they are too bulky to fit in the box, and besides, they make our clothes fit funny.)

But the most important and versatile tool of all is the chisel. We can use it to knock the chip off our shoulders. Perhaps you’re right and agents/editors are idiots who can’t recognize good prose. But perhaps they are idiots who can recognize good prose, and you’re not writing it yet. (Notice I say you? I, of course, write excellent prose. Agents/editors just don’t recognize my good prose when they see it.)

Chisels will help keep criticism and compliments at more than arm’s length. Too much criticism can kill creativity; too many compliments may keep us from improving. And we can all improve.

A chisel will help pare away verbiage, those superfluous words and elements that blunt the clear lines of our prose. For example, I chiseled away excess from the phrase excess verbiage, since it’s redundant. Verbiage by definition is excess.

And a chisel will help us shape our story into a world so vital and inviting readers won’t be able to tear themselves away.

So, let’s open our toolboxes and get to work

You first.