I went hiking in the desert again, not wanting to waste the last couple of days left from this halcyon summer rerun before colder temperatures set in once more.


(The warming trend after the first frost used to be called Indian Summer, but I suppose that name has become anathema along with all the rest of the terms being restructured for political reasons, and I have not yet heard the new term for this re-summertime. Not that the season cares what we call it — it simply is. And besides, in the desert, the summer was never this lovely, so perhaps the current mild weather isn’t a rerun at all, but the real thing, no matter what the calendar says.)


The trails I took today were a lot easier than the previous ones, mostly because they were wide enough I could chug uphill on the smoother parts and zigzag my way down on the steeper slopes.


I wasn’t the only one making use of the fine day, but I don’t want to ruin the experience by mentioning all the boys of all ages with their noisy vehicular toys zooming along the trails. (Oops. Do you see what I did? I mentioned the noise after all!) I really shouldn’t complain about the motorized toys — after all, if it weren’t for vehicles, most of the trails in the desert would be as treacherous as the one I climbed the last time I was there.


The hardest parts were balancing me, my trekking poles, and my phone so I could take photos. Usually, photos seem more vibrant than the natural subject, but for some reason, these photos don’t pop the way the real scenery did, maybe because there is nothing to show the scope of the slopes. (I suppose I could have done a selfie or two, but that’s not my style. I prefer to be outside the photo looking in, rather than inside the photo looking out.)


Still, the photos are good enough to show the beauty of my walk without showing all that isn’t beautiful, such as the roads carved into the desert floor by the ATVs and the garbage strewn everywhere. But let’s not talk about those things, and remember only the intermittent silence and the beauty.


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.

Being is Reason Enough for Living

I saw the 1993 movie Indian Summer the other day, and one scene still haunts me. Alan Arkin takes Diane Lane, whose husband has been dead a year, to see a house on the lake. He tells her the owner died fifteen years previously and, abiding by the old guy’s wishes, he dropped the guy’s body in the center of the lake. The guy’s wife continued to live in the house, and fifteen years later, when she died, Arkin “buried” her next to her husband. Arkin say he should simply have dropped the wife in the lake when the husband died as a not very subtle way of telling Lane to get on with her life.

Oddly, the reinforcement of the idea that after a year we bereft are supposed to set aside our grief and get on with our life (get a guy, in other words) didn’t bother me as much as the implication that the old woman wasted her life by living at the lake alone.

Is living alone a waste? Not everyone gets to be with someone, and even those who do get to be with someone for a while don’t always get to live out their life with that person. So does that mean their lives are a waste? Not everyone is gifted with friends or has the gift of making friends. Does that mean the lives of the friendless are a waste? We’re told repeatedly in songs, movies, stories, poems, greeting cards, that love makes the world go round. But if love doesn’t come to you, does that mean you should just get off the world and let it go round without you?

If living alone is a waste, does that mean every minute you’re not with someone, anyone, you’re wasting your life? Of course not. So what is the break off point? It’s okay to be alone for a day or two? A week? A year? Is it better to be with someone you hate just so that you’re not alone? I don’t believe that, and I hope you don’t either.

Maybe Arkin’s character thought that being isolated made the old woman’s life a waste. As long as her husband was alive, apparently living by the lake was okay, but when he died, what was she supposed to do — give up her cherished home, the clean air, closeness to nature for a dubious life in the city? And if she did move, what would keep her from being even more isolated? Some of the loneliest people are those who live in the midst of others.

Or maybe Arkin’s character assumed the woman was unhappy, though sadness isn’t a reason to think her life was worthless. Happiness itself doesn’t make life worthwhile — it only feels that way.

I don’t suppose this scene would have bothered me so much if I weren’t struggling with these questions in my own life. There is a good chance I will live out the rest of my life alone. That doesn’t mean — can’t mean — my life has no worth. It would be a pathetic state of affairs if being with someone is the only thing that makes life worthwhile.

Being is reason enough for living (which Alan Arkin’s character, the supposedly wise old Unca Lou should have known). Even if we are blessed with love and friendship, the truth still remains: our only obligation to life is to live the best we can for as long as we can — to simply “be.”


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy 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.”

Dellani Oakes, A Denizen of My Online World

I’d like you to meet Dellani Oakes, a wonderful writer, great blogger, Facebook friend to thousands of readers and authors, blog talk radio host, fabulous reviewer. Hmmm. I think I listed everything. Nope — forgot to mention the most important thing of all: she’s also an indefatigable writer. Her two published novels are Indian Summeran historical romance and Lone Wolf, the first novel in a new science fiction series. Both were published by Second Wind Publishing. (Click on the title link to read the first chapter of each book.) She has 54 works in progress at last count  and a notebook with hundreds of  other ideas for short stories and novels. When asked recently how she thought of all those stories, she replied: “There are more ideas in my head than I can get written down in one lifetime. I’ll have to live forever.”

We can only hope to have her around so long!

You can meet Dellani at Dellani’s Choice, the new blog she recently started to post author interviews and reviews of books she has read. Or you can meet her at Writer’s Sanctuary, her original blog. She’s been collecting author’s book titles & their links as a holiday guide for people who want to find great gifts. So be sure to check out Writer’s Sanctuary.

Click here for an interview with: Dellani Oakes, Author of Lone Wolf

Click here for an interview with: Wil VanLipsig from Lone Wolf  by Dellani Oakes

Click here for an interview with: Manuel Enriques, Hero of Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes

Click here to friend Dellani on: Facebook. Tell her Pat sent you.

To Outline or Not Outline

Dellani Oakes, today’s guest blogger, is the recently published author of Indian Summer, a unique regency novel of a young girl’s coming of age. Dellani says:

I continue to be amazed by people who make outlines of their stories, know where the story line is going and most of all know the ending before even writing the book. Who are these godlike folk and why am I not like them? I am a very off the cuff writer, I don’t know where the story is going to go, although I like to have a general idea before I begin. I usually start with an idea or, more often than not, a sentence that seems to resonate in my mind until I get it down on paper. Novels and short stories start the same way, a compelling first sentence.

When I was a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, I read an article in the newsletter that caught my interest. It was an interview with Tim Powers. I read snippets to my husband asking him (like he knows), “How can he do that? How can anyone do that?” Outlines? Those are things you write after a term paper is written and only because the teacher requires it. If they had a crown for that, I’d be Queen.

I rarely know where my stories are going. I don’t always know what I’m going to do with a character after I’ve introduced him, but I know he’d not be there if he weren’t important in some way. For me, writing is an exploratory process. I can’t sit down knowing what will be, I have to let it unfold. I think the idea of outlines is very intimidating for some writers, especially new ones. To know everything in advance takes some of the fun out of my process. Don’t misunderstand, I think it’s marvelous that some people can do that. I find it incredible that they are organized enough to work their way through the entire book before actually writing it. It is a matter of preference and personality.

Having tried the outline, I can honestly say it doesn’t work for me. I can’t even write a short synopsis of a book because I put in too much detail. I got half way through my first outline and thought, “If I am going to spend this much time on it, I might as well just write the book.” The outline hit the trash and I put all that creative energy into the novel instead.

What I think I was trying to say when I started is this: Don’t be intimidated by the idea that you must outline. Don’t think you can’t start the novel you’ve been dreaming about because you have no clue how it’s going to end. Go with what is comfortable for you and find your way. By all means, try outlining because it is a wonderful tool, but don’t lock yourself into the thinking that you have to follow it once it’s there. Nothing is cast in stone, everything is malleable Thenwhen the creative juices flow and the words pound at the inside of your skull demanding to be set free, you can give them the outlet they need, hammering away at your keyboard or pouring from your pen. Whatever you do, just keep writing and let the outlines take care of themselves.

Indian Summer is available from Second Wind Publishing.