Where to Go from Here?

Lately I’ve been wondering where to go from here. I don’t mean geographically — I’m settled here in my house for the duration. It’s more about wondering what to do next with my life, if I want to keep doing what I’m doing, and if I need to do something more satisfying.

I am still blessed with a job that adds some structure to my life, and come spring and summer, of course, I’ll be spending a lot of time on my yard, an activity that makes me too tired to wonder if there is anything else for me.

But now, in the dead of winter, when I probably spend more time than is healthy inside — reading, playing games on the computer, and blogging a bit — I can’t help but question my life.

Reading is becoming problematic — too many novels are way over the top. Years ago, I used to enjoy Lee Child’s books, probably because contrary me had read a review that said women wouldn’t like the books, but also because Jack Reacher reminded me of a harder and less focused Kwai Chang Caine from the 1970’s television series Kung Fu. Whatever it was that appealed to me about Child’s character has completely disappeared. I’d given up reading the series long ago, but out of curiosity, I picked up the most recent book, and yikes. There is absolutely no redeeming virtue to either the badly written story or the character. Reacher has become a thug, pure and simple, a villain as bad or worse than any of those he tries to vanquish. The next book I read (by a different author) was just as bad, though in a different way. The characters’ actions seemed quixotic, unmotivated. They just did things, flashed back to the past way too often for any sense of story continuity, and yapped endlessly. Still, there are plenty of books that have enough of a plot to keep me reading, but it’s possible there will come a time that I give up reading again. Although reading often seems to be as necessary to me as breathing — and as effortless — I have gone through periods where I don’t read at all, once when I was young and depressed and books made me even more depressed, and again after Jeff died.

I could, of course, go back to writing my own fiction, but that is anything but effortless. Besides, I have yet to think of any characters that would keep me interested in their plight for the year or more it would take me to write the story. Oddly, although I am a writer, I have no real yen to write another book, probably because blogging scratches the writing itch and keeps me satisfied.

As for the game I got addicted to — I’m becoming unaddicted. It’s not as compelling as it was in the beginning, but I still play because it gives me a break from reading. And from thinking.

My knees are doing well, but not quite well enough to allow me to do the hours of roaming I used to do. I still have hope that my roaming days will return, but only locally. I used to spend a lot of time hiking, traveling or at least thinking about where I want to go, but my wanderlust, like my writinglust, seems to be sated.

Where I am falling short is on the social front. When I moved here, I jumped feet first into the social scene such as it is — going to the senior center for games and an occasional lunch, attending community dinners, joining various groups. When The Bob put a stop to all that, I reverted quite happily to my natural quasi-hermit state. Eventually, I started back in with one of the groups, but although I know I need the social interaction, I’m not sure I want to continue. The group is growing, which is good for them, but not so much for me. I get claustrophobic around too many people, and it takes all my energy to keep from running away. (The only reason I don’t is that generally I get a ride when the meeting is out of town and so have to wait until the end before I can leave.)

I am aware that my life is already too restricted, yet I’m secretly thinking of restricting it even more. Even if I don’t voluntarily make changes to restrict my activities, age and circumstances will eventually change things. For now, I am quite content with my quiet days, but it’s certainly not surprising that I’m wondering what’s next.

Luckily, it’s only two months until spring (though almost four months until spring planting), and then I’ll be too tired and too busy gardening and taking care of my yard to wonder where to go from here.

***

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.

Author Dynasties

I don’t particularly like Sue Grafton’s books, but I do admire her — she left her legacy as is, her series unfinished, and would not allow anyone to step up after her death and keep her characters alive.

Too many authors didn’t make that decision before they died, so their heirs made it afterward. For example, some classics are being brought back to life when authors today write unsanctioned sequels to beloved favorites, such as those who pretend to channel Jane Austen or Daphne Du Maurier. 

One of the few times posthumous writing was warranted was when Robert Jordan died before he could finish his modern classic, the fourteen volume Wheel of Time series. Another writer was hired to work with Jordan’s wife and Jordan’s copious notes to finish the series. Can you imagine going through decades with all those thousands of characters and millions of words only to be left hanging on the wheel without a resolution? So yes, it had to be finished. But once it was, it was done. There will be no more Robert Jordan books.

But some stories and authors’ names that do not need to be kept alive are still going for no other reason than to milk the money machine. 

Some fellow is now writing Michael Crichton’s books. And another fellow is keeping Robert Parker’s Spenser alive. Who needs these books? They are not the author’s words, not the author’s vision — just some pale vision of the vision.

A new thing now is for the literary name is passed to the next generation. Michael Palmer’s son is now writing Michael Palmer books. Lee Child’s son will be taking over is father’s series.

And what the heck is going on with James Patterson? The way he’s spawning co-authors, his name will be one of the last words uttered when the earth falls into the sun.

This is what happens when an author’s name becomes a brand. I never used to pay attention to authors’ names except as a way of finding more books to read, and neither did anyone else, at least not to the extent that holds true today. The title was the main thing; the author’s name almost an afterthought. But branding and modern publishing changed all that. Now it’s the author who’s paramount, and no one cares what drivel is passed along to the reading public under the famous brand. (I got caught with a Michael Palmer book written by his son because the famous name was in huge letters, the title in a smaller type, and the writer’s name all but swallowed up in the graphic on the very bottom. So not nice!)

It used to be as one author’s star waned, another’s would rise, but what’s happened to all those non-rising stars? What will happen to readers when the brands finally are laid to rest? Not that it matters. There are plenty of books for me to read, and when there aren’t any more books that I like, I’ll write more of my own.

***

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 Opposite of Peace

A blog blast for peace almost by definition demands thoughts of the opposite state (violence and fears) because if peace were the norm, we wouldn’t need to talk about peace — it would be taken for granted. But peace is not necessarily the norm, except among you and me and the rest of us peaceable folk. In fact, violence, way more than peace, is an acceptable part of the culture: witness all the violent movies, TV shows, video games.

Sheri Parks, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, says that many teens today have had years of exposure to violent video games and media images, which studies show desensitizes them to violence. Not surprising. Many of today’s — and yesterday’s — video games were developed by the military because studies had shown that repeated images of violence and death inured people to killing. In World War II, as many as 85% of soldiers fired over enemies’ heads or did not fire at all. After World War II, there was a concerted effort by the military to overcome this natural reluctance to kill, and apparently they succeeded, because during close combat in Vietnam, only about 5% of soldiers failed to aim to kill. These same desensitizing “games” were later released as toys for children.

Findings such as these about desensitization — whether new or old — scare the heck out of me. Author Lee Child says that we don’t write what we know, we write what we fear. Perhaps this is true. My books are filled with fears — fear of being at the mercy of mindless governments and corrupt corporations, fear of deadly and unstoppable diseases, fear of the loss of self, fear that our memories lie. Since all of these fears can be lumped into one group — fear of powerlessness — I wonder if all fears came down to that same thing. Mine do, anyway.

This theme of powerlessness is most prevalent in my novel More Deaths Than One (in fact, I came across the information about desensitization while researching the military, soldiers, and killing for that particular novel) though it shows up in milder forms in all of my novels. Conspiracy? Perhaps. Truth? Probably. Fear? Definitely.

Through stories, you learn how to deal with your fears, especially if you are the one writing the story. If you novelize a fear of being eaten alive by monsters from outer space, then the terrestrial ones eating you alive don’t seem so monstrous. If you watch a movie about aliens taking over your body, then the terrestrial one taking over your mind might not seem quite so alien.

You don’t think you are being eaten alive or that your mind is being taken over? Well, you are and it is — it’s called aging. Little by little, the you that you know is being supplanted by a creature you could never fathom being. Some people turn into querulous beings totally unrecognizable from the derring-dos of their youthful selves. Some turn into their mothers. Some . . . Well, I’ve scared you enough.

I researched phobias to see what sort of things other people are afraid of, and now I’m in danger of becoming a phobiaphobe. Although I am sympathetic to anyone caught in the horror of a phobia, I do enjoy the names. Names such as levophobia, kainophobia, lachanophobia, mageirocophobia, melophobia, nomatophobia, nyctohylophobia, paraskavedekatriaphobia. Great names for dreadful conditions.

In the end, except when it comes to writing with its necessity for conflict, it seems as if peace is a much easier way to live than the alternatives of fear and violence that permeate our culture. So here’s to next years Blog Blast for Peace!

***

Okay, I’ll let you off the hook so you don’t turn into a Sesquipedalophobe (someone who fears long words). Here’s what the above-mentioned words mean:

  • Levophobia — Fear of things to the left side of the body
  • Kainophobia — Fear of anything new
  • Lachanophobia — Fear of vegetables
  • Mageirocophobia — Fear of cooking
  • Melophobia — Fear of music
  • Nomatophobia — Fear of names
  • Nyctohylophobia —- Fear of dark wooded areas
  • Paraskavedekatriaphobia — Fear of Friday the 13th
  • Phobiaphobe — Fear of fear
  • Triskaidekaphobia — Fear of the number thirteen

The one fear I hope no one ever gets is patbertramophobia. So not good for me as a writer!

***

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.

I Fear, You Fear, We All Fear

Sheri Parks, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, says that many teens today have had years of exposure to violent video games and media images, which studies show desensitizes them to violence.

How odd to think that there are now studies showing this desensitization. Many of today’s — and yesterday’s — video games were developed by the military because studies had shown that repeated images of violence and death inured people to killing. In World War II, as many as 85% of soldiers fired over enemies’ heads or did not fire at all. After World War II, there was a concerted effort by the military to overcome this natural reluctance to kill, and apparently they succeeded, because during close combat in Vietnam, only about 5% of soldiers failed to aim to kill.

These same desensitizing “games” were later released as toys for children. Is it any wonder that teens today stand by and take pictures while a young girl is gang raped?

Today I am a guest at A.F. Stewart’s blog talking about fears. I kept my post light in honor of Halloween, but findings such as these about desensitization scare the heck out of me. Author Lee Child says that we don’t write what we know, we write what we fear, and that certainly is true in my case. I fear the machinations of the powerful, deadly, and calculating men and women who control our lives behind the scenes.

This theme is most prevalent in More Deaths Than One (in fact, I came across the information about desensitization while researching the military, soldiers, and killing for that particular novel) though it shows up in milder forms in all of my novels. Conspiracy? Perhaps. Truth? Probably. Fear? Definitely.

Now that I have scared you, go check out a lighter side of fear and tell me: What Are You Afraid Of?

More Deaths Than OneMore Deaths Than One is available from AmazonSecond Wind Publishing, and Smashwords. (You can download 30% free at Smashwords as well as buy in all ebook formats.)

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