Around and Around I Go

My New Year’s resolution to write more seems to have sputtered out before I ever got a chance to make good, but the year is still new. I have more than eleven months to find a way back to writing more. Contrary to popular belief, New Year’s resolutions are for the entire year, so if you think you’ve already broken your resolutions, think again. Try again. That’s what I’m going to do.

Ferris WheelStill, it’s hard to write if I have nothing to say. About the only things going on in my head are plans for my journey across country, and sometimes I’m embarrassed to continue writing about those plans and preparations. I’ve been talking about some kind of epic journey for years, though the scope of the journey has changed. At the beginning, it was about going to bookstores across the country to promote my books, and to that end, I bought all sorts of authorish clothes. Flowing tops. Colorful scarves. Dramatic hats. When that fizzled (I wrote to all the independent bookstores in the country and received not a single response) I got the idea of an epic walk, such as the California Coast Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or maybe even a walk across the country. When I discovered the impracticalities of such an epic hike (impractical for me, that is, since I can’t carry a heavy pack), I decided upon a cross-country trip, camping and hiking as I go — a sampler of possibilities.

I now have more gear than might be practical, but I need to be prepared for many eventualities. This is supposed to be a fun trip, not a death-defying adventure. Though, to hear people’s warnings, any trip a woman takes by herself defies death. I have heard so many warnings that I no longer listen. If I heeded any of them, I’d never set out. And that would be a sort of death in itself. It would be bad enough to give in to my own fears, but truly stultifying to give in to other people’s fears.

And I have plenty fears of my own. Well, not fears. More like trepidation. Worry. Can I really do this? Take off with no firm plans? Camp out despite dire predictions for unprecedented storms? Go hiking with no support system? Deal with all sorts of physical discomfort? Live with unfamiliarity for weeks on end? Stay with people I only know online?

I tell myself I’ll be fine once I’m on the road and have set up my first campsite. I know challenges and great wonders are in store for me if I have but the courage to go. (And then, of course, I’ll be fulfilling my resolution to write more, because I’ll have things to write about!)

I still have to have one more thing to do with my car (the new engine needs to be checked and the valves readjusted), and I’ve paid rent until February fifth, but then . . . do I stay longer, or do I go? I don’t particularly want to spend another month here in this doghouse (the people who own the house where I am currently staying have seven dogs, one of whom hates me and has tried to attack me), but then I worry I will be leaving too soon and will heading into winter storms. (Of course, if I wait too long, I’ll be heading into summer storms and have to deal with heat besides.)

Around and around I go. Aren’t you glad I haven’t been writing more?

***

(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.”)

The Countdown to the Rest of My Life

I had a surprising and surprisingly pleasant Christmas. As it turns out, I did not have to spend the holiday by myself in this echoingly empty house. My dance teacher and her husband adopted me for the holiday, which gave the Yule a family-like aura.

I even went to church with them on Christmas Eve. I was nervous at first — it’s been decades since I set foot inside any church — but it was nice. And powerful. I could feel the belief of those present, and it seemed right to be celebrating CHRISTmas with them. (Particularly since I have recently taken ole Mr. Claus in such distaste.) I felt a bit envious of the congregation’s belief, and nostalgic for the days when I too believed. I had just enough belief, though, to picture the knowing looks on my parents’ faces as together they looked down on this unexpected visitation of mine.

Now begins the countdown to the rest of my life, though I still have not a single clue how it will unfold. I am still going through my stuff, sorting out and packing what I will keep and getting rid of what is no longer important. (I found a cloth fodownload (1)r cleaning vinyl records that I bought probably around the last time I went to church, along with some of the adaptors for 45rmp records. The records and record player are long gone, of course, but somehow until now it never occurred to me to get rid of these unnecessary trinkets.)

Sometimes the sorting becomes an end to itself, and it is only when I pause for a break that the reality hits me. I am not packing for anything. webster_chicagoNot packing to go home to my life mate/soul mate, not packing for a wonderful adventure, not packing for a new life. Just packing.

I always knew this time would be hard. My stay here at my father’s house was merely a transition from my shared life with my soul mate to . . . whatever. Now that they are both gone, it’s just me heading into an unknown future.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. I have a list of things that in an ideal world I would do every day, and I will continue to strive for as many of those items as possible. (Things like getting enough water, enough sleep, enough exercise. Dancing, stretching, lifting weights, eating salads. Trying not to get hungry, angry, lonely, tired because they contribute to sorrow and feelings of futility.)

But this year, I will be making one resolution — to be courageous. A person can’t leap into uncertainly without courage, and I will need all the courage I can muster.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

Facing Off With Facebook

windYesterday’s accidental New Year’s resolution was to spend less time promoting books I don’t like and would never read by authors I don’t know. (For the past few years, I’ve been posting book excerpts from any author who sent me one, and then promoting it via Twitter and Facebook.) Today’s accidental resolution is to spend less time on Facebook. This resolution isn’t accidental — I’ve been giving a lot of thought to where I want to go with my online life. What’s accidental is the timing. What was supposed to be simply a resolution has accidentally become a New Year’s resolution.

Like many authors, I joined Facebook as a way of promoting my books, and I “friended” as many people as possible to get the word out. When I realized I wasn’t getting the results I’d hoped for, I started going for quality — trying to get to know the people I was connected with. That worked to a certain extent — I’ve met wonderful people and have had interesting discussions with them — but now the site has lost its luster. Or maybe I am growing beyond what the site has to offer. I never did like the games that keep so many people occupied, but I liked the feeling that something was always going on, that there was always a chance for an incredible encounter.

A growing problem is that for me there are two Facebooks running concurrently. There is the professional side, where I meet and connect with other authors, and there is the personal side. I’ve tried separating out the two — I have both a personal profile and an author page — but I’m still connected to more than a thousand people on my personal profile that I don’t know, and the constant flow of their personal tragedies and triumphs is beginning to weigh me down.

I don’t know which is worse — the brags about how many books people have sold, how many pages they have written, what awards they have won, their ratings on Amazon, or the announcements of anniversaries, illnesses, hospitalizations, accidents, and deaths of relatives and pets. (Actually, I do know what is worst — the happy announcements of wedding anniversaries. They remind me of what I have lost.)

I sound curmudgeonly, don’t I? In a cosmic sense, what happens to each person affects us all, but in a microcosmic way, knowledge of these events can add an immeasurable burden. Yes, I’m glad of people’s triumphs. (Or at least I want to be.) Yes, I’m sorry about their tragedies. But how do my feelings make a difference to their lives? I’m a stranger to them as they are to me. And if I turn off my computer, they no longer exist. (Ah, such power!)

I can’t completely get rid of Facebook, nor do I want — it’s a good way of connecting with people and getting to know them — but I can curtail my time on the site, and that I will do.

***

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.” Connect with Pat on Google+

An Accidental New Year’s Resolution

UntitledtWhen I first got the internet in 2007, I embraced it as if it were a wonderful new friend. At the time, my mother was dying and my life mate/soul mate was sick. There was nothing I could do about either of those circumstances, and the internet gave me a place to escape from my real life.

The terrible times continued. My mother died, then three years later, my soul mate died, and one of the few ways I could escape from the grief was to spend time online. (Screaming also helped alleviate the grief, but being online was so much easier on my throat.) I moderated writing groups, connected to thousands of people, dived headfirst into blogging. I used a couple of my blogs to promote other authors because  . . . well, because the blogs were there and it seemed like the right thing to do.

Several unsettling incidents happened recently that made me rethink what I’m doing online. These incidents didn’t amount to much. A contretemps over an excerpt someone wanted me to post. The discovery that a terrible writer I know who writes awful books is making a fortune. A discussion about talent vs. persistence (most writers seem to believe that talent is more important, which disheartens me — are writers really so arrogant in their belief of their talent?). Just trivial things, but they got to me more than they should have, and it suddenly dawned on me that if I turned off my computer, these things don’t exist.

The truth is, except for this blog, I’m not having any fun online. I seem to have fallen into an alternate universe of self-published writers. I’m even getting known as a promoter of self-published writers, but I find this new world of publishing very discouraging. Many of the excerpts I post on my blog are not well written or are excerpts from books I’d never read if they were the last books left on this earth. And that’s saying a lot since once I read everything that fell into my hands. So why am I promoting such books? I no longer know.

It used to be that self-published writers were iconoclasts, following a dream at any cost. Now so many self-published writers are conformists, following a dream at no cost. Even worse, they are a militant lot, demanding regard for no apparent reason. I have become friends with numerous self-published writers in an online sort of way, and I know that many are good at the craft and strive to get better, but just as many self-publishers dash out a book in a month (sometimes even in a week) and expect to be taken seriously.

To be honest, I have no regard for most of the authors published by the big six, either, so this isn’t a self-published vs. traditional-published discussion. It’s about me. I am not self-published, though many people assume I am (guilt by association). Nor am I published by a major publishing company. Authors who were published by small independent presses used to called “indie authors” but self-publishers have adopted that name for themselves, so now there is no name for us.

In my case, it no longer matters what kind of author I am since I am not writing much fiction. Being around so much bad writing and so many self-aggrandizing writers has stifled any urge I might have to contribute words of my own.

So, to save my sanity, I’ve decided to escape from my online life. I’m going to keep up this blog, of course, but I’ll be cutting back on other online activities, especially those that involve promoting authors I don’t know and don’t like.

This resolution isn’t accidental — I’ve been giving a lot of thought to where I want to go with my online life. What’s accidental is the timing. What was supposed to be simply a resolution has accidentally become a New Years resolution.

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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.” Connect with Pat on Google+