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For the next month, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available as a free download from Smashwords in all ebook formats. You can find the book here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

I figure that by the time the world gets back to normal — or as normal as it will ever get — people will be sick of the very word “quarantine,” and won’t want to have anything to do with novel diseases or diseases in a novel, which is why I giving it away now. I hope I’m wrong about people not wanting to read about devastating diseases after this is all through because A Spark of Heavenly Fire is more than a story about a pandemic — it’s the story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled.

Washington Irving wrote: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” As I read these words several years ago, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?

I didn’t want to write a book about war, which is a common setting for such a character-driven story, so I created the red death, an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease that ravages the world, but mostly Colorado where the disease originated. Martial law is declared, rationing is put into effect, and the entire state is quarantined. During this time when so many are dying, Kate comes alive and gradually pulls others into her sphere of kindness and generosity. First enters Dee Allenby, another woman defeated by normal life, then enter the homeless — the group hardest hit by the militated restrictions. Finally, enters Greg Pullman, a movie-star-handsome reporter who is determined to find out who created the red death and why they did it.

Kate and her friends build a new world, a new normal, to help one another survive, but other characters, such as Jeremy King, a world-class actor who gets caught in the quarantine, and Pippi O’Brien, a local weather girl, think of only of their own survival, and they are determined to leave the state even if it kills them.

The world of the red death brings out the worst in some characters while bringing out the best in others. Most of all, the prism of death and survival reflects what each values most. Kate values love. Dee values purpose. Greg values truth. Jeremy values freedom. Pippi, who values nothing, learns to value herself.

It sounds like us, today — the crisis crystalizing our lives and showing us what we value most.

Click here to get your free ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842. Be sure to use the coupon code WN85X when purchasing.

Below is the video trailer for A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

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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.

Six Months

Six months ago I embarked on a challenge to blog every day for 100 days, and I am still going, but the world sure is different today than it was back then. The weather, of course, is not the same; then it was winter, now it is spring. Back then, people seemed almost innocent in their ability to block out anything that did not touch them personally, and now everyone is hunkered down over something that may or may not have a devastating effect on the total population.

But it doesn’t feel as if anything is different. With a few small exceptions, the local grocery store is fully stocked.

The library is still lending books, though patrons have to call or email their selections ahead of time, and a librarian will meet them at the locked door to hand over the books. (I can’t help it, but this is such a clandestine, spy-ish sort of thing, that it tickles me. And oh — what a dream job! A library full of books and no annoying customers.)

And people are still struggling with devastating diseases.

I spent the morning with a dear friend who is suffering through chemo. I’m sure she’s only one of many people coping with serious illnesses while the whole world is focused on something about which there is no clear consensus and the draconian measures that may or may not be needed.

I don’t know the truth of the matter. I only know my small corner of the world (though I did face time with a woman in Bangkok today who told me about the steps Thailand is taking to keep people inside, such as closing the malls and dine-in restaurants.) And in my corner of the world, my friend is battling cancer.

It’s amazing to me how many people develop or die of various illnesses every year, including hundreds of thousand dying of the seasonal flu, and yet no one cares. But now, with this particular virus, suddenly the whole world cares.

Except me. I’m more concerned about my friend than those I only know through the various media.

During the next six months, things will change again. The virus will have passed on, will have killed us all, or will become just another disease no one cares about it until it hits home.

And, in six months, my friend will be through with her chemo, and will finding her way back to health.

And I will still be blogging, maybe not every day, but one way or another, I’ll still keep plugging away.

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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 Bob

In the following scene from A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel about a novel disease, investigative reporter Greg and his editor Olaf are talking about an article on the pandemic Greg is hoping to write.

—-

“How’s the research coming, Greg?” Olaf asked, a shade too heartily.

“I feel as if I’m drowning in paper.”

“So I see,” Olaf said, laying a hand on the stack of articles. “Mind if I look?”

“Help yourself. They belong to the newspaper.”

Olaf settled himself in his customary chair with a handful of the papers. A minute later, he raised his head.

“How do these guys get anything printed? If my reporters turned in work as incomprehensible as this, they’d be out of here so fast they’d think they were flying.” He glanced at the papers and shook his head. “Even the titles are incomprehensible. ‘Imitating Organic Morphology in Micro-fabrication.’ I don’t even know what that means.”

“Me neither,” Greg said, thinking if he had to wade through this sort of stuff to learn about the red death, the earth would fall into the sun long before he read half of it.

Olaf tossed the sheaf of papers back onto Greg’s desk. “Better you than me.”

“What do these guys do?” Greg asked. “Take a course in obfuscation?”

“Probably. Convoluted writing and obscure terms are a way of intimidating the uninitiated, keeping the profession closed to non-scientists, and adding to the scientific mystique. Just think, if diseases had names like Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, doctors wouldn’t make anywhere near the amount of money they do now.”

Greg laughed. “That’s an idea. They do it for hurricanes, why not everything else?” He mimed seizing the phone and dialing. “Mr. Olaf? I can’t come in today. I’ve got the Bob.” He hung up his imaginary receiver and looked inquiringly at his boss.

Olaf nodded. “Works for me.”

—–

And it works for me. From now on, I’m going to call this current novel virus “The Bob.” No insult meant to any Bob living or dead, but I need a different name to call this disease because I am already sick of seeing its name wherever I go on the internet and hearing it out in public. And anyway, I named the disease many years ago back when I didn’t know any Bobs.

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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.

Living in my Own Story

I am feeling very déjà-vu-ish these days, as if I’m living in the pages of one of my books. (A Spark of Heavenly Fire is the story of a quarantine in Colorado where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. Insomniac Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay. This is a story of survival in the face of brutality, government cover-up, and public hysteria. It is also a story of love: lost, found and fulfilled. And is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1630663662/)

Now that was a real pandemic, my red death. What we’re going through now is . . . I don’t know what it is, but it seems more fictional than my fictional disease. Truly, this panic over a rather tepid pandemic has me mystified. Maybe young folks would have an excuse because they haven’t lived through any of the previous named flus (Russian, Swine, etc.) , but most of them seem to be blasé since they are not being hit hard. But for the rest of us? I really don’t get it.

The Russian Flu killed 1 million from 1889 to 1890

The Spanish Flu killed 40-50 million from 1918-1919 (20% of the world’s population)

The Asian Flu killed 1.1 million from 1957 to 1958

The Hong Kong Flu killed 1 million between 1968-1970

The Swine Flu killed 200,000 between 2009 to 2010

Seasonal Flu (the various flus that hit us every year) kill between 300,000 to 600,000 every year.

The Coronavirus has killed 6,500 from Nov 2019 to March 15. 2020, which means we’re almost halfway through the typical period it takes for one of these named flus to run its course. People keep citing statistics, such as the rapid spread rate, the extreme potency of the organism to prove how important the hype is. And yet it is nowhere near as potent or rapid spreading as all the previous flus no one cared about.

The closest thing to this particular reaction that I have seen was the swine flu of 1976. There was a panic to create a vaccine with the ultimate goal of vaccinating 80% of the citizens of the USA. They reached 25%. And all that panic came from a single death. One death. That’s it. The vaccine caused more deaths than that, along with major problems for a lot of the vaccinated people, including an increase in reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Because of that ridiculous mess, and because of being forced to get such a dangerous vaccine or risk losing my job, I will never follow the party line (either party line) when it comes to any sort of flu, epidemic, or pandemic, no matter how wild or how tepid.

Yes, I know. People are dying. For them and those who care about them, it’s a sad and terrible thing, but going by strictly by the numbers, it’s not that big of a thing. And it might never be. I’m not saying taking precautions is wrong, because it isn’t. In fact, most of the precautions, such as washing one’s hands, staying home when sick, and distancing oneself from those who are ill are things we should have all been doing anyway. If we had, there’s a good chance the deaths from seasonal flu would not be nearly as great.

Even if it turns out there are 200,000 to a million deaths from this thing, it’s still pretty much status quo for a virus, whether novel or known.

The main difference between this and previous outbreaks is, as one friend pointed out, an overactive media and an even more overactive social media, both of which seem to revel in riling people because riled people are involved people. (Involved in the story, that is, not necessarily involved in finding solutions to the story.)

I love the internet. I love interacting with people all over the world. But this current reaction has me wanting to hunker down and quarantine myself from all the hype.

Luckily, a friend is coming to stay for a couple of days, so I’ll have other things to think about than living in my own story.

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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.