Monthly Archives: February 2013

Energy usage: to write or not to be able to write

I have to recognize that if I piss away my time, good or bad, the energy to do what I claim to want to do – write – isn’t there when I need it.

Always.

Always I come to the writing time as the energy is fading. I can’t get more until I take a nap. And most days I can’t get more after midafternoon, regardless of what I do (the naps then are just not to feel so exhausted).

I can bull through doing many things if I have to.

Writing is not one of them. It is a serious effort for me to focus on the screen or the printed words, to think about the structure and where I am in it, to rearrange the words on rewriting (deck chairs on Titanic comes to mind), to make choices about flow and dialogue, to decide if the plot is working – in short, everything about writing.

This is my reality: I have control of very little. Much needs to be done, and done by me to keep this family running, and to give me some kind of social life to function with. But it all takes energy – from the writing.

I need all these things, but I rarely need them first. The longer I keep pitying myself because I don’t FEEL like writing, or tell myself ‘just a few posts while I’m eating,’ or ‘I can do it tonight,’ the longer I don’t get what I need.

Maybe it’s the diet – and it will be easier to write once I’m not half-starved all the time. Maybe it’s not. In any case, it is the present reality, and I’m stuck with it.

I have only two choices: do writing first – or futz around.

I have two consequences: MAYBE get some writing done – or not.

It IS that stark. And the conditional is very real: maybe. No guarantee.

The guarantee is that, if I don’t do writing FIRST, there will be no writing. NO WRITING. The tiny bit I sometimes get done is like watering the trees just a bit – as Carol said, better not to do it at all, because it promotes the wrong kind of roots.

God gave me a brain: even I can see where the choice must be.

And get to bed at a reasonable hour so I can even make the choices which lead to the POSSIBILITY of writing.

And if I don’t, get back to bed as soon as, like today, it is apparent that I can’t choose Freedom and WRITE fiction.

I am a big girl. I have been pretending that just a little time off point is allowed. It isn’t. I can’t have ‘just a little internet’ – not on a continuing basis. I can’t have ‘just a little Mail’ – or ‘just a little Scrivener class’. Or even ‘just a little talk on the phone.’

I might as well admit that I have no willpower – and allow NO exclusions – not even to check the mail – until I have decided I’m done for the day or will never be able to do any that day or have to go somewhere. Punto. Period. Return.

I don’t like it. It may not even be CFS. But it is reality – and spitting in the face of reality is dumb.

He dicho. I have spoken.

Now I’m going off to take the next nap – and hope it is long enough.

There will be no more writing today.

The possibility has been wasted, like water poured on desert sand.

Comments?

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Scene 1.1.3

New scene posted.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 1 – To ride the fickle horse of fame, Scene 3

Last of three point-of-view characters, Bianca.

I’m STILL learning to navigate links – Pride’s Children – and menus. My aim is to make the experience easy on the reader – so please let me know if a link didn’t work as you expected. I will be grateful for suggestions and corrections.

SO: If you like my story and/or my writing, BUT something doesn’t agree with you… feel free to leave a comment or email me privately [abehrhardt at gmail] with your suggestion for improvement or your analysis of what’s wrong. [It will help if you put PC or Pride’s Children in the Subject line.] I will read carefully, and may incorporate your suggestion/change what you think is wrong (if I do so, your name, if you wish, will end up on the acknowledgments page – so leave me information where I can ask you for permission). It would help a lot if you also tell me what you DO like to read and any general information about yourself you care to share: your tastes and opinions help me evaluate your comments.

If you don’t like my story and/or my writing, I’m sorry you wasted your time, and I hope that you will find better fodder for your reading habit in other places. I bid you au revoir – no hard feelings – with gratitude that you stopped by at all. If you’re up to it, come by in a few months and try again. Thanks!

Comments?


Copyright Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Fake links: popping the fictive bubble

When TV show writers want to use a phone number – but don’t want viewers actually CALLING that number – they use the exchange ‘555’ which the phone company has provided for that purpose.

For those in the know, it yanks us right out of the fictional world (because we KNOW it’s a fake phone number) – I bet actors hate them.

But for the general viewing population which hasn’t figured this out, it sounds like a real phone number.

What is the equivalent – or IS there even an equivalent yet – for listing a website or a blog?

One thing I could do is to buy up any domain I use in my novel, and then USE that link – should anyone think it’s real – to direct a user to the book or the author website – and provide some little extra. An ‘Easter egg,’ in techspeak.

Unfortunately, I have a LOT of fake links – purporting to be various publications that comment on the story in progress, and online critics and fan sites; it’s necessary for the way I’ve set up the story. It could get expensive – and most people wouldn’t go there, so it would also not have much of a return on investment.

Am I missing something obvious? Is the solution already out there?

The ideas I already have LOOK odd:

Three letter extensions: .ccc (as a fake) or .con (so it looks like a typo?) or .cvc (as if there were a new domain extension that people just didn’t know about). Two-letter extensions: .co or .cc or .cm?

I’m trying to come up with something that won’t ever get used for actual domains – but it isn’t something that will LOOK right, because readers are used to how domain links look.

Depending on the font: .cem, .con, .ccm, .ccn – similar to com.

The closest, visually, is .ccm. There has been some research on how the human brain processes information, that mixed up words can be perceived correctly by the reader if 1) the beginning and end are CORRECT, and 2) the letters within are either the correct ones, mixed up – or something very ‘close’ to that (I assume, not having done the research myself, that this means an extra letter or two, a missing letter or two, possibly a duplicated letter).

So, for a short ‘word’, .ccm is about the closest: the beginning and ending letter are correct, and I don’t see how adding a letter would work because we are all conditioned to see ‘.com.’ as a three-letter extension.

‘.cm’ and ‘.co’ are either already country codes, or could become country codes, and LOOK wrong to me. It shouldn’t look like a typo – typos distract the reader. They also miss the three-letter=correct test.

The remaining problem is that most readers MIGHT, after a few chapters starting with epigraphs with the same typographical error, notice this – and be pulled out of the story.

I’ve even thought of using ellipses: http://www.musicpetes.c… or even http://www.musicpetes.co… (which was recognized by Scrivener as a link! and marked as such).

A silly worry? Nope – keeping the fictive dream is going to be hard enough when I’m already rewriting a bit of recent history, which SOME readers WILL notice.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks!

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Scene 1.1.2

New scene posted.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 1 – To ride the fickle horse of fame, Scene 2

Second of three point-of-view characters, Andrew.

I’m learning to navigate links – Pride’s Children – and menus. My aim is to make the experience easy on the reader – so please let me know if a link didn’t work as you expected. I am in full, nitpicky revision mode and will be grateful for suggestions and corrections.

SO: If you like my story and/or my writing, BUT something doesn’t agree with you… feel free to leave a comment or email me privately [abehrhardt at gmail] with your suggestion for improvement or your analysis of what’s wrong. [It will help if you put PC or Pride’s Children in the Subject line.] I will read carefully, and may incorporate your suggestion/change what you think is wrong (if I do so, your name, if you wish, will end up on the acknowledgments page – so leave me information where I can ask you for permission). It would help a lot if you also tell me what you DO like to read and any general information about yourself you care to share: your tastes and opinions help me evaluate your comments.

If you don’t like my story and/or my writing, I’m sorry you wasted your time, and I hope that you will find better fodder for your reading habit in other places. I bid you au revoir – no hard feelings – with gratitude that you stopped by at all. If you’re up to it, come by in a few months and try again. Thanks!

Comments?


Copyright Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Navigation: how to keep blog readers happy

Going to blogs for over a year, and reading at least six serialized novels – both after they were finished (Ex: MCA Hogarth’s Spots the Space Marine) and as they were being created (Ex: Sarah A. Hoyt’s Witchfinder) – as I’m trying to learn how to post my own serialized novel, PRIDE’S CHILDREN, has made me think hard about the process readers on the web use to navigate around on a blog, and through a novel posted online, and vow to make it easy for my readers if I possibly can. Each of the serialized novels I read had its own idiosyncrasies – some useful, some not so useful to me as a reader.

Have to add a link with my own choice of wording to the BOTTOM of POSTS (but not PAGES), and then link to the post itself, if I want someone reaching the END to be able to comment without scrolling (awkward) all the way back to the top before finding the ‘Leave a reply’ link this WordPress Theme provides for POSTS. [Edited to add: WordPress.com member justpi kindly explained that if I put #respond at the end of this link I created, it links directly to the comment field – instead of the top of the post – which is exactly what I wanted. 2/20/13]

Oddly enough, the PAGES are exactly the way I want them – with the link ‘Comment?’ at the BOTTOM – and the Discussion setting on the Dashboard allowing me to use my own wording (instead of the generic ‘Leave a reply’).

Live and learn. I was so worried about messing up the links by playing with the features, but I think the posts all survived.


The next part is perhaps more important: I needed to think how I want a reader to be able to read MY serialized novel. I want to make it easy both for readers who have been to my blog before, and just want to read the latest scene, AND new readers who come from, well, anywhere. I want navigation to be effortless: if there is more available to be read when a reader finishes a particular section, there should be an easy, quick, and obvious link to the next section.

If there is no link, it should mean there currently is no more. Since I’ll be posting scenes one at a time (they’re ~600-1500 words), I need to gather the scenes into Chapters once the complete set of scenes for a chapter is finished posting: it’s okay to POST the scenes individually, but, once a Chapter is complete, the reader should be able to read the CHAPTER as a whole, which, among other things such as pacing and flow, helps the title and the epigraphs at the beginning of each Chapter connect to the whole.

If you come into PRIDE’S CHILDREN via the menu at the top of the blog, you should end up directly at the very beginning – Book 1, Chapter 1, Scene 1 – or may choose the submenu to the Table of Contents, with links to each Chapter/scene; or the submenu labeled ‘Latest’, which takes you to the latest scene posted.

If you choose to put a Bookmark there in your browser for my serial, the Table of Contents will indicate which links you haven’t followed yet, thus showing you where you are in the story (if you haven’t cleared your History on your browser).

And – an argument for giving chapters titles – the entries in the ToC should list the Chapter Title, which also helps the reader remember what went before (if I do a good job of creating chapter titles).

Why do I care? Because I’m learning – and I’m practicing – and the last thing I need to do is alienate readers with clunky navigation. This topic extends to awkward navigation WITHIN ebooks, so the learning will carry over. It takes time to set things up – which is one of the main reasons for letting a blog grow bit by bit, reading a LOT of other blogs, and examining a LOT of ebooks.

This navigation system for PC is under construction, and can be amended as necessary. It will be finished by the end of Wednesday (2/20/13) if all goes well. [Updated 11:50pm: it is operational.]

[Updated to add: Even though I MAY have figured out a good navigation system for the serialized novel, there are so few people who might be interested in the details it’s not worth spending blog space on it. If you are one of the tiny number of newbie bloggers and newbie novel serializers who like my version – just contact me.]

Anyone who read this far: thanks for your patience with this esoteric topic – and I’d LOVE to hear from you.

Comments?

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Free serialized novel (mainstream)

As of today, 2/12/13 – Fat Tuesday, my intention is to post a scene a week (scenes run 600-1200 words) by Tuesday, and to post the link on Tuesdayserial.com in addition to my blog. I have a bunch in the chute so little details like living/writing with CFS won’t cause me to stop posting. [For a while: note added to appease the Fates.]

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 1 – To ride the fickle horse of fame, Scene 1

Pride’s Children is finished in rough draft – because I prefer to know where something ends before putting it out for public consumption. Each scene is as good as I can make it right now, on a scene-by-scene basis. I am in full, nitpicky revision mode and will be grateful for suggestions and corrections.

SO: If you like my story and/or my writing, BUT something doesn’t agree with you… feel free to leave a comment or email me privately [abehrhardt at gmail] with your suggestion for improvement or your analysis of what’s wrong. [It will help if you put PC or Pride’s Children in the Subject line.] I will read carefully, and may incorporate your suggestion/change what you think is wrong (if I do so, your name, if you wish, will end up on the acknowledgments page – so leave me information where I can ask you for permission). It would help a lot if you also tell me what you DO like to read and any general information about yourself you care to share: your tastes and opinions help me evaluate your comments.

If you don’t like my story and/or my writing, I’m sorry you wasted your time, and I hope that you will find better fodder for your reading habit in other places. I bid you adieu – no hard feelings – with gratitude that you stopped by at all – as you are not likely to return. Thanks.

UPDATED TO ADD that, although I love WordPress, and am very grateful for its wonderful features, I am NOT responsible for where it decides to hyphenate words! I will check curly quotes, em-dashes, ellipses, and hyphens and hyphenation before putting out ebook versions or print versions. Point out problems anyway – thanks!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?


All material on this page and in this blog is copyrighted. I own the copyright to all material I have created and posted on all the pages of this blog.
All fiction posted is registered with the US Copyright office, and all rights are reserved to the author.
Please do not use anything found on this site without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

Going the extra mile: moonrise and moonset

How real is fiction? How far can/should the writer go to make fiction SEEM real? More importantly, what does it matter?

If I, the writer, tell you there is a full moon in the sky, do you question that? As a reader, do you wonder if I got it right? After all, if I give you a date – say, May 18, 2005 – somewhere in my text, doesn’t it make the events I’m about to recount seem more real? Even when I’ve clearly labeled the writing ‘fiction,’ written ‘A novel’ under the title, and put in a disclaimer as to how all the characters and places are figments of my imagination?

We want to believe fiction is true – that the story happened as it is told. There is a reality there – a truth – that is different from factual truth (see, I’m already twisting your understanding of reality) but is just as true. The brain will tolerate any number of dissonances to get a good story: we are wired that way.

So the writer tries NOT to put things down which will knock the reader OUT of the fictive dream.

It’s a balancing act: telling lies to dissect eternal truths. Life is never clean. Problems are never small and solvable. They are interconnected messes. When I tell you a story, I try to remove all the junk, leave only the small problem at the center, and then solve it as you might want to solve it is it were that small and clean and complete. If I tell you about a single mother rearing a child, you only want to hear the relevant parts, not the details of all the mother’s grocery shopping trips – just the one that made a difference. You don’t want to hear about all the child’s problems in school, but only the ones that determined if the child would grow up straight – or not.

Writers select details to make miniature universes. Then we keep you locked in our tiny perfect universes until we finish telling our tale – and you decide if you agree with us or not on how we solved the problem. I’ve gotten a bit off track here to set up all the conditions for my question: do you, as a reader, want me to get the details right?

The answer is: of course. The contract with the reader includes a promise NOT to change reality – unless it’s necessary FOR THE STORY. The reader grants the writer a certain amount of ‘suspension of disbelief.’ But the writer should know that the amount is limited: when it is used up, when the reader has had enough of the writer’s lies, the book gets thrown against the wall. So the writer shouldn’t waste this trust, and one way not to waste it is to get the details right. The internet makes this kind of research both easy and time-consuming.

Moonrise and moonset: an example of detailing for veracity.

In Pride’s Children there’s a scene where Andrew rides a motorcycle late at night over New Hampshire county roads to Kary’s isolated house. I asked myself: Is there a moon visible as Andrew rides toward Kary’s?

I found the website timeanddate.com. I located entries for Concord, the state capital, which is close enough for such global events as the location of the moon. I had already picked May 18, 2005 as the night for this ride, so I extracted the appropriate sections of the table.Pasted Graphic 2

Pasted Graphic 1

I read the descriptions of the contents, and figured out that the moon set at 2:51am, and rose again at 2:29pm. It is highest in the sky (passes the meridian?) at 8:55pm 48.6° above the horizon, and is 75.1% illuminated – three-quarters full – during Andrew’s ride (some time between 9pm and midnight).

I wasn’t sure what ‘meridian passing’ meant, but the site explained it:

‘Meridian Passing
“Meridian Passing” shows four columns calculated at the time the Moon passes the meridian of (or same longitude as) the observer. These columns consist of the local time and the altitude, distance, and fraction of the Moon illuminated at the meridian passing.
“Time” shows the local time of the moment when the Moon’s position will be above the horizon either directly north or directly south (except for Polar Regions, where the Moon might be down all day during the winter). For locations near the equator, the Moon can be right over one’s head, at the point nearest the zenith position (altitude 90 degrees).
“Altitude” shows the altitude of the Moon’s center above the ideal horizon at the passing time. Typically this is the highest position it reaches in the sky that day (except near the South and North Poles, where the altitude often increases or decreases all day and night). The altitude takes into account typical refraction in the Earth’s atmosphere. If the Moon is below the horizon all day, the altitude will be labeled “below.”
“Distance” is the distance from the Earth’s center to the Moon’s center in kilometers. To compare, the Earth has an equatorial diameter of 12,756 km and the Moon an equatorial diameter of 3,476 km.
If the Moon does not pass through the meridian on a given date, the columns are empty. This occurs once every Moon cycle.’

So I have my answer: Andrew can see the moon above the horizon, almost full, a little after the meridian passing time, and a little below the highest point for the day above the horizon – but there should be plenty of light (out in the wilds), and plenty of shadows.

And suddenly I’m there, and the shadows made by the moon among the trees are real, the gravel shoulders on the county roads are real and dangerous, and Andrew focuses his attention tightly on his cycle and the ride – and all kinds of adventures open up. The main benefit is for myself: it makes the ride real, so I can write it.

The other benefit, that I won’t have to answer the email from a reader pointing out that ‘btw, that night there was a new moon and it would have been pitch black except for the headlight,’ and feel like an idiot, is an extra.

I can show you how I solved this one – only you, as a reader or writer, can decide if it is worth it to you. I’ve already had my fun – and plan to consult the moonrise and moonset tables for all relevant scenes – because I liked how knowing the answer helped me write.

Thoughts to share?

Writing with ME/CFS #1 – surfing the web for THE ANSWER

********  CAUTION: These posts tagged CFS are a product of my struggle to write in spite of a chronic illness that has brain fog as a side effect. They are probably not interesting except to people who live with/try to write under similar circumstances. They are not intended to be whiny – though they will often sound that way. They are intended to be factual, and to help me find workarounds.

I wouldn’t bother except this is my blog, and I need an outlet, and a small subset of readers may find something helpful. Writing helps me sort things out. You have been warned! Welcome!  ********

The mornings when the psychic energy to block the web is missing, I roam the small set of sites I follow, looking for someone else to give me words to read.

Today’s excuse was that DH called me from work before my brain was on: he’d left important papers in the front hall and a frantic romp through two computers and a memory stick were required to email him usable copies. Other days it’s been a call from a doctor’s office requiring me to do something immediately, or a call from my dad needing a bank transfer…

I’m seeing a pattern here: whatever the attention-consumer is must be dealt with RIGHT NOW. PWCs (persons with CFS) have a much smaller amount of usable psychic energy – which I will define as the ability to MAKE myself do something as well as the ability to ACTUALLY do something – than normal people. It’s part of the brain-fog problem. If I could jot the interruption on a sticky or my ‘gathering’ sheet or type it into Things – and deal with it in the normal course of business (maybe today, maybe not until next month), it would lose much of its power to consume. But I can’t – this is an EMERGENCY and must go to the top of the list. Worse, it must be done NOW.

Somehow, I come up with the energy to deal with what needs to be done – and it gets done – but there is an aftermath, a surcharge if you like, and the accomplishment is followed by a period of being awake but completely non-functional. We PWCs really can’t afford adrenaline – it takes much longer to metabolize it.

During that aftermath I often surf the web.

I’m looking for THE ANSWER. What’s the question? Who knows – who cares? Something in me wants someone else out there to tell me what to do, now, in such an authoritative way that it drags my mind out of the hole and gets it to work again.

There’s nothing there. I have a file where I record the ‘nuggets’ gleaned from surfing, the things I am absolutely grateful I have discovered. A short list (Dec. 2012-Jan 2013):

I: Standing desk, walking desk [PV + comments]          3:02 PM
I: Boomer Novels – and Boomer Cafe website [PV]       9:41 AM
I: Sworn Secret,  Amanda Jennings [Dead Guy – Lynne Patrick]
E: Friend – Have started Freedom: IT CAN WAIT        11:17 AM
I: Sharon Reamer. Good book video, cover [PV ->]    12:27 PM
I: Dropbox – saving your information         [PV?]          12:27 PM
I: Reviews [PV], bloggers charged with defamation    12:29 PM
I: Decision fatigue – and sugar!

I: means the nugget came from the internet, E: that the information was in an email. PV is thepassivevoice.com.

Looking at the list, I can see that many hours of surfing went into relatively few really critical pieces of information – and ALL of them could have waited. Until the day’s writing was over, at least, or until the next day. In the case of late ones, I was surfing instead of going to bed, thus mortgaging the next day’s writing, for the relatively small pleasure of today’s surfing. I KNOW these things – it’s a little daunting to see that my precious nuggets are so irrelevant.

Back to the question of Why? I think it is because, like playing solitaire or sudoku or a million other games, the ability to do something that looks as if I’m using my brain – ie, being human – is required to keep me sane. And I have used up the ability to be creative, so I settle for the APPEARANCE of creative: Look – I solved another HARD sudoku puzzle! I’m ME. I’m functional!

This is data. I don’t think I’ve put it quite this clearly before: human brains WANT to create, to ‘do something useful with their time.’ If I can’t have real, I will settle for apparent. It’s Catch 22: if I have the energy to get myself out of the loop, I’m not IN the loop. If I’m IN the loop, I don’t have the energy to get myself out.

I’m learning. I can restore SOME functionality when I can put myself down for a nap. Afterward, most of the time (depending on the surcharge), there is some restoration of functionality for that day, that time – I may even get something done.

THE ANSWER: to be normal. It’s not on the web. It’s interesting that after 23 years I still look for it. The brain wants what it wants: to be the way it used to be.

Thoughts? Please share.