Monthly Archives: October 2013

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 7, Scene 6

This week’s post concludes Chapter 7, with Scene 6 (1.7.6).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

I’m still looking for more beta readers; if interested, email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

End of previous scene, followed by the link to the new scene:

End of Chapter 7, Scene 5

“…One of the horrors of being MDs–we knew exactly what his chances were. Three months later he was gone.”

He put his arm awkwardly round her shoulders, and she leaned on him for a moment’s comfort. When there is none.

She inhaled deeply, pulled away. “Thanks.”

‘Better no word than the wrong word,’ floated idiotically through his head.

~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 7, Scene 6

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Canary in a coalmine kickstarter: have you sent your dollar today?

I received this email today, and went over to Jennifer Brea’s Kickstarter campaign for the Canary in a Coalmine documentary she is doing, slowly, about ME/CFS.

I’ve lived with this illness for 24 years now. It’s cost me my career as a computational research physicist at the best place in the country to do plasma physics: Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Lab, the ability to rear my children as a mother who wasn’t always exhausted, years of pain and exhaustion and brain fog. It has been a bizarre tale of zero help from modern medicine.

And corruption and incompetence  – research funds allocated by Congress for CFS research at the CDC were diverted to other ’causes’ the CDC thought worthier.

The very least I can do, after my own contribution, is to pass Jennifer’s information out into my little corner of the blogosphere (and I did NOT really mean for you to send just $1 – but that is a whole heck of a LOT better than nothing. Jennifer will tell you why):

Dear ,

Thank you so much for what so many of you have given to this campaign. You’ve blown us away! You have inspired us to push harder, dream bigger. Continue reading

The danger of writing competent first drafts

‘Competent’ is an odd word to use for a first draft. For me it means technical competence – quotation marks, spelling, commas, ellipses and dashes, paragraphing; plus basic competence – pov control, movement, dialogue, action, some stabs at emotions; plus enough of a plot so that a scene or a short story or a novel has the ineluctable ‘feel’ of a finished story.

The writer knows what she’s doing; she’s done it before; it flows.

Anyone who reads a lot is halfway there already. Some instruction, some practice – 10,000 hours or 1,000,000 words – and you’re there: competent first drafts. Heck, my whole first novel is competent.

I’m finding MY competent first drafts are an almost unvaultable barrier. To the revision which MUST be done. Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 7, Scene 5

This week’s post continues with Chapter 7, Scene 5 (1.7.5).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

I’m still looking for more beta readers; if interested, email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

End of previous scene, followed by the link to the new scene:

End of Chapter 7, Scene 4

If only he didn’t keep needling the trigger points! How could she have thought she had a handle on her reactions? “Haven’t danced with anyone for years.” For heaven’s sake, Kary, shut up!

He stuck his lower lip out, cocked his head. “You should try it. Unless it’s…?”

“Dangerous? No. Not any more.” He must think I’m nuts. Why did I bring him down here? Enough. She reaffirmed her decision, hard fought, to make this his last visit. She lifted her eyebrows to feign indifference. “Shall we?” She headed up the steps, forcing him to follow.

~ ~ ~


PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 7, Scene 5

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Writing at the tipping point

When does a scene suddenly ‘gel’? What is the ‘tipping point,’ the place where a scene which refused to be written or refused to come together in revision, goes from ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I see where this is going to go, and where all the bits go’?

These are questions all working writers will face at some point, but which seem to be particular stumbling blocks for me.

Knowing when you’ve reached the tipping point

I’m borrowing a concept from business again, to use in writing a novel or a scene, because so many seminal business books cleanly formulate ideas are that then seem so obvious – only their concepts really weren’t, until someone pinned them down.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, is subtitled How little things can make a big difference. When I read it, I was struck by the image of a rock being pushed uphill until it was poised at the top of a ridge, and all it needed was one last tiny push to go over the top and start rolling unstoppably down the other side. Continue reading

The red lobster tale: writing in minor emergencies

For your enlightenment and entertainment, and in case it happens to you:

The lobster tale

Today I woke up, and was a giant red lobster, fire-engine red from my feet to the top up my head under the hair, and down to the finger digits and thumbs. Remember Gregor Samsa? Kafka’s hero who woke up converted into a giant bug in Metamorphosis? Except in red.


It didn’t itch, but it hurt. I thought for a moment I had contact dermatitis – had somehow gotten the wrong laundry detergent on my last wash. I took two Benadryl – but it didn’t seem to be making a dent in the lovely scarlet. Continue reading

Emotional Resistance to writing emotional truth

Infinite capacity to stand in my own way

If I can’t write when I am up, dressed, fed, and it’s writing time, I need to ask myself Why?

Blocking the internet is only PART of it: the other part is to figure out what, today, is keeping me from just getting to it.

I don’t even have major brain fog at this instance: this is my golden time. But I can’t seem to write THIS scene.

Emotional Resistance to writing

I will coin a new term for it: ‘Emotional Resistance.’ Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 7, Scene 4

This week’s post continues with Chapter 7, Scene 4 (1.7.4).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

I’m still looking for more beta readers; if interested, email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

End of previous scene, followed by the link to the new scene:

End of Chapter 7, Scene 3

He leaned into the chair, placed hands on the armrests, turned to face his hostess with a half-formed question, to find she had gone rigid. Ah—damned thoughtlessness. Most people found it amusing when he mucked about with their things, absorbing a gestalt—but she wasn’t ‘most people.’ “Why’d you let me? I’ve messed up your settings.”

She blinked several times, drew an audible breath. “Don’t worry—easy to fix; Stephen loves to spin.”


“My daughter Susan’s boy––he’s four.”

Why not ‘grandson’?

~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 7, Scene 4

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Added CONFITEOR (Fiction) to free short stories

CONFITEOR means I confess.

Everyone has a justification for their behavior.**

Confiteor is one of those stories.


**The grammar for this sentence, the shortest way to write it, is impossible. Mea culpa. We hereby accept the popular definition of ‘everyone’ as genderless plural.

The last ditch try: a writer with brainout coaxes a few words into the world

The problem:

It was midnight. The whole day had been a wash – several small things accomplished: meals, a walk, a shower – but the brain had refused to click into that spot labeled ‘writer,’ where there is actual output in the form of words made up of letters, typed or otherwise created, except for a few comments in the earlier part of the day: I’m not brain-dead, just brain-reluctant (brainout). For the second day in a row.

You’d think it would be easy to just say, ‘Forget it – try again tomorrow.’ But that would mean that I somehow let brain fog rob me of another writing day. And it certainly doesn’t help move the WIP toward its finish. Continue reading

BRAINOUT: writing when the brain is OFF

What do you do when the brain is so off that you start looking at cat videos on the net?

It is writing time. I’m awake. But I surf because I can read, and not yet write. It is hard to explain: showing up, butt-in-chair, is just not enough if your actual brain doesn’t work when you’re there.

Days like today, in which the brain fog is worse than usual, are a hallmark of ME/CFS.

There is SOMETHING there, or I wouldn’t be even this coherent.

When I tell you that the thing I used to enjoy most about myself, the thing that made all the other minor insults of life bearable, Continue reading

You are as a writer who you are as a person: go finish YOUR novel

As a writer, you work with what you have, not with what you’d like to have. With what you are, not with what you’d like to be. Seems pretty obvious.

It comes up in another odd form sometimes: you can write characters who are not as intelligent as you are, if you’re observant enough. But it is extremely hard to write characters who are a lot smarter than you are. Even with lots of research. Because you cannot understand their thought processes.

One carrot, one stick

Two things inspired me today to look at positives in what I am and can do:

Kristen Lamb’s post – Doubt, Fear, False Alarms & “Giving Birth” To Our Dreams, especially two things she said:

To be successful we must learn to dream and to be finishers. Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 7, Scene 3

This week’s post continues with Chapter 7, Scene 3 (1.7.3).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

Still looking for more beta readers; if interested, email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

End of previous scene, followed by the link to the new scene:

End of Chapter 7, Scene 2

“I—” She reached down to her tote bag. “I brought you a copy.” There—he couldn’t refuse.

“So. You are organized.” He took the script, placed it on the top of his pile. “Ah— I can’t promise anything—”

“Read it if you get a moment.” She got up, shouldered her bag. Time to exit—on my terms. “That was good. See you tomorrow.” She could hear Daddy’s voice as she walked away.

The power player is the first to leave.


~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 7, Scene 3

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Bad night recovery: Update from the trenches of ME/CFS with 20% more energy

Bad nights are inevitable when you have certain illnesses, and ME/CFS is definitely one of them. It is crucial that I see these as just something that happens. Even if it IS a moral failing, there is no point in working under that assumption: it just interferes with regaining control. (This is a post in a series: first part here; second part here, third part here.)

The basics of recovery Continue reading

Don’t waste the window of writing opportunity: when the brain is ON, use it!


It is almost as if my body clock is locked into a Circadian rhythm with respect to writing: get up, take pills, have protein shake – WASTE THREE HOURS while the brain gets up.

I got a walk in – 3 laps instead of the one I had planned. YAY!

I have not allowed any stress – except the distress of not being able to speed the process up, and I’m used to that.

A little Sudoku as the brain came to grips with another day: I solved the Hard one Continue reading