Monthly Archives: May 2014

Guest post: CFS and constantly sick and thinking it’ll never end

Peter Alexcee has given me permission to post something he wrote on a private Facebook group. He was my first guest blogger – and has more good stuff I’d like to quote.
It has been a bad week for me: I tried something new, hoping for improvement – and lost a whole week. I will post about that later – it needs some work.
Peter calls his FB post a rant – I call it telling it like it is:

Sometimes this gets so tiring, the effort to hold it all together; being constantly sick and thinking it’ll never end, knowing it’ll never end, accepting it’ll never end. I often look outside at the world and marvel at all the people going about their own business, living their lives, and thinking that used to be me, often taking many things for granted. Now that world seems so far away from me, so very long ago, like I’m just sitting in a movie theatre watching a movie of life going on around me; the movie neither inspires me nor frightens me, it just is.

Even looking for inspiration takes effort, effort I’m sorely lacking, and I have to be so very careful on what effort I do. I admire those who are doing “stuff” with their lives, moving on, living life, even if it’s complaining and being self-centered; they are doing, I am not. I cannot begin to convey just how this sickness weighs on me, and I know I don’t wish it on anyone, even the worst of souls.

My faith is strong, my soul is strong, my mind is now weak, my body weaker. My true desires of reading and learning are slowly being eroded; my IQ was high, my creativity was higher, my quick-wittedness was fast; now I find myself lost, difficultly focusing on anything for very long, even my eyes are weak and often see double, yet another joy of this sickness. But I’m sure all those who are dealing with the same thing understand all too well, and those who aren’t find it very hard to imagine and often suggest things I “should” do that may help.

I am not a victim of sickness, I know this sickness well, and have spent the last 13 years studying and researching it; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Chronic Lyme Disease. All I can say somebody flipped and switch and my life changed overnight. I don’t take anything for granted now, I appreciate a sunny day, a bird chirping, laughter of children, rain, wind. I look forward to sleep where I can dream, where I am not who I am now, I can be and do anything, and I remember most of my dreams; I look forward to dreaming.

My rant for the day
Bless you all

Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 13, Scene 6

Finally, the underwater part of the iceberg seems stable enough to support the top. Writing proceeds apace.

This week’s post is the end of Chapter 13 (Scene 6 (1.13.6)).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

This is a bit early for Memorial Day.

Hubby and I got a bike ride longer than I usually do, much shorter than he does – to Sayen Gardens, which is still a’bloom in azaleas and rhododendrons (though they are fading, and other things are coming in). We’ll see how much I pay for it – tomorrow!


PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

Previous chapter: Chapter 12

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 13, Scene 6  [Kary]

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Vehemence in the writer’s toolbox

We all recognize vehemence instinctively

Vehemence is the act of talking too loudly, with too much emphasis, anger, and rage, because the other person isn’t listening.

For a writer, it is another one of the tools in the toolbox, because civilized is boring and leads to no conflicts. Mostly people are civilized in their interactions. But we writers need to push conflict into every interaction, however small, so we have to know how to deliberately push buttons, first in our characters, and, by guilty association, in our readers, our ultimate customers.

Vehemence isn’t a civilized thing to do – it is the next step from civilization to road rage, to pulling out a gun, to physical assault. Continue reading


Reblogged: from Tanteros

Me: And when I gave up my dream job just as I was finally settling in to it, it was on purpose?


When it comes to other people, we tend to attribute causes to internal factors such as personality characteristics and ignore or minimize external variables. Psychologists refer to this tendency as the fundamental attribution error; even though situational variables are very likely present, we automatically attribute the cause to internal characteristics.

To whom it concerns:

When I gave up my job,
it was because I wanted to be a lady of leisure,
spend all my savings
and then beg for hand outs to keep a roof over my head
to malinger and scrounge to my hearts content.

When I stopped going on holiday,
it was because I lost my sense of adventure and
preferred the comfort and safety of my own back garden.
Wrong again!

When the lure of listening to live music, shouting ‘more’,
giggling at the worst plays ever,
or meandering through art galleries
with tea and…

View original post 205 more words

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 13, Scene 5

Time flows on whether you make overt progress – or surreptitious progress – or none.

The past couple of week have been spent on the underwater parts of writing. I wonder why – and then it makes the writing easier.

This week’s post is Chapter 13, Scene 5 (1.13.5).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

I missed my bike ride today – boo hoo. I went to go out, and it was raining lightly, and too late. Instead, I’ve been stretching my back on the modern-day equivalent of the rack, trying to give it more internal space. I will ride earlier tomorrow.


PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

Previous chapter: Chapter 12

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 13, Scene 5  [Andrew]

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

Problems using the daily writing time? Check your patterns

Things are rarely truly random – we are creatures of habit

I try to see patterns in my life, especially when I do inexplicable things. Things I KNOW will interfere with writing.

I know I need to get to bed by a regular hour. Then I will wake up early enough so that I KNOW there really isn’t much out there on the web of new content I MUST keep up with, and I’m in reasonably good mental shape: I use Freedom to block the web, and then get to work writing, using the early muddle-headedness in writing about writing, or in writing about why I can’t seem to get started on the writing today, and we’re off… and writing, in my safe little internet-blocked writing world.

And the system works its way reasonably quickly to actually working on the work-in-progress, and having something to say, and figuring out where to go next. Working the ‘process’ steps.

But late nights work out badly the next day.

I wake up at the same time – but without having anywhere near enough sleep, and get up and try to function anyway, sensing that sticking to a ‘usual’ time to be up is somehow beneficial, leading eventually to my brain always being up and ready at this time. Continue reading

The fractal nature of plotting a novel

This is a ‘crazy way Alicia writes’ post – be forewarned.

I just came in from a wonderful bike ride (I can’t walk, but I can ride reasonably well), with all kinds of questions floating around in my mind about the nature of the future – mine – which one set of people are pretty convinced will require taking my back apart and ‘stabilizing’ it – with no promises of anything, just the possibility of ‘preventing further deterioration,’ and I am not in a good mood about it.

Having written it all out – you don’t want to read it, not yet – and decided how to use the fury to write a particularly useful little piece in the current chapter (I’m revising Chapter 16, and looking at 16-20 – the end of Book 1 of Pride’s Children – as a unit), and having found myself some options in a yoga book I already had, I had to get out in the Spring air.

But Hamilton Square is gorgeous in the spring – pink and white and yellow and deep magenta everywhere, the dogwoods and cherry trees are littering the streets with their pink and white confetti, and I am musing about the internal structure of writing that attempts to resonate (or so I tell myself) to think of more important things.

[Mathematical weirdness begins

Humans are subconsciously aware of the fractal nature of reality, and, when they look at stories, see the same nature.

Does that make any sense? The simplest comparison is the ‘beginning, middle, end’ nature of every piece of writing. We’ve all had the ‘Huh?’ reaction to the ending of a piece of writing that just stops rather than resolves (non-fiction, newspaper articles in particular, does this intentionally), and the annoyance of a confusing beginning that makes the reader have to work too hard to figure out where she is and what’s going on, with the confusion surrounding a muddled middle that meanders.

Dramatica is fractal by design. The choice of ratio has been 1:4, and this structure gives rise to all the complications you could possibly hope for. It is possible to see more complexity in the degree of your fractal (1:6 or 1:8), less likely to see everything as black and white (1:2 – a yes/no option for every choice), or splitting things into 3 at each level, but it would be possible.

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat shows a four-part structure, too (he uses three Acts, but his second Act is twice the length of the first or third Acts); when he lays his ‘beats’ out on a corkboard, he uses four lines, the middle two of which correspond to Act 2. He divides his 40 ‘scenes’ into roughly four groups of 10.

Just as going from 1D to 2D to 3D to 4D in mathematics raises the level of complexity (for those who don’t have differential calculus in their backgrounds: be happy – and skip this part), there comes a point where the basic difficulty has been illustrated, and the number of dimensions makes obvious how the equations are going to go from now on. For me, this happened between levels 2D (two variables) and 3D (three – duh!), because the addition of that 3rd variable resulted not just in another variable to deal with, but complicated cross terms between different possibilities: for 2D (x,y), the only possible cross term was xy. But for 3D, cross terms were not just xyz, but xyx, or xzy, or other combinations of three of the variables, and it was NOT obvious how to create the next level of complexity in how the variables affected each other – regardless of how many times my math textbooks left the 3D version as ‘an obvious extension of the text for the student.’ Lousy texts, lousy teachers, lousy methods – because it was easier for them to leave the longer equations out. They were extremely difficult to figure out for a novice, and I spent wasted hours at it. Going from 3D to higher dimensions – and yes, the dimensions go to infinity, though most calculi go no further than maybe 20 or so additional dimensions – WAS more obvious.

I’m seeing that effect now, as I revise the design of the end of Book 1. There is a mathematical felicity to the design that I hadn’t even realized I was building in. There must be some ‘story structure’ in my brain, because Book 1 is 20 chapters, and the last ‘Act’ is Chapters 16-20, but I’m pretty sure I was NOT being deliberately mathematical when I laid out the plot, figuring out what happened in the story that took it where it went.

The fractal nature is evident at each level: chapters have scenes, scenes have beats, beats have paragraphs, paragraphs have sentences…

And the beats are like mini-stories, with an introduction, setup, conflict in the middle, and some kind of resolution at the end, with ends to sentences, paragraphs, beats, scenes, chapters, Acts, and the individual Books, each calculated for effect – as are their beginnings.

So at each level, I get to tell a story, and assume that the levels above and below will take care of themselves – because that’s the way they are set up.

Where is the ‘writing’ part? The Art?

The variability comes in the writing. Beats are never rote or formula – each takes however long it takes in time to write and space on the ‘page.’ Some stories can be told with four words, others need a lot more.

But in a similar way as the coastline on a map shows the same variation in its inlets and promontories as you go closer and closer – or farther out into space – stories have an inherent graininess – mine, anyway – that I find somehow satisfying. The pieces interlock and fill a level, the levels have the same ‘feel’ to them – but on a different scale.

And I’m finding a deep satisfaction in re-visiting the levels prior to doing the actual writing/revising, a feeling of ‘Yes!’ – this has to happen HERE, and that has its place THERE.

I may be the nuttiest writer on the planet – and I shake my head sometimes at the complexity that my mind insists on building into everything I tackle – but I’m having fun again, after the low spot where I wondered if this whole process is worth the enormous amount of time and energy it consumes.

Mathematical weirdness ends]

Go out there and enjoy Spring if it is happening where you are. I love the States, but I grew up in Mexico City, and there really aren’t any seasons there (okay, two: dry and rainy, with a bit of cold around the Christmas holidays so you can wear your woolies to the Posadas when you sing in the street and carry the statues of Mary and Joseph).

My natural tendency with nice days is to think, ‘Okay – the weather is now the way it is supposed to be always, and it will be there tomorrow and forever after,’ which is not true, and conflicts violently with the known fact about New Jersey’s weather: if you don’t like the weather, wait two hours – it will change. Hard to outgrow your childhood imprinting. So I ‘forget’ to go out and enjoy the pretty – and it becomes something else, and I missed it. And the next day rains. Or is muggy. Or freezes.

Don’t imitate my bad habits. Go, ride, walk, breathe.

What are you doing to celebrate the beauty of the Spring?

Fear of writing dark places

Getting too near the end of a story

You think you have it all down – the writing is going well, there are only a few more chapters to write/polish/revise – and you come to a standstill.

This time it’s not because the ending isn’t right, or because I can’t do this, but because I now have readers – and I’m afraid they won’t like the ending of this part of the story!

Or is it because I know the ending, and I know how much work there is to getting into Book 2, and I’m afraid of it?

The right end to a story – no holding back

It doesn’t matter: an ending HAS to be right, or it’s no ending at all. Pride’s Children was plotted out as a single volume – it has just grown in the telling because its premise is tough, and the harder the premise is to prove, the more words you will need to justify your ultimate ending. Donald Maass talks about this in Chapter 6 of The Fire in Fiction – Making the impossible real:

“The premise underlying … is going to be a hard one to swallow… [it takes] three hundred pages [of setup.]” Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 13, Scene 4


This week’s post is Chapter 13, Scene 4 (1.13.4).

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

It was warm (83°), overcast, and I got to work in the garden again. I LIKE pulling weeds. Things are settling into a bit of a routine, and the flowers are everywhere.


Still looking for more beta readers; if interested, email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail. Commitment? Reading chapters as I polish them and giving me your honest opinion – and feedback about what you like (!), don’t like (X), or find confusing (?). You don’t get raw work, you get as close to publishable as I can manage without a couple of whole-book passes.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

Previous chapter: Chapter 12

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 13, Scene 4  [Kary]

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

May 12 is International ME/CFS Day – Rant

You’re still ill?

It’s May 12 again – and, for another year, CFS – or ME – or CFIDS – or Yuppie Flu – or whatever the heck this is, it’s still with me.

Another year has gone by – and today is one of those typical days when I question my own sanity, because my brain is like a broken clock: right twice a day. You all remember analog clocks, right?

And too many people think that if you have something for a long time, it must disappear. It doesn’t – I do. I just stay home, do the few things I can, don’t give anyone any trouble – that takes energy I need for more important things like breathing.

I don’t know what the researchers are doing, but all the people I know who have this THING, the people in my real-life support group and the online one, used to be productive, hard-working, tax-paying citizens – and now the majority of us aren’t.

Living with CFS

I manage this – as well as I can. Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 13, Scene 3

I was growing alfalfa and wheat grass for the Gizzy – it got mold. I’m going to have to dump it and try again.

A few bike rides – and I feel rejuvenated. I can ride, even if the walking is difficult. Not so sure about that first moment of balance the first time – but it’s fine now.

This week’s post continues with Chapter 13, Scene 3 (1.13.3).

I still haven’t had time to join the previous chapters into single files for each – the good news is that this means I’m writing and editing in my work time (have to keep ahead of you guys!), and good progress is being made on a weekly if not daily basis – which makes me happy.

Feedback welcome. Thanks!

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

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

Previous chapter: Chapter 12

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 13, Scene 3  [Andrew]

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013, 2014.

Writing someone else’s pain

How writing pain out serves the writer

I realized recently that one of the things writing does is to serve as a break for the writer.

For the few hours dedicated to writing, a writer who needs it can block out her own pain, the pressing need to make her own decisions, the major and minor tragedies of her own life.

During the writing time, it’s all about the characters’ pain, decisions, tragedies. Those parts of the psyche that are dedicated to dealing with Life, and which are sometimes raw from that dealing, get a break, a respite, time off. Continue reading