Monthly Archives: November 2014

Writer’s consequences: why writers hate Saturdays

The conspiracy reigns

I am convinced there is a signup list somewhere.

We have 7 neighbors on the Court, and 5 close ones on the street that backs up to ours. There are probably another 20 or 30 close enough to participate in their favorite activity, ‘torture Alicia while she is trying to write.’

How? Remember the list? It has 60 minute slots from 8am Saturday morning to maybe 6pm Sunday evening (or two hours after the end of daylight unless there are exterior lights), during which each neighbor is allowed to sign up, exclusively (and that’s the key), for lawnmowing. The idea is for the horrible racket of man’s best friend (the other one barks all night – I think there’s a list there, too, but not everyone has a dog), to be a continuous roar for the two weekend daylight hours, and make sure that only short breaks (for those whose lawns are too small to take a whole hour to mow, and who are too lazy to do it twice just to fulfill their time obligation (slackers)) are allowed to happen.

Requirements for membership

You ARE allowed to use a leaf-blower, edger, or weed-whacker outside your assigned time slot, or to finish using up your time DURING your allotted slot, so that the constant mowing note of one neighbor MAY be punctuated with other sounds at random. Extra points are earned (which I believe can be traded in for a more favorable time-slot the following weekend) when the weed-whacker is gas-powered or when you hit the fence slats repeatedly with the string cutter thingy, producing the lovely and desirable ‘washboard effect.’

You ARE allowed to turn your machine off periodically, ostensibly to refill it with precious fossil fuel, so that the tortured think, ‘Ah, it’s over!’ when, in fact, it is not.


The earlier slots are granted in order of horsepower, descending.

In all the years I have observed this ritual, I could count on the fingers of one hand the times when two or more of the shadow congregation were outside simultaneously.

Yup, it’s a few minutes before the noon-to-one slot, and there’s C’s lawnmowing service, turning up to un-cart their industrial mower, and be ready to start right on time.

My own husband, this very weekend, almost gave the whole thing away, when he incautiously asked if C next door had finished with the leaf blower, so he, B, could go out to mow our lawn.

Defense mechanisms for the writer

I have some. I’ve written about my industrial-strength hearing protection (Sensory Deprivation Tank). I should mention, though, that wearing headgear pressing in on your head for hours and hours while writing creates headaches.

And that when I take the naps require to support my filthy writing habit, wearing full headgear means it’s very hard to get comfortable.

We writers suffer for our habit – and for our readers.

Ultimate effect?

It reinforces brain fog.

It makes it hard to focus.

It makes it unpleasant to write.

And it makes it possible for household members to sneak in (they claim they knocked) and touch my shoulder, and make me jump several feet straight up.

But I’m going to finish Pride’s Children regardless of the efforts of the shadow organization of neighborhood lawnmowers and commercial associates.

Just you wait.

Living with CFS: approaching the anniversaries of deaths

Days that remind you more of loss

One of the hardest things to do in life is to face, every year, the days that remind you of the death of someone loved and dear.

This will be our first year without my Dad for Thanksgiving.

And to see how that interacts with the things that are still going on in YOUR life, good and bad, but still in life – and not after it.

And no matter how close you are to someone else’s family, no matter how much you thought it affected you, and you shared someone else’s pain, when it is your own pain you have to deal with it all over again.

It is impossible to do enough

Another guilt? Wondering if you have done everything you can for the person whose grief you share, but more remotely. Don’t worry. You haven’t. Maybe you can’t.

There are deaths in the family I’m removed from – the hidden cost of living far from home. If you see someone rarely, you are less affected, by definition: there are simply fewer moments that remind you of the loss. You see the grief as if reflected from a muddy surface. You can imagine – but, even with empathy, imagination is not experience.

After you see Rosemary’s Baby, and experience the intensity of loving a child even if its father is the devil himself, you go home. If you have children, they are NOT the devil’s spawn. The emotional intensity the moviemakers confer is of limited duration. The most they can hope to achieve is an intense moment or two during and soon after.

Maturity consists in going there, not hiding. Realizing how little you have helped someone else, at the same time you realize you cannot be helped yourself: grief will have its way and its time. Wishing you had done more, could have done more, could still do anything that might really help someone else’s grief.

Grief and loss are self-centered – for everyone

It all comes back to ME: if someone else dies, I can die, too. WILL die, too.

It does no good to try to distance yourself from that thought – even as you tell yourself not everything in life has to be about YOU. We are creatures who see everything through the light of our own consciousness. Because that’s all we have.

And all of this hurts, will hurt, never really stops hurting: every human on this planet must deal with the deaths of all loved ones who go before. Which sounds lovely and general and lofty. Until it is your own parent. Or worse, your own child.

It is harder for those who can’t afford grief

This is harder for people with CFS. A PWC (person with CFS) has two bad choices on how to react. Don’t take my word for it: I will explain.

The first choice is to react the way a normal person reacts: many different ways, but most of them involving feeling the emotions, the sadness, the knowledge that nothing will ever be the same – and then having to deal with the aftermath of that reaction for far longer than a normal person would.

The second choice is to mute your own reaction, to avoid the triggers, to grieve very slowly and mildly – so you can survive. To know yourself, remember your own limits, and push away what you can, suppress, minimize, avoid, circumvent.

For me, with CFS as a constant anchor around my neck, I grieve that I cannot grieve more. Normal grief is paralyzing to ‘normal,’ ‘able’ people. To me, the aftermath of the adrenaline is crippling. As I have gotten a bit better over the years, I can take more without coming to a full stop – but not much. Normal grief is cleansing, as are tears. I can’t afford normal grief. I don’t cry any more. Not really. My body is extremely limited in how it processes the metabolites of grief. I have learned to guard – I remember too well how the aftermaths have been.

The appearance of unconcern is just that, appearance

It makes me appear cold. Unconcerned. Uncaring. When all I wish is that I were able to just let go, I’m doing the self-talk that makes the stages of grief go faster: “If I can’t change something, I must reach the acceptance stage sooner.” And there is nothing more unchangeable than death. I hate it. Moderately, of course.

It would be stupid for me to let my grief go on longer than the grief of those who are the primary mourners – but experiencing even a fraction of their grief will, in effect, do exactly that – because it takes me so long to recover from even a portion of normal emotions.

You don’t see this discussed much: how the disease affects the ability of otherwise empathetic people to experience both the emotional experiences, and the healing thoughts that need to follow. A stunted emotional outlook BY NECESSITY is another cruel twist to add to the effect of the disease: I can choose a stunted response to what happens, and still be felled by the recovery – or I can choose (or be forced into) a proper emotional response, and pay disproportionately for it and be seen as exaggerated in my response. Not pleasant choices to contemplate, but ones which must be acknowledged.

Just as eating a lot of sugar and putting yourself into a diabetic coma when your parent dies would be seen as a possibly logical but really stupid action, letting in all of the waves of grief is a really stupid action when you KNOW, from previous experience, how much it will cost – and how, if you truly give in, you will be seen by those who have to deal with you as a diva? prima donna? person having an emotional response they are not entitled to? More Catholic than the Pope?

Anniversaries – when it’s harder to ignore loss

There are anniversaries coming – there always are. A few this year are being hard to deal with because the grief is so fresh – and because it reminds me so strongly of the intensity of previous ones. I thoroughly hate that I must continually mute my own feelings. Writing them down helps – at least I can acknowledge them before trying to ruthlessly suppress them.

It is NOT all about me, but this disease has a lot more to answer for than is realized.

Writer’s consequences: losing readers on sharp plot turns

Why now? Why here? Method A:  BEFORE plot twist

Over and over you hear that things need to be justified when they happen in a novel, even though they don’t need to be justified when they actually happen in real life.

Everything that happens has an antecedent, however faint, but, in a novel, going into all the details about why this plot change RIGHT NOW can take forever.

But I, as a writer, can always go back, while writing, and add subtle hints the reader can pick up subconsciously so the twist doesn’t come out of nowhere and break the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ I try so hard to create.

As an indie, I could conceivably even go back and change the lead up to a PLOT HOLE in an already-published story, and update the electronic version so the next readers got a better book.

For us brain-fogged types, this is manna from the Lord. I forgot? Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 17, Scene 2

This week’s post continues Chapter 17, with Scene 2 (1.17.2).

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate the holiday this Thursday!

I’m working hard to stay ahead of the postings here, and still give myself enough time to polish. Chapter 18 is off to my lovely beta reader, Rachel!

I don’t know how the next couple of weeks will go – we have a trip out to California coming up, and holidays, and end of year everything. I am walking with walking sticks – and a small backpack with a built-in stool. Good idea – and it works to take some of the load off the leg braces, and onto the hands (except that now the ARMS get tired!) – but it is perfect, knowing I can sit for a few minutes when I need to. NJ weather has been all over the place – 30s last week, 70 yesterday, and 55 today when I went for my walk.

If you don’t know this about me by now, I’m stubborn. I want to walk among the giant redwoods at Muir Woods again. Maybe.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

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PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 17, Scene 2  [Kary]

Thanks to Quozio for the quote software.

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2014.

Guest post: Nita Dozer Thatcher On The Subject of Husbands

A dear friend from a closed FaceBook group wrote the following, and I had to share it, with her permission, because it is hilarious and she definitely deserves wider distribution!

Nita Nita Dozer Thatcher

It applies regardless of the reason your spouse might need to take care of you, long- or short-term.

You have been warned.

Also, I love men and spouses in general. This is not about the species. Nor is it meant to be pejorative!


On The Subject of Husbands – Nita Dozer Thatcher

To those of you who have one, there are some things you should know if your husband ever decides he needs to take care of you. The things they do may be unrecognizable to you as being efficacious to your well-being.

Here are just a few examples of what you may encounter:

1. All clothing is clothing and can, of course, be washed together. Doesn’t matter what color it is, what fabric content is present: if it’s clothing, it’s meant to be dumped into the washer together. “There, all done! That wasn’t so hard after all, now was it?”

At this point praise should be heaped on the smiling husband and a silent prayer given for the poor heap of clothing now being forced into your bureau drawer in a wadded mess. It is what it is, and one should focus on what is important. Clothes are not that important in the grand scheme of life.

2. A vacuum is loud, high powered, and masculine. It can serve as a phallic symbol. Promote it as such! I can assure you from experience that if you do, it will be run frequently and with much vigor and that you will have the cleanest floors in the neighborhood!

At this point, groggily lift your head from your bed where you have been trying to get some much needed sleep, smile devotedly with your hands over your ears, and thank him profusely for taking time out from his busy schedule to run the vacuum.

3. If it fits, it gets washed in the dishwasher. It doesn’t matter if it’s the paint can he used to mix oil for the lawnmower or the gold rimmed crystal that Aunt Alice gave you for your 25th Wedding Anniversary! If it fits, it gets washed in the dishwasher… together. It’s a “man” thing. Deal with it! At least the dishes, even the ones chipped by the paint can, are clean.

At this point, simply go to Amazon and buy a new one of whatever got chipped and get on with your life as a person getting the care and nurture you need.

4. If it CAN be grilled on the grill, it WILL be grilled on the grill. Now this should surprise no one, but I will admit to being a bit taken aback when presented for the first time with grilled leftover mashed potatoes.

At this point it is likely wise to simply become accustomed to the taste of charcoal and learn to live with it. Sigh.

5. Dust is healthy. It toughens you up! Wouldn’t want to live in a totally dirt-free environment: it likely weakens the immune system. OR put another way, dusting is NOT masculine! No way around it, waving a feather duster about is NOT masculine. Therefore, it will only very rarely be done and only when your husband is trying to get in touch with his feminine side.

At this point take all the knick knacks, picture frames, candles, etc. off the flat surfaces and put them in cupboards or boxes. They are never going to be dusted so make things easy for yourself and put away every little thing that can attract dust. It is more masculine to dust flat woody things. Fru-fru thingies haven’t a chance in hell of getting dusted. Trust me on this one!

6. Immediately invest in an industrial size cotton rag mop and accompanying industrial size bucket on wheels with the huge roller things that are operated by the foot that wring out the mop. It is the ONLY way your husband will be coaxed into mopping your 5 foot X 9 foot bathroom! Sissy things like Swiffers and Microfiber Mop Sticks will never be attractive to a husband.

At this point you might also want to throw away your sissy dust mops: they will never be used. If it’s a hard surface, it WILL be mopped the industrial way!

7. Sell your crock pot. A crock pot is NOT a man’s tool. Instead think about things that can be made in a high-powered toaster oven with lots of knobs and different heat settings….1500 WATTS.

OR electric knives! “Take a look at this sucker, Babe, this thing’ll cut through metal!.”

OR even a loud industrial blender that will pulverize things. Now we’re talking Man Food Prep!

At this point you might as well get rid of your jell-o molds and your quiche pan. They will only collect dust and never get dusted.

8. If you take a shower or bath before bed, your bed linens only need washed about once every six months. They just won’t get dirty if your body is clean when you sleep on them. Man Logic Course 101.

At this point you are too sick to care!

9. Plan not to need anything or (God forbid) have a health or bathroom emergency while there is anything to watch sports-wise on the tube. We are getting into Sacred Rituals here and they are sacrosanct and you WILL be ignored! Most likely your yell for help will not even be heard.

At this point, pray for a quick cure! It is your only hope!


Please put any additions to Nita’s list in the comments. Come on – I know you want to! Anonymously if necessary.


Thanks, Nita!

PS Any remaining typos are my fault.

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 17, Scene 1

This week’s post begins Chapter 17, with Scene 1 (1.17.1).

A quick check of the bathroom revealed a stack of clean towels, including Stephen’s favorite Bert-and-Ernie beach towel. And nothing to indicate a man other than Greg had ever occupied the space. - Kary Ashe, Pride's Children, Chapter 17

The latest logjam has found its key link – I don’t know why my backbrain keeps wanting to go deeper into the subject matter of scenes as I get closer to the end of Book 1, but it does, and you don’t argue with your backbrain.

As soon as it got what it wanted, the next scene flowed through the path already set for it, and has been declared done. (18.4, for anyone keeping track – still trying to stay ahead of here and postings).

I love that feeling.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

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PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 17, Scene 1  [Kary]

Thanks to ProWritingAid for the quote software.

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2014.

Writer RELAX: this is (probably) not the final draft

I keep forgetting this is not the end of the world: there will be more time.*

[*This is another milestone: Post #300.]

Last draft? Probably not.

I just performed the beautiful action of sending the first n drafts off to Recycling. A banker’s box, brown, full to the brim of earlier paper drafts of Pride’s Children (or as it has been known, Children of Pride – and before that, Resurrection!).

I had told myself they were of historical significance for my biographer. Until I realized that meant my biographer would see and maybe READ my early drafts. Ack!

The writer’s best trait is stubbornness.

Continue reading

CFS notes: surviving the dreaded relapse

Are you* having a CFS relapse?

Before you can deal with a CFS relapse, you have to become aware you are IN one.

You would think that would be obvious – staring at the wall, swollen glands, more exhaustion than usual, insomnia worse than usual, odd reactions to normal foods, a general feeling of being depressed and not being able to kick myself out of it – these are some of the symptoms.

Unfortunately, I have all those symptoms in greater or lesser degree most of the time, so I tend to try to ignore them, and soldier on. I have writing to do, and it is finishing Pride’s Children, Book 1, and I don’t let myself diverted too much by things I know I can’t do much about.

Aren’t you just undisciplined and lazy? Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 16, Scene 5

This week’s post finishes Chapter 16, with Scene 5 (1.16.5).

I’ve been reading Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story – and finding all kinds of insights. Sometimes it helps to throw a new writing book at a story in progress – to get a different perspective. Now, while I’m working to make the end of Book 1 as good as I possibly can make it, it was a welcome hand-holding.

It also confirms that I’m not way off track from where I want to be – phew! We writer-people live in our heads. Reader-people are kind, and sometimes TOO kind. Readers become friends, and start softening things just the tiniest bit – so you hope to get a few more fresh eyes on the project.

Going on Wattpad is giving me new friends (drat!), and occasional new people who say they have no clue what I’m trying to do. Have found new nuggets in those comments, and appreciate all the feedback, ever, from anywhere. Once things go live, you ARE putting yourself in stocks (get it? ‘in stock’?) – where people may decide to throw rotten tomatoes AFTER it’s harder to fix things. I would rather make stock (will she never stop?) BEFORE I have to, and serve good soup up.

And now, to relieve you of the foolishness that seems to have invaded, I give you Andrew – leaving Kary’s for the last time.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

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PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 16, Scene 5  [Andrew]

Thanks to Quozio for the quote software.

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2014.

Writer’s consequences: web surfing rewards

Surf’s up – the big wave

I’ve had the experience one too many times now: I finally stopped and paid attention.

I’m futzing about, surfing the web a bit, looking at my daily round of writing blogs and publishing blogs (I usually have the self-discipline not to head for Facebook in the early morning; usually…)

And I come across the big payoff: someone says something – this morning it was DM – that seems exactly right for where I am in writing the current scene, and I get both excited at my find AND guilty at the surfing. Continue reading

Writer’s consequences: choices and fallout

The short posts.

I am cleaning out my half-started blog posts files and revisiting some of the comments I’ve made on the web (in case you recognize material previously seen elsewhere).

It’s my own work – I will rewrite and repurpose it if I think it is of interest.

This also gives me a record here of ideas I have worked out – often because someone has provided a wonderful blog post that got me thinking. I’ll identify the original posts if I can figure out what they were.

Opinions – and writing

As a person, I have opinions, strong ones. That’s why I write, and that’s why I have my own blog.

As a writer, they’re going to come out: I can’t write what I am not, so everything will be subtly colored by the way I think, what I think is right, what the consequences of choices are. Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 16, Scene 4

This week’s post continues Chapter 16 with Scene 4 (1.16.4).

Greatly recommend a vacation where physical energy expended – sand and water are hard to walk on/in – is ALL the energy expended, and very little thinking went on.

I was worried the brain would STAY on vacation, but it only seems to have taken 5 days to get some of it back, and parts came back within just a couple of days, so I’ve gotten right back to writing. (No faster – but then I didn’t expect that.)

Thanks to Quozio for the quote software.

Here’s some more of Bianca’s tricky little head:

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

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PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 16, Scene 4  [Bianca]

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2014.