All posts by SheilaDeeth

Writer, Editor, Reviewer

How Many Shades Of Gray

So, the flood’s all dry, the floor is uncarpeted and gray, the walls are holey and gray, the cieling’s gray (don’t ask–the previous owners painted it that way!), the sky’s most definitely gray (and most probably raining), and my mood… well, my mood is distinctly gray too. Meanwhile we look at paint colors, floor coverings (not not not not carpet, never again!), light fittings and more. Dreaming, wishing perhaps? Meanwhile time goes on.

I can scarcely believe it’s almost two months since our basement flooded. Two months since the panic of stepping into water while something (yet unknown) banged and roared and electrical outlets sparked (I know, what kind of idiot steps into water without checking, but I was running downstairs to investigate the noise and I didn’t see the reflections). Two months since incredible sons carried tons of wet carpet outdoors. Two months since incredible friends took charge and pushed us into action. Two months since incredible neighbors waded in to help. Two months since…

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And since then I’ve studied many many shades of gray. A good friend who knows about color suggested we try not repainting in the dreaded worn-out white. “How about white with a touch of blue?” we asked. But it’s a big room. Anything too bright and white is going to glare at us. She suggests we try gray colors–gray with a touch of blue perhaps–and to explain she took me shopping where she found a sample card for me covered in many shades of gray. It’s slightly disturbing how many of the shades sport names like “summer rain” or “winter showers.” Torrents and flooded basements come to mind…

So, the flood’s all dry, the floor is uncarpeted and gray, the walls are holey and gray, the cieling’s gray, and we’re looking for better, brighter, more colorful grays to cheer up our lives.

My world is filled with shades of gray.

And my writing prompt for our writing group is very simple: Water water everywhere!

Let’s write

  1. What’s your favorite color?
  2. What might make water appear that color?
  3. Write a story where the color of water changes.
  4. Try to include the color of somebody’s mood.

New Year, New Edits, New Words?

I don’t make New Year resolutions on the grounds that I’ll always break them. But I do make plans, and this year I plan to work harder on writing and editing, read more productively, spend less time looking at or wishing I could create advertisements, and write fewer book reviews. 200+ reviews is just too many for one year, and too much time spent not writing.

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Peter’s Promise on Amazon

With all this in mind, and with my mum – my greatest fan and my best editor – still staying with us, I decided to start each day by editing a section from my upcoming children’s book, Paul’s Purpose. (It’s the sequel to Peter’s Promise, above.)

Of course, I know Paul had many purposes, and so do I: in writing children’s Bible stories I want to:

  • Show the stories of the Bible are set around real people in a real world,
  • Show that the world of history and saints wasn’t so different from the world of siblings and friends,
  • Encourage and entertain middle-grade readers – I want them to think, laugh, and turn pages; I want pre-school listeners to enjoy being read to as well;
  • Encourage and entertain middle-grade educators – I want them to be ready to give and find answers – to model looking for answers on Google, in the dictionary or in the Bible (or anywhere else);
  • Encourage and improve reading and language skills – I like to include some words my readers may not have used before, because the real world is filled with words we all might misunderstand, and
  • Encourage and improve critical thinking skills – I like my readers to ask questions, because without questions, the answers can’t make sense.

So …

After talking with Mum, I’d love to know your opinions.

  • Can I use such words as “erudite” “persistent” and “single-minded” in a children’s book?
  • Can I refer to “virility-fertility rites” (with no further explanation) when my characters complain about what goes on in pagan temples?
  • Is “God’s mark hurts” a sufficient explanation of why a boy might not want to be circumcised, or should I just avoid the whole question, though it seems like it was a pretty big question at the time?

Meanwhile, since I always turn these blogs into writing exercises, here a

Writing Prompt

  • Think of something in the natural world – a bird, a stone, a river…
  • Imagine how it came into being – evolution, hatching from an egg, rain-clouds with dried fish-eggs waiting to hatch…
  • Then tell its story, from its own point of view:
    • One paragraph (or sentence) for the beginning
    • one for the middle, or the present day
    • and one for the end, or end of the world, or “Help! It’s raining fish!”

It’s raining ice here. Keep warm.

 

Where will your Christmas tree come from?

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Trees make leaves for pages of books, and needles to sew them together. Book fairs make places to sell those books. And returning from the Oregon Historical Society Holiday Cheer event makes a great excuse to see a Christmas tree. img_2000

See
Tree rings cry
for history and mystery inside;
The tree lays flat to die.
Trailer’s rings all jangling metal, dangling chains reply
So low, once high.
Road is ringed with winter’s cold, its shoulder iced with snow.
This tree can’t fly.
But now the crane is lifting, tree is gifted with new life—
A hopeful sight with silver rings, now lighted bright
against the star
struck night.
The tree stands proud and high.
Then tree of Christmas rings its bell
For history and mystery inside.

Oddly, there’s always a beer tent at the base of Portland’s Christmas tree on the evening of Holiday Cheer. So, cheers!

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And for writing exercise, just dream the ringing of the trees.

Things I Learned At Wordstock

Last weekend I went to Wordstock in Portland – an annual literary arts event featuring great authors, books, publishers, speakers, library representatives and more – and rain – and rainbows! So what did I learn?

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  1. Rain is wet, but less wet and miserable when shared with congenial strangers.
  2. Lining up to enter a building is less painful if you know the venue will be emptied first, so you know you’ll manage to get in. (Last year you could line through two lectures before getting into the one you didn’t plan on but went to to get out of the rain.)
  3. Some venues in Portland are truly magnificent!
  4. Sherman Alexie is a fantastic speaker and great fun!
  5. Alice Hoffman is as interesting in person as in her fiction.
  6. Poetry might not be for me, but I did write a poem while listening to poets. Maybe that means modern poetry is not for me. Or maybe it means the poets I listened to were too much alike. (All three were women and I wish there’d been a man to offer a different voice.)
  7. But there was a man sitting next to me. Between us we learned that bus tickets can be purchased by swiping on the phone, absent anything logical like a “pay now” or “complete your purchase” button.
  8. Books are wonderful. Lots of books are lots of wonderful.
  9. Lots of literary magazines encourage submissions, but will any of them accept me?
  10. Lots of local publishers are interested in talking to our writing group, but will any of them really do it?

Watch this space for answers to the last two questions. And while you wait, here’s a poetry writing prompt.

  1. What did you do last weekend? Write one sentence.
  2. Add two more sentences below it. You should have three lines of prose on your page.
  3. Which words did you repeat? Break your lines at these words. (If there are no repeats, lengthen your sentences first.)
  4. Which words could be replaced with ones which rhyme with the repeated words? Replace them, and break your lines again.
  5. Read what you’ve written aloud.
  6. Read it again and count the stresses on each line.
  7. Can you add or remove words so all the lines have the same number of stresses? Or so that there’s a pattern of stresses from one line to the next? Or so that…?
  8. Basically so that you like what you’ve written.
  9. Then stop.

I went to Wordstock.
Listened to authors.
Bought books.

I went to the book fair at Wordstock
Listened to authors and readers of books
Collected lots of periodicals, handouts and books.

I went to the book fair,
to Wordstock and looked there
at books, stocked my brain up
on authors and bought there
too many books, wore out
my shoulders to ferry them
home but I’ll stock up
my bookshelves and brain cells
with dreams till they’re all
overgrown.

My Best-Selling Titles

Divide by Zero was a best-seller once. So were Genesis People and Bethlehem’s Baby. Tails of Mystery won an award from my publisher recently as another best-seller. Does that make me a best-selling author?

But my best-selling book at the moment is Heroes Best Friend, a very cool anthology in which I have one (best-selling?) short story, and from which I earn the occasional cent – it’s my best-paying book. Coming close second is the fourth volume of the Writers’ Mill Journal, from which I earn nothing – all online proceeds go directly to the library, since the journal is designed, written and produced by our local writers’ group. Then there’s my latest novel, Infinite Sum. I hope it sold some copies when it came out, but they don’t register on my Amazon author dashboard. And so I wonder, does this make me a worst-selling author instead?

Or perhaps I’m in-between. Thirty-nine books to my name. Sales that garner occasional payments in cents. And dreams that reach the sky. Plus coffee.

Meanwhile our writers’ group has just released volume five – find it soon in a bookstore online! We’re working on a Tails of Mystery fan-fiction collection as well (with permission from my publisher). We’ll probably call it Zeus and Bo and Fred and Joe and Co, since Fred and Joe were based on two beautiful dogs called  Zeus and Bo, and since the stories run the gamut of many animals.

If you’re looking for a writing prompt – and aren’t we always –

here is the menagerie now living with Fred and Joe. Look for a way to use all of these creatures, plus at least one more, in one story or poem:

  • Fred – a large dog
  • Joe – a small dog
  • Cat – a large cat
  • Kitkit – a small cat, kitten to Cat
  • Zombie – a canary
  • Squeak – a mouse
  • the child, still very small
  • the man, and
  • the woman

Now Write!

Then watch for A Nose For Adventure, coming soon. (But Zombie and Squeak won’t enter the series until later – I’m writing faster than I can best-sell!)

What Did You Read On Vacation?

I started reading The Girl on the Train, on a train. I read Signal Failure while riding the 20160801_110205 (2)Underground. I visited numerous London bookshops then settled down to enjoy Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore. 20160804_173522The Eyre Affair accompanied peacefully timeless20160806_173543 (2) views of punts on the Cam. And I enjoyed happy days with my brother’s two dogs while reading The Dog Who Dared To Dream.20160724_154323 (2)In the days leading up to our wedding anniversary, I devoured The Daylight Marriage. Then we celebrated with a trip to the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at the Guilgud Theatre. A great time was had by all, my read-and-review book-list languished, the internet faded into 2G wilderness, and my mum enjoyed being one of the first readers of my second novel, Infinite Sum, hot off the press from Indigo Sea.

But now I’m back. England is a happy memory and my American life is calling – overdue reviews, washing, cleaning and shopping, our writers’ group’s release of its fifth anthology, Bible studies to prepare … and did I mention 20160804_140752washing, cleaning and shopping? And pulling weeds. The dandelions defeated me before we left, so now I’m just going to mow them down instead of trying to extract them.

Meanwhile, that writers’ group continues to host monthly contests, and I need to come up with a prompt (my penalty for winning). Perhaps something about trains, bookstores, Venetian gondolas, dogs or marriages would work? August’s contest was inspired by someone else’s photograph. September’s asks what happens next after a disturbing opening sentence, and October’s is to write fan fiction based on Tails of Mystery. Perhaps November’s prompt could combine all three …

Writing Prompt

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  1. Here’s a picture, taken on my vacation
  2. What happens next?
  3. Please write it from the point of view of an animal (mammal, insect, fish or bird).

What would you write?

The Importance of Being English

I’m still English, still gloomily Brexited, and pondering how seeing our football team getting knocked out of the Euros didn’t feel half as disastrous as knocking ourselves out of Europe. But I’m still American too, so what do I know? I couldn’t even vote!

It got me thinking though, just how English am I now, almost 20 years into my second life? And how does being English affect my writing?

I have a wonderful group of friends/critiquers/coffee-drinkers/beta-readers who meet to read each other’s work every week and definitely aren’t English. They mark all my English-isms in my manuscripts, sometimes asking if a Sheila-ism is an English-ism too. Some of my isms are simply down to me – “sunlight slanting through windows,” “echoes reveling in the dance of rising eagles” for example. But others are pure Brit. Kids stamp their feet instead of stomping them. Purses go in handbags. Counterpanes cover the beds… and more. Oh, and colour really really wants that u.

So yes, being English does affect my writing, but my generous friends and editors help me hide it. The publisher (Indigo Sea) puts the words in print. Then comes the “selling” bit…

I showed my newly released novel to an English friend the other day. She compliment the cover, then told me, “Of course, you won’t want me to read it. It would be so embarrassing.” How could I say “Please”?

She was right though, I guess. At least, the dedication page to Infinite Sum might be embarrassing ’cause it’s about me. But the book’s about someone else. And I’m American. now; I don’t mind being embarrassed once in a while. So here it is – my dedication to my masterpiece. Enjoy. And I hope it tempts you to read more:

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I’ve been telling stories since the day I learned to talk, and writing them down since the day I learned to write. I suspect I’ve been waiting to tell this story since the day a trusted adult first abused me. But Infinite Sum is not my story, and Sylvia is not me, for which reason I really should thank all the wonderful people who rejected my first attempts at this novel; Sylvia’s feelings are just as honest as if they were mine, but I think her tale is much better told because it’s hers. After all, I’ve been telling stories, fiction not fact, since the day I learned to talk. It’s what I do.

I’m also enormously grateful to my mum. She has told me repeatedly, since the day I left home, that I ought to make use of my writing skills. Without Mum’s constant prayers and encouragement, this story would never have been written. Next, I’d like to thank those generous friends who encouraged me with early reviews—in particular authors Catherine Cavendish and Paulette Maturin, and most especially mystery author Aaron Paul Lazar who applied his razor-sharp fine-tooth comb to the final edits of the text. Thank you so much!

I must, of course, thank Indigo Sea Press as well, for trusting me enough to accept a second novel after Divide by Zero. Thank you Pan Morelli for the lovely cover. And I am grateful—I will always be grateful—to God for teaching me forgiveness is not my job.

—Sheila Deeth

Find Infinite Sum on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Infinite-Sum-Mathemafiction-Novel-2/dp/1630663891

My Most Singular Venture

If I’ve been absent from the internet, or only minimally present, this last few weeks, I’ve had good reason. I embarked on a brand new venture, you see – in fact, “A Most Singular Venture,” which just happens to be the title of a wonderful new novel in the Elizabeth and Richard Literary Mysteries Series by Donna Fletcher Crow.

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As you’ll see from the cover, Elizabeth and Richard (a couple now pleasingly approaching my own age) are in London as this story begins. Elizabeth is researching locations visited by that well-known classical author, Jane Austen, while Richard is about to start teaching a summer class on Golden Age mystery authors. It’s a great combination, with tasks, characters and mysteries all dove-tailing into a plot that pulls the reader along: Explore London, learn literature, and look for a murderer, all within the covers of a single, enticing book.

But where do I fit in? And how did this singular venture keep me from the internet? Well… that’s where my own most singular and delightful venture starts, with author Donna Fletcher Crow inviting me to reawaken my editing dreams after reading my review an earlier novel in the series:

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How could I resist? I didn’t even try. The chance to read Elizabeth and Richard’s latest adventure before anyone else? The chance to get to know one of my favorite authors better? And, yes, the chance to call myself an editor again… I spread those wings with eager delight and had a most wonderful time.

Watch out for A Most Singular Venture, coming later this year to a bookstore near you. And get ready for the adventure with a thoroughly enjoyable Jane Austen Encounter. Then spread your writing wings and feather your quill for a writing exercise:

Get Ready

  1. Think of a famous person and a place that person is connected with.
  2. Think of reasons why a group of people might visit that place?

Get Set

Make a list of ways you can connect their visit with the person

  1. Do they go to sites your famous person frequented?
  2. Do they get involved in the same sort of business?
  3. Or perhaps they see a ghost?
  4. travel in time?
  5. read a book?
  6. endure the same problems?
  7. etc.

Now Write

A story, a paragraph, an essay, or even a novel… whatever you have time for. Enjoy!

 

I made a book

I made a story,

I made a book,

I made a cover,

and my publisher made a better one.

So now I know why I should stick to making stories. Thank you Indigo Sea, and I can’t wait to hold my beloved Infinite Sum in my hot little hands!

(The image on the left was what I gave them, but the one on the right is so much more better! I’d certainly pick that one up if I saw it on the shelf.)

Here’s the blurb for my book:

A slash of red; a slash of black; then Sylvia’s paintbrush turns beauty turns into terror and darkness again. Her youngest child is almost ten, but Sylvia’s world seems destined to fall apart. Her therapist believes the answers lie in her art, but will they be found among boxes and frames in the attic, or in the angry colors she pours onto canvases in class? As memories new and old pile ever higher, Sylvia learns life is more about the infinite promise of joys to come than the sum of things done. Even so, will her nightmares let her go?

And, since our writing group’s going to use an image for it’s writing prompt in… June? July?… here’s a writing prompt:

  1. Look at the picture on the left and list the things you see, in the order you notice them.
  2. Write a sentence that uses the first two things you saw.
  3. Continue writing, including the items you spotted in the picture, in the order in which you spotted them.
  4. When you’ve used all the items, find a way to finish your essay/story/poem.
  5. Read what you’ve written. Which bit is most important.
  6. Rewrite what you’ve written, so it revolves around that most important part.

Top 1%!

Just look what Goodreads sent me!

goodreads likes me

 

How cool is that? I wish they could offer me the gift of time as well as a pretty badge. Then I might catch up on all those books still unread and unreviewed, but I’m working on it. Meanwhile, I’ll add some thyme, rosemary and sage while I cook dinner. And I’ll dream that one day Goodreads might give me a slightly different badge – one that says TOP 1% of WRITERS instead of reviewers. How cool would that be?

Of course, if I wrote more, or wrote faster, I’d have a better chance of being well-known, which brings me back to that precious gift, not yet downloadable, of time. So… what would you do if you had more time? Use a writing prompt perhaps? Why not try this?

  1. Write a sentence beginning, “If only she/he had the time…”
  2. Write a sentence ending with the phrase, “but he/she wished she/he had the time.”
  3. Write a sentence with the phrase, “if there were only enough time” somewhere in the middle of it.
  4. Which sentence do you like best?
  5. Which timelessness inspires you?
  6. Now write a short story, character study, scene, snippet or poem, where every sentence includes some similar reference to the absence of time. (No cheating though. It’s got to be time, not thyme.)

NOW WRITE!