Category Archives: books

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.

 

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?

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:

JaneAus

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.

Writing the Author Bio

No book reviews, no blog posts, and I’ve almost disappeared from Facebook and Twitter: What could be going on? Meanwhile the deadline for the Writers’ Mill Journal, an (almost) annual publication from our local group of writers, came and went and…well…that’s what’s been stealing my attention and my time.

The Writers' Mill Journal Volume 3
The Writers’ Mill Journal Volume 3

For my sins I’m compiler and editor in chief, and we had lots of pieces to be compiled, carefully stored online by our intrepid computer guru, Rom. Now we have a large document with nine sections, nearly 60 pieces of writing, and around 35 pictures. But we, at last, means more than just me; and I’m looking forward to a little more spare time, since I’ve finally sent that doc to our intrepid team of editors. Six editors. 200 pages. Around 35 pages each.

Of course, the journal is only almost complete, as you might see from the heading to this post. It’s one thing to ask our brave authors to write, and write we do, most wonderfully (see last year’s journal above – enjoy!). But asking us to write about ourselves; that’s an entirely different matter. So the author bio page languishes, while sentences and paragraphs drift in email replies to be added to those author names.

First person bio or third is the first question to be asked of course. Does

  • Joe Soap says, “I’ve been writing since I learned to wash my face…” work better than
  • Joe Soap has been writing since…

I’m going for third person–at least, that’s what I said–though several writers insist on first. What do you think? Which sounds more professional to you?

Then there’s the question of one sentence, or two, or a paragraph or two, or a page. For myself, I’ve got bios of varying lengths on almost every website, Facebook and Twitter included, all different, and mostly out of date. I’ve got a mini-bio in the signature line on my emails, also out of date (depending on whether I’m writing from my computer or my phone). I’ve got bios on my books, bios in the back pages of as yet unpublished books, bios on publishing websites, bios re-edited, bios…

But we’ve got 200+ pages, and every page costs, and we run this on a money-less shoe-string. So I asked our authors for just one or two sentences, or maybe three or four.

I sent a sample:

  • Joe Soap has been writing since he learned to wash his hands. He’s the author of several unpublished books, has taught laundry techniques in high school for many years, and can be found online at joesoap.com.

And the answers are still slowly trickling in.

Meanwhile, here I am, finally finding time to write a blogpost. Since most of my readers write, which makes you authors of a kind, I’ll set an author bio challenge this time:

Write (or find your latest) author bio, in all its multi-paragraph glory: Who are you? Then…

  • Pick out the section that describes how long you’ve been writing. Which words are most important? Rephrase them in one short sentence.
  • Pick out the section that describes what you’ve done with your life. Which detail is most important. Rewrite it in one short sentence.
  • Pick out the section that describes why you write. Which words are most important? Rephrase them in one short sentence.
  • Pick out the section that describes what you’ve written. Rephrase this in one short sentence.
  • Pick out the section that describes where you can be found online. Which place is most important, or easiest to find, or best linked to everywhere else. Mention this in one short sentence.
  • Now combine your first and second sentences, second and third, third and fourth, and fourth and fifth.
  • Combine the resulting sentences, shortening, deleting, and EDITING until you have just two (one short and one long is good).
  • Now you’ve got a nice brief author bio that might even fit on Twitter!

So here’s mine:

  • Sheila Deeth has been telling stories since before she learned to write. She’s the author of contemporary novels from Second Wind Publishing, childrens animal stories from Linkville Press, and The Five Minute Bible Story Series from Cape Arago Press, and she blogs at…well…here ’cause you’ve found me!

I guess I should go update all those other random bios wherever they lurk now. But first, I’ve still got 35 pages to edit…

Wagging their tails behind them

Do you remember when Little Bo Peep lost her sheep?

Do you remember the blind mice whose tails were chopped off?

Then tell-tale tit told a lie, and such troubles ensued.

I’m hoping for good news, good tales, good sales and good reviews on the release of my latest book, my first from Linkville Press. Tails of Mystery is a book of animal stories for kids of all ages, about dogs of indeterminate age, the occasional cat, many tails, some raccoons perhaps, and more, all set in a neighborhood near you. Can you resist those smiling doggy faces?

So open the door. If you don’t, small doggy paws might maneuver their way around the latch. Here come Fred and Joe.

Tails of Mystery by Sheila Deeth

Tails of Mystery by Sheila Deeth

Red, Black, and an Infinite Sum

She paints in red and black, as if the colors might define her mood, or else declare it. She pictures beauty, turns her back, and finds her wandering paintbrush pares the colors into night. She lives, enjoys, an ordinary life. And yet that red keeps bleeding; that black keeps intervening over light.

Her name is Sylvia, and her story’s told in my second novel, Infinite Sum, coming soon from Second Wind Publishing. If you’ve read Divide by Zero, you may have some vague recollection of who she is. But she wouldn’t let go of my keyboard when the story was finished and done. So, in Infinite Sum, she tells it her own way… with artwork, red and black…

…and with words. She’s pretty good with Word it seems. But here’s what happened when I let her loose with Paint.

Infinite Sum

Alfred

He’s brown, white and furry, barks crazily at passing cars, lawnmowers or postal vans, and likes long walks in long wet grass. He probably prefers long walks in green forests. But he came to stay with us for the weekend, so I was frequently persuaded to take the other end of his leash while he introduced me to the pleasures of lampposts and trees.

Alfred
Alfred

He’s called Alfred, and while on those long, damp walks he’s surprisingly silent. He does stop and stare at me adoringly, when I unguardedly call him a “good boy.” He seems to believe those two words placed together mean “Look, I’m going to give you a treat.” I guess he’s got me well-trained.

Meanwhile, apparently, he’s also very good at training imaginary characters. Those wonderful folk in my current work-in-progress became progressively more voluble as Alfred took me for walks. Maybe they just liked the fresh air and exercise. Or maybe they like dogs, though they seem to keep seeing cats. Anyway, Subtraction’s now up to nearly 40,000 words and growing.

If Alfred stayed another week or so, perhaps I’d get it completed. But he’s gone home, my computer’s going crazy because I installed a new virus scanner, my Mum really wishes I’d finish installing same so she can listen to the Archers (BBC Radio 4 for the uninitiated), and my husband wishes I’d figure out how to install it without driving the computer insane, since my next job is to install the virus scanner on his machine.

Actually, talking to those characters in Subtraction is really rather fun. Perhaps I’ll go for a walk. Has anyone got a leash for me?