Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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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:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00017]

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

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!

Who sabotaged my tablet?

Did Microsoft sabotage my tablet, I ask myself, as my last-ditch attempt at repairing it runs into yet another can’t-do-that message. I stare at the mournful blue screen in that dreaded reboot-loop-of-death and confess, the only option left is to phone the manufacturer. Luckily my tablet’s not a Surface Pro. The Microsoft website says send-it-in-for-repair when a Surface Pro hits this problem. But a phone call will surely be easier (I hope). And just one simple line of code, inserted in all the right places, would have redeemed me long ago.

.blue-screen

So no, I don’t really think Microsoft sabotaged my tablet. But I do wonder how the programmers failed to put a virtual keyhole into every error requiring a virtual key, and how the qa engineers failed to spot the problem, and how the sales people failed to notice it might annoy customers accustomed to performing their own software repairs.

My tablet’s all backed up, of course. The novel’s still out there, waiting for its edits in the cloud. Fred and Joe are still barking up many wrong trees. Book reviews are ready to be posted. And I’ve lost nothing but time, time, time and more time. But WHY ?????????

So, if you have a tablet running Windows 10, enjoying the invisible default protection of the dreaded Bitlocker, beware.

Bitlocker, it seems, encrypts or locks your drive, or some partition thereof, whenever your computer feels threatened, stolen, or sabotaged. Unfortunately, failed Windows updates can be perceived as a threat. So Windows will helpfully try to restart for you, then demand a key. Luckily Microsoft tells you how to find the key at this point, and provides a nice long space where you can type in those 48 (!!!!!) characters. Less fortunately, the computer will continue to feel threatened when the restart fails again, so guess what…

There you are, sitting, not at the blue screen of death and restart, but the blue screen of helpful options, and none of them work because the drive/partition has locked itself again. But this time there’s no keyhole for your 48 digit key. Just a message – can’t restore windows, can’t repair, can’t re-install windows, can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t… because that drive or that partition is locked.

If only they’d thought to provide that virtual keyhole whenever you’d need a virtual key, I’d have a working machine. But Microsoft didn’t sabotage me, not really; it’s just a Windows update gone wrong – it might even have been the one that would fix the problem. And I did at least manage to mend the other machine – the one I used to look up reboot-loop-of-death and how to use those helpful options. It broke the same way on a failed Windows update the following day. But, of course, that machine didn’t have Bitlocker protecting it.

I feel un-protected.

Meanwhile… back at the writing group… it seems we have a fairly appropriate upcoming writing prompt:

WINDOWS!

Think:

  • The eyes are the windows to the soul.
  • Windows is driving me insane (see above).
  • Double glazing is wonderful (we just had it installed).
  • Cataract surgery is wonderful too (I no longer have triple vision – I’m not an alien!).
  • And defenestration is truly a wonderful word (even tempting at times like this).

Which one caught your imagination? Which story will you tell?

Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving

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Today I had my annual mammogram – I’m thankful for advances in medicine that keep track of my health.

Then I went for my annual blood test but they’d lost the order – I’m thankful for the kind assistant who got it reinstated and took my blood – I’ll be even more thankful if my cholesterol’s gone down – I’ve been working on it, and I’m thankful for living in a place where it’s so easy to get exercise.

Next was a quick trip to the bread store, feeling seriously hungry by now since I’d fasted for the blood test. Sadly the bread store had mislaid my order too – it’s one of those days – but I’m thankful for helpful and patient staff who reconstructed it and introduced me to some wonderful gluten-free rosemary garlic bread, my official new favorite!

In Safeway I forgot what I was shopping for – that hunger thing I guess – I’m thankful I (think I) remembered.

And back home I was thankful for food, at last! Then the phone rang – the hospital wanted to set a date for my cataract surgery, so I’m thankful there’s a chance my eyesight could improve again – I’m really looking forward to the day!

The phone rang again – our new windows have arrived and they wanted a date to install them – I’m thankful for warm double-glazing and clear glass, and for the fact that soon we’ll have them both throughout the house.

And the phone rang – that strange foreign voice said I had a problem with windows on my computer – I’m thankful I don’t have a problem, and I love Windows 10.

And I’m thankful!

What are you thankful for?

Writing Exercise

Our Writers’ Group prompt for December is white, and for March it’s windows. With eyes, double-glazing and computers, there are many types of windows we can write about. But which windows are white? Sometimes it’s fun to try to connect two random words, hence this exercise:

  1. How old are you?
  2. Open a book to that page number.
  3. What’s your birthdate?
  4. Pick the line (for day) and word (for month), and write down the word. (i.e. if your birthday is March 20th, pick the 3rd word on the 20th line)
  5. Now do the same for your best friend, spouse, child, or dog… (just one of these)
  6. Can you think of a connection between the two words you’ve found. If so, you’ve probably just engaged your creative side. Creativity inspires writing. So write at least one paragraph inspired by the words and/or their connection.

Happy Writing! And Happy Thanksgiving!

How do you choose your point of view?

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First person, present tense narration – they told me both of these were no-nos, but I read them everywhere. Multiple-viewpoint, told in a mixture of first and third person, is another unlikely mix that I seem to read now all the time. Then there are dual-viewpoint novels, with alternating first-person chapters that let you “get into the head” of both the protagonists and “really understand them.” If you’re George R R Martin you’ll write different chapters from multiple different viewpoints and be everyone’s hero. (If you’re me, you’ll write Divide by Zero similarly, then follow up with Infinite Sum – first person, present tense.) But what do readers want? What do stories need? And what should I be doing?

I read these questions asked in a blogpost about multiple-viewpoint-novels recently: http://www.writersonthemove.com/2015/07/multiple-points-of-view-good-or-bad.html. The author ends her post with a question:

So, what do you think?  Have you ever written anything in this style?  Do you have any examples of books you love (or don’t love) told like this?  When you read one, do you find yourself hurrying through one or more POVs to get to your favorite character?  I’d love to hear in the comments.

This, of course, provoked me to think and comment. I have read and written novels told from multiple points of view. Some I love. Some are okay. And some annoy me. But why? Here’s what I came up with:

  • Changing viewpoints are distracting when they feel forced – when the author chooses the POV because it’s time for a change, rather than because the story demands it.
  • They’re annoying when they make the story repetitive – same scene, alternative view, putting narration on hold.
  • They’re frustrating when the view-points feels cloudy and ill-defined – I have to read the chapter title to realize whose head I’m in ’cause they all sound alike.
  • They’re tiring when they flog the story to death – every view-point told with no exceptions till the reader falls asleep.
  • They’re confusing when they’re unnecessarily inconsistent – A thinks B thinks this but B thinks that and C thinks A couldn’t possible think…
  • But sometimes they’re great.Infinite Sum

So here’s my question. Have you read Divide by Zero? What did you think of the multiple view-point, village-tapestry approach? And will you read Infinite Sum, even though it’s a different story, told in a different way?

And here’s a writing exercise

Get ready to write

  • Choose two characters.
  • Choose one location.
  • Choose a time where your characters might meet in that location.
  • Choose a topic they might discuss.

Write

  • Working from the point of view of your first character:
    • Write one paragraph describing your approach to the meeting place.
    • Write one paragraph describing your first sight of the other character.
    • Write one paragraph describing the discussion
      • Include your feelings
      • Include the other character’s responses.
    • Write one paragraph describing the other person’s exit from the meeting.
  • Now repeat the process from the second character’s point of view.

Read and think about it

  • Which version was easier to write?
  • Which version is easier to read?
  • Why?

Thinking in color

I remember someone asking in junior high if I dreamed in color. I couldn’t imagine why it would even be a question. How else could one dream? Of course, we were all growing up with black and white TV. But you might as well ask if I thought Doctor Who wore gray, or if ManU and ManC played in different featureless shades. It didn’t matter how colorless the image, I saw and dreamed in vibrant rainbow light. And now I write… in color?

A friend pointed out lots of characters in my stories that have green eyes. This got me wondering what color her eyes were, and I’d no idea. So that got me wondering about the use of color in describing things. Can eyes be colored from the point of view of someone who might not see them? Can colors be vivid from the point of view of someone who doesn’t care? And what color is sad?

TV and internet both shine bright in vibrant shades today, so I asked my favorite Google to guide my way. Then I learned those green eyes are pretty relaxed, unstressed, belonging to someone asleep on the sofa or wandering at peace through verdant field and forest. Blue is calm and lovable until its azure darkens toward indigo romance. Yellow has wandering thoughts of imagination, through fruity apricot to richly stimulated shades of excitable orange. Meanwhile red is fiery and filled with flights of adventure, or fury perhaps, flowing over sweet pink’s uncertainty to fuschia-tinted fear. Purple adds poise and purpose, royalty and loyalty. And brown, all beaten-down, unloved, meanders, it seems, without meaning beneath it all.

Meanwhile, back in the world of black and white, their gray shades go from overworked, through tense, to frustrated pallor, so I think I’d still rather dream and write in color. But what about you? What do those colors mean? And what do they mean when you read them?

Or when you drink them!!!!!

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Feeling Green

Having posted something red last month, I really feel like I ought to go for the green today. After all, St. Patrick’s Day’s coming soon and, while it’s singularly unimportant in my homeland (except that there’s a saint with a memorable history to be mentioned in high school assembly), he’s really popular here. And he pinches people who don’t wear green, or so my kids were told.20150309_161559

Oddly enough, one of my publishers encouraged a sense of green in a recent email. He’s just assigned his authors to “groups” and mine is “green fuse.” This sent me searching for the Dylan Thomas poem of course (http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/force-through-green-fuse-drives-flower), and the idea is that we authors should feel driven to grow and flow and be seen on the internet, where readers just might, maybe, find our books. The practice, of course, is somewhat more daunting. For all my multiple blogs and identities, I still feel greenly unskilled, not to mention somewhat unmoored and greenly seasick at the thought. Help! Help! Help! Where’s the virtual life-belt gone?20150309_161501

Meanwhile, since I live in Oregon, there’s an unseasonal bloom of greenness crossing the land. Trees are dropping their blossom to the ground. Daffodils fade. Hyacinths scent the air. And dandelions rejoice in leonine glory across the lawn.20150309_161713

I weeded the fern-bed yesterday, cut back the brown and gray, and saw my answer at last!20150309_161623

That nervous little fronded head, just peaking above the earth? In the virtual world, I think it’s me, and I’m green!

Featureless and unpinned

I was invited to “pin” a picture of myself on a board on “Pinterest.” That shouldn’t be so hard, thought I. There must be pictures of me all over the place. So I tried my WordPress blog, clicked the “pin” button, and found pictures of books and boats and planes – even one of my son – but nothing of me. Okay, over to Blogspot; I tried again and found tons of different authors, several I didn’t even remember, but “Sheila Deeth” was significant only by her absence. What about Facebook – no pinning from there. Twitter – no pictures of me. I tried my Google Plus site and got other people’s books again. Then inspiration struck. I was looking for pictures of me to pin; why not try searching for pictures of me. So I google searched, found pictures (not all of me) and clicked on some. Great! Pin it! Except when I tried to pin the picture, Pinterest brought up other pictures from whichever site hosted me, and nothing of me. Aghghgh! Apparently I’m featureless and unpinnable. But, just in case you’re thinking I don’t exist, here’s a picture of me. I wonder if I’ll manage to pin it…

Meanwhile, how did it get so close to Christmas? HELP !!!!!

Sheila Deeth, English American, Catholic Protestant, author of books for kids and adults, and mongrel Christian mathematician
Sheila Deeth, English American, Catholic Protestant, author of books for kids and adults, and mongrel Christian mathematician