Tag Archives: books

How was your day?

“How was your day?” I ask as my husband returns from work. Sometimes he asks me the same question. Friends ask. Neighbors might ask. But what should I say? How was my day today? And what’s productive anyway?

  • Productive in washing, cleaning, tidying up…? It all has to be done again next week.
  • Productive in yardwork? Well, my herbs are still surviving and being eaten by husband, self and squirrels.
  • Productive in work that I actually get paid for? I don’t earn a lot, but I do get paid to edit novels sometimes, and I almost finished the final edit on one today. That’s a productive day.
  • Productive in editing my own work perhaps? I worked through the publisher file (from my publisher, Cape Arago Press) for Paul’s Purpose–number 12 of the Five-Minute Bible Story Series. That was productive, and depressing. You can find the e-book of Paul’s Purpose here, but maybe you should wait to buy it until I’ve worked through the the errors I found.
  • Productive in writing? I wish (from which you may deduce the answer is no). But I did log onto Amazon author central to see if I’d sold any of my Halloween short stories (Not the Night for Murder). They don’t list sales from the current week though, so the answer was no.81fqd96jwml
  • Productive in producing books? I finally released the Kindle version of an anthology (the Writers’ Mill Journal Volume 6) for our local writers’ group. If they paid me for this (minimum wage? how many hours?) I’d earn as much producing as I do editing. But they don’t. It’s my gift back to those who give me so much encouragement.51o8flzwugl
  • Productive in drawing? That’s what I do (on the computer) when my brain’s so fried I can’t see words anymore. It doesn’t count as work, I suppose, but it illustrates books sometimes for that writers’ group. There’ll be quite a few of my pictures in our next release–Carl and June: Tales of Two by Matthew McAyeal and the Writers’ Mill.Carl in spiderman pajamas 2
  • Productive in cooking? Nah, I had some good leftovers so we ate them. Really good was the leftover birthday cake from the Writers’ Group. If they pay me in cake I’ll be happy… so I’m happy.
  • Productive in shopping? I still can’t fathom how I fitted it in today, but yes; I bought gluten-free bread, real bread, fruit and vegetables, milk, beer and cheese–the essentials of life (except for chocolate, and I still have chocolate leftover from my own birthday–Yum!).
  • Productive in blogging? What do you think? I even sent out a newsletter earlier this week. Click here for my mail-chimp sign-up  if you’d like to receive it… please 🙂

So, “How was your day?”

Mine was productive it seems.

Advertisements

How Many Books Can You Fit In One Garage?

If you’ve followed my blog you’ll know our basement flooded six months ago. One month ago our kind and generous sons started moving our furniture back down to the newly refloored and redecorated rooms. Two weeks ago I started moving boxes of books. There were… er… rather a lot of boxes of books…

20170121_082054

Soon there were… er… rather a lot of books all over my floor…

20170808_155639

But look at it now!

20170810_183141My reading room/library is full to the brim with new friends and old, all waiting to be read and re-read. And my world is back to an even-better kind of normal.

But how many books are there? How many could you fit in your garage? And have you added Subtraction to your book collection yet?

51ryws67wol

Evolution of a back cover blurb

The novel’s called Subtraction. It’s going to be released on August 1st. And it needed a back cover blurb. (Watch this space for the real cover, coming soon!)

subtraction copy

I spent a day with many Facebook friends working on this, and I am hugely grateful to them. I’m grateful for links to great “how to write a blurb” sites – especially https://kindlepreneur.com/back-book-cover-blurb/. I’m grateful for advice, for revised sentences, new ways of looking at the storyline and words, and … everything. And here’s how it worked out.

Version 1: On a road trip to look for a missing girl, a schoolteacher finds himself. Love, cats and colleagues remind him the world’s not all evil, but can he truly forgive the darkness it hides? Is trust just weakness in disguise, or is it a gift, a freedom and a hope that things subtracted might yet be restored?

Comments –

  • doesn’t really tell the reader anything: road trip, yes, but what happens on the trip
  • on the other hand, does kind of give away the ending.

Version 2: Can subtraction be a positive? Can loss be a gain? And can a lonely schoolteacher find himself (love and cats) on a cross-country road trip in search of a missing child? Subtraction is a story of love, loss and hope as strangers prove to be sometimes kind, dark places hide light, and middle-grade schoolchildren learn about math, acceptance, and generosity.

Comments –

  • Too existential
  • why is he looking for her?
  • Starting with the inciting incident will focus readers on what’s going to happen

Version 3: When a misfit student disappears from math class, her teacher embarks on an epic cross-country journey to find her. But who is he really looking for? Why is the pretty new art teacher so keen to help? And where do all the cats come from?

Comments –

  • too short
  • needs names
  • tell enough of the story – to the middle say – to hook your reader.

Version 4: When autistic Amy goes missing from her special ed math class, teacher Andrew Callaghan is desperate to save her… or save himself. Stella DeMaris, the new art instructor, offers to help. Soon the two erstwhile strangers set off on a road trip across America, held back by memories of Andrew’s past and spurred on by mysterious cats. Andrew imagines Amy’s dead body in every passing shadow, but Stella’s determined to prove there’s hope for everyone, including two misfit teachers and misfit kids.

Comments –

  • Don’t use easy labels – don’t say she’s autistic
  • Try “and save himself” instead of “or save himself,” or it might sound creepy
  • Why does he think she needs saving
  • Readers forget about Amy by the time they get to the cats.
  • Remember, the person reading the blurb doesn’t know the story.
  • Think about 3 sentences
    • Goal
    • Disaster that keeps him from his goal, and potential consequences for him
    • Sum up the journey and what he’ll have to overcome.

Version 5: Andrew Callaghan suspects that his student Amy, who has gone missing, has been murdered. With the help of Stella DeMaris, the school’s new art instructor, he sets off on a road trip to find what happened to her. Tortured by memories of his own dead daughter, Andrew sees Amy’s body in every passing shadow, while Stella sees cats, and the path grows harder to find.

Comments –

  • The end is just as important as the beginning, so find a better ending.

Version 6: Andrew Callaghan suspects his student Amy, who has gone missing, may have been murdered. With the help of Stella DeMaris, the school’s new art instructor, he sets off on a road trip to find what happened to her. Tortured by memories of his own dead daughter, Andrew sees Amy’s body in every passing shadow, while Stella sees cats. But Amy is speeding ahead of them. She’s not the sort to understand “stranger danger.” Can they find her in time?

Comments –

  • Amy’s danger belongs at the start, not the end
  • How do they know she’s ahead of them?

Version 7: Andrew Callaghan suspects his student Amy, who has gone missing, may have been murdered. With the help of Stella DeMaris, the school’s new art instructor, he sets off on a road trip to find what happened to her. Tortured by memories of his own dead daughter, Andrew sees Amy’s body in every passing shadow, while Stella, ever hopeful, sees cats. But where will the cats lead them, and will Amy be dead or alive at the end of the trail?

Comments – it’s the winner! (Well, I always like 7s.) So what have I learned:

  • Ask myself what genre my book is, even if the answer is multiply-defined.
  • Pick out the most important thread in the story and include it in the first sentence of the blurb.
  • Leave out any unnecessary information
  • Provide enough motivation for the main character’s actions.
  • Make sure the ending makes readers want to know more.

Coming soon – August 1st, Subtraction by Sheila Deeth

and here are the blurbs for Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, the books that came before it. (Each one is standalone – related, but not contiguous.)

Divide by Zero: It takes a subdivision to raise a child, and a wealth of threads to weave a tapestry, until one breaks. Troy, the garage mechanic’s son, loves Lydia, the rich man’s daughter. Amethyst has a remarkable cat and Andrea a curious accent. Old Abigail knows more than anyone else but doesn’t speak. And in Paradise Park a middle-aged man keeps watch while autistic Amelia keeps getting lost. Pastor Bill, at the church of Paradise, tries to mend people, Peter mends cars. But when that fraying thread gives way it might takes a child to raise the subdivision-or to mend it.

Infinite Sum: 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 for a writing prompt –

  • write a blurb for the book you’re writing, want to write, or wish you’d written
  • Does the first sentence describe the most important storyline?
  • Is there enough information to motivate the characters?
  • Is the information clear enough to avoid its being misunderstood?
  • Does the last sentence give too much away, or entice the reader to want more?
  • Then rewrite your blurb.

Maundy

A new command was given on Maundy Thursday – a mandate – mandatum – hence the name. And in honor of “loving one another,” priests wash parishioners’ feet, kings and queens give coins, and altars are stripped ready to remember that giving of it all.

The story below comes from my Bible gift book: Easter, Creation to Salvation in 100 words a day. And if you want to know what happens next (the end of the world perhaps), look for Revelation, from Easter to Pentecost in 100 words a day. Enjoy.

(And if you want a writing prompt, write about the wonder of the season – Easter, spring, whatever season this means to you.)

44. Maundy Thursday

bread and wine

The streets were quiet. Night had fallen, everyone sleeping or praying, except for them.

“Strange about the bread,” said James, still tasting forbidden matzos eaten after lamb.

“And the blessing”—“This is my body,” the master had said, reminding them of something they were too full, or too tired to remember.

They stopped at a garden, sat on rocks, lay on grass, their bodies weary with food. And they barely noticed when Jesus left to pray with Peter, James and John.

Matthew looked up. “Huh? Where’d they go?” then, “Wonder what happened to Judas.”

Voices whispered. Armor jangled. Footsteps approached.

Mark 14:22 “…Take, eat: this is my body.”

 After they’d eaten the Passover meal, Jesus blessed and broke another matzo. He prayed over the third cup of wine—cup of redemption, blood of the lamb—and the feast drew to its end.

Maundy Thursday evening begins a three-day celebration of Easter: Maundy pennies to the poor; priests washing the people’s feet. But it’s communion that matters most—bread and wine shared in remembrance of Him. We file out from church, leaving the light shining in a tiny garden—shrubs and flowers, a place of Easter prayer.

And through the night, people visit, to watch and pray one hour.

45. Good Friday

crucifixion

It didn’t seem so long ago she carried her baby to the Temple, and an old man prophesied, “A sword will piece your heart.”

She hadn’t known what sort of sword. There were all the little swords of childhood, watching and caring for the boy, losing and finding him. There was the sword of his leaving home, and the day he addressed the crowds: “These are my mother and brothers,” as if she hadn’t left everything to follow him too.

This sword was a soldier’s spear, piercing her dead son’s heart.

A mother shouldn’t have to watch her baby die.

John 1:29 “…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

 Good Friday’s service is the long one. We stand and kneel and sit on cue, and pray for all times and all peoples.

The priest holds up the crucifix—“Behold the wood of the cross.” And all other symbols stay hid under their purple cloths—statues in mourning. The congregation marches forwards to bestow our reverent kisses, quickly wiped.

It must look strange—we fools for Christ; irrational kisses in remembrance of God’s salvation. I touch my lips to plastic, and my heart touches mystery.

Returning home we celebrate with hot cross buns, sweetness and spice, pleasure and pain together.

46. Holy Saturday

death

“They tell me Judas has killed himself. I doubt I could even do that right.

“Remember me, Jesus? I’m the one that betrayed you; told them I never even knew you. I stood there, and I saw you look at me.

“Remember me? I’m the one that couldn’t walk on water after all; can’t even walk right on land. You said you’d build your church on me, called me a rock. Some rock. Some church.

“Remember me, Jesus? And you tell me to remember you.

“I remember seeing you dead and buried, so tell me, now what do I do?”

John 15:5 “I am the vine, ye are the branches…”

 We left the church in silence on Good Friday, the altar bare—no candles, no flowers, no music, joyful or sad. On Saturday evening, we’ll meet together in the parking lot, beside the Paschal fire, the air filled with excitement and smoke, shouting “Alleluia” instead of “Crucify.” On Holy Saturday evening we’ll all stand forgiven, and the grave lie empty.

New light, new life, new hope tonight. My brother, the priest, sings “Lumen Christi” and we answer “Deo Gratias”—light of Christ; thanks be to God. Beautiful music, beautiful prayers, and beautiful hope.

This night, our Savior is risen.

47. Easter Sunday

resurrection

“King of the Jews.”

“So they say.”

“D’you think he’ll stay dead?”

The older man laughed. He’d been a soldier long enough to know, the dead don’t walk. “We killed him son.” And if they could keep the body guarded, maybe peace would return to the violent province.

They sat around the fire, telling war stories to flames, cursing the land, scorning people who might be foolish enough to try to steal a corpse.

Then they saw what they could not see, and heard what they could not hear. In the morning, the grave stood empty; the dead had walked.

John 11:25 “…I am the resurrection, and the life…”

 Jesus walked the earth again for forty days. His disciples saw Him. Huge crowds ate and talked with Him. And those who chronicled events wrote their tales, while eye-witnesses still lived to disagree. Like newspaper reporters today, each stressed his own version. But together they tell one story, one the authorities couldn’t suppress, though it would have been so easy to disprove—if there’d only been a body.

After the forty days, Jesus disappeared. After fifty, at the Jewish Pentecost, the Holy Spirit turned frightened fishermen into Fishers of Men. And two thousand years later Christians still follow the carpenter.

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.

51n7qiog09l
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.

 

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.

ScreenShot2016-05-11at5.43.20PM

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!

 

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

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?

Feeling authorly, and writing Bible stories

Last weekend I went to the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference and suddenly felt like an author. Perhaps it was the way my books were displayed with such care. Perhaps it was the keynote speaker, Jane Kirkpatrick, welcoming me with her usual open arms. Or perhaps it was hearing my name mentioned in her talk! Whichever the cause, I came home walking on air.

Photo of Sheila and Jane
Sheila Deeth and Jane Kirkpatrick at Oregon Christian Writers

But our Coffee Break Bible Study group was coming to an end and I needed a story to shape the summer while we wait to meet again. I had nothing to say. Until my proof copy of Galilee’s Gift arrived in the mail, and opened, by chance, to the page headed “The Bent and Beautiful Woman.”

Cover photo of Galilee's Gift
Galilee’s Gift

The hand of chance belongs to God, they tell me. And Coffee Break is a women’s Bible Study group, filled with women, all beautiful to God, however the world might bend us. So I read the story, my story, and suddenly knew what I had to say. This bent and beautiful woman, like us, was healed by Jesus; but better than that, she learned that she was precious in God’s sight. What better reminder for us in the summer break?

Gift basket for an author
Gift basket for an author

Meanwhile those wonderfully supportive Coffee Break Bible Study ladies gave me a gift, with coffee mug, pens, mouse-pad, and even a bag to carry all my books to my next conference, everything decorated with website and publicity photos of me. Suddenly I felt like an author again!

Thank you ladies. Thank you God!

Transatlantic Computing

Galilee's Gift
Galilee’s Gift

The phone number always comes up as “out of area.” Sometimes it means it’s a telemarketer, but I always have to answer because it might mean the caller is seriously, transatlantically out of area, in which case a family member is probably trying to contact me from England. So I lift the receiver. I say “Hello.” And the reply from my brother is, “My computer needs some help.”

I suspect, having just had to call in the services of our local Friendly Computers when my hard drive died, I may not be the best person to call for computer help. But my nephew was out, my other brother (the technological one) was about to go out, and I came in as third choice.

They’d already tried the “switch off and wait a bit” option. It didn’t help. They’d tried typing in a wrong password to confirm the one they were using was definitely right. But the user account wouldn’t load, and they couldn’t get into a windows screen.

Technological brother had suggested safe mode, so now I guided the pressing of the dreaded F8 key until the right screen appeared. We found our way to the control panel, repair and restore, and various ok buttons. We agreed this would be better than nothing and we let the computer do its work, close down, restart… and my brother (the non-technological one) was back online!

My first transatlantic computer repair job is successfully completed, but will it stick? Perhaps if my brother can’t log on tomorrow the nephew or technological brother will be more conveniently located. But I did feel a pleasant buzz of success as he surfed the internet. I even went on to complete the read-through of Galilee’s Gift, finding typos and feeling guilty, and sending my heartfelt apologies to the publisher. Still, that set of four books will look really cool when they’re finished, and I really hope they’ll read well too. Then I’ll write some more… assuming my computer holds up.