Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sliding a final achievement under the wire...

The year's almost over and I really can't believe it. Where did the time go? I've been reading my friends' resolution lists posted online, and feeling bad about my lack thereof - of lists I mean; I have plenty more resolutions than I need.

Get published. Get published. That seems to be my constant refrain, but not an aim I can claim to have much control over. Last year I tried amending it to "submit," and I think I managed it. At least, I was managing until summer. But then it was Christmas and New Year's Eve. Where did the time go?

Still, I am sliding one final achievement under the wire of '09. I took the Poetic Asides November challenge, sometime in those missing months, and wrote a poem a day for 30 days. But then you have to organize a collection of 10-20 poems to complete the task. I finished today. (Luckily dinner was easy to make.) And now I have a collection of 20 poems, entitled Patriot Son. All I have to do is email it and I can claim to have entered one final competition to complete the year.

Oddly enough, having started to use Snowflake Pro (bought cheap when it first came out) to help edit my stories, I decided to try it on organizing my poems; it worked great! I would never have believed I could choose 20 from 30 and reorder them so conveniently.

Now if I could just find some nice cheap software to edit and reorder the rest of my life - or even just to organize those phantom submissions... for 2010. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Writing at Christmas ?

Written note from son, found on the breakfast table this morning - "I've run out of contact fluid Mum. Please can you get some more for me before lunch." Son gets up at lunchtime (goes to bed at some unearthly hour), so the note makes perfect sense. And luckily there was a sample pack still in the cupboard so I didn't need to go shopping after church.

Other than that, there's not been much writing done here over the last few days. Lots of eating, which was nice; really nice in fact. And turkey butties, of which I will soon make some more for that afore-mentioned lunch. I did write my usual hundred words a day, except if you look at my drabbles (stories, above) you'll notice I didn't always write or post them quite at the right time. And I've just posted the last of my Christmas Bible studies, but it was written weeks ago.

Reading? I've done plenty of that: Christmas cards and letters, catching up, with thanks and joy, on news of the year gone by; newspapers, catching up on the days; books, catching up on overdue reviews (so yes, I did write two reviews); and internet, catching up on which movies to rent for us all to watch together - my mother, husband, three grown-up sons and me, so we're a hard group to please. Oh, and I read the rules for the board game we'll continue to play this afternoon.

If you were trying to write over Christmas, I hope your writing went well. If you were taking time off, I hope you've had fun. And whatever you're doing, I'll wish you all the joy of the season before I go make (and season) those turkey butties and wake up those sons.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's beginning to taste like Christmas

I'm not sure what I did wrong with the Christmas cake this year; when it came to pouring the mixture into the tin it didn't fit. I greased another round for it (and fed the final scrapings into my mouth--the best bit of baking). The kitchen smelled fruitily and spicily delightful while the oven did its work. Then timer pinged, sharp knife confirmed, and there we were, with Christmas cake and a spare.

When friends came round I used icing and plastic holly to decorate the spare. As a mini-Christmas cake it was nice, as was the stollen with nutmeg icing, the chocolate, and the nuts... Sugar and spice...

Afterwards we left nuts and candy in dishes on the coffee table. I nibble them as I pass--bad for the waistline, but good...

It's beginning to taste like Christmas and it's fun.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's beginning to sound like Christmas

No, I don't meant the music. There was music in the stores today, though at least it wasn't too loud or too wearying. There were people too, all talking at once. There were children crying and parents saying "No." But that wasn't it.

The sound of Christmas was the voice of a son on the phone, happy and excited to share good news, and filling us with joy. To think that he'd tell his parents first! So now he knows where he's going next year. Now we know where he'll be. Now he can plan.

And just maybe we can plan his Christmas presents to match what he'll need. (What's the weather like in Texas?)

The sound of joy; that's the sound of Christmas. It's still ringing in my head.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's beginning to smell like Christmas

This morning the house smelled of furniture polish. Not a bad smell, kind of like spring and lavender; clean and fresh. It wasn't a bad feeling either, knowing the housework's done, and thanking Mum.

But this afternoon; that's a different tale. This afternoon we filled the bread-maker with stollen, put a Christmas cake into the oven, and set a two-pound Christmas pudding to boil on top of the stove.

This afternoon it's beginning to smell like Christmas. And who cares if it's raining outside while we have colored lights and spicy scents to keep us warm?

I posted another Christmas drabble too - just click on stories to see it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beginning to look like Christmas

They're saying it might snow soon, so we've been trying to fit lots of activities into my Mum's first few days with us. Driving out to Multnomah Falls today, it certainly began to look a lot like Christmas.

Afterward we drank hot chocolate to warm frozen hands, then went out to buy a Christmas tree. Looks like Christmas in our living room too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beginning to feel like Christmas

It's strange the way your fingers freeze, not straight away but just as you start to believe maybe they won't. And noses too. Even the "I-don't-need-a-coat" son buys a scarf. I shop for gloves 'cause Mum says I should.

It's strange the way hats and scarves and gloves disappear from year to year. Then you enter the store; your ears feeling cold as you leave. "Where's your hat?" "I don't know."

It's strange the way it feels like the year before with no time in between. Mum's here with Christmas in her smile, and while shopping for food should be boring it's turned into fun when we do it as one.

So maybe it's not so strange after all, just beginning to feel like Christmas. The family arrives and it's cold outside.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Red and Blue

Christmas Bazaar - decorations - bright reds, shining greens - blinking lights - Christmas music - cold winds.... oh, those very cold winds every time the door opened to let all the customers in.

There were visitors, browsers, friends who walked round all the stalls but left purses at home; I suspect they were wise. It might be too easy to find yourself spending too much.

But I sold all my copies of Voicecatcher, so I now owe a nice large check to voicecatcher.org. I sold bookmarks and stocking stuffer stories as well - see my stories link above to find out what they are - but not one of my books, and I left feeling blue.

The lights are still bright (some of them are blue too), so I'll look on the red side instead; I did give away lots of brochures, made lots of new friends, and I wore a warm coat. What more do I need?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wondering How I Write

Perhaps I could use my time more efficiently by writing, but I've got a headache so instead I'll just think about writing for a while. I've read quite a few blog posts recently by authors telling how they create novels. It's comforting that there isn't just a single "right way" and the advice to "write the way that works for you" makes lots of sense. But what about writing the way that works for the novel? I'm only asking because as I head into editing all my current manuscripts again - my usual winter task - using Snowflake to organize myself, I'm wondering how I'd have used the software at the writing stage, and realizing that I approached the writing of each novel completely differently. Perhaps that just means I haven't worked out what works for me yet, but I felt like it was working at the time.

My first novel - Chasing Shadows - is about a character who kept invading my every feeble attempt at writing something serious. I gave up in the end and decided to write about her. Each chapter wrote itself like a long response to some question I'd asked. Then I glued the answers together, switched their order, tried to make a timeline, and eventually had a novel. Snowflake would have helped me avoid "losing" a chapter (which I did at one point - storing it in the wrong directory and forgetting it was already written).It would have made the reordering much easier too since I'd have used one-sentence scene summaries rather than sheets of paper all over the kitchen floor.

My second attempt - Divide by Zero - grew out of a rather large set of short stories whose characters kept reappearing. When one of the characters committed a crime I realized I wanted to turn them into a novel. Snowflake would have saved me all those endless files of story names, story lists, reordered story lists, lost files, forgotten names, switching eye colors, etc.

Third novel - Hemlock Edge. This started with a set of four short stories about magical teenagers. Then I planned the major events in the novel. Then I realized it was a series and planned the major events in the first novel. Then I wrote a synopsis. Half the scenes were written forwards, one after another, with those first four stories at the start. The rest were scenes that I wrote when I felt like it, threaded in as I reached the right place. Yes. Snowflake would have been great - not least because I would have had a record of all my characters ready and waiting for the second in the series, I wouldn't have accidentally changed someone's family dynamics, and the "right place" for each scene would have been ready and waiting instead of half-forgotten.

Fourth - Obituaries. This time I was writing forwards from start to finish, using Textnovel. And I changed the spelling of the main character's name. It needs lots of work - changing points of view - too much time spent in one character's head - scenes that I just wrote 'cause I felt like it. I think Snowflake would have helped me stay on track better; I could've written notes for where I was planning to go, instead of finding myself meandering.

Fifth - Hemlock Bees. That's the one I've just finished and am now editing with Snowflake's help.

Sixth - Resurrections. It's only got one chapter so far. It's the sequel to Obituaries, and since textnovel's not letting me post for some reason, I'm going to edit Obituaries first. Probably a good idea anyway. Snowflake will give me a character list with jobs and places of business and house descriptions to keep me on track.

Of course, there's the kids' books too. Do they count as novels? I'm certainly going to use Snowflake with my stories about a first-grader called David. Trying to remember which friend is gluten intolerant, which one hates reading, which one always jumps off high places, etc. is driving me up the wall. Probably the fact that I only write it when the sun's shining in the right direction doesn't help.

I think my conclusion is I'd've used Snowflake differently in each novel - keeping a record of scenes as I wrote them, then shifting them round - making a record of stories and reordering them, keeping track of changes to names and locations etc - actually writing a synopsis and a planned scene list for Hemlock - making notes as I went along with Obituaries, and keeping track of what direction it was heading - listing ideas ready to turn them into scenes when the sun shines the right way...

And now I really should start using it for my edits. Headache improving. Time to get to work.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Working backwards is fun too

I've spent a while playing with my Snowflake Pro software and my first Hemlock book. It's going pretty well. So, for those friends who've not met the Snowflake Guy (Randy Ingermanson), here's a few notes...

1. The software downloads and installs really easily - always a plus.
2. The welcome page has a neat diagram of a snowflake, and quick explanation of its relevance to writing a novel. Basically, the idea is that your novel has a beginning middle and end - three sides, like a triangle. If you add a triangle sticking out from the middle of each side, and another triangle sticking from the middle of each resulting side, etc... you end up with a snowflake. Meanwhile you're adding ideas to your one-sentence summary and turning it into a novel.
3. There's access to lecture notes and a spoken lecture at each stage of the program, to help you know what you're doing and why. And Randy's a really good speaker.
4. So, after doing the basics - title, genre, audience, expected word-count, author bio etc. - Snowflake Pro invites you to write that dreaded "one sentence summary." In my case, with the novel already written, finding a way to describe it in one sentence is something I really need, or how will I sell it.
5. Next, you expand the sentence into a paragraph. 5 sentences now - setup, 1st disaster (1st act of a 3-act novel); then 2nd and 3rd disasters (act 2); then conclusion (act 3)... and then into several paragraphs for the synopsis. Organized writers plan their novels at the start I suppose, but working backwards is fun too.
6. Just before writing the synopsis Snowflake asks you to list the characters. This is the part I'm really enjoying - what are their abstract goals; what are their goals in this particular novel (I'm writing a series - I can even add notes about how their goals will change). There's space for one-sentence summaries of the characters and one-paragraph descriptions.
7. On a later page Randy's created a whole long list of questions about each character. At last, a place where I can store hair color, eye color, height, fashion sense etc... I can even imagine what their favorite books are then scatter them on the shelves; what are their hobbies? What does their house look like? Again, I've already written the first two books. I have files full of notes about who's who and where they live, but this way I put all my notes in one place, and when I start editing (next job) I'll have everything to hand.
8. Soon I'll start work on the scene list. This time I really will be working backwards, deconstructing the scenes as I edit and writing (again) one-sentence summaries. With space to remind myself whose point of view I'm using, a record of page-length to help me avoid overlong and overshort scenes, this should be really helpful.
9. At the end of it all, the summaries I've typed in earlier will be used to create my book proposal...
10. ...by which time it will probably be snowing.

So that's a one-paragraph summary of Snowflake Pro, and so far it's just what I needed. Thanks Randy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Snowflakes in the sun

No. It's not snowing. But I've finally caught up on the long weekend so I'm settling down to play with my new writers' software, Snowflake Pro. I'm analyzing my first Hemlock novel, finished this time last year, and planning to move on to the second one afterward. I'll be trying to import and export characters and locations between the stories. And since both novels include multiple points of view I'll be fascinated to see how the software lets me highlight them. Hopefully that will help me spot and fix any problems. Meanwhile I'm really looking forward to working with scenes and seeing how well they all fit together, hard to tell when I'm just reading what I've written. And then who knows, if I get really hooked I might even start writing book 3 with Snowflake Pro as my guide. Book 4 perhaps??? This should be fun--should also be close to miraculous if it gets me organized.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Dinner in the evening since the boys won't get up till lunch - that's okay; means I can enjoy a lie-in too.

Turkey and ham - both small, but make sure there's space in the oven for them, and for other things too. Cornbread casserole with black beans and goat's cheese for example, since one of the sons is vegetarian.

Candied yams - one day I'll find a recipe that everyone likes, but I fell in love them our first American Thanksgiving. Potatoes and carrots too. And cranberry sauce.

Vegetarian sausages with apples; not for me 'cause they have wheat in them, but I know the guys will eat 'em.

Gluten-free bread for me; real bread for them. Careful separation of crumbs. And the dressing made with mine - hope it doesn't dissolve.

Gluten-free apple pie because we're English - haven't quite acquired a taste for pumpkin yet. But I'm wondering how the pastry will work - it usually turns out kind of brick-like, made with gluten-free cement. Maybe cream will soften it.

Movies. Board games. Good books. A glass of wine. And the table set for dinner...

Yes, I'm planning and looking forward to tomorrow, and wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award


I blog, and I can't spell. Maybe that's why Cathy Bryant at WordVessel just awarded me my second Kreativ Blogger Award. It means I have to post a picture of the award, list 7 favorite things, and pass the award on to 7 favorite blogs. So here's some random favorite things, in a totally random order…

1. Sunshine after rain (but not if I’m driving in it)
2. Dogs chasing spherical objects on the green
3. Squirrels chasing each other round a tree trunk
4. Sons coming home for holidays
5. Mum coming to stay for Christmas (She arrives 2 weeks today!!!)
6. That feeling when a story comes out of my head and lands safely in the computer.
7. The moment when someone says “Yes, I’ll buy your book” (better still, buy two).

And seven favorite blogs…

The Blood Red Pencil – great advice for aspiring writers.
Terry’s Place – more great advice for writers; fun reading too.
Second Wind Publishing – they publish great books and their authors write a good blog. Plus they've got a fantastic competition going on.
Living, Writing and Other Stuff – I’ve only just started following this one, but I love the articles, and the title says it all.
Blest Atheist – another one I’ve only just started following. Great Bible study and you really shouldn't miss the conversion story.
Breakthrough Blogs – because his articles are always so fascinating – scientific and mystical and fun.
Tilly the Rescue Dog’s Blog – well, I said I like dogs…

Okay, that’s seven. I have lots more favorites, but they can wait till next time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sold two, read three

I spent yesterday at a Christmas Bazaar trying to sell books. Lots of people came and talked to me, and I practiced my rather feeble selling skills.

"Oh no, I don't have any young children..."
"Well, these ones are for families. Would you like to look?"

"I should have made a list. I don't know who to buy for."
"D'you know anyone who likes reading perhaps?"

"Are your books Christian?"
"Yes they are. Are you interested in that?"

"My church might like them I guess."
"Could you give them a brochure for me please?"

9am till 4pm and I only sold two books, though I gave away lots of brochures and business cards. And in the times when no one was looking I finished reading three titles from my review list. I even wrote the reviews on the computer when I got home, so not a dead loss.

The next sale takes place a week on Tuesday and I'll hope for better luck then. Since it includes an "open mic" I'll ask everyone I meet if they can advise me what to say.

Can you advise me? Please?

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Did It !!!

Okay, it must be time to edit now, and set my nice new Snowflake software working on my middle-grade novels. But I did it - I finally finished the first draft of book two. My characters were really quite excited about it and kept me glued to the computer.

Afterwards I read one of the books that I'm meant to review by the end of the month, so all in all it's been a pretty productive day.

And tomorrow I'll try to sell books at another bazaar. Please wish me luck. I'm signing off now to print price lists and labels and "stocking stuffer stories" to add to my stall. Is Christmas really coming soon?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Murphy's Law and the Lean Mean Machine

I think it's Murphy's law that says if I really really want to write then something's bound to come up. So here I am, all inspired by my characters bouncing up and down in my brain, Snowflakes ready and eager to organize me, and...

Well, the dishwasher leaked, which was wet, and the man came to mend it, which was wetter. My son's computer arrived, not wet because I stayed close enough to the door to hear the doorbell (i.e. I wasn't on my computer). The odd rattly thing in the case sent me phoning tech support who tried not to laugh and said it was a light. (I didn't know computers had lights.) Then we went shopping for a monitor, but they'd sold out of the one my son had so carefully researched, so we drove further...

Meanwhile, I wanted to write, and I have a ton of books that I'm meant to be reading and reviewing, and our book group meets tonight.

Windows 7 was fun though. We switched on the machine and it recognized the printer straight away. It even almost connected to the lan, but I needed to set up the name and sort out the password. Next, much to everyone's amazement, I found the site to download our favorite virus-scanner, which installed smoothly and fast. However, babysitting the computer wasn't conducive to writing. Neither was babysitting the dishwasher. Aghghgh. And I forgot I was meant to be babysitting the washing as well...

I'll get around to writing again soon, and reading, I hope.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Snowflakes on my computer

No; it's not snowing outside. In fact, at the moment it's not even raining though it was five minutes ago (this is Portland). But there are snowflakes growing in my computer and if my writing's somewhat incoherent it's probably due to the shock of finally starting to get organized.

I went to a writing conference a few years back and one of the speakers was Randy Ingermanson. He was really good - a fun speaker, with lots of great ideas, very down to earth and practical (unless you count his ambition to achieve Total World Domination, but perhaps that's not impossible either.)

One of his very practical suggestions was a talk about the Snowflake method of writing a novel. It appealed to me - reminded me of teaching Snowflake curves to elementary school-kids back in England. And it made great sense as a way to grow an idea into a novel, with all the details of character and plot filling themselves in along the way (along the edges) - the perfect solution to my meandering tales that suddenly thunder off to wild conclusions. But it involved being organized - keeping documents and files in the right places, remembering to update them, having the right ones available... If you know me you'll know being organized is not my strongest suit.

Anyway, I heard yesterday that "the Snowflake Guy," i.e. Randy Ingermanson, has come up with the perfect solution for someone like me. Snowflake Pro - a computer program that organizes all that random data for me, giving me access from one simple screen on my desktop. So now there's snowflakes growing in my computer - one for each of the novel's I've written or am writing. Characters will keep the same color eyes, plots will move forwards instead of backwards and sideways, and I'll balance my scenes far more carefully between crises and resolutions. It's just what I needed and I love it! Thank you Snowflake Guy!

Oh yeah, and it's just started to rain again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Now I know why I needed a Plot

Not so very long ago I was writing the second in a series of middle-grade novels. It was going pretty well, as I remember. But then I got distracted when someone invited me to join textnovel. I set my magical teenagers aside so I could write a romantic mystery. Then I worked on my website and my blog. And then I caught up with some reading, long overdue.

Last weekend I decided it was time to get back to those mysterious teens. And today I finally got round to opening the file. I was pleased to see I'd already written forty out of fifty chapters. How hard could this be? So I greeted my characters with glee, rereading from chapter one and happily pleased to remember the tale. I watched their new school year begin. And then...

And then I realized I hadn't the faintest idea what I'd written. Plotlines that I'd completely forgotten were taking me places I'd no recollection of seeing. It was fun, for sure, and I was thoroughly intrigued with the read till it all came to a halt. And now I'm wondering, where on earth do I go from here?

Don't get me wrong; I do have a plot. Sort of. But it's not the every chapter planned and quartered kind of thing. I know which major events are still to come, but don't know how, and the brain's freezing over. Perhaps a good night's sleep will help, or a leisurely walk round the green. I certainly hope something does because I want to know what happens next. D'you suppose this is writers' block, or just writers' idiocy? I should never have stopped. Or else I should've written a proper plot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Turning my blog into a website - 3

I really ought to get back to writing, but this website game gets addictive. Still, I'll try to make this my last change for a while.

I'd been asking for feedback on my fledgling site, and the major comments I got were:

1. Nobody knows what a drabble is - so I've change the heading (above) to read "STORIES" instead.
2. The free download's too well hidden on the Lulu site - so I added a note at the top of my Lulu page.
3. Advertise the free stuff - see 2 - so I added "FREE STUFF" to the headings above. Unfortunately I ran out of space, so "BIBLE STUDIES" just says "STUDIES" now. Comments anyone?
4. I should use the same colors for titles everywhere - so I changed them in the html code and now they mostly match.
5. I should use the same colors and highlighting for links - so I tried: Oh, how I tried. My blog's template says it's the same as all the other pages, but the change just doesn't seem to happen. Maybe when I get cleverer at html... it looks like there's some other styling hardwired in there, maybe leftover from when I used to use a different template.

So, thank you all for the comments and suggestions. And despite my plan to stop making changes, I'm sure I'll revisit this soon - if only to add some more free stuff as soon as it's finished.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Writer's Journey

Sometimes I wonder if being self-published really qualifies me as a writer. But I know Pat Bertram's a real writer, and I love her first two books, More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire. Pat's third book, Daughter am I, has just been released by Second Wind Publishing and it's high on my Christmas List - maybe after you read this it'll be high on yours too. I'm truly honored to have Pat posting to my blog today, and truly inspired by the piece she's written. Thank you Pat.

When I asked Sheila what topic she’d like me to talk about, she said she’d like to read how I got from where I was before to where I am now, and what advice I would give those dreaming of following. So here is the travelogue of that journey.

Daughter Am I is about a quest, so it’s fitting that during a blog tour to promote the book I should talk about my personal quest as a writer. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. Oh, wait. That’s the first line of David Copperfield! Every quest needs a hero, though, and it’s still to be determined if I will be the hero of mine. I am far from where I want to be, yet I am also aware of how far I have come. Eight years ago, I started out with nothing but time and a desire to get the past out of my head, so I wrote a fictionalized version of my life’s defining moments. Ghastly? Oh, yes! But I did complete the novel, which gave me a bit of satisfaction.

For my second novel, I decided to be clever and compile all the genres into one -- a horror/western/mystery/suspense/thriller/romance/historical/science fiction/ novel. By then I had decided that if I was going to write, I should learn the craft. I’m not being modest when I say I have no innate talent for writing, though I do have a talent for learning, so I set out to learn everything I could about writing. (Here is my first bit of advice -- to learn how to write, you need to learn how to write. It sounds silly, but it’s true.) The very first thing I learned is that neophyte writers often make the mistake of thinking they were being clever by combining all genres into one. Ouch. A painful lesson, though one I haven’t really learned. Most of my books cross genres, though not quite the way I had originally intended.

This second novel eventually became Light Bringer, which was the fourth one I completed, and which will be published in the spring of 2010. I worked on Light Bringer for a bit, then I got the idea for More Deaths Than One, and that story so captured my imagination that I immediately sat down and started writing it. I thought the finished product was great. Wonderful writing. Perfect images. Engaging characters. I even got an agent for it, which says more about the ineptitude of the agent than the worth of the book.

When More Deaths Than One didn’t sell, I reread it to prove to myself that the editors who turned down the book didn’t know a good book when they saw one. Boy, did I have a shock! The thing was dreadful. One character (William Henry Harrison, who eventually became an off-screen -- or rather off-page -- character) told the story to the main character, so it was mostly written in the second person. Eek. And my hero Bob did nothing. He wasn’t even in his own story. So I rewrote the book. Several months later, when the revised book had racked up more rejections, I read it again. Another shock. Still dreadful! It took four major overhauls, fifty books on how to write and self-edit, another novel (while all this was going on, I wrote A Spark of Heavenly Fire), and dozens of edits and copyedits before I finally ended up with a readable book. (Here is my second bit of advice -- when a book is rejected, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the agent or editor is a fool. Perhaps the book isn’t nearly as good as you think it is. Set it aside for weeks, months, even a year, and continue writing and learning how to write. Then look at again and try to assess it honestly.)

I could continue to bore you with the minutiae of my journey, but the point is that I did learn how to write, and you can too. Talent helps, but is not necessary. What is necessary is to learn the craft, to be honest in your self-assessment, and to be willing to rewrite as often as it takes to make the finished product match your vision.

I endured over two hundred rejections during my journey, but what made it worthwhile was finding a publisher who loves my books.

As for the second half of my journey -- finding that publisher -- well, let’s just say it was a matter of persistence. By then I had written four books that I knew were worth reading, so I explored every single possibility. I studied Writer’s Marketplace and Jeff Herman’s directories. I searched agent databases on the Internet. In the end, finding Second Wind was a fluke. I happened to come across a link to their website on a discussion thread, and immediately shot off a query letter. So, here is my final piece of advice -- follow through on every lead that you get. You never know where success will come from.

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Please wish me luck!


I spent this morning setting up my stall at the St. Pius Christmas Bazaar. They've given me a beautiful location, really close to the doors and the checkout, so I'm hoping lots of people will walk by. No, actually I'm hoping they'll stop instead of walking by, and maybe decided to buy...

Anyway, please wish me luck. It's the first sale of the season. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brands, Labels and Catchphrases - 4

A friend asked why I use rainbows as the theme for all my sites, so here's the answer(s).

1. I started out using pictures from my books and trying to advertise. When I wanted to change the picture, I'd just published A Bible Book of Colors on Lulu, so I sliced a piece of rainbow from the cover as my new image.

2. I wanted visitors to my sites to see the text without having to scroll. My rainbow just happened to be nice and thin, so I kept it.

3. And now I'm working on themes - well, the rainbow's a sign of God's promise. Okay, He was promising not to destroy the world with a flood. But seeing a rainbow on my sites serves me as a nice reminder of His love.

4. Then there's the fact that as a kid I "knew" the flood was "just a story" 'cause there had to have been rainbows ever since there was rain and light. I reckoned God couldn't have waited till Noah to make them. But when I read the Bible for myself I found it doesn't actually say God invented rainbows then, just that He used them. It reminds me to read more carefully and keep my eyes open.

5. Which means I'm Inspired by Faith and Science, which kind of fits my theme.

Of course, the theme only applies to my Bible books, but God's promises are for all of me, and I like seeing His rainbows.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brands, Labels and Catchphrases 3

It doesn't look like my efforts have improved the queries reaching my site, but I have to admit, coming up with a catchphrase feels nice. (And I do thank you for your encouragement.) Now I can label my advertising materials more appropriately, and the timing's great since I have my first Christmas Bazaar coming up next weekend. I've even updated my Lulu storefront to match - http://stores.lulu.com/sdeeth - and I like the new version much better. My next job will be to make sure all the colors of the headers are the same, and then to update my blogs so their colors match too. Soon, I hope...

Meanwhile it's November and I still haven't written my first poem-a-day for the Poetic Asides challenge. But I have posted two Mayflower drabbles on my drabble blog.

Time to wax lyrical I think... Poetic Asides to the rescue...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brands, Labels and Catchphrases 2

I checked. My Bible Study blog really did come up on Google if I searched for "demon impregnation stories," but now it's been edged out by my last blog post. In fact, it's been edged so far out it doesn't appear, which I think means nobody's bothered to click on it (not surprising I suppose). And my Halloween drabbles are nowhere in sight.

Meanwhile, I've tried to come up with some labels with words I might use in a post. A friend was helping with lots of great D words for Deeth, drabble, draw, draw out, discern, depict, and Deity... but I still couldn't make it come together. I guess I'm just too attached the whole "faith and science" thing - though Google brings up a ton of stuff (and not me) if you ask about that. Would three words work better...

Faith Science and Inspiration perhaps? FSI? I don't feel inspired, but IFS looks more fun: How about "Bible Study What IFS: Inspired by Faith and Science." Or do you think it's just too corny?

It's worth a try maybe, and I'll complete the experiment by reposting what's already there, with lots of "what ifs" "faiths" and "sciences" in the text.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brands, Labels, and Catch-phrases

I found this thing called Webmaster Tools at the bottom of my blogger dashboard a while ago. I'm certainly no master, but perhaps I can learn...

I signed up (easy), added my blog (likewise), and put the extra bit of code into the html (just followed directions). A week or so later the "query" field started to fill. People were actually finding my site. The problem is, they seemed to be looking for "what to do if you hear a fire alarm." Not quite what I intended.

A few weeks ago I added my new blogs - lots of nice scary stories for Halloween; my first three "what if: faith and science" Bible Studies; and my home page. The dashboard kept telling me "no information" for them, but I waited and hoped. Meanwhile I studied how to make Google look at my labels and list me more often.

Now my blog gets found by people looking for "Deeth" which is a slight improvement. And today I finally got some queries returning my Bible Studies. Unfortunately they were looking for "demon impregnation stories." Ouch! That might've looked better on the Halloween drabbles.

But then I remember, Google's just a computer program after all. If I label my post with "faith and science" but never use the phrase in the article, how's Google supposed to know it's not just words? And if I title my post "Bible Study" but don't mention study...

Okay; back to the drawing board. It's time to think of some useful labels and titles and phrases to match. Is that what they call "branding?"

I used to say I didn't want to brand myself - didn't want to be a square peg squished in a round hole. But now I'm trying to learn how to look square so that a program can see me. Ah, the irony. I'll let you know how it goes...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Keeping Diaries and Taking Notes

Bemoaning the fact that my novella's not going to turn into a novel by the end of the month (why do I set myself such tasks?), I find I'm reading lots of blogs that ask if I keep a diary or write notes. Perhaps the novella would have a better chance if I didn't wander the blogosphere, but that's a different tale.

So, no. I don't keep a journal though I tried, many years ago. Somewhere hid away in a box upstairs there are lots of scarcely used diaries; I don't think there's much of a second hand market for them. January usually has a few entries. February less. There might be a shopping list or two in March, and some notes - yes, yes! I sometimes write notes - tucked in pages in June or July. The notes will be scraps of poetry, or a five-line story, a character study or two, written on a bus, or from a chair in a doctor's waiting room. As notes go, they weren't very effective, lost in a diary, lost in a long-lost cardboard box. But my theory is, and was, that thoughts and scribblings are never really gone; they just become a part of me.

Of course, the question was more like do I write notes at the same time as reading. While I'm reading a math book maybe? No, that's not what she means. I don't take notes while I'm curled up on a chair - it's hard enough just holding onto the book. But I do on the computer, which is where I read most of the books that I end up reviewing. And yes, notes help reviews.

Do I take notes while I'm dreaming my stories and turning novellas into novels? No. I ponder the sound of the words in my head and the shape of the pictures they paint. I walk round the green in deep conversation with invisible characters. If what they say stays with me later in the day then I'll write it as soon as I can. If not, it probably wasn't worth remembering anyway.

Then all the words become a part of me. The characters return if they feel I've let them down and nothing's ever lost. It just doesn't all get written down on the page.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leaves continued

I cleared them again. Four wheel-barrows full of leaves today, compared to twelve last time. And I find myself thinking, twelve baskets of crumbs left behind when the five-thousand fed. Perhaps I've just served lunch to five-thousand spiders. (And perhaps I'd better get my next Bible study ready to post.)

Still, clearing leaves is good for the head, throws out those frustrations with yellow and brown and red. There's squirrels out there digging now in earth that was sticky and sodden before. And maybe the squirrels that wander my mind will find treasures behind those dreams.

No more spiders. Tonight I'll dream squirrels with thick bushy tails telling tales in my sleep.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Leaves

I cleared them. Honest I did. On Tuesday. Before the son came home. And the sun was shining and the colors were bright and the leaves like paper plates all shapes and sizes flittered in the breeze. And drifted from trees.

When they told me books had leaves I wondered why the pages don't crack. But I was younger them, and I'm digressing. Still, paper's made from trees.

California son was impressed by the sun and pleased that Oregon obliged by not being wet, till it rained the next day. Then leaves, like sodden layers of spider-silk, like teeming nests of bugs, dead and alive, like slime that oozed from the Black Lagoon, dripped murkily down on the ground.

I cleared the sludge and detritus again into piles that lie by the road. As long as the fence and half as high, wet leaves and feasters on leaves, but at least it was dark so I couldn't see them crawl and the wind wasn't blowing.

Now I'll leaf my way through pages in books and try to stop looking spiders that flash by my eyes. Fat spiders. Hungry spiders. Evil, black-eyed crawling spiders that are feasting on leaves of my dreams.

But I cleared them. I did. Till the next lot fall.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Watching silly movies with the guys

Actually they're watching football (soccer) now. You know; the one where you actually use your feet to kick the ball. But we watched a really silly movie first, and listening to the guys play spot-the-mistake was quite fun. Apparently it's okay for movies to be illogical, but only if they have enough action to keep you watching. Soul-searching without logic's not allowed, they say.

So I'll keep that in mind while I edit my writing tomorrow. No introspection without external action, unless I'm sure my facts can stand the readers' scrutiny.

Meanwhile I'll scribble illogical drabbles, and check for inspiration on Gather's Wednesday Writing Essentials. It doesn't take so long to write 100 words, and it leaves me free to turn round and watch all the goals.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Terry's Place

I'm blogging over at Terry's Place on Tuesday, so please pay her a visit and read all about my exciting experience self-publishing with Lulu. (You could come back afterwards and click on the "BOOKS" link above to preview the end products if you're interested. It will give you an idea of what Lulu has to offer.)

But you really should stay a while on Terry's site and wander through her past posts. I've learned a lot about the life of a real author, with real deadlines and edits; read some fantastic true-life police tales from Detective Hussey; and added to my list of writing tips to keep in mind (floating body parts most recently); all on the front page.

I'll plan to pop in from time to time during the day, so do please leave me a comment and I'll leave a reply. Meanwhile, thank you Terry for inviting me; I almost feel like a real live blogger at last!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm a Christian and...

“I don’t know how anyone can call themselves Christian and believe in evolution.” So says my friend, who knows me as a Christian. I have to remind myself she’s not judging me, just making a statement about what she doesn’t know.

I’m a Christian, and I believe in gravity, the Big Bang, and evolution. But I wouldn’t normally phrase it that way. “Belief in” seems kind of faith-based, as expressions go. I believe moving cars might kill me if I walk out in front of them. I don’t “believe in” what they might do; it’s just the way things are.

Still, I believe in evolution because:
1. I love to know how things work; God made me that way.
2. I love it when things make sense; God makes things that way.
3. I love the beauty of research that brings together so many questions and answers, that branches into so many different fields, and ends up in the same great place; God loves beauty too.
4. I love the way the Biblical story agrees with the scientific one – and I really do believe that they agree; God spoke and it was so.
5. And I love the fact that the God who made it all, including me, seeks to call me into relationship with Him.

I’m a Christian and I love to see God’s hand in creation.
I’m a Christian and I delight in evolution.
I’m a Christian and I believe the Bible is God’s word. Its interpretation, unfortunately, is all too often man's.

Oh, and I'm really enjoying Richard Dawkins' new book - the Greatest Show on Earth. Of course, he has to get his little digs in at us God-fearing folk. But it's not a book about faith or God, neither pro nor anti either. It's a book about science and evidence and this wonderful,marvelous world that's all around us.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another drabble

This one was another gather challenge, from the Genre Shorties group. The piece has to be 100 words or less, and should be a newspaper article about Cell phones, Reality TV shows, High calorie foods, The Weather, or The price of beans. I might use it again sometime, but I wrote my drabble about cell phones.

And I emailed a submission to an agent that I met at the Muse Online. If you're not there this year, and you're looking for great writing tips, great internet tips, great connections, great advice, etc... well, I'd certainly recommend you sign up for the next one.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Anatomy of a Drabble

It's Wednesday again. It must be time for Gather's Wednesday Writing Essentials. I feel like I've scarcely got time to think this week, with the Muse conference to attend, but I'm sure I can manage the odd hundred words.

So, here's the prompt that I read when I logged on this morning:
• include the thoughts of an animal
• something needs to be incongruous
• use the Visual Thesaurus' Word-of-the-Day on the day that you write to this prompt
• use the word happy or sad, but not both

A quick trip to the dreaded Visual Thesaurus yielded "swashbuckler" for the word, so, knights and animals...

There used to be a swashbuckling fox on childrens' TV in England. I don't remember much about him, except he wore plumes in his hats and he was, well, swashbuckling... But that got me placing my knight on a trusty steed with a fox in the trees.

Something incongruous? Well, it is October, and if you've been following my drabble blog, you'll know I've got Halloween-itis at the moment. So the favors hanging from my brave knight's sword might still be attached to the hand of the woman that wore them, and then... and then...

All that remained was to stick the pictures together into words, then slash and burn till only 100 remained, and then "publish post." You can see my effort here if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nearly November? Really?

I've had another busy and productive day at The Muse Online Writers Conference. I'm really enjoying the chats and workshops there. And they even persuaded me to buy a domain name - at last!!! So now, if you type www.sheiladeeth.com into your browser you'll end up on my home page.

Meanwhile I've got the first part of the math book (no, it's really not just math) almost ready to send out. The scifi novella's ready - I'm just trying to take enough deep breaths before I push the button. And I'm polishing the picture book stories...

Oh, and it's nearly November. Really! Honestly. So if you're looking for a way to make a bit more of Thanksgiving at home as well as in the stores, you could give my Thanksgiving book a look - Thanksgiving! From Eden to Eternity in 100 words a day. Hundred-word stories and bright-colored pictures for every day in November. (Click here for review.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dreaming the Taste of Success

I met an editor at Wordstock on Saturday; she said I should send one of my novels to her, so I skipped round the room in delight. Today, at the Muse Online Conference, another editor asked for one of my novellas. (A third said no, but hey; that's okay. I'd rather know upfront that it wouldn't work.) There's also the possibility of sending a children's picture book out, but I'll wait till I've learned a bit more about how from one the Muse's great chats. And then there's my one about math...

The Muse is great - you should try it next year. Great chats. Great workshops. Great opportunities. And life is exciting and busy. But one day soon I want to write.

Still, I did write a drabble for Halloween - albeit a very quick one: My drabble blog

Friday, October 9, 2009

Busy Days Coming

It's Wordstock tomorrow in Portland; I'll spend a couple of hours on the VoiceCatcher stall, telling people all about the wonderful collection of essays, stories and poems by Portland Women Writers. The rest of the time I'll listen to speakers, meet writers, read books, buy books, find books, etc...

Next week I'm "going" to the Muse Online Conference. That's "going" as in "sitting still at the computer." But it's also "going" as in not going anywhere else. I'll be pitching a couple of novelette's as well, so please wish me luck.

The week after's when the oldest son visits, on his way to an interview. And the week after that the youngest son will be home filing application forms and sending off portfolios.

Christmas bazaar season starts at the beginning of November. I'll need to book a few more tables if I hope to sell more books.

Then Thanksgiving! Then Christmas! Then.... HELP!!!!!

Okay, I'm officially overwhelmed. Do I really have to go out and buy a new printer this afternoon? (If I hope to send any snail mail query letters to publishers, I guess I'd better. Ah well. That's life.)

Meanwhile, I'll keep trying to post a drabble-a-day on my drabble blog, and keep adding reviews of my books to my home page as and when I get permission.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Turning a Blog into a Website 2

So, I did it! I searched the web for advice, found lots, then got myself another blog - http://sheiladeethhome.blogspot.com - and tried to set it up as my home page.

(The most helpful advice I found was from Camy Tang, a pdf on how to blog your website - highly recommended.)

1. I want my "posts" to appear like separate pages, not all down the screen, so I set the new blog up with 1 post per page, and enabled post pages under archiving. I think that was so I could find and edit (and link to) each page separately, but I'm not sure. I'm just a beginner. It's what the pages I looked at said I should do.

2. I want the "welcome" post that I put on my home page to keep appearing there. But blogs always show the newest post first. So I use the "post options" button at the bottom of each new post and set the date to sometime in the past. It's really neat.

3. I don't want dates appearing my web pages, so I edited my layout and used the "edit" option in the "blog posts" box to take them away.

4. I wanted the links I made yesterday to go to pages on the new "site." So I wrote more posts (or web pages)and pasted their addresses into the text box - I changed some of the names as well.

5. And finally I wanted a way to access my blog posts by topic from my site. I used SEARCH BLOG to find the right posts, and added them as links in my new pages.

I've lots more stuff to do I'm sure, but this is much more fun than looking for a job. Thanks for dropping by, and please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Turning a blog into a website

I read an article about turning blogs into websites and it got me thinking. Maybe I could try. So if you've noticed anything odd about my blog today, that's why. I'm going to start posting my drabbles on their own special page (which is really just another blog) - see the DRABBLE link above. And I'm trying to tidy up some Bible studies that I worked on for my books on Lulu - they're under BIBLE STUDIES, not too surprisingly.

HOME is here, till I work out a better place for it, GATHER is my gather profile, TWITTER my page on Twitter, BOOKS takes you to my Lulu storefront, and BOOK REVIEWS points to a page listing all the books I've reviewed on Goodreads. I'll work on making some more logical pages to jump off from later. But meanwhile I'd love any feedback you care to give.

I'm even learning the odd scrap of HTML as I work on it. And the links bar is just a nice plain boring text box dragged to sit at the top in my layout, with words and links and colors typed into it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Self-Publishing Blues

A very good friend has started to talk about maybe trying to self-publish. I suddenly feel guilty. Have I painted too rosy a picture of this game in my strenuous efforts at positivity? So here, to counteract the sweet smell of perfume, are some thorns to give the other side of the tale.

The rule of 10s: Out of 300 online friends, 30 will tell you your writing’s not only wonderful but also publishable, and ask, please let us know when it comes out. Out of those 30, 3 will buy copies of the book.

The rule of 3s: Out of 30 real-world friends, 20 will tell you your writing’s wonderful, 10 will pre-order the book, and 9 will buy. But those 9 will buy more than you ever thought all 20 would. Unfortunately, that will still be less than you ordered…

…because you planned to sell more at Christmas fairs.

The rule of 2s: Out of every 2 people who stop at your stall, only 1 will smile at you. Out of every 2 people who smile at you, only 1 will look at your book. Out of every 2 people who look at your book, only 1 will talk to you. Out of every 2 people who talk to you, only 1 will say they’d like to buy it. And that one will promise to come back later, then studiously avoid your gaze as they wander the rest of the stalls and quietly leave. Two sales in a day is a big success, and profit a hopeless dream.

…But maybe you’ll sell at bookstores, except they don’t stock half the small publishers, so why would they look at you…

…or the little local stores, but no one’s buying books these days…

…or the gift stores and craft stores, but books aren’t gifts or crafts…

…and the library says there’s so many self-published out there they just don’t want to look…

Meanwhile, because you can’t make a profit, the IRS thinks your writing’s just a hobby. So you can’t claim expenses, not even the purchase price of the books that you sell.

So why do I do it?

The rule of 1s: From one little acorn, a giant oak tree might grow. One day. Maybe…

If my husband had known then what we know now, he’d never have let me start, but I’m still convinced there might be roses in these thorns.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Catching Voices

It’s beginning to go dark. Cars crawl up the road then turn, re-turn. Someone’s waving and showing the way. I guess we’re lost as each other, same destination, same place beckoning in dreams and in space.

Warm light spills out through wide glass doors. “Blackbird,” it says over the entrance. Inside the birds of women stoop and stalk. Someone welcomes me in. “Congratulations.” And I wonder if it’s real.

Real cheese awaits, real vegetables beautifully displayed, and real figs—how I love figs. Real paper plates, but I almost forget to take one. It’s not the food or the wine that we’re here for though. In shadows at the back, stacks of books form a city on a table, Portland built by women’s words. Someone crosses off my name.

You can tell the writers from the editors as we mill about the room. Newly minted, newly published, we hold our books close to the chest, juggle plates and try not to smear the precious page. Writers look up at passing strangers and smile. “Are you?” They point down with their eyes. “Yes, page one forty eight.” “Page fifty.” “Page one fifty six.”

“It’s my first attempt at a sex scene,” Teresa says, and I wonder if she or I will be more embarrassed as I stand there and read. But it’s beautiful—bodies and nature and literary art, and how can my writing belong in the same book as this?

The editors are the ones with arms unencumbered; they’ve seen it all before. “I haven’t said hello to you yet,” says one. “And which is your piece?” The glow when she says how she liked it warms me down to my toes. Better than cheese. Better than wine.

We thank those strangers, faceless no more, who brought us here. They walked before us, labored over other people’s words, turned them into something more. Then we nudge each other to walk up to the mike and read. It’s wine to the ears, intoxicating, wonderfully pure and smooth. I’m not sure if I’m brave—are my words good enough?—but I know someone chose them and printed them and it almost feels like betrayal to stand back so I take my turn. It sounds okay, your average table-wine maybe compared to others’ champagne.

Afterwards I come home and read through the night, cover to cover, catching voices like stars and matching them to faces I've just seen. VoiceCatcher 4 is released at last. Will you listen to our voices? Let them captivate you.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blocking the Writing Prompts

I used to wonder what Writer's Block was; I couldn't imagine not having something to write about. Then someone asked me to pen a particular piece and I finally knew. Writer's Block is when you don't have the right something to write about.

My usual problem's more like Writer's Glut - so many ideas I can't decide which to use. And that's where Writing Prompts came in. I joined Gather and other online writing communities. I found "Use this sentence," "Start with these words," "Include these word-pairs," "Build on this paragraph," and "Man called X meets woman called Y then something explodes," etc... And I wrote.

I wrote an awful lot of stories based on prompts. They piled up in an overflowing folder on my computer. Then I sorted them into mysteries, drama, scifi, childrens, tragedies... I edited, re-edited, fixed and changed them, and lost all sight of where they'd came from. Then slowly, oh so slowly, I plucked up courage to even try submitting to magazines.

This week I read an article which accused someone of plagiarism. Initially the claim was he'd used the same six-word sentence as someone else. Not hard to do I thought. But the accuser searched the internet and found more - longer sentences, matching phrases, even a whole paragraph...

And then I wondered what writing prompts might have inspired this writer. "Use this sentence?" "Start with these words?" "Incorporate this paragraph...?"

Perhaps I ought to try blocking those writing prompts and find another way out of Writer's Glut.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sacrificial Love - posted in honor of A Slow Burn's Launch

Sometimes love of God and family and others coincide. When my brother, the rebellious, awkward one, suddenly announced he was planning to become a Catholic priest, that was one of those times.

My Mum’s a Methodist you see, though we kids were all brought up in the Catholic church. We knew, Mum knew, Dad knew we were all Christians. But Catholic priests don’t marry and have kids; Methodist ministers do.

My brother was right; he wanted and surely was called to be a priest. He is a wonderful priest. But there must have been a moment before that smile, before my Mum’s enthusiastic “Oh, how wonderful!” Just one little moment perhaps, to mourn the grandchildren she’d never have from the son who would so certainly have made a good father; to mourn the pride that would always be mixed with what-ifs.

My father died some years ago, and now Mum stays with my brother from time to time, when he’s available to drive her there. She worships with his congregation then – “Father’s mother,” they call her. But she can’t receive communion. And if my brother’s called out to a parishioner, well, congregation comes first.

Love of God made Mum able to offer her son up to Him. Love of family made her agree to his chosen walk. And love of others, Mum’s sacrificial love, allows my brother’s God-family to take precedence over the mortal. That’s the way it’s meant to be.

So I honor you Mum, and I love you. And I hope somehow in my own small way I might emulate your love.

Written as part of the Blog Tour release party for Mary DeMuth’s new book, A Slow Burn.

See An Un-put-down-able Read for my first reaction to Mary’s book,
and A Slow Burn for my Gather review.

The Review on the Internet

Fran Lewis is the author of My Name is Bertha, Bertha Speaks Out, and Bertha Fights Back - a set of entertaining and positive children's books about a teenaged girl dealing with weight issues and learning to value who she truly is. Fran takes on some pretty serious issues in her other books too, particularly when she tells her mother's story in Why Me? Why Her? Why Anyone? The Faces of Alzheimer's. So I was honored when she offered to read and review my set of Bible books.

I had a wonderful email back from Fran. She'd even read the books when she wasn't feeling well, and was kind enough to say they helped her feel much better. What more could I want?

And I've found her reviews posted in all sorts of places around the internet. It's so lovely to stumble across them as I wander.

http://reviewabook.ning.com/forum/topics/five-reviews-in-one-sheila

http://thewritespot.ning.com/forum/topics/five-reviews-in-one-sheila
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6277297.Easter_Creation_to_Salvation_in_100_words_a_day

Thank you Fran, and I'll hope to send some readers your way one day and return the favor.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Check in the Mail

I got a check in the mail the other day. A very special check: It came from a Christian Retreat Center bookstore that had actually sold some of my books! I ran round the room. I opened and closed the envelope and opened it again. And I gazed in awe at the numbers, the calculations, the percentage I got paid, then just kept looking at the words.

I got paid! Yes, that's really what the letter said. They really did sell some of my books and pay me!

So tomorrow I'm taking a box with me to a church bookstore in town, hoping perhaps they might take some on consignment too - hoping even more for more buyers. And I'm checking on Lulu and wondering... Maybe one day...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recipes and Writing

They tell you to use all your senses in writing, and taste is often a hard one to remember. After all, most of the time we’re totally unaware of what we’re tasting. Then we cook.

Some books, such as Tales out of School, by Shirley Ann Howard, include detailed descriptions of all the delights of the kitchen without reading like a recipe book. Others make me jump out of the story with sudden inserts of spaghetti sauce made from scratch. (Yes, I do make spaghetti sauce from scratch, but not with carefully laid out ingredients all measured and carefully remembered; more likely with a quick raid of the fridge and a bit of whatever I find there plus tomatoes and herbs.)

Which leaves me wondering, what makes the difference between writing with taste and writing with recipe book?

Tales out of School was a really enjoyable, leisurely read. It’s not just cooking that the author describes in great detail. There’s the mating rituals of rabbits (plus Latin name), and the cost and rarity of coastal properties… It all fits together because these are the things that matter to the characters. They’re part of their lives and loves, of cooking, of science, of detail, of home and family, and of the characters for each other—a truly fine book of love which does indeed include all five senses.

Since most of my characters share at least a few of my characteristics, it probably wouldn’t be realistic for me to try including such culinary details. They'd almost certainly read like a recipe book, because that’s where I’d have to search to find them.

Of course, I could just describe the inside the of the fridge—that nameless, well-sealed container at the back that should probably be thrown in the bin before its contents decide to climb out; the dried dusty grapes that must have fallen to the bottom of the drawer; the sinking ridges and hollows that grace the surface of an over-ripe avocado… No. Perhaps I’d better not.

Then there’s the slightly salty, creamy taste of a stolen piece of cheese.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sermons and Statistics

I guess this post would more probably belong on a Sunday, but I was listening to a sermon on CD as I drove round today. A friend had lent it to me. And I was trying to work out how I could like the speaking style, the voice, and even the message, but still find myself so frustrated by the words that I wanted to switch off.

It was the logic I guess (or lack thereof) that annoyed me. Maybe it's just a hazard of studying math at college. I can never look a misused statistic in the eye (or hear it in the ear) without my hackles rising. And once those hackles have risen I'm ready to pounce.

Which makes me think how I need to be careful in my writing too, unless I want readers and reviewers pouncing down my throat. If I don't know something, I'd better not pretend, or someone's almost sure to find me out. The trick's to know when imagination strays into the realm of falsehood - just like when statistics stray into misconception.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday on Wednesday, just for a change

These were the prompts for Gather's Wednesday Writing Essentials this week:

• include something disagreeable
• use the word, "hogwash"
something needs to die
• use whatever you wrote to create a separate (or not) haiku that you also publish in the same post
• tag with at least seven appropriate words


On Washing a Hog

“Hogwash,” said the American.

The Brit looked round at streets and litter, searching for a pig perhaps in a barrel of water. He reached for the wallet that lurked in his inside pocket. Perhaps the stranger hoped he’d give him cash to buy a hog and wash it.

The American, wise to concealed weapons permits and their flaws, promptly pulled out a gun. Luckily the bullet missed the Brit, embedding itself in a wall, where it pinned a fruit-fly that nobody mourned.

“Hogwash,” said the American, but the Brit turned sadly away. He still maintained his belief in gun control.

(100 words)

And a haiku?

Speeding bullet flies
Mercy’s tree of life revised
Fruit-fly’s plea denied.

And at least seven tags???

Drabble, haiku, gun control, language barrier, cultural differences, Anglo-American, value of life

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nights and Weekends

Hurray! I've got another story published on NightsandWeekends.com. In fact, if you go to their front page, you'll see my review of a lunch-time e-book (Vampire Bytes) as well as my short story (Meet the Boyfriend) listed under columns and instant gratification.

Here's a link to Meet the Boyfriend. It's really short. I hope you'll like it and I'd love to read your comments.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wednesday's drabble on Saturday

I'm going to be running a women's group at church. I wonder if they realize how very disorganized I am? Anyway, here's my 100 words from last Wednesday Writing Essentials on Gather:

Financial Planning for Dummies:

“Right, let’s get everything out on the table,” said Jen.

Mac, ever faithful, emptied his pockets of new pencils and ancient cracker crumbs.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I’m looking for something; sure I’ve got some sense in here.”

“What?” Jen shared a smile with the others. “Mac’s got sense?”

Then he counted it, a dollar and thirty in change. “Everyone has coins in their pockets,” Mac said. “Just look what goes into the trays at airport security.”

“So?”

“So I hang around insecurely and acquire a few donations. We’ll be fine.”

“He could be right.”

“Or we’ll be fined.”

(100 words)

Prompts for Wednesday Writing Essentials, September 16, 2009:

* Something must be new
* Reference looking for something
* Use a pun
* Include the words "cracker" and "faithful"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An un-put-down-able Read

I read an un-put-down-able book last night, and the strange thing is, I’m not even sure if I was meant to have picked it up yet. It’s called “A Slow Burn,” by Mary E. DeMuth, and according to the publisher’s website (Zondervan) it doesn’t come out until October. But Mary was kind enough to allow me to be an “influencer,” so I received my copy early, and once I’d opened it—well, like I said—I couldn’t put it down.

It's got great characters, and the sort of situation I couldn't help wanting to follow (a woman who's daughter's been murdered tries to choose between giving up and moving on). But it's also the first book I remember reading where I've found myself simultaneously admiring the writing and unable to step out of the story. Beautiful phrases and images peek round dark corners of despair, filling even the saddest scenes with touches of rhythm and hope. I wish I could write like that.

So now I'm wondering how the author did it. How does she weave scenes and memories into words that flow so unobtrusively and so beautifully? Maybe just the fact that I'm asking means I'm finally learning to read like a writer. But there's something very satisfying about knowing it didn't stop me from reading like a reader too, at least not with this book.

(And for anyone who wants to know more, I've put a review of the book on my gather page. Just click on the link.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Listen to the Crowd

They guys were watching soccer on TV last night, but there was something wrong with the sound. They could see the players running around and hear the commentators talk, but the crowd was silent. My guys knew exactly what was going on in the match, but "Oh, it's so hard to concentrate," said one, and the other agreed. I was trying to read.

I often read during football matches on TV, but then, I'm not a guy. I stop when the crowd starts to roar and I look at the screen, so I catch all the goals, all the best bits. But without the crowd, without the emotional involvement, there was nothing to pull me back into their world.

And in a book it doesn't matter how well the author describes the scene; without the roar of emotion, or deafening silence of intentional reserve, the reader's going to struggle to feel involved. It's all tell and no show, like soccer on TV without the crowd.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Word Count

It's that time of year. My youngest son is back at college, and the middle one deep in his books for his next exam. Black looks all round. Inspiration flounders under the darkening gray of shortening days, so now I'm digging round all my old manuscripts to clean them up. Maybe they'll gleam and the word-counts might put a spark back into my dreams.

My internet wanderings have led to a few surprising finds this year, including publishers looking for short novellas, novelettes and minis. So I dug out a favorite short story to see if I could make it grow. Reading in search of missing scenes led to writing and now it's reached 8,000 words - almost publishable, though a lot will depend on whether the extra words count for anything worthwhile.

My completed novels weigh in at 65,000 and 80,000 words. I take them out and polish them every fall, but my latest rejection included the injunction to aim for 90,000 or more so there's still a way to go. Meanwhile the "work in progress" (WIP) reached nearly 75,000 words on textnovel. (Just click on the link - all comments and votes will be gratefully received.)

And the children's series; I should really get back to writing that - can't polish number one without completing number two. So what was I saying about inspiration failing in the gray? I thought word-counts would bore me but now I'm eager to write again. Black looks turn bright and my dreams are filled with books.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The book is being printed as you read...

VoiceCatcher4 is already being printed, and soon I'll have a copy in my hot little hands - real paper, real ink, real bright-colored cover, and my name really written down in the contents list! How cool is that?

"The book is being printed as you read..." the email says. But I can't read; I'm too busy grinning like a Cheshire cat, much to my family's confusion, and gazing round the room entranced while I imagine how the book might look on the coffee table, on the shelf, or lying on a chair.

But now they've asked why I'm shrieking with delight and they want to know what else the email says. Ever-practical, my family.

So there's readings scheduled in real bookstores - write them down on the calendar; my husband points me at the pen. And there'll be a stall at Wordstock where I just might find myself selling books instead of wandering, head filled with wishes.

Real paper; real ink; time to go wash the dishes... but please, can you tell, I'm really, really thrilled!!!! (And still grinning wide as the Atlantic like that Cheshire cat.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ashes - from child to man - for 9/11

He crashed the saucepan lids with wild delight
Splashing the night with sound. We wondered
How did he get down there?
He fashioned toys from unwashed socks
And smashed the locks on doors then lashed
In anger. Life’s not fair.
But when the memory turns and burns
There’s ashes in the air.


With toy guns flashing fearful flame and fire
His rash desires forgiven, he wore
A sash made from a sheet,
Then fashioned ghosts, holes gashed for eyes,
Dashed in disguise behind and tumbled
Tangled guns and feet.
But when the memory turns and burns
There’s ashes in the air.

He slashed the sword of duty from its frame
Unabashed game of war turned real
How did he end up there?
Uncashed the untold hopes he knew
Brash dreams of youth bent down and bashed
And mashed into despair.
For when the memory turns and burns
There’s ashes in the air.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Time Flies - another Wednesday drabble

Oregon summer: sun like warmed honey dripping, sweet bees humming, and students lying in drying grass with straw-blond hair like feathers strewn around.

“Your turn, Em!”

“If you say so.” Thunk! Though cross-bows weren’t her scene.

“Doesn’t time fly like an arrow?” said Tray, remembering translations from their English class that day. Then clouds hid the sun, moved away, drifted past while friendships grew like Oregon trees and Emily’s child was born.

Plastic arrows with red sucker tips, orange guns, scholarships and war.

The arrow’s path was tortuous. Tray’s son bled dark on foreign soil and time pierced Emily’s heart.

Written for Gather's Wednesday Writing Essentials
• show the passage of time rather than a single moment in time
• use the words "If you say so..."
• include a rhetorical question
• include the name of a state

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Suitcases

Two suitcases,
two pillows, five boxes
and one that's got books in
computer's all packed
and he's gone.

So will he
remember and get to
his classes on time
will he file applications
and plan for his future while I'm
feeling curiously sad
for the boy's grown to man
and lives out of
two suitcases
gone.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Did I do my research?

When I posted some pictures of my books on a website recently, someone immediately asked whether I'd done any research. I guess it's a pretty valid question —it’s a bit much to expect people just to trust me when I'm only self-published. But it would take forever to list all the books I've used.

Remembering that ten's a really good Biblical number, I decided to make a list of the ten most readily available and pleasantly readable books that I've used. That way I can remember them, and maybe you might enjoy them too. Meanwhile, if you want to see what I made of my research, you can find my Bible books at http://stores.lulu.com/sdeeth. If you click on one you can even preview the first ten pages.

My top ten books for researching Bible stories:

1. Various translations of the Bible, including deuterocanonical and apocryphal books, the Jewish Study Bible Tanakh Translation—invaluable for its insights into culture and interpretation—and a Chronological Study Bible, which makes it much easier to follow the threads of history.
2. Who wrote the Bible by Richard Elliott Friedman, which ties together questions and answers about different versions of the same stories, different emphases and purposes, and the way that the writings of different people and times were collected together.
3. A River out of Eden by Richard Dawkins: While I don’t agree with his religious assumptions, I really appreciated his scientific and mathematical analysis of where and how human beings first lived, and how we might study our ancestry through genes and mutations.
4. Noah’s Flood by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, which describes the research that went into suggesting the Black Sea Valley during global warming as the source of the world’s, and the Bible’s flood stories.
5. The Miracles of Exodus by Colin Humphreys, which ties the Exodus stories to real-world history, geography and geology with incredibly detailed and convincing research.
6. Blood on the Mountain by Richard Andrews, which gives a fascinating picture of the various cultures and religions who trace their roots to the Bible.
7. Abraham by Bruce Feiler for similar reasons, more immediately topical.
8. The Stones Cry Out by Randall Price, which introduced me to the archeological evidence for many Bible stories and their interpretations.
9. Battles of the Bible by Chaim Herzog and Mordechai Gichon, which brought the military issues of Bible times to vivid life.
10. The Illustrated Timeline of Religion by Laura S. Smith, which puts the Bible into a clear historical and cultural context.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another Belated Wednesday Drabble

Weathering the Storm

They’re called life’s storms, those days when waves desert the shore, churn up and down instead. High on my shelf I watch myself, flailing, drowning, wed to uncertainty. He doesn’t ask about my day, but did I remember this, do that, go out to buy the other. I say I will, then filled with resentment don’t ask how his day went either.
It’s not his fault, or mine, I know. The son leaves soon; the sun—skies turning gray like the last cloak of summer. Life’s storms are just the passing of time and I'm glad we’re sharing the boat.

100 words

Written for Gather's Wednesday Writing Essentials:
The prompt was
* write about "love lost" or "love found"
* do NOT use the following words: love, hope, kiss, or forever
* answer the question of where
* even if the piece is fiction, reveal something true about yourself

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cleaning Windows

I reinstalled Windows on my son's machine, and we downloaded a new virus scanner - necessary because his college no longer offers free updates of the one he had before. So now he's got a lean, clean, mean machine, and he's shooting zombies noisily with his brother. It's good to know these devices serve a useful purpose.

I attached a new mouse to my husband's computer too, so now his pointer doesn't randomly skip out the window. He was finding it slightly disturbing, especially when playing five-minute chess - the mystery of the vanishing pieces resolved. It's good to know his machine serves a useful purpose too.

Meanwhile, outside the clean glass windows of our house (which I didn't clean because I don't do ladders), fall continues its approach. I cleared the leaves and pine needles from the drive this morning, but still need to clean the drain. Still, it's not raining yet.

It's been a good summer. I wish the son wasn't leaving again so soon - wish the sun would stay too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

He Passed !!!

Last Friday my youngest son took his driving test. He passed! (We all knew he would.) So now I'm officially allowed to fall asleep in the passenger seat while he drives me to the stores. Of course, there's plenty of driving to stores going on - he heads back to college next weekend, so there's software, books, clothes (except he says he's fine with holes in his jeans), sandals (holes in the sandals don't work so well), paper and pencils, toiletries and (yes, we nearly forgot it) washing powder! Then there'll be packing and the long weary drive. And then the house will be empty and silent again - no guitar, no heavy metal, no brothers arguing... Here's hoping he does the same good job of passing his college classes too.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award


Helen Ginger who writes a really interesting blog at Straight from Hel, awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award last weekend, but it’s been such a busy week I decided to wait a while before accepting it.

There are a couple of major requirements to this award:

1. I have to pass it on to 7 other creative recipients, which requires choosing 7 from all the wonderful blogs out there, which requires making decisions, which requires time…

And

2. I have to list 7 favorite mystery authors: Help! I always answer “too many to name” when people ask who my favorite authors are; and no, specifying mysteries and asking for 7 really doesn’t help.

So what should I do? It’s a pretty award, and I’d really like to post it…

The phone rings. The clock ticks. The dishwasher needs to be emptied and the next load of washing awaits. Meanwhile I search through my favorite blogs, and inspiration strikes. How about I just find seven really neat blogs that feature great mystery authors, and do both lists in one? So here you go…

Beth Groundwater: wonderful mysteries, interesting articles, great blog.
Forensics and Faith: The blogging home of Brandilyn Collins, who writes the Seatbelt Suspense mysteries, highly recommended
Minnette’s Worlds: where you’ll meet Minnette Meador and read her accounts of interviews with homicide. She’s currently writing a fascinating romantic mystery called The Bell Stalker on textnovel.
Murder by 4: with 4 great authors, including Aaron Paul Lazar, who writes the wonderful Gus LeGarde mysteries, and Marta Stephens who writes about Sam Harper.
Mysterious People: where mystery author Jean Henry Mead introduces a wealth of fascinating mystery authors.
The Cockeyed Pessimist: where I was introduced the wonderful mystery writer, Chris Knopf.
The Kill Zone: Too many great mystery and thriller writers to mention, and they’re all writing great articles too. (Actually, there’s 7 of them, which is oddly appropriate.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wednesday on Thursday again

The Wednesday Writing essentials prompt was a bit more complicated this time:
• mention one of these six obstacles to achieving goals – procrastination; crisis management; switching and floundering; television, telephones, internet and friends; emotional blocks; and illness
• use the word August
• reference temperature in some way
• freewrite for five minutes and include that freewrite at the beginning of your article.

So here’s my effort, though I struggled to find five uninterrupted minutes:

Freewriting...

His most august majesty sits above us, cool in his shade while we broil in the heat down below. A lazy movement implies no procrastination, no prevarication now, don’t switch your point of view or flounder. We live to obey. We live to serve.

But, since he’s a cat and he’s stuck in the tree, we also live to find a stepladder and climb and rescue him.

And since the son is filling in his next online MFA application, with me as backup, I’m not sure I have five minutes for freewriting, but I’ve used two and a half (so the computer time says) so my cup’s half full.


and writing...

His most august majesty sits above us, cool in his shade while we broil in the heat down below. We watch and wait for his command.

His lazy movement implies no procrastination will be allowed. Remember now, he seems to say, you mortals merely live to understand and to obey.

The hanging tail twitches again. The claws cling tight to the tree. Then we who serve find a stepladder to rescue our errant friend.

And mother lives to serve the child, the child to serve the future, while the august cat that rules us all is contentedly serving the past.

(100 words)

...and now they're all talking at once

I wanted my characters to talk to me. I wanted the end to be more than just six letters on a page. But perhaps I should be more careful what I wish for.

There I was, imagining my book was almost done. But now the wedding seems as distant as it was at the beginning, and my characters keep talking, everyone at once.

David wants me to know he's not giving up on Emily. But he has to have some time to think, so he can work out what's best for her. Emily wishes I'd tell her what's on David's mind, because Elsie's not really so bad, and he really shouldn't worry. Meanwhile, I know he's glad he gave her the ring. I know they'll get married in the end. But wasn't that meant to be soon...

I guess it can't happen now until I get some more free time for writing. But never mind. I'm quite enjoying their conversation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why won't they talk to me???

My textnovel's up to 60,000 words, and the characters are ready to move on. They know what happened. I know what happened. "So just write it down for us," they say, "and let us get on with our lives." But it's not that simple.

I've spent so much time on these characters now. David took me to work with him, introduced me to his mates in their cubicles. I really felt like I finally understood why he's so organized. Then there's Emily. It wasn't hard to see why David liked her, but she took quite a lot longer for me to get to know. She's wary, but nice.

David's mother, Jessica, seemed happy to have me round. I've sat in her living room drinking coffee, nibbling on cookies - gluten free. She's had a really tough life.

And the other one? The character that hides behind emails and word docs and all that. I simply quoted his stuff at first because I still didn't know him. And then I found out...

They make me feel like a reporter chasing the ratings now. "How did you feel when you learned...?" They just look at me. "How do you think we felt, you twit?" But I want them to say. I can't just finish the novel with "Here's what happened." Ever heard of show and tell?

"Yeah, we tell and you show." But what can I show if they won't talk to me?

My characters are ready to move on, but they're leaving me behind. So I chase them across the green as I walk the dog, metaphorical pencil and paper in my metaphorical reporter's hand. "Just let me know about the wedding then. Did it all go to plan?"

"Well, I did see this girl..."

Okay, I've got it. Thanks! And I'm writing again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Wednesday Drabble

Okay, I know it's Thursday, but here's another drabble written for Wednesday Writing Essentials on Gather. It's called "Turn."

“Turn left,” says he.

“How far is it now?”

“Be less if you turned the right way.” His eyes start to frown.

Her fingers tense round the steering wheel as she feels him rejecting her skills, the glorious sparkle of her diamond fading to dusk.

Downhill and slow; musk-scented trees bow low to the engine’s murmur, darkening sky while heaven’s diamonds shine... up above the world so high...

“Turn left,” says he.

And, “How far is it now?”

So he sighs. She stops the car.

“Turn my way.” She turns. He plants a kiss. And rejection flies far far away.


© Sheila Deeth, August 2009

Written for Wednesday Writing Essentials:

• include at least five words of a song
• type one word twice and see if your reader catches it
• use onomatopoeia (language that imitates or suggests the sound to which it refers. Think: cuckoo, gurgle, swoosh)
• use the word "sparkle"

and the theme was something that everyone else can do but someone can't.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Heartfelt Blogger Award


Kristi at Books and Needlepoint just sent me this lovely picture and a Heartfelt Blogger Award. Here's what she says...

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know that feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt award is all about: feeling warm inside!

Well, the cookies would have to be gluten-free, which probably means most of my family and friends wouldn't like them (though seriously, some gluten-free cookies are really and truly delicious, especially peanut butter... Mmmm). But yes, I do reach for the cocoa, tea or coffee while reading many blogs, and I guess I'm meant to pass on the award to some. (Up to nine it says, but I'm only a poor mathematician. I'm not sure I can count that high and read, both at the same time - especially not if I'm drinking coffee and eating deliciously sweet and crumbling peanut butter cookies...)

So, a few of my favorite blogs, besides Kristi's, which you really should visit...

Tilly the Rescue Dog, 'cause she's sweet and cute and fun and I love dogs.

Bo's Blog, 'cause he's very cute and fun too - is there a theme here?

Romance Author Terry Spear, cause wolves are almost dogs aren't they, and her wolves are, well, a bit special.

Moonlight, Lace and Mayhem - usually more moonlight and lace, and always a delight, plus I've won some lovely books there to read while drinking coffee and eating cookies.

Sia McKye, who always offers coffee with her thoughts.

Lynn Mosher's Heading Home, except she's already a heartfelt winner. Her posts are always so uplifting and inspiring.

Musings from Down Under - likewise inspiring, lovely pictures and words

Peace be the Journey, which always has helpful and interesting articles for an aspiring writer.

And finally, Jack Regan's Writing Ramblings, which frequently has me spluttering cookie crumbs into my coffee.

Okay, that's my list. And hey, I sort of did 9, if you count Lynn who's already got one. (Who knows, maybe everyone else already has one too. But more cocoa or tea and cookies... who's complaining...)