Wednesday, July 29, 2009

107 degrees

I think the temperature reached a hundred and seven.
My textnovel story reached its hundred seventh entry.
My hundred seventh ice cube's melting in the water.
And my brain's turning to warm and gooey mush.

Still, many thanks Minnette for an enjoyable, cool!, afternoon at Powell's, with coffee and books and good company, wise advice and air conditioning. What more could I want?

(AC at home? A hundred and seven fans? Another ice cube please. And what's that dripping noise...)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trying to write a novel from beginning to end

I just started writing Part 3 of my textnovel entry. You can read it if you go to http://www.textnovel.com/. You just have to type the title, Obituaries, into the search bar. But then you have to log in or create an account.

I joined textnovel to read Minnette Meador's new novel, The Bell Stalker--a really fun exercise since she's still writing it. If you go to Minnette's blog you'll see how she's planning on interviewing the head of the Homicide Division of the Portland Police Bureau. So you can tell she's going to get the details right in her mystery. It's certainly shaping up to be quite intriguing, with a fascinating cast of characters.

It's interesting to read the works in progress on textnovel, hot off the keyboard so to speak. But the strangest thing for me is trying to write there, creating a novel-length story that starts at the beginning and runs to an end. I'm one of those people who usually start near the middle, or else begin with a short story where the characters insist they've more to tell. This time I'm writing forwards with a premise and a plan. The only question is, will I ever get where the story wants to go (well, and how many mistakes will I make on the way).

25,000 words and counting so far.
And 14 votes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

This morning

This morning they were yellow. Their heads stood high above the pale brown grass, regally crowned without a hint of wind or breeze to stir them. And the shadow of the wall grew shorter, sunlight hotter, and they closed their eyes.

This morning I tried to catch them, tug them, pull them by their roots before the noon, because if I let those golden crowns turn to halos the neighbors might despair of me.

This morning it was hot out there. I weeded in the shade of the wall, then ventured out then hurried back again. And the dandelions, all those that escaped, are waiting still to wave at tomorrow's sun.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stirring the Pot

Another drabble, written in response to Gather's Wednesday Writing Essentials challenge...

Warm and sweet, thick’n heavy, the air is treacle and bubbles release their childhood scents from the pan; jam butties for lunch. “Peanut butter’n jelly” says the voice in her head, but what have peanuts got to do with fruit?

“If you fall in the jelly you’ll be in a jam,” chants the memory of children and books. “But Mum, what’s jelly got to do with jam?”—American books that couldn’t even spell “colour.”

Ah, but Sheila’s American now, spells “color,” eats “Jello” at parties…

and stirs the pot of memories, warm and sweet; jam butties tomorrow, flavored with love.

100 words

Written for Wednesday Writing essentials

* include a glaring incongruity
* use the word Jello
* include your name, and
* make reference to something falling


A quick translation for my American friends, butties = sandwiches, so-called 'cause they've got butter on. And chip butties (i.e. sandwiches with cold butter and hot chunky fries) are the best of the best.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three Posts in a Day - but I have a good excuse!

Three posts in one day! This is surely a little excessive, but I really can't help it. I'd like to shout it from the mountain tops except it's too far to drive at this time of night. So I'll just post it here...

My story won in the Second Wind mystery contest, and will be appearing together with other stories by new and established authors in their Murder in the Wind anthology.

I won! I'm going to get another story published.

So thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who voted for me, for your votes and for your kind comments and encouragement. I really enjoyed reading the other two finalist's stories, and I'm just over moon at my good fortune. Thank you.

And thank you Second Wind.

Remember Exposure?

I wrote a blog post about a book called Exposure, by Brandilyn Collins, a while ago. It was back in the days when I'd only just started blogging, and thought I really could manage to write something every day. And I was one of the lucky readers to have a copy of the book just as it was being released.

Last week Brandilyn asked if any of her readers would like to submit questions for a readers' guide to Exposure. That sent me back to remembering how much the book affected me, and soon I was rereading favorite parts and writing my list.

Today Brandilyn has her readers' guide questions posted on her website, and her blog includes a link to my blog and the website of the other winning question writer. I'm thrilled to find that my questions might be relevant to other readers.

So, many thanks for the "exposure" Brandilyn. And many thanks for a really intriguing book, and a fascinating exposure of the trials and consequences of fear.

Find Exposure here on Amazon. I even have a review in there somewhere.

How does life get so busy?

I had all these wonderful plans. 1,000 words a day on textnovel? That was surely do-able. And I could keep writing my favorite WIP at the same time couldn't I? After all, it's easy enough to read more than one book at once. Plus there's that piece that I'm doing the research on--must be time to put metaphorical pen to paper there (or finger to keyboard). And the book reviews...

Then there's the incredible news that a bookstore wants some books from me and please will I mail them--suddenly none of the million boxes I've failed to throw away are quite the right size. And there's the final edits and checks on those Lulu books that I want to start selling in summer. I should order them soon...

And the cooking, and the cleaning, and the shopping and the washing and persuading the son to revise for his exam, while sympathizing with the other son who hasn't time to do anything else but revise.

And the dandelions; I really ought to cut some of those dandelions down. How does life get so busy?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

... and one contract ?

Yesterday I said I had 3 letters and 2 copyrights. Now I have 1 contract as well - it came in the email today.

My first contract. My first ever contract! Can you tell I'm excited?

It's from Mythica Publishing, for my science fiction short story which will appear in their Maybe Tomorrow anthology, sometime in the next 6 months. I keep reading the words but they fly straight through my head. Maybe I'll get my son to look before I sign, but I'm sure it's okay.

In fact, it's more than okay. It's a real contract written in genuine legalese and it's mine, all mine!

It even has my name on it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Three certificates, two copyrights

I got two letters from the copyright office today, and I was really excited. Put them together with the one I got last weekend, and maybe all three of the copyrights I'd applied for might've come through.

Sure enough, they were both copyright certificates. Success at last - I only applied last Christmas! But when I looked more closely, they were both for the same book.

So now I have three copyright certificates, but only two copyrights. I checked online. The third book's still "pending," so I hope it unpends soon.

Still, it's kind of exciting to start receiving them. I almost feel like an author.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An interesting way to write a novel

Minnette Meador writes the Starsight and Centurion books, among others, and is a really fun author, as well as a fellow inhabitant of Portland Oregon. She invited me to join textnovel.com to read her new thriller, the Bell Stalker, so hot off the press it’s not even written yet, and I’m certainly enjoying the experience.

But you have to be a member to read, and the first thing they asked when I joined was did I want to join their competition too. They said their stories have to start with a synopsis, and I thought it might be good practice. But I couldn’t think of anything to write so, with kind permission of Pat Bertram and Second Wind Publishing, I’ve reused my entry from Pat’s More Deaths than One contest, and am now trying to turn it into a novel.

If you’ve not read More Deaths than One you really should. It has the most amazing premise—a man finding an obituary for his mother when she can’t possibly just have died. In Pat’s novel, the man’s mother died twenty years ago, and again, apparently, in the present. In mine she’s still very much alive and trying hard to marry him off.

My novel’s listed under romantic mysteries and it’s called Obituaries. You can find it by typing “Obituaries” into the textnovel search bar under story name (or type “Sheila Deeth” under pen name), but you have to sign up for an account if you want to read it. Type “the Bell Stalker” or “Minnette Meador” to find Minnette’s novel, and if you like what you see please click on the thumb to give us points. (Clicking on the cell-phone makes them send email notifications for new chapters, but it probably does lots more interesting stuff if you’re less technologically challenged than me.)

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a nice safe place to type your own novel, password protected to keep your copyright safe (at least I think that’s what it does), with the added advantage of space for character and plot notes, and the incentive to post as many bits as you can to fulfill the challenge, textnovel seems like a fun site. Of course, I’ve only been there a few days. And formatting’s a pain. But I’m really enjoying the writing and hope you might enjoy reading it too.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Read a mystery and help me get published !

I entered Second Wind Publishing’s “Murder in the Wind” competition, and my short story is one of three short-listed for inclusion in the anthology. Now I just need to garner some votes and I might get published in the same volume as Pat Bertram and other favorite authors… Well, at least I can dream. So, if you want to read three really fun murder mysteries, just follow the link, or go to secondwindpublishing.com and click on "mystery contest." All three stories are printed together on the page, and there’s a place for you to vote down at the bottom. Second Wind are really great about voting in their competitions—they don’t ask you to join anything or offer up your firstborn or other valuables. All they want is your email so that one lucky voter can win a free copy of the book! So, happy reading, and please vote for one of us:

“Distractions” by Deborah Watson
“Jack” by Sheila Deeth
“Lady Blue” by Carla Damron

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Airport Blues

Off to the airport, saying goodbye,
waiting lines stretching from here to the sky,
stuffed dogs and real dogs and children that cry;
he's flying; I'm saying goodbye.

I saw my son off on the plane this morning, and I'm missing him already. The lines were incredible, but at least he made his plane.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Coffee with my son

He's been to Texas, to LA, to work, to a job interview and a wedding, all in the last few days. And today he got up for a 6am flight; he's yet to go to sleep.

So the first thing he says when he sees us, after six months away, is "They do have Starbucks in Portland don't they?"

They do. Coffee's good. And now we'll go shopping.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What America means to me

I'm going to be away from my computer, celebrating my family's presence around me as well as July 4th. But I thought I'd repost this article that I wrote on gather just after becoming a US citizen. Wishing all my American friends a happy Independence Day!

What America means to me.

When I was small, America meant cartoons on TV. Later it meant people with guns and a murdered president. I entered my teens and America meant war, demonstrations, drugs and flowers. In my cynical twenties it meant too much money, too much food, too much luxury, too loud voices and too little tact. But it also meant pride, as England once had pride, and Rome before it.

Then America became my land of opportunity; the freedom to forge a new path without history making choice inescapable. It came to be the place where we planted our hopes and our futures, as we moved our family here.

And yet, each time we left the country, we’d return to the same unwelcoming questioners guarding the barrier: “Why are you here? What do you want? Where will you stay? What will you do? When will you leave?” We were strangers; we weren’t welcome here, and so we felt unwelcome everywhere. But then we got the magic cards and became tolerated, maybe friends. We’d been living here five years by then, and we waited another five before we could try to become citizens. Our children grew up American; they just didn’t have the paperwork to prove it…

And then…

The courtroom, wood-paneled, smelling of books and dust, hid at the end of a gray-painted corridor. There were flags behind a raised platform, visitors’ seating round the edges, and chairs with big white envelopes laid out for the participants in the middle. A video was playing with pictures of immigrants from all around the world, and patriotic music.

The judge arrived, robed and formal, and sat behind his desk. Someone presented us to him, declared we had all been examined, and recommended us for citizenship. We stood together, right hands raised, reciting an oath that was printed on cards in front of us. It felt strange to speak those words, but stranger still to realize I’d been asked to speak them; to realize we didn’t just choose to become citizens, but this country chose to accept us. We had no secrets – they had learned everything – and just as we are, we were finally welcome.

We recited the pledge of allegiance; we stood silent no more; America has promised to support us now, as we must promise our support in turn. Then we sat to hear the judge.

So this is what America means to me now. It means a judge telling me never to forget where I came from; never to deny the culture that formed me; never to assume I’m wrong just because I’m different; never to think I’m a lesser citizen than my neighbor, just because I chose and he was born to it. It means I have rights and responsibilities, and among those responsibilities I must be true to the person I am; to that person who this country’s representatives examined, who they found worthy. It means, not just my country being my future, but my being part of the future of my country. As the judge declared; without change, our country stagnates; if we do not value those who feel the call to join us, we devalue ourselves; and so I felt valued.

America is my home now, not just the place I live and pay my taxes. It may not be the best or the freest or the kindest or the most honorable place, but it is the country to which I owe my allegiance. It is the country where I must strive to be my best, my freest, my kindest and my most honorable.

They called us forward, one by one, name and country of origin, to receive our citizenship certificates; fourteen countries represented. And finally they showed us one more video; the President of the United States addressed us as “My fellow Americans.”

This is what America means to me now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Series and Characters

I guess it's time to search my bookshelves for other series of books that we're addicted to.

Patricia Cornwell: I've just started reading these - Post-Mortem, Body of Evidence... Kay Scarpetta is a very convincing character. I don't know anything about her job or the place she lives, but I do believe everything as I read it and find myself cringing in my chair as if I can smell things she doesn't even describe.

Dean Koontz: I like nearly all his books, and I guess they're mostly not series. But I really like Odd Thomas - different and yet with all the concerns of a "real" person negotiating the real world.

Tony Hillerman: He's another one who writes about a world I don't know. I started reading his books when I saw a kid in the school chess club with one, and I was quickly hooked. The locale attracted me, since I was living in Utah, and the characters intrigued me because they gave me a window to look into a different worldview. I felt like I was invited to see something new by friends who really want me to understand.

Michael Connelly: I couldn't get into these books at the start, though my husband really enjoyed them. Then I read Blood Work and I was hooked. I'm not sure what, if anything, changed in the writing - there's still lots of detail, lots of real locations (they're what drew my husband in). Maybe it's just that I care more about the character. I certainly wanted to see him survive and win.

Jim Butcher: He makes the unreal seem real, and he keeps me thinking and wondering, trying to relate his world to mine. Everything makes sense, just a different, weird and intricate sort of sense. My husband really appreciates books that stick to their own internal logic, and these do qualify.

So... be convincing, get the details right, keep it logical, make characters that people can care about, ... Sounds like good advice to me. And if I can set my stories somewhere interesting too, real or imaginary, I guess that'll be a bonus.

The bookshelf's still bulging, paperbacks two deep and two high on each level, with lots more series to explore. But perhaps I ought to get back to writing my own at some point.