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.