Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fair and Free

We're going on vacation. No kids; just husband and me. And no visits to the fair. All the same, as I pack, I'm filled the same excitement I remember from childhood days. Knowing there'd be rides, and money to spend, and the freedom to choose which ride to spend it on. Except of course, in the beginning I was too small. Big brother got to go on cars where he really turned the wheel, and really crashed. Me, I rode on solid rails wherever the world said I had to.

I remember the sudden freedom inspired by a ride that let me raise and lower my plane. The roundabout would start and I'd pull my throttle back. Up, up into the sky, and there I'd fly. My brother thought I was mad. I might as well have been on a ride that forced me to stay up high, but for me it was the freedom that mattered. I could have come down if I'd wanted. I did as I chose.

Then there were roller coasters and the delight of being tall enough to join the excited line. I felt so brave. There was Nemesis where I was strapped in as tight as the seat anchored to the rails. There was the Big One. Free from gravity!

And then I got older... so, like I said, no fairgrounds on this vacation. Just sea and scenery and maybe whales... sounds good to me. Writing about it all reminds me though... and the years and restrictions and rules slide away and life's fair and I'm always free.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Blue moon on the cover of Refracted, my soon-to-be-published e-book with Gypsy Shadow Publishing... Blue sky now summer's here... Blue mountains high and far in a pale blue haze... Blue days when we're out of the Cup... Blue eyes--my father's while mine are dull as mud... Blue flowers--don't tell me they're weeds; at least they're growing... Blue berries, red strawberries and white ice cream next Sunday... Blue birds in the garden... Blue verses for singing the blues... Blue warpaint... Blue eye-shadow... and a blue man on the cover of Gypsy Shadow's next contest. It ends next week, so why not go over there and try?

Just go to, and click there for the next writing prompt. But before you do, please scroll down the page and share my joy at my name listed amongst their Newest Authors... I'm definitely NOT feeling blue!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Army Mom

One of the highlights of our trip to Texas with our son was a visit to Fort Sam Houston.

We drove round the outside of the fort one day and it was huge. Not huge like Texas, this was really, really, really huge. I could hardly believe as we crossed yet another intersection that the fence nearby was still the same boundary.

But on another day, we really went inside. As we stopped at the gate to have our IDs checked, I found myself trying to remember if I still look like my drivers' license photo. I think there's more than a few extra gray hairs, but we all passed inspection anyway. Our son then drove us past a perfectly ordinary-looking gas station, and stopped on the parking lot of what looked, at least to me, like a regular Home Depot. Of course it wasn't, and I really shouldn't have been so surprised at the washing machine sale inside. Even army personnel have to wash their clothes.

Another drive, along quiet roads, past wide intersections where the only sign that this wasn't just another small town was the prevalence of army uniforms, we stopped on another parking lot. "This is the commissary," says our son, not that I've any real idea what a commissary is. He said we had to look inside, and somehow I imagined I'd see some kind of grocery store. How wrong I was!

Inside the unprepossessing doors was a large shopping mall. The "anchor" store seemed like a really good Target with everything from sunglasses to cereal to TVs. "I'll have to show my ID to buy stuff," said our son, and again, a surprisingly large number of the shoppers were in uniform--well, only surprising if the resemblance to Target had you forgetting where you were, which is what it did to me.

We found an "Army Mom" tee-shirt in my size--army green with pink writing. I was feeling a bit like a genuine army mom by now, so we decided to buy it.

More driving led to streets of houses that reminded me of movies I've seen. It's strange to think this is my son's world now--not just a movie set. There were large official buildings where he said he'd had training lectures, a hospital where he's going to work, more offices... It felt like a small town.

And the sun beat down, because it was Texas of course.

I saved the tee-shirt to wear in summer at home. But home is Oregon and summer's been steadfastly refusing to start. Still, it looks warm and sunny outside today, so I'm wearing my army mom tee-shirt with pride as my son continues his career.

I really am an army mom.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coast to Coast and Sea to Sea

One thing about growing up in England is you're never very far from the sea. Even in the days of our grandparents, a trip on the back of a motorbike to walk on the front and paddle in the waves wasn't such a rare occurrence. I've seen photos of my parents courting on the beach long years ago with my uncle and aunt. And my childhood holidays (vacations in American) just wouldn't have been the same without buckets and spades.

Which is why Salt Lake City, while beautiful, could never quite feel like home though we lived there for a while. There's the Great Salt Lake, of course, which is great and salty, but it's not the sea. And there's desert, but it's not the same sort of sand.

When our son went to college in Los Angeles, our occasional visits to him felt like going back in time. We just had to stand on the beach at some point in each trip and taste salt on the breeze.

We've moved to Oregon now, of course, and every Christmas visit from my Mum is accompanied by at least one trip to the small of town of "Seaside." (What a wonderful name!) It's just as well, since Los Angeles son has moved to San Antonio, and while there may be beaches within reach, San Antonio itself is rather far away.

If you've been following my blog you'll we took time off to travel with our son. We wandered the beach at Santa Monica before the trip, letting sand trickle between our toes, saying goodbye, for a while at least, to the setting of the sun over waves. And then we drove. Technically, our son drove; we entertained him with conversation and food and kept him awake.

San Antonio has a River Walk, which is great, but that's not the seaside either. Still, Corpus Christi's not so far away, and one day we took a day off from unpacking and building furniture to visit America's other sea. I know, LA to SA isn't really coast to coast, and Pacific to Atlantic would be a much greater (and longer) achievement. Still,the Gulf is the sea and was sea enough for me. We let the warm sand trickle between our toes again, and only wished we'd been able to get there in time to see sunrise over waves. Another trip maybe.

Meanwhile son rises before the sun, as doctors tend to do. And I'm waiting for a Texas sun to bring summer to Oregon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Interview with Children's Author and Mystery Writer Mary Russel

Mary Russel, author of Flickertail and Paint, Barnyward Sleuths, was born in 1948 and grew up in the U.S. in various foster homes and in an orphanage. She found her escape in books and is now a children's author and mystery writer. It is her hope that she can provide present and future generations of readers with the same enjoyment and excitement that she finds in books.

Today, Mary's sharing some of her experiences in writing with readers of my blog. I'm delighted to have this chance to interview her (the first time I've interviewed an author), and I hope you'll enjoy reading her answers as much as I have. I'm sure Mary will visit here during the day, so if you have questions to pose, just put them in the comments.

Meanwhile, if you visit Mary's blog at, you'll find me being interviewed there, and eager to hear from you too.

Me: What did you dream of becoming when you grew up?

Mary: Besides dreaming of being a writer, I wanted to be a singer, a dancer, famous ice skater, and the owner of a Bed & Breakfast.

Me: How did writing fit into those dreams?

I’ve written about all of them.

Me: When did you first start to write?

Mary: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love writing. Along with reading, it offered me a great way to escape from an unhappy childhood.

Me: Was there ever a time when you stopped writing or stopped telling stories?

Mary: I always wrote in my mind if not on paper. I still do that. I write complete short stories or free verse in my head, revising, editing, etc. before I even submit them to paper (or computer). For many years, I did not put anything on paper but only wrote in my head. None of it seemed worthy of wasting paper.

Me: When did you first start trying to get published?

Mary: I never considered myself good enough for publication. I doubt I’d ever have submitted anything to a publisher if not for the encouragement of a friend who told her publisher about me. He expressed an interest in Flickertail & Paint but he kept delaying the publication. I finally decided that he was just trying to avoid telling me he had changed his mind. I self published it with LuLu, figuring it wasn’t good enough to get published any other way. I thought I would just settle for selling it to a few friends and displaying it on my coffee table. Then, I thought, I had nothing to lose by trying to submit it to a few of the Print On Demand publishers. If none of them sent me a contract, I could always keep promoting it through LuLu.

Me: What sort of answers, if any, did you get from publishers?

Mary: Three of the publishers were interested but I went with this one (me: Publish America) because they seemed to best suit my needs and pocket book.

Me: How did trying to get published discourage or encourage your writing?

Mary: I have to admit, it stroked my ego to have three publishers interested in my work so it definitely encouraged me to get the rest of my novels out of the cobwebs and to start some new projects.

Me: How does social networking discourage or encourage your writing?

Mary: I have met some wonderful and motivating people through and The other writers on Gather have helped to inspire me to improve my writing and try new genres. That’s how I starting writing children’s stories.

Me: Flickertail and Paint, Barnyard Sleuths is a wonderful book of children's stories. What sort of thing do you most like to write?

Mary: Short stories.

Me: And what least?

That’s a tough question since I have fun exploring all kinds of writing. If I have to choose, I would have to say the kind of poetry that rhymes. I don’t feel I am good at it.

Me: Is there a type of writing that you think you do best?

Mary: I don’t know if it is what I do best, but the short fiction stories come easiest for me.

Me: Are you artistic in other ways, besides with words?

Mary: I used to have a pretty good singing voice but that’s gone with age. I love to dance, but I’m only a mediocre dancer, and my knees would object too strenuously these days. I also enjoy drawing but I have no real talent for it. I did a little acting in college and loved it but I never considered it as a profession for me.

Me: Do you think there’s a connection between using words and making music or making pictures?

Mary: From what I understand, they all use the same side of the brain. Maybe I’d be a better writer if I had more talent musically, or as a painter.

Me: Or maybe you'd be a musician as well as a writer. Do you write mostly to please yourself, to please others, or to get published?

Mary: I started out writing to please myself. Now, I’d have to say I write equally for myself or for potential readers. As far as the publishers are concerned, it’s just a happy coincidence that anyone feels my writing is marketable.

Me: To what extent do you write to help people?

Mary: Flickertail & Paint, Barnyard Sleuths was written with the intention to entertain and to encourage children to explore further any of the concepts, history or ideas they find interesting. Rudolph, A Child’s Love Story was written to help children who feel unaccepted. My Sleuth & Scribe series is pretty much just escape although the readers may find some messages that speak to them.

Me: What’s the most important thing that your recent writing and publishing experiences have taught you?

Mary: More than any book I have yet written, Rudolph helped me to accept and embrace my childhood. There are still a lot of unanswered questions but I have finally gotten beyond the bitterness and the feeling that I was robbed of something precious. Funny thing I discovered in writing it, I actually love the person I have become. My childhood had so much do with shaping me. What a freeing and powerful revelation! I hope that is what the reader will come away with too.

More information:

* Flickertail & Paint, Barnyard Sleuths can be found at
* You can also purchase autographed copies from Mary Russel's website or blog
* Some of Mary's published articles can be read here;
* For Tshirts and coffee mugs featuring the Flickertail & Paint characters check out Mary's Zazzle store.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's in a name, or a dream?

When I was small I wanted to be a trapeze artiste and work in a circus. I knew the word was "artiste" with an "e" because "artist-ess" was too hard to say. (I liked logic, even then, and, of course, I knew there was always a different word for the feminine form.)

Pretty soon I also learned that my physical talents really didn't lean towards PE, not even in school, never mind circuses. So I decided to be an "authoress" instead. I still have my first two novels tucked away in a box under the bed, written on scraps of note-books tied up with string.

Somewhere between dreaming novels and becoming a mathematician, the powers that be lost the "ess"es from their words. (Were there ever mathematicianesses, I wonder, like giantesses writing with giant Greek letters?) Of course, I didn't stop dreaming (and reading) books. I didn't stop writing them either since once I became a mother (feminine in its own right) my dear first-born son insisted a story wasn't worth telling if it wasn't written down. But I did stop dreaming of being an author(ess) for a while. Mom was plenty for me.

One day I went back to work, part-time, and had less chance to dream, but outsourcing set me free. Of course, since most of the things we need in life aren't free, that wasn't entirely a good thing. But at least I started writing again. I joined an on-line community ( and people told me that since I write I must be a writer (not a writer-ess). Sometimes I meet people at parties (through my husband's work) and I try to remember - not stay-at-home Mom (after all, the kids are grown), but "writer;" that's me.

Tomorrow, author Mary Russel will interview "author Sheila Deeth" on her blog - So I'm not a trapeze artist or artiste, and not an authoress. But maybe I'm finally halfway to achieving that childhood dream and becoming an author. Maybe when Refracted comes out with Gypsy Shadow publishing I might even earn a few pennies to help with being free.

I'll interview Mary here as well, so please visit her now and find out more about her and her books. And then please visit both of us tomorrow and ask your questions. We'd love to chat with you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Announcing my interview with author Mary Russel

Mary Russel, author of Flickertail and Paint, Barnyward Sleuths, is interviewing me on her blog - - on Thursday 17th June, and I'll be interviewing her here on my blog. We're both new authors with lots of books in the works, and I'm sure you'll enjoy reading Mary's answers to various questions about her writing life.

Mary was born in 1948 and grew up in the U.S. in various foster homes and in an orphanage. She found her escape in books and is now a children's author and mystery writer. It is her hope that she can provide present and future generations of readers with the same enjoyment and excitement that she finds in books. She has a Bachelor's Degree in journalism and enjoys reading, writing, cooking, crafts, and spending time with her husband and two very spoiled dogs. (There's a gorgeous picture of Cookie reading Flickertail and Paint on her blog, You should really go and look.)

Mary's published books include Flickertail & Paint, Barnyard Sleuths and Rudolph, A Child's Love Story (coming soon). Her current projects include The Steamer Trunk & the Hexagon Murders, both mystery novels.

You can read my review of Flickertail and Paint on gather here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Write what you know?

Sometimes they tell you to write what you know. My husband says I should write about moving from England to the US. I think I write about displacement instead, and locate it wherever my characters tell me to. But I guess there's always something of what I know, delving into the shadows of dreams to let my characters make sense of them.

Sometimes they tell you to set your imagination free. Don't tie yourself to the boring facts you know. Though, of course, those facts might not be entirely boring. My imagination's been wandering since the day I learned to talk. Reining it in might be the problem.

Sometimes they tell you just to write. That's the rule I found hardest of all. It seems like all the writers I meet have delighted in journaling their days. But I have a box filled with empty diaries, where my journaling lasted a mere three weeks or less. One of them has checkmarks for the days when I thought I'd been good. That's the one that lasted the whole three weeks, though the checkmarks seemed to decrease in frequency.

I guess blogging's a bit like keeping a journal. Maybe that's why I'm not particularly good at it. And today's blog's meant to be about a book I read, since I'm part of Wahida Clark's What's Really Hood book tour. You can see my review of What's Really Hood here, and my review of Shiva's arms, another book where the author clearly writes what she knows, has just gone up on gather too.

What's Really Hood is street fiction. It's something I definitely couldn't write, since I truly don't know it. But it's a world I might imagine sometime, shifting it perhaps to a back street in Manchester, to something smaller, to a wandering child. Do we add what we learn from other people's writing to the things that we know?

And Shiva's Arms is a wonderful literary tale, telling the clash of Hindu and Christian cultures through the eyes of a "mixed" family, wounds and healing and all. I'm part of Cheryl Snell's blog tour too, but that's not started yet, but it's certainly another book to look out for.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Everything's bigger in Texas

"Everything's bigger in Texas." That's what our server said when he brought my salad to the table. It was huge, and I had to leave room for the steak. But boy was it delicious!

Road-bridges are bigger in Texas too. As we drove cross-country from California, we joked at the beautifully painted Arizona bridges. "Perhaps there'ss nothing else to look at." Then we started our approach to San Antonio and met a real Texan bridge. It wasn't just the pristine colors that impressed us, but the size and scope. Bridges over bridges over bridges. Lanes over lanes.

In downtown San Antonio our son explained how you have to be careful to pick the right "height" when you drive. The next lane over might be fifty feet up in the air! And the exit may come from the top or bottom section of the road.

Near the airport bridges spanned each other, lanes turning every way, and all of it shining bright in the Texan sun. Clean lines reflected in clean colors, it felt like the sort of model our kids would have made. Unreal but great fun.

Another time my husband wondered why the decals were all highlighted in different stone except on one bridge post. "Maybe they haven't painted that one yet," we joked. Then we saw the painter clinging to the side.

Painted in natural, beautiful colors, clean-lined, clean-washed, and beautifully designed: Everything's bigger in Texas, even the bridges.

So now I'll return to trying to paint my story in natural shades, cleaning the lines and the words as I edit, and wondering will it grow longer, Texan-style, or shrink to insignificance. I'm aiming for Texas.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Paris in Texas?

I think my preconceptions about Texas were fueled by childhood Westerns watched on TV. Heading out on the 10 from El Paso did nothing to shatter my illusions. There was lots of empty space and endless horizons. Lots of sand and dry ground, scrubby shrubs, cacti, and hills that promised canyons in shadowed depths. There were even a few cows on a ranch. But El Paso isn't San Antonio, and San Antonio is like a touch of Paris (and London and Blackpool and Italy and Spain), and already I miss it.

Friends had mentioned the "River Walk" before we left, and I tried not to look too foolishly surprised that there might be a river there. But their descriptions really couldn't do it justice. (Likewise neither can mine.) The river, sunken down beneath bridges and streets, reminded me of Cambridge and punting on the Cam: or of Paris, strolling by the Seine; or even of pictures of Venice though I've never been there. Shadows dapple the banks, bright colors splash like paint reflected in the water, music plays, voices laugh, the scents of different foods tempt the palate, while awnings and tables and diners dot the path. Rippling waterfalls play and flowers bloom.

London was when we climbed the steps to see the Alamo. The square in front was bright in the midday sun. Traffic circled lazily. And Tussauds and Ripley advertised their delights.

And Blackpool? That was when I saw the flickering lights of games in shadowed stores and the bright souvenirs.

Our son will be living there for four years now. I'm eagerly awaiting our next visit.

Meanwhile, if you've not seen yesterday's post about Mary DeMuth's Defiance Texas trilogy, please scroll down the page.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Defiance and Recovery

I've been to Texas at last, in fiction and in fact, though not to Defiance, Texas. Still, it's kind of appropriate that I was catching up on the first book of Mary DeMuth's Defiance Texas trilogy during my travels.

The third book in this trilogy has just come out. It's called Life in Defiance and it's a wonderful stand-alone book even if you haven't read the others. I feel like I'm qualified to make that claim since I read books two and three before book one. And it's probably a tribute to the author's wonderful writing that knowing the end of a mystery made me long to read the beginning.

But Life in Defiance isn't just a mystery. There's a missing girl and the question of what happened to her. There are strange events and strangers and growing threats. But over all there's the personal story of the narrator, Ouisie Pepper, bound to a man who wounds her in actions and words, determined to do whatever it takes to tame her defiant spirit and become, impossibly, the wife he'll love.

Ouisie looks for answers in all the wrong places, in self-help books, in drink, in determined self-denial, and in giving herself away for the sake of her children and her friends. The preachers tells of a woman's place. The self-help author preaches sweetness and light. And soon Ouisie's tying her hopes for change onto the flailing hope that the person who took the child might change and be forgiven. The trouble is, she thinks she knows who it is, and so she defies Defiance's need for closure by keeping quiet.

Mary DeMuth creates a town-full of convincing characters in this trilogy. Real people with real pasts and aches and pains, real strengths and real flaws. There are no cardboard cut-outs here, not even a cardboard God. There are people with achingly powerful wisdom to pour from cracked vessels into broken hearts. And there are truths hidden behind.

Mary's editor says Life in Defiance is her best book yet. I would agree that it's the best in this trilogy - the most powerful in its message to those who seek hope in the wrong directions and try to heal themselves; the most beautiful in its language and haunting images; the most satisfying in its conclusion. But the whole series is great, from the tale of young Jed who loses his best friend at age fourteen and blames himself, through the powerful promise of healing shot through with pain in the tale of Daisy's mother, through to Ouisie's hope and restoration.

I've posted reviews for all three books on Gather:
Daisy Chain
A Slow Burn, and
Life in Defiance,
so I hope maybe you'll follow the links, but most of all I hope you'll read the books and find a kind of faith portrayed that spans denominations, a hope that defies expectations, and a healing that's deeper than our deepest need.

I guess I should add that I'm an "influencer" for this book. Mary's letter to me started "I'm so thankful you've asked to be an influencer for Life in Defiance." So perhaps I should end, Dear Mary, I'm so thankful to be an influencer. I loved the book.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Three Blogs and Three Blog Awards?

As some of you know, I run three blogs— where I post my daily 100-word stories and poems, where I post (almost) weekly Bible studies, and where I post… well… stuff.

A little while ago I discovered that neat little “post options” button at the bottom left of the window where I write new posts. I post-dated a set of blog entries and set off to help my son move house. Now I’m back it seems, by some strange coincidence, that all three blogs have won awards in my absence. I’m suitably amazed and grateful, to

Ruth, at for her abitosunshine award to my drabble blog

Stan, at for the versatile blogger award—one that requires me to “share seven things about yourself then pass it on to fifteen blogs you’ve recently discovered you enjoy,” and

Alina, at for “My blog is me”—an award for “those who are brave enough to expose just enough to reach, touch and possibly help someone else to see something differently.

I also discovered—as the rest of you probably always knew—that I can click on the award image and use its location instead of copying it onto my computer… Hey, I’m learning lots of stuff… so here’s my thankyou post for the awards

My seven things…

1. I’ve just learned to post-date posts using the “post options” button
2. I’ve just learned to include award images by copying location instead of image
3. I learned to turn off comments on posts and used that to help make my “other” two blogs into web-sites
4. I recently discovered how to format my posts better using the “compose” tab
5. I wish I didn’t keep cutting and pasting from Word onto the “compose” tab ‘cause it really only works on the “html” tab.
6. I finally know how to type links in html, {a href="URL of target site"}Description{/a} with pointy brackets instead of curly ones, which makes copying them from Word into blogger much easier, and
7. I updated my blogroll with blogs that I’m following but only found 10 new ones, so I guess I’ll just offer ten instead of fifteen.

Ten recently found and followed blogs…

2. Fiction-Filled Life, at
3. christian-with-a-view, at
4. Karen's Love and Writing, at
5. Linda L. Henk, at
6. Marthawrites, at
7. My Back Door, at
8. The Adventures of Rai Aren & Tavius E., at
9. West of Mars, at, and
10. What Then Is This Child Going To Be?, at

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

There and Back Again

I used to hear about, and read about, people doing serious road-trips, like crossing the United States from coast to coast. It sounded such fun, though of course, I never expected I'd get the chance to do it. Then our oldest son, recently graduated from medical school in Los Angeles, got ready for a move to Texas and invited us along. So, if you've been wondering why my blog's been so neglected and my comments so sparse (or non-existent) for the last week, that's where we've been.

On Saturday we flew to Los Angeles and walked the beach and touched the sea. Then on Sunday we loaded the car with boxes and cases (people too) and set off. Buildings gave way to agriculture, to windfarms (quite a surprise), to desert and hills. I wanted to photograph every tall white cactus at the start, but soon I realized they weren't going to go away. Then I watched the scrubby bushes grow shorter and sparser as the land grew more dry.

Breakfast in Los Angeles, lunch in Phoenix, dinner in El Paso (really late dinner) - we did three states in one day. Then on Monday we drove in Texas which seemed to be as big as three states all put together. The bushes grew taller and lusher and turned into trees (an even bigger surprise), and I learned, at last, that Texas isn't a desert after all. It's beautiful! And green!

Yesterday I flew home. By some strange coincidence my first flight was from Austin to Long Beach, covering almost the same route we'd driven, but much faster and much higher. I couldn't see the cacti, but I saw the green turn brown. I saw the hills and the ribbons of road that linked them like a necklace trailing beads. And I looked down on the wind-farms during our descent, sails turning lazily next to the shadow of the plane.

So I'm back. I'm tidying emails and snail mails and catching up on washing. And I'm wondering who I can persuade to move from Seattle to San Diego and take me along. It's been a wonderful week, a wonderful road trip, a busy, happy and exciting vacation.