Author Archives: SheilaDeeth

About SheilaDeeth

Writer, Editor, Reviewer

Time to Choose, by Sheila Deeth

The professor called me into his office. I didn’t want to be there. I’d just finished my post-grad year in the math department, and now I wanted out. But I knew, as everyone else did, he was going to ask me to stay. Would I find it in me to say no?

It wasn’t that I didn’t love math anymore. But the math I dreamed of had just slipped beyond my grasp, as I’d known it would. I ached for black holes and cosmological constants, but I’d come eleventh in the final exams, and those who came higher had already claimed those places. No studying under Stephen Hawking for me. I couldn’t prove I was good enough.

Climate science, fluid flow, partial differential equations and computer programs… Okay, the computer programs bit was interesting, but studying computers in a math department didn’t feel right. So I really did say no. I left my Cambridge enclave and entered the real world, using computers to design missile guidance systems!

Soon I was back in Cambridge, working for a small computer firm (no more weapons), dreaming how I really could have tried for that PhD if I’d been in the Comp Sci department… and writing stories, because sometimes it takes a long time for the changes to compile. Some programmers read the news. I wrote dreams. Still do (sometimes it takes a long time for the washing machine to run).

And I dreamed.

I had kids, told stories to kids, wrote stories for kids, resurrected those pre-math dreams and wrote more, found a publisher (more than one publisher), tried to advertise, and realized I’m still in that room. The professor’s still waiting for my answer. I’m good enough to follow my dream and work with that famous dreamer who’s now died. But I only came 11th in the exam. Those who came before me have taken up those places, and I shall always be invisible behind the scenes, running their programs (writing my code or writing novels), error checking (and editing), writing reports (or blogposts), just being me.

I have a choice, wherever, whenever it seems. And I choose to be me.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea. She came 13th in her undergraduate finals, so 11th was kind of a triumph, if a small one. And she’s posting this blog on the 14th instead of the 13th because time (publishing, computers, stories and dreams all) slipped away from her.

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When is a series not a series? And when is a genre not a genre? by Sheila Deeth

I typed “The End” a few days ago. The end of my next novel, Imaginary Numbers: The final scene, where I finally know whodunnit, when, how and why… and I wonder if I’ve rushed throu

gh the revelations too fast for the reader, because I was too eager to understand. I think I might conclude I’m not a mystery writer, but that’s all right; Imaginary Numbers isn’t really a mystery. It’s not really a romance either, though it’s protagonists might be falling in love. It’s not really drama, though it’s pretty dramatic when David reads his mother’s obituary while he’s talking to her on the phone. (My continued thanks to Pat Bertram, author of More Deaths Than One, already published by Indigo Sea, for letting me play with her premise.) It’s not really…

obituaries

Ugh! Why do I want to classify my book? They say it’s so it can go on the right shelf of the library (Why not an Indigo Sea shelf, or a Sheila Deeth one?), so Amazon customers can type in a few words to find it (Then list all the genres it fits instead of choosing one), or perhaps… just perhaps it’s to keep a tighter rein on my pen (or my typing fingers) so I don’t stray too far from the path, so I don’t lose the reader on the way.

Imaginary Numbers is set in the same small town as Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction (at least, a few short scenes of Subtraction). It stars some of the same bit-players. It’s part of the same Mathemafiction series, woven between the same events…

…and there I lost my way, because Imaginary Numbers is not about what happened in Divide by Zero; it doesn’t need to grow on the same patch of green, by the same paths, in the same park… It doesn’t need to slow down while other events take place, or crash into a wall while the author explains…

I have some very generous friends who’ve been reading my chapters as they grew. The last set I gave them were rejects — too much stuff about too many people who really didn’t matter to the story, events that really had no bearing on it, and ideas I only included because I was weaving, weaving, weaving the threads of those other books into places they didn’t belong…

…because I’d forgotten to classify my novel! It’s not a mystery or a romance. It’s not about Troy trying not to be his father, Sylvia recovering from abuse, or Andrew trying to believe there’s still good in the world; it’s not about what happened in Paradise Park; it’s about the other guy at the garage — the guy who read his mother’s obituary and found that nothing he believed was quite as it seemed, and wondered why.

A writers’ job isn’t to tangle the stories together, not even if they’re part of a series; the writer’s task is to set them free. So I rewrote, teased threads apart, rewove, and typed “The End.” Next week my friends will see how the novel changed; I hope, perhaps, to please them. One day I’ll hope to please you too, but not till the story’s threads are separate and tight. Till then I’ll tend and mend it with the aid of great friends.

Thank you so, so much to my great critique partners: Jean, Judy and Karin! And thank you again to Pat Bertram for the story’s seed. I’m so thrilled I’ll really get to meet you soon!

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea Press. Pat Bertram is one of her first ever online friends, and the author of many wonderful books also published by Indigo Sea. Jean, Judy and Karin are members of the Writers’ Mill.

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I Am Not A Typo, by Sheila Deeth

In one of those “good news/bad news” events last week, I got an email from someone who wanted to buy one of my books. I considered this most definitely good news.

51ryws67wol

She wanted a copy of “Subtraction by Sheila Deeth,” and guessing, very sensibly, that “Subtraction” on its own might not find my book on Amazon, she typed the whole thing in. Her search returned the message “0 results found for Subtraction by Sheila Death,” and her email asked why my book wasn’t available on Amazon–definitely bad (oh, very bad) news. I proceeded to panic.

After getting the same result on several other of my books (including Divide by Zero), I read the fine print, specifically the fine print that mis-spelled my name in Amazon’s reply. I hadn’t mis-spelled it, and neither had my potential customer, but Amazon generously corrected a supposed “typo” in my surname, changing Deeth to Death and resulting in “0 results.”

I complained. They fixed it. For one book.

I complained again. They told me I shouldn’t expect my books to appear at the top of any search until they sell better, which didn’t help. So…

I complained again, with examples. They fixed the examples. But for any other book, Sheila Deeth still gets “corrected” to Sheila Death. Unless Amazon is inspired to try a second correction (e.g. Infinite Sum to Infinite Sun) they won’t offer the option to search for what was originally typed in the search bar, and the message “0 results found” will discourage my rare (very rare) and invaluable (greatly valued) customer.

I know I can fix this (and no, not by changing my name). I can send Amazon a complaint listing of all books and they’ll correct all the searches, each in turn. Then I’ll have to remember to beg whenever another book comes out and they’ll fix that for me. But the QA engineer in me wants to tell their programmers, “Stop! If the search yields a result, offer the result or at least path to the result.” Meanwhile, the Prisoner in me (remember that TV series of my youth?) wants to scream from the rooftops, “I am not a typo,” just as he screamed, “I am not a number.”

So… if you’re ever searching for a book on Amazon and get the result “0 results found,” make sure to check what Amazon actually searched for. I can’t be the only author with a name that’s only one letter away from a dictionary word.

And I am not a typo!

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I tidied my Library by Sheila Deeth

20170810_183141The best thing about getting flooded last year is the fact that one of our sons’ bedrooms has now turned into a library. I’ve always wanted a library of my own and, being somewhat of a book hoarder, I’ve always dreamed of having enough space to organize my books. Of course, the fact that my library’s shelves are (in many cases) stacked two deep and two high (and bending) does make it a little hard to find anything. I lost Brooklyn. Then I found it and lost A Man Called Ove, which surely should have been next to A Long Way Down. Then I forgot where the Ursula Le Guin paperbacks had been filed, though hardbacked Malafrena and the Dispossessed were safe on the top shelf. While looking for them, I realized I now had Asian novels on two different shelves, mixed up with The Thirteenth Tale and Olive Kitterege. So… I tidied my library, again. Each book like a much-loved friend, long-forgotten, long overdue an email or a letter… each character reminding and begging me to read me again… each shelf ever heavier while I cleared all the volumes from the floor.

20180212_164333Meanwhile there’s that top secret shelf upstairs, where I hide my dream that someone might file my books in a library one day. Novels of small-town characters–Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea–They stand together with Biblical fiction for kids and novellas mysterious and strange… short stories in anthologies… even poetry and picture books! Would they ever belong on the same shelf as each other?

New characters beg me to write me again and I turn to the computer where Imaginary Numbers is growing fast; David’s falling in love, while his mother slowly reveals her curious past, and someone out there alternately scares and pleads with them both–“Stop ignoring me.” But who is David’s mom ignoring? And why does David’s newspaper carry stories of her murder while she’s clearly still alive? I almost know. but I’ll just have to see how it all pans (or pens) out…

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and Subtraction all published by Indigo sea Press. Watch out for Imaginary Numbers coming soon.

 

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I resolve, by Sheila Deeth

Last year–last December–my mum, aged nearly 90, crossed the Atlantic to spend her winter with us. One plane was cancelled; the rescheduled one was late; she missed her connection; she changed planes in half an hour; she struggled with middle seats because of her new schedule and finally played the “nearly 90” card to beg for an aisle seat; and she arrived 12 hours late! As we drove home in the car, my husband played a CD of Christmas carols and Mum, aged nearly 90, surely worn out from the longest day ever of hassles, sang Oh Come All You Faithful. It was nearly midnight–a midnight to remember!

20171212_162629

So now it’s 2018. Mum will stay with us until February, and we’re delighted to have her. I shall take her to see cats at a local cat cafe. We’ll visit the sea again with a friend. We’ll shop like mother and daughter–a treat since we’re so rarely together. We’ll enjoy discovering that Alexa is as obedient to Mum as she is to me. And we’ll laugh together when Mum says “You can’t print my story out; it’s only on my tablet.” “Mum, we have a printer downstairs.” Oh yes, and we’ll go to our local writers’ group–TOGETHER!

So those are my January resolutions. I know I’ll keep them. But as to February, that’s a whole month away, and the rest of the year even further. I’d resolve to catch up on book reviews, but I’m always getting further behind as I find new books I’m offered and “can’t wait” to read. I’d resolve to finish my next novel, Imaginary Numbers, but I’ll need my writers’ group friends to keep me on track. I’ll go to Mum’s 90th birthday party, come hell or high water, no matter how many planes get cancelled or delayed. And I’ll grow a year older–now that’s the sort of resolution I really should keep.

But maybe I should resolve to complain less, sing more in the back of the car, and enjoy the moment, like Mum! Maybe I should learn from her. And maybe we should all do something like that.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea. Her next novel, Imaginary Numbers should be written and released this year. And watch this space for Speculatively Yours, a collection of spiritual speculative novellas, coming soon.

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How was your 2017? by Sheila Deeth

20151206_170537It’s December. Happy Christmas!

I should be writing one of those Christmas letters – you know; the ones where I list my children’s accomplishments, our wonderful travel experiences, the glorious decorating job we did on the house, great tasks undertaken with marvelous success … etc. etc. It’s just this year’s been, well, one of those years. And I thought 2016 was bad…

20170118_121746 (2)Children’s accomplishments include their truly adult, generous and amazing help when our home flooded in January. They sliced and diced soggy carpet (plus, sometimes, hands and knees) to get it out the door. They carried tons of heavy furniture upstairs to the garage to dry out. And they assured me young muscles really aren’t that much better than older ones. Either that or our sons are rapidly ceasing to be young–not a thought I want to pursue.

20160806_173543 (2)2017’s travel experiences were very enjoyable. We had a great trip to England. Spent lots of time with family and friends, and visited Bath, Beachy Head, Bletchley Park, Cambridge, Chatham Dockyards (where Call the Midwife is filmed), Cleveleys (just me visiting Mum), the Devil’s Punchbowl (and the former A3), the Harry Potter studios, Manchester (just me, Mum and my brother), Rochester and Windsor. Took lots of photos… Later we had a week in DC visiting the nation’s capital with our oldest son. But then my mum began her annual trip here from England – that’s a travel experience and a half… flight cancelled due to snow, flight rebooked, new flight delayed and connection missed, new flight rebooked, new connections, more connections, more time and more delay… She should arrive by midnight, maybe, we hope. And travel finds itself added to the list of this year’s disasters.

20170810_183141We are definitely enjoying our redecorated basement. It took two thirds of the year to get from bare walls and concrete floor to liveable rooms again. It took more visits from those generous sons to bring the furniture back down from the garage. Our cars finally reclaimed their domain in late October! And I can now sit on a chair at my computer to write blogposts … and Christmas letters?

51ryws67wolTasks undertaken included great joy at being part of the Oregon Historical Society’s  50th Holiday Cheer book-signing. It was a fantastic event, very well organized, well attended, and great fun (especially listening to the Dickens Singers). I felt less happy at selling only one book there, but I sold seven at our local craft bazaar, so I shouldn’t complain… In other achievements, I saw my third novel, Subtraction, come out from Indigo Sea Press. Plus our local writers’ group, the Writers’ Mill, released two new anthologies! That’s surely success, unless you ask about sales.

If I were feeling negative, I guess I’d call 2017 a bad year with some good points. But that’s what I called 2016, so maybe this was my punishment. It’s nearly Christmas. Mum’s here! And that’s got to make it a good year.

Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year.

How was your 2017?

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction novels – tales of relationship, forgiveness and hope. Find Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction where good books are sold.

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What’s your Pitch? by Sheila Deeth

I think the world is trying to tell me something. I’ve just read two books that friends loaned to me. The first, the Story of With by Allen Arnold, explains how being creative is not about selling, not about becoming famous, or getting my books into bookstores, or making my fortune. It’s about sharing creativity with others and with God, and finding enjoyment in the sharing. But then came the second book, Daniel Pink’s to Sell is Human, which tells me all of us are salespeople like it or not, all of us selling, and many of us (presumably myself included) needing to learn how to do a better job of it. And now… well, on Sunday I’ll go to our local writers’ group at the library, where the speaker will teach us how to sell. So… yes… I think the world is trying to tell me something. All the best messages always come in threes, and this looks to me like three viewpoints on sales.

Daniel Pink’s book is interesting though. He offers some fascinating advice, and I’m trying to take it to heart. Like trying to find one word that describes my writing, target audience, or goals – a one-word pitch if you like. I came up with:

Outsiders

I’m certainly an outsider – English American, Catholic Protestant, mathematician writer. But everyone’s an outsider somewhere, and the characters in my stories try very hard to learn how to fit in. The man who left his wife because he was afraid of what he’d do if he stayed – he wanted to be a good husband and father, but he was an outsider to himself; the girl who wanted her parents to notice her – an outsider in her own home; the woman who’s hiding her past in childhood paintings – another outsider to herself; the boy trying to learn how to live with the knowledge of his grandfather’s crime; the teacher who ran away from his previous life; the child who runs away… I think outsiders might work as a one-word description, but what do you think?

And then there’s the Pixar Pitch:

Once upon a time... there was a place called Paradise that kind wished it was perfect. Every day… neighbors met and talked and made friends and enjoyed pretty close to perfect lives. One day… a crime changed everything. Because of that… a dear neighbor and friend must surely become a dangerous stranger. Because of that… her child becomes a stranger as well. Until finally… the child teaches a lesson in forgiveness that binds all Paradise together again.

That’s my Pixar Divide by Zero Pitch. But now I need a Twitter Pitch:

She’s hidden her past in her paintings, but why are they all red and black?

Which covers Infinite Sum. And for here’s a Rhyming Pitch for Subtraction:

How far would you go
to save an innocent runaway from the unknown?

I’m working on Imaginary Numbers now.  Pink suggests a Question Pitch, but I guess I covered that with my rhyme.  So all that’s left is the Subject-Line Pitch – something that would make my reader open an email: How about…

How to answer Mom’s phone call while reading her obituary.

What do you think? Would any of these entice you to read? Or buy? And what about pitches for other books… this could be fun, which I guess is what Allen Arnold’s book said–let’s enjoy our creativity together!

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction novels: Divide by zero, Infinite Sum and Subtraction, with Imaginary Numbers coming next year from Indigo Sea Press.

 

 

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Do you have a suitcase story? by Sheila Deeth

Last year I thought it would be easier to travel by train with one nice strong wheely suitcase – only one item of luggage to worry about; only one spot needed on the luggage rack; solid sides to protect the treasures inside; what could go wrong?

What went wrong was an overcrowded train insufficiently supplief with luggage space. I couldn’t lift my heavy case to the top of any piles, and it probably wouldn’t fit there anyway. I traveled most of the way from Manchester to London sitting on my suitcase near the door and standing to let further passengers squeeze me into ever tighter spaces, ever closer to falling out. Painful long and slow.

This year I carried two smaller more malleable cases and found … an overcrowded train with insufficient luggage space, all filled with other people’s super-large, super-solid items. I squeezed one case into the overhead space, panicked at every corner that it might fall down on some poor stranger’s head, then found at journey’s end that I needed the aid of not-poor strong-limbed strangers to pry it out. Meanwhile a fellow passenger’s large case filled the space where my feet were meant to go (cheap tickets in England are only valid for the designated seat). And there was nowhere for my other case, besides nowhere for me.

So I made friends with strangers, swapped life stories, rested one case on another and sat sideways in my designated seat with feet stretched into the aisle  – thus, since every passer-by had to ask me to move, I made many more friends. And relationships between real characters became my suitcase story.

Which got me thinking – every story we write is like a suitcase filled with ideas – enough for more than one suitcase perhaps,  even a series, but how we pack might not be the most important thing. Relationships will make or break the journey or the tale … and fill the author’s mind with more to follow.

So … pack heavy? Pack light? I’ll just try to pack “write.”

Sheila deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum,  and Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea. Her suitcases are full and she’s thoroughly enjoying the journey. 

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What have you lost? by Sheila Deeth

Andrew Callaghan would rather not think about the past. Too many losses. Too many betrayals. It’s simpler just to live in the present until that betrays him as well. And then, maybe it’s safest to assume the worst.

Stella DeMaris would like to be a part of Andrew’s present. If that means learning about his past and helping him find his future, well, she’s ready for the task.

And both of them care very much about the future of a special-needs child who vanishes from school.

Subtraction, released this month by Indigo Sea Press, is the story of Andrew and Stella and the missing child. It’s a dance between the past and present, between threats of betrayal and promises of hope, and between the illusions and disillusionment of a lonely math teacher. Enjoy it on its own, or read the companion novels, Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, as well – they each stand alone and they’re all set, at least in part, in the quiet subdivisions of Paradise.

Yes, there are snakes in Paradise. But there are cats as well.

As for me, I’m just the author. In January I lost my basement to a flood. It’s nothing compared to the losses suffered by others or by Andrew, but it’s dominated my year. Then, just this last two weeks, I finally moved back in. I carried book boxes from garage to newly refloored and repainted basement rooms. I emptied books onto that clean new floor. If their pages lured me like long-lost friends, the books went onto the surviving bookshelves (also lugged down to the basement from the garage). But many shelves were subtracted in that flood (likewise books which dissolved on bottom shelves); not everything would fit. So books whose pages didn’t call out to me went back upstairs in boxes to be donated to the library.

Now a new and beautiful library/reading room has been added to my life. It used to be our sons’ bedroom, but sons are grown and gone. This room is mine, and January’s subtraction has turned into August’s addition. I love the addition.

I also love the addition of Subtraction to my list of published works. Thank you Indigo Sea!

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Can Subtraction be a Positive? by Sheila Deeth

It’s coming soon. The release date is August 1st. And the title is Subtraction. So now I need a blurb for the back of the book. But what’s in a blurb?

Subtraction - cover concept

Subtraction – cover concept

  • I could precis the story, beginning, middle and end. But then why bother reading all the rest?
  • I could precis the setup, but what should I include; how much, where, when and why?
  • I could give you a character sketch but the characters change… well, apart from the middle-grade misfits who plan on misfitting for several more years yet.
  • I could tell you it’s related to Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, and no, it’s not about math… well, apart from the protagonist teaching subtraction to those middle-grade misfits in his class.
  • I could give you a sentence–Schoolteacher takes a road trip in search of missing child and finds himself…. maybe add love and cats for added interest (the cat’s important).
  • I could expand on the sentence, but that’s just just extra words.
  • I could ask you a question: Can Subtraction be a Positive? Then I could try to answer the question. And then…

Actually, I kind of like the question idea. If I subtract a negative number it’s the same as adding positives, so what if I subtract a negative thought? What if Subtraction is the story of a life worn down by negatives then turned around by subtracting negativity? Or is that too complex (I’m still working on book 4 of my Mathemafiction sequence, Imaginary Numbers).

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got so far… Three completely different blurbs, and a request that you tell me which (if any) makes you more interested in reading the story. Go on, please… subtract those negatives from my blurbs, send positive vibes, and help me make something great!

Version 1:

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

Version 2 (with questions!):

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

Version 3 (less existential, but still with questions):

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

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction sequence of novels. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, both published by Indigo Sea Press, where good books are sold, and look out for Subtraction, coming August 1st!

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