Category Archives: books

How Not To Write A Novel by Sheila Deeth

The problem with being a published author is that friends sometimes assume I know what I’m doing. I don’t. But I am learning. So here is a list of things I’ve learned about how not to write a novel:

  1. Don’t write what you don’t know. My first novel, written in elementary school, included a woman getting pregnant and giving birth six weeks later. I suspect if I’d had any readers they might have said this couldn’t be true.
  2. Don’t tell your characters to go away. In high school and young adulthood I still wanted to write. But every time I started a novel this character, someone awfully like me, demanded I let her take over. I didn’t want to write about her. I wished she’d go away, but of course, she wouldn’t. Characters rarely obey.
  3. Don’t write about yourself. Hoping to dispel my intrusive stranger, I tried my hand at autobiography. It didn’t work. She  was there again, complaining, “No, that’s you. It didn’t happen that way to me.” I gave up and wrote her story instead, and learned a lot from her. Later she introduced me to someone else, a character in my first-ever published novel, and at last she stepped aside. Thus Infinite Sum was born.
  4. Don’t forget the timeline. But that was later. Before then I gave up on writing novels, assuming they’d need too much time. I stuck to short stories–tons of them–where the same set of characters kept reappearing and meeting over again. One of these turned out to be a murderer, much to my surprise (probably his as well), at which point I decided to stick the stories together into a novel. All went well until my wonderful editor pointed out that one sister aged two years while the other didn’t change. Time for a timeline! Lesson learned.
  5. Don’t expect it to sell. Still dreaming, I still hope that first novel might turn into the start of something spectacular. It’s called Divide by Zero. It’s a tapestry of small town lives woven around a small town singularity. It’s moderately invisible on Amazon. But…
  6. Don’t stop writing, because the more novels you have out there, the better chance you have that one might sell. (That’s the mathematician in me, checking out the odds…)
  7. Don’t write in first person. They told me that long ago and it was easy when I wove Divide by Zero together. With so many characters each chapter clearly belonged to someone else–first person would have been hopelessly confusing. But my second novel was different. My character wanted to tell her tale her way, which meant I had to make sure I wrote in her voice and never mine. Harder work than I expected.
  8. Don’t write from multiple points of view. I didn’t hear this instruction until too late. Divide by Zero was inherently created from multiple points of view. But Infinite Sum enjoys just one narrator (yes, first person), so it’s more straight forward. Then comes my third novel, with two viewpoints warring, and a cat. It’s called Subtraction, and it due for release on August first.
  9. Don’t try to change the time and place. With Subtraction speeding toward release, I’m working on novel number four. In its first life this one was set somewhere else with different characters living in a different time. Now I’m reworking it for the Mathemafiction Series. I have to check up when people started using cell phones, computers, reading online, wearing different clothes… Whatever possessed me to think I could do this? (The characters, of course. They insisted I’d got everything wrong first time.)
  10. And finally don’t rewrite before rereading. Sadly, I needed that piece of advice before Imaginary Numbers took over my life. I don’t even remember where the plotline is meant to go. But the characters aren’t concerned. They assure me they’ll take the right way this time, implying, of course, that I got it so terribly wrong before. They’re bossy, my characters. And they really don’t care one jot about my flagging self-esteem.

So those are my ten don’ts. And now for my dos.

  1. Do read.
  2. Do write.
  3. Do listen.
  4. Do let someone else read what you’re writing.
  5. Then listen well to their advice. It’s sure to be better than mine.

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction Novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Her first novel, Divide by Zero, weaves a tapestry of small town lives around a singular death. The second book, Infinite Sum, presents the story of a wounded woman finding a path through the infinite sum of troubles in her past. Book three, Subtraction, will be released on August 1st. It tells how a man who’s lost everything might seek a missing child and find himself. And in Imaginary Numbers… Who knows? The novels explore guilt and forgiveness, and Sheila begs your forgiveness for her inability to tell where Imaginary Numbers will go.

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Caught in the Middle of a Mafia War “Not My Time to Go” by Thornton Cline

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Thornton Cline, author of “Not My Time to Go”

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Chapter Seven

       If you’ve been following my monthly Indigo Sea Press blog, you’ll know that I have been focusing on stories of my angelic protection from my new ISP book, “Not My Time to Go”. In this blog I will be sharing with you of how I was caught in the middle of an ongoing Mafia war.

       It would be eight years before any more near-fatal experiences occurred in my life. I was accepted into the Ph.D program in music education at the acclaimed, legendary music conservatory, Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. I arrived in Rochester in August 1977 on a Greyhound bus. Rochester, New York was a wonderful cultural arts city and offered me many exciting opportunities in music. But while it was an amazing place to live, there was a downside–crime.  The administration at Eastman School of Music warned the students about the dangers of the downtown area.  They told stories of students being held at gunpoint and robbed in broad daylight. They warned of beatings, murders, rapes and kidnappings that occurred even during the daylight hours. The school advised students to walk together in parties or use a form of transportation other than walking. Most of the students, including me, ignored the warnings and didn’t take them seriously.

Late one night in November of 1977, I was camped out in a practice room, frantically preparing for a violin jury, where I would perform a difficult classical piece memory in front of an entire panel of distinguished judges. I thought that night would never end.  By three a.m. I was exhausted. I had to call it a night and headed home for a few hours of sleep.

         1977 was particularly violent for Rochester. Crime and murders had risen sharply due to a major Mafia war sweeping the city. The war was fought between two Mafia-associated families the Pistilli clan and the Giovanni family. There were numerous reports of deadly drive-by shootings, car bombings and families being sprayed with roofing nails placed inside homemade bombs rigged to front doors of the Mafia family homes. 

       That night in November, I was so exhausted after hours of practicing that I couldn’t keep my head up or my eyes open. I packed up my violin and walked the six flights of stairs to the ground floor.

      “I’m leaving for the night,” I said to the security guard.

     “Be careful,” he replied.

      As I left the school building, I could feel the gentle breeze of the early morning air. It left a cooling mist of dew on my tired face, promising to keep me awake on my long walk home. I was completely alone, with not a single person or car anywhere in sight. The morning was calm and peaceful. I was numb and basically walking in my sleep. As I crossed Elm Street, I passed one of those parking lots where you pay to park for a certain amount of time. Then I saw a lone man walking to his car. It seemed very late for a man to be out doing business. But I reassured myself that the man was probably drunk and had just left one of the nearby bars. As I passed the nearby lot, the lone man went to unlock his car door. Unexpectedly, a colossal, thunderous explosion rocked the streets, forcing me to the ground. A massive ball of fire billowed from the car and engulfed the man, lighting up the dark, peaceful night. I felt glass and shrapnel fall all around me on the sidewalk. I lay there shaking for the longest time, in a state of shock, scared to the death. 

       After awhile, I carefully and slowly crawled on the sidewalk, away from the fire. I felt my entire body to see if I was still alive. The police, firefighters and paramedics arrived shortly after that and began asking me a million questions.

       Needless to say, I completely forgot about getting any sleep. The paramedics checked my vital signs, but couldn’t find a scratch or cut on me. Despite my close proximity to the explosion, I wasn’t injured in any way.

      Some declared that night a miracle. Others said I was lucky to be alive. I knew better than that.  I was definitely protected by angels and the hand of God. Again. it was not my time to go.

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A Vacation Horror by Thornton Cline

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

In my last blog, I shared about how I should have died when I was only two-years-old, which is documented in Chapter Two: A Toddler Almost Lost of my Indigo Sea Press debut book, “Not My Time to Go”.
In Chapter Three: A Vacation Horror, I had just finished third grade. Summer had begun, and I was headed to the lovely, pristine beaches of Mathews County, Virginia with my sister, Robin and my parents. We ventured out in our 1959 green Rambler and headed east to the beach. We were cruising down Interstate 64 East, singing songs and sharing stories of how great our vacation would be.
The sun was quickly setting as we took the New Kent County exit and headed down a lonely, two-lane highway, Route 33. It was now very dark.
“Keep your eyes on the road,” my mother warned.
There was an eerie fog that had settled on the highway. It was so dark that even two bright headlights looked like tiny candles flickering in the night. The road creepily wound beneath large trees which draped over the road. It was very rural and there was no one around for miles. Everyone in the car was silent and still. For Robin and me, it was a scary place to be.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a bright light flashed down on the right-hand side of the highway.

Phyllis screamed. “Bob, watch out for those poles.”
My dad swerved left, now seeing for himself the long poles jutting out in front of us. It happened so fast that no one had time to think. Bob steered to the side of the road and slammed on the brakes, taking us from 60 mph to zero in seconds. Robin and I were thrown as the car stopped. We were stunned. Speechless, we sat there in the dark trying to catch a breath. I was shaking violently. I never demonstrated much outward affection for my sister. But that night, I reached over to Robin and held her close, comforting her.
We stared at each other like zombies, slowly realizing that we were alive and in one piece. We had no cuts, scratches or bruises, nor any broken bones. We stepped out of our car and noticed the long skid marks our car had burned onto the left lane.
There was an old construction truck parked awkwardly in a rough dirt driveway. No one was in the vehicle, which was sitting perpendicular to the road. It seemed strange for someone to leave a truck parked like that, its back end barely clearing the right lane. There was no note left on the truck nor was there a rag attached to the truck indicating that it was broken down.
We looked closer and realized that passing that truck would have been fatal for us. We stared in disbelief—jutting out the back of the truck were eight long four-inch wide solid steel poles.
The truck had been parked in such a way that the poles extended over the entire right hand lane of the dark two-lane highway. These poles stuck out low enough so that if Bob hadn’t swerved to the left lane when Phyllis screamed, they would have cut off the top of our car. We would have instantly been killed, our head severed from our torsos.
Then a strong wave of peace flooded my body. I felt like I had been touched by the hand of God. I felt renewed by a new sense of confidence and purpose. At that moment, I felt reassured that I could go on with my life know I was protected by God and His angels.

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Things I learned about books and bookstores by Sheila Deeth

I run a local writers’ group. When I mentioned a free online seminar about getting books into indie and gift stores, one of the members suggested I take the class and report back. I suspect I wasn’t the right candidate for the lesson though, because in my other life I’m a mathematician. Still, it wasn’t all bad. Here’s my report:

  1. Sales are up at least 5% in indie bookstores. (Is this global, national, or average sales figures per store? Does the fact that many stores have closed affect the number?)
  2. Over 700 new indie book and gift stores have opened in 6 years (but how many have closed? And why does 100 a year sound such a small number to me?)
  3. Indie stores are where bestseller lists get their numbers from. (Great, but where do non-bestsellers go?)
  4. Indie stores hand-sell (as long as you can persuade them to read, stock and sell your book)
  5. People who look in indie stores often buy from Amazon afterward, thus raising your Amazon ranking (so much for hand-sold. I want to support indie stores!)
  6. Indie stores are community centers. People meet and talk. (Very true. I LOVE INDIE stores! Just wish I could sell my books in them).

Then came the really important stuff: Indie stores don’t exist to help you. You have to prove YOU can help THEM. Which you do by…

  1. Making the buyer’s job easy
    1. Easy ordering (preferably from a major distributor)
    2. Easy payment
    3. Easy returns
  2. Make sure the buyer can find the book and contact you
    1. Info sheet with your phone number
    2. email
    3. and address
    4. plus the book’s ISBN
    5. plus BRIEF info about it.
  3. Describe how YOU will drive sales to the store
    1. “I’m going to talk on the radio and I’ll tell everyone they can buy it from you.”
    2. “I’m going to bring the radio host to your store.”
    3. “I have tons of endorsements and reviews that you can quote from in shelf materials. The book will sell itself.”
    4. “I’m going to be featured in all these magazines.”
    5. (I think they missed the step about how I get the radio to interview me, how I get those endorsements and reviews if I’m still trying to find readers, how I persuade those magazines to feature me… Maybe all that’s in the not-free seminars I can’t afford to follow up on.)

Then came the mathematical finale…

  1. If 200 stores stock your book (200! My first novel was stocked in three)
  2. And sell 4 or 5 copies each per month (In 6 months I sold one)
  3. You’ll sell 1000 copies in a month, which pushes you up the lists and means
  4. More stores will stock your book
  5. Thus meaning more stores sell 4 or 5 per month (because, of course, those first 200 stores will continue selling it, won’t they?)
  6. And you’ll make a real-world salary, plenty to live on, in your first year!

Bumping straight back down to reality, the radio will interview me, magazines will feature me, and readers will look for me if I’m famous or have sold lots of books. Meanwhile the indie store closest me closed. I only sold one book. And pyramids are still pyramids, even when they’re made of dreams.

The best advice, of course, is to write a book that people will read, and I hope you’ll read mine.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Infinite Sum, recently released by Indigo Sea. If you think she suffers from low self-esteem after reading this, please improve her self-confidence by reading and reviewing her novel. And if you or your loved ones are weighed down by things that happened in the past, this novel just might help you understand.

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My First Book Signing

So, I had my first book signing this month.  Luckily for me it was a very casual laid back affair.  I would have felt completely awkward with any kind of crowd.  My neighbor and friend, who runs the local lumber store in our small town, graciously agreed to host me in a combination wine tasting and book signing event.

If you are not familiar with small town Manitoba, one of the things that separate it from the urban cities is that small town businesses like grocery and lumber stores can be a licenced Liquor Mart retailer.

Armed with a box of books and boxes of cheese and crackers and some one-bite brownies (that we were fancy enough to serve out of the boxes), I was set up at a table sandwiched between displays, a stack of boxes, and shelves.

Although it was a Wednesday, we failed in advertising it in advance (my printer is DOA), and it is a very small town, we had a fairly steady stream of traffic – for a small town lumber store on a Wednesday night.

We got to visit with neighbors who we seldom see, and I even sold a few books.  Seven books, in fact.  Much more than I thought I would.

I call this first ever Sanford wine tasting and book signing event a success.  I even left signed copies behind on sale on consignment.

We discussed doing a second book signing before Christmas.  Maybe this time I’ll find a way to print up some posters in advance.

It’s small, and it’s a start, but even the writers who are big today started small somewhere.  With luck, I’ll find more nooks and crannies to have book signings over winter.

Maybe I’ll even sell another seven books.

 

Can you handle a little darkness?

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

 

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

Facebook author page

Google+

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Pinterest

Twitter

WordPress

 

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Interview with Steve Hagood, Author of CHASING THE WOODSTOCK BABY

woodstock-copy

Welcome, Steve. What is your book about?

Retired Detroit police detective Chase is approached by a nice old lady who asks him to find the baby she had, and lost, at Woodstock. The search takes Chase to a small town in Michigan that has a secret that it has been hiding for four decades. The man who runs the town will go to any lengths, including murder, to keep the secret.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I have always been fascinated with Woodstock. When I heard the legend of the Woodstock baby I wondered what had happened to it. Why has nobody ever come forward to claim to be the baby, or the mother? My imagination took over from there.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Obviously, my protagonist Chase is my main and favorite character. A lot of Private Investigators in novels have a sidekick who acts as his foil – dark, mysterious, the guy who does the dirty work – Spenser and Hawk, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Chase is both of those guys rolled into one. He is the wise cracking, lovable guy who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.

Sarge and Sally are Chase’s partners in the bar he owns. Sarge was Chase’s training officer when he joined the Detroit Police. He still acts as a mentor and a steadying influence. Sally is the brains of the operation. She acts as Chase’s de facto research department. She doubles as the female, creating sexual tension between the two.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Yes. I had to do quite a bit of research for this book. The internet is a wonderful tool for a writer. It can transport you to any place and any time you want. I was able to put myself at Woodstock through pictures and stories. Hopefully my writing puts the reader there with me.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I don’t really have a schedule. I have a day job and a family so it’s not always easy to find time to write. I write when I can. I live by the mantra “Writers write” to push myself to write something every day, even if it’s just a few paragraphs or sentences.

What are you working on right now?

I recently finished another Chase novel, titled Cold Dark Places. Hopefully we will see it soon from Indigo Sea Press. It’s a story about a college girl missing in Detroit, and the basketball player implicated in her disappearance.

What was the first story you remember writing?

I didn’t start writing until about thirty. The first story I wrote was a ghost story. I don’t know why. It’s the only ghost story I’ve ever written. It was about a group of friends on a fishing trip who were haunted by the ghost of a Civil War soldier. It wasn’t very good, but it was a lot of fun to write.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Names are tough. One of the techniques I use is to open up the internet and use the first name that I see, if it fits the character that I need to name. I head up a scholarship given by my graduating class to the high school we graduated from. I offered my former classmates their name in a book in exchange for a donation to the scholarship. I had a couple people who wanted to see their name in a book, so it worked out for me, for them, and the scholarship.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

The most surprising aspect of writing, for me, is when the story builds upon itself. Sometimes I feel like a stenographer. I’m just the guy typing the words, the story is writing itself. In The Woodstock Baby there is a scene where Chase is questioning a suspect, the suspect denies any involvement and Chase says, “We have a witness!” I thought, “Wow, there’s a witness!” I didn’t know there was a witness until I typed it, and I’m the author! I couldn’t wait to see who the witness was because I sure didn’t know.

What writer influenced you the most?

I actually have two big influences. The late great Robert B. Parker made me fall in love with books. His Spenser stories are still my favorite. I’ve read them all multiple times. The fact that Chase is known by a single name is in homage to Parker and Spenser.

The other writer who influenced me is JA Konrath. I love his books, but it’s more than just his writing that influenced me. One thing the general public doesn’t know is that it is very difficult to get published – “you should publish that” a lot. If only it was that easy. Konrath called himself the king of rejection. He wrote nine full novels in two or three different genres before he got one published. He accumulated literally hundreds of rejections, but he never gave up. He eventually broke through and now has millions of books sold. He inspired me to never give up, to never stop chasing my dream.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

Joy

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

Ironically, in Cold Dark Places I make mention to The Woodstock Baby and how some Hollywood people wanted to make a movie about the case. They promised to get Denzel Washington to play Chase, even though Chase is “white, younger than, and nowhere near as pretty” as Denzel.

In “real life” I see Chase as more of a Will Patton type. He has the ability to be caring and tough and make them both authentic.

There’s this other actor who I know named Tevis Marcum who I think would do an outstanding job as Chase. He’s from the Detroit area and has the look. Like Will Patton he has the ability to be caring and tough in the same character.

What is something you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?

My flash drive. My work goes everywhere with me. I do back it up to my computer however. It has gone through the wash a time or two. There is no terror like the terror of finding your flash drive in the bottom of the washing machine.

What is your favorite place, real or fictional? Why?

Saline, Michigan. It’s my hometown. I moved away for a while and when I returned I thought, “Ahh, I’m home.” When I needed a small town to set The Woodstock Baby in I chose Saline because “there’s no place like home.”

Where can people learn more about your books?

From Indigo Sea Press http://www.indigoseapress.com/Stiletto-Books–Crime-and-Mystery-Authors-A-H.php#Steve and www.stevehagood.com

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PURPOSE by Thornton Cline

PURPOSE
by Thornton Cline

In my debut non-fiction book, “Not My Time to Go” on Indigo Sea Press I devote chapter seventeen to the purpose of living on Earth. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines purpose as the reason something is done or used or the aim or intention of something.
Throughout my true compelling close-call, near-misses with death I gradually discovered my purpose for living on Earth. I once believed that I existed just to eat, drink, and be happy. I didn’t think too much about other people’s lives, but put high value on indulging in worldly pleasures. I didn’t have much concern for my fellow brothers and sisters. Life was all about me. And while I played the violin and piano growing up, I used those talents and gifts for my own self-seeking purposes, not for a higher purpose.
Through all of my self-seeking, I gradually became reckless, taking foolish changes with my life. Many times I felt immortal. I depended only on myself for everything. The Lord was far removed from my life, despite my childhood spent attending church. I had forgotten how to pray, and, in fact, I didn’t feel like I needed to pray at all.
Of course, that was far from the truth. My guardian angel, other angels, and my Lord and Savior have always been by my side. I just haven’t come to that realization yet. All that time when I thought I was doing it on my own, my angel and the Lord were there helping me through everything in my life.
While I was depending on myself, they were what I needed. But no one could tell me. No one could preach that message to me. I had to learn it the hard way.
Slowly but surely, I came to the realization that I wasn’t here on Earth only to take up space and to exist. I also realized that life wasn’t about partying and pleasing myself with selfish ambitions.
Through the near-tragedies that I experienced, I began to conclude that life on Earth was a testing ground for my everlasting life in Heaven. Life was about storing up treasures for the hereafter. It was not about pleasing myself in partying and living it up, nor was it about accumulating riches and wealth while on Earth. I realized that I was constantly being tempted and torn between the invincible greatness and goodness of the Lord Almighty and the dark, evil forces of Satan. I discovered that every decision I made in my life had its consequences.
Life, I finally saw, was about God’s kingdom on Earth, serving God faithfully, and planting seeds by helping others so that the fruits of my labor could be reaped later. My mission was to reach others with my gifts and bring them into God’s fold.
Finally, life makes sense knowing why I am here on Earth and what my purpose is. It took those 11 close-call, near death experiences to help me to discover my purpose and the meaning of life.

Thornton Cline, author of "Not My Time to Go"

Thornton Cline, author of “Not My Time to Go”

Recent discussion about "Purpose" with the Richmond, VA writers group

Recent discussion about “Purpose” with the Richmond, VA writers group

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Vacation Reading by Sheila Deeth

I started reading The Girl On The Train on a train

On vacation near London, I started reading The Girl On The Train at a railway station.

A London bookstore is surely the perfect location to start Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Book Store

This bookstore, with its horizontal as well as vertical displays, was the absolutely perfect location for enjoying Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Book Store

These dogs surely dared to dream while I read The Dog Who Dared To Dream

Then I followed some happily dreaming dogs while exploring The Dog Who Dared To Dream.

Surely punting on the Cam is timeless ande English enough to inspire reading The Eyre Affair

And punting on the Cam – a timelessly English pursuit – inspired me to read The Eyre Affair

A wedding goblet accompanies my reading The Daylight Marriage

A wedding goblet in the Victoria and Albert accompanied my enjoyment of The Daylight Marriage.

Then it's off to enjoy the play of the book, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

Then off we went to watch the play of the book, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time, at the Gielgud Theatre.

Meanwhile my mum enjoyed Infinite Sum, hot off the press from Indigo Sea

Meanwhile my mum enjoyed Infinite Sum, hot off the press, freshly published by Indigo Sea.

And now I'm home, it's time for those final edits on Subtraction!

And now I’m home. It must be time for those final edits on Subtraction!

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum online and where good books are sold. Then watch out for Subtraction, coming soon!

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Not My Time to Go by Thornton Cline

There is a side of me that most of my friends don’t know. I have rarely shared this side with anyone until now. I am a survivor. My life has been spared. I am not talking about surviving cancer, heart disease or some life-threatening disease. I am referring to the eleven true compelling near-death experiences I have survived since I was toddler.
Long before I lived in Tennessee, my first encounter with death occurred when I was two-years old. I should have died and I should have died many times. But, it wasn’t my time to go.
What I am describing has been experienced by between four and 15 percent of humans, according to the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation. This segment of the population will have experienced a close call with death sometime in their lives.
It never occurred to me until later in my life that there was a possibility that someone or something was watching over me and protecting me from the dangers and close-call brushes with death. Later I came to the realization that there were angels watching over me. They have known me before I was born. They have watched me come into this world. They are looking out for me, watching and protecting me 24/7.
Skeptical? I can certainly understand. I was very skeptical for a very long time until I ran out of reasons and explanations for how my life was spared over and over again—11 times! I am not talking about situations where I was flirting with death, I am referring to miracles where there was no scientific or medical explanation as to why I had survived.
It takes a certain amount of faith to even consider the possibility of the existence of angels, especially for those who have no religious background or do not practice any sort of religion. And without trying to get religious with you all, I did some research from the King James Version of the Bible and discovered that the Book of Daniel (chapters 7-12) lists the names of our guardian angels here on Earth: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael. The Book of Revelation (7:1) describes how the four guardian angels protect and watch over the four corners of the Earth.
My eleven near-death experiences read like an Academy Award winner thriller film or a New York Times bestselling book. I have experienced grave illness as a toddler; was nearly decapitated along with my family; was almost killed by a bomb explosion during a Mafia War, was involved in two devastating car accidents, escaped from fire and explosion when my car malfunctioned on the Interstate, was the victim of an attempted abduction at gunpoint when I was a child, faced the near-death of my young 10-year old daughter, was involved in a close-call brush with death on an airplane, and was a victim of a failed car-jacking as an adult.
After much prayer, research and soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that I was protected and spared by guardian angels. Each time a close-call brush with death occurred, it was not my time to go. I concluded that there were reasons why I was spared here on Earth. I now realize that I am living on Earth for a purpose. Every day is truly mission and I am here to help leave the Earth a better place than it was before.

Debut book on Indigo Sea Press

Debut book on Indigo Sea Press

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Filed under blogging, books, life, Thornton Douglas Cline

Secret Lives by John E. Stack

Children always seem excited when they see their teachers in a different environment outside of school.  They often wonder if teachers do anything other than teach and grade papers.  They always ask teachers what they do in their off-time, because in the student’s mind the teacher lives at the school.  Even though it really seems that some do, most of us lead exciting lives, married, raise kids, and work other jobs (is writing another job?). 

What if teachers did do more than teach?  What if the middle schoolers we worked with were actually alien rather than just acting as if they were from another planet? What if….?

The above is the proposed forward to my latest submission, Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).  Secret Lives is my first attempt at something like a novel or rather a story other than a picture book.  We are always told to write about something you know or you are interested in.  So I did.

Let’s see, I have spent ten months a year for the last eighteen years teaching in the same middle school.  With that, I have worked around a lot of the same teachers and many new teachers that rotate through our school.  Some of the personalities are unique.  Sometimes the faces change, but the personalities stay the same.

I’ve taught close to two thousand students.  I would try to describe the normal student, but who is to say what is normal.  I have had parents ask “What happened to the sweet, little girl I used to have?  It’s like some alien sucked her brains out and didn’t give them all back.”  Or, they wonder why their sons stopped taking showers and why hygiene now means nothing.

So, I took a handful of experience (eight four-day trips to Washington, DC with four bus loads of eighth graders gives some experience), several teacher personalities, and a fascination with astronomy mixed them all together with a little humor and came out with something like a story.

God gave me a little leeway and allowed me to create a planet system around a known star.  In that system is a planet named after an Englishman named Nigel that I go to church with.  I got to determine what the people looked like and the environment in which they lived.  I also got to develop worm-hole technology.

My aliens are called Nigelians (Nigel) and they are very humanoid.  The only differences are their lack of noses and ears.  While on Earth they wear assimilation suits to disguise their differences.  They also have tufts of hair rather than a full covering.  There are other differences, but maybe you can read about them later this summer.

If you have ever been to Washington, DC, you may have passed by the Old Post Office.  I have been to the building once and even took a group of students up into the clock tower.  Most of the story takes place in DC, but the Old Post Office became the home for our school and was the center for a lot of the action in the book.

I also tried something that I haven’t really attempted since I was a boy (and that was a long time ago) — free-hand drawing.  In the military, I was trained as a architectural draftsman.  I learned straight lines and right angles.  This was something different.  I did sketches, perspectives and some doodling.  Eventually, I completed all the drawings except for one, which was submitted by a student.  I did make some changes, but gave her the credit.

I have to admit that completing this book was a lot more fun than the picture books I’ve been doing.  There was more freedom in writing, in the ideas, and my thought process felt more alive.  I also got to learn a lot about DC.

When we continue to try something new we continue to grow in our art.  And, as long as we enjoy what we do it is not a job. Keep an eye out for my new adventure.  Read, write and enjoy.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.  He is also the author of the upcoming books Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and  Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).

 

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