Category Archives: Sheila Deeth

Maundy

A new command was given on Maundy Thursday – a mandate – mandatum – hence the name. And in honor of “loving one another,” priests wash parishioners’ feet, kings and queens give coins, and altars are stripped to remind us of that giving of it all.

I’ll add my homage to Maundy Thursday in two short drabbles below – a 100-word story and a 100-word essay. And I’ll wish you all the blessings of this season.

bread and wine

Imagine the scene; twelve men on an after-dinner walk to a place of quiet reflection, bodies stuffed, minds tired, and souls restless with that nervous sense that something is bound to go wrong.

The streets were quiet. Night had fallen, everyone sleeping or praying, except for them.

“Strange about the bread,” said James, still tasting forbidden matzos eaten after lamb.

“And the blessing”—“This is my body,” the master had said, reminding them of something they were too full, or too tired to remember.

They stopped at a garden, sat on rocks, lay on grass, their bodies weary with food. And they barely noticed when Jesus left to pray with Peter, James and John.

Matthew looked up. “Huh? Where’d they go?” then, “Wonder what happened to Judas.”

Voices whispered. Armor jangled. Footsteps approached.

Mark 14:22 “…Take, eat: this is my body.”

 After they’d eaten the Passover meal, Jesus blessed and broke another matzo. He prayed over the third cup of wine—cup of redemption, blood of the lamb—and the feast drew to its end.

Maundy Thursday evening begins a three-day celebration of Easter: Maundy pennies to the poor; priests washing the people’s feet. But it’s communion that matters most—bread and wine shared in remembrance of Him. We file out from church, leaving the light shining in a tiny garden—shrubs and flowers, a place of Easter prayer.

And through the night, people visit, to watch and pray one hour.

Imagine this scene too, re-enacted in churches all over the world, including my brother’s church, where people, including my mother, watch and pray, souls restless with that whispering sense that even this is God’s plan, and resurrection will follow.

resurrection

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

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Writing In The Gray

So, the flood’s all dry, the floor is uncarpeted and gray, the walls are holey and gray, the ceiling’s gray (don’t ask–the previous owners painted it that way!), the sky’s most definitely gray (and most probably raining), and my mood… well, my mood is distinctly gray too. Meanwhile we look at paint colors, floor coverings (not not not not carpet, never again!), light fittings and more. Meanwhile time goes on.

I can scarcely believe it’s almost two months since our basement flooded. Two months since the panic of stepping into water while something (yet unknown) banged and roared and electrical outlets sparked (I know, what kind of idiot steps into water without checking, but I was running downstairs to investigate the noise and I didn’t see the reflections). Two months since incredible sons carried tons of wet carpet outdoors. Two months since incredible friends took charge and pushed us into action. Two months since incredible neighbors waded in to help. Two months since…

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And since then I’ve studied many many shades of gray. A good friend who knows about color suggested we try not repainting in the dreaded worn-out white. “How about white with a touch of blue?” we asked. But it’s a big room. Anything too bright and white is going to glare at us. She suggests we try gray colors–gray with a touch of blue perhaps. To explain, she took me shopping where we found a sample card covered in multiple shades of gray. It’s slightly disturbing how many of the shades sport names like “summer rain” or “winter showers.” Torrents and flooded basements come to mind…

So, the flood’s all dry, the floor is uncarpeted and gray, the walls are holey and gray, the ceiling’s gray, and we’re looking for better, brighter, more colorful grays to cheer up our lives.

But what about writing? I feel like all the words in my head are doomed to be colored gray till the tidying’s done. I’m working in the wrong room, with the wrong keyboard, with the screen in the wrong place. The desk’s too small. The bed’s too tall (piled high with rescued sheets and blankets). The phone’s too far away and I fall over boxes on my way to answer it, so my feet are sore without even getting the benefit of exercise. But my next novel, Subtraction, is already with the publisher. Who knows, it might get a non-gray cover. Divide by Zero is green. And Infinite Sum is red. (And Infinite Sum was in our local free paper, so it might be read as well! http://www.beavertonresourceguide.com/literary-corner-infinite-sum/) Meanwhile my critiquing friends remind me to send them Imaginary Numbers. So I’ll have to write, even if the ink and the mood remain at least slightly gray.

Imaginary Numbers–it all starts with a guy reading his mother’s obituary while he’s talking to her on the phone… Perhaps his mood would be slightly gray as well.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and the soon-to-be-released Subtraction, all published by Indigo Sea Press. She failed to blog here last month because she was grayly recovering in a world of damp boxes and wet stuff.

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We wish you a merry Christmas by Sheila Deeth

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See
Tree rings cry
for history and mystery inside;
The tree lays flat to die.
Trailer’s rings all jangling metal, dangling chains reply
So low, once high.
Road is ringed with winter’s cold, its shoulder iced with snow.
This tree can’t fly.
But now the crane is lifting, tree is gifted with new life—
A hopeful sight with silver rings, now lighted bright
against the star
struck night.
The tree stands proud and high.
Then tree of Christmas rings its bell
For history and mystery inside.

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After selling copies of Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum at the Oregon Historical Society Holiday Cheer event, and enjoying the company of writers, I headed home with my husband and a friend, past Portland’s Pioneer Square where the Christmas tree, as always on this day, was surrounded by beer tents. Cheers! And Merry Christmas! May you too find the history and mystery inside.

Sheila Deeth’s novels, Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, are both published by Indigo Sea Press. Meet the artist whose red and black painting hide red and black secrets from her childhood, and learn how life’s infinite sum of memories can raise a survivor up instead of weighing her down.

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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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If I subtract the past from the future will I get the present?

Apparently it’s October. I can’t think how the year slipped by so fast. I can’t imagine how I’ll ever catch up on overdue tasks. I can’t believe… it’s October. So I perceive a whole new fright in this month and ponder, will my next novel come out in time for the Christmas sales. I wonder when my next collection of short stories will be done; will I remember to book a table at the Holiday Bazaar; will I…? Meanwhile I close my eyes while reading time-travel stories. If I turned back the clock, could I post my review last week (or better still, last month when it was due)? But would that change the present?subtraction copy

Of course, the immediate present includes an overdue blogpost (here), a sleeping brain that can scarcely parse words unless they rhyme, a mathematical counter that ticks till the ending of time, and a keyboard. So here’s the (100-word) result:

If you should dream today, tonight,
And if the dreams you pray take flight,
And if the words you say take fright
Because today is not tonight,
Remember this, tomorrow’s dream
Will never grow the way it seems
You think it should; instead today
Will take your coulds and woulds away
Until tonight you dream the past
And future; neither lasts.

But if you dream tomorrow, know
The way that every sorrow goes
Is always backward till it’s gone
And always nightward till the sun
Refines its mystery.

Then, when dreaming’s dead and done,
The rest is history
And one.

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction Novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum at Indigo Sea Press or on Amazon, and look for Subtraction coming soon.  Each novel is longer than 100 words. None of them rhyme. And none of them (so far) involves time travel.

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Subtraction Distraction by Sheila Deeth

The trouble with being a mathematician is you like things to make sense. So spelling’s supposed to be logical. Grammar should have simple rules. Punctuation should be more than vaguely undefined measurement. And what should a mathematician do when tasked with producing an anthology for a local writing group?

The trouble with literary rules is everyone reads and writes them a different way. Some authors never use quotation marks. They get away with it, a) because they’re famous, and b) because they’re consistent. The reader turns the pages and soon works out how those sentences should sound. But when everyone in the anthology uses a different set of rules, the reader ends up with unmeasurably ill-defined noises from each page all demanding to be properly understood. So what’s a mathematician to do?

I got together with my fellow volunteers. We pondered whether ellipses should have spaces before and after. What about m-dashes? Should we get rid of straight quotes and replace them with curly ones. And could we make a cheat-sheet of simple editing instructions? All went well and the cheat sheet’s only one page long. Then we came to that vexing question of usage: m-dash or ellipsis; how, when and where?

Some web-pages told us ellipses are used in dialog; m-dashes in prose. Others said ellipses are for trailing dialog; m-dashes for interruptions. Still others insisted ellipses be used whenever a sentence was incomplete. But I’m a mathematician, and we needed a rule.

In the end, we came up with something moderately mathematical. The ellipsis, we said, is for missing words, whether forgotten, unspoken, left out, interrupted, or just too many to quote. M-dashes are for extra words, where one sentence is inserted inside another, where brackets might be used, where intersecting ideas overlap. It sounded good, but what do we do with this?

“My child… my baby… my heart…” the poor mother cried.

Are the thoughts interrupted, intersected, incomplete, or all three. (Our best suggestion was to capitalize the ms, making three incomplete sentences with ellipses to cover the missing words.)

Then there’s this, from my upcoming novel, Subtraction. A math teacher prepares to treat his students to burgers and fries while pondering “Who am I?”

Voices from the past ushered a host of memories into Andrew’s mind. Amelia was the girl long gone, child of a house whose antique, ticking clock kept perfect time. Amelia was lost under green of trees and the pricking of tangled branches of a place called Paradise—Amelia, Andrew’s parents, Carl… all subtracted like numbers from Andrew’s page. He let his gaze drift to the window, hoping the sky’s bright tones would wash his palette clean again. But who-am-I doubts combined with the whispering of leaves and chatter of children. He couldn’t forget. That long slow walk between Tom’s desk and the classroom door could take a lifetime, waiting for delivery’s knock.

The m-dash leads on from a completed sentence, I guess. And the ellipsis ends a list with names left out; but I’m not sure. Does it look odd to you? Should we add another rule that no sentence include both?

Meanwhile, being a Harry Potter fan as well as a mathematician, I just happened to be reading my (American) copy of The Cursed Child and comparing it with my son’s (English) copy. So there it was, in black and white… a sentence which used ellipses in one edition was punctuated by a comma and an m-dash in the other! Help!

Alas, the trouble with being a mathematician isn’t just that you like things to make sense. You like the rules to be simple and clean as well, with no exceptions please…

i before e except after c? No wonder I always hated spelling.

Sheila Deeth (with an e before the i) is a mathematician and a writer. Her Mathemafiction series of novels is published by Indigo Sea. Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum have already been released, and Subtraction is coming soon. She’s currently working on the fourth book, Imaginary Numbers, and promises to be moderately logical with her punctuation.

 

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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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On Writing, Editing and Forgery… by Sheila Deeth

Once upon a time I wrote computer programs.

Did you know, a good program should always be designed to be read by human beings as well as machines? Why, you might ask, and the answer is: so that when you, the programmer, have left the company, the human being who replaces you might know what you thought you were doing.

Good programs are also designed to be read by machines, of course – think two-year-olds. The instructions are written in code – think “Yes” and “No.” And instruction lists are broken into short and clean subroutines – like chapters in a book.

Finally, good programs are supposed to be impossible to misread, which brings me to my next job – breaking computer programs. Technically I was a Quality Assurance engineer at the time. I ensured the quality of programs (or at least tried to) by searching for every possible case the programmer might have missed, then breaking things in every way my limited brain could imagine – failing to test for Divide by Zero was, of course, a classic example (and became the title of my first novel). Since I was married to one of the programmers, we’d often joke – “No dinner tonight unless you fix this bug!”

But now I write and edit books.

There are similarities. Mostly I don’t write for two-year-olds (human or mechanical) anymore; but I still hope to write clearly enough so when I, the author, have left the page the human replacement, or reader, can easily work out what I was saying. I still use code, or symbols, to evoke feelings and memory. I still try to simplify – never use two words where one will do? And I still break my tales into chapters and scenes. Then I edit.

I’ve learned that editing uses those same “break things” muscles as being a QA engineer, looking for ways a reader might misunderstand, misread, or wrongly imagine the interpretation of words. “Time flies like an arrow,” is a classic example here – was time flying, or was little Freddy following the flight of bugs? The editor irons out bugs from the program, or book (sounds rather messy) and then…

But editing for someone else has another aspect too – one that came into play for me, somewhere between writing and breaking programs. I spent quite a number of years at home with small children then, in preschool with small children, in elementary school, in chess club, and more. And during those years I learned to be a forger of children’s art.

You see, these were the days before scanners and Photoshop, and we wanted all the kids’ self-portraits on a tea-towel to be sold in a fundraiser. But how would we get the artwork from scraps of torn paper onto one two-foot by three-foot paper template? The answer is, yours truly took the pictures home; studied the way the lines were drawn – where did the pencil hit the page… did this kid use smooth curves or sharp angles, press hard, press lightly, make holes in the paper… and did the eyes fit in the face? Then I copied the pictures, one by one, redrawing and resizing into equal spaces on the template. Neither moms nor kids could see the difference – except in size – and that was the idea.

That’s the idea with editing for someone else as well – no one should see the difference between the editor’s suggestions and the author’s original ideas. And perhaps it’s the idea with writing too – no one should see the difference between the author’s words and the character’s thoughts. But forgery might pay better.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Infinite Sum, soon to be released by Indigo Sea Press. And Sylvia Steepleton, the protagonist of Infinite Sum, was a character in Divide by Zero who demanded to tell her own story. Read Divide by Zero, meet Sylvia, and ask why she let it happen. Then  find the answers, as told by Sylvia and written down by Sheila, in Infinite Sum.

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What’s Your Favorite Age? by Sheila Deeth

I remember when grandparents were, by definition, 57 years old. I’m not sure why I thought that to be the case. I was 9 when my grandmother died at sixty-something. But 57 remained in my mind. 57 is old.

I remember that glorious day when I turned 10 – those magical double-figures – I wasn’t a baby anymore. But I wasn’t satisfied. 14 had become my favorite number now – teenage freedom and fun. I wrote stories with 14-year-old heroines, superpowered, superthoughtful, superwonderful. Even at 15 and 16 I still considered 14 the perfect age. 15 and 16 were, well, old.

I remember when 19 became my new definition of ancient. I raced up the stairs in my college dorm (think gorgeous old house, wide oak banisters, sunlight streaming through the dust). Folders and workbooks flew  from my arms and long hair flew about my face. A mirror stood at the top of the stairs and my image, caught suddenly like a stranger in the corner of my eye, left me feeling scared. I couldn’t pass for 14 anymore.

At twenty-something, a mother now, I started writing heroines who were 23. At thirty-something, 24. At 40? But life begins at 40, so they said. And now my heroines were 41, with the occasional nod to 60 and old age. I’d finally agreed, 57 might not yet be ancient after all. Which was just as well, though it didn’t help my self-esteem when I hit that magical age, gray-haired and needing to diet.

And time moved on. My father-in-law’s about to turn 90, I’m not going to tell you my age, and I’m trying to pick a “best age” for my next character. What do you think? And how did those years all fly away, like folders from a student’s arms?

Infinite Sum, working cover

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, from Indigo Sea Press, and of the soon-to-be-released companion novel, Infinite Sum. Which one will you read first?

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Thinking of Pins and Badges, by Sheila Deeth

Coco Isle’s latest post showed us how to make pins from our book covers, so now I’m wondering how to justify buying a laminator to my husband. If only the kids were still at home, it would be a perfect accompaniment to all sorts of crafts, but they’re all grown. So I’ll either have to work with imaginary pins and badges – or else I’ll just feel old.

I got a nice imaginary badge from Goodreads recently!

Top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads

Does this make me a successful book reviewer?

If only I were in the top 1% of authors too!

Meanwhile there are all those cool images we can make on Canva and Twitter, like this one.

I’m even learning how to insert them into blogposts!

But the best news of all is that Infinite Sum really is coming soon from Indigo Sea. So maybe I’ll just have to shell out for a laminator and make a red and black pin from the cover when it’s done. After all, who could resist asking what that image means if they saw me wearing it?

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Thank you Coco for inspiring me!

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero and its companion novel, Infinite Sum, coming soon from Indigo Sea Press.

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