Category Archives: Sheila Deeth

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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Bits and Locks and Blue Screens of Death, by Sheila Deeth

They give “star gifts” to celebrate Epiphany at our local church. Each member of the congregation receives a star, signifying one of the gifts God has given or is giving us. My gift this year is “quietness.”star gift

Ah, thought I, as I read the word on my star. Some peace and quiet and time to type perhaps. What bliss! I’ll finish that next novel!

Then I switched on my computer.

Silence.

My husband thinks I type too noisily, and God offers quietness, but is this really what my star gift meant? A screen attractively shaded blue sports a mournful icon and the message that we’re going to restart for you because something went wrong. Alas, the restart fails because something went wrong, so it’s going to restart for me…blue screen

Trying hard not to scream (because screaming isn’t quiet) I think I’m about to give up, when suddenly… a question appears on the screen. My computer wants me to tell it something…

And the world grows noisy in my ears. My heart thuds fearfully in my chest, as I ponder how to answer the proffered question. “Bitlocker” has locked me out, but where will I find the key? And what is Bitlocker anyway?

Luckily my husband’s laptop and the internet yield what’s needed, a code that’s only 48 characters long!

Sadly, as you’d know if you’d ever edited my work, I can’t type 48 characters, quietly or noisily, without mistakes. But at last I get the keycode right and I’m in and…

A screen attractively shaded blue sports a mournful icon…

Apparently this is the Windows 10 blue screen loop of death. I shan’t be typing for a while. My novel won’t grow, and my office will indeed be quiet, a silence that’s not what I wanted.

But quietness is still written on my star. And maybe what I need is more important than what I want.

Perhaps a break from typing will offer star gifts of its own.

Perhaps I’ll finish some thoughts and conversations, and even prayers, while the novel languishes.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum (coming soon from Indigo Sea), Subtraction (which she will edit when the computer recovers), and Imaginary Numbers (languishing).

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Stocking up on rain, words and authors in Portland – by Sheila Deeth

I went to Wordstock last weekend. It’s a writers’ conference held almost annually in Portland Oregon and it had just moved to a new venue. The move, not surprisingly, had a few pluses and minuses, just like the rewrite of an old novel. (Did I mention, I’m rewriting an old novel – Imaginary Numbers – soon to be released by Indigo Sea Press?)

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Plusses:

  1. Those of us lucky enough to get into a lecture halls could actually hear the speakers
  2. Those of us not standing out in the rain were in a very pleasant, inspiring venue (the Art Museum)
  3. The guy keeping the floor dry so nobody would slip in the crowds trying to cram through tiny doorways did a wonderful job.

Minusses: see above.

What stayed the same was the quality of the speakers – they were great.

And what I learned:

  1. You are who you are. You can’t pretend to be someone else – to look like someone else, or to write like someone else – because your critics will tell you who you are.
  2. You’re never too old, too young, too weak, or too anything else (except perhaps too scared). You can swim the impossible (Cuba to Florida), write the impossible, paint the impossible, and most importantly dream the impossible. Those dreams should never be discarded (well, unless they involve hurting somebody, I guess).
  3. Culture determines what people see and believe – in a world without artificial light, it’s really not so hard to believe in witchcraft. Writers can create that world and make their readers believe.
  4. Friendship determines what people do and achieve – trust your friends to help you, accept their help, and praise them for their help.
  5. You can find inspiration anywhere. (Where else would I have found myself comparing swimmers to angel guardians?)

So here I am, signing my contracts for great new novels (yes, of course they’re all great) with Indigo Sea Press, rewriting Imaginary Numbers (see above), making final edits to Subtraction, eagerly awaiting the release of Infinite Sum (tentatively scheduled for January) and the rerelease of Divide by Zero (moving, as we speak, to Indigo Sea). What will I do with what I’ve learned?

  1. Dry my hair (boy did I get wet at Wordstock). Then dry my edits – remove those drips that pour from the imagination when I change one thing and make another stop working.
  2. Remember to look at a map before attending my next conference, so I won’t have to stand so long in the rain. Then I’ll remember to check the timelines and imaginary maps for my novel. Did he turn left when he should have turned right? Do I care? Can I just say he turned?
  3. Look for inspiration everywhere (even in the rain) – but be careful not to overuse rain and other depressing metaphors. The sun has to shine sometimes or we’ll all get soaked.
  4. Thank the guy who mops the floor, and the friend who says, “That’s confusing,” and the other who asks, “What happened to that person from the last chapter?” and the other…
  5. Rejoice in the fact that when someone says, “What brings you to Wordstock?” I can answer, “I’m a writer.” Better still, rejoice in the new friend I made. She writes. She’s a writer too, and she’s just learning to say so too.

Sheila Deeth is a writer (yay!!!!). Her sequence of novels–Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, Subtraction and Imaginary Numbers–will all be released by Indigo Sea Press soon (ish – she’s still working on some of them). Her childrens stories are published by Linkville Press and Cape Arago Press. Her speculative novellas are now under contract to, yes, drumroll,  Indigo Sea. And her dreams are all over the place. She’s grateful (I’m grateful) to Indigo Sea for giving her this place where those dreams can land.

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