When you are making your Christmas lists, don’t forget books!!
When you are making your Christmas lists, don’t forget books!!
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?
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
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.
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.
I’ve been telling stories since the day I learned to talk—or possibly earlier. According to my mum, I was constantly talking even before I knew words, so perhaps I was born telling tales.
I’ve been writing stories since the day I learned to write—a task that was delayed, I suspect, by my innate laziness. Teachers used to “borrow” me from class in elementary school, so I could keep their students quiet with my made-up tales. Then, one day, the principal (the wonderful Sister Bernadette) put a rather large reel-to-reel tape recorder on the desk in front of me, accompanied by an extremely large and scary microphone. She said if I wouldn’t learn to write my stories, she’d just have to record them, one by one. The pencil being less scary than the microphone…
And I’ve been waiting to tell the story in Infinite Sum, since the day a trusted adult first abused me. But don’t worry; the novel really isn’t my story, and Sylvia is not me. My protagonist’s feelings are just as real and honest as if they were mine, but I think her tale is much better told because it’s hers. After all, I’ve been telling stories, fiction not fact, since the day I learned to talk. It’s what I do.
Today I started writing a dedication page for my soon-to-released second novel (hence the title to this post). I’ll have to start by thanking all those kind people who rejected my first attempts. I’m glad they stopped me from trying to publish my own story. I’m glad they rejected the thinly disguised (and overly serious, unbalanced and introspective) novel that it became. And I’m glad Second Wind have accepted this new and (I think vastly) improved iteration. It’s fiction, and I feel like it’s finally made Sylvia real to me—for all that she’s a stranger in my head. It’s made my childhood self real to me too. So I’m really grateful to my publisher.
I’m also enormously grateful to my mum. She has told me repeatedly, since the day I left home, that I really should make use of my storytelling and writing skills. Without Mum’s constant prayers and encouragement, Sylvia’s story would never have been written. Thank you Mum.
And now I must thank all those generous friends who’ve encouraged me with early reviews—in particular authors Catherine Cavendish and Paulette Mahurin, and most especially mystery author Aaron Paul Lazar who applied his razor-sharp fine-tooth comb to the final edits of the text. Thank you so much!
And you, dear readers, thank you too. If you read Divide by Zero, this novel’s for you. And if you haven’t got around to reading it, well you’ve still got time because Infinite Sum hasn’t yet been released. In Divide by Zero, you’ll meet a girl and the village (or subdivision) who raised her. You’ll wonder, if you’re anything like me, why she allowed things to happen as they did. And you’ll finish reading just in time to open up Infinite Sum and find the answer.
I’m so very thankful that Second Wind Publishing have trusted me enough to accept a second novel after Divide by Zero.
But most of all I am grateful—I will always be grateful—to God for teaching both me and Sylvia that forgiveness never was our job.
Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, one published and one soon to be published by Second Wind Publishing. She’s currently working on Subtraction, the third in the series. And Imaginary Numbers will follow soon afterward.
It’s January 13th, and we still have Christmas lights blazing every night outside our house. A pine tree scents the living room, and a turkey’s sharing space with roast potatoes in the oven: Christmas dinner, again!
We have a good excuse though. Our oldest son’s a doctor and he worked through the holidays. But now he’s home and it’s time to celebrate. Still, d’you suppose it’s really okay to have Christmas in January?
I know the Christmas season starts on the night of December 24th (’cause it’s Advent before). But when is the first night, and when’s twelfth night, and when do the decorations have to come down? Is Epiphany still part of Christmas? Is “after Epiphany” too? I turned to Google to figure it out.
Google is my friend, of course. I ask Google lots of questions when I’m editing my stories: When did people start using cell-phones, for example, so I can decide how they’ll contact each other in my novel. I ask what cars they drove in the States in the 70s–since I grew up in England it’s not much good trying to sift through my memories. I let Google tell me how far it is to drive from A to B, and what the weather was like in early spring of 1963. Google helps me fact-check those details so my stories can grow. It also let me know that:
40 days (ah, dreams of Lent and Easter here) takes us to February 2nd, which means I’m perfectly (or anciently) traditional, still celebrating my Christmas for weeks to come. That said, I’ll probably take down the tree when our son goes back to work–it’s shedding needles far and wide, and they’re getting pretty hard to sweep off the floor.
So… When did you take down your tree if you had one? When did all the Christmas lights go out in your neighborhood? Which season are you most looking forward to celebrating next? And is Google your friend?
Happy Christmas, New Year, Epiphany, Candlemass and more!
Sheila Deeth is the author of three contemporary novels, Divide by Zero, Infinite Sum, and Imaginary Numbers, all coming soon from Second Wind Publishing. She loves numbers, writing, reading, cats and dogs, amongst other things, and calls herself a Mongrel Christian Mathematician. She rather likes Christmas too! And Google is her friend.
“Distractions” by Deborah Watson
“Jack” by Sheila Deeth
“Lady Blue” by Carla Damron
These short stories have have been posted here: http://secondwindpublishing.com/murderisonthewind.html
Now it’s up to you! Please stop by and vote for your favorite story, and you might be a winner, too! One lucky person, chosen at random from all those who vote for the winning entry, will receive a free copy of the anthology Murder in the Wind when it’s published.
Voting ends Saturday, July 18, 2009 at midnight