Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On My Way to Africa

 All my bags and packed and I’m ready to go. Remember that old song? Well, that’s me at the moment, except we’re only talking about one very small bag, a twenty-five pound duffle to be precise, a challenge for a gal who likes to travel with a five-pound hair dryer. The hair dryer is staying home, but the laptop is coming, so there might be an occasional post/picture/update on FB or Twitter, should I find reliable Internet along the way.

We leave tomorrow for Tanzania, where we’ll be visiting the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Saadani, and Zanzibar, all places that figure high on my bucket list. I’m looking forward to exploring the legendary “cradle of mankind” and learning more about the people of Tanzania, said to be warm, hospitable, kind and gracious, including the Maasai people, a culture that has always fascinated me. 

I’m especially excited about experiencing the wildlife of Tanzania’s legendary national parks and getting to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitats. If we get lucky, we might even get to see some of the wildebeest migration. I hope I get some great pictures to share with my readers. I’m going to Africa with a sense of wonderment and an open heart. I feel so lucky that I finally get to explore this part of the world. And if along the way I get a few moments to refresh my Hemingway under the shade of Kilimanjaro, well, that would just be another dream come true.

Wish me luck!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

I Believe in Heaven, by Aaron Lazar

I Believe in Heaven
Aaron Lazar 8-11-15

I believe in Heaven with all my heart.

I firmly believe we all rise to our next life when we die to be with Jesus and our loved ones who have passed before us.

And I know my mother’s having a blast up there since she passed on June 13th this year.

When my father died in 1997, he “visited” me three days later in a dream. It was to comfort me, to tell me he was okay. I appreciated that, and have had many such dreams in the eighteen years since. We have long conversations and fun visits in my dreams. I know some folks might think it was self-soothing or wishful thinking, but I really think my father’s reaching out to me. I still miss him so much, and I feel him in my everyday life—all the time.

But my mother hasn’t shown up in my dreams for seven long weeks. I kept praying for a dream that would reconnect us. But she didn’t come through. Until last night.

My mother, sister and I walked along a winding dirt road in the woods. It was beautiful, and somehow I knew I’d been there before. I thought maybe I’d ridden horses on it in my past, and kept trying to figure it out. My mother walked along with healthy strides, and to my surprise, she looked like the teenage picture we discovered of her in all the photos that we’d never seen from her basement. Long dark hair, curled so prettily, a lovely face with bright blue eyes…Tall and slim, she was dressed to the nines, with a dark skirt and fitted jacket. Very stylish, don’t-you-know?

We approached a river that flooded over the road. It was deep, churning, and a little bit scary. My sister and I swam across it, and looked back at my mother, who hadn’t yet reached the crossing. We grew nervous, wondering if she would be able to make it. And then we both decided that, yes, she could do it. And she did.

She easily crossed over, just before a big turquoise tidal wave crested and rolled over. We watched it, but it didn’t harm us.

Then we ended up in a cafeteria-style restaurant looking at quinoa and lentil something or other, and I had to find a bathroom. Okay, so that part comes in all my dreams. LOL.

I think this dream was her way of telling us it is okay to move past the horrible, paralyzing grief that has gripped us in its clutches since she passed. She wants us to move past that river, to embrace life, to try to find happiness and joy again.

I can’t promise that the pain will lessen so quickly, as a matter of fact, I know it will take years and years. I now remember why I recognized that long dirt road—it was the path we took when my father died, the road we traveled to come to terms with his leaving us (temporarily, of course). I know we’ll meet again, and I look forward to that reunion with all my heart.

So, Mum. I understand now that you have been having too much fun up in Heaven to come visit me in my dreams, and that’s okay. I’m sure you’ve been reconnecting with loved ones and your beloved animals, that Dad has been cooking you some amazing soups, that you’ve been enjoying Heaven’s weed-free flower gardens, taking long walks with Trixie, and enjoying chatting with your parents and extended family. It’s a good sign that you’re finding your next life incredibly fulfilling and wonderful. So, I forgive you for waiting seven weeks. ;o) And make sure you come back soon, because, damn it, this is really hard.

Aaron Paul Lazar

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

An Author’s Quest to Reconcile Faith and Science, Math and Fiction

A Fascinating Interview with Author Sheila Deeth


Dora Machado

Where we talk about unusual genres, the relationship between math and fiction, and the benefits of chocolate and red wine to cope with the ups and downs of the publishing world.

Hi Sheila! Welcome to MB4 and congratulations on your latest release Tails of Mystery.  You write spiritual speculative novellas. What does the genre entail and what are some of the themes that run through your speculative fiction?

I like to call those novellas spiritual speculative, but really I'm not even sure it's is a genuine genre, or what defines genuine. What I mean by spiritual speculative fiction is fiction that veers over the edges of the real world, inviting readers to see there's more to life than human experience and science can explain. In a sense, I guess there's some element of spiritual speculative in everything I write, not just those novellas. 

My novels are set in the contemporary world, but characters struggle to rise above the ordinary and see light beyond the darkness invading their lives. There's almost bound to be some spiritual element to their enlightenment. And my children's Bible stories are clearly spiritual, but they include speculation about the historical, scientific, and sociological world of the Bible. You've got me wondering though - are my mystery-solving dogs in Tails of Mystery spiritual, or speculative. Probably not - they're the exception that proves the rule, or the author, or the genre, or something...

Your diverse body of work includes speculative fiction, but also bible story books, children’s novels and romance novels. How does it all come together and what is the goal or thread that connects your creativity?

Actually, my romance novella is kind of languishing, having lost its publisher before it was released, but I do have a second contemporary novel coming soon from Second Wind Publishing - a follow-up to Divide by Zero. I guess my background invites me to identify with people on the outside looking in; I'm the daughter of a Catholic and a Protestant, studied math in a world where women were seriously outnumbered by men in lectures, and now I'm an English American. It's hard to take things for granted when you're not sure you belong. So I've always liked to question everything, including faith, forgiveness, and what makes something a fact. I love to see patterns emerge as ideas come together. I suspect the pattern-matching instinct is what fuels my writing and connects the things I write. Mathematics is a world of patterns, symbols and signs. So is writing. And so is faith.

You describe yourself as a “mongrel Christian mathematician, inspired by faith and science.” How do you reconcile faith and science, mathematics and fiction in your books?

I really don't see any dichotomy between faith and science - both invite questions (or should, anyway) and both build on looking beyond what's seen, seeking patterns in what might be. In (mathematical) science we use patterns to derive formulae and create predictions, so we can test our hypotheses. In faith, I rather suspect God uses patterns to invite our curiosity, leading us to see beyond our senses. And in fiction, patterns are what give you that sense of awe and inevitability when something begins to work and the answer's in sight. Actually, mathematics gives you that same sense of awe, so maybe looking for "awe" is how I reconcile it all.

Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum. What are these novels about and what inspired you to write them?

Infinite Sum is the second novel of the series, but it's actually the one I tried (and failed) to write first. It's inspired by my own journey through depression, caused, in part, by things that happened in secret when I was a child. When I started trying to write novels, an imaginary character who was far too much like me kept invading the page. Eventually I decided to write my own story, maybe to get it out of my system. Then, of course (since nothing's ever simple), the imaginary character morphed into someone other than me. She was even able to teach me quite a bit, but the resulting novel was seriously dark and heavy, and I'm quite glad it never got published. 

Then I wrote Divide by Zero, creating a tapestry of characters who might be affected by the revelation of crime in their neighborhood. It gave me a chance to see abuse from many different points of view, and it offered that much needed separation from real events. When I'd finished, the character of a girl from Divide by Zero demanded a story of her own. She's not me, and her story's not mine. But the ideas and the feelings I poured into that first novel all took readable shape at last. I'm very proud of how the story turned out.

How did you become a published author? What is your favorite part of the publishing process? What is your least favorite part?

My first published work was one of those (now unpublished) spiritual speculative novellas. I'd complained that entering contests was even more demoralizing than trying to find a publisher (which is as bad as looking for a job). But someone whose book I'd just reviewed suggested I enter this contest, and I won. So much for complaining! I guess my favorite part of the publishing process is still that moment when somebody out there says yes. It's dance-around-the-room, beg-someone-else-to-read-the-email, squeal-and-shriek-with-glee time, and it's great! My least favorite part is rejection, of course, but now I've learned to celebrate with chocolate. If the rejection includes a personal message, I celebrate with chocolate and red wine.

Chocolate and red wine. LOL. Now we know your secret. What are the main challenges you’ve faced in your writer’s life? What are some of the rewards?

My biggest challenge was when the publisher of my novel closed his doors. Ouch! The big reward was when a second publisher accepted not just Divide by Zero, but also Infinite Sum, Subtraction, and Imaginary Numbers.

What’s next for Sheila Deeth?

I'm writing the next in my Five-Minute Bible Stories Series at the moment, hence my frequent absences from the internet. (Well, visiting family in England caused a pretty long absence too). It's going well, but it's a lot of work. I'm more than halfway through writing Subtraction too, and Imaginary Numbers is undergoing a major rewrite. Infinite Sum should be released really soon. And I'm writing a sequel to Tails of Mystery. Then there are those novellas, soon to be reissued with another publisher. So lots is happening, and I'm still reading and reviewing tons of books in my not-quite-spare time.

Thank you so much for visiting with us, Sheila.  I really enjoyed chatting with you.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Dora. And thank you for a fun interview.


Sheila Deeth is the author of contemporary novels, spiritual speculative fiction, children's fiction, and the Five-Minute Bible Stories series. She's an English American with a Masters in Mathematics from Cambridge University, England. But she has always told stories, from the day she learned to speak. When her sons were small, Sheila taught chess to school-children, using stories of chess players and their games. Now the boys are all grown into men, she spends her time reading, writing, caring for the home, and walking around the neighborhood, where she loves to meet her neighbors' dogs and cats. Her latest book, Tails of Mystery, is based on the wild adventures of dogs and cats everywhere.

Contact Sheila Deeth at:



Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for Murder By Four, an award winning blog for readers and writers and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and three very opinionated cats.