About Sheila

Reader, writer, dreamer

Kindle Countdown Deal to Celebrate Ocean Echoes Finalist Award

Just when I thought I’d give up on writing to become a goat herder, Ocean Echoes received finalist awards from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the general fiction and e-book categories!

I might still become a goat herder, but I’ll never consider giving up on writing again.

Thank you to everyone for cheering me on through years of revising and thank you for reading, reviewing, and supporting Ocean Echoes once it was finally published.

A huge thank you to these wonderful authors for taking the time to read and review it: Carrie Rubin, Britt Skrabanek, Kourtney Heintz, Jill WeatherholtCharissa Stastny. And thank you so much to book reviewer Mary Jo Malo for such a kind and thoughtful review. If you don’t follow them through the blog, Twitter, or Goodreads, you’re missing out on a lot of humor, advice, and inspiration. I highly recommend their books.  

A Kindle Countdown Deal starts today: Ocean Echoes will be 99 cents for a few days, then the price will go up a bit depending on the day. The Kindle Countdown Deal will end on May 18 when the price goes back up to $3.99. For Amazon UK, the Kindle Countdown Deal will go from tomorrow, May 12 – May 17. Ocean Echoes is also free to Kindle Unlimited members.

Remember – never give up!

(Photo courtesy of Top Design Magazine)

 

 

 

The Outermost House Treasure Hunt

Cape Cod ocean“The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot. In my world of beach and dunes these elemental presences lived and had their being, and under their arch there moved an incomparable pageant of nature and the year.” – Henry Beston

One of my favorite books is The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston. I love imagining the stretches of beach and marshlands that Beston called home, seeing all the changes from season to season, hearing of wild places far from civilization.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to visit the site of the Outermost House but wasn’t sure exactly where it was located. There hasn’t been anything there since a massive storm, the Blizzard of ’78, destroyed the wooden shack and carried bits of it off into the ocean. Still, I wanted to go there to experience some of the beauty to be found, to sit near the site and soak in the poetry of the place.

Outermost House beach

Eastham Lifesaving Station

The site is about two miles from the Eastham Life Saving Station (white building above). Thanks to the Cape Cod National Seashore, I figured the area would look pretty much the same as when Beston stayed there in the 1920s. The Outermost House is credited with being one of the motivating forces behind the creation of the National Seashore, preserving 40 miles along the Atlantic coast.

While flipping through a book on Cape Cod hikes, I saw a map that showed the exact site of the Outermost House as an X on the beach. It looked like a treasure map. I knew then that I had to find it.

We set out from the life saving station. It seemed like the X marking the treasure would be easy to find. According to the map, the site would be on a beach and directly across a marsh from an observation pavilion.

We trudged through the sand, looking for the pavilion. But before we could stand across from it, an inlet opened up in front of us, a wide, deep inlet complete with waves that stretched from the ocean into the marsh. The inlet blocked our way to the treasure.

We stared across the channel to a beach that looked more like an island. The inlet hadn’t been there when Beston lived there. It wasn’t even on the map showing the hike, but it made the Outermost House site inaccessible.

Large rocks on the island beach moved. Then we saw heads bobbing through the inlet waves. Seals swam and played, oblivious to us and our quest for treasure. We realized that seals completely covered the beach and the area where the Outermost House once stood.

So we didn’t make it to the treasure. Or did we? As we walked away, we knew that the treasure is in knowing there are still places like this, places where seals can play, inaccessible places where nature can flourish. We were glad then that we couldn’t get to the site and that only seals could visit.

Have you read The Outermost House or anything that’s made you want to go on a treasure hunt?

Versions of the Self

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I’d like to share this amazing book by Christy Birmingham with you. I highly recommend it to men and women, to people who love to read poetry and to people who have never read poetry. To everyone who has ever been filled with doubts or regrets, love and joy.

The poems found in Versions of the Self resonated with me when I read them, and they’re still resonating. There are so many feelings that can be found here, so many relationships, so many selves.

I loved the poems that celebrated freedom and could at times feel my soul soaring along with the words. Then different poems made me stop and think while bringing me back to Earth.

The poem, “Within a Few Feet,” shows the regrets that hold us back and keep us earthbound, all while freedom is only a few feet away in the form of seagulls tempting the author to fly.

Some poems show the gradual process of healing before being able to move on, then we come to, “Made to Write,” where the writer discovers her purpose and “I Stand Here,” showing her growing confidence with this last stanza: “I stand alive,/Healthy and complete, as/My branches extend into fresh air around me.”

We also see the joy of new love and the fear of that love diminishing or disappearing. Questions and disappointments surface, but then there’s always that chance for freedom and soaring again. “You, Colors, and Realization” shows this perfectly after stating “You were once a masterpiece”:

“Today, your colors fall to a wooden floor,/While I run a paintbrush under the kitchen tap/To clean the bristles and/Paint a new day,/Made of colors that I alone choose.”

Anyone who has ever had doubts while in a relationship, and I’m guessing that’s everyone, will find themselves here. Times of insecurity and despair combine with a blooming confidence and an ecstasy for life, giving the reader an overall feeling of positive energy and tingling inspiration.

We see the friendships we form with different people, how we push each other, help each other, inspire each other, and push each other away.

The theme of freedom floats through the pages, and it’s not always meant as freedom from a particular relationship. There’s a stronger sense of freedom from fear, freedom from anything holding you back from what you’re meant to do.

We see this in “Flight Path” with these lines: “You are more than your drenched feathers…You are meant to fly, I know you can, and/It is the moment when you turn can into will/That I will savor the most.”

With all of these poems and inspiring words, we see the bravery it takes to step forward into each day and the exhilaration that’s felt when we leave our fear behind. Everyone who reads this collection will see different versions of herself or himself, the effects we have on each other, and all the energy that can be felt when we find a way to be true to ourselves.

Happy International Women’s Day – and thank you to Christy for your inspirational poems!

How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day?

Jellyfish and a Giveaway

jellyfishI’m not giving away jellyfish, but there is a Goodreads giveaway going on now for signed paperback copies of Ocean Echoes. If you live in the U.S., click here to enter.

jellyfish

Ocean Echoes is about a marine biologist who gives up on love to study jellyfish at a Cape Cod research facility.

jellyfishHere are a few jellyfish details to celebrate the giveaway:

Jellyfish have roamed the world’s oceans for at least 500 million years. They were here before dinosaurs and long before humans.

More people are killed or injured each year by jellyfish than by sharks.

Jellyfish are 95 percent water and they live without a heart or a brain.

A group of jellyfish can be called a swarm or a smack.

Jellyfish can sting when they’re no longer alive. In 2010, about 150 swimmers at a park in New Hampshire were stung by the 40-pound carcass of a lion’s mane jellyfish.

The giveaway ends March 8 – here’s another chance to enter (U.S. only for this one because I’m too cheap to pay for extreme postage these days).

What do you think of jellyfish? Do you think they’re beautiful, scary, or otherworldly?

All Good Things

snowI’ve started a Good Things Jar this year and thought I’d pass the idea on. The idea came from my friend Milka. When she mentioned it on her blog a few years ago, I thought it would be a lot of fun but didn’t get around to doing it. Now that so much in the news is focused on the negative, it seemed to be a good year to start.

The idea is that you designate an empty jar as the Good Things Jar. You put it out somewhere in the house. Then whenever a good thing happens, you write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, you sit down with family or friends and read through all the pieces of paper as a way of celebrating the past year.

It’ll be interesting to see if there will be good things in there that are forgotten by the end of the year. Who knows, maybe doing this will get anyone who tries it to get out there and do good things more often.

snowSo far one of the good things revolved around a snowstorm that happened in early January. After shoveling the driveway for a while, we somehow still had the energy to go cross-country skiing. The snow was perfectly slippery for gliding adventures around the park.

There hasn’t been snow here since then, but we’re expecting six to twelve inches tomorrow. Snow always means the possibility of more time for reading and writing. So I’m looking forward to more good things…

Are you doing a Good Things Jar this year or something like it? Do you have any suggestions for snowbound reading?

Resolutions, Paperbacks, and a Thank You

sunsetThis year I’ll try to keep it simple. These are really more like guidelines to remember than resolutions (except maybe for the first one).

Write More – Mostly, I need to get back into the routine of writing after revising for years. I’ll try writing a scene a day. Even as I’m writing this I know I won’t do it. Maybe I should just try to write every day instead.

Read More – I might do a Goodreads challenge for this, but I’d also like to try branching out into reading more poetry and short stories. With that in mind, I’ll start the new year off with Christy Birmingham’s Versions of the Self, a book of poetry that’s been getting great reviews lately.

oceanWalk Along the Ocean – Sometimes I go for weeks or months without seeing the ocean, which is crazy because I live on a sandbar. Life and work too easily get in the way and so I’ll have to make sure to go to the ocean more often, even if it is freezing outside. Sometimes those are the best times to go there.

Give More – My favorite nonprofits are Oceana, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Ocean Conservancy. Oceana and the Environmental Defense Fund will triple any donations and the Ocean Conservancy will double donations made by the end of the year.

Love More – A few years ago, Britt Skrabanek pledged to love more as a new year’s mantra. I thought that was a great idea and have been trying to do that too. The world will always need more love. This means loving not only those closest to us in the new year, but everyone we come in contact with.

Laugh More – I usually add this to my list of resolutions but it’s an easy one to forget. Last year I did at least go to a laughing yoga class with my mom and it really worked. If you haven’t been to a laughing yoga class, it could be something crazy to try in the new year. I promise you’ll laugh more than usual and feel good afterwards.

Ocean Echoes paperback and a thank you

The Ocean Echoes paperback is finally out! Thank you so much to everyone who supported, encouraged, commiserated, and laughed with me through all the years of writing and revising.

Wishing everyone a New Year filled with love and laughter!

Ocean Victories and a Thank You

ocean sunsetThese days we need to do everything we can to protect and restore the ocean. One of the reasons I love nonprofit groups like Oceana and the Ocean Conservancy is that they work with politicians, lawyers, and businesses from all over the world to create real environmental change. So for some good news, here are a few ocean victories that came about this year:

Cape Cod oceanDeep-Sea Trawling Ban Protects 4.9 million km2 in European Oceans: Oceana in Europe campaigned with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition to prohibit deep sea bottom trawling in northeast Atlantic waters. Bottom trawling is an invasive fishing practice that rakes the seafloor while catching unwanted ocean life and damaging coral. The European Parliament, Council and Commission reached an agreement that bans all trawling below 800 meters while halting bottom fishing activity below 400 meters if the presence of vulnerable marine ecosystems is demonstrated. These actions protect an area that’s larger than the European Union.

Offshore Drilling: The Obama administration removed Atlantic and Arctic Ocean areas from a five-year program (2017 to 2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf. The decision protects Arctic wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, including polar bears, bearded seals, walruses, and bowhead whales.

Cape Cod oceanHabitat Protection in the Strait of Sicily: Three Fisheries Restricted Areas were created in the Strait of Sicily, protecting 1,493 square km between Italy, Malta, and Tunisia from bottom trawling and preserving nursery areas for hake and deep-sea rose shrimp. The commission also prohibited commercial harvest of red coral. These decisions will help protect vulnerable habitats and allow fisheries in Mediterranean marine ecosystems to recover.

No matter how huge or tiny the victories, these days we need to keep fighting for the causes that are important to us. Because of that, a percentage from the sale of Ocean Echoes will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect and restore the world’s oceans for future generations.

Thank you to Carrie Rubin, Britt Skrabanek, Charissa Stastny, and Review Tales for your reviews of Ocean Echoes. It means so much to me that you took the time to write a review. If you’re not familiar with their blogs (or their books), please check them out. I highly recommend their books.

Congratulations to Annika Perry for winning the recent drawing held at Jill Weatherholt’s blog for a free Ocean Echoes e-book. To anyone who didn’t win, if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited you can download it for free until January 10. I’m hoping the paperback will be out next week.

Wishing everyone a holiday season filled with love and hugs

NanoWriMo Insanity and a Giveaway

cape-cod-oceanI’m visiting Jill Weatherholt today to talk about the writing process for Ocean Echoes and we’ll be doing a giveaway over there. The picture above has nothing to do with that, unless the boardwalk could take us from Cape Cod to North Carolina, but it’s probably easier to go there virtually.

It’s always fun to visit Jill because her posts remind me of all the good that can be found in everything. One of her posts about childhood even made me remember the fun of Pop Rocks. If you’re not familiar with her blog, make sure to follow for inspirational, fun, and nostalgic posts. I always leave there with a smile.

She’s participated in the NanoWriMo insanity a few times now, including the one that just ended. Her debut novel, Second Chance Romance is scheduled to be released by Harlequin in February 2017.

So, I’ll close comments over here and will hope to see you over there for a chat and a giveaway…

Cape Cod Scenes & Settings

It always helps to live or work in your novel’s setting. While walking through town on my way to work, every once in a while I try to capture a sentence from the air. Here are a few scenes from my new novel, Ocean Echoes:

Woods Hole marina

This is the small pond and marina near the main character’s workplace. Ellen’s falling apart houseboat is out there somewhere.

Woods Hole research vessel

The picture above is of a typical research vessel like the one that brings the characters to remote islands in the South Pacific. The vessel used in the book was older and a bit rustier. Here’s the scene when it arrives in port a few days before the research cruise:

“The ship docked behind Ellen’s work building and dwarfed it entirely, even though the building had often swallowed her whole. The Eagle resembled a small offshore city complete with smokestacks, flashing lights, and towers reaching into the sky. Crew members scurried around on deck like puppets on an oversized stage. The Eagle also hummed. Ellen could hear the metallic humming from inside her office, a constant whirring reminder that she’d better be ready soon.”

woods-hole-stone-building

Above is a stone building where candles were made from whales in the 1800s.  Whenever a whale beached on the shore back then, people would run down there with knives and buckets to take the whale’s oil and whatever else they could use. Now we try to save any beached whales. Maybe some things have progressed at least a little.

Woods Hole whale sculpture

This sculpture is across the street from the stone building. Here’s how it’s described in Ocean Echoes:

“They walked out toward a park bordering the ocean where a sculpture of a whale’s fluke dove into rippling grass. Children hung from the fluke and used it as a slide. Paul smiled and watched as if they could be his own kids. Ellen looked out toward the waves.”

So now I can wander through my novel any time (or whenever I’m not working away in the building near these scenes).

Do you wander through your novels or visit places you’ve read about?

New Novel: Ocean Echoes

ocean-echoes-final-kindle-version300It’s hard to believe after years of revising, but the e-book version of Ocean Echoes has finally been published. I’m hoping the paperback will be out soon.

This is my first published novel even though I’ve been a writer all my life. Before this novel took over, I wrote short stories and feature articles for local newspapers. I’m looking forward to going back to those for a while.

I had a hard time deciding on a specific genre for this novel. It could be called contemporary fiction, but it’s rapidly turning into historical fiction because it takes place in 2010. It could also be called science fiction, but most of the science in it is real. I guess that’s how it is with some science fiction – the label just doesn’t sound very real. Mostly, I think of it as an ocean adventure. I’m not so sure that’s a real category though.

Here’s a brief description – this also happens to be the bulk of my query letter:

Marine biologist Ellen Upton gives up on love to study jellyfish at a Cape Cod research facility. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference through her research, but the ocean would rather mystify than reveal its secrets. When her funding is threatened, her future will depend on the success or failure of an upcoming research cruise.

During the cruise, she discovers what could be a new species. Every discovery only leads to more questions. She is driven to learn the truth behind its existence, even as the truth continues to change. Either her dreams of recognition are within her grasp or her research is slipping into obsession.

Reverberating with mysteries of life and love, Ocean Echoes is a journey into the unknown.

By now, most of you know how much I love the ocean and I know we all share that love. A percentage from the sale of this book will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect the world’s oceans for future generations.

Thank you to Mario Lampic for designing a book cover that shows the beauty and mystery of jellyfish. I highly recommend working with Mario for any design project.

I’d like to send a huge thank you out to Carrie Rubin for recommending 99 Designs for book covers. Thank you Carrie!

Thank you to the goat club on Twitter: @readinterrupt, @BrittSkrabanek, @carrie_rubin, @TWDittmer@mary_jo_malo. You’ll be happy to know goats do make a few brief appearances in this book, which was hard to do in an ocean novel.

Thank you to everyone for your advice, encouragement, and the needed laughs through the years! I’ve loved sharing the writing adventure with all of you. And the adventure continues…

It’s About Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Doing

Cape Cod oceanI’ve been off dreaming again. I can’t seem to help it. I start dreaming and then before I know it, months have gone by and blizzards have turned into heat waves. Now it’s already time for fall shadows and golden light.

Cape Cod oceanLike you, I’ve been dreaming of a better world. A world without violence or hate. An unpolluted world with clean water and clean air for all. I know, I’m dreaming again.

Lately, I’ve also been thinking, “Why bother?” Why bother trying to do anything  when everything is such a mess? Why bother writing or reading or dreaming? Why bother signing petitions or joining conservation groups or marching in the streets?

The answer to all of that is – because we have to. Dreamers are the majority, but we’re not heard often enough. Sometimes we need to stop dreaming. If we did everything we can, every day, to make the world around us better then it would be.

I haven’t been out in the world much lately, except to go to a day job that gets crazier with every passing day. For the past few months, I’ve been attached to my computer while trying to use every spare moment to work on my novel Ocean Echoes. The e-book should be published soon and that’s a terrifying thought, but it’s about time to stop dreaming and start doing after all.

I’ve missed everyone more than I can say and I’m looking forward to catching up with you again.

How’s everything going? Have you been dreaming lately? What do you dream of?

The Everything Theory: Combining Adventure with Ancient Mysteries

everything theoryI’m always looking for novels that will make me look at the world in different ways. The Everything Theory does that while entertaining readers with a fast-paced plot and memorable characters.

Theories on everything from how the pyramids were constructed to Stonehenge to Atlantis abound through this novel as the characters search the far reaches of the Earth for answers.

The adventure starts in a small town in Australia when an amateur astrologist is found dead after an apparent suicide. Luke, his assistant and cohort, doesn’t believe his friend killed himself. Then someone tries to kill Luke and he wonders if they stumbled across information that others want to keep hidden. While on the run, he meets a group of researchers who know why he’s in danger.

The result is a chase full of twists and turns and learning along the way. The theories shown in this novel made me wonder about the truth behind the ancient knowledge that we dig up and try to explain. Are we seeing the truth when we look at history in this way or are we seeing what we want to see?

Stonehenge

Dianne Gray delivers descriptions that put you right in the middle of the action:

“Seira Kanahele scrambled from the tunnel and into the dying light where the colours of dusk and shadows of dark clouds moved like sharks through the mountains. As she looked behind for the others, her long, black plait flicked like a snake at her back. She covered her head with her gloved hands as the mouth in the mountain spewed dust and rocks and millions of years of history across the remote, uninviting slopes…Only humans could have created the beauty of the caves and only humans could have destroyed them.”

Character descriptions like this reminded me of Dickens:

“He pulled back his hood to reveal hair like black feathers styled by his pillow, a youthful complexion with rosy cheeks like fresh slap marks and a small mole between his bottom lip and strong, square jawline.”

“All his life he had thought of the Earth as nothing more than the ground beneath his feet. He never imagined ancient cities below, or the tons of rock and dirt that has been laid down through the ages like the pages of a book holding the records of a forgotten history.”

I didn’t want this novel to end. I wanted it to go on with all the theories of the world, making me wonder about what we like to call the truth. But the ending was absolutely perfect and the epilogue really made me smile. Recommended to anyone who loves to wonder about the world.

Click here to order The Everything Theory. You can connect with Dianne Gray, the author of The Everything Theory, through her blog or on Twitter.

What do you look for in a novel? Do you have any theories on ancient mysteries?

Memorable Characters in David Copperfield

David CopperfieldCharles Dickens once said of all his books, David Copperfield was his favorite. I had to read it just for that reason.

It’s known as one of his most autobiographical novels. The story travels through the main character’s life from childhood into adulthood while showing the choices he makes and the ramifications of those choices.

It’s the story of a relatively normal life in early 1800s England and because of that we get to be immersed in all the sights and sounds and expectations of the time.

The best part of his life turns out to be the people he chooses to spend it with. All kinds of characters appear and disappear and then appear again. They truly color his life and make it worth living.

London

From the eccentric aunt who yells out, “Donkeys!” whenever a donkey dares to wander into her yard to Mr. Micawber, who distributes IOUs as if they were real money, to the infamous Uriah Heep, who’s always described as slimy, the characters bring so much to the novel and the reader never knows when they’re going to appear. Whenever I’d start to get a little bored with the story, another character would wander back in and I’d be entertained again.

LondonDavid Copperfield was first published in 1850 and the story takes place from the 1820s on. In some ways, it was ahead of its time, mostly because Aunt Betsey Trotwood speaks out against the way women and children were treated. I loved that character’s spunk.

She takes care of Mr. Dick, who has been working on a speech for years and makes kites out of his drafts because his obsession with King Charles the First keeps slipping in. He flies the kites as a way of diffusing the words and clearing his mind.

And then there’s Uriah Heep. He’s one of those people you love to hate and he’s described perfectly with passages like this:

“His damp cold hand felt so like a frog in mine that I was tempted to drop it and run away.”

“I found Uriah reading a great fat book, with such demonstrative attention, that his lank forefinger followed up every line as he read, and made clammy tracks along the page (or so I fully believed) like a snail.”

I think my favorite Dickens novel is still A Tale of Two Cities because it’s more story oriented, but the characters in David Copperfield have stayed with me long after reading it. Recommended to anyone who wants to spend time with some memorable characters.

Have you encountered any memorable characters lately? What made them memorable?