A Bird in the Hand

So, at the same time the Kickstarter for my book with a bird in the title (The Seventh Crow) is running, I had the opportunity to help out a little bird in trouble.

littlebirdAround 8 o’clock this morning, my daughter and I heard a thump on the front of the house. It took only a moment to spot a couple of downy feathers stuck to the glass and I knew what had happened–a bird had flown against the window over our front door. This is a fairly rare occurrence as the door and window are inset from the front of the house.

I checked the front step right away and saw the little creature in pile of leaves. My first impression was bad–its head seemed twisted and it was breathing heavily. I fetched some garden gloves and went out to have a closer look. When I gently picked it up, it looked left and right and although it was content to sit in my hands, it seemed overall okay, probably just stunned from the impact.

Well, I didn’t want to leave the little guy prey to the occasional cat who strolls through the neighborhood, so we quickly improvised a little shelter in an empty clementine box and set it in an elevated spot near the back door. I figured if it recovered quickly, it would slip out from underneath the mesh easily.IMG_3880 IMG_3879








Forty-five minutes later it hadn’t moved much, although it still opened its eyes if I gently drew the mesh back. At this point I wasn’t too confident of its recovery, since that seemed a long time to still be stunned. However, I decided that whether it could recover or not, it was safe and comfortable and not being attacked by any predators. I continued to check on it periodically through the morning and would find it sleeping, but alert if I pulled back the mesh.

IMG_3881It would be in just this position, but open its eyes when I moved the mesh covering. It wasn’t at all visibly distressed by my presence. Maybe it knew I was trying to help!






And then when I checked at noon, I found this. Looking much perkier!






And then this…








…and then a minute later he hopped out of the box, took a couple of hops, and flew away, across the yard to land in a tree. I guess he just needed a good nap in a safe spot!

Now, my question is, what kind of bird was he? My mother’s bird guide offered a couple of suggestions but none of them looked quite right. If you know or think you know, leave me a comment!

The Garden Today (5-28-2015)

Spring has finally sprung here in Cape Breton, and my garden has been roused to life. Some days I like to take a quick stroll around and take some phone pics of whatever’s in bloom. (Although it’s warm here today, it’s also windy, so some blurriness may be detected!)

Is there anything as cheery as forget-me-nots?











And of course, no spring garden is complete without some daffodils. I adore these ones with the peach-coloured centers.




















I have quite a lot of tulips, but they’re not all at their best today. I love the creamy white Triumphators with their distinctive shape. The yellow/white/hint of pink are new this year, “Peach Melba.”






















Candystripe phlox starting to come on board, and a pink rhododendron that always surprises me by bursting into colour seemingly overnight. A nice fat bee was visiting it today.












And finally, some Candytuft and a shot of colour from blue muscari.IMG_3850IMG_3861

5 Quick and Dirty Tips for Increasing your NaNoWriMo Word Count


Pssst! Hey, buddy, you want some NaNoWriMo tips?

Disclaimer: These are not tips for good writing. However, it’s the middle of November, and if your word count needs a boost, you may find these ideas helpful. Just don’t forget to fix it all in revision. ;)

Names: give all your character double or even triple names — Betty Lou or Nanny Lola or Master Sergeant Bob. Every time you type a name, it’s at least a two-fer.

Chapter Titles: Name every chapter descriptively, like so:  Chapter Seven: In which Nancy tells Sue Ellen a Secret, Heather Loses a Toenail, and Officer Joe discovers something Terrible in the Bathtub.

In-line Annotations: Don’t waste perfectly good plot and character notes by placing them in the margins, comments, or a separate document. Stick those things right into your text. You typed them, didn’t you? They count! And when you go to rewrite, BAM!, there they are, exactly where you need to be reminded of them.

Description: If your characters don’t want to talk to each other and nothing much seems to be happening, describe the surroundings while you wait for the muse to come back from her coffee break. It’s not a full description until you’ve included at least one sensory detail for sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Throw in the weather for good measure. Soon your characters will be chatting and moving just to break the monotony. Bonus: You don’t need to remove all of these in revision. Having at least some of them is actually good for your story!

As-you-know-Bob: Although instances of this info-dumping-disguised-as-dialogue must be excised in your later drafts, having characters tell each other things they should already know is a great way to bump up a sagging word count. Bonus: Sometimes having your characters discuss these things will actually make the resolution to a plot problem come clear for you, the writer. And then you can get on with more exciting words for your next writing session.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and write…

Photo Credit: Dand8282

Murder Prophet release date

MP-cover-FINAL-webIt’s a date! The Murder Prophet will release in ebook formats on September 15th, and the print version shouldn’t be too far behind. The ebook is already available for pre-order at Amazon and Amazon.ca. I’m excited!

In the meantime, you can get a head start by reading the first chapter for free right here.

As if that’s not enough news, I’m also participating in the Masquerade Crew’s September Cover Wars (Part 2 post). If you have 30 seconds to spare, please click over and cast your vote (you can do it daily, and it really helps me spread the word about the book).

A Contest for World Book & Copyright Day

wbd-web-467x300-enApril 23rd each year marks UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright day. As it’s described on their website, “This is a day to celebrate books as the embodiment of human creativity and the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding and tolerance…our goal is clear – to encourage authors and artists and to ensure that more women and men benefit from literacy and accessible formats, because books are our most powerful forces of poverty eradication and peace building.” So, in the spirit of the day, I thought I’d run a little contest here on the blog.

What you can win: One ebook copy each of One’s Aspect to the Sun and To Unimagined Shores.

How to enter: There are several ways to enter the contest, and you can have multiple entries in my Lucky Basket. Here it is:


Doesn’t it look lucky?

Here’s how to get your entries added:

> Leave a comment below. Just say hi! = 1 entry

> Leave a comment below; say hi and tell me your favorite speculative fiction book or author = 2 entries

> Tweet or retweet about the contest = 1 entry. I’ll even write the tweet for you. Just copy and paste:

Enter @sdramsey ‘s #BookDay contest  by April 23rd for a chance to win free SF/F ebooks (http://tinyurl.com/qgp9hfm) #books #reading #scifi

> Share the contest in any other way; post it to your blog, mention it on Facebook, +1 it on Google, write it on your forearm with magic marker. The comments and tweets I’ll see, but you’ll have to email or message me to tell me about anything else you do. Each share = 1 entry

Rules: You may enter from anywhere in the world. Entries will be hand-written by me on actual pieces of paper and dropped in the Lucky Basket. One winner will be drawn from the entries received by midnight AST on April 23, 2014. Ebooks will be available in the following formats: .epub, .mobi (for Kindle), and .pdf. Winner will have to provide me with a working email address for delivery of their ebooks. Winner agrees to let me post their name or screen/online name so everyone knows that someone actually did win. The decision of the contest administrator (me) is final. I will do my best to record all eligible entries, but will not be responsible for missed, missing, or misplaced entries.

Ready to enter? Go!

OATTS cover-sm TUS-front-cover-sm

The Friday Challenge 01-31-14

night-reading-1106140-mToday’s challenge is going to be a complete guessing game (unless you know me well enough to have been to my house, and even then you *might* not know).

In my office (and the rest of the house) I have quite a few books. Okay, a lot of books. All right, a TON of books. Guess which of the following authors is most represented on my shelves:

a. David Eddings
b. Agatha Christie
c. Terry Pratchett
d. Ellis Peters
e. Piers Anthony
f. Dave Duncan

I’ll give bonus points if you guess a number of titles that is reasonably close* to correct.

*”reasonably close” will be defined by my mood on the day in question

Answer on Monday!

Photo credit: nkzs

The Friday Challenge 01-10-14

flying-books-1-1408766-mThis week’s Friday Challenge involves the book series I have re-read the most times. No, of course I’m not going to tell you what it is! Duh. Although some of you who have been reading this blog for a while, or know me personally, may be able to guess what it is.

Anyway, I’m going to post a snippet from one of the books here. All you have to do is identify the book it comes from:

There was a sad and terrible pause at this point in the conversation during which a hundred thousand people seemed unexpectedly to say ‘wop’ and a team of white robots descended from the sky like dandelion seeds drifting on the wind in tight military formation.

Also, there’s a hint in this actual post about the main character’s last name. I’ll post the answer on Monday!

Photo credit: josterix

Candle-Powered Coffee

We had another power outage last night. This one didn’t last terribly long (about 5 hours for us), but the timing was bad for two reasons: I was in the shower when it went out (so, hello, wet, chilly hair), and I had no hot coffee in the pot. Did you read that correctly? NO HOT COFFEE! There wasn’t much I could do for the hair except put it up, but I came up with (I thought) an ingenious way to heat up a cup of coffee.

Note: I had some still in the coffeepot, so I was not starting from scratch. But for any beverage you just want to reheat, or water to make something else, this should work.

IMG_2548I started with my 4-cup glass measuring bowl and a candle that was almost as tall as the bowl. I set the glass bowl on the stove for safety, put the candle inside, and lit it. Then I set a round metal cooling rack over the top. What I like about this plan is that even if the structure got bumped, the candle is protected.

Then I took a clean tin can from the recycling, removed the paper label from the outside, put my coffee in it, and set it over the candle. The flame was burning about an inch below the can. To retain the heat as the liquid warmed, I set a saucer over the top of the can. WARNING: the can is going to get hot as well as the liquid inside it. From this point on, handle only with oven mitts.

Now, this is NOT a feat to be attempted anywhere within reach of small children, pets, or clumsy adults who might knock the whole thing over. But after about 15 minutes, I had a nice, hot cup of coffee to see me through until the power came back.

The Friday Challenge

I’ve decided that on Fridays this year, I’ll issue a little challenge on the blog. The idea is still formulating in my mind, so it’s subject to change. I think they might have bookish themes for the most part; they might even all revolve around books I’ve read. Some might involve the possibility of a PRIZE! And others will not. It’s January, remember, and the whole year lies fresh and untrammeled before us. Anything is possible.

For the first Friday challenge, I’ll share a photo.

This is my treadmill desk, which, as you can see, is flanked by the two Dragons of Compliance, Gog and Magog. Gog is on the right, and Magog is on the left. They are there to keep me walking and writing as the year progresses. All those motivators and tools I talked about on the blog earlier have nothing on Gog and Magog. They just watch me with eyes that sometimes glow red and, well, I just keep tying and walking. Because DRAGONS.

The challenge is for you to tell me where you think I first came across their names. This could be a tricky one, so I think there will be a prize involved if you are the first to guess correctly.

HINT: It was NOT a Bible/religious source-that’s not the answer I’m looking for. Leave your guess in the comments and I’ll reveal the answer on Monday.