Third Person Press E-Sampler

Third Person Press has a little summer reading treat–or teaser–for you. We’ve put together three stories, one each from Undercurrents, Airborne, and the newly-released Unearthed, in a free sampler ebook.

The stories included are: “Winter Bewitched” by Sherry D. Ramsey, “Mind Drifter” by Julie A. Serroul, and “Mud Pies” by Nancy S.M. Waldman. The e-sampler is available in .epub and .mobi formats directly from the Third Person Press website, and in many formats from Smashwords.

If you haven’t read our anthologies and would like a taste of the stories to see if you’d like them, now is the time to take some for a test-drive!

Review: The Third Gate: A Novel

The Third Gate: A Novel
The Third Gate: A Novel by Lincoln Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay, this was a pretty good book–the storyline was interesting and it had several novel elements (no pun intended). Overall, though, I was left feeling kind of unsatisfied. It felt like there was room to do a lot more with the ideas, but the author didn’t explore those possibilities. Also, too many things were telegraphed ahead of time to make the “big reveal” much of a surprise. And somehow, the characters fell just short of being people rather than “types.”

The audiobook was well-read–no quibbles at all with the production values.

But it’s another example of something I see all-too-often lately–books from trad publishers that demonstrate the need for better editing. Honestly, I was really surprised to look back and see that this was a book from a “name” publisher. I can’t fault the author for this–it’s the editor’s job to make that final pass and weed out repeated words, odd sentence construction, etc. Sadly, it’s the author who ends up looking bad when the editorial staff falls down on the job.

However, it’s a good summer read if you’re not too picky about everything being factually correct and you’re willing to get on board for the ride. There was enough interesting stuff going on to keep me listening right through to the end.

View all my reviews

Summer Reading, I Love You

Of course I read all the time, but I’ve always tended to read more during the summer months. There’s something about summer that just says “recharge your batteries” to me, and that means spending as much time as I can immersed in someone else’s imaginary worlds instead of my own. The advent of audiobooks means that I can expand that reading time even further. Oh. Yeah.

So I thought I’d share my summer reading list, so far, and planned.

Although June is really still “spring” around here, and it was super busy this year, it was a good month for audiobooks. I listened to The Last Good Man, by A.J. Kazinski; Cinder, by Marissa Meyer; U is for Undertow, by Sue Grafton, and The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, by Alan Bradley. Good reads, all (which reminds me, you can generally find out all of this stuff and more by following me over on Goodreads). These days I find that I’m particularly interested by books that offer me something new–a different take on an idea, or something I haven’t come across before–especially in the speculative genres.

I kicked off July with another audiobook, The Knife Of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness. Wow, I found this book stressful, but also gripping. I have the next two in the series queued up on my iPhone ready to go, but I had to take a little break for the sake of my nerves. Currently, I’m almost finished listening to The Third Gate, by Lincoln Child.

On the print side, I’m reading Zero History, by William Gibson, and on my Kobo I have The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell. Although you’ll see other books on my Currently Reading shelf over at Goodreads, these are the ones I’m really actively reading right now.

My big vacation read this summer will be Stephen King’s 11/22/63. I have been saving it for when I can really get into it, but I know I won’t wait much longer. It’s sitting on my reading pile just daring me to put it off another day. I’m getting a bit worried, though…what if I don’t like it? I’ve been anticipating it for so long, it’s going to be a big let-down if it doesn’t live up to my expectations.

The pile in the picture is only the tip of the TBR pile. No doubt I’ll be back with another summer reading post anon.

The A-word

No, not that a-word. This past week or so I’ve been thinking about advertising (and promotion) and the various ways writers go about it.  Interestingly, I also read two posts on the topic; one from Chuck Wendig (, much of which took place in the comments, and one from Joseph Devon (, where the author discussed things he has tried and what has worked for him. All of this is very interesting reading if book promotion is something on your mind. And interesting to me because I am really not all that good at it myself (but that’s not the point of this post).

I’ve also been wrestling with the decision of whether to un-follow a couple of authors I follow on Twitter. Now, I actually read things on Twitter; I don’t just follow folks willy-nilly so that they’ll follow me back. This indiscriminate-following sort of use, I think, removes Twitter from being the solitary writer’s equivalent of a water cooler (I think it might have been the aforementioned Mr. Wendig whom I saw first refer to it that way), and turns it into a big echoing abyss where everyone is shouting into it but no-one is listening to what comes out.

The problem with these particular authors and the way they are using Twitter is this: they tweet solely about their books and the books of others in their network(s). Over and over. And over. One even makes a point of saying that he rarely goes "off-message." This, I suppose, is meant as a selling point for authors to use him to promote, but to me as a follower it has the opposite effect. It says, "you are never going to hear anything other than these promotions from me." Whoa, dude, way to tell me you’re going to be boring to follow.

Now, it’s not that I’m uninterested in independent or self-published or discounted-for-promotion books. I’m not a reading snob and frankly, especially of late, I’ve frequently put down a bad "traditionally-published" book in favour of a non-traditional but more interesting/better-written one. I’m a big fan of independently-produced audiobooks. It’s not that I don’t want to discover more of this engaging writing that flies under the tradpub radar.

BUT. I don’t want a steady diet of plugs for it in my Twitter stream. It’s "social" media, folks, not "commercial" media.

So, how can authors use Twitter (and other social media) effectively? It comes down to three things, I think: personality, value, and balance.

First off—you, the author, are a real person. Don’t be afraid to be that real person in your social media participation. The most interesting writers I’ve found on Twitter have a personality; they are not just ad-pumping avatars. It’s entirely possible their online personalities are nothing like their real-life personalities, but at least they present one. Sure, they mention promotional stuff when they have something new happening, but it’s not all they talk about. Imagine if you were at a party and an author talked about nothing but their new book and their friends’ new books. After half an hour you’d be sidling away or out the door, thinking about a different a-word. So if you wouldn’t do it at a party, why do it in another social venue?

Second—value. My favourite people on Twitter are those who often point me to other interesting things or people on the internet, or write about other interesting things and tell me about that. It’s a big, big world out there, with lots to discover and share with your friends. It also offers another glimpse into the things that you as an author find interesting, and if I, as a reader, know that we share some common interests, then maybe I’ll be more likely to think you might write a book I’d like to read.

Third—balance. Find a good balance between personality, value, and advertising. Too much of anything is going to upset that balance, but a nice mix of the three will make your advertising and promotion much more palatable and actually likely to make someone act on it.

And…if you’d like to see how I try to mix it up on Twitter, you can always follow me @sdramsey.  Just, y’know, sayin’.

Photo credit: xenia at Morguefile

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the audiobook version of this book–Wil Wheaton does a fabulous job of the narration, the story itself is fun and engrossing, and I loved the characters. The *only* reason I didn’t give it five stars is that I felt the author described the virtual world of the OASIS in too much detail and bogged down the flow of the story at times. I realize that he was probably trying to make it understandable to readers who might be completely unacquainted with virtual worlds but still–a bit too much. This aside, however, I highly recommend the book. You’ll enjoy it if you like computer games and general geekery, you’ll enjoy it if you grew up in the 80’s, and you’ll love it if you were a geek in the 80’s when all this stuff was happening. Like me. :)

View all my reviews

News Roundup

I’m pleased to announce one winner in my book giveaway: Chuck Heintzelman! Chuck correctly identified the provenance of my collection’s title, To Unimagined Shores, as a line from the poem “The Twilight of Earth” by George William (“A. E.”) Russell:

THE WONDER of the world is o’er:
The magic from the sea is gone:
There is no unimagined shore,
No islet yet to venture on.

Chuck’s copy is winging its way to him now!

In other news, all of our Third Person Press titles, including To Unimagined Shores, are on sale from now until Christmas Day for just 99 cents each! This is a great chance to fill your ereader (or someone else’s) with short speculative fiction to keep them reading into the new year. Click over to the order page at Third Person Press and grab your copies!

And finally, I’ll return to my Tales of Tales posts tomorrow, with a look at another story from the collection.

Tales of Tales ~ Part 7: Common Ground

Staying on the science fiction side of things, today I thought I would talk a little bit about “Common Ground,” another story in my collection To Unimagined Shores.

I actually can’t recall the “inciting incident” or the idea spark that led to this story. It’s based around a colony ship arriving at a new planet to find that it’s not as empty as the colonists expected. It also has a lot to do with parenthood, and I suspect the idea first came to me not long after our daughter was born. I do vividly remember lying awake one night thinking about the story and how excited I was to start writing it. There was a particular idea in it that, at that time, I thought was one of the best things I’d ever come up with. It’s a magnificent feeling, when you know you have a great story idea and it’s just waiting to come to life under your fingertips. The wonderful feeling doesn’t always last, and the story doesn’t always turn out to be as fabulous as you thought it was going to, but those moments of excitement and the feeling that you really have something are priceless.

“Common Ground” was published at Nuketown in 2001. Later, in 2003, the aliens from “Common Ground” formed the basis for one of the alien races who showed up in the novel I was writing for National Novel Writing Month, “One’s Aspect to the Sun.” I had obviously enjoyed writing these aliens. They were one of the first really well-developed alien races I’d created, and they have stayed with me. Years later an editor would tell me, “You really do write great aliens.” She wasn’t talking about these aliens in particular, but I’m quite proud of that comment, and it makes me strive, whenever I create an alien race, to make them very believable.

Once past the end of the garden we saw the cave. A dozen yards distant the shrouded entrance gaped blackly in the rock wall. And under a natural outcropping, half obscured by shadow, stood three aliens.

My stomach churned. My own breath made a hollow whistling sound in my throat. These were the creatures who had our babies. I could not even see them clearly yet, but a fist of fear tightened in my chest.

One of them held up a hand, but we had already stopped. The others were armed, not overtly menacing but standing easily erect, perhaps five feet tall and garbed in wrapped shirts and loose leggings.

The apparent leader gave a short speech, the words a tumbled gibber of growls, yips, and barks. It ended on a questioning note.

It’s the last day to enter my contest to win a copy of To Unimagined Shores. Click the link to get all the details, and take a moment to enter. Or if you can’t wait, you can buy a print or ebook copy (in multiple formats) from,, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

Image “Planetfall by Moonlight” copyright 2010 by Sherry D. Ramsey

Tales of Tales ~ Part 6: On The Road With Fiamong’s Rule

Writing some stories is an uphill slog from start to finish, while others are so much fun to write that they practically seem to write themselves. “On The Road With Fiamong’s Rule” was one of those pure-fun stories for me.

Yet another of my stories that was idea-sparked by an anthology call, this one was originally written for an anthology looking for road trip stories–with, of course, an element of the speculative thrown in. The idea of a human-alien partnership in that road trip materialized quite quickly, as I recall, and as I said, the story seemed to write itself. This was one that I actually finished before the anthology’s deadline date, submitted and had accepted. Alas, something went wrong with the project, the anthology itself never made it to print, and I had to send the story out looking for another home. Such are the vagaries of the writing life.

The good news is that it did find another home, in the premiere issue of the Canadian Neo-Opsis magazine. If you look carefully, you can actually see my name on the cover. That was a first for me. Cool!

This story doesn’t follow a strict chronological timeline–there’s a fair bit of jumping back and forth between the “present” of the story and flashbacks to the past and the events leading up to the story’s “present.” I think I was experimenting a bit when I wrote this one, and I’d probably just been reading something that recommended starting a story “in medias res”–in the middle of the action. To illustrate what I mean by that, here’s the opening:

The worst moment of the whole trip came just before three a.m. on Friday. I stood in the driving rain, mud seeping insidiously into my shoes. The alien’s outline looked enormous in the dark, and the tire iron in his hand even more so, silhouetted against the probing glare of the police car’s headlights. When the cruiser had driven past a moment ago I thought we might be in the clear, but no, it had turned and was coming back.

My credit card was still being held hostage by the jerk at the service station and I had lost the rest of my ID in the motel fire. We had to make it to Ottawa by noon the next day or the entire mission could fail. I had about thirty seconds to think of something to tell the police, and if I didn’t get rid of them quickly, the alien would give himself away and we’d both be in the soup.

What was I, a previously normal at-home-mom of two, doing here? Tim was going to be furious when he found out.

Definitely the worst moment of the whole experience. Well, except for what happened later.

“In medias res,” indeed. I think I might have been testing to see just how far into the action one could really start a story. :)

If you missed the earlier blog post, I’m currently running a contest to win a copy of To Unimagined Shores. Click the link to get all the details, and take a moment to enter. Or if you can’t wait, you can buy a print or ebook copy (in multiple formats) from,, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

Tales of Tales ~ Part 5: The Ambassador’s Staff

Keeping to the SF side of the equation, I thought I’d take a look today at “The Ambassador’s Staff.” This story was originally published in the anthology Thoughtcrime Experiments. There’s a lot of interesting data on the website, compiled by the editors during and after the process. If you’ve ever thought about putting together an anthology, it makes a very interesting read. You can also read the entire anthology there.

Funnily enough, what I didn’t realize when I submitted the story to this anthology, was that they were particularly looking for stories that had been previously rejected by other markets. I don’t know how I missed that, but I did. This was actually the first place I’d submitted the story, and it was accepted. Oops!

The editors liked it, but wanted me to rewrite the ending to some extent. They gave very clear suggestions, but my first reaction was panic—they wanted it done over the weekend! At first I honestly didn’t know how to tackle it. But after some calming breaths and a hot drink, I got to work, and the editors were happy with the result.

Where I live, there’s talk from time to time of building a launch base for boosting things up into orbit—apparently our geographical location makes it a prime spot for this. It has never materialized (and I somehow doubt that it will, although I would love to be wrong about that), but I did start thinking…what might it look like here in a hundred years or so, if such a thing were built? The result was Cape City, a spaceport town. The other big idea in this story came from—spam! The subject line of a spam email made me imagine a drug called Level…and once again, two ideas clicked and decided they needed to be together.

I followed him to the door and he headed into the street. I watched him through the window, weaving his way through the folks milling around the spaceport, a few going to or from jobs, more just wandering—the street vendors, the homeless, the dealers and the Levelers.

One of those was sprawled in the doorway of Kugar’s video shop across the walklane, and I could tell the way he just stared, not moving, not blinking, that he was Leveled ‘way up. Kugar wouldn’t like that, but if he wanted the Leveler moved, he’d have to pick the guy up and carry him away. Once that white liquid finds its way down their throat or into a vein, they’re living in an alternate reality, and they don’t see, hear, feel or care anything about this one until they come back down.

I sighed and turned away from the window. The joke is that Leveling is the furthest you can get from Earth without actually boarding a ship. If I’d gone off-planet when I’d had the opportunity—well, who knows what would have happened. But chances are I wouldn’t be living in a tiny apartment above my office in a place like Cape City. Even if it was my own office.

“The Ambassador’s Staff” mixes genres, something I’ve realized I really like to do. This one puts a sort of hard-boiled female detective character on the streets of a spaceport town. I’d like to do more with this character as well, and I have a couple of ideas percolating. When she’s ready, I’m sure she’ll tell me how they turn out.

Tales of Tales ~ Part 4: Signs & Portents

So far I’ve been talking about some of the fantasy stories in the collection, so today I thought I’d move over to one of the science fiction stories.

“Signs & Portents” first appeared in Oceans of the Mind, which was a professionally-paying, .pdf-format magazine that published quarterly issues from 2001 to 2006. They were one of the first, as far as I know, to really make a strong attempt at an entirely electronic-based publishing format, and they published some great stories from wonderful writers around the world.

As writers, we’re often asked where we get our ideas. I don’t always have an answer for a particular story, but I do remember this one. Have you ever had the experience of glancing at a note or sign, and reading something quite different than what is actually there? Then you look again and realize that what you thought you saw wasn’t right. Well, there was a period when that seemed to be happening to me a lot.

At about the same time, there was a story going around about a fellow in the nearest city to where I live, who appeared regularly on a street corner, bearing a sign protesting this or that. I don’t know that I ever saw him myself, but an image of him had built itself up in my mind.

So, somewhere in my brain, these two ideas collided (hey, just like in a particle accelerator, which figures largely in the story), and “Signs & Portents” was born. This is the way a lot of my stories seem to happen—two unrelated ideas that meet, shake hands, and decide that they would work well together.

The Sign Man in “Signs & Portents” was one of my favorite characters to write, although he’s not the narrator nor the main character of the story. But I enjoyed figuring out who he was and what he was doing on that street corner, and why his signs were so—well, if I say too much I’ll give things away.

Three days later, my head still bandaged, I walked toward the Sign Man’s corner. He was quiet today. The army fatigues were gone, replaced by a wrinkled blue plaid jacket and paint-speckled olive polyester pants. The ever-present placard read “SPACE SHUTTLES—AS IF!”.

I walked right up to him and just stood for a minute. He fixed me with a placid stare. His eyes weren’t mad at all today. They were quiescent spheres of polished granite.

“How did you know?” I said finally.

“Spare some change?” he asked.

“How did you do it?”

“The space shuttles aren’t real, you know,” he confided. “It’s all just entertainment. Hollywood jerking us.”

“Your sign,” I said. “I saw something on it the other day. A warning, maybe.”

“I’ll sell you the sign,” he offered, tapping today’s placard, “for a dollar.”

I steadied my voice. “No, not this sign. Another sign. A few days ago. It said, ‘Near miss on 24’. I was nearly killed on route 24 on my way home.”

If you missed the earlier blog post, I’m currently running a contest to win a copy of To Unimagined Shores. Click the link to get all the details, and take a moment to enter. Or if you can’t wait, you can buy a print or ebook copy (in multiple formats) from,, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.