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Review: A Witch’s Kitchen

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

A Witch"s Kitchen
A Witch’s Kitchen by Dianna Sanchez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was enchanted by this sweet and funny book, about a young witch who thinks she has no ability at witchcraft. Her apparent failings only hide her true talents, however! Along with being entertained (it was a hard-to-stop-for-the-night read), I was also appreciative of a more serious core that underpinned the story without intruding itself–it really spoke to me about finding and appreciating who we really are. But the overall feel of the book is light and fun, the characters are well-drawn, and the reading pace is quick. I’ll be delighted to introduce some of the young readers at the school library to it! Highly recommended for both young and adult fantasy lovers.

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Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

2017 Young Explorer"s Adventure Guide
2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide by Maggie Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Admittedly I’m a bit biased, since I have a story in this anthology. However, I thoroughly enjoyed all the stories in the volume. Loads of intriguing tales and adventures that will have a wide appeal to readers of all ages and genders, covering a wide variety of subgenres of science fiction. I highly recommend this anthology for everyone who enjoys diverse stories of SF adventure and exploration.

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Review: C is for Chimera

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

C is for Chimera
C is for Chimera by Rhonda Parrish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This imaginative anthology offers such a wide variety of stories, themes, and ideas that it’s practically impossible to choose favourites. While the chimera is a unifying thread throughout the stories, the authors deal with the theme in stunningly different ways and interpretations. Although the flavour overall was a little darker than I might normally choose, I still enjoyed the stories and found them thought-provoking, and there is a broad mix of tone in the volume. If you like short speculative fiction you will not come away from this anthology disappointed.

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Review: Cold Stone & Ivy

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Cold Stone & Ivy
Cold Stone & Ivy by H. Leighton Dickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This imaginative book takes us to a Steampunk London where Jack the Ripper stalks the streets, ghosts demand justice, and our brave heroine writes novels to escape into a world she can control. There’s a lot going on in this book, both in the characters’ personal lives and in the streets of the city, but all is interwoven into a fast-paced story about family, love, murder, and loyalty. I really enjoyed it! Highly recommended.

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Review: Cold Stone and Ivy

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Cold Stone and Ivy
Cold Stone and Ivy by H. Leighton Dickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This imaginative book takes us to a Steampunk London where Jack the Ripper stalks the streets, ghosts demand justice, and our brave heroine writes novels to escape into a world she can control. There’s a lot going on in this book, both in the characters’ personal lives and in the streets of the city, but all is interwoven into a fast-paced story about family, love, murder, and loyalty. I really enjoyed it! Highly recommended.

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Review: Black Heart

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Black Heart
Black Heart by Holly Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Review: Red Glove

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Red Glove
Red Glove by Holly Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Review: White Cat

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

White Cat
White Cat by Holly Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual, Holly Black creates intriguing characters and sets them in a world that is both familiar and strange. The writing and story are top-notch and I’m anxious to start the next book!

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NaNoRetro: 2002

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

nano2002Yup, today we’re going all the way back to the beginning. This was my first year of NaNoWriMo! And yes, in this picture you can see what I expect is a pretty rare artifact–the 2002 t-shirt.

My first NaNo novel was The Y Plague, a story about a future Earth where the male population has been reduced by a very large percentage. No, I did not write this because I hate men. I wrote it because it was an idea that interested me and I wanted to explore it. Here’s the blurb (from before I really understood how to write a good blurb, but someday I’ll write a better one):

In a future where genetic degradation has reduced the male population to only five percent of the total, fertile males are prized as research subjects and breeding partners. There’s unrest, however, as men begin to resent the bonds of society and start to form their own Freemen colonies. The radical X/Alt group wants to see the end of all research aimed at restoring the male genome, and in Rome, the last male Pope uncovers a secret that will either drive him mad or rock the Catholic Church to its foundations.

I had a one-year-old and a six-year-old when I wrote this novel, so it required getting up early in the morning and staying up late at night. I remember pouring up a glass of juice every night so that in the morning, I just had to stumble out to the fridge and retrieve it, sipping as I made my way to my office. Then I pried open my eyelids and tried to get a few hundred words down before the day started. This strategy worked out very well for me, as I found that by the time I got to write again once the kids were in bed, my brain had been working on the next part all day. I wrote over 2k words nineteen days of the month that year, which I think was pretty consistent.

Looking at my spreadsheet from that year, I see that I passed 50k words on the 25th of November! Wow. I was on fire that year. I finished out the month with 58,337 words, and an outline for the final fourteen chapters of the novel. I kept writing until the 3rd of December and reached 59,029 words, but wrote the outline when I realized that although I hadn’t gotten to THE END, I had to turn my attention to the upcoming holidays. I didn’t want to forget where the novel was heading when I picked it up again in January.

I have never written those last chapters. *headdesk*

However, I pulled this novel out last year and began looking at it. I think it’s good. Better than I remember, actually, and perhaps even more relevant in many ways than it was when I started it. It’s very near the top of my list of things to finish. I think it probably needs a new title, since the “plague” is not really a plague and has happened long before the book begins, but I can deal with that.

One thing I’m doing during this retrospective is considering these unfinished novels, what state they are in, and what they need. From this I’m making a to-do list for 2017, so expect to see some of these titles (or replacement ones) popping up over the next while.

NaNoRetro: 2012

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Nano2012

Today we jump ahead to 2012 in the NaNoWriMo Retrospective. This was the year I wrote most of the first draft of The Family Business, which is, sadly, another of the still-unfinished manuscripts waiting for my attention.

I had a lot of fun with this one; it’s a ghost story and a mystery, and it’s definitely one I want to finish. Here’s the blurb:

Stella McKarron is sorry when her Uncle Ambrose dies suddenly, but she doesn’t think it will actually change her life much. They’ve never gotten along terribly well, anyway. So it comes as a surprise to learn that he’s left her his cat (she’s allergic), his car (she doesn’t drive), his private detective agency (she’s a librarian) and his collection of ten thousand books (she’s actually okay with that one). The bigger surprise is yet to come, however, when his ghost appears and tells her that he was murdered, and the first case he wants her to take on is his own…

familybusinessHere’s my hastily throw-together cover mockup; I still like the concept although it could be MUCH better executed.

The November draft came in at just barely 50k, since I was also working on the rewrite of One’s Aspect to the Sun that month. I see from the notes in my spreadsheet that I actually did not have an idea for what to write this year until I actually sat down to do it. I’m trying to remember where the idea eventually came from, but it appears to be lost in the mists of time.

Notably, this was the year I set up my treadmill desk, and this was the first project I wrote at it. I don’t seem to have stats from that month, although I suspect they are around somewhere…I do like obsessive record-keeping from time to time.  We do seem to have had a lot of word wars in the Ramsey household, according to my notes, and some successful write-ins with other Cape Breton Wrimos.

I believe that this one remains unfinished because I made that classic error of trying to write a mystery without enough advance planning. Other genres can work out okay with the “gardening” approach, but mysteries require more of the “architect” thinking. Or as I once said in a radio interview, “When it comes time to lay down a clue, you’d better have a clue.”

Someday soon I’ll pull this one out and see what it needs. It’s  fun tale with some quirky characters and deserves to play out to “The End.”

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