Friday, November 18, 2016

Interview with Sally Ramsey

Why did you write Galapagos Finches?
Since my sons were diagnosed with autism, it has had a profound effect on my life and my writing. I have given much thought to the possible future of a world with an ever-rising incidence of autism. Galapagos Finches explores one possible future.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I barely remember a short story I wrote at age eleven when I inherited my grandmother's typewriter. I remember a novella I wrote at age twelve, featuring my favorite hero and a heroine who was an idealized version of me. These days a story like that might be referred to as a Mary Jane. Not long after, I auditioned to join actual creative writing classes and was required to churn out a story a week. Not long after that, I started doing the same just to please myself. It is difficult to remember when I didn't love spinning stories and use the written word as a refuge.
What is your writing process?
I start with an idea and usually an ending. The first line starts me on my way and I write until I get where I think I should being going, generally to a certain word count per day. Once I finish, I usually do at least three rounds of edit/rewrites until I'm reasonably happy with what I read. Usually important points in the story are clarified during the rewrites as well as correction of continuity problems. I also attack a raft of problems with construction and just plain grammar.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I remember reading by myself was The Cat in the Hat. I was very proud of myself and memorized the whole thing. I couldn't wait to read more books by myself.
How do you approach cover design?
I have very little artistic talent, but I want the cover to reflect the story. I search for art that will do that. I recently found a professional to turn the art into a viable cover design.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I honestly can't limit it to five. I like series and genres. I will immerse myself in one for a while and then move on to another. At various times in my life I've devoured science fiction, romance, mysteries, and paranormal adventures.
What do you read for pleasure?
I like books with happy endings, or books where I can't figure out what the ending will be. I love to be reassured, but I also love to be surprised. I also love biographies of interesting people, which can be almost anyone.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use an iPhone.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I've found that if people develop a personal interest in me through something I've put online for free, they'll be more willing to shell out for my books. I post a chapter to a free story every day --- weekends, birthdays, and holidays included.
Describe your desk
I have a computer table next to my bed with a laptop and a monitor on it. I sit on the edge of the bed to type. I keep a stack of notebooks on my bedside table.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Newark, NJ and then in New York City. There were considerable safety issues, for several reasons. Writing was one way to find a place of security. The need to fight back is reflected in my characters, especially the female ones.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I do have some books from a publisher, but I like the control, the speed, and especially the higher royalties.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I just started on Smashwords, so I'll have to find out.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love the act of creation, whether it is in the laboratory, the kitchen, or on the page. I especially like to hear from readers whose lives I've made better, if only for a few moments. I've been told I've brought readers through hospital vigils and tough times at work. There's not much better than that.
What do your fans mean to you?
I love fans. Some of them have become friends. I learn about their families and their lives. I bask in the support and love I feel flowing back.
What are you working on next?
I'll be writing a semi-autobiographical novel. Autism will be a continuing theme.
Who are your favorite authors?
Robert Heinlein, Nora Roberts, Lynsay Sands, Earle Stanley Gardner, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Margaret Truman, Isaac Asimov, L. Frank Baum
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I start editing what I wrote the day before, almost immediately (about 6:00 A.M.) and post to the web. That gets me going.
Published 2016-11-18.
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Books by This Author

Galapagos Finches 
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 18,380. Language: English. Published: November 17, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
Galapagos Finches is a science fiction novella which paints a portrait of a future in which the increase in technology spawns an increase in the prevalence of a subset of the autism spectrum (Aspies), given to extraordinary skills. As those with such skills occupy increasingly higher rungs in the society of the United States, a backlash takes place.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


“I don't want that cookie. It has raisins in it.”

“But you love raisins.”

“I like to eat them by themselves, not in anything.”


“That has chunks in it. I can't eat it.”

“Those are tomatoes. You love tomato sauce.”

“Not with chunks in it.”

When the people of Planet NT think about problems with food, they may think about allergies or perhaps gluten sensitivities, or even vegetarianism. Lord knows we may have to cope with all of those, with loved ones on the autism spectrum. And we may throw in casein (milk protein) with the gluten as a no no. I have a cookbook to help with GFCF if you need it. Actually I have two. One, originally distributed by the Autism Research Institute, is out of print, but copies come up occasionally on Amazon. The other is free or cheap on Kindle and is also available as a cheap little paperback. But I wanted to talk about the quirkier stuff. A lot of that has to do with texture.

There are many things that may be unacceptable, or just evoke extreme anxiety. I remember watching my older son going over a fish filet for an hour, with a pair of tweezers, before creating a fish taco. He was making sure there weren't actually any bones in it. Nuts and seeds may be unacceptable. Lumps, chunks, or even bits of herb may refused. A hamburger patty and a bun may be eaten separately but refused when together. Vegetables may be anathema.

You can try insisting that what is put before your loved one must be eaten, which is very unlikely to be successful, or you can adapt. Honestly, would you eat something that made you uncomfortable? Would you want to be forced?

Adaptations are not that tough, once you understand what preferences are. There are many smooth sauces out there. If you can't find one, things can be pureed. It you leave nuts out of a cookie or cake, you may find that mini chocolate chips or butterscotch pieces are not only acceptable, but make a better cookie. If you are caretaker to someone who wants to cook for themselves, you might want to let them do so, just hang close enough for safety. You may find the amount of food they shovel into their mouths when they've cooked their own meal, astonishing. In addition, you will be teaching living skills in a non-threatening way.

The most important thing about food is reading labels. That's not always the easiest thing to do, especially if you're like me and left forty in the rear view mirror a long time ago. A magnifying app on your phone can be helpful. So can a plain old magnifying glass. 

In our family, the biggest hazard has always been MSG, which makes my younger son violent. I have met food buying caretakers who did not know that it stands for monosodium glutamate. Bad things ensued, especially from chili beans. 

Due to a quirk in the law, non-dairy does not mean casein free. If you're worried about casein, you do have to check the fine print. Forget the word natural. It doesn't mean something is good for you. The cyanide in peach pits is perfectly natural. That doesn't make eating it a good idea. The USDA organic label refers to the avoidance of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. That doesn't necessarily make the food good for you either. You still have to check on what is in it. 

Eternal vigilance can be the price of a quiet dinner and healthy son or daughter. As I've said before, the buck stops here.