Saturday, October 13, 2012

Books Alive! Panama City

Sharman Burson Ramsey
  I was privileged to be asked to speak to this group of writers on the process of getting published focusing on publication by a university press. It was a fun event. Great bunch of folks. I will be speaking at their monthly meeting next month focusing on technology and social networking.

 Undercurrents: Connect with authors at Books Alive!

Contributed Photo
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 16:33 PM.
PANAMACITY— Sharman Burson Ramsey will be a keynote speaker at the Books Alive! Local Authors event Saturday at the Bay County Public Library.
I have a friend in common with Sharman (her publicist, Kathie Bennett, daughter of Gerry and the late Barbara Clemons), but I was intrigued by her work because she also writes about the area my wife’s people are from — and actually knows something of the area’s genealogy.
“I’m always glad to find new connections and how they all fit together,” she said during a phone conversation this week.
“Connection” is a recurring theme. Her talk on Saturday, “Pit to Pinnacle: The Path to Publication,” will focus on the importance of networking for success in publishing.
“There’s a lot of pitfalls you can go through in the publishing process,” she said. “How you make connections and how you network are so critical to getting out there.”
Sharman credits some of her success to advice she got — including the name of an editor who was looking for her kind of book — by meeting Karen Spears Zacharias and other Books Alive authors.
“We all have our bucket list, and you want to get published so badly,” she said. “But then you get there and there’s another pinnacle you have to climb. … There is so much politics that goes on, even just marketing a book.”
Ramsey is a former radio host, freelance writer and adjunct professor who divides her time between Dothan, Ala., and Panama City. She writes about Southern culture, manners, etiquette and genealogy on her websites, and
Newly released from Mercer University Press, “Swimming with Serpents” is the tale of star-crossed lovers of mixed Creek and Anglo heritage caught up in the massacre at Fort Mims, Ala., in 1813 and the Red-Stick wars. The sequel, “Nest of Vipers,” set during the First Seminole War, will be out next year.
Author Janis Owens, originally from Marianna and no stranger to these shores, called the new novel “a lush plunge into a forgotten corner of American history … a vivid, detailed story that reflects the passion and brutality of the day and gives insight to the nation we have become.”
Other local authors participating in Saturday’s event will include Anne Ake, Sherry Anderson, David Angier, Carole Bailey, François-Marie Bénard, Mark Boss, Bert-May Brady, Michael Brim, Jay Furr, Bruce Gamble, Michael Lister, Judy McCarthy, Nick May, Janet   Nicolet, Pamela Peterson, Christopher Scharping, Todd Vandermolen, Linda Williamson, Greg Wilson, Marlene Womack, the Gulf Coast Woman’s Club “Heritage of Bay County, Florida” and myself.
Come out and see us, and make some connections.

Books Alive! Local:
  • What: Morning presentations and afternoon book signings by 24 local authors; free admission, open to the public
  • Where: Bay County Public Library Meeting Room, 898 W. 11th St. in Panama City
  • When: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
  • Schedule: 10 a.m. presentation by Sharman Burson Ramsey; 11 a.m. presentation by François-Marie Bénard; noon to 1 p.m. lunch on your own; 1-3 p.m. book sales and signings
  • Details: 522-2120 or

St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club Ladies Auxilliary

October 11, 2012

The St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club Ladies Auxilliary invited me to talk on the history leading up to Swimming with Serpents. My dear friend Kathy Swigler, an old friend from our DHS cheerleader days, came as my guest. We enjoyed visiting with June Sapp and Charmian Cretney while we waited for the food to be served and the time to arrive for the program to begin.

JoAn Gramling and June Brackin were early arrivals. James and I were scrambling to make sure the projector for the Power Point presentation worked. We had to exchange the blue cable from the projector to the computer and finally it all came together. I always arrive early to get the feel of a place and to make sure I know how to operate the equipment. I was VERY glad I did this morning.

Marty Gerde watched as I inscribed Kathy's book.

It's been a long time since our DHS cheerleader days. Lots of bucket wishes fullfilled in the meantime.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Totally unbiased review by my Dothan High School English teacher

Tommy Adkins Butterfly on Flower
I want to share with you the totally unbiased review of my novel by my Dothan High School English teacher, Julie Wauthena Nall Knowles.

My dear Sharman,
            Thank you.  I listened as you read--I was overwhelmed--had difficulty  trying not to cry!
            Good readers like you almost always do well in English and history classes. You have amassed a veritable ton of historical research for Swimming with Serpents.  I love the title and its alliteration; I've known quite a few "serpents."  This is a well-done work--of course you can write--I am incredibly proud of my student.
            I've read only a few chapters.  The "Prologue" is good writing. You effectively "catch the reader's attention" . . . sentences flow into a great hook with a "tease" to turn the page.   --You've chosen the right tone and point-of-view: third-person omniscient limited to Snow Bird; third person focused on Cade.  --How many revisions had these few pages?  Hemingway said he rewrote the last sentence of "F to A" thirty-odd times (I think)--why? "To get it right."  The snowy bird of the first paragraph connects to the death of Snowbird as the white bird watches.  And--that owl!  In literature, an owl's hoot (as you know) = trouble, + owl, Athena's bird, the goddess of war.  Yes!  You've a recognizable analogue, too: The creator of the "Dr. Quinn" TV series had to bump off her "Snow Bird," Cloud Dancing's wife, in dramatizing the plight of the Cheyenne and--to have Cloud Dancing available to fall in love with the white, lady-newspaper editor.  Surely that connection will be made by readers.
            Oh, I notice all sorts of "stuff"--even "Beauty" and "Beast"! --My "Starlight," named for one of Almanzo Wilder's horses, died on my birthday when Durwood and I were in Louisville.  --You've set a conflict between the twins: at first, Gabe is "killed"--will he become a "sacrificial" character?  Also, Gabri-el: -el = God.  Will he become a spiritual leader?  In a few pages, your narrator had me laughing!  --Any English paper making me laugh earned its "A" then-and-there. 
            Swimming with Serpents is simply superb.  (Allow me an alliteration!)  It should win some category of an award.  Congratulations!
your English teacher!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Query letter for Partyin' on the Plantation

  It is quite possible that this is the worst query letter ever written. I may well have broken every rule. I would love to hear from those who have written successful query letters and those who just might have an opinion on the book I am querying. I will try to develop a tough skin about this and learn from your critique. I Googled agents who like Southern Fiction and those that are accepting new authors for my list of potential agents. Suggestions?

Dear Ms. _____:
I would appreciate your considering representing me as my literary agent.
Partyin’ on the Plantation so intrigued my friend Cassandra King Conroy that she offered to take me to New York to go door to door to publishing houses until we found someone who was as taken with the novel as she was. Swimming with Serpents, just released, historical fiction based on the Creek Indian War, was taken by Mercer University Press about then and we set that trip aside.
Synopsis of Partyin’ on the Plantation
Picture two Southern sisters long estranged. Then the death of Dr. Sophia Palmer Ransom’s husband brings sister Dabney Palmer Rankin to their grandfather’s plantation, now owned by Sophia, a successful New Orleans cardiologist, and the two re-establish the bonds of their childhood. For the moment. Long enough to finagle their way onto the Dish It Network and become stars with their very own show, Partyin’ on the Plantation -- though they cannot cook!
Their show captures the imagination of the nation with their array of famous guest cooks, the interaction of the multicultural cast of Soul Sisters, Dabney’s quirky sense of humor, and their ingenious ideas for entertaining on the plantation. Eventually their grandmother’s garden gets replanted with a little help from the Master Gardeners in the area, inspiring individual Victory Gardens that the sisters visit and award prizes. Who knew that the Saks Fifth Avenue quality gentlemen attracted by the Mint Juleps served at the Five O-Clock Somewhere soiree presided over by the two sisters would make Dabney (now a geriatric sex symbol on the verge of having her very first novel published with Fabio on the cover!) the target of a homicidal maniac.
Plan for a series based on Partyin’ on the Plantation
Partyin’ on the Plantation is semi-Southern Gothic contemporary women’s fiction of 89,794 words humorously geared toward the post-menopausal demographic inspired by my grandfather’s plantation house in Wilcox County, Alabama. Like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County there are many tales to be told about folks in Palmer County, Alabama. I plan a series of mysteries based on these characters to evolve from their visits to local gardens (similar to the British mysteries Rosemary and Thyme), culinary activities (Dabney pays well for Grandma’s recipes, helping those in need while meeting lots of interesting folks living and dead), Dabney’s son’s online sporting goods store, Adam Afield, and hunting business, and Dabney’s genealogy hobby.
Recommendations by well-known authors
"I was hooked from the first scene, one of the most intriguing, and funniest, I've ever read. With this rollicking novel, Sharman Ramsey shines as THE bright new star in Southern fiction.” Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife and Same Sweet Girls

“Sharman Ramsey writes with the full-frontal charm of a women so in love with her culture that she makes you love it more. Partyin' on the Plantation celebrates all that is wonderful in the South, past, present and future: food, friends, and family, with a spice of intrigue, a dash of history, and many pauses for laughter.” Janis Owens
I have already begun the sequel to this novel which has become a parallel plot using the situation developed in Partyin’ on the Plantation to interweave with a paranormal vision of a past life that leads to an adventure in the Mayan ruins of El Waka Peru, Guatemala, where a young man’s life lies in the balance.
I am the author of two historical novels, Swimming with Serpents, published by Mercer University Press (2012) with a contract on the sequel, Nest of Vipers, to be published by Mercer in 2013. I am a genealogist whose discovery of my Native American heritage inspired those novels. As the result of those novels, I have become a member of the faculty of the Chatauqua Assembly in DeFuniak Springs and was recently on a panel at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association.
I have degrees in Education and History from the University of Alabama and Troy University, have served as an adjunct professor and am a former radio talk show host. My website focuses on genealogy, Southern recipes, history, the Southern Monet Garden, culture, manners and etiquette and has 6000 to 8000 visitors a month.
My publicist is Kathie Bennett of Magic Time Literary Agency.
I appreciate your consideration.

At this point different agents request pages from the novel. 

Tommy Adkins art and more education on the book business

I simply must share with you the beautiful photography of Tommy Adkins. He captures the wonderful beauty of this glorious world we all share.

Next week will take me to the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club where I will do the same program that I did for the Book Launch for the Ladies Auxilliary. Then Saturday, I will be the Keynote Speaker for the Local Writers group associated with Books Alive in Panama City. That talk will be directed toward writers.

Joe and I had an eye opening experience at Books by the Sea in downtown PC. I have mentioned before the problem of a small press getting their books into the big box stores -- Barnes and Noble and Books-A- Million. The problem is with the small press not taking returns because they lack the resources to absorb losses like the larger publishing houses who make deals with the box stores regarding placement of their books, etc. to promote sales. And then after about 90 days, those books that haven't sold are returned. The deal Books by the Sea offered just to have the books available in their store was the exact same deal that I, the author, get when I purchase books to take to festivals, book signings, etc. I thanked the man for his time and took my book away with me.

Amazon is the big gorilla now. They get a fantastic discount plus make the e version of the book available. All of this is changing the landscape of the book business. It is truly affecting the Independent Booksellers. Navigating all of the changing economics of the book business is something new and challenging.

I am now in the market for an agent to try and get a series other than the historical fiction published. I think I will post my query letter and let you all critique it, should you be so led. 


Friday, October 5, 2012

Official Book Launch

It was a book signing!
Entry Hall of the Dothan Cultural Arts Center

Ann Cotton, Director of the Dothan Cultural Arts Center
October 4, 2012

I want to thank Ann Cotton and the Board of Directors for the Dothan Cultural Arts Center for hosting the official book launch for my newly released first novel, Swimming with Serpents, historical fiction published by Mercer University Press. With a full house in the elegantly chandeliered and draped room with classy black and white tiles in fine beaux arts style, those in attendance settled in with wine and hors d’oeuvres to hear me share my passion for the people, time and place of the Creek Indian War presented in the historical novel. Sound, staging and lighting were skillfully handled giving us the best environment possible for a wonderful literary evening.
Sharman and daughter-in-law Brittany Ballard Ramsey
Friends came from all over for the evening: Lee and Carol Hanson (Oneonta), Judy and Robert Grimes (Anniston), Sheree Williams Smith (Aiken, South Carolina), Ken Sizemore, Larry and Amy Fletcher (Panama City), cousin Gene Stabler (Montgomery), Ernie and Lydia Padget (Marianna), and high school friend, Sidney Clark, (California,though not just for the Book Launch). Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of everyone!

It was a perfect.

I can hardly wait until next year when the sequel, Nest of Vipers, is released!
Amy and Larry Fletcher, and Ken Sizemore of Panama City with Sharman and Joe
Dr. Sylvia Burson Rushing, Sharman's sister with Sharman and Joel Ramsey

To all of our friends and family who attended, I humbly say you’re the best!
Robert and Judy Grimes drove to Dothan from Anniston for the event.

Around 100 friends and family filled the auditorium. Gene Stabler, cousin from Montgomery, Kay Roney, Drew Ramsey, Brittany Ramsey, Pat Renfro, and Mary Andrews.

Kenneth and Pam Bryan, Larry and Amy Fletcher
 Above: Kenneth Bryan came with wife Pam, but Sharman got a hug!
Sharman did a Power Point presentation of the people and
times leading up to the Creek Indian War.

Ellen Parks, Terri Turner and Mary Andrews
Malinda Williams Bauman  and Sharman Ramse
Pat Branch, Sharman Ramsey and Joel Ramsey
Ken Sizemore from Panama City and Gene Stabler from Montgomery
Gene Stabler, Mike and Brooke Evans, Susan Brown and Patti Andrews.

Sharee Williams Smith wins the prize for coming the farthest to attend the Book Launch -- Aiken, South Carolina!

Lydia and Ernie Padgett of Marianna, with Judy and Robert Grimes of Anniston visiting with Sylvia Burson Rushing.