2012 – A Year of Alberta Books Canada Literary Salons

islandeditions:

I thought it was time to revisit a promotion concept I organized while I was still living in Alberta, since an author friend in Ontario is now organizing her first salon (of what I hope will be a series) and also because I posted a comment on another author friend’s blog today outlining what I was doing to promote authors and reading back in 2012. I really would like to explore the concept of “online” salons at some time or another, too.

Originally posted on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing:

Since Nov. 2011, Alberta Books Canada hosted a series of literary salons in Calgary that brought together readers with Alberta authors in the intimate setting of a private home for readings and discussions about books and writing. Now that this series has come to an end, I wanted to recap all the salons and share with everyone a list of the authors who took part.

What made these salons different from the usual readings in bookstores and libraries, besides being held in private homes, is that they were based on the model of music house parties where the audience is charged an admission fee and all money collected is paid to the artists. My intention in setting up the salons in this way was so the authors would receive payment for having entertained us, and the audience would realize they should not expect authors to perform for free. After all…

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Path of a Bullet – hits the mark!!

You never hear the bullet that kills you … but you can read it!

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Path of a Bullet, A Collection of Short Stories Featuring Ike by Tim Baker will be released after Nov. 24 in both eBook and print!

I have contributed a story to this book, along with Becky Heishman, Becky Meyer Pourchot, Lockie Young, Ann Marie Vancas, and Gigi Arena. S.K. Nicholls has written the introduction, and Seumas Gallacher provided a promotion blurb for the back cover.

This is going to be a great book, folks! Available just in time for holiday gift-giving, too!

The Dark Place by L.F. Young

In Dec. 2013, I promoted Lockard Young on my Reading Recommendations blog. Since that time, Lockie has become an online friend and we are mutually supportive of each others writing and publishing efforts. During this past year I became aware that Lockie was not in the best of health, yet he continued with a very positive attitude, always joking and posting to Facebook with a smile on his face – or so I imagined. He recently posted to his own blog about having had to deal with chronic pain, for a very long time. I know a number of other friends who are also struggling with this and thought Lockie’s eloquent writing about his own experience might help them cope a little better. So I received Lockie’s permission to post his essay on my blog. Please share this with anyone else who you think it may help.

September 29/2014

Seven hundred and fifty-nine days, give or take. That’s two years and twenty nine days that I have been in pain. This isn’t about sympathy. I’ve had lots and lots of sympathy since September of 2012. I was in pain before that, and worked through it, but it got to the point that it affected my job performance. My dream job is now a distant memory, warped and miss-shaped, the edges of that memory dulled by the drugs.

I’ve learned so many things since that day, when I lost my dream job. I’ve learned new words like Peripheral Arterial Disease and Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia, also known as H.I.T. Large words with medical definitions so complicated they would astound a man of lesser education. I also discovered all about the consequences of another word. Amputation. The mere mention of such a word sends chills down the backs of the queasy. That word was very frightening to me at first, but the pain was much greater than my fear, and I reluctantly agreed to the consequences of that word, if it would stop the pain. It didn’t, at least not completely. It is true that the bad parts had to be removed. My right foot, starved of blood from a clogged artery and therefore starved of oxygen, essentially died and was affecting the rest of the leg it was attached to, and so the simple solution was to detach the offending appendage. Was this just a simple solution to a medical problem? Maybe the surgeon, well practiced in this type of operation may have considered it routine, due to the sheer number of amputations he has had to perform over the course of his learned career. My guess, after having talked at great length with the man, was that every operation was hard for him, not in the actual performance of the deed, but rather in the consequences he knew to be true for his patients.

I really don’t want to sound whiny. The pain I now have in both legs is certainly a lot less than the severity of 13 Months ago. The so called Phantom pain, the pain felt in the foot that was no longer there, has lessened to the point that it is mostly Phantom Sensation now. Yes, I can still feel my foot, more than a year after it was removed along, with my ankle and the part of my leg that is no longer there beneath my knee. It is most unsettling to reach down to scratch what is no longer there. As to my other leg and foot, well that is another story.

After the first operation to replace a section of artery in my right leg, the surgeon ordered Heparin, a blood thinner, a very common drug that is used in a wide variety of medical treatments. In my case, it was used as a sort of cleaner, a thinner of blood, allowing the fast and free flowing liquid to wash away any remaining bits and small particles of the Plaque that was on my arterial walls. For some unknown and unexplainable medical reason my body’s defences sensed the drug as a foreign invader, and I developed the condition known medically as H.I.T. The consequence of this was opposite to what the doctors were trying to achieve. Instead of thinning my blood as expected, my blood volume coagulated to such an extent that blood flow was lost to both legs. The nerves in my good leg died, along with the tissue and some bone mass. Luckily, I was in hospital at the time of this new crisis, and the doctors, and there were three of them, worked together for over five hours removing clots to save my legs, and my life. I am alive today, and typing this as a direct result of their combined years of experience and skill as surgeons. I am and always will be grateful to these amazingly gifted men. That doesn’t change the fact that I now have nerve pain in my once good leg and foot, parts of me that were fine before February of 2013.

So, how do I cope with the constant pain, you may ask? It at times seems a daunting task to be sure. The ‘nerve’ drugs, I have found out, don’t actually take the pain away, but rather bathes the nerve endings in something to stop the rapid firing, and otherwise overly heightened sensations they are communicating to the brain. The pain killers work too, but are so powerful they sometimes leave you in a zombie state and then you don’t know which end is up. That’s no way to live. The doctors all say the ‘discomfort’ will go away with time. Oh yes they all say that, but not one of them will say how much time. I guess they don’t want to appear uneducated by saying they don’t know how much time. A couple of them went out on a limb, and qualified their answer by saying the very vague statement, “It is different for everyone.” Thank you for reassuring me that someday, maybe, I will be free of this heavy wet woollen blanket of despair, this discomfort.

The solution is to take drugs. Drugs with side effects like, weight gain, blotchy skin, a feeling of tiredness all the time, perhaps depression at times, and oh yes, let’s not forget constipation. Not to worry, there’s a pill for that too. At times it is too much to bear. Last night was one of those times, and that indeed prompted this writing. The blanket was so heavy last night that it bore me down into The Dark Place. The pain was no more intense than it had been the night before or the month before that. It was the never-ending-ness of it. It was the weight of the knowing that there was no end date to this. That was the heaviness that weighted me down into The Dark Place. The fact that I lay there weeping, my tears rolling down my face and falling onto my pillow, only seemed to make matters worse. Growing up in a time when it was not manly to cry, not something my father would tolerate from any of his sons, seemed to weigh on me even more than the pins and needles of my misery.

The Dark Place; The Dark Place is not a scary horror scene from a film or novel. It is not a place of excitement. It is a place of utter desolation and despair. For many, The Dark Place is the last stop here on earth, before the final leap, before the final cut, that last gunshot to the temple. It is the last place a person goes who has lost all hope of being able to live in a world that doesn’t understand what they are going through. I know this place well, for I have been there more than once. I have been to the darkness, and I can write about it now. I have learned how to find the stairs up and out of that desolate place. Each time after I have visited that kind of depression, I say never again. Never again will I let myself go down there. I am learning that one has no choice in the matter. The only choice, for those still in control, is whether to stay down there or not. I chose not to stay there. I chose not to give in to the demon, not to let it win. Even as I write this now, I refuse to capitalise its name, for I have won this time.

Today is better, and tomorrow will be better still. I will try and continue to fight this seemingly never ending battle. I will try to understand and to be more understanding of people whose pain I do not know. People who seem normal and bright and unaffected on the outside, but who are deep into battle on the inside, these people I will try and understand, because now, I too am one of them.

1450088_785019491544384_2294254842064449408_nLockie Young – Canada

I am a newly published author under the name of L.F.Young. My book is called Ryan’s Legend, an adventure/fantasy story for middle grade readers, or children of all ages. It is available through Morning Rain Publishing.
Lockie’s Lectern

My Reading Recommendations … updated

Over on my other blog, Reading Recommendations, I’ve been busy for almost exactly a year now (I began writing that blog on Nov. 18, 2013!) promoting Authors and their books to Readers.

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Some of these Authors have been new-to-me, many are established, and a number of them are long-time friends and colleagues. Not wanting to play favourites, I do encourage readers to look through the complete alphabetical list of 168 Authors I have already promoted during this year.

There are a number of these authors whose writing I’ve had the privilege to read – either as finished books they’re promoting on my blog, earlier published works or, in some cases, as a beta-reader for unpublished manuscripts – and I wrote two posts listing both self-and-traditionally published Authors whose work I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!! For those complete posts, including lists and links to Authors, please click on Dylan Hearn’s Pay It Forward for self-published authors … and Traditionally Published Authors on Reading Recommendations.

Since Sept. 4, 2014, when the second list appeared, I have read and IMMENSELY enjoyed books by a number of other Reading Recommendations Authors and, in alphabetical order, I’d like to share those names with you now. (All names are linked to their original RR post.)

Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Arjun Basu
Paul Butler
C. Hope Clark
Lori Hahnel
Kim McCullough
Peter Midgley
S.K. Nicholls
Gail Norton
David Prosser
Fred Stenson

I still have a large stack of print and eBooks yet to read that are written by Reading Recommendations Authors. I have no doubt I’ll be creating another list very soon! I do hope you have as much pleasure as I’ve derived from discovering and reading books by the Authors I’ve featured on Reading Recommendations!

Books are proof …

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Would you like to give someone an “Island” this Christmas?

Well, not a real island – a piece of sub-continental land surrounded by water – of course. But a print copy of my novel, Island in the Clouds!

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Deck the halls with bits of Bequia, Fa-la-la-la-la, La-la-la-la

For any readers wishing to give family or friends who live in North America a copy as a gift, I will mail to anyone, if you place an order with me by Nov. 26th (while I’m still in Canada). Cost is CDN$15.00 per copy plus mailing charges. (Giftwrapping extra.) Payment by cheque or email funds transfer. And I will sign the copy before mailing, personalizing if you wish.

Or, if you just want to buy a copy for yourself, that’s okay, too!

Send an email to susanmtoy (at) gmail.com

(I can only make this offer for mailing addresses within Canada and the US to ensure packages arrive in time for Christmas. And quantities are limited!)

If you prefer to read eBooks, check here for locations of where to purchase.

Path of a Bullet – Put some Ike under your tree this Christmas!

I am so pleased, and proud, and downright giddy, that a story I’ve written is being included in the new anthology, Path of a Bullet, A Collection of Short Stories Featuring Ike that Tim Baker has put together for release on Dec. 1 as an eBook and in print.

I don’t mind telling you, I’ve fallen in love with Ike, Tim’s main fictional character, since I first discovered the novels in 2013. Tim began writing short stories featuring Ike late last year, and when he put out a call for stories written by friends and readers, I just had to write one. I went with fan fiction, and have taken Ike for a visit to my own milieu. I tried to make Bequia Blues as much an homage to both Ike and Tim as I could, and those in the know will recognize many of Tim’s other characters, colleagues, friends, family members–even his favourite movie–as I could name within the short story-form limit. The point is that I had a lot of fun writing this story and I hope Readers will get a kick out of reading it, as well.

Besides the 12 stories in the collection written by Tim Baker, and 1 by me, there are 5 other contributors, each with their own short story: Rebecca Heishman, Gi Arena, Ann Marie Vancas, L.F. Young, and Becky M. Pourchot.

And here’s the cool part … 3 of the Authors, Tim, Rebecca and L.F. (Lockie) Young, have been previously featured on my blog – the promotion site I created, Reading Recommendations. Also, the book will include an introduction written by another RR Author, S.K. Nicholls. And, if that isn’t enough for you, Seumas Gallacher, also previously featured on my blog, has written a great blurb to give the book some advance promotion. Just feast your eyes on what he has to say about this collection!

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If you want to place an advance order for Path of a Bullet, I’m sure Tim Baker will not be averse to hearing from you. Either contact him through his website (where you may also see the other titles he has published and perhaps order a few of those, as well) or, if you’re shy, just contact me and I’ll make sure your name is added to the list. This is one present you may decide to wrap and tag to give to yourself – it’s that good!

Outstanding, in fact! (As Ike would say.)

Authors Supporting Our Troops – Soldiers Needed

islandeditions:

Authors Supporting Our Troops, an initiative created by Armand Rosamilia who was the first author to be featured on my other blog, Reading Recommendations, is looking for more US military soldiers serving in remote locations overseas … Please read his blog post to see how you may help!

Originally posted on Armand Rosamilia:

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I am amazed at all of the authors asking the information about donating signed books to the Authors Supporting Our Troops event, as well as non-authors wanting to donate money to help with the massive shipping costs. You can find out everything you need to know Here.

With the goal of 3,000 author-signed books shipped in 2015, the only part of the equation I’m a little worried about is actual soldiers to send books to. 

This is where you hopefully come in and help…

Are you a family member of someone in the military (any branch) or friends with someone who is currently overseas in a remote area? We’d love to make contact with you and send over a couple of boxes of books so they can share them with their unit. I’m not interested in a company that does this or a random person, i want to actually…

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Goodreads Giveaway – 3 copies of Island in the Clouds!

I decided to run one more Goodreads Giveaway in 2014 for 3 print copies of my novel, Island in the Clouds, but this time Members must live in the following countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Spain or Switzerland. If you are a resident of, or have friends who reside in, these countries, please enter, or tell your friends about, this contest for a chance to win one of three copies! Giveaway runs from Nov. 10-27.

(Island in the Clouds is also available as an eBook.)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Island in the Clouds by Susan M. Toy

Island in the Clouds

by Susan M. Toy

Giveaway ends November 27, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

One Woman’s Island – a novel in progress

Okay, to satisfy readers of my novel, Island in the Clouds – the first in a quartet of novels in the Bequia Perspectives Series – who have been asking when the next will be ready, and to prove to Tim Baker that I am actually writing this next novel … here’s a snippet from Chapter Seven of One Woman’s Island I can post now that doesn’t need a lot of preamble to set the scene and doesn’t give away any of the story. It’s just a good, solid description of Bequia and, since that seems to be what my readers enjoyed most about the first novel, I thought I’d let you have a sneak peek of what’s in store for you in the next. This is told from the perspective of Mariana, a fifty-+-year-old woman from Calgary who has decided to live on Bequia for six months. (And, yes, most of this section is based on my own personal experience of walking the roads of Bequia.)

After a few weeks of living a rather sedentary life while recovering from Dengue, I began to notice my clothes were feeling tighter than they had when I first arrived on Bequia. I’d managed to gain more weight on an already rather full figure. Not wanting to give up either food or drink, I figured my next course of action was to get into some regular exercise, a daily walk being my best bet, I thought. And it was through those walks I began to see and understand more of the true nature of the local people.

The main road out to the airport became my favourite route, mainly because I could walk on mostly unbroken concrete and there were few hills to challenge me. It was about four miles out in that direction giving me a brisk return trip of eight miles altogether, a good workout in the late afternoon.

That way also took me through several local villages and, some days, I seemed to be the only white person in existence. Certainly the local people I met along the road treated me like an oddity, at first—until I’d been walking for a few weeks. Then I became yet another fixture in their daily lives.

I mastered the many forms of greetings common to Bequians. This is one place where you actually make eye contact with everyone you pass, say “Hello” to them, and mean it.

First of all, there’s the simple chin lift to acknowledge someone who may not be close enough to hear your voice, but can still see your face. Then there are many greetings depending on the age and gender of the other person. “Aw-right” or even just a simple “Right” or “Right, right” are all good for young and middle-aged men. “Hi” or “Hello” work with children. For older women and elderly men a more formal “Good Morning,” “Good Afternoon” or “Good Night” are required, depending upon the time of day. And since the sun sets abruptly in the tropics making it suddenly very dark, there is no such time as evening. People generally say “Good Night” whether they are arriving or leaving any time after about 6:00 p.m. every day. There’s also a quick little hand wave from a waist-high wrist I use for taxi drivers as they pass, which does not imply I’m hailing them. Most drivers wave back or even honk. And all of this greeting goes on with everyone you meet along the way, whether they know you or not, or whether they’ve seen you as recently as the previous day or months before. It’s just the Bequia way.

One afternoon I passed the bus shelter in La Pompe where the neighbourhood often gathers to chat. The benches were filled with men all just gazing out to sea. I said “Good Afternoon” to no one in particular, and the whole group replied as one, as though they were an opera chorus, with “Good Afternoon”. It was such a surprise to hear this collective greeting that I had a hard time containing myself until I was well past the shelter where I then broke into an ear-to-ear grin.

I saw many of the same people every day, sitting in the same spot, with their same friends and neighbours. One of my favourites was ‘The Man On the Wall’, as I called him. He sat on a stone wall at the edge of the road on the sea-side, looking in towards the land rather than out at the fabulous view to the south just behind his back. He was there most days as I made my way back home and always said good afternoon to me. Sometimes his dogs were with him; other times both his dogs and his children. One time, he introduced me to his daughter.

“Missus.” They all seemed to call me that; must be a generic name for women of a certain age. “Dis be me daughter, Kaysha.” He patted the child on her curly head. “She be de youngest.”

“How many children do you have?” I asked. He looked to be in his sixties or seventies.

“Nineteen. Four be inside and de rest outside. And ten grandchildren. Only one great-grandkiddie, though.”

“Oh, you have been busy,” I said, hoping he didn’t understand my sarcasm.

To clarify, ‘inside’ children are those that were borne by his wife, and ‘outside’ are the issue of every other woman who became pregnant by him.

“This is some weather we’re having lately,” I added, quickly changing the topic.

However, in spite of his personal admissions that day, I still had the habit of looking for him as I rounded the corner and was disappointed on the very few occasions he wasn’t sitting there.

And as I became more familiar to the other people along my route they would give me words of encouragement or congratulations on being so persistent with my exercise.

Unfortunately, some of their comments became a little too familiar.

One man watched me pass by every day for a couple of weeks then shouted, “Good fo’ you. Dat exercise make you big!”

“But I’m trying to get smaller!” I cried back to him, feeling defeated all of a sudden. Someone told me later that he probably just meant that my muscles were getting big.

Small consolation, I thought.

A taxi driver congratulated me on “Getting’ rid a all dat fat,” as he put it.

Another man told me I was looking hefty.

Still another tagged along with me and said I was walking swift and “sweatin’ good”, then told all the people we passed that I was his girlfriend. I picked up speed at that point and soon left him in my dust.

A young girl shouted at me that I had fat, sexy legs and an albino boy with extremely crossed eyes whispered that he loved me.

Yet another taxi driver, a very fat one I might add, slowed down as he drove by and said, with a leering grin, “Lookin’ good!” while giving me the once over with his eyes. Oh, help!

I told Dudley about some of my experiences and of the many comments people had made about me and he said to pay them no mind.

“Dey all just love to hear themselves talk and don’t mean nothing.”

Still it made me realize that people did notice me and it wasn’t possible to be anonymous on Bequia. Not exactly the kind of fan club I’d hoped to attract, though.

But for the most part during that time, I accepted and, after a while, no one paid much attention to me at all. There had always been some people, only a very few, who refused to acknowledge me, turning their heads away and never making eye contact. These were usually young people, mainly in their late teens and early twenties, who acted like they had chips on their shoulders. Maybe it was because I was older, or a woman, or even because I was a white foreigner, that I was being shunned. I wasn’t sure of the reason. I tended to just ignore them, anyway.

Besides the people I met on my walks, I also got to know other aspects of Bequia, some of which I enjoyed and looked for every day, and others which I didn’t like at all and tried to pretend didn’t exist.

I noticed the same three tabby cats sleeping in the afternoon sun on the top of a cistern beside a house.

Dogs and puppies were everywhere, usually sleeping at the side of the road on the warm concrete.

Lambs and goat kids were born and grew up as I walked by.

Roosters, chickens, and chicks pecked at the dirt in most yards.

And children, of all ages, were everywhere—swimming in the sea, playing on the road with homemade toys, playing football – soccer football, or cricket on the beach or basketball on the hard court by the airport, many of them playing those games in bare feet.

Most drivers on Bequia, especially the van, or dollar bus, drivers, speed on those narrow winding roads and some have a reputation of being quite dangerous, so I was lucky I never saw a major accident in all that time I was walking.

And, unfortunately, I quite often caught a whiff of putrid, decaying flesh, probably a dead manicoo or other small mammal, that had been hit by a vehicle then thrown into the ditch to decompose. That smell always reminded me of my first night on Bequia.

Worst of all though was the amount of garbage littered everywhere. People throw out everything and pay no heed to it once it leaves their hands. As Ras said, “Dey fling and forget.” I was shocked that the islanders could have such little regard for their small environment, that there was not enough pride in their place and their homes to want to keep Bequia clean. That was a major disappointment to discover about these people.

But the best part about those walks was the regular exercise was having the desired effect, and that was really all that mattered to me.

While I had tried to avoid all contact with Al, I still ran into him occasionally in the Harbour. One time, when he was with Suzie, he told me I had a new name among the local people.

“They call you ‘De woman who walk.’” That wouldn’t have been so bad, except he added, “And after losing all that weight, you’re looking like a ‘Babe’ to me!”

“Thanks, Al,” I said, inwardly cringing, hoping this wasn’t just more of his usual brand of sarcasm. “I was hoping to lose enough weight so I wouldn’t be attractive to the majority of men on this island.” I know those men generally lust after fat women— extremely fat women, in most cases.

Al threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, don’t worry. I wouldn’t take their attentions personally. These guys will chase after a dog if they think there’s a chance of getting lucky.”

Suzie cuffed him on the shoulder. “Al!” she said, in that reprimanding voice she used with him.

“Okay, okay,” he said, “Maybe not a dog, but a sheep anyway, or a donkey if they can find one.” He laughed again in that maniacal way.

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