Have you read my writing?

I’m just curious as to how many readers have actually read what I’ve written and how many of those readers have read more than just one piece of writing I’ve published so far. So I created this poll and would appreciate it if you would click on whatever you’ve read. And please leave any comments below as well, if you’d like to say something about my writing. I’m all ears!

Here are links to everything listed in the poll:

Island in the Clouds
One Woman’s Island
That Last Summer
Links to 6 Short Stories

Thank you to all readers! You are the reason we writers write.

One Woman’s Island – Fan mail and reviews!

And definitely not from some flounder!

But this is what I can call a message I really like!

Not all readers like to write reviews and post them online, and I get that! So I will never ask anyone to review my books or post their thoughts if they don’t wish to do so.

However, I do know many readers, especially friends, like to tell me their thoughts and impressions about my books after they’ve read something I’ve written. They quite often write to me privately in an email, or they tell me in person when I meet up with them. So I then ask if I may post their comments to my blog, and will do so anonymously, if that’s what they wish.

Here are comments from two friends who had previously read Island in the Clouds and have now told me what they think of One Woman’s Island

Friend #1 (received by email):
I loved reading One Woman’s Island. I enjoyed it so much that at one point, I wished the story wouldn’t end! I appreciated that Marianne was such a strong character. She believed in her values and did not cave in when she encountered opposing views. Keep writing, Sue. I look forward to your next book. Violet

Friend #2 (From a conversation):
I enjoyed the development of the characters, particularly Tex, who I had no sympathy with initially, but came to like him. Mariana reflects the views of a lot of people who come to the island, who are invasive and intrusive, and get it all wrong. She irritated the hell out of me and at times I wanted to slap her! I really enjoyed the change in speed between life on Bequia and the slow pace of the tranquil garden in several scenes. There should be a place like that on this island where people can sit in private and not be overheard, enjoying a coffee or tea completely out of sight. (smt: Well, there is my own verandah at The View. Although I do quite like my imagined garden in the novel.) I actually felt that what you’ve done is left enough strings untied that what I want most is to read the next book.

Friend #1 has visited us on Bequia, but I have known her since 1979, shortly after we moved to Calgary. We have been friends ever since. She is an artist and has always encouraged my writing.

Friend #2 owns a house on Bequia and has been coming to the island for many years. She’s supported my books wholeheartedly and keeps print copies in her house for rental guests to read. (And if you’re thinking of coming to Bequia, I do recommend you check out this friend’s house – send me an email for details.)

Both women are avid readers, so I am particularly flattered by their comments.

As well, I received a wonderful review of my book from author and friend, Timothy Phillips. (The link will take you to his promotion on my blog.) He did post to both Amazon and Facebook, but I just had to share with you here what he has said:

I was fortunate to read Susan Toy’s first book, Island in the Clouds. This is set on the Caribbean island of Bequia and murders will take place – guaranteed. We don’t have to wait long – a body turns up floating in the swimming pool almost on page one. It’s an exciting read all the way through.

Toy’s second book is also set in Bequia, which is where she resides for half the year. She knows the island intimately and she knows the people, both the ex-pat community and locals and has weaved this backdrop effectively into her story. We will have to wait a third of the way into her book before we have full proof of skullduggery and mischief. Yet, right from the beginning, we have ominous warning of some malevolent presence of things to come through the almost incoherent rambling conversation of three children. So, we’re prepared to wait. It reminds me of the witches’ scene in Act One, Scene One of Macbeth.

We all, especially if we live in the cold North, have images in our mind of paradise on earth – a warm sunny climate, pristine beaches, plentiful exotic fruits, smiling locals speaking in a patois that has a lilting and colourful charm – easy to be enchanted here, nice place to visit. Might even consider moving here if suddenly there was upheaval in one’s life.

That happens to the protagonist, Mariana who has come to Bequia with her two cats for an extended visit to mend from a marriage that ended. She’s naive but well-intentioned – perhaps she’s enervated by sunshine and dazzled by vibrant blue skies. She wants to contribute meaningfully and yet her perception of life on the island through seemingly rose-tinted spectacles is far different from reality.

The tension in Toy’s story builds magnificently, the main characters are intriguing colourful individuals and she develops them masterfully. There are few that will predict the outcome of the story and we are left guessing right to the end.

Toy is an interested foodie and has obviously experimented with local dishes. At the end of some chapters, she has included the recipes for these. It gives one a chance to take a breath and reminds me of the opportunity to stretch, get a snack or an ice cream at Intermission. One needs that.

Loved it.

And I loved your review, Tim! Thank you so much for reading and telling everyone! I especially like the reference you made to Macbeth – Nice!

If anyone else has read and enjoyed any of my books, but is kind of shy about putting their comments out there, your secret identity is safe with me! Just send me an email, susanmtoy (at) gmail.com, tell me what you think, and give me permission to post either with your name or without. As I said in a blog post I wrote earlier this year, A small request of all my readers …

Thank you, to all readers, from the bottom of my heart!

Countermeasure – a listening recommendation

Countermeasure’s new video has just been released!

After wowing audiences at the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries and at Europe’s most prestigious a cappella event, the London A Cappella Festival, in 2015, Countermeasure returned to Scotland in 2016 to make their Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut, performing their show 14 Characters at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (5-6th, 8-13th August) and Space Triplex (15-20th August).

Featuring 14 members of Canada’s top young vocal talent, Countermeasure are renowned in their native Canada for their sophisticated arrangements, seamless harmonies, lively performances and infectious energy. Their dramatically choreographed show, where every song tells a story, received standing ovations worldwide.

We launched our UK tour to rave reviews:
“12 Stars! Extraordinary group, breathtaking talent, unmissable concert. Superlatives abound and mine is the first of many.” Andy Bungay, Wandsworth Radio, UK

★★★★★55 minutes of pure gold! East Coast 107.6 FM (2016)
“Spellbinding group with perfect harmonies, a pleasure to work with. The audience loved it and wanted more.” Theatre Utopia, Croydon, England

“★★★★Impressive stuff. This really is a show with everything.” Edinburgh49+3

Formed in 2010, Countermeasure are led by award-winning composer/arranger Aaron Jensen and perform original compositions and re-imagined standards by the likes of Cole Porter to the Beatles, with a strong accent on pop and jazz arrangements The group displays unaccompanied singing at its best, incorporating innovative live looping, vocal percussion, and instrument sounds made by the voice. Their musical aesthetic is sufficiently eclectic for the group to headline international contemporary choral concerts, play the main stage at jazz festivals, coerce club-goers onto dance floors and collaborate in esoteric interdisciplinary art projects. They have shared stages with vocal heavy hitters from Naturally 7 and The Swingle Singers to Corey Hart and Blue Rodeo.

During their Fringe run, they dipped into tracks from their second album, Made To Measure, which was released in Canada on 14th July, 2016, and has been enjoying strong airplay in Canada and the UK; its predecessor, 14 Characters, won one of the two spots in the Best Jazz Album category from the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards in the USA.

When Countermeasure singer Steve Cole decided to propose to his girlfriend, Dawne Shonfield, he knew it would be during her visit to Edinburgh but was looking for the perfect moment. And he found it – in the middle of a Countermeasure performance on Wednesday at The Space at Edinburgh Festival Fringe! He picked Dawne to go on stage for their regular Copacabana song routine, which has audience members trying their hand at singing, dancing, and beat boxing. To the surprise of cast and crew, Steve stopped the show and gave a heartfelt speech about Dawne being the song in his heart. And then he got down on one knee, proposed marriage, and she said “yes”! Tears flowed on stage and in the audience – and then a choked-up Countermeasure had to finish the show with their signature “Takin’ It Home”. Expect the unexpected at a Countermeasure show!

“Such a fantastic show… fabulous and beautifully sung songs”. ***** – East Coast FM 107.6 (Edinburgh)

“I have seen 100s of a cappella shows but what these Canadians are doing here at #LACF2015 (London A Cappella Festival) is unheard of. What a joy and a pleasure.”- Florian Statdler, VocalBlog, Germany

For artist information, visit their website.
Check Countermeasure out on their YouTube page.

Aaron Jensen and J-M – Countermeasure: 14 Characters Interview on Broadway Baby Radio

Countermeasure Performing at SING! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival 2016

Countermeasure at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016

Live from Railtown with Cory Price – Countermeasure Mar. 13, 2017

READS, TWEETS AND LEAVES!

Here are some great thoughts (and encouragement to pay back) from our very own Great Ape, Chris The Story Reading Ape! Are you following through after you read a great blog post and sharing that post in every way you can? This is how you can help all bloggers get their messages out in front of, and reach, many more interested and engaged readers.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Is that what YOU do?

Of the 200+ authors I’ve had the honour and pleasure to host at my treehouse blog and the (literally) thousands of visitors, only a few have actually used more than one of the many share buttons available under the articles to send them into the ethers of the Internet …..

The most used button?

Twitter!

This I can understand because you don’t have to think up any catchy phrases or do any thinking about what to say – all you need to do is click it and the article heading is sent out to all your Twitterati (SHOULD be a word)

(My little Twittersphere currently has 1800+ followers who receive notification of all my blog and re-blog posts!)

The second most used button?

Facebook!

This is usually an author who wants to share their article, but only to their own Timeline – they tend to forget…

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Reach for the stars

An excellent post on reviews and reviewing written by roughseasinthemed for the KC Books and Music Blog (Kevin Cooper).

KC BOOKS & MUSIC

Good Sunday afternoon/morning/evening to readers of Kev’s blog with my monthly editor’s post. As promised, it’s the hot topic of reviews and stars.

I started writing (professional ie paid-for) reviews on my first newspaper.

The local Am-Dram, school plays, concerts, musicals, as well as books.

The most important point, was that the review had to be interesting. Don’t retell the story, whether it was Midsummer Night’s Dream or Showboat.

Say what was good, what was poor and why you liked it/didn’t like it. Preferably with a large spoonful of tact thrown in, as every person under the sun, and their families and friends, would be reading the review.

And, I pretty much follow those principles many years later when writing book reviews.

I see no point in giving a summary of the story when there is, or should be, an adequate one on the Goodreads or Amazon or Smashwords etc…

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Do the Right Thing …

I had originally queued up this post with the thought of talking railing on about the seeming lack of compassion, sensitivity, concern – for their fellow human beings and the world at large – I’ve been witnessing for some time now from people everywhere (and not just politicians but also those close to home) who should definitely know better.

I decided instead to give you some examples of the ways average people, no matter what their income or expertise, can help others – even if it’s just a matter of including those others in our lives and making them feel welcome and wanted. I also added a video among these examples about helping the animals of the world, because we do share this planet, you know.

Personally, here are ways I have helped others …

For some years, I have promoted other authors free on my blogs. I’ve given them exposure on social media and encouraged sales of their books, all for no charge. I’ve beta-read, done some pro bono editing, and offered free advice and contact information to those authors who I consider to be good enough to deserve that help. I have also volunteered teaching literacy.

I have donated print books to libraries and those groups that supply reading materials for people who can’t afford to buy books or do not have library access.

I pledge to do more, however, and am considering other ways I can Do the Right Thing that will make a difference in the lives of others around me and elsewhere.

Here are a few examples I’ve gleaned from social media recently (and, yes, two of these videos are commercials for large corporations) that offer ideas of ways in which anyone can help the world become a better place.

From The New York Times, Home Is Where the Resistance Is

The Cat Man of Aleppo

Or maybe it’s just a small matter of Paying It Forward

And this story is about a friend who is an avid gardener as well as someone who constantly looks for ways to help others and contribute to her community, just because that’s the kind of person she is … Last summer, when her own garden was in full bloom, she began cutting the flowers to create bouquets then knocked on doors of houses on her street and gave those neighbours the gift of her flowers. Such a simple act, but one which I’m sure the neighbours, many of whom she’d never actually met prior to doing this, very much appreciated.

I know there are hundreds more examples of people Doing the Right Thing, and some other examples I have are friends of mine. I want to “up” my own personal game though and, as I said above, will pledge to do more. As I think of other ways I can personally make a difference I will add them to my blog.

So, what about you? Do you know of other examples in which people Do the Right Thing? If you are already helping the world in whatever way you can – for free, without an agenda or opportunity for personal financial gain, and not just by donating cash to causes in need, but by actually offering personal help, a hand up, or even simply showing compassion and understanding to your neighbours, colleagues, animals … Please post those examples and ideas below. I would love to hear from you!

And, like me, please consider pledging to do more – even if it’s just a small act of kindness a day. If enough people do the same, we can make a difference in this world. That’s the kind of world in which I, and I’m sure you, as well, would prefer to live.

socialfeed-info-do-the-right-thing-even-when-no-one-is-watching-it-s-called-integrity

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – Two Sisters by author Susan M. Toy

Thanks to Sally Cronin for inviting me to Blogsit by publishing this story I wrote about my older sister, Betty!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

blog-sitting

A very special family photograph and story now of two sisters. Author Susan Toy has many reasons to be thankful for her supportive older sister, not least for home-baked oatmeal cookies.

About Susan M. Toy

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Susan M. Toy has been a bookseller, an award-winning publishing sales representative, a literacy teacher, and is a tireless promoter of fellow authors and their books. She’s also an author and publisher, under the imprints, IslandCatEditions and IslandShorts, and has published eBooks written by other authors, as well as two novels and a novella of her own. Susan shares her time between a verandah on the island of Bequia in the Caribbean and the deck of a trailer near the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Canada.

Two sisters at Barry’s Farm near South Lake at Minden, ON by Susan M. Toy

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This is a photo of me with my older sister, Betty, taken in…

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Guest post: Felicity Harley on Why I refer to my SF novel as Science AND Fiction

Felicity Harley has been previously promoted on my other blog, Reading Recommendations, and was also a guest on this blog, writing about book clubs. I recently assisted Felicity by beta-reading and polish-editing this latest novel of hers and was struck by the fact that she told me she was referring to it as “Science AND Fiction” rather than the better-known genre of Science Fiction, so I asked her to explain why.

burningyears-510

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. My favorite writers are Herbert, Asimov, Bradbury and Orwell. I tend to like science fiction writers who explore what happens to human beings within the context of societies like ours which divorce us from our essential humanity. That’s why I like Farenheit 451, 1984 and The End of Eternity.

I think Herbert was quite prescient when he wrote Dune, because he imagined a planet and human beings living there who had to exist without water. In fact, he was one of the first authors to popularize the importance of preserving our planet’s ecology. In my mind as well, all these authors in one way or another, examine the relationships between religion, politics and power, and also between bureaucracy and government.

Because of my own fascination with these themes, and because I’m also a student of social science by training, I set out to write a quartet of novels placing a group of humans in a futuristic society that had failed to stop runaway climate change. I was fascinated by Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, and both she and her book served as inspirations to me.

Before reading Naomi Klein however, I had written what is now the fourth book in the quartet, My Quantum Life. This book was based on Michael Talbot’s book, The Holographic Universe. I have always been fascinated by the spiritual aspects of quantum physics, and Talbot’s book put the science of it all into perspective. It was very readable for a neophyte like myself, and it clicked.

The Burning Years is the first book in my four book series titled Until This Last and has just been published by Double Dragon Press. It explores a lot of hard science around space travel, bionics, and what is causing climate change. Besides Klein, my mentor for this book was Dr. Rachel Armstrong. On my site for the book you’ll find out all about her. She is a remarkable woman and a brilliant scientist. Dr. Rachel Chen, who in my novel is captain of the world ship Persephone, is based on how I imagine Armstrong to be. In my book, Persephone is a human ark; this actually exists, and is being conceived of right now by Rachel Armstrong and a team of scientists. It’s built around the idea of a renewable chemical technology called protocells. In the future, protocells could replace plastics and also animal products and will be essential in the preservation of our planet.

My ark explores Mars and Europa then sets sail for Alpha Centauri. The Australian scientist Wallace Thornhill was very helpful to me as I wrote these sections. He introduced me to an electrical universe and warm nuclear fusion technology, and I learned more from him on this subject than I ever thought I was capable. He would send me wonderful emails that took me several days to decode. His final words to me were, “Don’t worry about the science, leave that to scientists, use your writing as a springboard for your imagination.”

Besides hard science however, The Burning Years explores lots of ways we could live on a burnt out planet in the future, and it has two re-engineered transhuman beings who do just that. Introducing them as characters allowed me to explore the whole field of Artificial Intelligence and how two super humans, a male and female, might think and act. Again the social scientist at play. How would their biology, psychology and past influence them. How would their male and female genetics and gender-biases, play a part?

The arc of the plot is set against a U.S. government of plutocrats that has fled underground, who have saved themselves and a few others, the brightest and the best. Of course there are insurgents, and one of them is a female scientist who is heavily involved in geo-engineering the weather. The book takes place about sixty years in the future, just around the time when we may experience dramatic effects from climate change.

I deliberately did not want to write a dystopian book, but one that was full of hope based on our finer instincts as a species, our desire to return to smaller communities, and our current and future knowledge of technology. I am not good with violence, unlike George R.R. Martin who very skillfully explores all those dark sides of humanity and creates fabulous villains. My villains tend to be more grey and struggle internally with a lot of philosophical and moral dilemmas. My women are very strong, just like Martin’s, and my main female character, Inanna. would definitely be friends with Daeneyrs Targaryen.

Now I just have to figure out how to get people to take climate change seriously. I plan to use the book as a tool to get readers involved. The Burning Years is being published as an eBook by Double Dragon Publishing in April 2017. I chose Deron Douglas as my publisher because he loved the book on first read, and I just couldn’t take a chance waiting for other big-name SF publishers to give me an answer.

Please check out my site to buy the book and I would appreciate it if you review it on Amazon for me. And, while on my site, see how you can become involved with 350.org or any other organizations working to stop elements of man-made climate change, so as to keep our planet safe and livable in the future.

Felicity’s new novel has recently been promoted on Reading Recommendations. She is also a fellow-Bequian!

5 Easy Steps to Successfully Write, Publish and Promote Your Book!

Thought it was time to reblog this post full of “expert” advice, for all of you out there who may be wondering about my …

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

OR … How I Nearly Became an Overnight Success After My Forty-Year Apprenticeship in the Book Business!

If you read my bio you’ll realize I have worked with books and authors in one way or another for most of my life. I have experience as a bookseller, a publishers’ sales rep, a promoter (a self-styled Author Impresario!), a speaker, a student of writing, editing and publishing, a published author, and a publisher of my own and other authors’ work. I’ve been writing this blog on-and-off for almost ten years, and have discussed the book business here, made friends with like-minded authors and readers, networked and reached many other people in the business, made many friends and connected with even more colleagues, have shared a great deal of information I discovered over the years on the topics of Publishing, Reading, and Writing (hence the name of this blog …), followed and…

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Popular posts … Who knew?

A year later and this is still very much the case! There must be a new batch of writing students out there, because the hits for “Writing about meeting my best friend” have recently increased 10-fold. Also popular in searches have been the lines “pain from Chikungunya” that lead readers to my series of blog posts concerning the virus. So much so, again just lately, have people been searching for information that I’ll be writing a separate post about the virus and Zika.

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

For the longest time now, since about 5 or 6 years ago, the two most popular phrases used on search engines that have brought people to my blog are “baking bread in a pizza oven” followed closely by “meeting my best friend for the first time”. Here are the two posts that those searchers click on: Baking Bread in the Pizza Oven and I met my best friend for the first time.

The first search always made sense to me, because home pizza ovens are becoming popular among foodies, Dennis had built one here on Bequia, and I had written a number of blog posts featuring our experiments in using it, both for making pizza and baking bread.

The second search I always took as being very flattering. There seemed to be a lot of people out there on the internet who were nostalgic for that first meeting with…

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