Announcing a new editing service

Here’s a great new service being offered by one of my favourite authors, Kevin Brennan! If you are thinking of self-publishing and need help with editing – and we ALL need editing help! – check out what Kevin has come up with on this handy-dandy new website! (Kevin has been previously featured, a number of times, on Reading Recommendations.)

WHAT THE HELL

Toytypewriter

Welcome to my shingle-hanging announcement, folks! As of today, I’m open for business as an editor of indie books destined for publication on Amazon et al.

I’m calling the operation Indie-Scribable. Indie for the indie part, and “scribable” for scribes. Clever, eh?

Come on over and have a look at my brand-spanking-new website.

I haven’t talked about it on the blog, but for most of my career I was an editor. I started at a medical publisher back in St. Louis, copyediting three or four different journals — such learned organs as Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and, my favorite, the Journal of Enterostomal Therapy! Oh joy.

After that I was managing editor of the American Heart Association journal, Circulation, and then the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Yes, I paid my dues in the…

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Libraries worldwide circulating copies of Island in the Clouds!

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OCLC WorldCat – find copies in a library near you!

Calgary Public Library (and listed on their Around the World in 14 Mysteries!)

Chinook Arch Regional Library System

Dominica Library

Fernie Public Library

Haliburton County Public Library (including Minden Hills Branch)

Lethbridge Public Library

Regina Public Library

Saskatoon Public Library

Sparwood Public Library

The Regional Automation Consortium, Alberta (circulating 20 copies to rural Alberta libraries through the Marigold, Northern Lights, Yellowhead and Peace Regional Library Systems)

(If you know of any other libraries that lend copies of Island in the Clouds, please let me know and I will add to this list.)

Want to become an Islander?

In Oct. 2012 I had this cool idea to start up a kind of Fan Club for my novel, Island in the Clouds. I received “somewhat” of a reaction to that blog post … okay, so it wasn’t even close to being underwhelming, but I did have fun with the idea. Recently, my good pal and fellow author, Tim Baker, set up the beginning of his own Ike Fan Club when he published this blog post, Can I Put Your Name in My Books? – and that got me rooting around in the vaults again to look for my original post. (Which I wrote more than half a year before I ever “met” Tim online, by the way!) So here’s that original idea of mine, with a bit of rewriting to bring it up to date. Anyone want to join my club?


If you have read – and enjoyed! – my novel, Island in the Clouds either as an eBook or in print, you are already an official Islander, the new club I am creating. No need to register but do please consider taking part in these two promotions I set up. Send me a picture of my novel on your eReader or of you reading the print book in a particular place (either where you live, while you’re on holiday, or next to an identifiable landmark – for instance, I still don’t have a picture of my novel taken at the Leuty Lifeguard Station or the Water Works in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood yet, hint, hint) and write a brief review or some comments about the book. I’ve been posting these photos to my blog on the dedicated page, Where/Who in the World is Reading Island in the Clouds??? and have plastered that link all over social media, and will continue to do so. If you’re camera shy, there’s no need for your face to be in the picture. See instructions on the links above and consider playing along! I thank you for taking part in this promotion.

But wait, there’s more! If you would like to promote Island in the Clouds on your own blog and perhaps give away copies in a contest, let’s talk! Or, if you wish to write a review but don’t have a venue to post it to, or you don’t like posting online on Amazon or Goodreads (and I understand your hesitation!), please send the review to me and I will post it, either on this blog or on reading recommendations reviewed. I will also promote any of your promotion efforts throughout my own network and on this blog. I’ll even consider “rewarding” those truly imaginative – and far-reaching and effective – promotions any of you create and execute.

Plus you will receive my undying love and affection for having supported my book!

The Islanders is intended to be a fun group! Think Mouseketeers with flowered shirts and fruity alcoholic beverages rather than mouse ears. I can’t guarantee free trips to Bequia for every club member, but there may be contests down the line that are open only to Islanders, and involving future publications. As I build an email contact list (I’ll be organizing an email newsletter sign-up shortly) of Islanders, I will notify you of these exclusive opportunities, as well as further information about my writing progress of the other novels, future publications from IslandCatEditions and IslandShorts, news and pictures from Bequia and other general stuff – although I promise never to overload your inbox! Membership does have its privileges though …

I do have one final request of all Islanders: The best way forward for any author to get the word out about their books is by word-of-mouth. We count on readers who have enjoyed our books to tell their friends and recommend they also read these books. I appreciate that you have taken the time to read my novel, and that many of you have already sent your comments, and compliments, about it, but I still need help with spreading the word to even more readers. So if you know anyone who would also enjoy this read, please consider telling them about it! Here are some other ways you might be able to help me with promotion: The Care and Feeding (and Promotion!) of Authors … and Part II.

Thanks, Everyone! Now, let’s have some fun!

(If you think I may not know that you’ve read the eBook or print edition, please send me an email susanmtoy (at) gmail so your name is included on the list.)

So, what did you do yesterday?

Me? Funny you should ask … I finished gathering together the necessary materials, checked one last time to see that everything was as correct as it could be, assigned two ISBNs for ePub and mobi editions, and sent off all the files via email to Human Powered Design in Calgary for formatting. I received an immediate reply from Gina telling me that, not only had she received our submission, but the job was already in the queue and will likely be seen to within this next week. Which means we will have a finished eBook all ready and listed for sale well before the projected date of March 1st I had originally suggested would be the case. Hooray!!

island shorts II

So here’s our first announcement for this new publication, folks!

A new longform short story, written by J. Michael Fay, and titled Passion, will be published by IslandShorts, and we are very excited about this!!

As with Michael’s other publications, once again the original cover art was provided by Karen Sloan of Wallflower Studio Art in Minden, ON.

Michael - Art for Passion -ks A

The indomitable Rachel Small, Faultless Finish Editing, provided the final editing and proofing services.

And here’s a little peek at what all the excitement is about … the synopsis and a few blurbs from advance readers of Passion!

1963 is a pivotal year for Dan James. Believing his destiny was set at the age of eleven when he stood next to his father’s coffin, he enters the seminary at seventeen to become a priest. A well-read fellow seminarian and the world-shaking event later that year cause Dan to question his true passion in life.

Passion is the next in Michael Fay’s series of long-form short stories, following The Whirlabout and The Healer. Along with Tenderness, all have been published by IslandShorts.

Michael Fay studied creative writing with W. O. Mitchell, Alice Munro, and Richard Ford and was also the founder of the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society in Calgary. Michael lives in Minden, Ontario, with his wife, Dr. Fay Martin.

This is a thoroughly engaging story about a young man’s coming of age and discovering while enrolled in a seminary that his calling is not for the priesthood but for literature and writing. One can smell the incense in the chapel and hear footsteps echoing in the stone hallways while young Dan James wrestles with his decision before walking out into a world with much to relish, treasure and describe.
~ Dennis Gruending, journalist and author of Pulpit and Politics

What a vivid evocation. Detail, precision, clarity, and echoes of Joyce: the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Youth discovers vocation. Nice!
— Ken McGoogan, author of Celtic Lightning: How the Scots and the Irish Created a Canadian Nation

In the story of Dan James and his time in the seminary, Michael Fay explores the moment a young man steps into adulthood, and captures with grace and insight the realization that a vocation needn’t be holy to be true.
— Kim Pittaway, award-winning journalist and editor

So, there you have it! It’s not just every day that we at IslandShorts get to press “send” on a new publication! If you’re interested in this new eBook by Michael Fay, please stay tuned and check back to this blog where we’ll be announcing the exact publishing date and availability online, once we have all the links and information.

And if anyone is interested in previous publications from IslandShorts just click here for the list of eBooks and where to purchase. As we like to say …

For a Great Read, Slip Into Our Shorts!

(Anyone interested in reading to review any of our publications please contact me directly: susanmtoy (at) gmail.com)

Tropical Fiction – a genre whose time has come!

This is actually a “From the vaults” post, because I’m reblogging most of the original post, Announcing Tropical Fiction – a new genre, from Aug., 2013, with a few changes and an update, after discussing with Tim Baker again about how to best market novels like ours that are set in tropical climes. So, here goes …

I’ve had more than my fair share of ideas in my time – some great, some good, some worth forgetting (although we won’t tell my readers about those ideas, will we, Betty Jane?). No matter what the idea, though, I’ve always tended to think outside the box and come up with a new way of considering every matter at hand.

I was listening to Surf 97.3, Flagler Beach Radio on the Internet recently and the DJ kept talking about all the Trop Rock this station plays. It took me a moment, but then I realized he meant Tropical Rock, beach music – you know, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Jimmy Buffet. And if this can be a category for music then why not …?

Take categorizing fiction, for instance. I have written and published one novel, Island in the Clouds, in a projected series set on the Caribbean island of Bequia, where Dennis and I own a home.

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The setting itself is central to the novel. The story would never have been the same had I set it back in Calgary or Toronto or any other place I’ve lived. I know there are many other books like mine that are set in tropical climes and in which that setting becomes very important to the actual telling of the story.

The real property manager reads about a fictional property manager while in the exact same setting as shown on the book's cover! Life imitating art imitating life?

The real property manager reads about a fictional property manager while in the exact same setting as shown on the book’s cover! Life imitating art imitating life?

So, I thought, what if we were to coin a new name for this genre? I came up with Tropical Fiction and, since it was my idea, after all, I’m going to stretch the parameters to include any writing set in-on-or-near, or written by an author who lives within proximity to, a beach. That way, I can include the books of my good buddy Tim Baker who, coincidentally, writes about Flagler Beach, FL, Home of Surf 97.3 for which he also now works as a DJ! (There’s even a beach on the cover of one of his novels, Unfinished Business, so he gets bonus points!) And W.K. Blais who lives near a beach in California. After all, what’s the point of having a great idea if you can’t spread around the benefits among your friends? (Since first writing this, I have created the promotion blog, Reading Recommendations, and have featured both Tim Baker and W.K. Blais there. And Betty Jane Hegerat for that matter, too!)

Here’s the complete description of my new genre:

Tropical Fiction – Set in the Tropics or Written by a Tropics-based Author – The Ultimate “Beach” Read

I particularly like the Ultimate Beach Read part, because what better reading material is there for enjoying a beach visit (or virtual visit) than a book about or set on a beach? I ask you!

A show of hands now … How many of you remember the novel The Beach by Alex Garland, set in Thailand? (I’m not talking about the movie, but the book.) This book fits very well into my new genre, this new category I’m developing. And how about Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not and The Old Man and the Sea. Or Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night and the writing of Dominican-born Jean Rhys. Can you think of any others? Please add the titles below in the comments section.

And let’s start bandying about this new genre classification, okay? I’d appreciate your help with getting the word out so this becomes an accepted name for the style of books that I write , and that many others have written – in the past, currently are writing, and will publish in the future.

Or … if you’ve written a book that fits into this category, please tell us about it, and you! Are you living in a tropical place and writing books? Tell us!! Please post a link below. I would eventually like to collect authors’ names and their titles, and will think of a way to list these links, possibly on a permanent page on this blog. That way, we can promote ALL of these books and this new genre of Tropical Fiction to the world!

And here’s the likely cover we’re going with for my next novel … that’s a photo taken by Dennis at least 20 years ago of Industry Beach on Bequia looking out towards the islands of Balliceaux and Battawia. This view still looks pretty much the same today. (Cover designed by Jenny Ryan!)

onewomanisland-cover-draft-3

(I’d better get that second novel finished and published!!)

A Profile of Blogger, Carin Makuz

I first met Carin Makuz when we were enrolled in the online Humber Creative Writing Program in 2006 and we’ve stayed in contact ever since, and have even met in person a few times! I’ve subscribed to Carin’s blog pretty much since the beginning, and when she began batting around the idea for The Litter I See Project … well, I just had to become involved, and I’ve been helping to promote this great idea all along. Here’s Carin to tell us about this very interesting project that was intended to bring attention to the two problems of Litter and Illiteracy.

Carin Makuz , rt, with friend

Carin Makuz , rt, with friend

When not writing short fiction or essays, Carin Makuz can be found wandering the shores of Lake Ontario muttering about darlings that won’t take a hint. She is a workshop facilitator for abused women and youth at risk. Her work has been published in journals in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. She has won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and been nominated for the Journey Prize. Essays and fiction have been broadcast on CBC and BBC Radio. She combines text with photography, reviews books and chats with writers on her blog, Matilda Magtree, and runs The Litter I See Project.

What’s the background to this idea of yours? When did you first think of the concept behind your blog?
The Litter I See Project grew from my interest in bringing attention to both litter and illiteracy. When I walk I pick up litter; I carry bags for this purpose. I’m doing it to tidy up the schmutz but sometimes I find interesting things, notes, lists, etc., and I wonder at their origins: were they dropped by accident or intentionally? I wonder about the kind of person who can be trotting along, having a fine time in a park, at the beach, on a street, anywhere really, and then just toss a can or water bottle on the ground and keep going. I wonder what they think will happen to it and if they’d even notice or care if someone did the same thing on their lawn. I wonder how people learn this behaviour. You could say I’m a wee bit passionate on the subject. As a society we talk a lot about big problems … The Environment, the oceans of plastic, etc., all of which seems so impossible a thing to tackle. And yet, really, change begins with our attitude towards the small stuff. Like litter. Because how we view that reflects how we see our communities, and our environment, in general. I’m equally passionate about literacy, and the two things, litter and illiteracy, have more in common than alliteration; both are pervasive, but only one is visible. With all this in mind I began photographing certain pieces with the idea of writing about them, maybe doing a thin collection and giving any proceeds to a local literacy group. But I wanted the effect to be broader than that. When a friend suggested I do something online, a light went off. That was it!

How are you organizing the material for the blog?
I drafted a plan, figured out a way of offering a small honorarium (am a big believer in paying for the written word), invited a number of writers to participate, created a site and named it The Litter I See Project. It went live in June of 2015. How it works is that I send out a picture of a piece of actual litter from my ‘collection’ and, using that ‘debris’ as a prompt, or inspiration, the writer responds in the form of poetry, prose, memoir, anything at all. As submissions come in I try to keep posts varied, giving consideration to genre and a few other things, but mostly it’s just a happy, trashy party.

Carin has also arranged for donations to be made on behalf of the blog to Frontier College in Toronto, a school dedicated to teaching literacy.

How much longer do you see publishing this particular theme?
No idea how long I’ll keep the party going. Through winter anyway, and probably spring.

Is there anything you have learned through writing this blog that you’d like to share? Any surprises you hadn’t expected?
It’s been more work than I thought but the best kind. I love getting these constant surprises in my inbox. I send out a muddy grocery list and get back poetry; a chocolate bar wrapper in a ditch inspires a childhood memory. I’m in awe of the talent in this country, most of which isn’t celebrated nearly enough. I also like the way the litter conversation has already grown to include larger questions, such as in Betty Jane Hegerat’s piece about homelessness, and Tanis MacDonald’s ‘rabbit litter’.

The lovely thing about a blog is that it’s your own world and if you don’t like something you can change it. I’ve been hanging out in this space for over five years and I’ll keep doing it as long as it’s fun. If that requires adding, changing things, great. When it stops being fun, it stops being.

Blogging is a commitment like any other kind of writing. You get out of it what you put in. I think readers sense the place you’re coming from, the vibe you create. That was a pleasant surprise, the feeling of connection with readers, something you don’t get from traditional forms of writing.

Was there a single post you were particularly proud to have included? And what made it special?
If I had to pick one special post it would be bill bissett’s. I was beyond chuffed to have him kick things off with his fabulous piece, ‘yr littr has arrivd, eet it’.

Overall, what is it you hope your readers will take away after reading your blog?
My hope for readers of The Litter I See Project is that, in addition to the attention and conversation it brings to the problems of litter and illiteracy in communities across the country, it might also serve as a way of introducing readers to new writers. The posts are all intentionally positioned as bite-sized morsels, meant for easy browsing, a few at a time …

Now, in keeping with the Reading Recommendations idea, please name three authors or books you’d like to recommend to readers.
If I had to recommend three books, I would reply with: Egad!! Only three??? I’d have to go with a theme; makes it a little easier to choose. So, let’s say the theme is “writing from a disadvantaged place” … in which case I’d recommend the following:

The Education of Augie Merasty, by Augie Merasty (with David Carpenter)
A Crowbar in a Buddhist Garden, by Stephen Reid
One Hour in Paris, by Karen L. Freedman
How Poetry Saved My Life: a hustler’s memoir, by Amber Dawn
(oh, are we up to four already??) (;

Also, I HAVE to add Anakana Schofield’s Martin John because a) it’s different than any book out there; it’s daring and changes how we think about sexual deviants, harassment and all manner of perverted crimes. Including the ones we pretend aren’t happening. And because, b) it’s brilliant.

I’ve chosen this theme, not because I only read heartbreaking or uncomfortable stuff (far from it!), but because I feel books that express well what it is to be human help us to understand one another and become a more broadly-thinking and compassionate society. Despite the topics covered … residential schools, prostitution, rape, sexual perversion, imprisonment… none of these books are written in the mass market scandalous-to-cause-reaction style. They’re not scandalous at all. They’re written from a real place with real feelings about things that happen all the time whether we like to admit it or not. That’s both the scary part and the part that matters most.

What are you working on now or what do you plan to do when you finish writing this blog?
Currently working on a collection of short prose and, forever it seems, a medium sized novel.

Carin Makuz maintains a main blog, Matilda Magtree, where she publishes regular segments, (at) eleven: chatting with writers (I was once hosted here!), this is not a review, and Wordless Wednesday, featuring her photography.

A number of Reading Recommendations-promoted authors have been featured on The Litter I See Project: Alice Major, Betty Jane Hegerat, Bruce Hunter, Fran Kimmel, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Katherine Govier, Kimmy Beach, Lori Hahnel, Rosemary Nixon, Steven Mayoff.

A Profile of Blogger, Shaun Hunter

I first met Shaun Hunter in Calgary through the city’s writing community. Shaun is known locally for her non-fiction, personal essays and memoir writing, but I’d like to focus on this brilliant concept for a blog she has been publishing lately. Here’s Shaun to tell you all about Writing the City: Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers. Welcome, Shaun!

Hunter_Shaun Web-0755 I have lived in Calgary most of my life but have only rarely seen the city imagined on the page. About a year ago, I went looking for the city in novels, poetry and creative nonfiction. I was curious: what could writers’ stories tell me about the city that shaped me and continues to confound me? In the spring, I shared a few of my findings on a literary Jane’s Walk through downtown Calgary. The idea for the blog grew from there: Writing the City: Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers would be a virtual walk through Calgary’s literary history as I was discovering it.

For me, and I hope for readers, the blog is a treasure hunt: every week turns up a fresh surprise tucked away in the city’s literary history. The series roams Calgary’s past and its geography, following the meandering path of my own curiosity. The featured excerpt has to be from a published work of fiction, poetry or nonfiction, and has to capture some aspect of the city – no matter how uncomfortable. The blog is not intended as a travelogue or an exercise in civic boosterism. The series offers the city as writers have engaged with it and lets readers make their own connections.

The blog launched at the beginning of Stampede Week 2015 with daily posts. Since then, I’ve been posting a new excerpt every Friday. I plan to wrap up the series after this year’s Stampede, but there is more material than I can feature on the blog. A book proposal is in the works. Stay tuned!

I know from my own experience that Calgary is more than its stereotypes of cowboys and oil barons. But seeing the city through the eyes of writers, I am continually surprised by the different responses writers have to this place. As the series unfolds, my own connection to the city is deepening in ways I had not imagined. I have kept that story out of the blog series, but it’s simmering underneath.

So many of the posts have stories behind them, but one in particular stands out. I am a latecomer to local history. Only recently have the stories of early Calgary begun to capture my imagination. Last summer, I set out to correct my historic deficit and showed up for a tour of Union Cemetery during Historic Calgary Week. The guide, Ruth Manning, had deep roots in the city and was a trove of stories about the people buried on Cemetery Hill. On a ridge overlooking downtown, she talked about what she believed to be the first lines written about the site that would become the city of Calgary. With her eyes closed, Ruth quoted from memory the words of NWMP officer Sir Cecil Denny as he stood above the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers: “Our first sight of this enchanting spot was one never to be forgotten, one to which only a poet could do justice.” In that moment, on that historic hill, I felt myself sinking a little deeper into the city’s soil.

This seems to be a golden age in Canada for literary mapping. Noah Richler offers a compelling exploration of the country’s literary landscape in This is My Country, What’s Yours? A Literary Atlas of Canada (though he doesn’t stop in Calgary). To date, Project Bookmark has installed sixteen plaques across the country, connecting poetry and fiction to specific Canadian landmarks. You can take literary tours of Vancouver and Toronto through these excellent public library projects: Vancouver: Literary Landmarks, Toronto Poetry Map and books set in Toronto neighbourhoods. 49th Shelf also offers an annotated literary map of the country.

Calgary is not just one story. Talk to people who live or have lived here, and you discover that each one has a unique connection to this place. I hope that in discovering writers’ stories about Calgary, readers experience the city as a complex urban landscape with fascinating contradictions, ambiguities and humanity.

Reading Recommendations:
Calgary’s Grand Story (University of Calgary Press, 2005) by Donald B. Smith
In Calgary, we often wear change like a badge. But go back to the city’s first gilded age in 1912, and the story of two of its landmark structures (the Lougheed Building and the Grand Theatre) and you will see that Calgary is consistent with its beginnings.

The Calgary Project: A City Map in Verse and Visual (Frontenac House, 2014) by Dymphny Dronyk and Kris Demeanor
I’ve featured a few of the fine poems in this anthology on the blog, including those by co-editors Kris Demeanor and Dympnhy Dronyk, as well as Cecelia Frey, but there is much more to discover. My only caveat in recommending The Calgary Project is that you won’t be able to fit the book in your back pocket as you explore the city’s streets.

Long Change (Random House, 2015) by Don Gillmor
Don Gillmor’s fictional take on the city’s illustrious oil sub-culture is at once excoriating and compassionate. There is an unforgettable New Year’s Eve party at an oil baron’s estate west of town you won’t want to miss, and a dinner party that will change the way you look at geology. I’ve posted a glimpse of Gillmor’s novel on the blog.

Author bio:
Shaun Hunter is the author of five biographies for young readers about the lives of celebrated women writers, artists and scientists, African-American Olympians and Canadian entrepreneurs. Her personal essays have appeared in literary magazines, anthologies and The Globe and Mail. In July 2015, Shaun launched Writing the City: Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers, a weekly blog series that explores the way writers have imagined the city in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. She leads occasional guided literary walks of Calgary. Shaun has a master’s degree in Canadian Studies from Carleton University. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.

What’s next?

I’m working on a proposal to turn Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers into a book, and making notes toward the personal story percolating underneath the blog series.

Thank you, Shaun! I suggest that everyone reading this check out previous posts Shaun has published on her blog. You’ll find writing by many talented and accomplished authors, some very surprising (such as Graham Greene, Rupert Brooke and Nancy Huston) and quite a number who I have promoted on my blog, Reading Recommendations … such as Katherine Govier, Aritha van Herk, Bruce Hunter, Lori Hahnel, Barb Howard, Betty Jane Hegerat, Fred Stenson and Don Gillmor.

Zika is the new Chikungunya … an update

Not to be alarmist or anything, but …

NO! I DO WANT TO BE ALARMIST WITH THIS BLOG!!!

I’m reblogging a post I wrote in June 2015, part of my series about the virus Chikungunya that so many of us suffered from in 2014, and that some are still suffering from today, if the number of hits those posts continue to receive is any indication.

Last June, a brand new mosquito-borne virus named Zika was beginning to enter the Caribbean. At that time, we were told that it was a “Chikungunya or Dengue Fever-like” virus, but we had no idea then of the long term effects this particular virus would have on pregnant women who contracted it and the babies they subsequently gave birth to.

Here’s a report from Barbados of their first documented case.

And a more recent report: Three Zika virus cases confirmed In Barbados

And an absolutely alarming video of what’s been happening with babies born since last June … It’s reported that there have been over 3500 such births in Brazil alone!!

And finally, a report released today by the CDC that the first cases have been reported in the US.

Following is the blog post I wrote back in June 2014, and in all this time not one word has come from the St. Vincent Government by way of warning to citizens and tourists, and there have been no plans discussed as to how we will be better prepared this time to combat these blasted mosquitoes that are carrying the new virus. Other than the NGO Rise Up Bequia posting to its Facebook site, I have seen nothing at all about this virus. You’d think they would have learned from Chikungunya, right?

Perhaps now that the US has reported cases, our local Caribbean governments will begin to take this new virus much more seriously and we won’t be caught as we were with Chikungunya, essentially closing the barn door after the horses had already escaped.

And a word of advice to the authorities … fogging with chemicals has never, ever worked to eradicate mosquitoes in the past. All it does is kill off the honey bees and poison the rest of us on the island. We need to clean up all standing water and any places where mosquitoes breed. And every citizen must become vigilant about this. We can’t afford to wait for the government to do this for us. We also can’t hide our heads in the sand again, claiming that this will scare away the tourists. We owe it to those tourists to be honest, to warn them of the dangers involved should they contract any virus, and let them decide whether they want to take the risk. Really, there would be little risk involved, if they are made aware of the need to always use insect repellent – and (a BIG if here) if the people of the Caribbean do as much as they can to clean up the environment and diminish the number of mosquitoes.

So, yes, alarmist, but I believe the alarm is necessary. I would not want anyone to have to go through what I did with Chikungunya. I still have problems with pain in my shoulder, a full year-and-a-half after I first contracted the virus. NO ONE needs to be unnecessarily exposed to any virus, since we really do have the means to rid our islands of mosquitoes.

Here’s my blog post from last June:

At the very least, this new virus has a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce. But it’s still yet-another virus the Caribbean region must contend with, and only a short while after declaring that ChikV was over and done with in most islands.

12-year-old girl first in the Caribbean to contract the Zika virus 

It was less than a year ago I contracted ChikV when I returned to Bequia for a few weeks to spell Dennis while he paid a visit to Canada. Throughout the months of suffering … and yes, I do not use the word “suffering” lightly! … I wrote about the virus in a number of blog posts (collected here) that received a great deal of attention from around the world and comments written by others who had also contracted the virus while they were visiting, or living in, the Caribbean region, and who now took comfort in the knowledge they were not alone, that they were likely not going to die, and that they would eventually, eventually recover and feel “normal” again.

Well, here I am, writing this 11 months later, and I can honestly say I am feeling about 96% recovered, the only lingering pain being that soreness that seems to be inside the very bones of my right shoulder. That still bothers me every once in a while (just last night, again), but is not excruciating or debilitating, just annoying.

So you may understand my trepidation with the announcement of this new easier-to-spell-and-pronounce virus, Zika. I am gun-shy about travelling to the Caribbean again any time soon. While I currently sit in the woods of Ontario, surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes, I at least know these are the non-virus-bearing variety. Besides, they’re also large enough to carry away a small dog and move so slowly I have a fair chance of actually swatting and killing them before they can manage to bite. It seems like more of a fair fight to me. The mosquitoes on Bequia are sneaky and have a way of beating all our attempts to eradicate them – especially the fogging with poisonous chemicals, which was the only attempt made by the government to deal with Chikungunya last year, and instead resulted in the kill-off of part of the bee population. The mosquitoes themselves somehow managed to dodge that bullet. What stopped the further spread of the virus was that nearly everyone on the island contracted it and, since the virus could not be spread from human to human, it eventually died out, naturally. This is what’s called “herd immunity”.

Let’s hope Caribbean health authorities and governments learned from their mistakes last year in dealing with ChikV and, instead of hiding their heads in the sand (believing that by doing so they were somehow protecting their tourist industry), they take immediate action to stop the spread of Zika, the new kid on the beach, before it gets a foothold. No one … NO ONE! should be made to suffer again as we all did last year with Chikungunya. Bad enough already we have to contend with the constant threat of Dengue (which I have had), Malaria, West Nile, and all the other mosquito-borne diseases, fevers, threats, than to be worried about Zika, as well.

And we can begin eradicating viruses such as Zika by educating the people! This blog post, and the other earlier posts I wrote about ChikV, are my attempt to spread the word to help stop the spread of the virus. Please share this, and my other posts, wherever possible so that many more people read and hear about these mosquito-borne viruses and learn to take proper precautions.

SPREAD THE WORD TO STOP THE SPREAD OF ZIKA!
(How’s that for a slogan?)

I want to hear from you, if you contracted Chikungunya last year and have been following my blog posts abut the virus. How are you doing? Have you now recovered? Please post a comment below and let me and my readers know of your experience. I really do want to hear from you!

From the vaults – Baking bread in the pizza oven, Dec. 2009

It still amazes me that after all this time of writing my blog – which was mainly meant to be about all things “Books” – the two search words/phrases that are still most often used, almost daily, and by which people are directed to my blog are “Chikungunya” (tells me there are too many people out there still suffering with this awful virus!) and “baking bread in a pizza oven”. “Meeting my best friend for the first time” is the third most-popular phrase. I’ve posted links (above in the menu on a separate page) to all the posts I wrote regarding Chikungunya. But I thought I’d reblog a few earlier posts regarding that good old pizza oven Dennis built a number of years ago. We have it in mind to publish a guide some day to building your own backyard pizza oven. It’s obvious there’s an interest! So here’s some of the links to those posts I’ve pulled out of the vault today for your reading pleasure, and the answer to that burning (!) question so many of you seem to have … Can I bake bread in a pizza oven? (And, no, we have not fired up the oven this morning to bake pizza or bread – it’s pissing down rain!!!)

You can bake bread in a pizza oven, but you can’t bake pizza in a bread oven. The temperature in our oven can get up to 900F, so that a pizza cooks perfectly in a matter of minutes. Then, after the oven temperature falls overnight, you can bake bread the next day. We prepared several batches of dough early in the morning.

Bread bakes a bit faster than in a conventional oven, and the crust is much crunchier, plus you get that great crackling sound as the bread cools. Here’s the first batch, fresh out of the oven. (Jay is in the background, lounging in the pool. Such a mild-mannered guy, how were we to know he’d soon be scarfing down nearly an entire baguette all by himself?)

And Mr. McAnderson surprised us with this great sign he picked up at a flea market in Notting Hill, and will likely soon be nailed to the rum shack right next to the pizza oven.

Further reading:
Pizza Oven
Adventures in Baking on Bequia (1)
Adventures in Baking on Bequia (2)
Adventure in Baking on Bequia (3)

From the vaults – A life in lengths, July 2011

In May, 2011, I broke my left wrist and was in a cast for 6 weeks. In Dec. 2015, I broke my left ankle and have been in a cast these past 6 weeks. Since I’m now faced with restoring the strength and muscles of an appendage, once again, I realize that my very best means of exercise is still to swim. I was reminded of this post I wrote about what an important part of my life water, and swimming, have always been. And always will be.

So, here I am swimming for exercise …

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No, Wait!! HERE I am swimming …

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Astrologically I’m Cancer – a water sign. I don’t remember learning to swim. My family bought our cottage the year I was born, so I spent every summer there until I was old enough to work and stay in the city. I do remember living in the water most of that time, swimming in the lake as early as Easter weekend, and driving my Mom nuts if the ice hadn’t quite melted. We wore bathing suits from the moment we got out of bed in the morning until we had to go back to bed at night, At least, that’s how it seemed.

It’s funny … we lived in The Beach in Toronto, south of Queen St. and less than a block away from the boardwalk and sand next to Lake Ontario, yet my best memories of swimming are always from when we were at the cottage.

Mom was scared of water and never put her head under, but Dad could float – with his hands behind his head and his feet crossed, as though he were relaxing on a lounger. I can do this, too, so I figure I inherited my swimming gene from Dad.

When I was in Grade 3, an indoor pool was built as part of the new senior public school, Glen Ames, next door to our elementary school, Williamson Road. Lucky me! Grade 3 students were given swimming lessons – once a week, I think it was. Plus that same pool was open in the evenings and weekends for *free* swimming. I loved Toronto! The public pools were free to use, just like our lake up north in the summer.

Malvern Collegiate also had a pool, plus the bonus of a speed swimming team and synchronized swimming lessons. I’m a strong swimmer, but was never that fast, so 5th Place in Toronto one year (out of a field of 6) was my best showing. I can swim distances though and I like nothing better than swimming lengths. We did try to swim across South Lake once or twice, too. What an achievement that we made it! So while I continued on the swim team for a few years, and endured early morning practices during the winter months, I still preferred solitary swimming.

I became a lifeguard and eventually took the swimming instructors’ course, but soon learned I wasn’t cut out to teach kids – anything. The lifeguarding was cool though and paid very well indeed. Certainly much better than what my friends made by babysitting. In Grade 13, I even got the job guarding the school pool during my free periods. (I recently met up with one of the male gym teachers at a Malvern reunion. When I told him I’d had this cushy job of guarding the pool, he said, “You’re the reason the boys had to start wearing suits in swim class!” Ahem!) The best part of guarding and teaching, though, was when we kicked everyone out of the pool, they went home, and I had the pool to myself for a while. Heaven!

Off to university, and I was thrilled that our student fees at Queen’s gave us free access to all sports facilities, including a fairly new Olympic-sized pool. I discovered early on that, if I swam lengths immediately before writing an exam, I could calm myself down and focus much better than if I studied right up to the last minute.

Moving to Calgary was a shock – there were many pools in the city, but… I had to pay to swim!!! I didn’t swim here for many years. Just too cheap to pay for something that had always been free to me. Someone gave me a City of Calgary Parks and Recreation card that still had 4 visits on it. I was going to go back to swimming again, for exercise, but then fell and broke my wrist. After 6 weeks in a cast I was finally able to get into the water this past Monday. I’ve been swimming lengths for three days now and I feel great! 30 lengths each day on Monday and Tues. Up to 36 today. And I’m not pushing it either. Plus my wrist is already feeling better. Bonus!

But the best part of swimming lengths, for me, is that I can either turn off my brain and just count the number of lengths as I complete them, or I can think, think, think things through. For some reason, I’ve come up with some of my best ideas whenever I’m in contact with water – doing dishes, showering, swimming. For instance, this blog post was conceived and written in my head while I was in the pool this morning. Highly frustrating though when paper & pen or computer don’t work as well under water. And to try to remember my thoughts until I can dry my hands does not always happen for me. So I just have to hope that, if it truly is a brilliant idea, it will last or at least return when I’m able to do something about it.

So, Woohoo! for the exercise I’m finally getting, and for the calming effect that swimming lengths has on my mind, emotions and life – not to mention the couple of pounds I’ve already lost. Like J. Alfred, I’m measuring out my life, but with pool lengths rather than coffee spoons.

Since I wrote this blog post, someone has come up with this brilliant idea for AquaNotes! Perfect for someone like me!!

aqua-notes-home

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