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.

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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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Place-Based Crime: Q & A with Susan M. Toy

Thanks to Reading Recommendations-promoted author, Paul Butler, for asking me the questions in this interview on his blog!

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Setting is often one of the most fascinating aspects of a crime novel. Sherlock Holmes would not have been the same without London, its hansom cabs, its street gangs, and its sharp division between the capital’s east and west ends. More recently, Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels shoulder the history of Edinburgh, with its pubs, its narrow streets, and its seedy antiquity living on into the 21st century.

Anne Cleeves’s Jimmy Perez novels exemplify another kind of place-based crime fiction. Most of us in the English-speaking world have heard of Shetland, but very few people have set foot on the northern Scottish Isle. Placing a story in a location that is real yet quite remote has both advantages and challenges for the author.

This issue is the natural starting point for a Q & A with Canadian-born author Susan M. Toy, whose racy and compelling novel, Island in the Clouds

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Announcing … that first step towards a print edition!

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It may not seem like much of a step to you, but I did assign an ISBN this morning for a future print edition of my most recent novel, One Woman’s Island! And that’s cause for celebration in my books!

There’s still a lot of prep work to be done on designing and formatting the text, cover – front and back, as well as spine, and the actual printing and delivery … all of which also will cost $$$.

So, in an effort to help me pay for the cost of printing, I’m hoping that all those readers who wanted a print copy will now step forward to place a prepaid order for it before I actually do go to print. (I anticipate those print copies will be ready by May.)

We did this the last time when I printed copies of Island in the Clouds and it worked quite well. So let’s try again, shall we? Here’s how the prepayment orders work:

(All prices quoted are in Canadian dollars.)
The retail price of the book will be around $20., so I’m offering 3 levels of participation.

1) Prepay $20 and you will receive one signed copy of the book.
2) Prepay $35 and you will receive one signed copy of the book plus your name will be included in a list of sponsors that will appear in the final first edition of the print book.
3) Prepay $50 and you will receive one signed copy of a limited edition (only 18 copies) of the print book and your name will be included in a list of sponsors that will appear in the final first edition of print book.

Postage/shipping charges to send books to you will be extra and determined at the time of shipping.

If you are interested in helping me in advance to get my novel published in a print edition, please send an email to susanmtoy (at) gmail.com with the message “Pre-order Print” and let me know which level of payment you’d like to make. Also, if you have any further questions, I’ll be happy to answer them by email. (Please do not comment below.)

Thanks in advance to all Readers for your support, and for all the support you have already given to me and my publications! I wouldn’t be where I am now without ALL of you!!

A small request of all my readers …

I’m reblogging this post I wrote in April 2016 to update with the information and inclusion of One Woman’s Island, the 2nd Bequia Perspectives novel that has since been published as a eBook. So I’d like to again make this small request of all readers …

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

iitcYes, I know this news is going to be hard to believe, but after 4 years in publication (both as an eBook and in print) Island in the Clouds will finally have a sister-novel to share your shelf or space on your eReader! I finished writing an umpteenth draft of One Woman’s Island a week-and-a-half ago and now it’s in the hands of my editor, Rachel Small. I think at this point in time, after writing and rewriting the story of Mariana on Bequia these past 12 years, I’m more relieved than excited. Now comes the ultra hard work of preparing the final edited manuscript for ePublication, sometime later this year.onewomanisland-cover-draft-3

That publication date has been moved back further, however, because yesterday I discovered this link to a competition for which the new novel qualifies. But the novel needs to be unpublished. Might as well give that a shot…

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Book Reviewing Isn’t Simple – The Dark Truth of Author Bullying

Some are still biting the hand that feeds all of our promotion and publicity needs … This ongoing problem of bullying reviewers has to stop RIGHT NOW!! (See as well my blog post of a few days ago, Authors continuing to behave badly …)

Happymeerkatreviews

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*Ok, I’m honestly a little scared of posting this as I don’t want any more harassment from the wrong people…

The above picture pretty much sums up how I feel today.  I’m exhausted and drained from all the horrible things that have happened recently.  I’ve faced cold distant treatment, attacks on facebook and now I’ve been bullied privately, all because I wanted to be honest and help out an author.

Back in October I wrote this post A Tough Decision – Don’t blame the Book Blogger Blame Your Fellow Indies 😦 after facing a load of abuse from some indie authors.  In the post I talked about my tough decision to stop reviewing indie books, but several weeks later, after having only good communications, I took back my ‘no-indie’ policy and started receiving indie requests again.  BEFORE I go on I must point out that this post isn’t talking about all the…

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At which point do you consider yourself to be successful?

(This is primarily meant for authors, but could possibly work for any creatives.)

At what time during the life of your book will you declare yourself to have been successful? Not successful according to others, but according to you – yourself. When will that moment come that you declare yourself to be a success as a writer?

– When your book has sold thousands of copies and is listed everywhere as a big bestseller?

– When you’ve made enough money on sales to have covered any out-of-pocket expenses for publication and compensate for the inordinate time you spent writing the book?

– When your book receives the 50 reviews or 100 reviews required by online sales sites to push it into the next level and generate more sales?

– When many bloggers and online reviewers want to promote you and your book on their sites?

– When you hear privately from friends and family, or even complete strangers, that they have purchased and enjoyed reading your book?

– When you receive reviews and promotional blurbs from advance readers who have enjoyed your book and praise it?

– When you type “Final File Ready For Formatting” and send that off to be professionally formatted, published and made available for public consumption?

– When you push back from the computer after finishing up those final edits of your book and know that you have done everything you could to make this the best book possible … you’ve written the story the way only you can tell it, you’ve had the book professionally edited, the cover has been professionally designed, and your editor and any beta readers who have helped you are in agreement that this is a great book. Is this the moment you consider yourself to be successful?

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Now flip my list over and read in reverse order.

If, like me, you can say – honestly – that “when you push back from the computer” is the moment you consider yourself to be successful then you’ll be able to look at the rest of these achievements with great satisfaction, if and when you achieve them. Because while they will show to others that you have reached some level of success, none will ever match that initial success you feel in actually writing and finishing the book! There are so many, many people in the world who, every day, say, “I’m going to write a book. How hard can it be?” You know, after having completed writing a book, exactly how hard it is! But … you were successful in having finished writing and that, to me, is something to celebrate – even if you only celebrate with yourself and in your own mind. No one can ever take away that sense of accomplishment and, once you have completed your great book, there is a terrific amount of satisfaction in having done the very best work that you are capable of doing.

All the rest of the “goals” on this list are icing on the cake, or coloured streamers on the bicycle handles, as JP McLean declares! If you are self-satisfied that you’ve written the best book you can then you will find readers for that book. And the other levels of “success” will follow on. Eventually.

In the meantime, give yourself a satisfied pat on the back!

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Authors continuing to behave badly …

It seems to be time – again! – to remind some “authors” out there how they should be conducting themselves in the world of promoting their books. Not everyone has bad manners, but there are enough who make it difficult for the rest of us who DO abide by those guidelines and rules and maintain decent behaviour.

This need to reiterate what I’ve railed on about before here came about after a reviewer posted this poem to her own blog – a poem that was actually a cry for help and an oblique explanation of how she’d been treated recently by indie authors she had set herself up to help promote. I reblogged her poem here then wrote to the reviewer directly to tell her I understood what she was going through.

Fortunately, this reviewer’s experience has had a happy (!) ending, or at least her problem has been resolved somewhat, to the point that she posted a follow-up poem this morning on her own blog.

I knew I’d addressed this subject of “Authors Behaving Badly” before, so I typed those words into my blog’s search thingie and found the following two posts written one after the other in Dec. 2014.

So here, for the benefit of Happymeerkatreviews and those authors who continue to behave badly when approaching reviewers and other promoters, are the two posts:

How NOT to get promotion for yourself and your book …

and

HOW to get promotion for yourself and your book …

Please read and heed. And share this blog if you know authors who could benefit from my advice.

Unfortunately, there are enough authors out there who do behave badly that reviewers and promoters have had to steel themselves from abuse by creating seemingly impenetrable guidelines for submissions, and that just ruins it for the rest of the authors who do approach their own writing, publishing, and promotion in a professional manner. I’ve essentially had to close my Reading Recommendations submissions to anything unsolicited, but I also outline how authors may have their work considered for inclusion. As I say, it’s really as simple as 1-2-3!

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Poetry: You Do Not Want The Truth

I would notice, Happymeerkatreviews. And many others would, too. Ignore the others and keep doing what you do best – review books!

Happymeerkatreviews

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This is inspired by my very depressed mood recently which seems to be getting worse 😦

You Do Not Want The Truth

Would anyone notice,

If I left this here place?

Would anyone even see it,

The pain that’s on my face?

Didn’t want to hurt or harm,

I just wanted all the best.

But no matter what I said,

You saw me as a pest.

Said you wanted honest,

Said you wanted truth.

I gave it, you attacked me,

Or acted all aloof.

Countless times I’ve had to,

Explain my actions here.

Instead of feeling welcomed,

You left me feeling fear.

Instead of being helpful,

You didn’t understand.

Think you know better,

Bury your head in sand.

I’ve had a year of all this,

Trying to help you to see.

That you are not as you think,

Being the best you can be.

But every time I speak up,

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