Straight to the Heart


And here’s another mention from Susan Holmes on her Waterside Kennels Mysteries blog!

Originally posted on Waterside Kennels Mysteries:

Maya Angelou Quote

Following up on my last post: the dogs of Bequia and the people who love them have gone straight to my heart, courtesy of the gifted author Susan Toy in her novel One Woman’s Island. 

“I must return to my boat,” she said, pointing out towards the water. “But why not come with me? I can make some tea and you could meet all my other little doggies.” She flashed me that same kind smile she had given the dog earlier, her eyes crinkling around the sides.

“Oh, no. I don’t want to put you out at all. We can make it another time.”

But Solfrid assured me she would enjoy having human company onboard her boat for a change.

She repacked her bag then said, “Come!” in a rather forceful command, almost as though I was one of her “little doggies.” So I heeled, following Solfrid to the jetty where…

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Live From The Annex … and hummus

11745693_933504273372754_3745782050129536680_n Paul Wensley and I attended the same school, Malvern Collegiate in Toronto, several decades ago, although we weren’t in the same class. We met up again on Facebook, where Paul was constantly posting great videos of his cats! I also discovered that Paul is an accomplished musician/singer/songwriter/actor/film maker/editor/producer/etc … so I promoted him on the Listening Recommendations segment of my blog, hoping to give his career some more exposure to my friends and blog readers. It’s also through Paul that I learned of this terrific evening of entertainment held monthly in Toronto …

Live from the Annex – Comedy, Music, Booze, and Hummus
is a live Cabaret held the first Tuesday evening of every month. I had the great pleasure to attend my first LFTA in July, as part of what turned out to be their largest attendance since the Cabaret began a few months before. We were treated to a terrific lineup of music, comedy, sketches, a magician, card tricks, the Brunswick Stew Improv group, and an exceptionally good MC, Ron Pederson.11700879_933504050039443_8367397717109774221_n

Chris Funk, the magician who prefers to call himself a Wonderist, still has us wondering (and arguing about …) how he managed to do what he did on that stage! My friend and I particularly enjoyed the card tricks that were wrapped in an intricate story told by Tim Motley, who plays a character called Dirk Darrow in a show, 2 Ruby Knockers, 1 Jaded Dick, about a hard-boiled detective working on a case. 11755152_933505540039294_3699339451665568498_n

The Two Juliets performed several sketches, but particularly good was their song about Starbucks. There was a bit of a technical glitch (this is LIVE theatre, folks!) in the performance of a song from the Everyone Loves Marineland Musical, so we were treated to an a capella version instead. (The troupe later came back to perform once again when the glitch was fixed.) Gavin Crawford did a brilliant one-man sketch about Facebook.
11760078_933525866703928_6933795519207977984_nThe Brunswick Stew Improv Group were on stage a number of times throughout the evening and improvised sketches out of words we’d been asked to write on pieces of paper and other words shouted from the audience. (Paul Wensley performed as a part of this group.) And that terrific MC I mentioned earlier, Ron Pederson, kept us laughing throughout with his delivery of introductions and one-liners, as well as the drawing of door prizes.

What a great evening of entertainment! No end of laughs – and wonderment … and hummus! Thanks to co-producers Laurie Murphy, Sasha Wentges and Brian G. Smith for bringing such a great Cabaret to The Annex!

And, if you require any further convincing, here’s the new promotional video Paul has just created for Live From The Annex.

If you’re in Toronto the first Tuesday in any month, head on down to 720 Bathurst St., to “The Garage” inside the CSI Annex. For more information and videos of past shows, click on their webpage, Live From The Annex.

And, if you can’t be in Toronto on the first Tuesday of every month, you are still in luck, because each show is now being broadcast live online! Check out the Daily Motion site for more information on that.

Another Page – On Screaming Children


From my other blog …

Originally posted on The View From My Trailer and Verandah:

I was at the Rec Hall this afternoon availing myself of the free WIFI service when a very young girl let loose behind me in a total tantrum, and screamed louder and longer than I thought possible for a girl that small. The mother couldn’t control her daughter at all, and it was long past the point of reasoning with her, so they thankfully left the building. I never wanted children of my own for good reason, and I don’t tolerate the children of others very well. Still, I didn’t say anything or even make a face. I just shoved the buds a little deeper into my ear canals then packed up and left the hall shortly after. As I was walking back to the trailer, this story I wrote many years ago about my own mother’s parenting techniques came to mind. I thought I would share it with you.

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For the Love of Island Dogs


Thanks so much to Susan Holmes who has featured me on her blog, Waterside Kennels Mysteries. Susan was previously featured on my own blog, Reading Recommendations.

Originally posted on Waterside Kennels Mysteries:

Last year, I was honored to be recognized by Susan Toy and included in her Reading Recommendations. As a result, I met some wonderful authors and found fabulous books for my own “must read” stack.

Susan Toy photo Susan M. Toy, Author & Publisher

I include Susan as one of those wonderful authors, and anyone who enjoys a good story set in an exotic locale will love her work, too. Here’s a mini-version of Susan’s bio:

Susan M. Toy is a Canadian author and publisher who shares her time between Canada and her Caribbean home on the island of Bequia. She has previously published Island in the Clouds, a mystery novel set on the island. One Woman’s Island is second in the Bequia Perspectives series and will be ePublished in 2015. Susan’s life has always been filled with cats, but she numbers many dog-lovers among her friends. (Read more about Susan and her literary journey here.)

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Poets in Bayfield


For about three years now, a group of poets from London, ON, pack up their words and wine and head for Bayfield during July where they book holiday cabins for a week and enjoy a self-directed writing retreat. I had been asked previously by my friend, Frank Beltrano, to join them, but this was the first time I was actually “in the neighbourhood,” so to speak, and while I didn’t choose to participate in the retreat itself, I did drive to Bayfield for the afternoon of their public reading that had been organized on the main street of town by Patina Studios.

It was a beautiful day for a drive and a poetry reading and the main street was filled with tourists strolling the boulevard. Parking was tight, too, because of all the visitors, but this is not unusual for a town like Bayfield, on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. It’s a pretty little town with several public beaches and parks and a large number of boutique shops and services catering to the influx of visitors every summer. I did not notice a single chain or national store along that main street, either.

2 Patina Studios is one of these businesses, owned and operated by local artists. Joan Bailey was very welcoming and had set up a canopied “stage” in the garden area in front of the gallery, complete with sound system and mobiles dangling from the canvas cover, lines from poems printed on pieces of cardboard that twirled in the breeze. 3

Each of the poets had written the titles of their poems on slips of paper and the audience and passers-by were asked to draw titles from a basket. Reading that afternoon were Ron Stewart (a previous Coffee Shop Author contest winner, by the way), Kevin Heslop, Jan Stewart, Joan Clayton, Jennifer Chestnut, and Frank Beltrano.













Video of Frank Beltrano reading poetry at Bayfield

We all had a most enjoyable afternoon, and many of those walking by, both young and old, stopped to listen for a while. When the reading was finished, we gathered around a picnic table back at the rented cabins and enjoyed the cheese I had brought from The Pine River Cheese & Butter Co-op near Kincardine. (The caramelized onion cheddar was a big hit!) I knew poets would require sustenance after their performances and that they already had brought a quantity of wine with them. 5

They decompressed and we all discussed the reading, the generosity of Patina Studios in providing the venue, and the perfect weather we enjoyed. Even the roofers working on a building across the street had stopped at one point to listen to poetry being read on the street on a sunny, summer day.

The Bayfield Writers’ Festival … and poets

One of the benefits of spending the summer months where I do now, in Southwestern Ontario near the eastern shore of Lake Huron (or, as it’s known locally, Ontario’s West Coast), is the close proximity to so much culture. Stratford and other seasonal playhouses and summer stock, music festivals – blues, jazz, even bagpipes! – concerts, art galleries and shows, and libraries, books, writers, bookstores (after all, this is Alice Munro Country, where the Nobel Prize-winning Canadian author was born and now lives). I’m like a kid in a candy store! Of course, this old Author Impresario can’t help but think about possibilities for promoting her own friends (not to mention her own work!) and is already in talks about the idea to bring established authors to the area and heighten awareness of writing and books in general.

I knew about the Bayfield Writers’ Festival (held on June 27th) from friends who visit the town on a regular basis. And Bayfield is only a 45-minute drive from the trailer. But this year, one of the featured authors was to be Marina Endicott – the only out-of-province participant … and the only author in the group I know personally. I just had to be there to say hello, buy her new book, and fly the Alberta flag of support. After all, I had been Marina’s Alberta sales rep for Good to a Fault, the first book published by Calgary’s Freehand Books, that then went on to be nominated for The Giller Award. Wow! What heady days those were! I’ve continued to follow Marina’s career (she taught a workshop at the Fernie Writers’ Conference one summer I attended) and so I wanted to be in Bayfield for this Festival, even if it was just to say hi, buy her new book and ask that she sign it for me.

Marina Endicott at Bayfield Writers Festival

I arrived about an hour ahead of time to pick up my ticket and check out the town, which reminded me of the touristyness of Banff, but without the mountains. The wide main street offers many shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, at least one hotel, a bookstore, and plenty of space to park and stroll. Unfortunately, it was raining that day, a Saturday afternoon. (So I didn’t take photos.) Still, there were many tourists visiting the town, dashing in and out of doors, shopping, eating, enjoying the seasonal atmosphere. I parked and had a quick look inside the book store, found out where the Town Hall, the Festival venue, was located, then trudged off through the drizzle.

Martha Beechie is the owner of The Village Bookshop, having bought the store last year. She had gathered together an interesting group of authors (and told us she listened to the advice of sales reps when making this year’s selection – nice to know!). First up was a group of fiction and non-fiction authors, all of whom had recently published new books. Peter Kavanagh, Peter Edwards, Elizabeth Abbott, Carrie Snyder and Marina Endicott each spoke about their books and read from them. After a break, editor and publisher Douglas Gibson spoke about his life working with some of the great authors in Canadian literary history. Fascinating! Especially as I began selling books in Calgary in 1978, not long after Mr. Gibson started working for MacMillan of Canada. While I had never met him previously, I certainly knew and had met many of the authors he’d edited over those years. I spoke with him after the festival ended and we reminisced about Morley Callaghan, Hugh MacLennan, Jack Hodgins and good old W.O. Mitchell, among others, as well as Bertha Hanson, Catherine McKay, Stanton & MacDougall and others in Canadian publishing and bookselling. Definitely a bonus for me!
Bayfield Writers Festival

Before the Festival began, two women asked if they might sit next to me. We struck up a conversation and Chetna and Marilyn told me they were from London, ON (about an hour’s drive away), and had attended the event every one of the 16 years it has been running. They said they enjoyed the mix of authors and the opportunity to meet and talk with people they might not otherwise have a chance to see or be exposed to in London. They were both great readers and visited The Village Bookshop on a regular basis to “stock up” on reading material.

A bonus was that a woman I didn’t recognize came in too late for the presentations, but I overheard her say she was Alison Wearing. I immediately introduced myself, because we had a mutual friend in Anna Landry. I had previously read both of Alison’s books on Anna’s recommendation and, since the Festival, I have featured Alison on Reading Recommendations.

For me, it was a great day, and well worth the drive there and back. I had a chance to catch up with Marina and I learned about four new-to-me authors and reminisced with a fifth. Plus I discovered a lovely independent bookstore that truly cares about books, authors and, more importantly, readers, by sponsoring the annual Bayfield Writers’ Festival. Martha Beechie told me she wants to encourage more events, especially those that promote local authors within the Southwestern Ontario community. Hmmmm, I thought to myself. Another possible venue for this old Author Impresario to organize gigs for author-friends …

And now I’m going back to Bayfield again this afternoon, because a group of poets I know (Frank Beltrano has been featured on Reading Recommendations) from London, ON, have been attending their annual self-directed writing retreat in the town this week and they’ll be holding a public reading on the sidewalk in front of Patina Studios. (More on this event later!)

*Once I receive their completed questionnaires, I’ll be featuring Marina Endicott and Peter Edwards on Reading Recommendations.

Another Page – Social media and me, Part 2


This one may be about you …

Originally posted on The View From My Trailer and Verandah:

I found it necessary today to unfriend someone on Facebook. Now, I didn’t make this decision lightly. It was a person who had sent me a friend request a short while ago and I accepted because, although I hadn’t known the person in any way previously we had several friends in common. The person began regularly liking then commenting on my status updates, but as I had chosen recently to cut back on my social media use in general I did not follow their updates so was not commenting likewise. I just do not have time at the moment. Which is why I wrote this first blog post about it last week, putting more of a positive spin on the situation: Another Page – Social media and me …

Following now is, for me, the negative side of social media.

Unfortunately, this person had chosen to make comments on both…

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Susan M. Toy on The South Branch Scribbler

Thanks to Allan Hudson for inviting me once again to take part in his weekly blog, The South Branch Scribbler, where he promotes the writing of many authors! You may read my story, Another Day in Paradise, in full here.

While you’re at it, have a look at the promotion I published for Allan on my blog, Reading Recommendations, in Feb. 2014.

Another Page – Social media and me …


From my new blog … Don’t worry! It’s all about me and not about you.

Originally posted on The View From My Trailer and Verandah:

Since I moved into my new digs on June 1st I’ve been without a constant and uninterrupted Internet connection that I’d grown accustomed – nay, addicted! – to having wherever I went, stayed, lived. It’s taken some adjustment, let me tell you! I go to the park’s Rec Hall to link into their free service to call Dennis on Skype and check in twice a day. But that service is not always connected. So I drive 20k into Kincardine and avail myself of their free WiFi at either the library or coffee shop across the street. Great! But I don’t like to sit there for too long and take advantage. I tried getting my own connection in the trailer, but it turned out that the entire park is in kind of a no-man’s-land when it comes to picking up signals (is that what Internet still does? pick up signals?) so…

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2015 – Best books read so far

I know we’re only (only!) half-way through the year, but I’ve already read a stack of great books and I’d like to share those titles with you now. Just in case you’re looking for something good to read over the summer months.

These titles are listed in the order I read them since Jan. 1 and, with three exceptions (that I have marked) I rate them all at 4 out of 5 stars … because, you know, you have to have written a VERY good book, or be Richard Ford, to receive all 5 stars from me. I am a discerning reader.

The Comedians by Graham Greene (reread, actually, and it has stood up through all these years as one of my favourite titles by this author)

The Violin Man’s Legacy and Vengeance Wears Black by Seumas Gallacher (The 1st and 2nd novels in this great Jack Calder series. Seumas has been featured on Reading Recommendations. His fourth novel will be published in Aug.)

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan (I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway and it did not disappoint.)

The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen (A-O has appeared on my “Best Books” list before. As his novels are released in English Dennis and I are reading them and have enjoyed every one so far. I believe this is the 5th in his Department Q series. A stand-alone novel, The Alphebet House, is being released later this summer.)

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Yevin (A friend recommended I read this and I was blown away by it, because it’s about a publishing sales rep and a bookstore owner – right up my alley! The story line was so true-to-life for me, but the writing was incredibly good, as well.)

High Rider by Bill Gallaher (I saw this book listed as a Goodreads Giveaway and contacted the author about promotion on Reading Recommendations. Gallaher was featured on the blog and also offered to send me a reading copy, which I loved from start to finish. Great writing! And a very interesting take on a little-known piece of Western Canadian history.)

12 Rose Street by Gail Bowen (I’ve been along for the ride since the beginning with Gail [literally, since I was her sales rep back then] on her series of mysteries and I can guarantee that the novels just keep getting better and better! And the very good news is that a new novel will be released in May 2016! Gail definitely deserves 5 stars from me and has been featured on Reading Recommendations!)

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (I have long been a fan of Tyler’s writing. This is yet another great book from a master storyteller.)

Dangerous Obsessions by Bob van Laerhoven (Bob was a surprise discovery whom I met online and featured on Reading Recommendations, because he’s Flemish Belgian – like my mother and grandparents! We’ve been corresponding ever since … and he has read, commented on, and enjoyed my grandparent stories. I say “surprise discovery” though, because aside from having a nationality in common, Bob is also a very fine and accomplished writer. I read this collection of short stories that has been translated into English and found them to be very compelling with nary a slip in the translation that might cause confusion. Bob translated several of the stories himself and did a fine job.)

Daddy Lenin by Guy Vanderhaeghe (I will always buy hardcover books by this author as soon as they are released. I have enjoyed everything he’s written and this collection of stories was no exception.)

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay (I read the ARC of this new novel that will be released in Aug. and enjoyed the writing, storyline, and characters immensely. The only Hay book I had read previously was A Student of Weather and that has long been on my list of Best Books I have EVER read. I predict this new novel will do very well indeed.)

Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler (I became a fan of this author when he published Shotgun Lovesongs, so I had to have a hardcover copy of this new collection of short stories when it was released. Still the same excellent writing and quirky characters as in his novel, so I very much enjoyed this one, as well.)

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I don’t normally read bestselling books everyone else is reading, but I made an exception here, and this is the one book on the list that only receives 3 stars. While the story line was different and compelling and the pace was good for a thriller, I didn’t like the structure of the book and felt that the 3 women who told the story from their points of view sounded too much alike so that the story became somewhat confusing to me at times. Still, a gripping thriller, if that’s what you’re into.)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (And here’s my other 5-star read … Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and most deserving at that! There is not a word or a sentence or a description or character or scene that’s out of place in this book. It’s the first I’ve read by Doerr, but I am already looking for the rest of his books. I cannot rave enough about this. I only just finished reading it last night, but I know this will stay with me for a very long time. If you read nothing else of my list, do read this one book. Please read it. Writing this good does not come along often enough.)


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