Author Archive: islandeditions

How can we encourage more readers to leave reviews for our books?

From Sally Cronin … an idea to encourage readers to also become reviewers.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

I am very keen to make reviews a prominent feature of the book promotions and encourage readers to review the books that they buy and enjoy, or not as the case may be.

Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool that anyone who is selling a product benefits from. Authors are no different, and our books tend to be judged by the number and quality that they have received.

Part of the problem is that those who are not writers of books or blogs are uncomfortable in offering reviews and feel that what they have to say is not important. Many who do review a book, leave just one line after their star rating, simply saying that the reader enjoyed or disliked a book, but they do not elaborate.

That is obviously very welcome. But whilst a potential reader does not want to read three pages filled…

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Time for a rethink?

I recently read two blog posts that resonated with me, primarily because I have been giving the entire write/publish/sell-lots-of-copies notion a rethink and am wondering how I might change the way I approach my own writing and finding new readers for it.

This article is from Ninja Writer, Shaunta Grimes, and this one, Misbelief, is from the most-brilliant Seth Godin.

Please go and read both – I’ll wait …

Now, I’m not suggesting we all completely revamp our marketing plans and incorporate something as unusual as what Shaunta has created on her blog. Nor should we declare it all to be simply “snake oil sales” and write off marketing completely.

We do … or, at least, I do, need to start replacing my misbelief in marketing my writing with a better belief in my writing (and the writing of authors in general) overall – as Seth declares – and think even further outside the box – as Shaunta outlines she is doing.

Those who know me know that I’m not short on BIG ideas! I’ve posted a number of these ideas here on my blog (links are on this dedicated page) and several of these ideas came to me after reading posts and books written by Seth Godin. (If you are not subscribed to his daily blog posts, I suggest you sign up immediately. He really gets the creative juices flowing! Most Read vs. Best Sold – my purple cow is a case in point.) And I always like to think outside the box anyway … generally about the next-town-over from that box, in fact. I learned long ago that:

So, off I go to think differently, again, and revise, revamp, rejig the way I promote and find readers for my own books and for those written by author-friends. I don’t know what those changes will entail, but watch for something new on this blog and on my others, as well as in my use of social media. A change is as good as a rest, right? And that goes not just for me but for my readers and followers and fellow authors, too. In the meantime, I’m off to think and to read and to write. I do hope I can come up with some ideas that will be of use to everyone and of benefit specifically to readers out there. Maybe not quite like one of my childhood heroes …

… but you get the idea.

April is Poetry Month!

Since this is the month to celebrate poetry and poets, I thought I would provide you with a list of the poets I have previously featured on my other blog, Reading Recommendations. All links will take you to each poet’s promotion.

Kimmy Beach

Frank Beltrano

Jane Dougherty

Agnes Mae Graham

Blaine Greenwood

Felicity Harley

Bruce Hunter

Alice Major

Dave Margoshes

rob mclennan

Bruce Meyer

Peter Midgley

Kirk Miles

Ken Rivard

Hendrik Slegtenhorst

Ron Smith

Sorry, temporarily closed due to Chikungunya Brain …

As my friend, Betty Jane Hegerat has said previously, this is the virus that just keeps on giving … and giving, and giving, it seems. I don’t know if it’s because the weather suddenly turned hot again over the past couple of days, but I had begun to notice that same pain in my shoulder again, which was where the virus began for me in Aug. 2014, and that I was tired, generally achy and headachachy, yet was a total insomniac last night. Then today, I’m scattered (hence the “Chikungunya Brain” in the title) and my eyes are sore and tired.

And it’s not just me! I’ve spoken with 3 others who also had the virus in 2014 who say they’ve noticed symptoms returning lately. Never as bad as when we first had it, but still not pleasant to experience any of this again. Dennis was the one who suggested the return of hot weather may have triggered the symptoms to start up again. He could be right.

While I’m dealing with Chikungunya Brain, I’ll be stepping away from the computer a bit – which may, in fact, be a good thing. I’ve started sorting and packing for my trip back to Canada in April, so I certainly have enough to do otherwise with my time and concentration.

And for those of you who are reading this and saying, “Chikun-what??” here’s a link to the first blog post I wrote about this nasty virus, Chikungunya – you cannot begin to imagine. You’ll find links to the other 11 blog posts I wrote about ChikV here. I had queued up a 13th post with the title, Chikungunya and Zika, they just keep on ticking … way back in early Feb. of this year, but never got around to actually posting that. So here’s the article about Zika that was going to be about.

Finally, I’m sorry to report that I STILL have people finding my blog by using search terms like, “pain and numbness in hands from Chikungunya” and “how long will pain from Chikungunya last?” I find this particularly sad as there’s really no cure for this virus and, as I and my friends are discovering, ChikV will continue to keep on giving, and ticking, and will likely come back to wreak havoc with my shoulder, my muscles, my eyes and my brain for a very long time to come. Urgh!!

What’s Cookin’?

As readers of my new novel, One Woman’s Island, have discovered, I included local Bequia recipes at the end of each chapter to give you all a “flavour” of what the food is like that the book’s characters eat.

Also at the end I included a recipe for an Island in the Clouds cocktail I invented that Sharon Wilson and Dan Erkelens kindly tested and reviewed here on reading recommendations reviewed.

One Woman’s Island is a very personal book, and one thing I definitely share with the main character is a love of good food and cooking. Over the years living on Bequia I’ve had the opportunity to develop my cooking skills and have become quite a good baker. Of course, it helps to have a pizza/bread oven close by …

I also developed a recipe for cinnamon buns that produces a light and fluffy bun not cloyingly sweet. (Recipe is in the book.)

So, if you haven’t read my novel yet, you’re in for a taste treat as well as (I think) a good story!

But now I’m coming to the reason for the title of this blog post, and I want to know …

What’s Cookin’ in YOUR kitchen!

Everyone has a recipe that’s special to them, either something your mother made for the family or a favourite recipe you’ve “owned” over the years – your party trick! – that receives accolades whenever you serve it. Or it could be that you now live in a different culture altogether (as I have) and you’ve discovered some local specialty you find very appealing and representative of the place and its people. So here’s what I’m asking you to do …

Please share that recipe with us! If you have a blog, please write a post – link to this blog post then tell your own story about the importance of your recipe. Include the complete recipe and add a photo of the dish as it’s served, if possible. But please do give us the background information as to why this particular recipe is so important. (If you do not write a blog, please contact me if you would like to participate and I will create a separate blog post for you here.)

Even if you are not a cook yourself, I’m sure you can think of something you’ve enjoyed eating during your lifetime, something that has significance to you. I want to hear about it!

In a way, we’ll be creating a kind of online cookbook for other readers to enjoy.

And … just in case you were wondering, this is what half of a 22-dozen order for bagels looks like.

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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