Category Archives: Bequia

From one woman’s island to another …

Carin Makuz and I “met” when we both enrolled in the online Humber School for Writers Creative Writing Programme, offered by Humber College in Toronto. That was 2006 and I was living on Bequia at the time, so I was able to study online from a great distance. Carin was living just outside of Toronto. We kept in touch with each other, as many students did, and have since continued to do, in that particular class, and I eventually met Carin in person, a number of times, in fact, and even made a “whistle stop” once while taking the train back from Kingston to Toronto. Carin met me at the train station and waited with me for the connecting GO Train to arrive so I could then continue on my way. What fun that visit was! Carin also made the trip north to Minden when we held a literary salon at the home of Michael Fay. At that salon, there were several other authors in attendance: Bruce Hunter, Frank Beltrano, Timothy Phillips. I’ve promoted all of them, and Michael, as part of the Authors-Readers International series on my blog. And Carin accompanied me (drove me there, actually, after dining together in a local restaurant) to a talk and reading that was being given at the local library by none other than Gail Bowen! (Also promoted on A-RI!)

Carin as well had the absolutely brilliant idea of beginning The Litter I See Project, which I promoted on my Reading Recommendations blog. She had invited me to take part in this project and I was very pleased to be included, especially since it was all in aid of Frontier College and literacy instruction.

So we continue to chat (by email) every now and again, although we haven’t seen one another in person in a few years now. (I’m too ensconced in the trailer while in Canada during the summer months!) But what started out as a quick email conversation at the beginning of the new year – Carin had finished reading my second novel and sent me a link to the “not-a-review” she posted to her blog – turned into a discussion about island life. Then … the back and forth questions and answers began, and comparisons of our both having lived on small Caribbean islands, and comparisons of my story to other books, and, and, and … we ended up with the following piece that Carin offered to write up for me to post here; not so much a review of the novel as an explanation of what struck her as significant about her reading of my book, and why my experiences on Bequia resonated with her own living on a different small Caribbean island. (And yes, Carin, that was definitely you I was thinking about when, in the story, Tex talks about a Canadian woman whose name is spelled the same way as yours!)

Carin’s view from her Caribbean island …

I so enjoyed the book, Susan, not the least for how it tapped into my own memories of living in the Caribbean in ’91/’92. I don’t recall too much of the expat lifestyle when we were there, but I may have missed it, or maybe it wasn’t as ‘rife’ yet. P was working with one of the hotels so we got to know many of the locals (most of whom came to our wedding). We didn’t make friends with many of the other ‘imports’… I remember thinking how odd most of them seemed, like they were just there for the money and the privileged Jimmy Buffet lifestyle; they seemed to be missing the point that this opportunity could give them, to understand local customs, rather than impose their own. But no one seemed very interested in island culture, food, or getting to know the local residents. Given that, it’s easy to see how divisions would be created. Not to mention the residents resenting the fact that the best jobs were often given to (white) ‘imports’. That was one of the difficulties for me when we lived there… being seen as ‘one of those’. Once we got to know the local residents, it was better, and that stigma fell away, but not with everyone. Still a certain amount of animosity from locals, for which I don’t blame them.

You captured so well that attitude of newbies trying to change the very thing that brought them to the island in the first place. Can imagine it’s even worse now with gentrification and displacement of people’s culture as if it’s just another commodity. How can this create anything but animosity? How wonderful that you’ve been there long enough to be known for who you are, as someone who respects the island way of life.

We went back to the island a few years ago for our anniversary. I was reluctant because I had a feeling it would have changed due to gentrification, etc., and I didn’t want to see it. Turns out much was still charming and familiar, but there was a lot different too … more villas where there were none before and a totally different vibe ‘in town’, ie. the harbour shops (selling very different items than before; before being mostly basic necessities for locals and only a very few things like postcards or souvenirs). Restaurants that were casual had been renovated and were now upscale … that was a big change. Very different feeling. Can imagine there was a lot more behind the scenes that I didn’t notice, given that I was there only a week and seeing with the eyes of a visitor.

One memory from when we lived there … P was working late on xmas eve and I was sitting outside on our patio in the pitch dark, under the stars when, from the valley below, came the sound of a single trumpet playing “Silent Night” and then a few other carols. A simple strain of music, not from a party, but likely just someone sitting outside (who would have a trumpet?). Then they stopped. Not another sound all night. I thought of that when we were there a few years ago and couldn’t imagine it happening now. Too many other sounds have taken over. The energy feels different.

Anyway, all of that to say One Woman’s Island was an absolutely lovely trip back to the Caribbean in the 90’s and to how I remember it. The story is compelling on many levels, but that was certainly an added dimension for me.

I think it’s brilliant that you’re writing about all this in your novels, Susan. As you say, for people who think it’s all paradise … an eye-opener. And so much more respectful to fully embrace reality while still finding the charm within, which of course I know you do.

Thank you again, Carin! Both for understanding what I’m trying to do with this Bequia Perspectives series and for the effect that I now know my writing has had on at least one reader! This is, after all, the main reason we write … to have an effect on readers and possibly even elicit a response.

My view of Bequia from The View

The Places She Goes … Why We Love Bequia, SVG, Caribbean

Dorothy Adele has published a very comprehensive article on her blog, The Places She Goes, about a recent visit to Bequia … and she mentions my novels at the end! Dorothy sent me a further comment by tweet: “I enjoyed your book, and I mentioned it in my post because, though it’s fiction, I felt that people would enjoy the story and would get a good feel for the Island.”

Following is an excerpt and link to the entire blog post.
Thanks again, Dorothy, for the shout-out!

Photo by Dorothy Adele

Why We Love Bequia, SVG, Caribbean

Bequia St.Vincent and the Grenadines
Uncrowded Bequia

The beauty of Bequia (BECK-way), SVG, or St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is the peaceful pace and the beautiful beaches like Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay Beach. The island is colorfully uncommercialized, and some of the best things to do on Bequia is in Port Elizabeth and along the Belmont Walkway.

You won’t find a highrise, casino, high-end designer shop, or jewelry store chain. Instead, you can select from Caribbean artwork, brightly colored clothing, handmade jewelry, handcrafted wooden boats, and scrimshaw. Most importantly, no one peddles their wares on the beach.

In addition to shopping, you have your choice among several seaside restaurants that serve excellent food.

(Continue reading here.)

And here are my links to the two Bequia Perspectives Novels

The Places She Goes … a travel blog

Yesterday I discovered a new-to-me travel blog, because the recent post that drew my attention was about Bequia and Moonhole. With Dorothy Adele’s kind permission, I am posting the intro, the cover photo, and a link here to the post. Other visitors to Bequia and readers of my novels will be very interested to learn more about this island. Please follow the link through to Dorothy’s blog, “like” the post after you read it, make a comment (tell Dorothy you found her through my blog!) and consider following her blog for more informative posts on her travels. Thanks, Dorothy!

You Can Still Stay in Moonhole Bequia, SVG

Johnston Moonhole Home – photo posted with permission, D. Adele

Moonhole Bequia

When Tom Johnston drew his plans in the sand to build his home in Moonhole on Bequia (Beck-way), did he know that magazines and newspapers from afar would send journalists for the story? Did he know that his decision to build his unstructured home in a dangerous location would have a lasting impact on the people of Bequia and those who visited?

In the early 1960’s, untrained in architecture or design, Tom Johnston had used what was available to build his home on the undeveloped island of Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was and still is, an icon that represents the Johnston’s tie to nature. Unfortunately, today the house is condemned due to falling rocks and other hazards, and the only way for you to see it is by boat.

(Read the rest of the post by clicking here.)

A Bequia Old Year’s Night …

An Excerpt From:
One Woman’s Island, a Bequia Perspectives novel

Dudley picked us up from the beach at the prearranged time. I was
glad to have him there, too, as both children were exhausted from the
excitement, the sun, and the swimming and were fast asleep. Dudley
had to carry them to the taxi for us.

On the trip home, Verity said, “I lets dem sleep now den wakes
dem for later.” When I asked what she planned to do to celebrate,
she replied, “What everybody does do on Bequia—we goes to de
Frangipani.”

It suddenly struck me that, other than a mention in passing when
I spoke with the Litt sisters and Tex, I hadn’t made any plans myself for
the biggest night of the year. “Do you mind if I join you?” I asked. She
grinned in agreement, so when Dudley pulled up to Verity’s house, we
arranged for him to pick us up at around eleven.

He helped carry the still-sleeping children into the house. When
Dudley and I were alone outside again, I asked him about Verity’s
mother—his mother, too. “Dey don’ talk.” And that was all I could get
out of him.

He assured me, saying, “Verity be looked after. You no worrys ’bout
her.” His expression had become a scowl. It was obvious this was a closed
subject as far as Dudley was concerned, so I didn’t push any further.

By the time he returned later that night, Dudley was back to his
old jovial self again. The children were wide-eyed, if not yet wide awake,
and Verity had changed into a slinky leopard-skin-pattern dress I had
never seen before. That and the awkward high-heeled sandals she wore
made me look even frumpier than I already felt.

Dudley dropped us off in the Harbour then quickly drove away
to pick up his next fare—he’d be working throughout the night. For
Bequia taxi drivers, Old Year’s Night is the busiest of the year, their
time to make a lot of money, if they really hustle.

Verity, the children, and I walked through the crowds in the Harbour
to the walkway along the shore that would take us to the Frangipani
Hotel, the centre of the action at midnight on Bequia. It was a sea
of people we had to wade through, too; some already drunk but most
in good spirits and out to enjoy themselves with friends and family. It
did look too as though all of Bequia, and then some, had come out to
celebrate, and everybody wanted to be as close as possible to the Frangipani
bar when the clock struck midnight. A steel band performed
on a low stage between the bar and the walkway, and their pitch and
pandemonium increased with every passing minute, the pan players
physically exhausting themselves with their drumming.

The four of us chose instead to grab a seat on the low wall by the
shoreline and watch the promenade of people as we waited for midnight.
Melanie, Dave, Al, and Suzie passed by together.

Melanie and Suzie stopped while Al and Doc pushed on ahead.

“Mariana, hello!” said Melanie. “Would you like to join us? We’re going
to try and get a drink at the bar.”

“Hello, Mel and Suzie. Happy New Year. I’m here to celebrate
with Verity and her children”—I pointed at my neighbours—“but
thanks anyway.”

“Okay then. Happy New Year to you!” The two women disappeared
into the crowd.

Suddenly, a moment or two before midnight according to my
watch, sailboats in the harbour began tooting their horns, and then
the ferry boats and other large working ships sounded theirs as well.
Boat flares shot off in every direction over the water and the steel band
increased its volume as it played a decidedly Caribbean version of “Auld
Lang Syne.” Everyone was happy, greeting one another, wishing Happy
New Year to all around them. It really was a joyous and festive occasion,
possibly the best New Year’s Eve I’d ever celebrated because it was so
simple and heartfelt.

After about fifteen minutes we decided it was time to get the
children back to the house and into bed for the rest of the night. The
two of them, even Ayayla with her limited sight, had sat wonder-eyed
throughout the midnight festivities, but they were beginning to yawn.

And causing me to yawn, as well.

We were making our way back along the waterfront to the place
where we’d arranged to meet Dudley when I heard a voice call out to
Verity from the dark of the bushes. She turned her head to the sound
and immediately sucked her teeth loudly—a gesture commonly used on
this island to indicate displeasure or disgust. She picked up her pace as
best she could in those awkward sandals and pulled the children after
her. The one voice became several as I realized there were others hiding
in the shadows calling after Verity with words I couldn’t understand.
Whatever they said seemed to be derogatory.

Melanie, Dave, Al, and Suzie passed me again before I could catch
up with the children.

“We’re on our way to the New York Bar for a drink now,” Melanie
said. “You sure you won’t join us?”

Al sneered. “Yeah, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and all that shit!”

The others laughed. But Melanie said, “Don’t mind him, Mariana.
Do join us. After we finish that drink we’re heading, along with the rest
of the people of Bequia, to De Reef in Lower Bay, where we’re going
to dance until dawn.”

“Come on, Mariana,” Al chided. “You’re only young once. I’ll bet
Verity would love to dance all night.”

Verity had stopped to wait for me and heard Al’s comment. She
looked over at me, asking with eager eyes if she could do just that. She
had certainly dressed appropriately if she’d been hoping for willing
partners.

“But we’ve got to put these children to bed,” I pointed out. Verity
was looking disappointed when the four expats left.

Dudley caught up with us on the main road in front of the Anglican
Church, and I realized as we were driving away that we hadn’t met up
with Tex or the Litt sisters.

We were soon home again, the sights and sounds of the Harbour
far behind us.

As I was getting into bed, I thought about how enjoyable it had
been: no phoney celebrations with strangers, no false wishes for the
coming year, no expensive fireworks displays or decorations, no desperate
attempts to have a good time at any cost. Everyone celebrated the beginning
of the new year together—young, old, tourists, foreigners, expats,
locals, everyone enjoying the moment. That’s what Bequia is all about.

I lay awake in bed that night for a while and considered what
might be in store for me in the coming year. Whatever it was, I hoped
it would be better than a year that involved losing my husband both
physically and emotionally and being forced to redesign my whole life.
Anyway, I knew it couldn’t possibly get any worse. I reached out and
pulled Jerry closer to me and fell asleep to the sound of purring in my ear.

From Bequia … All the Best for 2018!!!

So reads the Chinese curse that seems to have been operative during this past year we’ve all just endured. Let’s hope that, rather than continuing to be “interesting”, 2018 is instead a year full of hope and health and joy for everyone around the world, and that the good feelings at midnight tonight last far longer than simply the first 24-hours of the new year ahead of us.

Personally, I wish to thank all readers of this blog, and everyone who has read and enjoyed my publications! No author can write without readers … so suffice it to say that – YOU READERS KEEP ME WRITING!!! Thank you for all your support!

From our verandah on Bequia, Dennis and I wish everyone all the best for 2018!

Now … LET’S DANCE!!!

All I want for Christmas is … a good book and quiet time to read

During the early 80s I worked in a bookstore in Calgary – a rather eclectic shop that sold no bestsellers or books for children, but instead did a booming business in world literature, poetry, philosophy, science, armchair travel, gender, vegetarian cookbooks, and LPs of New Age music … I remember one pre-Christmas season (oh, and the store also did not get into any kind of festive mode, either) when one of our regular customers, a middle-aged professor at the university, walked into the store, clapped his hands together, and said, “Right! I’ve finished shopping for all the presents for everyone else. Now it’s time to shop for ME!” And with that, he delved in among the shelves and came back to the front desk loaded down with some weighty (both physically and in content) tomes on whatever subject it was in which he specialized. I always think back to the glee in his eyes at the thought, no doubt, that he was going to be gifting himself exactly what he wanted for Christmas (or whichever present-giving-based holiday he and his family were celebrating).

As a reader who definitely knows what she enjoys reading, and who has had many years of experience in finding and discovering her own reading material, thank you very much!, I’m not big on taking direction from others when I choose what to read next. I enjoy the search almost as much as the actual reading, so to speak. In other words, I don’t like to receive books as gifts. Nor do I want to give books as gifts to other readers. I believe that they, like me, prefer to discover reading material themselves. (Besides, we don’t do the gift-giving thing in our house, not even for birthdays. Buying the land and building this house on Bequia was gift enough that Dennis and I gave to each other at the time to last a lifetime.)

So, instead of posting a list of suggestions of books for your gift-giving this year, I’m offering here a list of recommended reading FOR READERS out there! It’s actually just a link to my Reading Recommendations blog and all the wonderful authors I have promoted there over the years, but still worthwhile checking out for the day you too can say,

“There! I’m finished with everyone else … Now I can treat myself with some excellent books to read!”

Authors Promoted – alphabetical listing

And here are more recommendations from my What are you reading? blog.

Sorry I can’t help you with finding quiet time to read those books – you’ll need to carve that out for yourself!

Oh, and I want World Peace, too, while we’re at it!

Print copies of my books … the NEW way!

Both my Bequia Perspectives Novels are now available
worldwide from Amazon in print editions!

All links to purchase both titles in print or in eBook formats
(or to borrow from libraries) can be found here:
Bequia Perspectives Novels

Here’s the background as to how all this came about …

In Feb. 2012 I published the first eBook edition of Island in the Clouds. It had been my idea at the time that we should ePublish first, work out any bugs in the files, create a market for the writing and for a print edition, and then go to print once a demand was established. So I didn’t print Island in the Clouds until June 2012, and at that time I went with a traditional publishing company to do so. This cost me a considerable amount of money up front, leaving me in proud possession of 800 copies of the book – which I then had to store, distribute, and sell myself. Five-and-a-half-years later, I still have about 200 copies left in various locations. I have not been paid at all by several places that took copies on consignment to sell for me, and I have no reliable means of selling those remaining copies. Fortunately, I sold enough of the original 800 to cover my expenses of having the books printed, but I’m nowhere near having made enough money from this enterprise to pay myself back for everything I put into writing, promoting and selling the book by myself.

But then we do it for the love of it, right? This was never intended to be a money-making enterprise. But it was also never intended to be a money-LOSING enterprise …

When it came time to think about printing One Woman’s Island, I had to consider long and hard whether I wanted to travel down that same road. First of all, I did not have the several thousand dollars I knew a traditional printing was going to cost. Plus, I really didn’t want to have to store copies anywhere, or find a new distributor for this new book.

Fortunately for me, I received a blog post from Calgary author, Brian Brennan (who I have promoted on Reading Recommendations), in which he explained how he went about reprinting books of his that had been declared out of print by the original publisher. He worked with our mutual eBook formatter, Human Powered Design (Gina McCreary), to create the print files, and then went to a self-publishing service to have copies printed POD (print-on-demand). I reblogged Brian’s explanation of all this here: Brian Brennan – 3 reprints now available

So, I decided to look into this myself for my own print books. In the meantime, Gina had heard of a new service being offered by Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing Paperback Beta Program – that we could sign into through our existing eBook accounts (which Gina has always maintained for me) and it seemed as though it was exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t need to pay anything upfront to Amazon, Gina was able to create the necessary print files and cover designs from my original eBook files and look after the listings for me, and I will receive payment from Human Powered Design for sales made, along with any sales of eBooks, every month, as I have done all along since first listing my eBooks in Feb. 2012.

Plus … I now have the benefit of WORLDWIDE distribution of my print books!! That, to me, is the biggest benefit of printing books in this way.

Here’s another article I discovered about this new service that ran on The Digital Reader site.

Ads in “Bequia This Week” throughout the winter!

These are the two ads Wilfred created and Nicola will be running for me in their weekly flyer.


And here’s the link to the magazine flip version of
Bequia This Week
Everything you need to know that’s going on in and around the island of Bequia!
New editions available every Friday.

One Woman’s Island – print edition now available!

Hooray!! The print version of my second novel in the Bequia Perspectives Series, One Woman’s Island is now listed with Amazon as being available to order!

Since I went with POD (print-on-demand) with this book, here’s how it works if you prefer to read the novel in a paperback format: you place an order with Amazon; Bingo-Bongo! a copy (or copies) is/are printed specifically for you; you receive your order by mail directly from Amazon. (Yes, you pay Amazon directly, but I will eventually receive my royalties on every copy sold.) I won’t be stocking quantities of this book (or lugging them around with me), so your best bet to get a copy quickly is to order from Amazon. Eventually, there should be a listing for every Amazon sales site and I will update the list as I discover new sites.

Here’s a complete list of where to purchase One Woman’s Island in both the print and eBook formats. Also listed there are libraries where you may be able to borrow the eBook.

Now, let’s have some fun! When you receive your copy of One Woman’s Island from Amazon, please send me a photo either of you holding the book or of the book set in a recognizable place that suggests where you happen to be at the moment … you know, the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, the Rocky Mountains. I’ll then post all the photos on this blog as I receive them. Send your photos to me via email: susanmtoy (at) gmail.com

Thanks to all my supportive and very enthusiastic readers! You are the reason I keep writing …

More teasers from One Woman’s Island!

After my Cover reveal!! of the forthcoming print version of my novel, One Woman’s Island, I thought I’d tease readers a little more with some of the additional material I’ve added to this new edition – in the “praise for the eBook”, updated “dedication” and “acknowledgements” pages … some of you will recognize a few familiar names here!

Praise for the eBook edition of
One Woman’s Island

One Woman’s Island beautifully captures the spirit of being on the island of Bequia. The author’s ear for local dialogue is faultless. With its complex characters, fast-moving plot, authentic setting and the underlying seriousness of the questions it so skillfully raises, One Woman’s Island, is a book that should garner a wide readership, one far larger than those who are familiar with Bequia. ~ Felicity Harley, author of The Burning Years

Susan Toy’s new novel One Woman’s Island is: lively; startling; creepy; funny; shocking; sad; insightful – and engaging from start to finish. ~ Ann Ireland, prize-winning author of novels, A Certain Mr. Takahashi, The Instructor, Exile and The Blue Guitar

With a sharp eye for description and a well-tuned ear for dialogue (and local dialect!) Toy tells how a recently widowed Canadian woman moves to the tiny Caribbean island of Bequia to find solace, only to discover it’s not quite the paradise she hoped for. A tasty meal of storytelling that comes with complementary recipes! ~ Brian Brennan, Postmedia newspapers best-selling author

Toy brings the strands together artfully toward the close, and I was left with some tantalizing memories of my own of a different island, in a different place, in a different era, but with so many delicious similarities… a most entertaining read… ~ Seumas Gallacher, author of The Jack Calder series of crime thrillers

One Woman’s Island speaks not only to the seclusion of island life, but the woman herself. Mariana is running toward, as well as running away from her past. What awaits her on the island of Bequia is everything and nothing that she expected. ~ Cheryl Schenk, author of The Stibil Forest Adventures

Another thoughtful book from Susan Toy, set in the Caribbean island of Bequia. This is perfect weekend reading when you have the time to just enjoy the read and let your imagination go. ~ Roughseasinthemed, blogger

Whether intentional or not, there seems to be a huge character quietly looming across your book series: Bequia, the island herself. Each book, even though different, reveals more and more about her as a character and a force. Quite cool. ~ Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge, blogger

Toy creates complex and flawed characters who keep your attention as they move the story forward. She brings Bequia to life with her descriptive detail and an intimate understanding of the local culture. Reading One Woman’s Island, as well as Toy’s earlier Bequia Perspectives novel, Island in the Clouds, is an immersive experience that leaves you feeling like you’ve visited the island, dined with the locals and strolled the beaches. And what a treat to find recipes for local dishes interspersed among the chapters. ~ J.P. McLean, author of The Gift series

Dedication Page

For Dennis, my personal property manager

And in memory of friends who knew Bequia:
Ken Bergwall, Ian Bowie, Bruce Boyce, Kevin Cameron, Kathy Carpenter,
Frank Dufek, Rodger Durham, Derek Hayes, Jim Johnston,
Mariann Palmborg, Jean Poisson, Bill Sadler

 

Acknowledgements

There are many people who helped me along the way of writing and preparing this novel for publication, but none quite as persistent in their “encouragement” than my editor, Rachel Small, and my author-pal and personal DJ, Tim Baker. It really was never nagging on your part (because when it did become nagging I would tune you out), but I do now appreciate your persistence in reminding me to “just write and get the damn thing finished!” I truly, and likely, would never have managed to get to this point without both of you.

Thanks to Regina McCreary of Human Powered Design for formatting, design work, and sales listings for all IslandCatEditions publications.

Thanks to Pam Ferrell and “Snowy” Elvin Augustus Lewis for always coming up with the most appropriate words of local wisdom.

Thanks to Betty Jane Hegerat for sorting out my good ideas from the bad.

Thanks to fellow-author and Bequia-dweller, Felicity Harley, for deep insight into our shared locale.

Thanks to my extensive writing/blogging/publishing community, both online and in person, for the support and friendship you have provided me with over the years. You are all so much more than just a network–you are family!

Unfortunately, I sadly lost two of you during this past year … Roughseasinthemed and Lockie Young – your support and enthusiasm for my writing was always greatly appreciated and you will both be sorely missed!

And, finally, but most importantly, thank you to all readers! Thank you for taking the time to read what I write, and for telling me you enjoyed what you read! That means more to me than anything else in this process of creating and producing a book. And the fact that so many of you have also become friends is just icing on the cake (or coloured streamers on a bicycle’s handles, as JP McLean would say) and definitely encourages me to keep writing!