Category Archives: Books

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!

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!!

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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Best Bloggers Blogging in 2016!

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These past few years (2015 and 2014), I’ve wrapped up twelve months of blogging by listing my favourite bloggers who I have subscribed to and read, and whose blogs I believe would be of interest to my readers. Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) created this nifty badge that any of the bloggers on my list are welcome to add to their own blogs!

This year’s list is going to look a bit like a roundup of the usual suspects, as so many of my favourite bloggers continue to post to their blogs and write so well. A few of those old favourites have stopped blogging, but there are a few new discoveries this year, and one is a former book publishing colleague who is absolutely new to blogging just this week! So I’ll begin my list this year with the newbies-to-me, for variety sake.

Please do click on the links and check out these great bloggers, if you have not already discovered them yourselves. Follow them! Some offer promotion and they review books or interview authors or host guest posts, many post valuable information on writing and the book biz, even about food and restaurants, and not just a few are also authors in their own right and have been featured on my blog (I’ve linked to their promotion pages), a couple are editors, and there are a couple of longtime personal friends (meaning, I’ve actually met them face-to-face!) in this list, as well.

Sue Vincent’s Daily EchoSue Vincent

Happymeerkatreviews: Book reviews – poetry – other musings

Timothy L. PhillipsCamino de Tim

Mysteries in Paradise

And a new blog by retired publisher Ginny Miller and her husband that I look forward to following. Leaving Ourselves Behind will report on their travels throughout the world.

And the Usual Suspects!

Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog … An Author Promotions Enterprise!

Sally CroninSmorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

Seumas GallacherSeumas Gallacher Blog

Tricia DrammehCreative State of Mind and Authors To Watch (Reviews and Interviews)

Tim Bakerblindoggbooks

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Kevin BrennanWhat the Hell

Allan HudsonSouth Branch Scribbler

J.P. McLeanJ.P. McLean: The Gift Legacy

Betty Jane HegeratBetty Jane Hegerat: Canadian author of literary fiction

Matilda Magtree – Carin Makuz

Canary Gal – Gwenith Whitford

Bill Corbett – Marathon Mouth

Seth Godin’s Blog

Book Marketing Buzz Blog

Literary Hub

And a very special mention goes to two extremely inspired blogs that are still being published:

The Litter I See Project by Carin Makuz
and Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers by Shaun Hunter
(Both of these bloggers were profiled on my blog earlier this year.)

If you happen to be looking for some great books to read, check out my Best Books Read in 2016 series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Or have a look at my two other blogs: Reading Recommendations and reading recommendations reviewed.

Best Books Read in 2016 – Part 3

When I posted Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I didn’t take into consideration that the year was not yet over and I might read more books I highly recommend in those remaining weeks – and, indeed, I have! (I also discovered a few books I had overlooked when compiling my first two lists.) Links for authors featured on Reading Recommendations are included. Every book listed here is rated at 5 stars from me.

So, here we go with THE REST OF THE LIST!

Indie-Authored

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Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women by Mary Smith
(No More Mulberries, also by Mary Smith, is listed as a Best Book Read in Part 1 of this series.)

Traditionally Published

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Baudelaire’s Revenge, a novel by Bob Van Laerhoven

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Celtic Lightning: How the Scots and the Irish Created a Canadian Nation by Ken McGoogan

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Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul by Bill Engleson
(I also reviewed this book on my blog, reading recommendations reviewed.)

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Belle of Batoche by Jacqueline Guest

And BIG congratulations to Jacqueline Guest who has just been named a Member of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnson!
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The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts
by Joshua Hammer

And … the very-most-recent book, a novella, by Fredrik Backman that has been translated into English!
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

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See my rave about Fredrik Backman’s other books I read this year in Part 2 of this series.

And, looking ahead into 2017, I’ve had the great pleasure, and honour, of reading an advance copy of Felicity Harley‘s new novel, The Burning Years, which will be published in the spring. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you hear about this book the moment it becomes available. Not only is it well written, but I believe it’s going to be a very important book for everyone to read. (Felicity has previously been featured on Reading Recommendations and has had a lifelong association with the island of Bequia.)

Island in the Clouds – with my sister and her Silver Christmas Tree!

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Here’s my sister Betty Bridgman, looking very festive, with her print copy of my novel, Island in the Clouds, standing in front of the Christmas tree at her home in Ontario. Thanks to brother-in-law, Martin, for taking the photo (and for painting that picture over the fireplace!).

Thanks for playing along with my Where/Who in the World promotion campaign, Betty and Martin!

Island in the Clouds – rocking around a Pink Christmas Tree!!!

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Thanks to Abraham Phillips, who is currently reading both my novels, and sent this photo of Island in the Clouds on his eReader in front of his lovely Pink Christmas Tree! The tree, and Abraham, are located in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, and he is an avid a voracious reader of all books!

So, thanks, Abraham, for playing along in my Where/Who in the World is Reading promotion, but mainly for reading my books!! And for allowing Island in the Clouds to rock around that Pink Christmas Tree of yours!

One Woman’s Island – in Bahrain!!!

It’s lovely, and somehow very fitting, to receive the first photo in the Where/Who in the World is Reading One Woman’s Island??? from none other than the great Seumas Gallacher – the author, reader, blogger, singer, supporter, pal, Billy Connolly-loving, Glaswegian-speaking, kilt-wearing Scotsman who now happens to live in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi!

Here he stands with my eBook cover visible on his eReader …

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Says Seumas: From one island to another .. . from the shores of Bahrain to those of Bequia… Master Gallacher… proud owner of his Kindle copy of m’Lady, Susan’s masterpiece! Cheeeeeeeers 🙂

Thank you, Seumas!

Seumas has been a guest over at my other blog, Reading Recommendations, several times now. Head on over there to see what he’s been writing and publishing. I’ve read every book That Man has created and I tell you truthfully I’ve immensely enjoyed reading every single one!

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A challenge to all Readers …

Earlier in the summer, I wrote and posted this to my blog: Why not read books simply because they’re well-written?

Then I asked Chris Graham, aka The Story Reading Ape, to create three memes that promoted three of the ideas I’d covered in this post: Ask for a meme …

For the purpose of this challenge, I want to focus on the suggestion in one of these memes …

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Why not, indeed?

I recently began following two Facebook pages that were set up for the benefit of Readers. The gist of both sites was an exchange of reading recommendations and a place where readers could find out what they might want to read next. On the one site, there were a lot of rules posted restricting Indie Authors as to how much they could self-promote. Understandably so. However, authors were also restricted from posting links to our own blogs, and I was reprimanded by admin., even though my blog link in question was a list of the best books I had read this past year and not self-promotion at all. I’d apparently over-stepped the limit of one self-promotion post per week on the site. I’ve removed all my previous posts from that site and have stopped posting there altogether. I know, it is their site and they are allowed to make and administer the rules. But, in the meantime, other site members will never see that list of books by other authors I was recommending they consider reading. Not my own books, mind you, but the books of many other fine authors.

Meanwhile, I continue to read posts by other site members in which they’re asking for reading recommendations – and contributing to discussions surrounding reading books written by the same-old bestselling authors or series or genres that the members have already been reading. And no one is asking for something new, something different, something outside of their comfort zone. An author who is new-to-them who will make the reader stand up and take notice and have that reader recommending the author to every other reader they know.

So, this is my challenge to all readers out there … And this includes all authors, as well, because you’re all also readers, right? (If you answer “No” to that, then SHAME ON YOU! You SHOULD be reading. You can’t write well if you don’t read. But that leads us to another blog post: Writer = Reader. And I digress …)

Here’s what I challenge all Readers to do:

1. Discover a new-to-you author. Look for authors who write a different genre than you usually read.

2. Purchase a copy of their book or borrow from the library. (Preferably purchase. I understand if you can’t afford to buy. However, I give you the inimitable Seumas Gallacher as an example of someone who supports Indie Authors by making a point of purchasing one Indie-Authored book a month. That kind of committment is not going to break the bank.)

3. Read.

4. If you enjoyed what you read, tell your friends and other readers. And if you REALLY enjoyed what you read, become a champion of that author. Read more of their books. Follow them on Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, their blog. Write a review if you like to write reviews. Post your recommendation to your own blog or social media sites. Spread the word about this new-to-you author as far as you possibly can. (If you want to write a review and don’t have your own blog or don’t like posting to Amazon, contact me about publishing your review on reading recommendations reviewed or this blog.)

5. Write to the author directly to tell them how much you enjoyed their book. Trust me! We love receiving fan mail!!

6. Repeat #s 1-5. Many times.

Simple, right?

I know you’re probably thinking, “It’s easy for her to say. She’s an author who has connections to lots of other authors and knows where to find new books to read. Where the heck am I going to find these new-to-me authors and their books?”

Well, yes, I am well connected, but I have discovered many of the authors I now enjoy reading by watching for listings on Goodreads, Facebook, and mainly through other bloggers. So here’s a list of places where you might consider looking for suggestions on the next great book you’re going to read so you may become part of my challenge!

My blogs (of course):
Reading Recommendations
reading recommendations reviewed
And specific blog posts:
Best Books Read 2016 – Part 1
Best Books Read 2016 – Part 2

And blogs written by many friends who support their fellow authors:
Seumas Gallacher
Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life, Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore
Chris The Story Reading Ape – Authors Hall of Fame
Allan Hudson – South Branch Scribbler
Tricia Drammeh – Authors to Watch
Dylan Hearn – Suffolk Scribblings: Recommended Reads
Anne Logan – I’VE READ THIS
Mary Bailey – 1WriteWay: A Different Kind of Book Review
Happymeerkatreviews

There are many, many more. I leave it up to you, Readers, to discover the best places for finding your own new-to-you authors. Don’t forget the local library, too! Most libraries have websites, and librarians are always eager to create and post lists of books that will be of interest to their patrons. (And, thanks to Calgary Public Library, my novel, Island in the Clouds, has been listed on two such lists, their Around the World in 14 Mysteries and Accidental Sleuths recommendations!)

One other source for discovering new-to-you authors – especially poets, in this case – and even new-to-you music, as well, is Bob Chelmick’s The Road Home. This is 24-hour streaming of Bob’s radio program’s that have long been featured on CKUA Radio. Give it a listen. It’s addicting!! (I’m listening as I write this and just heard one of my favourite authors, Robert Kroetsch, reading his poetry.)

So, off you go! You’ll find a lot of fun in the discovery, but I hope you find even more enjoyment in the reading!

Ready, set … READ!

(No need to comment here that you’re taking my challenge, unless you do find a new-to-you author you’d like to crow about. I always welcome accolades for authors! And if you already review books and authors on your own blog, please include your link in the comments section below.)

GoReadMe! Campaign – Susan M. Toy’s books

In August this year, I had a great idea … and the very kind Seumas Gallacher allowed me space on his blog to not only write about the GoReadMe! Campaign, but also offered to be the first to have his books promoted using it.

He’s a brave man! While we may not have reached the target of readers we wished to attract within the time period we allowed, there were a fair number of new readers who discovered Gallacher’s books through this promotion, so I was pleased with the response.

I’m back now to do the same for my own writing, since I recently published a new novel in the Bequia Perspectives series. Here’s the background to the idea:

First, let’s go back a little way in time to a blog post I published in March of this year on the perennial subject that’s of interest to all authors – Looking for Readers in All the Right Places. (I had actually blogged about this dilemma a couple of times previous and those links are included in this post. If you are an author looking for readers then I suggest you read about all my previous ideas.)

We’re all familiar with the GoFundMe campaigns. They come in many different guises and are meant to help creators and business people raise the necessary funds required to launch and cover the expenses of producing a project by involving their friends directly in that financing.

So I posed the question, What about setting up a campaign called GoReadMe, and instead of raising money we raise awareness for reading and reading our books in particular?

That’s essentially the idea and how the campaign came to life. Here’s how it works:

We make the announcement that we are beginning a GoReadMe! Campaign for an author and we’re looking for 50 new readers who will “pledge” to read either one of the author’s books or a specific title. Not only will they pledge to read the book themselves, but they’ll also agree to recommend that book to another reader who will join in on the GoReadMe! Campaign. That way, we only need to find 25 unique readers, because those new readers will find the other 25 for us. The campaign lasts a month, during which time the author, and the author’s friends, promote the campaign, and the author keeps a public tally on their blog of the number of people who have pledged, and their names (or those who wish to remain “anonymous”), who have committed to reading a book and finding other new readers for it. Simple!

And, if friends have already read the author’s book(s) but still wish to become involved in the GoReadMe! Campaign, they can help by promoting this idea to their friends, encouraging others to become involved in reading this author’s great books!

In the end, what the “Readers” receive by pledging in this way is a warm/fuzzy feeling of not only discovering and reading a new book by a great author, but also the knowledge that they are helping to promote reading in general by becoming involved in this campaign in particular and encouraging more people to read.

By the way, I believe that the personal recommendation of a book by a friend is a much more effective way (word-of-mouth) of promoting a book than any review on Amazon or Goodreads, so that’s why I’m not suggesting that “write a review” be a requisite for readers pledging to take part in this campaign. No pressure, folks! Just pledge to read the book and find at least one other new reader. What can be simpler than that?

So, without further ado …

Announcing … the GoReadMe! Campaign for Susan M. Toy!

We need 50 people to pledge to read at least one of Susan’s books (listed below) and to recommend to one other reader that they do the same. You have 30 Days during which to pledge. This Campaign ends on Jan. 8, 2017. Please sign up in the comments section of this blog post. Thanks for taking part in this new GoReadMe! Campaign!

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One Woman’s Island

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Island in the Clouds

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That Last Summer

(By the way, ALL of my eBooks are available on Overdrive for libraries worldwide. If you prefer to read borrowed eBooks from your local library, you will be doing me a huge favour by recommending the library consider adding my book(s) to their collecction. Thank you!!)

There you have it, Folks! Please consider pledging (below in the comments section) and recommending my books to other readers. Share and retweet this post at will! Let’s try to make this GoReadMe! Campaign idea a “Thing”, okay?