Category Archives: Friends

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.

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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.

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!

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!!

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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philosophermouseofthehedge

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 2

In Part 1, I listed all the Indie-Authored Books I had read this year that I considered to be the Best Books I Read in 2016.

During 2016, I was fortunate to read many other books, traditionally published, that I considered to be excellent. Some authors I list here are new-to-me and were recommended by reader friends – who definitely did not steer me wrong! Other authors are long-time favourites, some who I have promoted on Reading Recommendations and this blog (links to those promotions are included here), and a few are personal friends who I have known for many years in real life and whose writing I have always enjoyed.

These books are not listed in any particular order at all, but every one receives at least a 5-star rating from me.

So I give you Part 2 of the Best Books I Read in 2016!

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A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, Brett-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman
Without a doubt, Backman is one of the very best “discoveries” in years! Not only are all three novels good, the writing is consistently good and I am now a fan for life, eagerly waiting for the next book by this author to be translated into English and available to read. If I were to rate books, I would give this author 11 stars on a scale of 10.

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Running Toward Home and Odd One Out by Betty Jane Hegerat
I recently reread Running Toward Home, Betty Jane’s first published novel, and read her new novel, Odd One Out, shortly after it was released. As with everything Betty Jane writes, i enjoyed both immensely!

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
Sadly, this was his final book as Doig died earlier this year. He had long been one of my favourite authors.

Brief Encounters by Brian Brennan

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
I reread this important book on writing and wrote a blog post about it.

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What’s Left Behind by Gail Bowen
The 16th book in Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn novels and I have every one! I was Gail’s sales rep for the first book way back in the early 90s.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

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Mennonites Don’t Dance by Darcie Friesen Hossack, published by Thistledown Press
I reread this book recently and it’s now available as an eBook. Darcie and I first “met” online when we were students in the Humber School of Creative Writing, but did not meet in person until she published this collection of short stories in 2010.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Well-deserved winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Number 6 in the Department Q series of crime novels by an accomplished Danish author. I’ve read them all and am eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

In the Woods (series) by Tana French
I thought so highly of the writing of this first novel by French that I immediately read the next three in the Dublin Murder Squad series and have the fifth book on hold at the library.

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The Three Sisters Bar & Hotel by Katherine Govier

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
McEwan is another long-time faourite author who never disappoints. With this book, I think he may win the award for “Most Unusual Narrator Ever”! (AND … I just discovered Ian and I share the same birthday, June 21st!)

Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow: an organizing guide by Daniel Hunter
I received a free download of this book and found it a fascinating read on organizing activists. An excellent book for these current times …

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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
Lewis and I not only worked at similar jobs during our careers (bookseller, sales rep, writer), we repped the same publisher at the same time during the 1990s! The link above will take you to the blog post I wrote about Lewis and his book.

And here’s a link to Part 3 in this series.

Jerome Martin on How to Use the New Media to Tell Your Story

When Jerome Martin posted a status update to Facebook saying he’d be giving a talk on this subject of using new media and storytelling at a conference, I asked if I would be allowed to post the link here on my blog. The topic sounded to be perfect for many of my blog readers. Jerome immediately gave his permission, so below is a link to the presentation he gave at the Banff Centre in April 2016.

1549330_10151948798981367_2941370190120507932_n And in keeping with the theme of Jerome’s presentation, here’s our story …

I met Jerome in/around 2009 when I was first starting up Alberta Books Canada and considering new ways of spreading the word about books, their authors, and reading in general. To say that Jerome, at that early date, had already embraced the new technology surrounding book publishing is an understatement! I hadn’t met anyone in publishing up to that point who not only knew and used the existing technology, and was so enthusiastic about its possibilities, but who was also willing to listen to new ideas, create practical apps, and encourage thinking in directions that were completely off the beaten path of publishing – so far off the path that most publishers wouldn’t even consider abandoning their old traditional methods for fear of getting lost altogether. I loved getting together to talk with Jerome whenever I was in Edmonton and run my own ideas past him, because not once did he ever say, “No, you can’t do that, Susan”, as so many others had done before him. So, for that belief in me and for discussing ideas with me, I heartily thank Jerome for that!

And here’s Jerome’s story:
Jerome Martin is a publisher, photographer, storyteller, and speaker in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He was born in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, on the edge of the Cypress Hills.

His company Spotted Cow Press publishes books, both paper and electronic, about the Great Plains of North America and its people. and his speaking and advisory work focuses on informal learning, communication and documentary photography.

Jerome’s most recent e-books are Cappuccino U: a new approach to working and learning and Golden Prairie, both available for free download at Spotted Cow Press.
(Follow Jerome on Facebook and Twitter for more information, ideas, and stories..)

Please watch the entire presentation here. Jerome’s blog post he refers to is here and in it you will find all thee links he refers to. (Here’s the link to the Banff Centre’s website he refers to as a good example of design.)

And … Jerome includes a quote from my favourite author, Wallace Stegner, at the very end of his presentation – what’s not to love about that???

Thanks, Jerome!

A new story by Michael Fay!

island shorts II

IslandShorts has just finished preparing another ePublication of a long-form short story written by J. Michael Fay!

Human Powered Design is formatting the eBooks and will list them for sale online.

As with Michael’s other publications, once again the original cover art was provided by Karen Sloan of Wallflower Studio Art in Minden, ON.

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The incomparable Rachel Small, Faultless Finish Editing, provided the final editing and proofing services.

Here’s the synopsis, Michael’s bio, and an advance-reader blurb:

Dan James graduates from college in 1967, a time of major conflicts in the US, when friends are being drafted to fight in the war in Vietnam. Dan, however, chooses to become involved in a different fight, one for human rights. He eventually heads north to Canada, a place where he can pursue a life working for the betterment of all. But also a place where the conflicts turn out to be much more personal.

Draft Dodger? is the next in Michael Fay’s series of long-form short stories, following Passion, The Whirlabout and The Healer. Along with Tenderness, all have been published by IslandShorts.

Michael Fay studied creative writing with W. O. Mitchell, Alice Munro, and Richard Ford and was also the founder of the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society in Calgary. Michael lives in Minden, Ontario, with his wife, Dr. Fay Martin.

Sparkling dialogue and detailed scenes evoke the 1960s in this tale of tested loyalties – loyalties to friends, to country, and to ideals. The Vietnam War overshadows two young men’s dreams, from the white columns of the graduation prom to the red blood of cracked heads at a demonstration, as boyhood rivals Dan and Graham trade quips, barbs and lovers. ~ Penney Kome, author and journalist

From the perspective of today, we look back on the sixties with nostalgia … free love, demos in the streets, back to the land communes and so much more. But often, the vision, as seen through the six decades that separate us from those days, play tricks with our memory. Writer Michael Fay brings it all back into sharp focus showing us the disappointments, the illusions and tempered idealism that was in fact the reality in the season of Peace Love and Rock n Roll.
~ Jack Brezina, retired editor and publisher

We’re just waiting for a few more bits of information to come in before pressing the “Publish” button. If you’re interested in this new eBook by Michael Fay, please stay tuned and check back to this blog where we’ll be announcing the exact publishing date and availability online, once we have all the links and information.

Please check out the previous publications from IslandShorts by clicking here for the list of eBooks and where to purchase. As we like to say …

For a Great Read, Slip Into Our Shorts!

(If you would like to read to review any of our publications please contact me directly: susanmtoy (at) gmail.com)

… better than winning a contest!!

While contest judges may not have considered my novel worthy enough to make their shortlist, I’ve just received far-better validation from a friend who offered to read and write an advance review I can now use in pre-publication promotion.

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And what validation and praise it is, coming from an author who also intimately knows Bequia!

Thanks to Felicity Harley who I promoted previously on Reading Recommendations, and who sent me congratulations on Reading Recommendations‘ anniversary, and wrote a guest post about her two book clubs, and wrote a fabulous review on Amazon of Island in the Clouds … which is how we first “met” online, and since then in person this year while we were both on Bequia.

Here’s what Felicity has to say about One Woman’s Island:

Among its other virtues, One Woman’s Island beautifully captures the spirit of being on the island of Bequia. I also enjoyed the fact that the author’s ear for the local dialogue is faultless.

Besides its lush and exotic setting however, throughout its pages, the book accurately and with pathos reflects the end of an unsatisfactory marriage for narrator Mariana, who is constantly searching for something meaningful to take its place.

There are a slew of interesting characters in the book as well, including a talking parrot and the visitor from hell.

As Mariana tries to sort out her own life, she takes a young girl, Verity, and her two children under her wing, and is criticized about her “plan” in no uncertain terms by Al, one of the die-hard ex-pats who live there:

“I’m so sick and tired of you do-goodnik, butt-in-ski foreigners who come here with your socialist attitudes thinking life should be a bed of roses for everyone in the world. It’s not. What you don’t understand about Bequia is while it doesn’t have an organized social safety net like what you’re used to in pinko Canada, the people here do generally look after their own—maybe not to the level of your satisfaction, but there haven’t been any cases of people starving to death from neglect on this island lately, so far as I know. Am I right, Doc?”

Besides having interesting and believable characters, there is also a fast-moving plot that keeps the reader engaged, including several murders taking place over the course of the winter months Mariana is staying on Bequia.

Perhaps the heart and soul of the book is summed up at the end by Mariana and Tex, a fast-talking, larger-than-life guy with a heart of gold, and one of my favorite characters:

“When I came here last October, I thought Bequia was going to be paradise, Tex,” I said quietly.

“Here’s how I see it: any place you are can be paradise. It’s all in your mind; it’s whatever you want it to be.”

With its complex characters, fast-moving plot, authentic setting and underlying seriousness of questions so skillfully raised, One Woman’s Island is a book that should garner a wide readership, one far larger than those who are already familiar with Bequia.

But for those of us like myself who are familiar with the setting, we’ll enjoy the island the author presents in her book as one we’ve come to know and love, despite its all-too-human complexities.

I’d better get cracking and prepare that MS for ePublication! And I now have my “quotable quote” with that second-last paragraph. It’s perfect for advertising copy!!

Thanks, Felicity! I just can’t thank you enough!

Finally!! The wait is over … nearly

It’s been one-month-and-a-day since I wrote this Guest Post on Seumas Gallacher’s blog, in which I listed the 10 ways I was dealing with having to wait for my editor, Rachel Small, to finish her edit of my recently completed novel, One Woman’s Island (the second in the Bequia Perspectives series).

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I’m happy to tell you now that Rachel did get that manuscript back to me in plenty of time so I could revise and fix it up to meet the deadline for a contest I linked to in this earlier blog post. And I did make it, too – with an entire day-and-a-half to spare!

And so I wait … again. But this time only for another week until the shortlist is announced. Once I know my novel’s fate, I’ll be able to determine when I can go ahead and ePublish.

In the meantime, I’ll be sorting through ways to promote this new book and figure out how I’m going to afford the cost of printing copies, for those who prefer print .. and for The Bequia Bookshop to sell, come tourist season.

I’ve also been helping both Tim Phillips and Michael Fay publish new eBooks through IslandCatEditions and Island Shorts.

And I’m making changes in my head to the third Bequia Perspectives novel, Tropical Paradox. But there’s a great deal of work yet to be done on the manuscript, so don’t expect to hear an announcement about that any time soon!

A PDF of One Woman’s Island is circulating among a few trusted friends/readers (especially those who know Bequia) and I’m hoping for an honest opinion of the book in advance of publishing. I’ll also ask to use any favourable comments in future promotion once the eBook is released. Already I’ve been sent over-the-top comments from one Bequia friend who read a pre-edited version, so I’m hoping other advance readers will be similarly pleased with this new novel. I’m all goose-pimply now, waiting for their comments …

But at least this time I haven’t had to mow the lawn to pass the time, since Dennis has been visiting the trailer. We did decide yesterday to subscribe to the park’s internet service though and, as predicted, I’ve been online pretty much the entire time since we first logged in. So pathetic. One thing is that being online (mostly playing on Facebook) does pass the time. While I wait.

And they do say that good things come to those who wait. Here’s hoping THEY are correct!