Tag Archives: Bequia

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!!

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.)

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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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee

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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: a memoir, a history
by Lewis Buzbee
Published by Graywolf Press
Where to Purchase
(oh, so much more than just a list of links!)

This also is so much more than just a review or a recommendation of a book and why I am posting about it here on my main blog first before reblogging on Reading Recommendations. If you are an author or have worked in any aspect of the book business, you will want to read this book for a better understanding of how books have generally been sold (both to bookstores and through them) over past decades. It will also give you a concise history of the book trade in general – something I’ve railed on about for years! If you want to write and publish a book and then sell copies to readers, you need to know something about the business in order to be successful.

3. Learn something about how the entire publishing and bookselling business works

Recommended Books on the Publishing Business and Book Sales
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson (Hyperion, 2008)
The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 by Roy MacSkimming (McClelland & Stewart, 2007)
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History by Lewis Buzbee (Graywolf Press, 2006)

These reasons alone should be enough to read Lewis Buzbee’s book.
But, in case you need more …

Those of you who have read my bio know that before I began writing and publishing my own books, I spent my entire working life in and around selling books written by other authors and published by traditional publishers. I was a bookseller in Calgary (and even ran my own mail order book business for the few years I lived in Elkford, BC). Then I became a publishers’ sales rep for an agency that sold books for more than 30 Canadian-based publishers. Some of those publishers in turn were agents for US and UK-based publishers. That was from 1989-1994 and my territory was Southern Alberta and Southern Saskatchewan. I left that job to move to the Caribbean. In 2008, I was asked to come back and cover the territory of Alberta for the same agency. Among the books left in storage when I took over this job was Lewis’s. (It had been published in 2006 by Graywolf Press, St. Paul, MN, which was distributed at that time by Vancouver-based Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.) I kept the copy, mainly because it’s a beautiful paperback edition with an attractive cover, the US publisher had always published excellent literature, and the topic – a memoir about the book trade and books – was something that was of immense interest to me. I set the book aside and didn’t get around to actually reading it until after I’d quit my job as a sales rep, for the second time. I was still in the book business, but by that time I worked directly with other authors, concentrating on promoting rather than selling their books.

This book was a personal read for me, because as it turned out, Lewis’s experiences, both as a bookseller and as a sales rep, corresponded and intersected with my own. Lewis never mentions the publisher he represented, but at one point in the book he describes a “heated discussion” he’d had with a bookseller about a particular children’s book – and I realized I had also sold that same book for that particular publisher … and I still have the book in my collection! So it seems we were contemporaries, with Lewis representing in California and me in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

I brought my copy of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop with me to Bequia in October and reread the book a few weeks ago. After that, I contacted with Lewis through social media and told him I would be writing this review. Aside from the professional connection I had with Lewis, I was reminded of how well-written the book is, and how important a book it is for any and all authors to read. I had previously included the title on lists of recommended reading I’d created for authors so they could learn more about the business. Now I’m even more adamant that you seek out and read this book. Here’s the main reason …

When I was a rep and had the opportunity to introduce myself to authors I was representing, they often said, “I didn’t know I had a sales rep.” I always wanted to reply, “How do you think your book has made it onto the shelves of bookstores and libraries?” The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop explains just that, and more. Finally! Sales reps like me had validation after long being the unsung heroes and heroines of the book business! Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away here, but you get the picture. Plus, as being in the business of repping has done for me, with this industry knowledge perhaps you’ll also be able to think of new ways to promote and sell your own books and those of other authors as we lose more and more of the traditional brick and mortar bookstores, and publishers’ sales reps go the way of the dinosaurs.

Aside from the personal aspects of this book, I also enjoyed reading it, twice, because it was so well written and interesting. It will appeal to readers in general and, like me, you’ll likely be checking out and reading the other books Lewis Buzbee has written. Here’s a link to his website. Besides, first and foremost, Lewis is a READER and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is filled with titles and authors’ names and the complete lifelong delight in reading good books. You’ll find yourself making lists.

Thanks, Lewis, for writing such an important book! (And did you also sell Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series?)

My personal copy with that "questionable" rabbit book.

My personal copy with that “questionable” rabbit book.

 

Blood in the Water – with special mention of Bequia!

Tim Baker is a thriller/suspense writer, originally from Rhode Island, who now makes his home in Flagler Beach, Florida, where his series of nine novels is set. Tim is also a DJ on local Flagler Beach radio station, Surf 97.3, that we can pick up online here on Bequia – or anywhere else we happen to be in the world.

14606493_10201994903831284_6754833612505791100_n Tim was one of the first authors I promoted on my blog Reading Recommendations. And I’ve been reading and promoting his novels ever since. As he has done for me. (More importantly, he’s kicked my butt to keep me writing and publishing and I thanked him for that “encouragement” on the Acknowledgements page in my latest novel.)

Tim also shouts me out on his radio programs, mentioning that Dennis and I are listening from Bequia, and playing our favourite music.

I’ve had the great pleasure to beta-read several of Tim’s novels before they were published, and sometimes he even listens to my advice! I read Blood in the Water early last summer and offered my suggestions. Tim ePublished the book in September then printed copies shortly after that. I’ve been in the habit of ordering all print copies from Tim directly, so he signs them to me, and these books are now shelved between Jane Austen and Nick Bantock on the top shelf of my Wall of Words in the Bequia house. Tim offered to mail this new book to me on Bequia, since I’d already left Canada when it became available. I told him it likely would take forever to arrive/or never arrive at all, but I was surprised when the parcel was here within three weeks. Possibly a new record in mail delivery to this little corner of the Caribbean?

Anyway, once we did receive the book, Dennis claimed it to read next, since I had already read the book in beta format. Imagine my surprise when Dennis finished reading yesterday and said, “It was pretty neat that Tim mentioned Bequia in this book.”

Whaaa??? I said. Where was that?

He flipped through the end of the book and pointed to this exchange on p. 183:

“So what will you do now?” Val asked.

“There’s an island in the Grenadines called Bequia. I’m thinking of opening a dive shop there.”

“Sounds like a nice retirement plan,” Val said.

(Reprinted here with permission of the author!)

When I contacted Tim to tell him of our discovery, he said he’d added that after I had read the book as a little surprise. Not only was I surprised, but I was also quite chuffed with this new connection between Tim and me and the books we write.

Not that Tim’s characters haven’t already visited Bequia … In my contribution to Path of a Bullet, an anthology of short stories by Tim and writer-pals that he published in 2014, a few of Tim’s recurring characters, including Ike, visit the island of Bequia. Bequia Blues was written to bring Tim’s characters together in the setting where my novels take place. It was a lot of fun to write!

So … Did Dennis enjoy the book? Here’s his review:

“That was great!”

(He is an engineer, after all, and a man of few words, some of the time. Tim appreciated the comment when I told him.)

As for me, I thought this was the best novel of everything Tim has written – and I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve read. But that was my conclusion long before our discovery of the mention in it of Bequia! Thanks, Tim! Now it’s the BEST BOOK EVER!!!

Well, maybe I exaggerate, but I do highly recommend this, as well as all of Tim’s books. Oh, and you can’t go wrong listening to Tim’s radio programs while you read, either …

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One Woman’s Island … more advance praise!

Thanks so much to Canadian author David A. Poulsen, who has been featured on Reading Recommendations, for the following he has sent after he read an advance copy of my yet-to-be-released Bequia Perspectives novel, One Woman’s Island

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Susan Toy has done it again. The talented author has once more created a stunning collection of sometimes charming, sometimes alarming, never dull characters to populate her latest mystery—One Woman’s Island, set again on the island of Bequia. Both locals and expats grab the reader’s attention and refuse to let go as Toy spins a tale of intrigue, malice and down home suspense.

What Ms. Toy does so well is to give us characters from every strata of society who engage us even as they invite our suspicion. Reading this novel was like standing before a painting by one of the masters, one with dozens of people depicted and as you look at the painting, you are caught up first by this figure, then by that one.

I heartily recommend this novel that takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride through gorgeous landscapes and a unique though often frustrating culture in a story that seldom lets the reader rest and never lets the reader down. Humour, suspense, a thoroughly satisfying narrator—and yes recipes, several of which I can’t wait to try—combine to make this another well-executed work by a skilled craftsperson.

~ David A. Poulsen, author of mystery novels, books for teens, co-author of a cookbook, actor, and award-winning Rodeo Announcer

And, about the publication of that novel, as they say on Bequia … soon come!

Mayaro Virus … as if Chikungunya and Zika weren’t enough!

Thanks to Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge for informing me of the existence of this new mosquito-borne virus recently discovered in Haiti. Mayaro is “closely related to the chikungunya virus” as we discover in this article posted in the MiamiHerald on Sept. 15, 2016: A new mosquito-borne illness has been detected in Haiti.

As most of my readers know, I contracted, and suffered from, the Chikungunya virus in July, 2014. Two years later and I realize I haven’t noticed any further symptoms of late (knock on wood!) but I do know of others who continue to have problems. And, in the meantime, Zika has also swept through the Caribbean. Now there’s another virus to be concerned about, just as I head back to Bequia for the winter. Hoo boy!

I’ve posted a number of articles previously to this blog (scroll down that page for the complete series) about both Chikungunya and Zika and will now be adding this new post to that list. Far from these viruses having run their course, I’ve found a number of readers have been making their way to my blog looking for information and clicked on these articles I’ve written after searching with phrases such as “unable to stand up properly due to chikunguniya” and “no hunger after chikungunya” and “numbness of arm chikangunya or dengue” – and that’s just in the past couple of days!! Over the two years since I began writing about Chikungunya, this topic has been among the most popular of anything I’ve posted. Obviously people are still suffering, and are still having trouble finding answers and treatment.

So I post this new information now, not to be alarmist, but so that people will become better informed as to what’s happening out there. As always, the best cure for any of these viruses is preventing mosquito bites in the first place. So if you are heading to a tropical destination be sure to use repellents and clean up any standing water where mosquitoes love to breed.

Perhaps in the long term, the experts will discover a means of ridding us of these viruses altogether. Let’s hope it happens sooner, and before another virus mutates and develops.

One Woman’s Island – and more comments from advance readers!

About the Bequia Perspectives series of novels …

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

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I am close to finishing preparation of the One Woman’s Island manuscript … Just waiting for a couple of recipes to come in. In the meantime, I have received more praise from advance readers I wish to share with you. This is in addition to earlier blogposts both here and here!

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

I enjoyed your book. While at first I was expecting a murder mystery with interesting characters searching for clues like the last one I read, this one was a book of interesting character development with a side dish of murders. The title definitely fits for several reasons – which you realize as you read/finish.

Joan and Solfrid were delightfully fully developed quickly even though they were not the important characters. Tex and Mariana unfolded much more slowly by design. (She did finally find that one to sit down and talk books with – much to her surprise – and so late). That mysterious story opening finally explained – after you had almost forgotten about it. Clever construction.

This with it’s theme/messages should appear perfectly timed with today’s society. In fact was having a discussion this week with a blogger about well meaning people blundering in and trying to “fix” something without having a clue about the reality of a place or situation. I kept thinking, “She needs to read Susan’s book.” Susan states it so clearly.

Between the recipes, assorted characters, and the universal timeless message, the book should be a winner for book clubs. I will certainly recommend it to a couple once it’s out.

I love your writing style and humor and really appreciate you sending me a copy to read.

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

One Woman’s Island – more advance praise!

As I prepare the manuscript to be sent off for eBook formatting and online sales, I’m also receiving great blurbs about the new novel, One Woman’s Island, from advance readers who offered to write a review for promotion purposes.

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Great news, Susan Toy fans! The long-awaited sequel to her acclaimed novel, Island in the Clouds, has finally arrived. 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

One Woman’s Island blends up a splash of sun and fun, with a hearty dose of reality about island life and its people. Toss in a murder or two and you have the perfect recipe for a memorable visit in paradise. Susan Toy has once again toured us around the island of Bequia, where she’s shown us that all is not as it appears in this lush and tropical setting, and that people often hide their flaws and indiscretions not only from the world, but also from themselves. P.S. I think this book should come with a warning that snacks will be necessary to stave off the hunger incited by the contents!
~ Cheryl Schenk, author of The Stibil Forest Adventures: Little Synni’s Moonlight Mischief

I just finished reading One Woman’s Island and thought it was splendid. Once again, Susan Toy brings the real Bequia to a fictional world and uses that combination to great effect. Toy does a wonderful job with the characters’ emotional lives and backstories, using a certain level of implication about a lot of it, which I always like. This wasn’t just the main character, Mariana’s, romp in Bequia. It was a powerful effort to make sense of her life up till then and to figure out, in many ways, who she really is. It’s a character study and an exploration of a foreign culture, maybe on the order of Under the Tuscan Sun. Congratulations to Susan Toy on another feather in the Bequia Perspectives cap!
~ Kevin Brennan, editor and author of Parts Unknown, Yesterday Road, Occasional Soulmates, Town Father

And here’s the link to a previous review I received from Felicity Harley!

Thanks to all reviewers! I’ll share more reviews and blurbs with you here as I receive them.