Tag Archives: Readers
Sharon Clark has lived in Alberta for over 50 years. Born in Medicine Hat to an Air Force father, Sharon moved with her family to a number of bases across Canada during her childhood. She eventually settled in Calgary. The first books she was introduced to in elementary school, the Dick and Jane series, began her lifelong love of reading. As a pre-teen, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Cherry Ames were all favourites that she devoured over summer holidays. At about the age of 13, she submitted comments about an article in a previous issue to Ingenue Magazine. She was thrilled the magazine published what she wrote and this began her love of writing.
Sharon has had four children. Her first book, Not Our Baby was published in 1984 by Detselig Enterprises (now Temerin Books). She wrote it after her first-born child, a boy, died of a brain tumour just before his second birthday. This devastating experience made her want to work in cancer research. So, when her youngest daughter began Grade 1, she returned to university to obtain a degree in Cell, Microbial and Molecular Biology. The degree allowed her to follow her dream and she worked for seventeen years in cancer or immunology labs.
During Sharon’s research career, an idea for a novel formed, persisted and pestered her. Finally, she relented and began writing Timelag, a novel about a researcher who discovers a gene that controls the aging process. Then in order to test the topic’s appeal and her writing abilities, she decided to submit a few chapters to a contest (inspired by Susan Toy) called Coffee Shop Author. She was surprised and thrilled to win second prize, which was a weekend writers’ conference in Fernie, British Columbia. Winning the prize was a validation of the novel’s potential, so she renewed efforts to finish it. Unfortunately, the death of her second child in 2013, her oldest daughter, brought the project to an abrupt halt. The grueling task of writing and editing the novel became impossible.
Yet, keeping her mind busy became imperative to retaining her sanity. Over the next few years, she wrote a series of fun science (nature) and math books for elementary school-aged children. Two of them won Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards and her last book, 11X Magic, also won Finalist in the Book Excellence Awards.
Since retiring from the University of Calgary, Sharon continues to live in Calgary and now spends most of her time marketing her children’s books.
I first met Sharon Clark when she entered Coffee Shop Author the second year the contest ran and won second place. But I had already heard about Sharon and, more importantly, of the strength of her writing, from Betty Jane Hegerat (previously promoted in this A-RI Series) with whom Sharon was studying creative writing at the University of Calgary. Sharon went on after the contest to publish five fun and educational picture books for kids, and has continued to receive recognition for her work through these books. (I really hope Sharon will one day complete her novel Timelag. I want to know how that story ends!)
A Children’s Picture Book That Makes Math exciting by showing some cool secrets
for multiplying by 11
Educational Science (Math) Series
Pinnacle Book Achievement Award
Finalist-Book Excellence Awards
This award-winning book will appeal to any child between the ages of 7 to 10. Inside, a wizard shows the magic of 11X math of one-digit, two-digit and three-digit numbers, by revealing some amazing tricks to help kids find the solutions easily and without the use of a calculator.
Children will be able to amaze friends by obtaining the answers using only mental math. But best of all – kids will see that math can not only be magical, but also FUN!
For information on Sharon Clark’s books and how to order them, please see her website.
Betty Boyd Caroli
A graduate of Oberlin College, Betty Caroli holds a master’s degree in Mass Communications from the Annenberg School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in American Civilization from New York University. A Fulbright scholar to Italy, she also held fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Hoover Presidential Library, the LBJ Foundation, and others. After studying in Salzburg, Austria and Perugia, Italy (but before joining the faculty at the City University of New York), she taught in Palermo and Rome, Italy.
Caroli’s book tour promoting Lady Bird and Lyndon took her to the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas; to Dallas, where she spoke to an audience of 650 as part of the Authors Live! Series; to the Paragraphs Bookstore in Mt. Vernon, Ohio; to audiences in New York City, where she spoke at the 92nd Street Y, the New-York Historical Society, and the NYU Biography Seminar; to Washington, D.C., where she appeared at the National Archives and on Chris Matthews’ Hardball; to Missouri for talks at the St. Louis County Library and the Kansas City Public Library; to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Town Hall in Seattle, Washington; the Atlanta History Center in Georgia, and the Louisville Public Library in Kentucky.
Betty Boyd Caroli is a First Lady biographer and formerly Professor of History at City University of New York. Her previous works include Roosevelt Women, Immigrants Who Returned Home, and Inside the White House.
She currently resides in New York City and Venice, Italy.
And I met Betty Caroli on Bequia, where she, her sister, and both their husbands at one time owned a house together. Recently, Betty has been returning to Bequia every year for a few weeks, and has stayed in a rental house located just below ours, so we’ve managed to keep in touch. Betty’s sister, Lois Boyce, is also a great reader, and whenever we’ve gotten together, especially with Felicity Harley (who I previously promoted on A-RI), we definitely have a lot to talk about! So I am very much looking forward to Betty, Livio, and Lois’s next visit, and I hope we may organize some kind of promotion while Betty is here for we authors and our books. (Maybe this is the perfect opportunity to experiment with that “literary salon podcast” idea I’ve been rolling around in my head …)
Lady Bird and Lyndon
Marriage is the most underreported story in political life, yet it is often the key to its success. Historian Betty Boyd Caroli spent seven years exploring the archives of the LBJ Library, interviewing dozens of people, and mining never-before-released letters between Lady Bird and Lyndon. The result “redefines the First Lady as an iron fist in a white glove” (Vanity Fair) and helps explain how the talented, but flawed Lyndon Baines Johnson ended up making history.
Lady Bird grew up the daughter of a domineering father and a cultured but fragile mother. When a tall, pushy Texan named Lyndon showed up in her life, they married within weeks with a tacit agreement: this highly gifted politician would take her away, and she would save him from his weaknesses. The conventional story goes that Lyndon married Lady Bird for her money and demeaned her by flaunting his many affairs, and that her legacy was protecting the nation’s wildflowers. But Caroli shows that she was also the one who swooped in to make the key call to a donor, to keep the team united, to campaign in hostile territory, and to jump-start Lyndon out of his paralyzing dark moods.
In Lady Bird and Lyndon, Caroli restores Lady Bird to her rightful place in history. But she also tells a love story whose compromises and edifying moments many women will recognize.
This “smartly written…stunning” (The Boston Globe) portrait of Lady Bird as the essential strategist, fundraiser, barnstormer, and ballast for her husband Lyndon offers “a penetrating analysis…of a marriage that paired two complicated but devoted figures, a coupling that changed the face of America” (Richmond Times-Dispatch).
Here’s a video of Betty Caroli speaking about the book, Lady Bird and Lyndon.
Betty Caroli has recently updated and reissued the fifth edition of First Ladies: The Ever Changing Role, published by Oxford University Press. “Betty Boyd Caroli’s engrossing and informative First Ladies is both a captivating read and an essential resource for anyone interested in the role of America’s First Ladies. Caroli observes the role as it has shifted and evolved from ceremonial backdrop to substantive world figure. This expanded and updated fifth edition presents Caroli’s keen political analysis and astute observations of recent developments in First Lady history, including Melania Trump’s reluctance to take on the mantle and former First Lady Hilary Clinton’s recent run for president. Caroli here contributes a new preface and updated chapters.
For more information about Betty Caroli and her books, please see her website
Paul F. Butler
Paul Butler’s fiction is often “historical” in setting but also speaks directly to the twenty-first century whether exploring a Victorian missionary’s desire to replicate his own image in The Good Doctor (2014), the contradictions that lay behind early twentieth century notions of courage and cowardice in Titanic Ashes (2012) or our collective desire to both venerate and scapegoat the memory of woman in NaGeira (2006) in seventeenth century Ireland, England and Newfoundland. Butler’s work has appeared on the judges’ lists for Canada Reads, the Relit Longlist for three consecutive years (2011 for Cupids; 2010 for Hero; and 2009 for 1892), the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards shortlist and he was a winner in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards four times between 2003 and 2008 at which time he retired from the competition to be literary representative, and then chair, of the Arts and Letters Committee. He was born in the UK, emigrated to Canada in 1994, settling in Newfoundland. As an editor and creative writing coach he has for fifteen years run both live and online courses with a special focus on the novel. He recently moved his business, HB Creativity, to Lethbridge, Alberta.
I was the Alberta sales representative for Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press when Paul Butler published his novel Hero. I REALLY enjoyed reading this, at the time, new-to-me author and promoted the novel to my customers like crazy! I enjoyed reading this book so much that I “hand-sold” it not only to my bookstore and library customers, but also other reader friends I knew would enjoy it just as much as I had. When I began promoting Alberta authors directly and kind of lost touch with Paul over the next years. However, when I heard that he was publishing new novels, and re-issuing Hero, I asked if he would like to be promoted on my Reading Recommendations blog. Then Paul moved to Lethbridge, Alberta (but after I had left the province) so he essentially become an Alberta-based author, although one who was still writing novels set in his first Canadian home-province, Newfoundland. He was also offering online novel-writing tutorials (see link below) and consultations for authors wanting to punch their manuscripts into shape and seek publication. So, while I have not yet met Paul Butler in person, I have been reading his new novels he’s published since Hero, and have enjoyed his writing immensely!
Next up is May 2020 with Inanna Publications (who also published The Widow’s Fire in 2017). This one is called Mina’s Child. The ‘Mina’ of the title is Mina Harker (nee Murray) of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The Harkers when we meet them here are a generation older. They have been through the trauma of the Great War and have lost a son, named Quincey after the Texan Quincey Morris who features in Bram Stoker’s Gothic tale. The tale is largely told from Abree Harker’s point of view. Abree, as the title suggests, is daughter to Jonathan and Mina Harker. She has a serious case of survivor guilt at having missed the war which killed her brother, and she is skeptical about her parents’ tale of an evil foreign count or anything that suggests such a clear dividing line between good and evil.
“Mina’s Child imagines a second generation springing from the “heroes” in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In 1921, Mina and Jonathan Harker’s daughter, Abree, a student at King’s College, London, starts to question the extraordinary adventures her parents’ claim to have experienced in England and the Carpathians. Middle-aged Jonathan Harker is haunted by nightmares that Abree assumes to be about her brother, Quincey, killed in the Great War. As the Harkers follow the thread of their unease back to its source, they are haunted by memories of Lucy Westenra, fiancée to Arthur Holmwood, and the manner of Lucy’s death. Having lost her brother, Quincey, in the Great War, Abree refuses to believe in a clear dividing line between good and evil. Abree suspects her parents’ tales of glory hide a profound sense of guilt, particularly about the unexplained death of their friend, Lucy Westenra. The Harkers’ maid, Jenny, it transpires, has reasons of her own to worry about the chaos in her employer’s household. She is carrying Jonathan’s child, but Harker plans to evade all such responsibilities. Jenny, suddenly unleashed as a destructive force against the household, decides to make the Harkers face their hypocrisy.”
Mina’s Child is available for pre-order from Inanna Publications.
Online Novel Writing Tutorial Series – any location: The course is presently full but a limited number of spaces are expected to open up by March 20, 2020. Estimated duration of the course is 8-12 weeks, but pacing is up to your discretion and follows your schedule, providing it takes no more than 12 months (one year) after signup to complete. This can be ideal for those who are working on, or mulling over, a manuscript while traveling or working on other things.
Description: start when you like, work at your own pace and receive extensive evaluation and advice based on your writing. The Online Novel Writing Tutorial Series is designed for writers who want a significant portion of a draft of their novel, or non-fiction project, completed by the end of the course. Feedback will cover all the aspects of plot/structure, narrative style, tense, point of view, dialogue, and we will work on plot development to make sure that you are keeping reader interest. For more details or to register click here.
For more information about Paul Butler, his writing, publications, tutorials, and consultations, please see his website.
Darcie has been a food columnist for the Kelowna Daily Courier and Kamloops This Week as well as The Prairie Post, thepeartree.ca, Calgary Beacon and Surrey Beacon. Darcie’s first book of short fictions, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was published by Thistledown Press in September 2010. As the book was being completed, Susan Musgrave was Darcie’s editor, helping to weed out the flowers (the dandelions stayed). Mennonites Don’t Dance was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Prize and was a runner-up for the 2011 Danuta Gleed Literary Award.
Individual stories published before the book include “Ashes,” which appeared in Half in the Sun: anthology of Mennonite writing (Ronsdale Press), edited by Mennonite poet Elsie K. Neufeld. “Loft” was printed by Rhubarb magazine in January ’08; “Little Lamb” in Prairie Journal, November ’08. “Little Lamb” was also nominated for the McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. “Dandelion Wine” and “Ashes” placed 3rd and 2nd, respectively, in the Okanagan Short Fiction Contest (University of British Columbia-Okanagan).
Born Darcie Coralee Sayler (1974) in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Darcie lived with her mother until she was thirteen, visiting her grandparents on their farm in Schoenfeld, SK, most weekends. She lived with her father in Calgary, then Kelowna, through high school, before marrying her high school sweetheart, Dean Hossack, when she was nineteen. Friesen, her mother’s maiden name, was chosen as a pen name to honour her Mennonite grandparents. She has a sister, Daphne, who’s responsible for a few of the best lines in Mennonites Don’t Dance (though neither sister can remember now which ones they are). The sisters also have a younger brother.
Though Darcie converted to the Seventh Day Adventist religion of her father’s family for several years, she returned to the Mennonite Brethren faith some time after beginning work on the stories in Mennonites Don’t Dance. Being Mennonite, with its accompanying experiences of farm and food, shaped much of the author’s deep faith and love of land (even though she’s never successfully grown anything in dirt). Growing up in cities, Darcie has never had to kill a chicken, though she’s plucked more than a few, and once brought a pig’s snout to school for show and tell.
Mennonites Don’t Dance has been both celebrated and censured in the diverse Mennonite community since its release. For the most part, though, it has been graciously received. When asked whether the stories are, in fact, thinly-veiled memoir, Darcie often replies, cryptically, that, “Sometimes the stories that are most true are also the most fictional.”
I met Dacie Hossack when we were both online students in the Humber School for Writers Programme … but we bonded on the student chat board! Those early exchanges involved discussions about food, specifically white chocolate and berry scones and an exchange of recipes, if I remember correctly. We quickly realized that while we come from different backgrounds, are separated in age by a couple of decades and (at that time) several thousand miles physically – not to mention that Darcie’s writing is leaps-and-bounds more accomplished than mine, we definitely clicked, and became fast friends all those years ago. We didn’t have the opportunity to meet in person until a number of years later, when Darcie published Mennonites Don’t Dance and came to Calgary for promotion. I wrote about that encounter here on my blog in the post, I met my best friend for the first time (which still stands today as the second-most popular post on my blog, after one I wrote on making pizza in a pizza oven …) I also posted a photo essay of that day with writing pals because we met with other authors and did some fun foodie things, like visit a chocolate shop where Darcie posed with the sacks of cocoa beans piled up behind the front counter.
And about that food connection … Darcie and her Chef-Husband were always interested in my food escapades and experiments whenever I was back on Bequia, and I helped when she received a request from a reader for an extra-sour sourdough recipe – then wrote about it on her own food blog, Nice Fat Gurdie!
Mennonites Don’t Dance
This vibrant collection of short fictions explores how families work, how they are torn apart, and, in spite of differences and struggles, brought back together. Darcie Friesen Hossack’s stories in Mennonites Don’t Dance offer an honest, detailed look into the experiences of children—both young and adult — and their parents and grandparents, exploring generational ties, sins, penance and redemption.
Taking place primarily on the Canadian prairies, the families in these stories are confronted by the conflict between tradition and change — one story sees a daughter-in-law’s urban ideals push and pull against a mother’s simple, rural ways, in another, a daughter raised in the Mennonite tradition tries to break free from her upbringing to escape to the city in search of a better life. Children learn the rules of farm life, and parents learn that their decisions, in spite of all good intentions, can carry dire consequences.
Hossack’s talent, honed through education and experience, is showcased in this polished collection, and is reflected in the relatable, realistic characters and situations she creates. The voices in the stories speak about how we measure ourselves in the absence of family, and how the most interesting families are always flawed in some way.
Here’s a link to the review written by Jim Bartley that appeared in The Globe and Mail in Feb. 2011.
What Darcie Hossack is working on now: Darcie’s first (in progress) novel, What Looks In, visits both Mennonite and Seventh Day Adventist faiths, as they clash and intertwine, before and after the loss of a family member. As in Mennonites Don’t Dance, the pages are not without their fill of food.
For information on where to purchase Darcie Hossack’s book, please click on the Thistledown Press website.
On Nov. 29, 2019, I posted to this blog about a new author promotion series I was creating that would run every day throughout the month of Dec. featuring authors I had met (either in person or online) or worked with over the course of my book-business career, and these posts would – hopefully – attract a much-wider, and international-in-scope, readership for everyone involved in the promotion.
Here’s the complete alphabetical list of all authors promoted during the month.
Well, the response to the blog posts far exceeded my expectations! And I know that most of the authors I promoted were thrilled with the exposure they received … because they told me, on social media, in private messages, in emails, and by sharing their posts and those of the other authors with their own readers. My blog stats were WAYYYYY UP over the month of Dec. (Of course, I hadn’t been blogging much at all before I began this series, but the increase in numbers of people reading posts, “liking” them, commenting on them, and sharing increased by great numbers, and, most importantly, attracted a huge number of international readers and from countries that had never paid any previous attention to me or to my blog. This is excellent news not only for me, but for all the authors who I promoted during the month.
I plan to add information about nationalities and where they are living now to the list of authors already promoted. The vast majority of authors I know are Canadian, of course, because that’s where I worked most of my life. But a number of those Canadian authors were not born in Canada, and I’ve met many more authors since that time who reside in other countries, and not just the US and UK either. So those authors and their readers are attracting more international attention to the Canadian authors … and vice versa. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
I was able to check the stats of where people are clicking from whenever they come to my blog and, aside from the few spam comments originating in small African nations that I had to delete, here’s a list of the countries where readers are situated:
Canada, US and UK had far-and-away the largest numbers, and always in that order. But there were also significant numbers (in alphabetical order) from: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Eremites, Uzbekistan.
**Since this post was published, I’ve had hits on my blog from more countries:
Djibouti, Grenada, Peru, Sweden, Venezuela
So, 55 countries altogether! A few were one-offs, but there were multiple clicks for many of these countries over the course of the promotion. The other point I want to mention is that, in the majority of these countries, English is a second language. Even though the majority of authors I promoted so far in this series are English-speaking and write in English, and most of their books have not been translated into other languages, they are still attracting attention from many other places where English is not necessarily the lingua franca. Very interesting, I thought.
Anyway, all-in-all I consider this promotion to have been a success! I hope all the Authors and Readers agree with me! And I plan to continue with it – although not at the frenetic pace of posting one-a-day promotions! I will be posting twice a week now and into the foreseeable future. I know even more authors than those I’ve already promoted, and I’ve sent out notification the the first ten in that list and will begin posting again on Thurs. Jan. 9th and every Monday and Thursday after that.
So … stay tuned! And the very best way to do that, of course, is by subscribing to this blog and signing up in the right-hand column to receive email notification whenever I publish a new post. Or by following me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks again to all the Authors and Readers who have been enthusiastically supporting this series so far! You have truly put the “International” into Authors-Readers International!
(Readers … if you do not see your country listed above, please post a comment below and tell me where you are located.)
This promotion post is dedicated to the memory of my sister, Betty Bridgman, an avid reader all her life, an enthusiastic supporter of my writing and publishing career, and one of my biggest fans.
Susan M. Toy
I have been a bookseller, an award-winning publishing sales representative, a literacy teacher, and a promoter of fellow authors and their books through my company, Alberta Books Canada. I am also an author and publisher, under my imprints, IslandCatEditions and IslandShorts. Through Alberta Books Canada, I represented authors directly, helping them find promotion for themselves and their books, seeking out new readers, and assisting them in making wise career decisions.
I championed Alberta authors in particular, singing their praises throughout the province and online to the rest of the world, and displayed books for authors and publishers at Alberta library conferences. I continue to promote authors and good books in general, throughout the world and online, with my blog, Reading Recommendations. I created the writing contest, Coffee Shop Author, have sat on the Board of Directors of the Fernie Writers’ Conference, served as a member of the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program steering committee, and was a member of the board of directors for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. I now concentrate on my own writing and publishing, dividing my time between Canada and my home in the Caribbean.
For as long as I know myself … as they say on Bequia, I have been a reader and wanted to be a writer. I was fortunate to have been born in Toronto, in The Beach neighbourhood, where the Toronto Public Library branch was a short walk along Queen Street from our house and only a block away from my grandparents’ house. My mother was an immigrant, along with my grandparents, and spoke and read and wrote in three languages – English, French and Flemish. She wasn’t highly educated, having to leave Grade 9 (at Jarvis Collegiate) due to her health, but she had one more grade of education than Dad, who had to leave school during the depression to work and make money for his family. By the time I came along in 1953, my parents were doing much better financially and, with the help of Grandma, were able to buy a house in The Beach and a cottage north of Toronto on South Lake near Minden. I remember my mother reading books, when she wasn’t knitting, and I have a distinct memory of her standing next to the running washing machine reading a very thumbed-through paperback while she waited for the wash cycle to end. It wasn’t until much later, when I could read myself, that I realized the book was the 1957 novel Mandingo – quite racy at the time! Dad read the newspaper. Every day. And summers spent up at the cottage were filled with long and lazy days of reading books. My younger sister and I were allowed to buy a new comic book every Saturday when we went into town for groceries. I always bought Classics Illustrated, and I still have some of those in my own library! Another book I’ve kept with me since winning it in 1967 upon graduation from Glen Ames Senior Public, is a thesaurus. I’m thinking now that my teachers at the time must have known something more about me than I knew of myself …
In high school, a few of my teachers were extremely influential in my decision to study English Literature at Queen’s University at Kingston. I tried my hand at creative writing both in high school and university, but didn’t get far with that then.
And I also became just slightly distracted by this guy … who has always built bookshelves for me in every place we’ve lived. In a final seminar class my last year at Queen’s, I was the only student who turned up, so the professor and I had a lengthy private chat. He asked what I planned to do with my degree in English. “Oh, probably work in a bookstore,” I told him. And, within days of moving out to Calgary with Dennis in 1978, I managed to land a job – the only one I applied to! – and began working in … a bookstore! And I never looked back. My entire working career has been concentrated on selling books in stores (and my own mail order business, End of the Road Books!), representing publishers to booksellers and libraries, promoting authors, hanging out with authors, organizing and attending “book things” as Dennis always called the many events that were held, giving talks about authors and their books, speaking about promoting books and authors, and then writing and publishing my own books and also publishing books by other authors. Oh, and READING BOOKS! It’s been a totally satisfying life for this particular book-lover, let me tell you!
So this current promotion of authors who I’ve met and/or worked with along the way during my career is a continuation of my belief that we are all in this game together, and we need to be cognoscente of the fact that, if we expose our own readers to the work of other authors, we will broaden the entire reader-base for books in general. The difference in this current Authors-Readers International promotion is the “International” bit. I’ve set my sights on worldwide domination of the book world! (Just kidding! But it does sound like a pretty cool aspiration, doesn’t it?)
That Last Summer
I’m listing here the novella I wrote and published as an eBook only in 2013, because the story is based on a summer during the 60s at a cottage that is quite similar to the one my family owned for more than forty years.
I have also written and published two novels in the Bequia Perspectives series so far: Island in the Clouds and One Woman’s Island. I am currently working on writing two more novels in this series as well as a collection of short stories and novellas.
For more information about Susan M. Toy, her writing, books, publishing, other blogs, and promotion of other authors, please see her website. (Actually, it’s THIS website! So you can just click on any of the pages listed at the top of this post.)
It would be nice if I had somebody else to write it for me, but sadly I can’t afford such luxuries yet. I suppose I could have written it in the third person, talking about myself as if I were not me…but I am me so I just couldn’t do it.
Anyway, I was born and raised in Warwick, Rhode Island. I’m old enough to remember Get Smart, The Flintstones and Hogan’s Heroes when they were on in prime-time. I moved to Palm Coast, Florida in 2006 and I love it here. Before I moved, my older brother suggested I visit Florida in August to make sure I could handle the heat. I told him if I never have to hear the words “the high temperature today will be six” I can handle all the heat in the world.
I am the fifth child of seven, I have a sweet tooth (at least that’s what people tell me – I don’t see it, myself), I’m a Libra and I’m left-handed (all the great ones are!). My favorite movie is Jaws, I believe that Adam West is the ONLY Batman and I think shoes and neckties should be issued only as forms of corporal punishment.
I love music – all kinds of music. Having four older brothers, all teenagers during the sixties, I was raised listening to The Beatles. I was the only kid in the 3rd grade to know who Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jimi Hendrix were.
I am a lifetime member of Red Sox Nation (sort of mandatory if you’re a member of my family). I have played just about every sport you can play at some level or another. I hold a Black Belt in Kenpo (Nick Cerio’s Kenpo – Rest in Peace Professor Cerio) and I taught martial arts for two years before moving to Florida.
In 1992 I read a small article in the local paper about an organization called Guiding Eyes for the Blind looking for volunteer puppy raisers. It took me all of about 12 seconds to decide to call the number and for the next eight years I raised and socialized puppies as potential Guide Dogs (part of the story behind the “Blindogg” moniker).
I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, but it wasn’t until 1988 that I actually tried to write something. It was a story called Full Circle and I managed to write about 15 chapters before I put it aside (temporarily).
About a year after I moved to Florida I had a dream about two old friends. It was, like most dreams, very bizarre. The next day I couldn’t get the dream out of my head…it was such a strange little vignette that I felt compelled to figure out “the rest of the story”. When I got home that night I sat down in front of the computer and began writing the story down. I began with the words “The whole thing started with a dream.”
Six or seven months later I had a first draft and after a year it was a completed manuscript, which would become my first novel, Living the Dream.
Before it was even published I began writing my second, Water Hazard, and I haven’t stopped since. I have even completed (re-written is probably a more accurate word) Full Circle!
This is the cover that attracted me to Tim Baker and his writing in the first place! I don’t know why it popped up in my newsfeed on Facebook – I’d never heard of this Florida-based author and we didn’t have any mutual friends online. It must have been kismet! I sent Tim a message about how much I liked the photo on the cover, that the book was obviously set in a tropical place – MY novel was set in a tropical place!! – and Tim accepted my friend request. What also interested me about Tim was that he was trying some different methods of publicizing and marketing his books, so we talked about that. Then he began his career as a DJ on Surf 97.3 Flagler Beach Radio and was co-hosting a weekly show on writing and writers. I was able to listen in online while living on Bequia (which was kind of cool at the time when you think of it) and I was hooked! That show didn’t last long, but it gave me the idea to create the blog Reading Recommendations to give (mainly indie) authors some much-needed promotion. Tim Baker was the second author I promoted on the site and he’s been back for many more visits since that time.
I’ve read (almost) everything Tim has written and published, and own just about every book in paperback editions (and even have a couple of promotional T-shirts and Blindogg Books stickers and beer koozies!). Tim’s books are in residence on both my Bequia and trailer bookshelves. I’ve been a beta-reader, and even at times an editor, for a number of his books and usually know ahead of time what he is working on at any given moment. Then when the new books are released, I help by promoting them online and recommending them to my friends in Canada. In turn, Tim has helped me with my own writing and publishing by sending me a “digital” swift kick in the butt whenever I procrastinate – which is far too often, I’m afraid. Possibly more important to me, however, is the connection we’ve had through music since he became a regular Friday night music DJ on Surf 97.3 and plays all the music Dennis and I love to hear. Many a Friday evening we’ve spend here on the verandah on Bequia listening to great music, while I chat with Our Own Personal DJ on Facebook, sending him requests, or making comments from the cheap seats. Cool, because he knows what we like! When he learned of my life-long love of the Beach Boys, as well as The Beatles and Van Morrison, Tim sent me this photo taken in the Surf studio …
My short story, Bequia Blues, was also included in the anthology, Path of a Bullet. Tim wrote short stories of his own then invited several of his friends to contribute. He edited and published this book of stories that all involve his main character, Ike! (In my story, Ike comes to Bequia!)
Tim Baker is also the only person I know who ever came up with this brilliantly unique way of “displaying” all his own favourite album covers – or CDs in this case. Pelican Floor Coatings of Flagler Beach created the coolest floor ever in Tim’s sunroom …
I would love to do something similar in my own trailer’s sunroom, but … with BOOK covers! What do you think, Pelican Floor Coatings? Are you up for a trip to Canada?
And here is what Tim Baker is up to right now: “Over the Xmas vacation I finally got my self back to work on finishing my latest WIP Rising Tide – I am hoping to have it to the editor in February which would mean a March or April release. I also have two more story ideas on tap and am going to make a concerted effort to release at least one of them in 2020 which would be the first time since 2012 that I released more than one book in a year.”
For more information about Tim Baker, his writing and books, and his music and DJing, please see his website and blog.
And … just like an end-of-year miracle, what appears but a brand new blog post from Tim Baker today!
Tim Baker has been featured many times on my blog Reading Recommendations since the first time in Nov. 2013.
JP (Jo-Anne) McLean is a contemporary fantasy and thriller author best known for The Gift Legacy series. The first book of the series received Honourable Mention at the 2016 Whistler Independent Book Awards. Reviewers call the series addictive, smart and fun. Her books include endorsements from award-winning author Jennifer Manuel and bestselling authors, Elinor Florence and Kristina Stanley. The series has been described as fantasy light and is a good introduction to the genre for the uninitiated.
In 2016, JP’s body of work was included in the centennial anthology of the Comox Valley Writers Society, Writers & Books: Comox Valley 1865–2015. She is a member of the Federation of BC Writers and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Her articles have appeared in WordWorks Magazine, Wellness and Writing hosted by Colleen M Story, Mystery Mondays blog hosted by Kristina Stanley, and others.
Jo-Anne holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener and a voracious reader. She had a successful career in Human Resources before turning her attention to writing.
JP (Jo-Anne) McLean lives on Denman Island, nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Raised in Toronto, Ontario, JP has lived in various parts of North America from Mexico and Arizona to Alberta and Ontario before settling on Canada’s west coast.
I have only ever met JP McLean online, but that was when I first set up the Reading Recommendations blog in late 2013, and Jo-Anne has been a stalwart supporter of me and the many other authors we’ve met online since then. Plus she’s an excellent writer! I’ve read almost all of the books she’s published so far. We also share the background of growing up in Ontario and spending summers at a family cottage north of Toronto. That’s why I particularly appreciated Jo-Anne’s review of my novella That Last Summer on Goodreads … she gets it! Some day, Jo-Anne, we will be in Ontario at the same time and will finally meet in person. In the meantime, let’s continue sending each other photos of the view from our respective deck/verandah!
The Gift Legacy
I didn’t start out to write a series. My intention was to write a one-off book. But after I finished writing the first novel, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters or their story lines. I knew they had legs. Before long, I was back at my keyboard. Soon I had a rough outline for two more books. At that point, the first book hadn’t yet been published, so I decided to call the series a trilogy.
However, after I finished writing the second book and was halfway through writing the third, I knew that Emelynn’s story would breach the trilogy framework. The fourth book put the final nail in the trilogy coffin and I renamed it The Gift Legacy. There are now six books in the series and one book in The Companion series. At this point, no more books in this series are “planned” but you know how well my best laid plans turn out.
A brief summary of the series: The Gift Legacy is a contemporary fantasy series set on the coast of British Columbia. It’s the story of Emelynn Taylor. She’s struggling to live with a mistake she made many years earlier. That mistake was accepting a gift from a stranger; a gift that develops into unpredictable episodes of weightlessness that send her skyward in terrifying uncontrolled flights.
Recently, JP McLean has completely redesigned her website and, if you sign up for her newsletters, you may also download free eBooks as she makes them available. So far I have received copies of Boone Park and Ghost Crimes. Click here to find out how you may also receive newsletters and free stories from JP McLean!
For more information about JP McLean, her books and writing, please click on this link to her website.
Don Gillmor is a Canadian journalist, novelist, historian and writer of children’s books, and is the recipient of many awards for this journalism and fiction.
Gillmor’s writing has appeared in Saturday Night, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Rolling Stone, GQ, National Geographic, Toronto Life and The Walrus, where he worked as senior editor. He also served on the faculty of the Literary Journalism Program at the Banff Centre.
Gillmor’s magazine writing has earned him three gold and seven silver Canadian National Magazine Awards, and he has been called “one of Canada’s most celebrated profile writers”. In 2014, he won a National Newspaper Award for an article on baby boomers and suicide.
Gillmor is the author of three works of fiction: Kanata (2009), a Canadian historical epic, Mount Pleasant (2013), a comic novel about debt and Long Change (2015), which explores the life of an oilman (Gillmor worked on an oil rig in the late 1970s). He’s also written five books of non-fiction, including the two-volume work Canada: A People’s History, which accompanied the award-winning television program of the same name, and won the 2001 Libris Award for non-fiction book of the year.] Among his nine children’s books are Yuck, A Love Story (2000), which won the 2000 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature, and The Fabulous Song (1996), which won the Mr. Christie Book Award.
Gillmor graduated from the University of Calgary with a B.A. in 1977. He currently resides in Toronto.
In 2019 he won the Governor General’s Award for English-language non-fiction for his book To the River: Losing My Brother.
Long before I ever met Don Gillmor, even before his own writing and publishing career began, I was friends with his mother, Donna Gillmour. When I moved to Calgary in 1978 and began working in a bookstore, Donna was one of the first sales reps who came to see me, and we became good friends, surviving through my several moves of houses and bookstores over that next decade. I also got to know Don’s father Doug during that time, but never actually met “Donnie” as his mother referred to him. Then when Donna decided to retire from repping she recommended me to replace her, and I will be forever grateful for her confidence in me! Donna didn’t retire completely from the business, though, as she partnered with Marilyn Wood to offer publicity services in Calgary for all the publishers. I got to meet a great number of authors who I didn’t necessarily represent, all because of my close connection with Donna and Marilyn. I was a sales rep for Groundwood Books when they published Don Gillmor’s children’s book, The Trouble With Justine. Still, in all that time, I never met Don. I’d hear about him – a lot! – because his parents were understandably proud of his achievements, and I also heard many of the family stories and about a few of his “escapades” while he was growing up. Donna particularly laughed when she told me about an article Don had just published in one of the Canadian magazines that was about wanting cowboy boots when he was a kid. His mother had bought him saddle shoes by mistake, thinking “cowboy/saddle” – same thing! Oh, the embarrassment! So Don hid those shoes in the one place he knew his mother would never look … the vacuum cleaner box! (I always loved that story, but especially for the way Donna told me about it, and how she laughed over that clever son who had known her so well.)
So, even after a decades-long friendship with his parents, I never got to meet Don in person until we were both in Calgary at the same time for Canadian Thanksgiving, Oct. 2015 – me to speak at the library and he as a guest at Wordfest for his novel, Long Change. I was invited to join the Gillmor family and their friends for a wonderful dinner … and I had the chance to meet and speak with Don, finally!
Then this past May when I returned to Calgary to take care of some personal business there, I was unable to connect with Donna and Doug. Their phone number had been disconnected and I couldn’t find a new listing for them. I had dinner with my good friend Judy Gardner, another long-time friend from the book business who knew the Gillmors well, and we spoke of the family. Judy handed me a hardcover copy of the new book Don had just published and I took it back with me to Ontario. I cried when I read this exploration of his brother’s suicide, because really, for me, this was the story of his family, people who I had known so well and for such a long time. This account was so well-written that I predicted at the time it would win prizes, so I was not at all surprised when Don received the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction. For me though, what I loved most about this book is how I was able to reconnect, through the story, with people who had been a big part of my life. Thanks for that, Don!
To the River
The Governor General’s Literary award-winning exploration of suicide in which one of Canada’s most gifted writers attempts to understand why his brother took his own life. Which leads him to another powerful question: Why are boomers killing themselves at a far greater rate than the Silent Generation before them or the generations that have followed?
In the spring of 2006, Don Gillmor travelled to Whitehorse to reconstruct the last days of his brother, David, a talented musician whose truck and cowboy hat had been found at the edge of the Yukon River. David’s family, his wife and his friends had different theories about his disappearance. Some thought he had run away; some thought he’d met with foul play; but most believed that David, who at forty-eight was about to give up the night life for a day job, had intentionally walked into the water. Just as Don was about to paddle the river looking for traces, David’s body was recovered. And Don’s canoe trip turned into an act of remembrance and mourning.
Though David could now be laid to rest, there was no rest for his survivors. In this tender, probing, surprising work, Don Gillmor helps those left behind understand why people kill themselves and how to live with the aftermath. And he asks why, for the first time, it’s not the teenaged or the elderly who have the highest suicide rate, but the middle aged. Especially men.
For more information about Don Gillmor, his writing, journalism, and his books, please see his website.
Don Gillmor was featured once on my Reading Recommendations blog in Oct. of 2015.
Sharon Butala is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, numerous essays and articles, some poetry and five produced plays. She published her first novel in 1984, Country of the Heart, which was nominated for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, followed closely by a collection of short stories, Queen of the Headaches (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award). She was born in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan, she taught English in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. She eventually returned to Saskatoon, before moving near Eastend, Saskatchewan, to live on her husband, Peter Butala’s ranch. Since her husband’s death in 2007 and after 33 years on the land, Sharon now lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta.
In the last few years her interest has turned to the lives of aging people, and to the condition of being old in this society, and inevitably, to the issue of ageism and how it blights the lives of those advanced in years, but still very much alive and capable, and also, how society is greatly diminished by its unwillingness to accept aging and the aged. Beginning with a “Walrus Talk” on ageism in 2017, she is in demand to give talks on these subjects, which inevitably also touch on grief and loss, as well as on the richness of the inner lives of the thoughtful old, and the gifts they have to offer others and to society.
The first time I met Sharon Butala was in 1992 when I was her sales rep for the book Harvest: A Celebration of Harvest on the Canadian Prairies published by Fifth House. Sharon was invited to attend my Canadian Day presentations I gave in Regina for the benefit of my customers, the booksellers and librarians in Southern Saskatchewan. Gail Bowen also took part in this same event. After that time Sharon went on to write and publish many more books, but unfortunately for me none were published by companies I represented. It wasn’t until we were both living in Calgary again that we reconnected. I’ve been doing some promotion for Sharon (see below for her listings on Reading Recommendations) over the past few years, and I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve read that she’s been publishing. But I absolutely loved reading Sharon Butala’s latest collection of short stories, Sound of Fury and Wonder because, as a woman in her (now) senior years, it spoke to me. And I have so many friends who are of the same vintage and would “get” the stories and characters in this book. I want them all to read this! It’s a book I would also like to put into the hands of those who are not older women, so I could say to them, “Read this. Understand us and know that this is who we are and this is how we feel.” Thank you, Sharon, for speaking so eloquently for us about all our lives.
Season of Fury and Wonder
“Crone lit” stories that are examples of the wisdom and insights of older women and at the same time tributes to the classic literature that inspired them.
“There are things that it is impossible to learn when you are young, no matter how much you read and study.” The season of fury and wonder, in Sharon Butala’s world, is the old age of women. These stories present the lives of old women – women of experience, who’ve seen much of life, who’ve tasted of its sweetness and its bitter possibilities, and have developed opinions and come to conclusions about what it all amounts to. These are stories of today’s old women, who understand that they have been created by their pasts.
Not content to rest on her considerable literary laurels, Sharon Butala continues to push the boundaries of her art. The stories in Season of Fury and Wonder are all reactions to other, classic, works of literature that she has encountered and admired. These stories are, in their various ways, inspired by and tributes to works by the likes of Raymond Carver, Willa Cather, James Joyce, Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Conner, John Cheever, Alan Sillitoe, Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brien, Edgar Allan Poe and Anton Checkov.
For more information about Sharon Butala, her writing and her books, please see her website.