Tag Archives: Susan M. Toy

Book Reviewers Wanted!

I’m hoping that readers of this blog will take my request seriously and consider reading to write reviews for the more than 150 Authors I’ve promoted on my blog, Reading Recommendations. I posted to that blog today and addressed all the authors there, Reading Recommendations … Spring Cleaning, telling them I’ve cleaned up the lists a bit. I immediately received messages from several of those authors, offering me reciprocal promotion for my own writing, and one also requesting titles he could review.

So I thought I would open this up to everyone, readers included – those who don’t happen to also be authors themselves. I ask that you look through the lists on that blog and consider writing a review of books you may have already read, or let me know if you have written a favourable review of any that I may then repost on the reading recommendations reviewed blog. Or, if you discover an author you’d like to interview or review, let me know and I will help you contact them.

Thanks for any help with this. All we authors need reviews, but most important of all is that we find readers who are interested in reading what we write! If you find some new-to-you authors through this blog of mine then I am very happy indeed!

But if you then tell your friends about this great author and their books, that will be pure magic!!

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.

Sorry, temporarily closed due to Chikungunya Brain …

As my friend, Betty Jane Hegerat has said previously, this is the virus that just keeps on giving … and giving, and giving, it seems. I don’t know if it’s because the weather suddenly turned hot again over the past couple of days, but I had begun to notice that same pain in my shoulder again, which was where the virus began for me in Aug. 2014, and that I was tired, generally achy and headachachy, yet was a total insomniac last night. Then today, I’m scattered (hence the “Chikungunya Brain” in the title) and my eyes are sore and tired.

And it’s not just me! I’ve spoken with 3 others who also had the virus in 2014 who say they’ve noticed symptoms returning lately. Never as bad as when we first had it, but still not pleasant to experience any of this again. Dennis was the one who suggested the return of hot weather may have triggered the symptoms to start up again. He could be right.

While I’m dealing with Chikungunya Brain, I’ll be stepping away from the computer a bit – which may, in fact, be a good thing. I’ve started sorting and packing for my trip back to Canada in April, so I certainly have enough to do otherwise with my time and concentration.

And for those of you who are reading this and saying, “Chikun-what??” here’s a link to the first blog post I wrote about this nasty virus, Chikungunya – you cannot begin to imagine. You’ll find links to the other 11 blog posts I wrote about ChikV here. I had queued up a 13th post with the title, Chikungunya and Zika, they just keep on ticking … way back in early Feb. of this year, but never got around to actually posting that. So here’s the article about Zika that was going to be about.

Finally, I’m sorry to report that I STILL have people finding my blog by using search terms like, “pain and numbness in hands from Chikungunya” and “how long will pain from Chikungunya last?” I find this particularly sad as there’s really no cure for this virus and, as I and my friends are discovering, ChikV will continue to keep on giving, and ticking, and will likely come back to wreak havoc with my shoulder, my muscles, my eyes and my brain for a very long time to come. Urgh!!

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.

Have you read my writing?

I’m just curious as to how many readers have actually read what I’ve written and how many of those readers have read more than just one piece of writing I’ve published so far. So I created this poll and would appreciate it if you would click on whatever you’ve read. And please leave any comments below as well, if you’d like to say something about my writing. I’m all ears!

Here are links to everything listed in the poll:

Island in the Clouds
One Woman’s Island
That Last Summer
Links to 6 Short Stories

Thank you to all readers! You are the reason we writers write.

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!

Do the Right Thing …

I had originally queued up this post with the thought of talking railing on about the seeming lack of compassion, sensitivity, concern – for their fellow human beings and the world at large – I’ve been witnessing for some time now from people everywhere (and not just politicians but also those close to home) who should definitely know better.

I decided instead to give you some examples of the ways average people, no matter what their income or expertise, can help others – even if it’s just a matter of including those others in our lives and making them feel welcome and wanted. I also added a video among these examples about helping the animals of the world, because we do share this planet, you know.

Personally, here are ways I have helped others …

For some years, I have promoted other authors free on my blogs. I’ve given them exposure on social media and encouraged sales of their books, all for no charge. I’ve beta-read, done some pro bono editing, and offered free advice and contact information to those authors who I consider to be good enough to deserve that help. I have also volunteered teaching literacy.

I have donated print books to libraries and those groups that supply reading materials for people who can’t afford to buy books or do not have library access.

I pledge to do more, however, and am considering other ways I can Do the Right Thing that will make a difference in the lives of others around me and elsewhere.

Here are a few examples I’ve gleaned from social media recently (and, yes, two of these videos are commercials for large corporations) that offer ideas of ways in which anyone can help the world become a better place.

From The New York Times, Home Is Where the Resistance Is

The Cat Man of Aleppo

Or maybe it’s just a small matter of Paying It Forward

And this story is about a friend who is an avid gardener as well as someone who constantly looks for ways to help others and contribute to her community, just because that’s the kind of person she is … Last summer, when her own garden was in full bloom, she began cutting the flowers to create bouquets then knocked on doors of houses on her street and gave those neighbours the gift of her flowers. Such a simple act, but one which I’m sure the neighbours, many of whom she’d never actually met prior to doing this, very much appreciated.

I know there are hundreds more examples of people Doing the Right Thing, and some other examples I have are friends of mine. I want to “up” my own personal game though and, as I said above, will pledge to do more. As I think of other ways I can personally make a difference I will add them to my blog.

So, what about you? Do you know of other examples in which people Do the Right Thing? If you are already helping the world in whatever way you can – for free, without an agenda or opportunity for personal financial gain, and not just by donating cash to causes in need, but by actually offering personal help, a hand up, or even simply showing compassion and understanding to your neighbours, colleagues, animals … Please post those examples and ideas below. I would love to hear from you!

And, like me, please consider pledging to do more – even if it’s just a small act of kindness a day. If enough people do the same, we can make a difference in this world. That’s the kind of world in which I, and I’m sure you, as well, would prefer to live.

socialfeed-info-do-the-right-thing-even-when-no-one-is-watching-it-s-called-integrity

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.

burningyears-510

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!

onewomanisland-cover-draft-3

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!!

At which point do you consider yourself to be successful?

(This is primarily meant for authors, but could possibly work for any creatives.)

At what time during the life of your book will you declare yourself to have been successful? Not successful according to others, but according to you – yourself. When will that moment come that you declare yourself to be a success as a writer?

– When your book has sold thousands of copies and is listed everywhere as a big bestseller?

– When you’ve made enough money on sales to have covered any out-of-pocket expenses for publication and compensate for the inordinate time you spent writing the book?

– When your book receives the 50 reviews or 100 reviews required by online sales sites to push it into the next level and generate more sales?

– When many bloggers and online reviewers want to promote you and your book on their sites?

– When you hear privately from friends and family, or even complete strangers, that they have purchased and enjoyed reading your book?

– When you receive reviews and promotional blurbs from advance readers who have enjoyed your book and praise it?

– When you type “Final File Ready For Formatting” and send that off to be professionally formatted, published and made available for public consumption?

– When you push back from the computer after finishing up those final edits of your book and know that you have done everything you could to make this the best book possible … you’ve written the story the way only you can tell it, you’ve had the book professionally edited, the cover has been professionally designed, and your editor and any beta readers who have helped you are in agreement that this is a great book. Is this the moment you consider yourself to be successful?

25-quotes-about-success_1

Now flip my list over and read in reverse order.

If, like me, you can say – honestly – that “when you push back from the computer” is the moment you consider yourself to be successful then you’ll be able to look at the rest of these achievements with great satisfaction, if and when you achieve them. Because while they will show to others that you have reached some level of success, none will ever match that initial success you feel in actually writing and finishing the book! There are so many, many people in the world who, every day, say, “I’m going to write a book. How hard can it be?” You know, after having completed writing a book, exactly how hard it is! But … you were successful in having finished writing and that, to me, is something to celebrate – even if you only celebrate with yourself and in your own mind. No one can ever take away that sense of accomplishment and, once you have completed your great book, there is a terrific amount of satisfaction in having done the very best work that you are capable of doing.

All the rest of the “goals” on this list are icing on the cake, or coloured streamers on the bicycle handles, as JP McLean declares! If you are self-satisfied that you’ve written the best book you can then you will find readers for that book. And the other levels of “success” will follow on. Eventually.

In the meantime, give yourself a satisfied pat on the back!

success-does-not-lie-in-results-but-in-efforts-being-the-best-is-not-so-important-doing-the-best-is-all-that-matters