Tag Archives: That Last Summer
Mike was born in London in 1957, and brought up in Oxford. He was educated expensively up to the age of 14, at which point he was thrown out of boarding school; this was, he says, a good move from everyone’s point of view. He passed through a number of schools and colleges and became a journalist of sorts, and worked in rock music publishing and as a traffic broadcaster. In 1987 he signed on with VSO, the British equivalent of the Peace Corps, and spent two years in the east of Sudan in the wake of the 1984-85 famine. This led to a book, Even the Dead are Coming, which was eventually published in 2009.
He stayed on the road for many years, living in such diverse countries as Ecuador, Bhutan and Syria. His travels inspired another autobiographical book, The Nine Horizons (2014), and a novel, The Lost Baggage of Silvia Guzmán (2014). He is also the author of Crops and Carbon (2011), a scholarly work on climate change, and a book of novellas, Three Seasons. For the last few years he has been working as an editor in New York.
If memory serves, I first learned of Mike Robbins and his books through a listing on Goodreads. I was interested enough to contact him and ask if he’d like to be promoted on Reading Recommendations. Since then I have read most of what Mike has published and have really enjoyed his writing.
When I contacted Mike by email earlier in the week about this promotion, he told me he was reading my novella, That Last Summer, which made me very happy! I explained that the story was based on my own childhood of spending summers at the family cottage, and he said he’d experienced an Ontario cottage with his family who had travelled to Canada together for his father’s work: “We arrived in Canada in August 1968 and the next weekend a colleague’s son drove us out to their family cottage on a lake west of Ottawa. I remember it very clearly; a “cottage” doesn’t mean quite what it does in England, being made of wood, with the insect screens and the canoe drawn up at the water’s edge. I remember hot summer days but also cooler ones at the end of the season, when the sky was grey and a cold breeze rippled the surface of the water. The lakes always seemed huge; it was my introduction to the sheer size of Ontario. Later we took the train to Winnipeg and it took two days, across endless forests and lakes.” So that was another, and kind of cool!, connection that I now have with Mike Robbins. (Mike directed me to this blog post he wrote of his experience travelling to Canada for that year. Very interesting, and great travel writing!)
And I especially enjoyed this novella by Mike Robbins, his most recent publication …
In the summer of 1976 a young Mike Robbins was startled, as was everyone in
Britain, by a TV programme in which a Welsh hypnotist, Arnall Bloxham, regressed three subjects to their past lives. One had served on a ship of the line in the Napoleonic Wars; another remembered being a hunter-gatherer in the prehistoric Balkans; and another recounted fleeing from a pogrom in medieval York. The programme, The Bloxham Tapes, generated some debate in later years as to what it did and did not prove.
No-one under 50 would remember watching The Bloxham Tapes, and it may not now exist. (An Australian university has a VHS tape, apparently; but those tapes do not always survive so well.) However, Robbins never quite forgot the programme. What happened after death? If you were reborn, would it be as a human again, and if not, why not? Forty years later, stuck on a book that was going too slowly, he broke off to write the novella Dog!, the story of an elderly rescue dog who is not quite what
Dog! isn’t religious. It was the dramatic possibilities that Robbins wanted to explore. What if that pug you saw in the park was actually Henry VIII? It’s actually not a new idea, according to Robbins; he cites Rumer Godden’s first book, Chinese Puzzle, which revolved around a similar idea, and the late James Herbert’s Fluke. But Robbins wanted to have a bit of fun with the concept. The dog’s owner is a cheerful slob called Bazza (the English often abbreviate names into Baz, Caz, etc.), a university lecturer in a provincial English city. When not teaching logical positivism or medieval ontology, Bazza chills with a spliff and a beer or browses porn sites. He’s also adopted an old dog, but finds it dour and unaffectionate. Still, the two of them live together happily enough, despite the dog’s contempt for humans and its habit of licking itself in front of guests. Then a Himalayan monk comes to stay for a few
weeks while teaching courses in the city. He senses at once that there is something strange about the dog. He is right. As the book’s blurb says: “Dog! is a powerful story of love and loss, sin, redemption and dog mess. You’ll never see your pet the same way again.”
What Mike Robbins is working on now: “Since 2011 I have been working on a novel set in postwar Britain, but the research and the writing have both been tough. But it’s half-written now, and I hope I’ll finish it in the next year. I have also nearly completed a collection of “think pieces” and book reviews. Also slated for this year is a Spanish translation of The Lost Baggage of Silvia Guzmán (there is already one of Dog!).
Mike has also offered up to readers a few of his own reading recommendations:
Mike says there’s too much to mention! His best-loved novel of all time is J. B. Priestley’s Bright Day. But he also recommends Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain; a long slow read but the ideas in it are more important than ever. He is also a fan of Rumer Godden and recently wrote on his blog about her life in India. Of more recent books, he’s strongly enjoyed a couple of books by Kevin Brennan, who’s also been featured on Reading Recommendations (and is part of this Authors-Readers International series), and also recommends Alison Layland’s new thriller Riverflow. Finally it’s well worth checking out Rebecca Gransden’s strange and compelling novel anemogram. (sic), and her short-story collection, Rusticles.
For more information about Mike Robbins, his writing, books, book reviews, and travels, please see his website.
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.)
If you have read Island in the Clouds or One Woman’s Island or That Last Summer (or all three!) and enjoyed reading them – but you haven’t yet posted any reviews online, I would appreciate you doing so now, on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, your library’s website, or your own blog. I’m hoping to build up awareness for my writing in general to create a solid fan base in place to do the heavy-lifting of informing and, hopefully, exciting different and new-to-me readers about any future publications. If you have already posted something to do with me or my writing on your own blog I have likely added that link to this page, this page, or this one. If your interview or review are not listed there, please let me know so I can include you.
Now, I know some readers are shy and don’t want their thoughts and opinions posted in public, and especially not online. I appreciate and understand that feeling! If you have read my books though and enjoyed them enough to want to tell me about that enjoyment, then please send me an email (susanmtoy (at) gmail.com). Your review can be as brief as you’d like to make it. And I promise never to divulge your name if you want to remain anonymous, but do let me know if I may post and quote your comments on my blog – without your name attached! – so potential readers have a chance to see what “someone” thinks of my books and my writing. Whatever you decide, please do write and tell me whatever it is that you think. The best way for any author to improve is to listen to comments made by their readers. After all, it’s you we’re writing for in the first place!
What I hope to achieve by all this, of course, is a build-up of word-of-mouth promotion. You who are already satisfied readers will become, I hope, the foot soldiers in my campaign to promote my books. If you DO want me to quote you in future publicity then let me know I may use your name. A review with a real name has so much more credibility, and I’ll be using the best of those as bullets (not real gun bullets, of course!) and endorsements.
The other way for you to become involved in this promotion campaign of mine is by personally telling your friends about my books, and encouraging them to read what I’ve already published. Then, if they like what they read, they will anticipate my future publications. A readership is something we authors build one reader at a time … and by writing books readers enjoy reading.
So thanks to everyone for reading through my post, and for any help you may be able to offer.
And remember … I am but one author out here who is writing and publishing. There are many, many others who can also use a hand in the promotion of their books. Never discount the effect your personal recommendation has on any book you read and enjoy. Please don’t keep that enjoyment to yourself – tell others about it! An author’s success may just depend on your initial recommendation! (I feel so strongly about this concept that I created the Reading Recommendations blog.) And for those of you who would like to take this a step or two further, here are 99 Ways to Spread the Word About a Book You Love.
Thanks for reading – and commenting and reviewing! I could never have come this far without all of you loyal readers, and I appreciate every single one of you!
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:
Thank you to all readers! You are the reason we writers write.
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.
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!
In August this year, I had a great idea … and the very kind Seumas Gallacher allowed me space on his blog to not only write about the GoReadMe! Campaign, but also offered to be the first to have his books promoted using it.
He’s a brave man! While we may not have reached the target of readers we wished to attract within the time period we allowed, there were a fair number of new readers who discovered Gallacher’s books through this promotion, so I was pleased with the response.
I’m back now to do the same for my own writing, since I recently published a new novel in the Bequia Perspectives series. Here’s the background to the idea:
First, let’s go back a little way in time to a blog post I published in March of this year on the perennial subject that’s of interest to all authors – Looking for Readers in All the Right Places. (I had actually blogged about this dilemma a couple of times previous and those links are included in this post. If you are an author looking for readers then I suggest you read about all my previous ideas.)
We’re all familiar with the GoFundMe campaigns. They come in many different guises and are meant to help creators and business people raise the necessary funds required to launch and cover the expenses of producing a project by involving their friends directly in that financing.
So I posed the question, What about setting up a campaign called GoReadMe, and instead of raising money we raise awareness for reading and reading our books in particular?
That’s essentially the idea and how the campaign came to life. Here’s how it works:
We make the announcement that we are beginning a GoReadMe! Campaign for an author and we’re looking for 50 new readers who will “pledge” to read either one of the author’s books or a specific title. Not only will they pledge to read the book themselves, but they’ll also agree to recommend that book to another reader who will join in on the GoReadMe! Campaign. That way, we only need to find 25 unique readers, because those new readers will find the other 25 for us. The campaign lasts a month, during which time the author, and the author’s friends, promote the campaign, and the author keeps a public tally on their blog of the number of people who have pledged, and their names (or those who wish to remain “anonymous”), who have committed to reading a book and finding other new readers for it. Simple!
And, if friends have already read the author’s book(s) but still wish to become involved in the GoReadMe! Campaign, they can help by promoting this idea to their friends, encouraging others to become involved in reading this author’s great books!
In the end, what the “Readers” receive by pledging in this way is a warm/fuzzy feeling of not only discovering and reading a new book by a great author, but also the knowledge that they are helping to promote reading in general by becoming involved in this campaign in particular and encouraging more people to read.
By the way, I believe that the personal recommendation of a book by a friend is a much more effective way (word-of-mouth) of promoting a book than any review on Amazon or Goodreads, so that’s why I’m not suggesting that “write a review” be a requisite for readers pledging to take part in this campaign. No pressure, folks! Just pledge to read the book and find at least one other new reader. What can be simpler than that?
So, without further ado …
Announcing … the GoReadMe! Campaign for Susan M. Toy!
We need 50 people to pledge to read at least one of Susan’s books (listed below) and to recommend to one other reader that they do the same. You have 30 Days during which to pledge. This Campaign ends on Jan. 8, 2017. Please sign up in the comments section of this blog post. Thanks for taking part in this new GoReadMe! Campaign!
(By the way, ALL of my eBooks are available on Overdrive for libraries worldwide. If you prefer to read borrowed eBooks from your local library, you will be doing me a huge favour by recommending the library consider adding my book(s) to their collecction. Thank you!!)
There you have it, Folks! Please consider pledging (below in the comments section) and recommending my books to other readers. Share and retweet this post at will! Let’s try to make this GoReadMe! Campaign idea a “Thing”, okay?
My recent Goodreads Giveaway for 5 copies of my novel, Island in the Clouds, has been a big success, as far as I’m concerned!
797 Readers from 7 countries (Canada, US, GB, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) entered during the 3 weeks this contest ran, and 5 were chosen by the Goodreads Team to receive print copies. I’ll be mailing those books out to the winners in the US (4) and GB (1) on Monday.
There were only a very few Readers who commented on the blog post announcement of this contest. I was running another Giveaway for eBooks there, since we can only give away print copies through Goodreads. So I’ve decided that everyone who commented will win, and I’ll be notifying those commentors about their eBook prizes later today. (Quite frankly, I’m surprised that so few Readers took me up on this offer. Maybe I should have run a contest separate from the Goodreads Giveaway for the eBook versions of my books, but then my experience has been that few people ever comment to enter when these offers are made. Why is that, I wonder …?)
So now we’re down to 4 Reading Recommendations Authors who are still running their Goodreads Giveaways, and I will continue to promote their contests for each of them.
Best of luck to everyone who enters!
I am so pleased that my blog has reached another milestone … (HEY! For me, this is BIG!!!) This calls for a celebration and a giveaway!
To show my appreciation to all the readers who have taken a moment to subscribe to or follow my blog I am going to hold another draw to give away free copies of my two eBooks, Island in the Clouds and That Last Summer, for whichever reading device you own. If you’ve already read both, you may want to give your prize to a friend, should you win. So there’s an incentive for everyone to enter! (At this time, I can only offer free copies of the eBooks, because mailing copies of the print edition would be difficult as I’m here.)
So, if you are currently a subscriber and you would like to enter this contest, please make a comment below. On Feb. 14th, I will make a random selection from those who enter. You may consider this my Valentine’s Day treat for all my readers out there!
And, if you’re not currently a subscriber, you may want to become one now, because I’ll be holding more similar contests as I reach new milestones.
Thanks to everyone in advance for participating in this contest!
But, more importantly, thanks to all 300 of you who have subscribed to my blog over the years. And thanks for continuing to read!! I couldn’t keep doing this without your support!
(And, yes, Tim Baker, I know I’m well over my exclamation point quota on this post!!!)
Over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day St. Vincent & the Grenadines was hit with an unexpected weather system that brought a great deal of rain to all the islands. Especially hard hit though was the main island of St. Vincent where people were swept away by the flood waters (9 dead; 2 still missing), homes and possessions were damaged and destroyed, and a great deal of the country’s infrastructure was damaged. Much of the island was left without power and there is still no working system to provide homes with safe drinking water. I have just received this letter from the Concerned Citizens of Bequia Outreach that outlines exactly what has been going on here, what donations have already been provided, and how much more needs to be done. If you own a home on Bequia or if vacation here regularly, please consider helping on this local level.
If you do not have any connection with St. Vincent & the Grenadines but would still like to help with a monetary donation, please go to the Action Bequia website and tell them you wish your donation be earmarked specifically for the St. Vincent Flood Relief. Action Bequia accepts credit card payments via PayPal from anyone situated overseas.
If you know me personally and would like to make a donation, I am happy to handle that for you. Please send me an email.
And, as an incentive to get some more donations coming in … I will email you copies of both my eBooks – Island in the Clouds and That Last Summer as a gift for making a minimum donation of $15. (CDN, US or equivalent in £,€) (Sorry, but due to the fact that I’m on Bequia at the moment, mailing print copies of Island in the Clouds would be difficult right now, so I’ll have to limit this offer to eBooks only. I may offer copies of the print edition at a later date.) All you have to do to get your eBooks is send me an email telling me that you’ve made a donation, and which type of eReader you own. I will send you the correct files for both. And if you have already read either or both eBooks, you’re welcome to pass these files on to a friend.
Here’s a video from I-Witness News from St. Vincent showing the situation on Christmas Day.
Thank you in advance for your support!
As the Carnies always say, “Step right up! Step right up! Everyone’s a Winner!!!”
And that’s what happened with my recent contest in which all you had to do to enter was write a comment. Easy-Peasy, folks! Six people did just that. They took the time to make a comment and so I decided they would all win! I’m feeling rather generous at the moment, it being the season and all. But I am also very thankful for their support. So Jaclyn, Mandy, Maria, Lockie, Joan, and “Jazzybeatchick” have each won copies of both my eBooks, Island in the Clouds and That Last Summer. Thanks very much to all of you for entering!
As for the rest of you … What are you going to do the next time I run a contest like this on my blog? That’s right! You’re going to enter, because more likely than not I will be feeling overly generous again and EVERYONE will be a winner!!