Tag Archives: Tim Baker

Blood in the Water – with special mention of Bequia!

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

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

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

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

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

Whaaa??? I said. Where was that?

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

“So what will you do now?” Val asked.

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

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

(Reprinted here with permission of the author!)

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

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

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

“That was great!”

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

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

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

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Dear Writer … it’s not all about you, ya know! – Reminder #5

In marketing, it’s said that a message must be repeated 7 times before people take action. Writers, here’s your #5 reminder …

I was going to write a blog post about social media and how I’ve been paring down my use of it, because I’m finding it to be not all that social or the best media for me at the moment. After discussing with a fellow author how disappointing Twitter is (and she cleverly described T. as “like a 4-lane highway at rush hour with cars bumper-to-bumper. It makes me nervous”), I realized what bothers me isn’t not being able to navigate and use Twitter properly, but more the barrage of Tweeps who constantly tweet: Look at me! Aren’t I clever! Buy my book!

Now I’m not saying that I don’t do some self-promotion on there, but I do try to balance that with tweets of value to others, including promoting fellow authors. And I also offer, up front in my profile, what I am prepared do for other Tweeps. Most authors who have been following me lately have just listed their “bestselling” book that was recently published (how can anything be bestselling if it’s just been released? I ask), and nothing at all as to what value they bring to me in my following them. I reached the 2000 following limit the other day, so I’m now winnowing out those guilty people and looking for Tweeps who are truly interesting.

I’m not all about the numbers, you see. I’d rather have fewer friends/followers I can truly count on with whom I can have an actual dialogue on Twitter and Facebook. And no one is holding a gun to my head forcing me to use either Twitter or Facebook. If I don’t like what’s going on there, I can always use them less or just drop out altogether. No point in complaining about them, really.

So that, in a nutshell is my rant about social media.

But this had me thinking about another blog post I published, first on Aug. 16th, 2013, then reblogged on Oct. 24, 2013, and which I believe is due for a reprise here, because this all needs to be said until authors do get it and start promoting more than just themselves …

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I completed a sentence that had been posted by a writing-related Page on Facebook: What I like most about writing is …

I answered with, “when a reader enjoys what I’ve written,” because that’s why we all write in the first place. Right? So readers will read, and be affected by, what we’ve written. The bonus comes when they tell us this is the case. If that’s not why we write then we might as well just maintain locked journals and diaries. Or burn everything we write.

I was the first to reply to this, so it wasn’t until I went back to the Page a day later that I noticed mine was the only comment that took readers into consideration. For the rest of the people posting – and there were very many! – it was all about them.

When I write The End.

When my writing goes well for the day.

When I sell a lot of copies.

You get the picture. It scares me that so many writers are that self-centred they can’t see the real value to writing anything is to move, to entertain, to persuade, to get a reaction, and just have their writing read. (And it doesn’t matter here whether the reader actually purchased a copy, downloaded it for free, or borrowed your book from the library – as long as they’re reading. We’re not talking about making big bucks from writing and that that should be the reason we write, because I think everyone realizes there’s very little money to be made from writing books. And, if you don’t realize that then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell to you … )

I know the vast majority of those who posted in reply to that original sentence will become published authors, or most likely will become self-published authors. I’m a self-published author. Unfortunately, most of those commentors will become the brand of self-published author we’ve all come to know and despise – The Self-Promoting Self-Published Author You know the ones – they spam you and mention their book, and only their book, every chance they get, and wonder why no one is buying. They never seem to wonder why no one is reading; they’re only interested in the money they’re not making.

So we end up with articles like this by Michael Kozlowski on GoodEReader: Self-Published Authors Are Destroying Literature. ALL self-published authors are painted with the same brush, because too many are making nuisances of themselves. I have stopped following and friending any author who only talks about themselves and their own book in social media. I will not follow anyone whose Twitter bio is only about their own book and not about any of the benefits they can offer to me – like, that they’re a READER, or a librarian, or a bookseller or someone else with a vested interest in books in general.

Sure, I want to know you’re a writer, but I also want to know that you read and will promote books by other authors. I will be more inclined to look at your website, in that case, check out what you’ve written, and – here’s the clincher … Help you to promote that book of yours by telling my friends about it, if I enjoy reading what you’ve written.

Now we’ve come full circle as to why readers’ enjoyment in our writing should be of the utmost importance to all writers and authors. If readers like what they read they will share it with their friends. The very best promotion anyone can ever ask for is word-of-mouth, because it means our readers are endorsing us and want to share our work with their friends, and it’s not just us blowing our own horns all the time. Word-of-mouth is also the most flattering form of promotion, far better than any review in a newspaper most new readers will never see. And it gets rid of any perceived need to self-promote, ad nauseum.

This word-of-mouth business doesn’t just happen overnight, either, so I suggest that, along with restraint, writers and authors need to learn to be patient. I first published my eBook in Feb. 2012 and the print edition in June of that year, and I’m still finding new readers who haven’t previously heard of me or my book. But I’ve been quietly making connections here and there and one thing has been leading to another, so I’m very pleased with the readership base I’ve developed, and how many of those people have asked when the next book will be available. I keep writing, and I continue to publish the work of other writers and help them promote their work. And I’ve tried to do it in a way that, I hope, has been helpful to other writers/authors and their readers by not making it all about me and my book.

I’ve recently “met” online a couple of other self-published authors. (I read and enjoyed their books, wrote reviews, and heard back from them both. We’ve made a connection and are now discussing promoting and promotion and I believe some good things are going to be coming out of this that will benefit all of us.) I’ve made the suggestion to one of these authors that, if every writer/author out there were to help five others promote their work (so for every tweet about their own book they would tweet five times about five different authors) this would be a wonderful world! You must have read something recently that you want to talk about to everyone you know. Maybe you’ve discovered a new writer whose book you just couldn’t put down, or perhaps you have a writer friend who is struggling to get the word out, because they don’t have as many friends on Facebook as you do. It could also be an established author whose work you admire. Even established authors still need promotion, after all.

So I’m putting my money where my typing fingers are and am proposing to begin promoting five other authors myself. This was my business, after all, when I ran Alberta Books Canada. One of the authors I promoted then said that if I could find new readers for his writing he would be happy, so that became my mandate – finding new readers. At that time, I was working to promote many authors, primarily to libraries, and the authors paid me for displaying their books at conferences. What I propose now is to promote books by authors because it’s a good thing to do! If I promote these authors now, somewhere down the line someone else will promote my book. And all of this promotion will be done for free with no expectation of receiving anything in return. After all, what goes around, comes around. That’s Karma, man!

Please join me! (Readers, you too can get in on this idea …) If you know of a deserving book, tell your friends about it. Write a review, mention in your status update, Tweet about it. (As Tim Baker said in a recent blog post, Write a Review — Independent Authors Everywhere Will Thank You) Do that for five authors for a while. Then change over to another five authors. And continue. Your friends will be grateful for the reading recommendations. The authors will be grateful for the promotion.

And … it won’t be all about you any longer, so your friends will begin to return.

(Since Nov. 18, 2013, I have followed my own advice and began publishing a promotion blog, Reading Recommendations and a blog of reviews of Reading Recommendations-promoted Authors, reading recommendations reviewed. Check them out!)

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A Tail (ahem!) Tale of 5 Self-Published Books …

Recently I read 5 self-published eBooks—all good books in their own way—but 4 of these suffered from “problems” that in my estimation could have been easily rectified. As it was, these problems were enough to diminish my satisfaction in reading what should have been very good books. Without mentioning the authors’ names or their book titles (except for the perfect book!), let me explain what I mean. (I did finish reading every book I list here, but with varying degrees of satisfaction.)

The first book is one I had known about for some time and had even beta-read material in advance to help the author organize and substantively edit in preparation for publication. I read a free Kindle edition. While I thoroughly enjoyed what was written—both the subject matter and the stories told (this was non-fiction about a particular time and place in the author’s life)—I realized that the author had not taken to heart anything of what I’d previously mentioned in my beta-read comments, in particular, getting a professional edit (and presumably the author did not pay attention to what others may have mentioned). The copy editing was poor to non-existent in places. The material was poorly organized and there was a great deal of repetition. I was disappointed in what could have been a very good book. The saving grace was the subject matter, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The second book was the first foray into self-publishing for a long-time non-fiction author with a great many books traditionally, and successfully, published. I borrowed this eBook from the library, so it was an ePub version supplied through Overdrive. The book itself was perfect. Not one single editing problem that I could discern—not surprising, given the author’s background in having been an editor himself. The actual “problem” with this book was the poor formatting job done by whichever company prepared the eFiles for this author. (Their name was listed on the copyright page, but I have completely forgotten it now.) This may be difficult to explain if you have never read an eBook borrowed from a library. Usually, eBooks are divided into sections (generally chapters) and the number of pages in each section is shown (1 of 27) on the bottom right-hand corner, with the overall percentage of the book read tallied (1%) on the bottom left-hand corner. In the case of this eBook, every section had been formatted as though it were a separate book, so when I reached the end of a chapter the Overdrive reader told me I had finished reading the entire book and I was unable to “turn” the page to the next section. I had to keep going back to the Table of Contents each time I finished reading a section and click on the next chapter to open it. The Overdrive reader also didn’t automatically “bookmark” which section I had previously finished when I returned to reading again after shutting off the computer. So this caused a great deal of frustration to me, the reader, who was otherwise enjoying a perfectly fine book. And I felt sorry for the author who I know must have paid a pretty penny to have this book ePublished. I will tell the author of this problem, because I know him personally. I have no idea as to whether the same problem exists for the Kindle version.

The third book was a mystery/thriller I downloaded from Amazon for free. I had never heard of the author, but was attracted by the setting and story line, both of which were original to me. The author has since published three other novels in this series. This particular book I read was the first and originally published in 2011, presumably in eBook format only—the information is not given as to whether there is a print edition. The book began well-enough, but I quickly realized that a professional editor had never checked the MS before it was published. A few incorrect words had been used, but especially homonyms were used erroneously in many places (the word sounded as though it was correct when you read a sentence aloud). And these problems continued throughout, even increasing in the second half of the book. It was obvious to me that no one besides the author had read the manuscript before it was published. The sad part of all this is that the eBook was, as I mentioned, published in 2011—the author has had 5 years to correct all those mistakes!! As much as I wanted to read more stories about these particular characters set in this location, I’ll be steering clear of any more books by the author who obviously does not care about the quality of the work that’s put out there for readers to read.

(Really, it’s important to remember your readers, folks! Make your writing the very best it can be by producing quality work that doesn’t make your readers cringe. If you don’t care enough about us, why should you expect us to care about what you write?)

The fourth book I read was another free download from Amazon by an author I didn’t know previously. (There were horses on the cover. I was attracted to the book by those horses and that the book was a mystery in a western US setting.) It was a good book! I was pleasantly surprised, because it was actually listed as a religious book—a genre I likely would not have read, had it not been for those horses on the cover! And therein lies the problem with this book and why I’ve included it in this list: the genre selected actually limited the possible audience for the book. Yes, the characters were churchgoers and there was a tiny bit of praying, but the overall story itself, and the characters, were like a typical western written by Zane Grey or an episode of the old TV series, Bonanza. In fact, it was about as religious as either of those. No blaspheming but also no preaching or morals presented. Lot of horses, though! So I was more disappointed for the book than in it.

And the fifth of the self-published eBooks I read is an example of how good these books can be when the author does take care and produces a great book. While the book was originally written by this author a long time before eBooks ever became a Thing, he very wisely set aside the manuscript for more than a decade while he honed his craft and published a number of other novels first. When he hauled out this book again, he was able to work through and completely rewrite the story. Also, a number of friends, me included, offered to beta read, and … he listened to us! At least, I know he listened to some of my suggestions. Plus, he also paid for a professional edit of the manuscript. The result was near perfection! I read the finished eBook (Kindle version) and was delighted to see that the story now read very well, and I could count on one hand the number of copy editing mistakes and/or typos that remained in the text. The book? It’s Full Circle by Tim Baker! (I have already told him privately of my reading experience and congratulated him on creating a novel that was a pleasure to read. Great cover design, too, although no horses …)

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So, after having read 5 very different eBooks by self-published authors, that’s my assessment. Some of you may think I’m being overly nit-picky in my reading, but I don’t believe I’m being any more critical than most average readers. The main difference is that I write to a blog so I can tell you whatever I think about various aspects of writing and publishing. And I’m an author myself. I think it’s up to every author to care about what they offer readers, and present them with the very best quality possible. As I mentioned above, if you care then your readers will care.

Since I first conceived of the idea for this blog post, I’ve also read a traditionally published print book written by an author who has a long career of successful books. You might think that a book like this, written by a name-author and published by one of the Big 5 publishing companies … and in a print format (so not quite that easy to correct), would have received a thorough editing/proofing session before publication. After all, editing and proofing are part of the publisher’s responsibilities (and expenses) and not up to the author to worry over, as is the case of self-published authors. Unfortunately, there were quite a number of errors in this book—missing words, missing punctuation, misspelling … I lost track. I know that the publisher is to blame for this shoddiness, but it still all reflects back on the author, doesn’t it? I know I wouldn’t be happy if a publisher thought so little of me that they didn’t do that last final check of the manuscript before printing. So it’s not just self-published authors who experience these problems incurred by publishing before their book is ready.

As carpenters like to say, Measure twice, cut once. It’s definitely worth taking that extra time of having another (professional) set of eyes go over your manuscript, or to consult with you on the structure, formatting, design or listing. Well worth it! Your readers will thank you by wanting to read more of what you write!

(And if you try to use the excuse that you can’t afford to pay what a professional edit will cost, well I say to you that you can’t afford to publish without one. If that’s the case, and the money is difficult (and I totally understand that it can be tough—it has been for me, too), then in that case you should wait to publish. Sorry to say, but this is the reality of the business. It’s just not worth it to put a half-baked loaf of bread out there and hope no one notices the still-doughy centre.)

Besides, you’ve got to love an editor—MY editor, as it happens!—who has an attitude like this!

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The problem of book theft …

Close to two years ago, I discovered that my eBooks, both of them, were being listed for sale on a site about which I’d never heard before. They were not under contract to sell my eBooks nor was I receiving any payment for the nearly 1000 times the site reported my novel had already been downloaded. There was a link on the site authors could write to, if they felt their copyright had been infringed. So I wrote, asked them to take down my books, and … nothing happened. That’s when I contacted my friend Tim Baker, whose books were also listed on the site, and he wrote this blog post about our experience. Many of our friends also took up the cause, sharing this blog post and following up with more information as they heard of it – good friends like Chris Graham who blogs as The Story Reading Ape, and has created a permanent warning on his own site about the problems of copyright infringement with information for all authors who find themselves in this situation. What we did learn since Tim first posted about the problem is that these sites aren’t so much about copyright infringement or “stealing” our books’ sales as they are “click farms” that gather identity information and credit card numbers from those unsuspecting readers who “click” on the site or authors who lodge a complaint.

Here we are, nearly two years later and, while we haven’t managed to rid ourselves of these “pirate” sites (because as soon as one is closed down, another pops up in its place) we do know that they are not the threat to our copyright we thought they were and they are not making money from our hard work, in the first place, of writing our books.

That’s no reason to become complacent, however, about the copyright we own for any intellectual property we’ve created, because if there’s a way to cheat an author (or anyone, for that matter) out of money due to them, there’s always someone out there willing to come up with a scheme to do so.

It was with great interest then that I read the following article about an Irish author who discovered her many-years out-of-print series of crime novels was being reissued, with different titles and slightly rewritten, by another author altogether – and that they were selling very well on Amazon! Please read The girl who stole my book: How Eilis O’Hanlon found out her crime novels were swiped by a stranger and then come back to read the rest of what I have to say.

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Okay then … so my take on what happened to Eilis O’Hanlon is that this could be a much bigger operation than what she believes to be the case, and rather than this one thieving author, it’s actually an organized group preying on out-of-print books that they hope no one will notice have been copied and rereleased as something new. Maybe this is just the curse of my being a mystery writer speaking, and I tend to see conspiracies everywhere, but I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t more widespread a problem than we imagine. In the meantime, we may never know the extent that this kind of copyright infringement happens. It’s good to know, though, that Amazon will do something about this problem, once they are sure it’s true that an author is infringing on our copyright, and they’ll take them down completely. If it is a bigger operation overseeing this, it will only be a matter of time before more books appear on the site purporting to be new works by a different author who has been “created” and now publishes and sells these books that actually belong to someone else.

In the meantime, I’ve had my own brush with a situation of possible copyright infringement or, at least, the copying of my original idea and novel. I haven’t wanted to talk about this in public, hoping that the situation would go away and, for the most part, that has happened. But it still irks me someone has “stolen” my hard work I had in writing the novel in the first place. (And I have proof that I began writing my novel in 2001.) Fortunately, for me, I’ve been slow to finish writing the second book in my series, so this other author couldn’t possibly copy it as well, but he has continued on with my original premise for the series, it seems. And, to date, his books have not been sold here on Bequia in the bookstore. (Of course, not many of MY books have been sold through that bookstore, but that’s another matter …) I don’t believe this other series has had any impact on my sales or on my readership – which is actually more important to me. i.e. I’m not losing readers to this other series. And I still have people asking when my next book will be published (soon, I hope!) so I know I continue to maintain that fan base I worked so hard to build.

Isn’t it interesting, though, that on top of all the hard work we authors must put into writing, preparing, publishing, promoting, marketing, developing a readership, and getting on with the next book … we also have to worry about people who believe it’s okay to steal our ideas and our IP and benefit from them themselves. With nary a thought as to those, we authors, who created that IP in the first place. Very frustrating!

How about you? Have you encountered any similar situations as above, or do you know of other authors whose copyright has been infringed upon? Have you heard of any other scams out there that infringe upon an author’s rightful copyright?

Want to become an Islander?

In Oct. 2012 I had this cool idea to start up a kind of Fan Club for my novel, Island in the Clouds. I received “somewhat” of a reaction to that blog post … okay, so it wasn’t even close to being underwhelming, but I did have fun with the idea. Recently, my good pal and fellow author, Tim Baker, set up the beginning of his own Ike Fan Club when he published this blog post, Can I Put Your Name in My Books? – and that got me rooting around in the vaults again to look for my original post. (Which I wrote more than half a year before I ever “met” Tim online, by the way!) So here’s that original idea of mine, with a bit of rewriting to bring it up to date. Anyone want to join my club?


If you have read – and enjoyed! – my novel, Island in the Clouds either as an eBook or in print, you are already an official Islander, the new club I am creating. No need to register but do please consider taking part in these two promotions I set up. Send me a picture of my novel on your eReader or of you reading the print book in a particular place (either where you live, while you’re on holiday, or next to an identifiable landmark – for instance, I still don’t have a picture of my novel taken at the Leuty Lifeguard Station or the Water Works in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood yet, hint, hint) and write a brief review or some comments about the book. I’ve been posting these photos to my blog on the dedicated page, Where/Who in the World is Reading Island in the Clouds??? and have plastered that link all over social media, and will continue to do so. If you’re camera shy, there’s no need for your face to be in the picture. See instructions on the links above and consider playing along! I thank you for taking part in this promotion.

But wait, there’s more! If you would like to promote Island in the Clouds on your own blog and perhaps give away copies in a contest, let’s talk! Or, if you wish to write a review but don’t have a venue to post it to, or you don’t like posting online on Amazon or Goodreads (and I understand your hesitation!), please send the review to me and I will post it, either on this blog or on reading recommendations reviewed. I will also promote any of your promotion efforts throughout my own network and on this blog. I’ll even consider “rewarding” those truly imaginative – and far-reaching and effective – promotions any of you create and execute.

Plus you will receive my undying love and affection for having supported my book!

The Islanders is intended to be a fun group! Think Mouseketeers with flowered shirts and fruity alcoholic beverages rather than mouse ears. I can’t guarantee free trips to Bequia for every club member, but there may be contests down the line that are open only to Islanders, and involving future publications. As I build an email contact list (I’ll be organizing an email newsletter sign-up shortly) of Islanders, I will notify you of these exclusive opportunities, as well as further information about my writing progress of the other novels, future publications from IslandCatEditions and IslandShorts, news and pictures from Bequia and other general stuff – although I promise never to overload your inbox! Membership does have its privileges though …

I do have one final request of all Islanders: The best way forward for any author to get the word out about their books is by word-of-mouth. We count on readers who have enjoyed our books to tell their friends and recommend they also read these books. I appreciate that you have taken the time to read my novel, and that many of you have already sent your comments, and compliments, about it, but I still need help with spreading the word to even more readers. So if you know anyone who would also enjoy this read, please consider telling them about it! Here are some other ways you might be able to help me with promotion: The Care and Feeding (and Promotion!) of Authors … and Part II.

Thanks, Everyone! Now, let’s have some fun!

(If you think I may not know that you’ve read the eBook or print edition, please send me an email susanmtoy (at) gmail so your name is included on the list.)

Tropical Fiction – a genre whose time has come!

This is actually a “From the vaults” post, because I’m reblogging most of the original post, Announcing Tropical Fiction – a new genre, from Aug., 2013, with a few changes and an update, after discussing with Tim Baker again about how to best market novels like ours that are set in tropical climes. So, here goes …

I’ve had more than my fair share of ideas in my time – some great, some good, some worth forgetting (although we won’t tell my readers about those ideas, will we, Betty Jane?). No matter what the idea, though, I’ve always tended to think outside the box and come up with a new way of considering every matter at hand.

I was listening to Surf 97.3, Flagler Beach Radio on the Internet recently and the DJ kept talking about all the Trop Rock this station plays. It took me a moment, but then I realized he meant Tropical Rock, beach music – you know, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Jimmy Buffet. And if this can be a category for music then why not …?

Take categorizing fiction, for instance. I have written and published one novel, Island in the Clouds, in a projected series set on the Caribbean island of Bequia, where Dennis and I own a home.

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The setting itself is central to the novel. The story would never have been the same had I set it back in Calgary or Toronto or any other place I’ve lived. I know there are many other books like mine that are set in tropical climes and in which that setting becomes very important to the actual telling of the story.

The real property manager reads about a fictional property manager while in the exact same setting as shown on the book's cover! Life imitating art imitating life?

The real property manager reads about a fictional property manager while in the exact same setting as shown on the book’s cover! Life imitating art imitating life?

So, I thought, what if we were to coin a new name for this genre? I came up with Tropical Fiction and, since it was my idea, after all, I’m going to stretch the parameters to include any writing set in-on-or-near, or written by an author who lives within proximity to, a beach. That way, I can include the books of my good buddy Tim Baker who, coincidentally, writes about Flagler Beach, FL, Home of Surf 97.3 for which he also now works as a DJ! (There’s even a beach on the cover of one of his novels, Unfinished Business, so he gets bonus points!) And W.K. Blais who lives near a beach in California. After all, what’s the point of having a great idea if you can’t spread around the benefits among your friends? (Since first writing this, I have created the promotion blog, Reading Recommendations, and have featured both Tim Baker and W.K. Blais there. And Betty Jane Hegerat for that matter, too!)

Here’s the complete description of my new genre:

Tropical Fiction – Set in the Tropics or Written by a Tropics-based Author – The Ultimate “Beach” Read

I particularly like the Ultimate Beach Read part, because what better reading material is there for enjoying a beach visit (or virtual visit) than a book about or set on a beach? I ask you!

A show of hands now … How many of you remember the novel The Beach by Alex Garland, set in Thailand? (I’m not talking about the movie, but the book.) This book fits very well into my new genre, this new category I’m developing. And how about Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not and The Old Man and the Sea. Or Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night and the writing of Dominican-born Jean Rhys. Can you think of any others? Please add the titles below in the comments section.

And let’s start bandying about this new genre classification, okay? I’d appreciate your help with getting the word out so this becomes an accepted name for the style of books that I write , and that many others have written – in the past, currently are writing, and will publish in the future.

Or … if you’ve written a book that fits into this category, please tell us about it, and you! Are you living in a tropical place and writing books? Tell us!! Please post a link below. I would eventually like to collect authors’ names and their titles, and will think of a way to list these links, possibly on a permanent page on this blog. That way, we can promote ALL of these books and this new genre of Tropical Fiction to the world!

And here’s the likely cover we’re going with for my next novel … that’s a photo taken by Dennis at least 20 years ago of Industry Beach on Bequia looking out towards the islands of Balliceaux and Battawia. This view still looks pretty much the same today. (Cover designed by Jenny Ryan!)

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(I’d better get that second novel finished and published!!)

Bequia Christmas

I’m posting this Christmas story to meet a challenge from Tim Baker, who already posted his Ike Christmas story this morning (see my reblog of it previous to this post). So here you go, Tim! This is your surprise – that I actually pulled out my manuscript of One Woman’s Island and began rewriting again! I know, I know. Possibly a small Christmas miracle in itself, but still … better than cookies?

This is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of my novel-in-progress. Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Bequia Christmas

… in memory of Mariann Palmborg

A day or so after Joan’s departure, I was in the Harbour to replenish food supplies and met Solfrid there again. She was on the run, as usual, but said in passing, “Be sure you are on the main ferry wharf at 2 p.m. on December the sixth, and bring your neighbour’s children along.”

When I asked her why, she gave me that broad smile of hers. “Just be there. You will all like it.” Then, with a quick wave, she was off again.

Another Bequia surprise, I thought, happy to look forward to discovering the answer to Solfrid’s mystery.

Ayayla, Philbain and I were ready, waiting in anticipation on the appointed day for Dudley to come to the house, pick us up, and drive to the Harbour. He, too, said he had no idea what was going on, although I believe he was feigning ignorance so he wouldn’t ruin the surprise. Felicity had decided to not join us. She said she wanted to spend some time by herself, but knew we would all enjoy ourselves.

The children’s excitement increased. Mine did, too, I had to admit, when we saw a large crowd, consisting mostly of children, that had gathered at the end of the wharf to wait for the same surprise. We arrived just in the nick of time; as we joined the crowd, someone at the end of the wharf shouted, “Dere! Dere!” and pointed out into the Harbour. Then others joined him, chanting, “Father Christmas!” and “St. Nicholas!”

So that was the surprise! It was the traditional European visit by St. Nicholas to all children of the island.

But I was in for an even more enjoyable surprise when the water taxi pulled up to the wharf and I discovered St. Nicholas was none other than Solfrid herself. She had the perfect costume of a European Santa, too, dressed as she was in a floor-length cloak rather than the North American-style pants and jacket. She must have been sweltering, was my first thought, until I noticed Solfrid had been very practical indeed in designing the cloak in a light-weight cotton much more suitable for Bequia’s tropical climate. While her disguise was complete and she definitely looked the part of St. Nicholas, there was no mistaking it was Solfrid behind that beard. Her big smile, kind heart and warm soul were never easily disguised at all.

The best part was yet to come though as Solfrid called out a command towards the boat and six of her dogs jumped out as well, each with a pair of those fake reindeer antlers made for dogs strapped to their heads. Perfect! Good for Solfrid!

Solfrid herself leaned down and hefted a large sack from the boat from which she began dispensing small packages to the children who had quickly formed a line in front of her.

I helped Philbain and Ayayla get into the line then stayed with them while they waited their turn. Both children were in awe of Solfrid, or actually St. Nicholas, when they finally reached her and Ayayla was barely able to get out an audible, “T’anks,” as she received her gift of candies. Philbain said nothing at all, simply stared at Solfrid.

“Here you are,” Solfrid said, handing him a bag. She patted his head. “I hope you enjoy your sweeties.” She looked up at me and asked, “Your neighbours?”

When I nodded in reply, she threw me a wide grin and said, “Good, good!” her head nodding in an approving manner.

“I’m impressed with what you’ve taken on here, Solfrid, giving the children of Bequia a little bit of Christmas excitement.”

“Oh, well, I like to do this. The children enjoy it so much and for me it is good to see their faces happy.” She gestured around us to all the other children. This was just another display of Solfrid’s generous nature, I realized.

She had already focused her attention on the next children in the line, so I coaxed Philbain and Ayayla away. Neither child wanted to take their eyes off of Solfrid, but soon discovered what she had given them was candy and they were happily munching as we walked away from the fringe of the crowd to look for Dudley to take us back home.

As we passed a group of men, Tex called out my name. He sounded quite jovial for a change and even asked to be introduced to the children.

“Ayayla, Philbain, this is Mr. uhhh …” I couldn’t remember his last name.

“Tex,” he said, first touching his fingers to the brim of his cowboy hat then shaking their hands. “You can just call me Tex.” I noticed him discreetly wiping the hand on his jeans afterwards, trying to remove the saliva-sugar residue, no doubt. “Did you enjoy meeting Father Christmas?”

Unfortunately for Tex, Philbain couldn’t understand a word and Ayayla began acting shy, hiding behind my legs, laughing inanely.

“Philbain is partially deaf,” I said. So Tex began all over with Philbain, speaking directly to him in a loud and clear voice, waiting for the child to nod that he understood before continuing. Then he shook both their hands again, this time in a more hearty manner, and turned to me.

“It was good of you to bring the children down here to see Solfrid today, Mariana. I doubt anyone has ever done that for them before. I’m sure they enjoyed it. See you soon.” With that, Tex was loping off down the road.

It was the most pleasant and cordial I’d seen Tex act in a long time and I wasn’t sure whether this could be considered a Christmas miracle that had brought about the change. Whatever the case, I was grateful he did actually have it in him to be nice, at least on this occasion.

Best Books Read in 2015

By July 3rd of this year I had read so many good books that I wrote about the best of those in this blog post. (See the original post for details of these titles.)

As with the first half of the year, the following books are listed in the order I read them and, with one exception (that I have marked), I rate them all at 4 out of 5 stars … because, you know, you have to have written a VERY good book, or be Richard Ford, to receive all 5 stars from me. I am a discerning reader.

So here’s my list of Best Books Read for the second half of the year … I’ve linked to their promotions all Authors who have been featured on Reading Recommendations.

12095120_626933277448055_9033175093362345310_o Killer City by Seumas Gallacher – I read this new novel in advance of publication and thought it a fine addition to Gallacher’s Jack Calder series.

10994976_796292483760006_2976227424109873861_nThe Gift: Awakening by J.P. McLean – I have a complete set of JP’s books in The Gift Legacy series and began at the beginning. An excellent premise to this series and very well-written!

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – 5-star – Sadly, Kent Haruf passed away in 2014 shortly after completing the proofs of this book. I’ve been a fan of his writing for many years and have read everything he has published. This book was a high note in a stellar writing career, as far as I’m concerned. A bitter-sweet story, it’s simply told but nonetheless powerful, about love and growing old. Others to whom I’ve recommended this book have come back to tell me how much they enjoyed it. If you love great writing, and you have a heart, this will make you weep to read for its sheer beauty – in the storyline, in the characters, in the way Haruf tells us about this episode in lives of plain people, lives that are so utterly full of grace.

Villa America by Liza Klaussmann – I received an ARC of this novel about the Hemingways and Fitzgeralds and their set of friends vacationing at a real-life house in France during the 1920s and I enjoyed reading it very much. Great descriptions of the times, the place and the people.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – I read the ARC of this novel about a Swedish reader who travels to the US to visit the woman who has been recommending, by letters, books to read. A delightful read that anyone who enjoys reading books will also love!

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – This is a book that had been sitting on my shelf for a number of years. I finally picked it up and was pleasantly surprised at how well-told it is, this story of South Carolinian women.

12283279_10200858274536262_516233112_n Full Circle by Tim Baker – Tim Baker has been promoted on my blog, Reading Recommendations, since the beginning – and for good reason! I’ve read everything Tim has written, and now read his manuscripts before they are published, as was the case with this latest novel. Interestingly, this was the first novel Tim wrote a couple of decades ago, but it didn’t see the light of day until just recently. What can I say? Tim sure knows how to write! I own copies of all Tim’s print books, I have the T-shirts, and I’m a big promoter of all his work. Read this book!

town-father-3d-copy Parts Unknown and Town Father by Kevin Brennan – Kevin Brennan’s writing has impressed me since he first promoted Yesterday Road on Reading Recommendations. I have read everything he has written and own all the print copies available, except this most recent title – a problem I will rectify when I return to Canada in the spring. Kevin is an intelligent writer, well-steeped in literature and history, and he’s not afraid to experiment with genre and style. I liken him to a cross between two of my favourite authors, Ivan Doig and Kent Haruf (see above), with a sprinkling of Margaret Atwood’s exploration of craft and genre. Town Father, his most recent novel, is a foray into historical fiction and I say Kevin has done a brilliant job of presenting a story that’s new and fresh, considering it’s set in the 1880s US Sierra Nevadas. If you’re looking for versatility in a writer, look no further! Kevin is your guy!

AtlantisFNLweb The Road to Atlantis by Leo Brent Robillard – I was approached by the publisher of this book to promote it on my blog and was sent a PDF of the book to read in advance. I had never heard of this Canadian author previously and was very taken by the quality of his writing and the story he tells. I am also happy to see that, since I promoted Robilliard in Sept. 2015, this book has now also been released in eBook format, so it’s available for the entire world to read.

That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx – I discovered a hardcover edition of this book in the campground library and decided to read it, because I had enjoyed Proulx’s Shipping News when it was first published. I enjoyed this novel just as much. Great writing!

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths – I won an ARC of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. I had never heard of the author or the book previously and so was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a very good read.

18634588 My Temporary Life by Martin Crosbie – Martin Crosbie promoted a how-to book on my blog, but he also writes great fiction, like this novel I read and enjoyed. And it’s the first in a series, too, so more great books to come!

The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King – I was a sales rep for one of Thomas King’s earlier books and had the great pleasure of meeting the man for lunch when he was in Calgary. He is one of the most interesting, intelligent, funny and genuine “gentleman” I’ve ever met. And I don’t use the term gentleman lightly here. He is a Gentle Man in all respects. This latest novel (I had an ARC) was published last year and won the GG Award for Best English-Language Fiction. Very well done!

coverThe Piano Teacher by Eugene Stickland – I know Eugene from my days in Calgary, so when he announced a new book’s release I asked him to promote it on Reading Recommendations. Then when I went back to Calgary for a visit this autumn I bought a copy of the book from the man himself in his natural habitat, Cafe Beano, over a couple of cups of coffee. Eugene is well-known as a playwright and this was his first foray into novel-writing. A terrific job, I thought! And the good news is … he’s writing a second novel!

2161163 Better Than Perfect by Tricia Drammeh – Tricia has long been an internet pal and fellow blogger/promoter who I turn to regularly for help, advice, and just general comradery. I’ve read several of her novels so far and enjoyed all of them, but Better than Perfect was exactly as the title says, I thought. True life and genuine characters brought perfectly to the page (or screen, in my case) by a very accomplished author.

Sweetland by Michael Crummey – I had the pleasure of attending an event held in London, ON, this autumn at which Crummey read from his new novel. A well-told story of a little known (outside of the province) episode in Newfoundland’s history. Funny in places, but sad throughout. Definitely worth reading, especially if you’re open to learning a new dialect and turns of phrase. (I’m fortunate in knowing a native Newfoundlander so a lot of the speech in this novel was very familiar to me.)

The Quiet American by Graham Greene – I’m not sure I actually read this novel previously, although Greene is a favourite author, but I did see the film starring Michael Caine. I have to say, they did a fine job of casting Caine for the part of Fowler. The novel is an excellent introduction to the French occupation of Vietnam during the years leading up to US involvement in the region.

Sundown, Yellow Moon and Orchard by Larry Watson – I’m catching up on the books by this favourite US author that I missed reading at the time they were released.

What about you? Was there one outstanding book you read in 2015? Or have you posted to your blog a similar list as I have here? Please leave your comments below and tell us what you enjoyed reading. And leave a link to your Best Books post.

Thanks for reading!

I should mention that I tried reading some of the many books that were long-listed, short-listed, and won prizes in the various big book awards that were handed out this year, but in a number of cases I just could not read the books at all and was disappointed in their having been selected. I’m still waiting for holds to come in at the library for a number of other prize-winners I anticipate reading and enjoying in the near future. But I must say that, overall, I was generally disappointed in most of the titles that made those prize lists. I don’t believe it has as much to do with my changing taste in reading as I grow older (and become a more experienced reader all the time) as it does with the judges’ different taste from mine in choosing the lists and winners. That’s a topic for a whole different blog post, however.

Reading Recommendations 2nd Anniversary Congratulations From Two Readers!

Violet Gaspe and Cheryl Schenk are two of the reasons Reading Recommendations still exists after two years of operation. It’s because of dedicated READERS like these women that I continue to promote and recommend books and their authors. They not only subscribe to the blog, but read the posts and find many of their next-great-reads on the site – and they pay attention when I recommend a book, even those by authors I’m not actually promoting on the site! Plus they talk about the books and authors they discover on RR with their friends and other readers. This site would not be what it is today without READERS like Violet and Cheryl who actually read and enjoy the books I promote there. Here they are to tell you what the site means to them …

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From Violet Gaspe …
Congratulations Reading Recommendations Year Two!

This milestone is achieved through the dedicated effort of my old friend Sue. I have known Sue for over thirty years; back to the days when she held home parties to promote books and writers. Sue now has a much broader audience through social media. She has introduced me to so many writers. Who would I begin to name? Who will I forget to mention? So, I decided to name the last six fiction writers I have read or am presently reading.

Tim Baker, Seumas Gallacher, Kent Haruf, Sue Monk Kidd, J.P. McLean and Diana Stevan (who was recommended by J.P. McLean). Some of the writers had me in tears (Haruf), some had me waking at dawn to continue the adventure (Stevan). I lost sleep trying to figure out what happens next (Baker, Gallacher, J.P. McLean). And there were books I didn’t want to end because I loved the story so much (Sue Monk Kidd). Writers unite, promote each other and continue letting readers such as myself discover your creativity.

Titles: The Gift: Penance; Ours Souls at Night; A Cry From the Deep; Secret Life of Bees; Eyewitness Blues; The Violin’s Man’s Legacy.

From Cheryl Shenck …
Congratulations Reading Recommendations on this, your 2nd Anniversary

Every writer needs a friend, someone that understands, promotes and enlightens. Someone that isn’t family and doesn’t necessarily LOVE everything we do, but will offer fair and creative criticism.

Susan Toy is that friend, and her creation of Reading Recommendations is invaluable to writers and readers alike. She is not only a kind-hearted soul, she is also a wealth of information and a continuously strong supporter of authors, both established and up and coming.

I was fortunate to meet Susan at a writers’ conference several years ago and from that time I have followed her on Facebook and Twitter, and I have since become addicted to her Reading Recommendations. Through her blogs I have been turned on to authors I feel privileged to have read and to books I am proud to promote as well.

I hope to follow these recommendations for a long time to come and maybe one day, if the Writing Gods are kind, will find myself featured as one of her authors.

The following are a few of my favourite writers (all of whom have been promoted through Reading Recommendations) and the books that got me started. If you haven’t read them, check them out. I think you’ll be pleasantly impressed with what you find.

Susan M ToyIsland in the Clouds (it had to be said)
Betty Jane HegeratThe Boy
Kevin BrennanYesterday Road
Tim BakerLiving The Dream
Seumas GallacherSavage Payback
Chris TuckerLost Voyage
L G PomerleauBecoming Sand

Again, congratulations, Susan. I am happy to call you “friend”.

Cheryl Schenk can be contacted on Twitter @cherylschenk

Thank you to Violet and Cheryl! It’s READERS like you who are the reason we WRITE!

If you have discovered a new-to-you author through Reading Recommendations who then became a personal favourite, please share their name below in the comments section. I’d love to hear from READERS who have found this site to be helpful in recommending new reading selections. After all, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Spreading the word about Great Authors and their books!

2014 – The best books I read this year!

I don’t normally do this – recap what I’ve read during the year and choose which have been the best books, but I was tired of scanning the Best of 2014 lists that media and book sites produce, seldom seeing anything at all I’ve read. So I decided to come up with my own list.

If an author has been featured on my blog, Reading Recommendations, I have linked to their promotion. And the benefit of writing this promotion blog is I have discovered and met so many great authors this past year! As well, I’ve heard from a friend, a reader, who has been following my recommendations – and reading many of them! Here’s what Violet has to say: I love to read. I read for pleasure but if I learn something, it’s a bonus. With thousands of books to choose from, it can be a challenge finding a good read. I used to refer to “top ten” reviews and other media but I now use Sue’s Reading Recommendations for my source of reading selection. She has introduced me to new writers. There are writers who made me cry, others who kept me awake at night trying to figure out what happens next. There have been times I read one book by an author and loved the writing so much I subsequently bought other titles. Sue’s recommendations have not disappointed me. I have in turn recommended books to friends and family.

With a testimonial like that, how can I not continue recommending great books and the authors who write them!

First, in no particular order, are individual books I’ve enjoyed reading:

It goes without saying … Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank With You is at the top of my list, because I have long considered this man to be my Favourite Living Author. He’s writing at the height of his game with this latest collection of long-form short stories.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan – As with Ford, I will buy and read anything Ian McEwan writes as soon as it is published. Another excellent writer.

Nickolas Butler – Shotgun Lovesongs I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway and loved, loved, loved reading it! This is a debut novel for Butler. I certainly hope it won’t be his only book. Such a gifted writer!

Second Chance by Dylan Hearn

Brian Brennan‘s memoir, Leaving Dublin

Every Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton

Counting Teeth, a travel memoir by Peter Midgley

Lori Hahnel‘s novel, After You’ve Gone

A new novel by Fred Stenson, Who By Fire

A first novel, Waiting for the Man, by Arjun Basu

Steve Boone‘s memoir, Hotter Than a Match Head

Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970 by David Browne

Spellbound by Tricia Drammeh

Karen Joy Fowler – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Emma Healey – Elizabeth is Missing

Tan Twan Eng – The Garden of Evening Mists

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

And here’s a list of Authors who wrote a number of books I read this year – in a couple of cases, I read everything they’ve written!

Tim Baker – I have now read everything written by Tim Baker (except the two zombie books he contributed to) and some of this was in manuscript form as a beta-reader and editor. Tim’s writing just keeps getting better, in my opinion!

Kevin Brennan – I’ve read all but one book that Kevin has published (and that copy is on its way to me, so I will soon have read all his books) and one was a beta-read. Kevin continues to surprise me with his versatility as a writer. He also has a great sense of humo(u)r that I appreciate. I look forward to reading many more books by this accomplished author.

Robert Chazz Chute – Robert is another author who is prolific and talented. I read several of his publications this year, two as a beta-reader.

Seumas Gallacher – I’ve read two of Seumas’s books and plan to buy and read the other two titles in his Jack Calder series. In fact, Shhh! Don’t say anything as those books will be Dennis’s Christmas present since he also enjoyed reading Savage Payback!

Rebecca Heishmaan – Rebecca is one of the most kind-hearted and supportive authors I’ve had the pleasure to meet, and with her two books she’s deservedly gathered a legion of fans who enjoy reading about her dog, Millie, and The Misty Neighbourhood. She also donates all her royalties to animal rescue agencies. A very generous author!

And another author who I met through my blog is S.K. Nicholls. I’ve only had the opportunity to beta-read one novel that has not yet been published, but I want to read everything she’s written or plans to write – she’s that good! Definitely an author to watch!

Jussi Adler-Olsen – A prolific Danish author whose Department Q series of crime novels is just now being translated into English. I have read the first four and am waiting for the fifth. Very, very good writer and, if you like the other Scandinavian mystery/crime writers, you will definitely enjoy Adler-Olsen.

Benjamin Black – This author was recommended to me by a friend who I consider to be a great Reader. Black is the pen name for the acclaimed literary author, John Banville. So far, I have read The Lemur and the first of the Quirke Series, Christine Falls.

Did you read an outstanding book this year or discover a new-to-you author? Please leave a comment below.