Tuesday 5 May 2015

Caribbean island life...

I can hardly believe that we are half-way through our four month stay here on Utila, the smallest of the three Bay Islands situated in the Caribbean Sea just off the coast of Honduras, Central America. It feels nice to be at this point of our stay because we are now settled into the pace of island life yet we know that we still have lots of time ahead of us here to kick back, relax, and not have to think about returning to the UK just yet.

Just a week after we arrived, it was my birthday, and Trav organised a birthday party for me with our friends on the dock at EcoMarine. There was a BBQ, lots of drinks, music, dancing - and swimming.

A fun dip in the sea with lovely friends Tara and Christine

My birthday gift from Trav was a ‘princess’ piñata. A piñata is a celebration tradition in Spanish speaking countries but I've never had one before and so I was excited and delighted. Quite by coincidence, I happened to be wearing a purple coloured dress that evening and you can see that so was my piñata! A spooky likeness?

Of course, I gave my pinata a really good beating and everyone enjoyed
the haul of candies she had been generously stuffed with!

As soon as we arrived on the island this time around, Trav was again busy teaching scuba diving and I had lots to do in preparation for the online launch of my latest novel Castaway in the Caribbean, which was scheduled for release on the 26th March. 

This was the novel that I started writing here on Utila the previous summer. I had the ARCs (advance review copies) to send out to reviewers and guest posts and author interviews to write up for my tour hosts in preparation for my upcoming online book tours.

The book tours are organised by the PR peeps at Candlelit Author Services from April 20th to 1st May and by BrookCottage Books from 18th May to 29th May respectively. 

From the middle of March, for a full week before the official launch date, Castaway in the Caribbean was available for pre-order from Amazon for Kindle. This was a very exciting time for me, as on the strength of these pre-orders, I saw the book going straight into several Amazon bestseller charts and importantly, in its own genre of travel adventure fiction, sitting at #5. The next few days saw it at #4, at #3 and then at #2 where it stayed for two whole days until it finally and unbelievably hit the #1 spot!

Oh my goodness… I have never had a #1 bestseller before so you can imagine how totally thrilled I was. I’d had #2 with my last book Reaching for the Stars and so really thought that this time too the #1 would elude me. The morning that it happened (it was afternoon in the UK as here on the island we are seven hours behind) I was sitting in one of the classrooms at the dive center, hoping for an internet connection, when I checked the book’s Amazon ranking and screamed. Everyone came rushing to find out who and why and then there were celebratory drinks involved – except of course for those going out diving. I now have a lovely little gold ‘#1 Bestseller’ banner next to my book in the Amazon listings and I’m so very proud. A heartfelt thank you to all of those who made this possible!

March was a heady month in respect of my birthday and book launch but I did also get lots of opportunities to have fun and relax. On one weekend, some lovely friends invited us over to Water Cay, one of the tiny tropical islands just off the north coast of Utila. We went there on their boat, took a picnic and drinks, and had a lovely day. The following weekend, with the weather hotting up considerably, we went to Water Cay again. This time with the lovely peeps at EcoMarine. We took lots of food and drinks and on the way we stopped off to buy freshly caught fish for the BBQ. You can see how much fun we had from the photos!

April brought Semana Santa to the island – the Honduran Easter holiday celebrations - and the busiest time of year on Utila in terms of visitor numbers. Many families on mainland Honduras come to the Bay Islands for their vacation and Utila is a firm favourite. Personally, we found this week to be noisy and so busy that we wanted to keep a low profile, choosing to eat in rather than out, and avoiding the beaches until the island had quietened down again. During this time we were also preparing for our eldest son Ben and his lovely girlfriend Gill’s twelve-day visit with us. They were flying from Edinburgh Scotland via the same route we had done just six weeks before (see my previous post for the details) and we were really excited about seeing them and showing them the island we have grown to love so much.

Our eldest son Ben and his girlfriend Gill arrive on Utila

Ben and Gill are both divers. Ben is an Instructor and Gill has her Open Water certification and so we knew that diving in the clearest waters and on the best and second biggest coral reef in the world was going to be high on their agenda. But when they weren’t diving, we wanted to show them Utila and all our favourite places. We also planned to make a special trip over to one of the Cay islands. Little Cay is another of the tiny tropical islands off Utila, like Water Cay, except that this one is available to rent.

Gill and Ben are both qualified scuba divers

Trav diving - photo by Ben

Ben diving with his Dad

We’d discussed Little Cay with Ben and Gill and we decided that we would rent the island between us for the weekend during their stay. The island is private; it has a beautiful house and gorgeous white sand beaches with palm trees. It also has an amazing coral reef with the most stunningly colourful coral and sea life. At night, after our BBQ, with the sky black, clear and cloudless, the four of us walked onto the jetty and switched off our torches. Laying flat on our backs and looking up at the stars was an amazing and truly magical experience. One I will never forget. The island website is here.

Little Cay - a private Caribbean island that you can rent!

We had the most amazing time while Ben and Gill were with us on Utila. We had enthused to them so much about the island after our visit last year and we were thrilled when they said they wanted to spend their holiday time with us this year. Now I’m sure they can appreciate even more why we love this part of the world so much.

We had the most amazing time while Ben and Gill were here on Utila

Yoga Update: During the past couple of months, I've also been learning about and practicing yoga. I feel very lucky indeed to live very close to a yoga center here on Utila run by two amazing yogis who are both highly practiced and expertly knowledgeably. I started off in basic yoga class and found it, shall we say, challenging. My stiff bones and writer’s shoulders had almost become a handicap to me, but now, after just a couple of months in during which I've averaged three or four classes a week, I've made progress and I’m certainly feeling much more supple and definitely more flexible. I've upped my practice a little just recently by including Ashtanga Yoga to my routine and finding it even more challenging but equally rewarding. All proving that you are never too old or too stiff to discover the benefits of yoga and I hope to continue practicing even when we leave here. Have mat will travel!

As I write, the first of my book tours for Castaway in the Caribbean has just finished and the next one begins on 18th May. As with the previous tour, this one will feature interviews and guest posts and reviews and a tropical giveaway bundle of items that I picked up on my travels around the Caribbean. So please do check in with my hosts and enter the free prize draws. Previously, the prize bundle was a tropical island desk tidy, a tropical fish book mark and a shell necklace and I’m delighted to note that there were 485 entries. 

The May tour giveaway has some equally enticing prizes – one being a beautiful mermaid necklace. If you've already read Castaway in the Caribbean then you’d know that in the story our hero’s boat is called The Mermaid.

The May tour start on Monday the 18th May and each will give you the opportunity to enter the tropical giveaway. I’d be sharing posts from my own social media sites and would really appreciate any shares as I’m looking to offer Castaway in the Caribbean to readers as a summer holiday 2015 read.

With this quest in mind, if you have already read and enjoyed Castaway in the Caribbean perhaps you might consider telling your friends about it and also consider writing a review on Amazon. It doesn't have to be a long review but it would help me to reach more readers and also help readers to find my book. The paperback of Castaway in the Caribbean should be available to order mid-summer for those who prefer to hold a ‘real’ book.

Thank you and please do come back soon for more news of our Caribbean island antics and other writerly stuff. Feel free to leave a comment. I promise to reply!

Love, Janice xx