Author Interview: J. S. Frankel

My guest today is Jesse Frankel, author of amazing SciFi adventure stories for Young Adults and New Adult readers.

Jesse is no stranger on my book blog or my bookshelf: his book ‘Ether‘ won the Golden Squirrel Book of the Year Award in 2018, and ‘The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce‘ won the Golden Squirrel Award for YA Science Fiction.

Welcome, Jesse! I feel very privileged to be talking with you.

Hi Squirrel! It’s great to be here, even if your introduction did make me blush.

You’re very welcome. What inspired you to write?

My older son—he was ten at the time—had just seen a cartoon, something about trees. He said, “Papa, wouldn’t it be great if trees talked?” That gave me an idea, and that eventually became The Tower, my first novel.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

Oh, wow, there have been so many! The Catnip series, Ether, The Auctioneer, and Fight Like A Woman are standouts for me, along with Twisted.

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

The ‘Friday’ books— ‘Curious Things’ and ‘Curious Times’ by Joanne Van Leerdam, along with ‘An Enlightening Quiche’ by Eva Pasco.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Probably ‘An Enlightening Quiche’ as well as ‘The Forest’ by Julia Blake.

What are you working on writing now?

I’m re-editing an old novel and hoping to submit it soon

Who designs your book covers?

Most of my covers were designed either by Carmen Waters (the Catnip series) or Martine Jardin, who’s done my latest works. Both cover artists are superb!

What’s your favourite kind of music?

I’ll listen to anything save rap.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

My honeymoon. My wife and I went to Spain and it was amazing! The history, the food, the people… perfect.

What’s your favourite TV show?

Star Trek, TOS. Nothing else comes close.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Lots, but any of the superhero flicks are great. I loved Ready Player One, and I’m an old Biblical movies buff.

What’s your favourite quote, ever?

“You’re born alone and you die alone. It’s what you do in between that matters.” That was from my father. Perhaps he heard it from someone else, but it’s always resonated with me.

Name three people you admire, and give reasons.

My parents, who taught me to be a good person, and my wife, who is my strength.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

It ain’t easy! Some people have the misconception that indie authors aren’t good, that they’re lazy or hurting the industry…they have very negative views.
To be fair, some authors have an I-don’t-care attitude, but the vast majority I know are hard-working, productive individuals who genuinely care about what they write and the industry they’re in.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Selling books and editing!

One day someone will say “cracking acorns open” and I’ll be able to help them with that… sigh.
Say, where can readers find your books?

My books are widely available, so they’re in all the online stores, but the most common places people get them would be Amazon or my publisher’s website, Devine Destinies. Just look for J.S. Frankel and you’ll find them.

And where can we follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for being here today, Jesse!

Thanks for making me welcome!



Author Interview: Gregory Tasoulas

Today I’m chatting with author Gregory Tasoulas about his short story called Elmwean’s Lodge. Welcome, Gregory!

Thank you, Book Squirrel!

Why don’t you start by giving us a rundown of the story?

It’s the first in a series of novelettes set in an original teslapunk world.

Professor Incabad Reyl is the greatest scientist of his time. His equation of echomagnetic fractions marked the beginning of a new era of technological advancement for the Horizon.
In 104 H.S., 30 years after his groundbreaking discovery, he sets off on an adventurous search, in order to uncover the laws that govern the dynamics between the twelve electrons of his fractional echomagnetic dynamics theory.
On the way to this Master Equation, Professor Reyl will stumble upon hidden truths that will change the way humanity perceives existence.

That sounds really interesting. What inspired you to write?

I like stories. Listening to stories, seeing them on film, hearing about them, exploring them. Their reasoning, their logic, their purpose. And I like telling stories, creating fictional situations. For me it’s not about the process of writing, but rather conveying a story that is in my mind.

What are you working on writing now?

I am currently finishing the novella Return to Elmwean’s Lodge, which is the sequel to my first published short. I am also finishing up my research for the next one in the series, as well as a couple of standalone stories which are set in different eras of the Horizon and introduce new characters and places.

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?

No, but I do vape a lot when I write (my cats make it hard to safely eat or drink near the computer).

Who designs your book covers?

Mario Tsota, an amazing young illustrator who is also a very diligent and cooperative professional. He is currently studying fine arts at the University of Fine Arts in Thessaloniki, Greece. You can find his work on his website.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

Atmospheric instrumental has been my favorite for the past decade or so, but I also enjoy several gothic genres.

Forest, country, beach or city?

Why not a combination of the above? I enjoy the mingling. 

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

Unsatisfying jobs. I’ve had a lot of them in my life and you will find a lot of my characters are plagued by this very real problem.

What’s your favourite TV show?

Babylon 5. 

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Big Trouble in Little China. You didn’t see that coming, did you?

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut. I know, cheesy.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

Autumn. I love the balance of temperature and weather, as well as the gearing up to Xmas 😀

And the nuts?

Haha, sure!

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, Hesiod.

What’s your favourite quote, ever?

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.” H.P. Lovecraft

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Understanding women and waking up in the morning.

That’s where I’m lucky. Lady squirrels are very easy to understand.

Lucky indeed, my friend!

Where can readers follow you on social media?

I have a Website and I’m on Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook.

And where can readers find your book?

Elmwean’s Lodge is free to download in epub and pdf on our website and a few digital stores.

Thanks for being here today, Gregory! I wish you success!

Thank you, Book Squirrel!


Author Interview: Nolan Roland

Today I’m chatting with Adam Burt, author of the superhero sci-fi book ‘Read Me!’ – published as though written by the main character, Nolan Roland.
Welcome, Adam!

Thanks, Book Squirrel!

Why don’t you start by telling us what inspired you to write?

I think I’ve always been a somewhat creative person, and at various stages of my life I’ve found that manifesting in various ways. In the last few years, that started to happen as like… constant daydreaming, especially late at night or in the shower. I started putting pen to paper, just doing short stories at first, some of which I published, and then I decided to try to… I guess graduate, into doing a full novel, which I always saw as a challenge I wanted to complete one day. That’s how “Read Me” was born.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

I do have a lot of fondness for my short stories, because there’s something quite raw about them, they’re punchy. But taken as a whole I would have to say Read Me! is the work I’m most proud of. I think, even though it started just as a personal challenge for me, it’s become a bit of a passion project because I’ve seen how it can resonate with readers. Even though it’s got superheroes in it and it’s science fiction, I think it speaks to people, and the fact that it has that affect on people is something I’m immensely proud of.

What are you working on writing now?

Well, the big news is that I’m hard at work on a sequel to Read Me! Imaginatively titled “Read Me Too”, my plan is to release it in 2019.

Who designs your book covers?

At the minute I actually design my own. With “Read Me”, there’s quite a deliberate aesthetic, because part of the core conceit is that it’s presented as an autobiography. Presented as a book that the main character, Nolan Roland, had to publish any way he could. And if that meant that he had to slap a cover on it he made himself, to get it done, well, that’s what he would have done.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

I’m one of those annoying people who says they have an eclectic taste. Like, “I like everything!”. And that’s almost true. I do tend to favour electronic and rock. Actually, I like to make playlists when I’m writing, and the one for Read Me is a mix of things like Yeasayer, Idlewild and Biffy Clyro. So I was definitely into rock during this writing process!

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

This is an interesting question because I think it gets to the core of why Read Me speaks to people. Fundamentally, each of the characters is a reflection or example of some kind of mental health issue, the sorts of things we all come into contact with during our lives. And some of that is overt, some of it’s more subtle, but there’s grief, loneliness, depression, the weight of expectation, and more. In some ways, all the characters are based on things I hate (or have hated) about myself at various points in my life.

What’s your favourite TV show?

I’m still angry that Firefly got cancelled. In terms of what’s currently airing, I think Game of Thrones is such a towering achievement, such a cultural touchstone while still having these fantasy elements. I think we’ll all be talking about it for years to come, and that’s definitely my favourite thing still in circulation.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut! Little space themes and motifs make their way into all of my books, in one way or another.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

In terms of writing, I like a cold Spring, or the Autumn (Fall). I enjoy Summer a lot, but I find it really hard to write when it’s too sunny outside.

What’s your favourite quote, ever?

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.” – Douglas Adams.
For me, that just says it all, and Adams was the master of making science fiction that walked the line between ridiculous but still really relatable.

Where can readers find your book?

“Read Me” can be found on Amazon, both in paperback and for Kindle, and it has also a Facebook page.

Fast Four: Science Fiction Book Recommendations

Love a great Sci-Fi read?

These are four of the best I’ve read. From epic space opera to YA and cross-world adventure… they’re excellent!

Shiva XIV – The first book in a brilliant four part epic space opera. https://www.amazon.com.au/Shiva-XIV-Book-ebook/dp/B00REWXB4E/

The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce – Mysterious YA sci-fi https://www.amazon.com/Incredible-Aunty…/dp/B07G6T3669/

Webley and the World Machine -Fun and snarky cross-world adventure. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0771P4DF2/

Ether – An exceptional YA sci-fi story.  https://www.amazon.com/Ether-J-S-Frankel…/dp/B07B6V6G3W/

Author Interview: Stephanie Barr

Book Squirrel interviews science fiction and fantasy author Stephanie Barr.

Welcome to another great Book Squirrel author interview. Today we welcome fantasy and science fiction author Stephanie Barr.

Thank you, Book Squirrel!

You’re most welcome. Tell us, Stephanie, what inspired you to write?

I love to tell stories. I love to pretend I’m in a different situation (or some variation of me) and imagine how I could overcome, beat it, react, interact with others, find my way free. I’m a natural problem-solver and I love to both create and overcome problems as I write. I love to help characters grow as they learn and interact with others. Characters are front and center in my own work, my focus, and I love to go adventuring with them and share those adventures with others. 

As for something specific that inspired me, everything kind of does. I love to play what if, and imagine what might happen if I tweaked a few features. Perhaps I was encouraged in that mindset in high school with teachers who didn’t squash that tendency to turn essays into stories, but I can’t remember when I didn’t do this.

What are you working on writing now?

I’m working on cowriting the second book in the Witches and Demons series with Mirren Hogan (called Illusion), focused on an alternate here and now and magic with demons, sort of urban fantasy. 

I’m working on finishing the third book in my Bete series (called Twice the Man) which are sort of science fantasy, science fiction elements (space ship crash landing on a new planet across the universe from their home planet) but adding shapeshifters and psychic powers. I hinted at unfriendly natives in the first two books and now they’re going to make their move, and quite effective it was, with a chemical that removes the shapeshifting and psychic powers of my heroes. Guess they’ll have to outsmart ’em. 

I’m halfway through The Library at Castle Herriot, which is another here and now but there’s a magic library with books that can take you to other worlds including the past, but don’t take them out of the hidden library or you can’t return without living out the book as intended–and you won’t know how it goes. One false step and you’re trapped forever. I’d call it fantasy. 

I’m also coordinating a charity anthology (Challenge Accepted) where all the MCs must be disabled in some way and win the day (proceeds to go to Special Olympics).  And I’m involved in at least three other anthologies at the moment as well as building two of my own based on cat stories. Cats are one of my signatures and you can find one or more in all of my books, so I thought I’d write some stories for them.

Who designs your book covers?

So far, I’ve used two artists and devised some of the covers for my mini-anthologies myself (which are not good covers but the books are free so there’s that). Loraine van Tonder is my go-to cover designer. I love her work and I’ve bought more than a dozen covers from her and will undoubtedly buy more. She’s in South Africa but she is very easy to work with and consistently gives me stunning covers that really make an impression. I stumbled across her FB site from somewhere else, found a premade perfect for Curse of the Jenri with just a little tweaking and she ended up remaking covers for my existing novels (Saving Tessa, Nine Lives, Tarot Queen) except for Beast Within which was created by Brendan Smith. She also revamped my covers for my poetry collection (Musings of a Nascent Poet) and my first anthology (Creating Dreams). Since then, she has built covers for me for Incantation (Book one of the Witches and Demons trilogy), Legacy (my second anthology), and The Taming of Dracul Morsus (as well as several covers for future books). 

Brendan Smith is another cover artist I’ve used several times. He made Beast Within‘s cover within an hour (apparently for fun) and provided a premade perfect for Ideal Insurgent. He also did a cover for my mini-anthology Easy Prey.
He is also very responsive.

Loraine van Tonder can be found on FB if you search Ryn Katryn. Brendan Smith can also be found on FB. 

What’s your favourite kind of music?

I love music I can sing along with: pop, rock, show tunes, Disney tunes. Not a big fan of country (though there are songs that are exceptions), rap or religious music. I like bouncy music as it helps to keep me awake for day job and general everything since I don’t drink coffee. And I can listen to music when I’m doing everything but actually writing. When I’m writing, I need as close to silence as I can get with two kids and ten cats. 

Forest, country, beach or city?

City. I’m not outdoorsy and, if I want something, I want to find it right then, so accessibility to everything is my goal. I don’t want to drive miles to the nearest grocery store or drive half a day to the nearest airport. I live in hurricane alley already so the beach has lost its lustre. I love to curl up in my house with a book or a movie.

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

I don’t have many pet hates when it comes to people. I have a few pet peeves on writing: clunky dialog, characters who have to break character to do something to make the plot go, thesaurus mania (using synonyms when you clearly don’t understand the nuances), and (this is my big one) book that don’t complete a story arc

But you seem to be talking about people and I do have two: rapists and bigoted folks, people so caught up on what someone is that they don’t care WHO someone is. And, yes, I’ve used them both in my writing. Rapists are never anything but antagonists. Bigotry is not uncommon in my antagonists, but sometimes they do grow out of it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a veterinarian until I realized that animals throw up. A lot. I still have a low tolerance to regurgitation even after three children and ten cats. So, sometime around then I wanted to be a writer. But, I didn’t want to be a starving writer so I was going to get a day job (which I did) but I would never, in a million years, have predicted that my day job would be rocket scientist or that I would get a degree in engineering physics – a total fluke. So, I’m still capable of surprising even myself.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

I like the fall. I was born in the fall, is one reason, but the real reason is that I live somewhere really hot (Houston) and, though I hate the hard cold and snow and stuff, I do like the cessation of brutal heat. 

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

E.  A. Poe. I started out reading a lot of classics and no one wrote poetry that touched me more than Poe. I love his tricks with suspense, is amazing vocabulary, his understanding that the sound of a word can add to the tension and emotion of a poem or prose.  My early poetry, where I started when I began writing were all poems of the epic rhyme and rhythm type.

Heinlein. Not saying there aren’t some misses in the books, but, of the sheer volume of stories and novels, he’s got more greats than I could count and I’ve read most of them. He had a real turn for dialog, a great voice that made people feel real in nothing but a line or two. That’s a gift. He injects humor in most of his work without in anyway detracting from his speculative fiction, or the tension and pathos. I love that and have tried to do the same. I like his personality, often self-deprecating, when in anyone’s POV and his fondness for cats. Of course, I like his apparently effortless world-building where there are tons of details to build the world without taking any chunks of time to make them so, just weaving it into the narrative in a perfectly natural way. Plenty to learn there, too. 

Georgette Heyer. Yes, yes, why would a fantasy/SF author be inspired by a Regency romance author? Because she’s very good. Not only with very intelligent characters (and with great humor) but her character interactions are fantastic and charming. I’ve read most of her books a dozen times apiece and can read (or listen on audio) to them over and over even now and find myself cheered.  I want people to enjoy my own books in much the same way. 

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Marketing. I’ve no hand for it at all. As a rocket scientist, I can speak with assurance, backed by data. When it comes to pushing my work (which I love) on people when I know the reactions are subjective, is much more challenging for me. I don’t like to be pushed myself. I have the gratification that many of the people I do know that have read one have been eager to read more, but we’re still talking about a very small number of people. Getting the book in the hands of someone open to fall in love with a new author is not so easy and I haven’t figured out how best to do it. 

Raising children. Not a particularly unique thought, but since I’ve done most of my child-raising as a single mother, I wish I had a better handle on it, especially with my two youngest on the spectrum. They are both, however, two of the happiest children ever so there’s that. And my eldest, while not quite as happy, is quite a accomplished and has the nature to carve her way with distinction.

Where can we find your books?

My books are most easily available on Amazon and Smashwords but you can find them on any ebook and most book retailers.
Ideal Insurgent is also available most places that sell audio books.

Where can readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook and Twitter.
I also have a writing blog, or people can sign up to receive my newsletter.


Book Review: ‘Sylvermoon Chronicles VII’ by the Confederacy of the Quill

This anthology – the seventh in the Sylvermoon Chronicles series – is an outstanding collection of science fiction, fantasy and  horror short stories by authors who are most accomplished at their craft. 

The stories range from angels to demons and wraiths, futuristic worlds to fantasy lands, and scenes laden with terror to deep inner conflicts and fears. Each one is powerfully written, able to immerse the reader in a situation that demands and consumes their attention from the outset.  

The stories are, without exception, quite excellent. 

The diversity and variety between the stories ensure that the reader is always engaged and interested, While there were definitely stories that I enjoyed more than others, that is purely a matter of personal preference.

Sylvermoon Chronicles VII has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Star Chaser: The Traveler: Beyond The Outer Rim’ by Reiter

An epic journey that no science-fiction fan will want to miss.

“Open your mind!” Dungias could imagine Thought pleading with him. “For I can do nothing with you while it is closed.

This quotation stayed with me throughout my reading of this fascinating and complex science-fiction novel which engages the reader quickly and effectively. An open mind and willingness to think beyond oneself is the key to the characters in this book being portrayed as positive or negative, and as likeable or not. 

Not only is the story original and interesting, it is also thought-provoking in terms of the values and behaviours of society, and of various groups of people that exist within it. 

The story of Dungias turns a looking glass on the way in which some people and groups in society respond to difference and individuality in a powerful and very relevant way, even though the contexts are different. The resilience and personal strengths of Dungias’ character are inspiring, presenting a valuable example of how such prejudice and discrimination can be dealt with in constructive ways, yet at the same time conveying a very realistic sense of the sadness and isolation experienced even within their own families by those who live with differences and individual qualities that society finds confronting. Even so, the limitations assumed and imposed by others do not serve to define or the individual, as Dungias so profoundly demonstrates.  

As the story progresses, the reader journeys with Dungias through conflict, growth and developments that bring him to understanding that “nothing in our lives is as much a discovery as it is truly a revelation”. Indeed, there is much revealed about both Dungias and the reader as this action-packed story and its secrets unfold. 

‘Star Chaser’ is both entertaining and inspiring, innovative and engrossing. It’s a journey that no science-fiction fan will want to miss. 

This riveting epic read has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here