Author Interview: Catherine Weaver

Interview Orange

Welcome to another Book Squirrel Author Interview, in which Book Squirrel meets Catherine Weaver, the author of the Island of California books, which are fantasy books set in the present day Silicon Valley area and the magical Island of California.

Welcome, Catherine!

Thank you, Book Squirrel. It’s lovely to meet you!

Tell us, Catherine, what kind of audience you write for.

My books were written for middle-grade readers and have absolutely nothing in them that is not family-friendly. Kids who have read the books so far really like them, and most adults who have read them like them, too.

That’s great! It’s true that the best kids’ books are loved by adults as well.

Yes, there’s a child in all of us.

Or, at least, a very cute little squirrel. 

Yes, of course!

Are your books all in a series, or are they single titles?

The novels, Gold Dust and Phoenix Down, and I am currently working on the third in the series, Dragon Oil.

I also have two books of short stories: Tales From the Island of California, and More Tales From the Island of California.

What inspired you to write?

I come from a family of writers. My mother, Jane Blue, is a poet, and her mother wrote articles for newspapers in San Francisco, so I grew up with the idea that writing was something people do. But what really inspired me to actually start writing books was my huge love of reading, plus my love of the San Francisco Bay Area. I read lots and lots of books that I loved, but noticed there was a distinct lack of fantasy books set in the SF Bay Area and Silicon Valley, which I feel are among the most magical places on Earth, and I wished I could read a book like that. Since I couldn’t find them, I decided to write them.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

I like them all, but have a special place in my heart for my first book, Gold Dust.

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

Ask me this on a different day and I will give you a different answer. I am a voracious reader and I have a lot of favorites. Right now I’m reading Ready Player One, which I am enjoying very much. I just finished Anansi Boys, which I feel is a perfect book. I also think most of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett are perfect. I completely loved The Martian and can’t wait for the sequel. The Thin Man is one of the best books ever written. The Harry Potter books are likewise amazing. When I was a kid, I read and re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy to a point where I had them memorized, and the same goes for the Chronicles of Narnia. There are many more.

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

Today I have to say Ready Player One.

What are you working on writing now?

The third book in my series, which is called Dragon Oil.

Do you have any books planned that feature… you know… squirrels?

Uh… no. Sorry.

It’s okay. It’s never too late, you know.

I’ll keep that in mind.

Thanks.
What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

When I went to Switzerland and stayed with friends in Yverdon near Lausanne, rented an Alpha Romeo, and drove all over the french part of Switzerland, then down the Rhone Valley in France to Marseille, staying in Valence on the way.

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

I really hate prejudice, greed and the way artists are devoured by the machine. I also hate religious, cultural and gender discrimination. These things are addressed in my writing, in a way that is palatable for kids. My books are full of humor, so the things I hate are not hit over anyone’s head.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.

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

An architect.

Cool!
What’s your favourite season? Why?

I like autumn the best because it’s sunny but not too hot, the air smells of wood fires, and the low sunlight slanting through the turning leaves is beautiful.
And all those lovely nuts!
Absolutely!

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

Terry Pratchett, Dashiell Hammet, JRR Tolkien

Great choices! 

Thanks!

Where can we follow you on social media?I’m on Facebook and Twitter and I also have a webpage.

You’re also welcome to check out my Amazon author page, which has all of my books on it.

Just click through on the links.

Thanks for being here today, Catherine. 

Thank you for having me!

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Book Review: ‘Leger – Cat Sleuth’ by Lacie Dearie

‘Leger – Cat Sleuth’ is a delightful short story in which a cat takes on the role of detective to solve a mystery that unfolds very close to his home.

It’s written with good humor and clever characterization of the protagonist and his animal friends, feline and otherwise, who help him find the pieces of the puzzle and find the culprit he seeks. 
Suitable for any reader from young adult upwards, this story is a short read but contains enough charm and interest to engage a reader and entertain their imagination.

‘Leger – Cat Sleuth’ and others in the series are available on Amazon.

Introducing: Literature Lemur

Today the Book Squirrel introduces a great friend who loves to read and write reviews, which she wants to share with you here.

Literature Lemur Leaf

Book Squirrel is excited to introduce to you the Literature Lemur and her first guest review!

True confession: I’m not much into poetry. I’m probably not the first reviewer to admit this, and I’m certain I won’t be the last. That being said, I found the verses in Leaf to be heart-touching and compelling.

Van Leerdam has taken tiny bits of her soul and used them to paint words of such intensity that even the hardest of hearts can’t help but be moved. Her poetry is real and now, and it speaks to everyone on one level or another.

So even if you don’t think poetry is “your thing”, maybe give Leaf a try. You’ll find that you might just be into it after all. I know I did.

Blurb:

“This well-written poetry collection is filled with love, loss, betrayal, sadness, and ultimately, rebirth. My favorite poems included are The Artist, Observations of a Traveling Pluviophile, Misery, Pharisee, and Old. Best line from Pluviophile: “There are no rainbows without rain.” Love that.

Many gems can be found in this lovely collection. I recommend it for anyone who likes melancholy, deep, thought-provoking poetry.” – Amazon Review

‘Leaf’ is the first collection of poetry published by Joanne Van Leerdam.
Lyrical, often metaphorical and always unashamedly honest, these poems are expressions of the poet’s own experiences and observations about life, love and human nature.

“With this collection, the poet offers us a glimpse inside her thoughts. At times intimate and raw, Leaf has a dreamlike quality that resonates with the reader covering themes of love, loneliness, disappointment and despair” … “Van Leerdam’s poetry is beautiful and lyrical, poetry to be read aloud.” – Amazon Review

You can find all things Joanne Van Leerdam at www.jvlpoet.com

Order Leaf here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N2W0HV6/  

Author Interview: Tobey Alexander

Interview Lime

 

Hey folks, I’m here today interviewing author Tobey Alexander!

Welcome, Tobey! 

Thanks Squirrel, I’m glad to be here!

Me too! I mean, uh… I’m glad you could make it!

Haha, okay!

Tell us, Tobey, what inspired you to write?

I have always written as an escape from what I have been doing in my everyday life. I wrote through college and university to, probably more honestly, avoid the work I should have been doing. But, I never did anything with those stories. Perhaps because I didn’t have the skill to write properly back then but now, since I have had children, I have decided to lead from the front and get my stories out there.

It all came to a head when I saw my youngest son’s growing imagination and how it makes him look a little odd to other children. The way he plays, the stories he comes up with, even when he was so young, often got some strange looks off other kids. As he’s got bigger I have polluted his imagination with my crazy stories, which is where my Magdon Series began. But when I’ve seen it thrive in him and how much all of my children have enjoyed my stories it was that, in all honesty, that made me dare to look into self-publishing.

From there it has spiralled and snowballed. I just wanted to show (T), my youngest son, what you can do if you let your imagination do what it does.

My first book Footprints On The Other Side was a flight of fancy that started at training school for my career. I read one particular author and got bored with their series, I then dared myself to write something and that is when Footprints was born. But, again, publishing it was all thanks to wanting to inspire my little monster.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

It isn’t a particular book but instead a story arc, my Magdon creature. It all came about when (T) was two and asked about a noise in the woods. I made up a monster and my oldest son got wind of it.

Very soon I thought it would be fun to make up some maps, treasure hunts, more and more stories to build on this silly little lie. All of a sudden it became a whole falsified family history (I even made the main hero against the monster my great granddad – incidentally I have no idea who my great granddad really was so it allowed me to make one up!)

The Magdon stories have grown with me curled up on the end of one of my boys’ beds talking through ideas which we talked about and literally brainstormed between us. So, from one little idea, we created something we lived between us and for that reason I love The Magdon Myth more than anything else.

Every idea comes from somewhere deep in your imagination and you either nurture it or let it fall from memory. The Magdon, by making it up as I went along, I was Beta testing against my children who helped me create something I can say was fed by my intended audience. What I wanted was to make that world that parents and children, young and old, could enjoy. I pictured mums and dads enthusiastically reading my stories to their own children and dancing around the room acting out the scenes (pretty much like I did all the way through).

That sounds great! The Magdon doesn’t eat squirrels, does he?

No. He’s a myth. Myths don’t eat anything.

Phew! I was getting worried there…

Haha! Nothing for you to worry about!

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

Greece, the first holiday with my now wife when we were teenagers. I remember it was a period when I was focusing on meditation (influenced by being obsessed with Star Wars Episode II which was out at the time). When I need a time to relax and reflect one of my anchor points is being stood on the open terraced roof of the apartment looking out across the sea listening to the waves crash against the pebble beach. If I ever get to retire I would love to see more of Greece. That said though I haven’t ever revisited it in a book or story I have written. That may change but for me it is a memory I would rather keep than give away to a character or story.

What are you working on writing now?

Into The Dark and Blue Light Christmas 2.

Two at once?

Two at once.

Wow! That’s impressive! Tell me more!

The first is something that was fed from the feedback I received about my Magdon Series. Where I have tried to write them as a series of novelettes so younger audiences can enjoy the adventure, the adults who have read them contacted me and told me I should write something for an older audience set in that world.

Into The Dark was an absolute whim and I tried to create a new story in my world of Magdons that would most certainly entertain and feed an older generation of readers. I have really enjoyed stepping it up a level in terms of substance and story and have really brought a sense of family into this story. My wife will be quite brutal when she says how deeply I have thrown myself into writing Into The Dark. It went from a fleeting idea into a story I really have enjoyed writing and getting myself into. 

Cover 8

As for Blue Light Christmas 2 this is something that has come about because of a charity project I did at the last minute last year. I wanted to write a story to give a little bit of a human element to policing, especially in the United Kingdom, and give the families of police officers some story to explain why they work some of the key dates in their family’s lives.

In doing so I gave all profits (what little there are sometimes) to Care Of Police Survivors charity. Even though I only did it as a last minute idea last year I have decided to do it again with a new story and this time put some more time to get my talented illustrator to help me out and also raise even more awareness and profile around the story to raise even more money this time around.

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

I wanted to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot but that didn’t happen for many reasons, including hay fever. Like all children growing up I probably wanted to be Robocop, Indiana Jones and almost every superhero. I’m now 33 and I think if you asked me my dream job it would still be some superhero. The career I ended up in though fills that gap I suppose, it was an interesting ride getting here but it’s been an interesting and worthwhile journey, just a shame I can’t write about it.

Oooh! Secret Squirrel, eh?

Yes indeed!

Name three people you admire, and give reasons.

Three? The first would be my oldest son. The last year has been testing and trying for him and although he’s only (currently) 8 he has shown me how big he can be. When he was 7 he wanted to climb a mountain so we had a summer “boy’s weekend” and climbed Mount Snowdon in Wales. I’ve never seen such tenacity in him. It was his first real adventure and he lapped it up. Then two months later he was rushed to hospital suffering from a mystery illness they thought was meningitis. He was extremely ill and scared the life out of me, his mother and his siblings. It turned out to be Henoch-Schonlein Purpura which, while not imminently life-threatening, brings its own risks and complications. Hospitalised, he was lying on a drip and the only thing he asked me was “Can I walk Snowdon again?” Considering the fact he could not even stand up, never mind walk, it was a lump-in-throat moment for me. Since recovering he has aged a little, understands how ill he was but he’s already done two mountains since then.

Number two is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, from a fitness aspect (although I never aim to be as big in stature or size) his ethos is inspiring. Having read Total Recall, his autobiography, I have so much respect for him. The determination and drive that man has is completely inspirational and if I could achieve even a tenth of what he has from my own motivation alone I would be a happy man. I know it sounds rather clichéd but for me, having read his life, he is the gold standard of personal drive and motivation to achieve against the odds. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he has done but that attitude he carries towards everything connects with me.

And lastly….a third, well, I am struggling. The first two came into my head straight away so the fact I am struggling for a third probably means there isn’t one. There are plenty of people who I admire in a fleeting way but nobody I would hold my hand up that pops into my head straight away so I won’t fill in what isn’t really there.

Fair enough! What movie can you watch over and over again?

I have quite a few, a film for different occasions! Normally, as I work shifts, I will watch something to put me in the mood for a night shift. These normally include End Of Watch and the Point Break remake (yes, I know a lot of people dislike it but for me it connects because it is what influenced my oldest son to want to climb mountains with me and explore the great outdoors). My other favourite I can watch over and again is the Bridget Jones series. It’s a film me and my wife will default too when we want a nice chilled evening together and they never get old.

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

It isn’t easy but there is no better way to grow yourself, your skills and connect with some amazing people. It really is a journey of taking the leap from being the closet writer, enjoying your own work but perhaps lacking the confidence to release it upon the world. Being Indie forces you to do the very best with what you have.

Sure, some of us – myself included – may think we have what it takes, but that skill only really grows as you go along. I have immense pride in every book have written but I know I learn from each one and hopefully that helps me get better, neater, tidier and a better storyteller as I go along.

1 (1)

Daring to put yourself out there when so many of the agents and publishers won’t touch you with a barge pole is rather liberating. It’s hard not to feel the “smackdown” of repeated rejections but there is nothing more inspiring and confidence building than that first review that says to you, in not so many words “you’re not as bad as you’ve let yourself think”.

Seeing someone take the time to read, and ultimately enjoy, your book is possibly one of the most rewarding things in this whole process. Especially when you consider doing it alone is almost like putting your reputation and personality out for public dissection (hence why I like a pseudonym as at least I can blame the “other guy” if it goes wrong!)

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

It is a mainstream published book, Spartacus by Ben Kane. It was during my phase of being obsessed with the Spartacus TV Series. That’s what motivated me to get deeper into my fitness training – lots of muscular men motivated me a little bit, more out of jealousy I suppose. When I found his two-part books I didn’t know what to expect and remember reading it while deployed to the Olympics in 2012. The second book I can honestly say is the only book to have ever made me cry. Sat on my break surrounded by people at work and I was trying to hide the fact I was crying at a book. It was after reading that when I thought I should try and get one of my own stories out there and really started researching Self Publishing and Indie Authoring.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Parenting! I get it wrong so many times. I try to be that dad that all the kids want to have but manage to mess it up with my own things. I have my gym (obsession), my writing (distraction), my outdoor (adventuring) and try to balance that with three very different little personalities. I’ve always been a bugger for self-criticising and tend to put myself in a guilt-complex when I feel I don’t get the balance perfectly right. Sometimes I absorb myself in my books too much, sometimes one child over the other, too much time at the gym, always being at work and the list goes on. I wish I could just get it right all the time!

Another thing I wish was easier is probably marketing. This being very author specific as I never seem to get that right. I know what I want to do and sometimes my imagination runs away with me. I have a very visual imagination so tend to act things out to make them work or else film/photograph things along the way to have a physical snapshot. I know I don’t have the proper connections to get seen so I feel I fumble along, as best I can, in the department of marketing and advertising. Aside from the fact I am biased, I honestly feel if I could get that right then something could happen with my stories. I, perhaps, simply lack the skill, knowledge and expertise to make that happen at the moment. But, as I said before, I’m growing with every project so who knows, maybe one day I’ll know what to do.

I think you probably get a lot of things right without realising, Tobey. Thanks for chatting with me today. 

Thanks, Squirrel! I can honestly say, you’re the most bookish squirrel I’ve ever met!

I think we’re friends now.

*high fives*

You can find Tobey’s books on Amazon

You can follow Tobey on social media at:

Author Interview: Betty Mermelstein

Interview Red

Hi folks! I’m back again with another fantastic Indie author interview. Today, I’m chatting with multi-genre author, Betty Mermelstein. Welcome, Betty!

Thanks, Squirrel!

Tell me, Betty, what inspired you to write?

I have always loved to read and was interested in learning vocabulary and grammar even in elementary school, so I decided I wanted to tell my own stories with the written word.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Gone With the Wind: oh, the drama!

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

Since I was nine, I wanted to be a teacher because of my love of learning. I kept that desire and got my college degree in teaching. I retired after having taught preschool, elementary, and junior high.

Wow! Kids of all sizes!

That’s right!

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

You have to be willing to find the support as you struggle to format your books to get them self-published (especially as an ebook), find a means to advertise your books, and work your way through technology as you set up and maintain a website/blog. However, you don’t give up!

That’s right! Don’t give up!

*Betty and Squirrel give each other high fives*

What’s your favorite season?

It’s a toss up between Fall and Spring. I was born in the Fall, and it feels comfortable to me: the smell of leaves on the ground, the brightness of the foliage, the crispness in the air (of course, I haven’t lived in a climate that supports that for many years, but the memories make it palpable!). Spring makes me shiver inside with anticipation of newness and opportunities. It shows its beauty in its blooms and rejuvenates my soul with its breezes.

Oh! I love fresh blooms! It’s like… every bush is a salad!

Right…

Yeah. Back to the interview…
What the best book you’ve read this year?

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. I love historical fiction, and this one is set in WWII in France and New York, following characters who are part of the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

What’s your favorite thing you have written?

That’s a hard one. I also write poetry and short humorous essays, some of which have been published. I guess I feel most accomplished in putting together my collection of short stories that deal with relationships, entitled Seven for Reflection.

What are you working on now?

I mostly continue with my short humorous essays for my blog on Tumblr. There’s always something I experience in my life that I can poke fun at.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled in Canada, Europe, and around the U.S. One of the best trips was last year when I returned to our family’s summer cottage on a lake in Michigan with my husband and sisters. We connected with extended family and proved that you can go back!

What are two things in life that you wish were easier?

I wish my expectations (which covers a wide range of situations) could be met more than they are. I always tell myself my expectations make me delusional! I also wish I could learn things more quickly, especially in technology. In my twenties, I thought I could learn anything: again, delusional!

Thanks for joining me today, Betty! 

Thanks for having me, Squirrel!

Betty Mermelstein’s books can all be found at Amazon, and you can follow her blog on Tumblr

‘The Truths We Tell’ by Sarah Northwood

Sarah Northwood gives voice to thoughts and feelings commonly experienced, but often not so thoughtfully expressed, by people in all walks of life.

Divided into three sections – fear, contemplation and love, The Truths We Tell explores the ways in which we respond to the situations and feelings that challenge us and those things that fill and complete us. The reality of being haunted by regret and the “what ifs” of life is contrasted with the whimsy of fleeting happiness and the irresistible, transforming power of love.

Through all of this is the reminder that life is what it is: “Feeling the breeze on her cheek she knew, the wind can never be the sun.” (Unique)

Without the fear, we cannot fully feel bravery or confidence. Without grief, we can fully experience neither love nor joy. Life is the sum of all its parts.

That is the truth that these poems tell. 

Author Interview: Nancy Quinn

Interview Red

Nancy Quinn Go West

 

Hi, booklovers! It’s great to be back!

Today I’m interviewing Nancy Quinn, author of ‘Go West, Young Woman’. 

Hi Nancy, it’s great to have you here.

Hi, uh… Book Squirrel? Squirrel?
What should I call you?

Sure. You can call me anything except late for dinner.

Haha , okay!

Tell us, Nancy, what inspired you to write?  

Books have always been such an influence in my life; I secretly wondered if I would ever write one. I had greatly admired the books written by James Herriot, and being a wildlife artist and having a love for animals, I enjoyed the stories of his encounters and relationships with dogs, cats, and livestock.  As I grew older and began to have my own experiences with both domestic and exotic wildlife, I often thought my own true stories might make an interesting read.  When my husband and I moved our family from Washington, D.C., to a rural mountain in Montana, I felt I finally had a story worth sharing in written word.  My debut book, Go West, Young Woman! tells of our adventures living with our new neighbors – wolves, cougars, and grizzly bears.

Wow. Scary! Any squirrels over there that haven’t been eaten yet?
You bet there are.
Phew! Okay, sorry for the distraction. Next question…

What are you working on writing now?

I am currently writing the sequel to our story.  It covers the next five years of our western experience.

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

I still adore the pioneer stories like Little House on the Prairie and the Nancy Drew mystery series, so much so that I read them with my daughters.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?  

I enjoy writing about nature and the behavior of animals, so I try “painting” a picture with my words.   I think some of my best writing describes the weather and climate here in Montana – thunderous summer hailstorms, water-colored sunsets of ever changing hues, and autumn frost twinkling on golden brown leaves.  Other favorite topics include my “conversations” with animals, and their discussions with each other.  It’s fun to describe their unique personalities by expressing their thoughts in words.

What’s your favorite season? Why?

Summer!  Summer in Montana is warm and dry.  We don’t have much humidity here, and I can stay outside for longer periods of time.  The rolling mountains have shed their blankets of snow, the green grass is cool underfoot, and we can pick wildflowers throughout the meadows.  After the morning rain passes over the mountains, we can see a rainbow or two.  I get to spend more time with the horses, enjoy a different sunset every evening, and marvel at the night skies so intense with stars.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

Prior my husband retiring from the United States Air Force, we were investigating where we wanted to live, so we decided to take a trip out west and see a part of the country unknown to me.  We rented a mini-van for a month, and spent that time exploring Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.  We traveled at our own pace and explored countless towns, looking for one to call home.  The feeling of freedom from not having a schedule, combined with the scenery of the wide-open spaces and the self-reliant and self-assured people we met along the way, are memories I hold very dear.

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

Spy Handler, a Memoir of a KGB Officer. I enjoy true stories and this book is a fascinating memoir by the Soviet agent who recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, two of America’s’ most infamous traitors.  I also am a fan of Sherlock Holmes, so any story, book, or movie involving the fictional sleuth is a must read or see for me.  Did you know there’s a recent book about Holmes and Watson visiting Montana?

Really? That’s quite a fascinating idea!

I know! That’s why I mentioned it.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

I love the movie Overboard with Goldie Hawn.  It has some hysterical one-liners and situations that make me laugh every time.

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

I wanted to be a vocalist and win a Grammy Award!  As a young woman I studied voice and learned opera with a retired instructor from Julliard.  I used those skills to sing in night clubs, much to her chagrin.  I sang professionally for a few years and even generated some mild interest from MCA records.  Since I was never offered a contract, and it was hard juggling music with a job in law enforcement, I decided to pursue my art, and later my writing, as a career.

 Name two things in life that you wish were easier. 

I wish marketing my book was easier!  I also wish I didn’t have to be so careful with my diet; I used to be able to eat anything without gaining weight.  Now, I find myself passing up some of my favorite foods (is chocolate a food group?) for the sake of my health.

I’d love to know more about your book…

You could watch my book trailer!

Great! Where’s it hiding?

It’s on Youtube!

It’s on SquirrelTube?

Uh… I’ve never heard of that.

Oh. Awkward….
I’m keen to read your book, Nancy. Where can I get a copy? 

It’s available on Amazon or at Hellgate Press, where it’s currently on sale!
Or, you can get personalized autographed copies at www.quinnwildlifeart.com .

Hellgate Press… is that a fire sale?

Haha, no!

Okay. Where can we find you online?Social Media Logos Cutout

My Website: https://nancy442.wixsite.com/quinn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nancyquinn0/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nancyQauthor

Thanks for being here with me today, Nancy.
See you soon!

Bye for now, Book Squirrel!