Thursday, 25 January 2018

Coffee chat with J S Frankel, Canadian born now writer living in Japan

It's been a fine start to 2018. I've read 2 books "I am Legend" by Richard Matheson on my Kindle and "The Choice" by Nicholas Sparks in paperback. Proof that you can enjoy reading on both platforms. and across genres. I've finally gone to the cinema to see "The Last Jedi" and I LOVED it. It's more grown up than all the rest of them combined, and I think that's what's resonating with me. And I'm excited about lining up more guests for my coffee chats. This week's guest is an author who was born and grew up in Canada but now resides in Japan teaching English.

Please welcome J. S. Frankel to my virtual café.

D L: Firstly, since it's a coffee chat, how do you like your coffee (or not as has been the case) and what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

J S Frankel: Coffee? I have to have it first thing in the morning. If I don't, my world stops revolving. Sugar and milk--both, please! And toast...can't forget about the toast!
DL: You were born in Canada and now live in Japan and teach English. Has there been any lure, or request even, to include a Japanese influence in your works. For example, anime or martial arts?

J S Frankel: That's a good question. To be honest, no, but I have included corruptions of some Japanese place names and things in my books from time to time. I have had an idea for a book involving a Japanese detective, a foreigner--the classic fish out of water trope--and tattoos, but that will have to wait. I need to do more research first. 

DL: You have a lot of books coming out, and you're also writing multiple series at once. What are some of the good and/or bad points to pumping out books? You obviously get faster and better at it, but is there one technique you use that you'd recommend to other writers? 
J S Frankel: The good thing about constantly writing is that it keeps your mind constantly working and dreaming up new things. It's a sort of 'can you top this?' scenario. As well, people will see your name and think, "Ah, that writer is prolific. Maybe I should check out their work." Granted, there's no guarantee that they will.
As for the bad thing about it, it is quite possible that some good books get lost in the shuffle, but most writers will tell you that it's best to have too many than too few...unless you're Harper Lee. 


As for technique? The only thing I'd recommend is if you're doing a trilogy or series, then keep those names and events straight. Sometimes you need flashbacks, and it is embarrassing if you make a mistake with the name of your peripheral characters. I write the names down so that I don't forget. As an example, with my Catnip series (five books) I had a few constant supporting characters, and I had to get their names and descriptions straight. Not only that, I also had to have them grow as people, not just Harry and Anastasia (the two main characters). If the supporting cast grows with the main characters, then it's more satisfying.

D L: If we were to take a look at your book shelf at home, what sort of books would we find? And what would be the one book on your shelf that nobody would expect to find there?
J S Frankel: You'd find a lot of sci-fi books, mainly Ray Bradbury, Niven and Pournelle, and Frederik Pohl. You'd also find mysteries, mainly by Bill Pronzini, who wrote the 'Nameless Detective' series, a lot of books that my late father enjoyed reading. He passed that love of mystery on to me. A book on my shelf that no one would expect? Hmm...can't think of one. I'm pretty staid in my tastes.
D L: Are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And which is your favourite biscuit/cake?
J S Frankel: Cake. Always cake. Call me plebeian, but Black Forest cake--if it's made right--does it for me. My wife likes it as well, so...anything chocolate will do, but Black Forest cake is THE one for me.

Thanks for dropping by. If you'd like to check out a book by this author, read on.
High school student Paul Coleman’s life is an ordinary one. His existence takes a turn for the extraordinary when he and his best friend, Rory, are attacked by a winged demon one day. The demon, which calls itself Hekla, possesses the power of sound, and kills Rory with its scream. Paul survives, but the force from the blast has left him mainly deaf.

A year later, Paul is out of school, working part-time, and is fearful of going deaf forever. Although he has learned sign language well, he wonders where his life will go.

All that changes when Montague (Monty) Trillian, also known as Master Fantastic, enters his life and requests his services as a sign language teacher for his daughter, Myrna.
J. S Frankel's novels, all for the YA set, include Twisted, Lindsay Versus the Marauders and it's sequels, Lindsay, Jo, and the Tree of Forever, and Lindsay, Jo and the Well of Nevermore, all courtesy of Regal Crest Enterprises. He has also written the Catnip series (five novels), Mr. Taxi, The Titans of Ardana and its sequel, The Titans of Ardana 2: Battlefield, along with Picture (Im)perfect and more novels, courtesy of

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Finding hidden meanings in science fiction

I’m almost done with the edits of the Welcome to the Apocalypse trilogy. And the theme is quite evident when you read all 3 books. The theme is: consequences.

Book 1 starts out as an entertaining story about 3 characters who join in on the launch of a new virtual reality game, and they have to survive 24 hours of an apocalypse. But something happens on the outside and they become stuck in the game. They have to keep playing, advancing through the games, until they’re rescued or their simulation pods fail.
Imagine you’re stuck in a world where anything goes. Do you apply the ‘anything goes’ moniker, or do you uphold the same values you uphold in the real world?

This is the core theme behind this series. I have to admit, I copped flak from some readers who wanted Book 1 to be a giant 'kill fest'. However, this was full immersion into a virtual world where players were faced with monster or environments that wanted them dead, and they had to fight to stay alive. And here's the kicker: this wasn't a video game with digital looking characters. This virtual world was as real as your surroundings.
In Book 2, the characters are rescued and taken to a facility to recover. There they have to deal with the deaths of some friends, and face that the outside world isn’t what it used to be, and it’s forever changed. Now all they want to do is get home. The story is no longer just a fun read, it’s a shift in balance for some players. Money no longer matters, nor does rank or title or gender. It's first come first served in the evacuation sites. They're still faced with consequences of their actions, even though in a world with no or few rules, can there be consequences?  

In Book 3, the survivors now have to make it home and find their place in this new world. And here the theme of consequence is once more evident. The characters' journey is over. Can they live with what they did in order to survive?

It might not seem a big deal, because none of this is real. Right? It's fiction. Science fiction at that.

Science fiction does not predict, it tells of the world as is it RIGHT NOW.

RIGHT NOW, there are sex dolls being built in Japan. Right now there are life-sized, real-life looking dolls (I'm betting only female dolls) being pushed around in wheelchairs by men whose wives don't want to have sex with them anymore. They're also working on designing sex robots and there is already a brothel of sex dolls.

Some would argue there's a therapeutic aspect to this type of doll or robot. Some might smirk that whatever they do behind closed doors is their business. And most of all, we'd remind ourselves that dolls and robots are not sentient beings. So what does it matter?

It’s been proven that humans give non-sentient objects their humanity. The video of a Boston Dynamics robot being pushed and kicked and bullied sent people into a frenzy. And this robot doesn't even LOOK human. How are we going to react when we see this same sort of bullying done to a robot or doll that has a life-like face?

And whose face are they using anyway?

RIGHT NOW, there are CGI experts who can super impose anybody's face into a porn film.

RIGHT NOW, there are companies working on full immersion virtual reality.

RIGHT NOW, we are going to have start thinking of any consequences we might face when it comes to non-sentient activities in human form.

Science is ever evolving, and scientists often apply the same philosophical question common in many science fiction novels. Can we do a particular thing? Yes. Should we do a particular thing? 

Can we create robots for sexual pleasure? Yes. But should we? Because if sex with a non-sentient being has no consequences, then can we also create sex dolls for sexual deviants. Yes, we can. But should we?

Can we super impose someone's face into a porn film in order to fulfil a fantasy? Yes. But should we?
Welcome to the Apocalypse started out as an adventure. As I finalise Book 3, I realize that I have asked my characters to consider the consequences of their actions inside the virtual world, as well as in an apocalyptic world where there are no rules. I've asked them to uphold their values which on a basic level is ludicrous really. Fiction is about escapism. And yet I can’t help feeling that a 'kill fest' book isn’t escapism at all. It’s too close to the real thing.

If you want to find out anything more about this trilogy, please click on the links or head to my website

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Coffee chat with Elizabeth Ivanovich, author of "Going Coastal: Santa Cruz and Beyond"

Greetings everyone. Grab your cup of joe, coffee, java, tea if you must, and settle in for a fantastic coffee what with Californian author, Elizabeth Ivanovich. The author of "Going Coastal: Santa Cruz and Beyond", which book sellers classify as a travel book yet it's mainly concerned with artists, musicians, and quirky aspects of the place Elizabeth calls home. One of the things I truly enjoyed about this coffee chat was Elizabeth's "voice". It really came through in her answers and I was easily swept up in our chat. And I'm typing this blog as I look out into a clear blue sky and it makes me want to get to know more about this part of California. 
photo courtesy schamantra, Pixaby Images

Now, before I even got around to asking Elizabeth questions, she discovered I was an Aussie and asked me a question.

Elizabeth: Is it true that AC/DC's band name is phonetically pronounced "Acca Dacca" there? For some reason, I can't get my head around that...

DLYes, it is pronounced Aaa Cee Dee Cee, but we Aussies likes to play with words, shorten them, slang them up, brand them, and give them terms of endearment. So yes, many fans call them "Acca Dacca" but for no real reason other than it's a play with the words. Guns N Roses is "Gunners",  Jimmy Barnes is "Barnesy" and John Farnham is "Farnesy". These are slang term immediately recognisable by another Aussie, so it's like a code I suppose. If you don't get the reference, we know you're not an Aussie. Does that make sense?

Elizabeth: Ah, I see. I vaguely remember things like Barnesy (the UK music press does similar things in a lot of its stories), but I figured the whole AC/DC thing was like an alternate alphabet pronunciation thing, like that old Mike Myers joke about whether ZZ Top would be pronounced "Zed Zed Top" overseas...
photo courtesy derwicki, Pixaby images
Welcome Elizabeth

 DL: Firstly, since it's a coffee chat, how do you like you coffee (or not as has been the case) and what is your favourite time of the day to partake?

Elizabeth: I'm definitely hooked on coffee, to the extent where I'll time errand-running to coincide with the arrival of a new batch of coffees at my favorite roaster. (Santa Cruz County has several excellent homegrown artisanal coffee companies, so it's far too easy to enable a caffeine addiction there.) I use an Aeropress, and then make a cheater's latte by microwaving some milk and frothing it with a stick blender. I'll drink one of those with breakfast, and be craving another mid-afternoon. Depending on my mood or what I'm eating with it, sometimes I'll add some cocoa or chop up some Mexican chocolate for a mocha. On a (surprisingly rare) hot day, I might make myself a Vietnamese iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk, pour a coffee shot over ice cream for an affogato, or just pour some cold brew over ice with a dash of cream. Needless to say, this makes me a little indecisive during (frequent and mandatory!) trips to a coffeehouse...
DL: Your book "Going Coastal" is a real behind the scenes look at California's central coast. I had no idea Santa Cruz was an ice cream mecca. Do you think knowing the history of a place helps tourists treat that town as their own instead of just having strangers visit? Is that part of the reason behind the book?
Elizabeth: I do think that's part of it. For me, it's also about working out the identity of the Central Coast as a place, since so much of it (even for those who live here) seems hard to define, and only discussed in relation to the rest of the state. It's considered part of Northern California, but there's a different feel compared to, say, Silicon Valley (even factoring in the local tech companies) or the wine country (though we have mountain vineyards). Surfing has been synonymous with Santa Cruz for generations, but the surf culture has a different vibe than Southern California's. Meanwhile, I grew up in nearby Watsonville, whose cultural attractions were usually overlooked in comparison to the larger city's. (Happily, that seems to be changing now.) So, there were a lot of different things to explore. I've come to cherish the combination of genuine characters, the quirky and often whimsical artistic sensibility, and laid-back unpretentiousness that makes the community unique.
DL: Music is a huge allure of California for many people. For someone who live in Australia where we have an abundance of sunshine and beaches, so music has offered a connection to California through fifties movies and 80s LA scene. Is there still a live music scene in California? How has it changed over the years?

Elizabeth: That whole beach connection makes sense, though I admit it never occurred to me before now. (Aussie bands have held a kind of cool, indefinable mystique since I was a kid, and I'd imagine other American rock fans might have the same curiosity.) I can't speak for other parts of California...LA's scene, which I haven't experienced personally in a few years, is likely different than San Francisco's, for instance. (The SF scene seems very festival-oriented to me, but that's probably because I hear about those more often as an out-of-towner than individual club shows.) Santa Cruz County is one of California's smallest geographically, but there's always been great musical diversity: thriving jazz, reggae, punk, and blues scenes, just off the top of my head. There are a surprising number of venues around, and they tend to be cozy and offbeat. (Last year, I went to a fantastic Diane Coffee show at the Crepe Place, a small restaurant with an even tinier stage space near the bar. I couldn't see very well because of the crowd by then, but I'm pretty sure lead singer Shaun Fleming had to step outside to change outfits for the finale, judging by the shrieks and squeals I heard near the Soquel Avenue entrance.) There have been a lot of complaints about Santa Cruz's zoning laws from musicians over the years, but I've seen more busking there lately. I don't know if the city has relaxed the rules, or if street musicians are more savvy about finding loopholes now.

photo courtesy carolaselles, Pixaby images

DL: Are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And which is your favourite biscuit/cake?
Elizabeth: As a home baker I tend to prefer biscuits, since they're easier to make and more versatile. (There's one for every occasion, and you can present a variety of them at once. You can eat more of them, too!) On the other hand, cake is a red-letter-day celebration, and the whole planning process is pretty tantalizing: choosing the layers, the filling, the frosting, decoration. I will always welcome a cookie (aagh, biscuit--force of habit, sorry!), but if a cake is around, I will eat a slice for breakfast every day (with my coffee drink of choice) until it's gone. So, I definitely am both. My cookie choice tends to change with my mood and the season. There's a dark chocolate truffle cookie recipe that's very close to my heart, though rolling the dough into balls first can be a little annoying. (I like to freeze the dough balls once they're made, so I can be spontaneous about baking them.) Oatmeal cookies are not only comforting, they're practically a meal. (Sustenance is important.) Right now I'm in a peanut blossom stage, using Alice Medrich's peanut butter cookie recipe with dark chocolate kisses on top. (They're so short and crumbly that it's a pain to get them off the parchment without breaking any, but the flavor is worth it in the end!) Once in a while I'll make an apricot cheesecake or banana bread with chocolate chips, and lately there's a chocolate persimmon loaf cake recipe that for once has me happy that my tree is laden with the squishy, difficult-to-reach fruit this year. For my birthday, though, it's nearly always a chocolate layer cake base, most often frosted with a chocolate ganache.
DL: Thank you, Elizabeth, for dropping by. And thank you, Reader, for stopping by.
California's Central Coast can be confusing. Electric guitars are made from car parts, bronze sculptures fill nursery gardens, and people actually want to watch a guy play the accordion! Elizabeth Ivanovich has deciphered these and other mysteries in GOING COASTAL. Meet local icons, discover the best of everything, and explore cultural life throughout the Bay Area. Equal parts character study, travel guide, and cultural analysis, GOING COASTAL reveals the California most visitors haven't seen.



 Going Coastal: Santa Cruz County and Beyond is available from the publisher, Other online vendors include Barnes and NobleAmazon, and Books-A-Million. (BookLocker will give you the quickest service, since it eliminates the middleman.) In Watsonville, Going Coastal is available at Kelly’s BooksBookshop Santa Cruz has copies on the shelf, and also allows online ordering. (Both stores often carry autographed copies, so feel free to ask!) In downtown San Jose, visit Seeing Things GalleryPowell’s Books has copies available for online or prepaid ordering. Indie Bound can help you find copies at independent bookstores, or you can order directly from the site’s online store. The book is distributed through Ingram.

Elizabeth is a native to California's central coast. She has a bachelor's degree in art history and a master's degree in drama. She was the arts and entertainment columnist for Santa-Cruz, California publication "Student Guide" for 13 years. This is her first book.
(Elizabeth doesn't have Facebook or Twitter. She is one of those free spirits we all wish we could be, not chained to social media). 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Coffee chat with Dawn Meredith

Welcome to 2018. I hope this year is going to be wonderful to everyone. I took a quick break from the coffee chats over the holiday period. Hoping to continue these for 2018.

First up for 2018 is Australian author Dawn Meredith. Dawn's first two books were published in 2000. Since then she has been published in almost every genre. She loves the quirky, the dark, the humorous, but also enjoys biographies and true life stories. fantasy and crime novels. Her ninth book was released in 2017. He work includes fiction and non-fiction books, short stories, short non-fiction pieces, and poetry. She has conducted many writing workshops for children and adults in many states of Australia and she's been a panellist and workshop presenter at Conflux and the Sydney speculative Fiction Convention.
DL: Firstly, since this is a coffee chat, how do you have your coffee? And what is your favourite time of the day to partake?
Dawn: Milky with 2 sugars. I don't tolerate coffee so well but it smells absolutely divine. But I am a mad tea drinker and being English, you'd better not hand me some weak looking dishwater in a cup!

DL: You've recently moved to writing young adult fiction from children's fiction. Are the story ideas flowing in abundance now that you've put on a new hat? And what has been the influence for the change to YA?

Dawn: I've written 5 YA novels but this is the first one to see the public spotlight. I was pretty happy with it. My first agent loved it but never really did anything with it. My second agent, same firm, said I needed to rewrite the entire thing in first person. I compromised. I rewrote in first person omniscient. It is better, I admit. I had the opportunity to tune it up a little too. I love trying new things and I've always wanted to write for the YA market.

DL: You've been successful in winning literary grants. For anyone wanting to apply, what do you think they could do to stand out from the crowd? And are the judges looking for things to do and not to do?

Dawn: I won the May Gibbs Fellowship. I just followed what they asked for and happened to have the right story at the right stage of development. I wouldn't have even known about it if a literary mentor hadn't suggested I apply. I was time poor and ideas mad and needed the 4 weeks break away. Very glad I won it!

DL: Have you found that publishers would prefer that you to stick to children's books from a branding perspective, or do you think they're supportive in seeing an author grow into other areas?

Dawn: No. I've never stuck with the same publisher. I have been writing in fiction and non fiction and different genres. A lot of it had to do with my work with quirky kids. My most successful book, which brings me monthly income 4 years later (and growing) , was self published through Moshpit. I've been looking for my 'voice' as they say. Funny thing is, when I finally said to myself, "stuff it! I'm just going to write how I damn well want to and stop worrying about 'show-not-tell' and 'no narrator voice!' and all that crap." Well, the very first page of that manuscript won the SCBWI Writers award and a scholarship last year, didn't it? That was Letters From the Dead which I just launched yesterday. It's a sort of YA crossover novel, according to Susanne Gervay, who launched it.

Well done, Dawn!

DL: "Super Charlotte" is your new book and it's submitted to Inkitt for a publishing deal. What is the motivation behind choosing to launch your book through this avenue as opposed to traditional or self publishing?

Dawn: Part of my new 'stuff it!' philosophy is that I just don't have the time to submit over and over to publishers any more. I am sick of the waiting, keeping diligent records, reading rejection letters, recrafting over and over, courting advice. Although that process did help me grow a lot as a writer, it's now holding me back. I need to keep moving! I have so much inside me screaming to get out, I just can't wait around for someone to say, 'oh, well, its well written, but doesn't quite fit our list right now.' Inkitt looked like an interesting way to go and I love it so far. Interestingly, they are very supportive and this helps enormously, as we're an insecure lot sometimes! I have 10 reviews so far, new ones every day almost, so its going well. I got to choose the accompanying photo illustration, which was cool. I'll keep you posted on how it goes! Meanwhile, I have a sequel to write...

DL: And lastly, are you a biscuit or cake kind of person? And what is your favourite biscuit/cake?

Dawn: I do love cake, but you can't beat chocolate wheatens. YUM! You dip them in your tea and slurp the melted chocolate off the crunchy biscuit... OMG. I'm going to the shop as soon as I've finished typing this.

Check out Dawn Meredith's awards, bio, and books
Speculative Fiction books


Children's Blog

Amazon books
A fictional paranormal crime story of Delia Fox, a 19 year old woman who has a dangerous gift - she can read the memories of the recently dead. Working for the police to solve mysterious deaths she herself becomes a target when her evidence helps to send criminals to jail. Delia speaks for the dead but who will protect her from the living?
Buy on Amazon