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Wendy Van Camp Headshot 2018Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Wendy Van Camp. Wendy Van Camp writes science fiction, regency historical, and scifaiku poetry. No Wasted Ink is her platform featuring essays, poetry, flash fiction, and author interviews. Wendy’s stories and poems appear in magazines such as “Quantum Visions,” “Scifaikuest,” “Lit Up,” “Writing Cooperative,” and “Far Horizons.” She has won Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest, and is a graduate of the James Gunn Speculative Fiction Workshop.

Wendy Van Camp’s latest book, The Curate’s Brother, is a novel fans of the Regency time period are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In the summer of 1806, a young curate is surprised by the arrival of his brother, who is on shore leave from his battles in the Napoleonic wars. Commander Frederick Wentworth has come to Somerset to spend time with the only family he has in England as he waits for reassignment.

All the good Commander wants to do is flirt and dance with the ladies until he is called back to sea, but when his flirting extends to an outgoing beauty that Edward Wentworth always disdained as “a child,” the curate becomes aware that his opinion of the girl is sorely outdated. Meanwhile, Frederick becomes drawn to the shy wallflower, Anne Elliot. She is the daughter of a baronet and above his station, but Frederick pays no heed to his brother’s warnings that class may prevent their union.

At the end of summer, a letter and package arrive that will change everything for the two brothers. Which will prevail? The bold action of the commander or the quiet manners of the curate?

The Curate's Brother Book Cover Novelette (sidebar)wendy Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Curate’s Brother?

The idea started out as a different story that I called “Letters From The Sea” that awakened in me a few months after I read the Austen novel, Persuasion, and I fell in love with the characters. Most of the story was told through the point of view of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. Only the first chapter was told via Edward Wentworth’s eyes. The chapter simply did not fit with the rest of the book. One day, I thought to myself that I should take this one chapter and turn it into a stand-alone short story.

I brought this short story to my science fiction critique group. It did not go well. Half the men refused to read it because it was “romance” and most of the others flat out hated it. Only one writer thought it had promise. She told me, “the story needs ten thousand more words,” and she outlined the main plot points of my short story for me. I had a plot there. A true beginning, middle and end, but it was lacking in details.

Over the next two weeks, I wrote like a demon and the majority of the scenes were added, making the story a novelette in length. I could not get the science fiction critique group to agree to reread my story. I took it to another critique group, one that had a mix of genre. There my new story was greeted with a different tone. Most of the people loved it and several said that they felt it was ready to publish. So a week or two later, that is what I did. The novelette has done well, selling thousands of copies.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I am fond of Frederick Wentworth because he goes through so much growth in the story. He begins as a rash young officer in the navy and gradually overcomes much adversity, both emotional and physical, to become a mature young man. He grew in a similar manner in Austen’s original novel, but I wanted to showcase more of his life and the culture of the English people during the Regency era.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

My book is indie published. I enjoy keeping complete control over my creative products, be they books, artwork, or jewelry items. I also keep most of the profits of my sales. There are a few disadvantages in that I do need to pay for everything upfront from my own pocket, from editors, to cover artists, and formatters. Since I am a bit tech savvy I can manage to most of the work myself, but this also takes time from my writing schedule.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I used to lean more toward being a pantser when I first started writing. I still like to leave plenty of room for the characters and situations in the story to grow organically. However, I’ve learned the value of leaving myself a trail of breadcrumbs to follow as I write. In the last few years, I’ve become more of a plotter.

What was your favorite book as a child?

That is a tough one. I have many favorites. I was one of those kids that practically lived at the local library. Of course, where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, it rained a lot. The library was a comfortable dry place to hang out in! The book that got me hooked on reading science fiction was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The sheer adventure, the gallantry and the spirit of Dejah Thoris and Sola called to me. In my middle years, Anne McCaffrey was my biggest influence and it was a real toss-up between The White Dragon and the Harperhall Trilogy. I loved Pern with its protective dragons and the pet firelizards, but also the music. I still love Celtic folk music to this day, and I believe my first exposure to this came from Irish transplant, Anne McCaffrey.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I am in the process of finishing up my historical regency series. The other three books are drafted, they need revision and polish before release. But I do have a new potential series in the works. It takes place on the planet Mars in the near future. I want this to be more of a hard science fiction story with attention to the real science behind living on the Red Planet and focusing how it would affect the lives of those that colonize this new world. In conjunction with this new Martian series, I am creating a chapbook of Martian poetry that will feature my scifaiku poems and longer form free verse all on the theme of surviving on Mars. I tend to write haiku poems as I research a new setting for a novel. A haiku captures tiny moments or emotions in connection with a place. The poetry lets me get a good feel for a world before I start writing the book.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Be consistent in your writing and get a little bit more done every day. I try my best to follow this advice, although I do take a day off now and then for family and friends.

Want to learn more about Wendy Van Camp and The Curate’s Brother? Check out her:  WebsiteNewsletterFacebook pageTwitterMediumWattpad, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Curate’s Brother.

Thanks to author Wendy Van Camp for stopping by. I’ll be posting over the next two weeks, then watch for more author interviews in April. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Shultz-photo-128x128 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Jill Shultz. Jill Shultz has always been enthralled by the places where the wild meets the fantastic. She’s the award-winning author of Angel on the Ropes, science fiction with a Cirque du Soleil vibe. For most of her career she’s zigzagged between environmental and arts organizations; some of the strange but true consequences can be found on the author page of her website.

Born in Brooklyn before it was cool, she now lives upstate, where she awaits the arrival of transporters to whisk her to the sage flats of Yellowstone every dawn.

Jill Shultz’s latest book, Angel on the Ropes, is a novel circus and science fiction fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Amandine Sand lives to fly. Unfortunately, she’s hobbled by a life-threatening secret: she’s one of the spotted humans wrongly accused of being a plague carrier. These “leopards” are hunted by zealots to protect their off-world colony from the scourge. Despite this threat, Amandine spends her days guiding other leopards to an underground shelter run by the pacifist Seekers. At night, with her own spots hidden, she soars on the trapeze, the one place she feels free and gloriously alive.

When the persecution of leopards explodes into widespread violence, the Seekers demand more of her time. But her circus is teetering toward bankruptcy and desperately needs her, too. She has no time to breathe…then she meets a stranger who leaves her breathless—and might be the biggest risk of all. If her trust is misplaced and she’s unmasked, everyone she loves and everything she’s fought for could crash.

To survive, Amandine must draw upon all of her circus and Seeker skills. But can a pacifist defend her violent enemies to stop a civil war? And can this reluctant angel fly beyond her limits to save her life, her love, and her world?

AR_cover-trade_120312.indd Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Angel on the Ropes?

The origin of this novel was quite unusual for me. Generally, my curiosity is piqued by some unusual fact or phrase or experience that prompts research, which deepens my intrigue and eventually develops into a story. Angel on the Ropes, however, began with an emotion. For a day or so I walked around feeling my protagonist’s longing. I had to figure out what she wanted so badly—she was driving me nuts!

Once I realized she was an artist and a performer, I decided to focus on the circus (based on an experience some years before that transformed the way I thought about circus.) Amandine’s personality was inspired by interviews with professional circus artists. When I uncovered her biggest problem and her secret dream, I had the story.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Amandine Sand, the protagonist. She longs for the basic things that most of us want: love, happiness, a sense of accomplishment… but she’s caught between two opposing worlds, and to make matters even worse, she has a life-threatening secret. So this very flamboyant and passionate trapeze artist is also secretive and constrained. I love passionate people who are full-throttle, and is she ever. Her transformation was so satisfying.

Interestingly, I’m terrified of heights. Imagining what it was like to adore flying was truly entering a new world! I did try flying trapeze during my research and actually launched the book from a flying trapeze, because, “book launch.” How could I resist?

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

Self-published. For me, the key advantages of self-publishing are creative control, nimbleness in marketing, and longevity. I had a great relationship with my editor and cover artist. Of course, when you’re acting as both writer and publisher—in effect, starting a business—there’s a lot more work to do and higher costs. Plus, science fiction and fantasy is not yet as open to self-published authors as other genres, so many promotional opportunities are unavailable.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m both. I tend to do a lot of research before I begin writing, and develop character profiles based on psychological theory. With my current novel, I’m pushing myself to create fairly detailed chapter summaries first. That’s tough but productive.

The research continues as I write, though it changes. If I simply need to fact-check something, I just leave myself a note in the margin to do that later, which allows me to keep up my momentum. If I can’t write a scene effectively without more information, then I’ll stop and do the research I need right then. Of course, if a fabulous interview opportunity arises, I’ll make time for it.

During the first draft, I’ll write scenes that are rattling around in my head and not worry about whether they’ll end up in the story, knowing they’ll contribute to a deeper understanding of my characters, if nothing else. The combination of planning and writing into the unknown helps me navigate my doubts while still remaining open enough for those lucky discoveries.

For me, the most fun happens during revision.

What was your favorite book as a child?

The first book I remember falling in love with was Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. Just thinking about it makes me smile. That book was so full of joy and discovery, so boundless, so magical.

Like many others, Anne McCaffrey was one of the first science fiction and fantasy authors I encountered, beginning with the Dragonriders of Pern series. I wanted to be best friends with a dragon, though I probably would’ve freaked out while flying (see fear of heights above). I’m still a sucker for dragons. And witches. And shapeshifters of all types. I’m equally drawn to science fiction and fantasy.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and a member of the Bad Decisions Book Club (readers who make bad life choices they know they will dearly regret the next day because they just can’t stop reading a good story, even if they toothpicks to prop their eyelids open).

What writing project are you currently working on?

A novel about a wolf biologist in Yellowstone who’s going to have to make some very hard choices to protect what she loves most. In the process, she’ll wrestle with a pack of werewolves who are radical environmentalists. It’s full of wildlife geekiness, moral challenges, and love…which pretty much sums up my life.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

“Don’t flinch.”

Andre Dubus III said that during a workshop. The more I learn about writing, the more it makes sense to me. My early drafts are full of flinches. Sometimes when the discomfort is really bad, I’ll just write notes to myself about the work I need to do and move on. Does that count as a half-flinch? Other times I try to push through right then, knowing that if I wrestle with this, I may discover something powerful. Learning is often uncomfortable, after all.

A special offer from Jill: If you’d like a free copy of the ebook version of Angel on the Ropes, send a message to Jill here.

Want to learn more about Jill Shultz and Angel on the Ropes? Check out her:  Website and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a paperback copy of Angel on the Ropes.

Thanks to author Jill Shultz for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Wendy Van Camp on March 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Rhoads Headshots 9-18 FINAL-1782 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Loren Rhoads. Loren Rhoads is the co-author (with Brian Thomas) of Lost Angels and its upcoming sequel Angelus Rose. On her own, she’s written a space opera trilogy called In the Wake of the Templars and a nonfiction guidebook to 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die.

Loren Rhoads’s latest book, Lost Angels, is a novel fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In the days before the Flood, Azaziel had been a Watcher, sent down to help God’s creatures on Earth. He fell in love with one of Cain’s granddaughters and they passed her mortal life in bliss. Now, he’s imprisoned in the Los Angeles basin. His angelic brethren, Heaven’s misfits, don’t understand the longing Aza feels: once he had been loved entirely for himself.

The succubus Lorelei doesn’t know any of this when she sets her sights on Azaziel. All she knows is that the angel’s fall will bring glory to Hell and acclaim to any succubus who accomplishes it. Of course, it never occurs to Lorelei that Azaziel might try to tame her by possessing her with a mortal girl’s soul. Can the succubus find an exorcist before the fury of Hell is unleashed?

Rhoads LostAngels cover Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Lost Angels?

I wrote a short story for a friend. There was an apartment building in his neighborhood called The Lorelei, so that became the name of the succubus in the story. This was the first time I wrote a story as a serial. I’d write a scene or two each day, then send it to him. Usually, I write things all out of order, then rearrange the scenes in revision, but this time I wrote things linearly.

As it turned out, he couldn’t wait for me to finish the original short story so he could write chapter 2. And then suddenly we were writing a book.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I genuinely like Lorelei, even though she is a morally gray character. She is based on a woman I went to university with who lit up every room she walked in to. Everyone had a crush on Kim, because she was so much fun. Lorelei actually likes her prey and works hard to see that they enjoy themselves before she takes their souls. And then she meets Azaziel – and she definitely bites off more than she can chew.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

The book was originally published by a small press, but I got the rights back a couple of years ago and republished it under my own company. The advantage of doing it myself is that I really like the new cover. The text is exactly the way I wanted it. I’m sort of a control junky.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

Oh, I really like gardener better than pantser. What a great term! I don’t like to know too much about my stories when I start them. I almost never work to an outline. Instead, I write scenes as they come to me, then piece them together like a puzzle. I really love the process of fitting everything together. It’s actually my favorite part of writing. Sometimes I can’t see the whole picture until I get all the scenes assembled and read it through. It’s a revelation to see what the story is really about. I have a friend who says that the author is always the last to know.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was 10 when I read Dracula for the first time. I’d grown up watching the black and white Universal horror movies on Saturday afternoons. My mom pointed out that a lot of my favorite characters—Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, The Invisible Man – were based on or inspired by books. (She was a junior high school librarian.) So I started with my favorite monster and read his book while we were on a family vacation.

All these years later, I still have a soft spot for monsters and outcasts.

What writing project are you currently working on?

When Brian and I wrote the original book, which we called As Above, So Below, it was huge. It look more than a ream of paper to print out the whole thing. The story had a natural climax about halfway through, so I cut the book in half and got it published as Lost Angels.

I spent Nanowrimo 2018 putting together the sequel. Most of the story was there, but it didn’t stand alone, so I went back in to write character introductions for everyone, along with lots of description for readers who might be encountering these characters for the first time. Or for the first time in a while, since the first book came out in 2016.

I wanted to make the second book more romantic, too. Brian describes the As Above, So Below books as Romeo and Juliette with angels and devils. I wanted those crazy kids to go on some actual dates and have some fun together, in amongst the damning people to hell.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

I met Ray Bradbury once, when he came up to San Francisco for a book signing. I told him I was working on a book, but it was a real struggle. He told me, “Don’t think so much. Just write. You’ll figure it out as you’re writing.” I realized he was completely right. I can research everything, make sure I know everything in advance, or I can just write and leave placeholders for the things I need to research later. If you write before researching, then you know what you need to know. That’s been game-changing for me.

The key has been getting out of my own way. And it helps a lot to write with someone like Brian, who was a researcher in the library at 20th Century Fox. His research made for really rich backstories for our characters.

Want to learn more about Loren Rhoads and Lost Angels? Check out her: BlogFacebook pageTwitterInstagramPinterest, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Lost Angels.

Thanks to author Loren Rhoads for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Jill Shultz on March 14, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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bo balder pic 2016 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Bo Balder. Bo lives and works close to Amsterdam. Bo is the first Dutch author to have been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Clarkesworld. Her fiction has also appeared in Escape Pod, Nature and other places. Her science fiction novel, The Wan, was published by Pink Narcissus Press. She is a member of SFWA, Codex Writers and a graduate of Viable Paradise.

Bo Balder’s latest book, The Wan, is a novel science fiction fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In a far future, on a faraway planet, humans have become infected by The Wan. The alien Wan are creatures that communicate by feeding each other poems composed of their own flesh. Obsessed alien and former human biologist Ing infects Frog, a barren slave girl and Firdaus, deposed ruler of the human settlement, with the alien fungus. When a once-in-a-millenium reproductive event threatens to destroy all human life on the planet, Frog and Firdaus must choose between transforming their loved ones into cadaverous toadstools, and surviving—or watching them all die in a planetary holocaust. Unless Frog can come up with a third solution…with the help of her greatest enemy.
wan front cover bo Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Wan?

The same place all my ideas come from, a strange place between waking and sleeping, between trance and relaxation. At first the book was set in darkness, catacombs beneath a city, and it was only when I decided to go above ground in the bright sunlight that the whole plot took its (mostly) final shape.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I think it’s Ing–she is kind of the villain, but she’s also a mover and a shaker and a wounded human being who only ever tries to do good. Her story is a tragic loss of memory and identity, of everyone she’s ever known. I’m happy that some of her lives on.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

It was published by a small independent press, Pink Narcissus. The advantage to having an indie publisher is that the communication is very direct and personal, the disadvantage is of course the lack of money for PR and distribution channels.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m a bit of both! I outline in advance, but only in a very global way, so that within the limits of a scene the pantser part of my writer persona still gets to play.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was blown away by The Tripods by John Christopher. It was the first science fiction book I got my hands on and I absolutely loved it. I had seen science fiction TV (The Thunderbirds) without realizing what it was, but The Tripods was a much more creative and personal story. The protagonist in The Tripods was a child, like me, caught up in circumstances not of his own making. The idea of aliens just fascinated me. Once I realized there was a whole genre devoted to this stuff I was off. A fan for life.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m editing a couple of short stories, and will soon be writing more, but I’m also preparing/ brainstorming/ outlining a new space opera novel.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Let your subconscious do the writing for you and only put on your editor hat when it’s finished. Don’t read back, don’t spellcheck, don’t second guess yourself.

Want to learn more about Bo Balder and The Wan? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook page Twitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Wan.

Thanks to author Bo Balder for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Loren Rhoads on March 12, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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heidi Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Heidi Hanley. Heidi Hanley says, “There are worse things than living in a world of kings, queens, warriors, bards, and all manner of magical beings. After a life spent burying myself in the imagination of others and lamenting my inability to create such a story myself, I was challenged by my husband and a friend to bust down the barriers to my own creativity and just do it! I did, and The Kingdom of Uisneach Series is the result.

“I have been blessed by careers as a Registered Nurse, an interfaith minister and a hospice chaplain, but ever-flowing beneath the surface was my passion for books and writing. Whether I was writing care plans, weddings or journaling my own personal odyssey, I crafted words in ways that others found… interesting.

The Kingdom of Uisneach Series taps into the core of my Irish heritage, evoking the spirit of ancient myth and legend. I hope you enjoy this story and would love to hear from you.”

Heidi Hanley’s book, The Prophecy, is a novel fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—For centuries, fairy tales have entertained, comforted and inspired us. They have offered opportunities for adventure and provided hope for a ‘happily ever after’ life. But real life isn’t always as simple as fairy tales would have us believe. Sometimes the Prince doesn’t wake the sleeping princess, or if he does, they discover that they are a poor match. Sometimes the ‘Great Adventure’ requires a great deal of sacrifice and nearly kills the hero along the way. Sometimes a happy ending is a fairy tale.

Briana Brennan, aka Mouse, has a recurring dream that starts her biological clock ticking. So is the clock of destiny, started by a visit from a forest crone at the hour of her birth. While Briana is worrying that she won’t find the man of her dreams, a kingdom is worried that they’ll never see their Savior and the kingdom will be lost. But destiny has a surprise for them both. Following a sound in the woods, Briana finds herself traveling through a tree into the Kingdom of Uisneach. She is met by gnomes who have been waiting for her to come as the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. She is destined to save King Brath from a cursed exile and take the kingdom back from the evil Lord Shamwa and Druid Artanin. With only a magic map to guide her, she begins a journey that requires her to make decisions at every crossroads. The choices she must make at these crossroads pale in comparison to the life choices she will have to make as she meets and travels with her companions, strong and stalwart, Lord Marshall Sigel, the handsome young bard, Silas of Cedarmara and a wolfhound called Dara. Overseeing the journey and mentoring her are a shapeshifting crow and a forest crone. Together they must learn how to use the black medallions each one wears to unlock the curse and release the king.

Magical maps, powerful swords, dryads, fairies, evil druids, good friends, and an Abbess, all contribute something to the journey and to her growth as a woman, a warrior and a queen. She learns the challenging lessons of love, patience, sacrifice, loyalty and commitment. The journey across Uisneach is a great adventure, but one in which she must endure heartache and physical pain, but hopefully in the end, find love and her happily ever after.

heidi book Where did the idea come from for your book, The Prophecy?

The Prophecy: Book One of the Kingdom of Uisneach Series, is my first novel. It is the product of a perfect storm of me being at a place in my life where I was either going to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing and publishing a book, or die with the regret that I didn’t; feeling like magical, swashbuckling books were getting hard to find (not true, I have since discovered); and having the niggling thought in my mind that it would be cool to write an adult fairy tale. Having Irish ancestry, I am also drawn to Irish myth and folklore so creating a world based on that was exciting to me. Someone once said if you’re going to write a book, you should write what you want to read. The Prophecy is a book I want to read.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Asking me my favorite anything is a challenge in and of itself. I have many favorites of everything. Every character in The Prophecy is my favorite for a different reason. But you would like me to pick one, so I will say Briana. Huh? That is not who I thought I was going to choose. Readers have so far either loved Briana or have rolled their eyes and picked her apart. That’s not a bad thing. It means she has made an impression and that is exactly what I like about her. She isn’t ordinary, though she thinks she is. Up until she walked through a tree in the woods near her house and ended up in Uisneach, she lived a pretty sheltered life. On the other side of the tree, she immediately discovers she is the savior to a land of gnomes, dryads, witches, druids and very mythic men and women. She must adapt to this new reality quickly to avoid being a victim of the evil Lord Shamwa. She goes from being a young woman who cries at the drop of a hat and rejects most men because they don’t meet her dreamy expectations, to a woman who makes hard, sacrificial choices for the greater good of a kingdom she falls in love with. I freely admit it is cosmically cliché. I meant it to be. I love Briana’s flexibility and her openness to seeing the world in a new way, but I also like that she is a little impulsive and has a really big heart which she often wears on her sleeve.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

I chose to self-publish for the simple reason that I began writing The Prophecy when I was in my mid-fifties and after several months of query letters with rejections or silence, I realized that time was slipping by and if I hoped to publish, I would need to do it myself. I created my own publishing company, Sword and Arrow Publishing, and learned everything I could about the venture. The obvious advantages are that you get the book out in your own lifetime and you have control over everything. The disadvantages are many and not to be tackled by the faint of heart. The biggest disadvantage of self-publishing is that if you don’t love the business of publishing and marketing and if you don’t have the technical skills to create and promote your book, you will spend far more time and money on the business end of publishing and marketing than you can on writing. I ended up outsourcing things like editing, book covers and formatting and website development and management.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I love that term—architect. I was taught through the process to be a plotter—forevermore to be known as an architect. When I started, I had a rough outline, based on the hero’s journey, but my editor painstakingly taught me to use chapter summaries which are a blessing and a curse. I don’t love doing them, but I agree they focus the book. However, I am also dedicated to listening to my characters, who often intervene with ideas of their own that I honor as much as possible. I believe that part of the writing process is based on planning and formula, but the fun part is opening to creative mystery.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Oh, that ‘favorite’ question again. I have been a voracious reader since first grade and choosing a ‘favorite’ book would be nearly impossible. I will say that the first books I read multiple times was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now, when I was about eleven. It was the first time the lines began to blur between reality and fantasy for me. I fell in love with Ponyboy and sort of forgot he was a character. I remember dreaming and talking about him incessantly and being outraged when my mother reminded me he wasn’t a real person. Those books instilled in me a love for characters above all else. My primary goal in my own writing is to create characters that are unique and memorable.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I just finished the first draft of Kingdom of Uisneach’s second book in the trilogy, The Runes of Evalon. Book three is active in my head now as well. I have also been working on some poetry. Having to write song lyrics for The Prophecy was excruciating and it forced me to start thinking about songwriting and poetry. During the summer of 2018 I discovered a lyricist who inspired me to try writing poetry with pattern and beat and maybe a little less exact rhyme. I’m having a lot of fun with that and sharing it on my Facebook page.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

That’s easy. Embrace the editor! My first experience with an editor was excruciatingly painful, but it was also the best and most important thing that ever happened to me. I learned through Jill Shultz, a skilled an compassionate editor, that my work could only get better by listening to and working with an expert on the writing craft. My first draft of The Prophecy was a hot mess. The finished product is something I am proud of. I’ve learned so much from Jill, and would never consider publishing anything without a professional edit.

Want to learn more about Heidi Hanley and The Prophecy? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook pageTwitterInstagram, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Prophecy.

Thanks to author Heidi Hanley for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Bo Balder on March 7, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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DHTimpko_HeadShotReallyCropped Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, D. H. Timpko.  D. H. Timpko is a long-time reader of science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries. She and her husband, who she met at a science fiction convention, own over ten thousand books. They also own over a hundred paintings and prints.

After working for many years as a writer and editor for publishing companies, associations, and corporations, Timpko retired. Now she writes fiction and nonfiction full time. She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI); the Writers-Editors Network; the Independent Book Publishers Association; Broad Universe, which is an association supporting female writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror; and Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN).

She and her husband live in northern Virginia, along with their intellectually challenged, but sweet, cats Kalliope and Cocoa.

D. H. Timpko’s latest book, The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment, is a novel science fiction (and sf con-goers) fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Twelve-year-old Electra Firma plans to win an Olympic Gold Medal in ice skating when she’s old enough to compete. Her coach is convinced she has the talent. That’s the problem. Electra’s talent comes from her part-alien heritage, which gives her superhuman abilities, and her parents forbid her from competing. Depressed, Electra rejects her inheritance and refuses to hone her alien skills. A new threat by an enemy alien race forces Electra, her identical twin sister Isis, and their best friends to infiltrate the aliens to find the Flute of Enchantment and protect humanity. If Electra doesn’t master shape shifting, she and her best friend face imminent death.

The_Firma_Twins_and__Cover_for_Kindle Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment?

The idea came from attending science fiction conventions for over 40 years. In The Firma Twins Adventures, two sets of warring aliens land on Earth ten thousand years ago: the Squrlon and the Vympyrym. Both are shape shifters. The Squrlon often appear as gray squirrels and the Vympyrym as human-size rats.

This book, the second in an unending series, revolves around Electra Firma who is a part-human descendant of the Squrlon. She and her identical twin sister Isis discover in the first book, The Firma Twins and the Purple Staff of Death, they’re inherited special alien powers they must use to protect the Squrlon. In this book Electra must develop her powers and shape shifting abilities. The problem is Electra resents being part alien, ignores the rules for shape shifting, and takes unnecessary risks.

Having Electra attend a science fiction convention had distinct advantages. First, I could write about something with which I’m familiar. To create the perfect hostile environment for Electra, however, the convention, called RatCon, is put on by the Vympyrym, the enemy aliens. RatCon has some of the normal trappings of a science fiction con, but it differs significantly.

Second, RatCon forces Electra to master shape shifting. Early on—and not by her own choice—she shape shifts into a Vympyrym, a form she’s not always able to maintain. If she reverts to her natural form, she and her best friend face death.

Third, RatCon allowed me to provide a more detailed description of the Vympyrym and how they think and act. I was also able to reveal key information about them and the Squrlon as a part of the action and plot.

Fourth, writing about RatCon was a lot of fun.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I like both of the Firma twins, Isis and Electra. Both books are told in first person: the first book by Isis, who is the more serious twin, and the second by Electra. I also like their best friends, Phoenix Rising and Kelly Horton, who are the kind of friends everyone needs. In this book Kelly plays a particularly important role.

However, when I was writing The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment, I introduced an unplanned character, Pricklethorn Ratbait, early in the book. Pricklethorn, who is the same age as Electra, is a Vympyrym. Not knowing who Electra really is, she escorts her around the convention. Pricklethorn is an invaluable addition to the book and I like her a lot.

Overall though, Electra is my favorite character in this book. It was a challenge to put her in a position where she realized she needed to accept her heritage and alien powers. More than that, she needed to understand on a gut level the consequences of not learning how to use her alien abilities. Innocent people could die, not just herself but her best friend and others. The book shows how Electra’s character develops and grows, but she remains true to herself.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

I worked professionally as a writer and editor for 42 years. So I understand how to design and publish a book from the point of view of using desktop publishing software and designing, formatting, and printing a book. I know how to work with artists. The disadvantage is that marketing and promotion are difficult. For that reason alone, I would far rather be traditionally published. However, the children’s book market is the most competitive one in the industry. Therefore, I created the Gettier Group, which has published five books—not all mine—to date.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

Writing nonfiction for too many years prevents me from being a pantser. Also, from a personality point of view, I’m an architect. Writing fiction, however, differs from writing nonfiction. Although I don’t create a detailed outline for fiction, I still must think through the plot thoroughly.

The outline for both the first and second books was one sentence per chapter. I didn’t want it to be so detailed that I couldn’t incorporate changes. For nonfiction my outlines are always detailed and rarely change.

For the first Firma Twins book I also used Scene Tracker, a device created by Martha Alderson, to track scene by scene action, character emotional development, plot, thematic significance, and so forth. It was significantly helpful. For the second book I kept Scene Tracker in mind as I wrote.

In the actual writing, I allow the pantser to have some say. The plot won’t change, but how it’s told might. For example, the addition of Pricklethorn Ratbait was not someone I had planned.

Many of the enemy aliens in The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment were created as I needed them. I like to rely on the feeling in the manuscript so far to give me inspiration for necessary characters. That is, my one-sentence outline of The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment said that Electra and her friend Kelly go to a reading. I knew I would need to create an enemy alien reading from his book. So I didn’t create Malofic Crooked Tail, author of the Rat King series of sf novels, until that chapter. By that time I had a full sense of the convention and the aliens (I write from the beginning of the book to the end for the most part). One of Malofic’s actions was inspired by an amusing story a boss told me about hearing Werner Von Braun speak at a meeting of the Public Relations Society of America. Although I’m not saying Von Braun was a Vympyrym, what he did at that meeting was easily adapted to fit the mood of the manuscript.

Bottom line: I’m mostly an architect but about 25 to 40 percent pantser.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My first favorite book, which my father read to me when I was two and three years old, was Henny Penny (also called Chicken Little). I loved it because the illogic of all the characters was so funny.

Later, my favorite book was The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Fantasy became one of my favorite genres, although I was addicted to reading pretty much anything. Since I was the youngest kid in my family, The Twelve Dancing Princesses also appealed to me because the heroine was the youngest sister.

Many years later when I attended the 1989 Worldcon in Boston, I instantly recognized from several feet away Ruth Sanderson’s painting as The Twelve Dancing Princesses and bought a print. I regret I didn’t have enough money to buy the painting.

What writing project are you currently working on?

Several. I’m writing the third Firma Twins Adventure, The Firma Twins and the Paisley Egg, which is told by Isis Firma and takes place in Fripp Island, South Carolina.

I’m also updating my nonfiction book, Knee Replacement Advice, Checklists, and Journal: 5 Steps for Successful Recovery Even If You Have Complications, which I published under my nonfiction pseudonym, Alexis Dupree. My left knee replacement was September 2018; my right knee replacement was June 2014.

Next year my small press Gettier Group plans to publish Immigrant from the Stars, a middle grade science fiction book by Gail Kamer.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Show, not tell.

Want to learn more about D. H. Timpko and The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment? Check out her:  WebsiteGoodreads pageTwitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment.

Thanks to author D. H. Timpko for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Heidi Hanley Smith on February 28, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Elaine Isaac Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak). E. C. Ambrose wrote adventure-based historical fantasy series The Dark Apostle, about medieval surgery, from DAW Books, which began with Elisha Barber, and concluded with volume 5, Elisha Daemon in 2018. Her most recent release was international thriller novel, Bone Guard One: The Mongol’s Coffin. As Elaine Isaak, she also wrote The Singer’s Crown Series. In the process of researching her books, Elaine learned how to hunt with a falcon, clear a building of possible assailants, and pull traction on a broken limb. The author is a graduate of and an instructor for the Odyssey Writing Workshop. In addition to writing, Elaine works as a guide, teaching rock climbing and leading outdoor adventure camps.

E. C. Ambrose’s latest book, Elisha Daemon is a novel history and dark fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—1348: Europe has become a bottomless well of terror and death, from which the necromancers drink deep as the citizens sink into despair. If there is to be any chance of survival, Elisha must root out the truth of the pestilence at its unexpected source: the great medical school at Salerno.

But as he does, his former mentor, the beautiful witch Brigit, lays her own plans. For there may be one thing upon the face of the planet more deadly than the plague: the unfiltered power of Death within Elisha himself. Europe’s darkest hour awaits Elisha Daemon!

A starred review in Library Journal described the first book in the series, Elisha Barber (now available in paperback) as “Painfully elegant, beautifully told,” while D. B. Jackson, author of The Thieftaker Series, said, “Elisha Barber is at once dark, powerful, redemptive, and ultimately deeply satisfying. Highly recommended!”

Elisha Daemon front cover_elaine i Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Elisha Daemon?

This is the final volume in The Dark Apostle Series, about medieval surgery. I got inspired to write the books while I was researching the history of medicine for another novel. I dove deep into the rabbit hole for that one—and when I emerged again, I had the concept for the books: a barber-surgeon discovers he has an unnatural affinity with Death.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Elisha, the protagonist, is the only narrator for the series. He begins as arrogant about his skill, only to find that the world is much larger and more dangerous than even he knew. Compassion is his tragic flaw—he just can’t stop himself from investing in others, even when it hurts.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

The series is from DAW (an affiliate of Penguin Random House), so traditional. I loved working with the team at DAW, from the editor who helped me make the books so much better, to the artist who created the fantastic covers, to the publicists who helped me arrange bookstore visits and other promotional opportunities. I also appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to wear all of those hats! The main disadvantage is that everything happens on their schedule: waiting for edits, then having to hurry to make changes, books being delayed even though I turned them in. That part is frustrating, but sharing the responsibilities of the process with experts made the trade-off worth it for me.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

These books transformed me from a gardener to an architect—does that make me a landscape designer? The editors loved the concept, but thought my original series arc was too small. I developed many of my current techniques for brainstorming and outlining while expanding the concept into the series I eventually wrote.

What was your favorite book as a child?

The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber. This wonderful fairytale works within the tropes of fantasy to express some rich and beautiful things. As the Golux (the only Golux in the world, and not a Mere Device) says in the book, “I can feel a thing I cannot touch, and touch a thing I cannot feel. The first is sad and sorry, and the second is, your heart.” And that, after all, is what a writer longs for: to touch the hearts of others.

What writing project are you currently working on?

At any given time, I have several projects cooking. I am currently revising a young adult science fiction novel, A Wreck of Dragons, about teens partnered with giant robots to find a new home for mankind among the stars. I’ve begun drafting the sequel to an international thriller novel, book two in The Bone Guard Series, and I have the ghost of a mythic fantasy novel haunting the back of my mind…

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

“Don’t hide your light under a bushel,” Mrs. Tribe, seventh grade English teacher. If you have something to say, something wonderful and amazing you want to share, put it out there. Be fearless in expressing your heart.

Want to learn more about E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak) and Elisha Daemon? Check out her: Facebook pageTwitterE.C. Ambrose Amazon Authors PageElaine Isaak Amazon Authors Page – and for sample chapters, historical research, and some nifty extras, visit her website.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Elisha Daemon.

Thanks to author E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak) for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Denise Timpko on February 26, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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