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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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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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The third eye, the eye that sees into the mind of another or into the future or past, is often needed when writing a speculative fiction story.

In Science Fiction, it’s common for diverse cultures and alien beings to cross paths. But how do they communicate? A version of the Star Trek universal translator can be employed. I used a translation device in my SF short story, “Pawprints of the Margay.” But that technology isn’t always available in the storyline.

Another SF communication option is to have one or more of the characters able to read minds or sense feelings. An empath (think Star Trek Next Generation’s Troi), a mind-reader, even Spock’s Vulcan mind-meld will all do. The ability to see into another’s thoughts can be a trait of one of the races included in the tale, or a special talent of a select character or group. The singing opossum in my story, “Assassins,” seems to know what is going on in the mind of the central character, Flynn. In this case, the reader is never certain whether an animal third eye is being used, since the point-of-view of the tale doesn’t include the opossum.

In Fantasy, the universal translator is replaced by a wisewoman or wizard character who understands multiple languages (and quite often has special third eye abilities, too). JRR Tolkien’s wizard, Gandalf, and The Lord of the Rings’ elf queen, Galadriel, are examples.  In my story published in UK’s Ethereal Tales, “The Garden Shop,” the main character has the ability to speak and understand the language of plants — certainly an uncommon linguistic talent, but one necessary for this tale.

Sometimes in Fantasy (and SF) there is a Rosetta Stone that serves as a translation device. At other times, a “common” language (or tongue) that all races understand is present. But most often, one or more of the characters has third eye abilities.

In the new anthology from Dark Quest Books, Dragon’s Lure, the dragon in my story, “Weathermaker,” can both send and receive communication by thought. The young woman at the center of the short, May, speaks out-loud. She soon realizes the dragon must be talking to her in mind-speak as well as in an audible voice.

The Residential Aliens anthology, When the Morning Stars Sing, includes my fantasy short, “Blood of the Swan.” Liv, the swan-maiden at the center of this tale has foreknowledge of the arrival of Jorund, the man who comes to ask for her help as a healer. Liv not only has foresight, but also the ability to read some of what is in a person’s mind or heart. And that special ability is intrical to the plot.

Whether called an empath, psychic, mind-melder, thought-reader, swan-maiden, wizard, or dragon — it’s common to find a character with a third eye in speculative fiction. Just take a look at your favorite SF/F tales, and you’ll see what I mean.

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