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Posts Tagged ‘Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’

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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I’ve given up making New Year’s Resolutions! Why? Because I already know with my personality, crazy-busy family life, short-attention span, etc. – I’m setting myself up for failure.

So what do I do instead? I make a list of things I’d like to accomplish in “winter,” before spring greens the forest floor. (And since I’m also a procrastinator, “spring” for me doesn’t really begin until April Fool’s Day!)

I try to keep the list specific and realistic. I do not list “finish a novel” by March 31st, rather I list “write a minimum of 15 minutes per day.” Since I mentioned the crazy-busy life earlier, if I can’t write 15 minutes one day, I try to write 30 minutes the next. I do not list “blog every day,” rather I list “blog at least once a week.” If I blog 2 or 3 or even 4 times per week, I’m surpassing my goal. Hooray!

The way to continue to pursue goals (notice I don’t use the word “resolutions” – it sounds so weighty), is to have small successes along your path. Positive reinforcement helps all of us keep our eyes focused forward, and encourages us to put one foot in front of another. Certainly, the best way to reach a destination.

By the way, I’ll reset my goals on March 31st for “spring” with a new deadline of June 30th. On June 30th, I’ll reset my goals for “summer” with a deadline of September 30th. On September 30th, I’ll reset my goals with a “fall” deadline of December 31st. Then, as the New Year arrives, I’ll restart the process.

By keeping my goal time-frames to 3 months, I can evaluate a manageable chunk of time and adjust for the next 3-month interval. Perhaps I haven’t been ambitious enough, or maybe, I’ve set goals which aren’t realistic in a 90-day period of time. In either case, I set new goals which seem obtainable without being too easy on myself.

Another point of view on New Year Resolutions can be found on the Maryland/ Delaware/ West Virginia Society of Children’s Book Illustrators’ As the Eraser Burns.

How about you, do you make resolutions? Do you keep them?

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As a writer, one of the tricks to drawing readers into your world is to create well-rounded characters. Characters can’t be just two-dimensional sketches, they must have depth and complexity for readers to care about where they’ve been and what will happen to them now and in the future.

Author Stacy Couch does a nice job of examing well-rounded characters in her recent post on the Maryland/ Delaware/ West Virginia Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators blog, As The Eraser Burns.

Readers, which well-written characters do you enjoy?

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I’ve been taking time out from writing to do some drawing & painting. I finished a fantasy watercolor painted in various pinks, blues, and purples called Poet’s Moon, then sent a bit of it off to an editor for cover art consideration. That bit will be the cover of the February 2012 Scifaikuest.

I drew a pen & ink, faeriefolk-infested maze for BSFAN, Balticon’s souvenir book to promote my book from Cold Moon Press: The Greener Forest. (I’ve received positive feedback from a number of attendees on the maze). I painted a sweet little fairy, “Crocus,” for an ad in the next Faerie Magazine. Plus, she’ll be matted & framed for an upcoming art exhibit – I’ll have to let you know after it’s published what folks think.

I painted 2 gouaches “on spec” for the cover of an upcoming speculative fiction anthology: Rush of Wings. (Hmm, I’m not sure if that’s the true plural for more than 1 gouache — that strange child of watercolor & acrylic paints). One painting, “Rush of Wings,” was declined, and I’ve since sent it out to another editor for another project. The other, “The Golden Egg,” is still being held by the RoW editor. Both speculative paintings just sold from an art exhibit I have at Bel Air Barnes & Noble (MD) for June 1-30, 2011.

Two other paintings have also just sold “off the wall” of my local Barnes & Noble: “Mermaid & Friends,” the cover art for my eShort Sideshow by the Sea, (soon to be included in my new book) and “Three Dwarves,” a watercolor used as cover art by the now defunct Lite – Baltimore’s Literary Magazine. For those interested, you can see the mermaid painting and also, “Acorn Sprite,” a small painting that another buyer has expressed interest in purchasing when the B&N show ends — at the art-gifts on this blog: https://vonniewinslowcrist.wordpress.com/art-gifts/

 I sent the 2 gouaches (mentioned in paragraph #2) plus a watercolor called “Strawberry Dragon” off to my local Society of Book Writers & Illustrators annual Jack Reid Scholarship for free tuition to their July conference. And, gulp, I won the illustrator’s scholarship, so my $195 tuition is being waived!

So what does this “sudden” artwork success mean? Should I stop writing and devote myself to illustration? I think not! I believe these positive responses to my artwork tell me the hours, days, weeks — actually years — that I’ve spent painting and studying art are being acknowledged. Practice has helped me to get better.

I’ll continue to practice my painting and my writing this summer. Hopefully, I’ll have good news in both disciplines. But most importantly, I hope to grow and improve so I can bring my readers better stories and more powerful art in the future. And I encourage all of you to practice whatever it is that you enjoy doing — and I bet you’ll see an improvement in your skill-level, too!

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