5 Questions for D. H. Timpko

DHTimpko_HeadShotReallyCroppedD. 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 Broad Universe and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

She describes The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment:

Twelve-year-old Electra Firma plans to become an Olympic champion when she’s old enough. Her coach knows 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 training. 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 shapeshifting, she and her best friend face imminent death.

Did something in the real world inspire The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment?

The_Firma_Twins_and__Cover_for_KindleThe Firma Twins adventures are loosely based on stories I wrote when I was twelve. The story evolved and the only things I kept from the original stories were vampires and the Purple Staff of Death, an alien weapon.

In the Firma Twins, two sets of warring aliens crash on Earth ten thousand years ago: the Squrlon and their mortal enemies, the Vympyrym. Both are shape shifters and immortal. The Squrlon often appear as gray squirrels and the Vympyrym as human-size rats. The Vympyrym are vampiric to the Squrlon and, in a pinch, to humans, although human blood is inferior.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin inspired some of the backstory. The Squrlon crashed in Asia, hundreds of miles from where the Vympyrym landed. Serafin, the oldest of the Squrlon, carried the Flute of Enchantment, which mesmerized the Vympyrym, and the Purple Staff of Death, which vanquished them. Serafin rescued a tribe of Paleo-Indians from their enemies and the Squrlon led them across the land bridge to North America.

In the first book, The Firma Twins and the Purple Staff of Death, identical twins Isis and Electra Firma learn they are part-human, part-Squrlon. They’ve inherited special powers and Serafin’s ability to use the Staff and Flute.

The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment, the second in the series, revolves around Electra, who must develop her powers and shapeshifting abilities. The problem is Electra resents being part alien, ignores the rules for shapeshifting, and takes unnecessary risks.

What is your favorite scene in The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment?

My favorite scene is when the main character, Electra Firma, shapeshifts into a cardboard box and Isis prevents their father from crumpling and throwing her into the recyclables bin. This scene capsulizes Electra’s main fault: she likes to act first and think later. She knows she’s not supposed to shapeshift into an object because objects aren’t living. The risk is she might remain an object forever.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

I like to write the synopsis first, which means thinking through the plot thoroughly. I need to know the end of the book and all the key plot points to get there. However, my one-sentence outline for the book left lots of room for creativity along the way.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment received a five-star review from Readers’ Favorite. Because the review occurred before final production, I was able to include a quote on the cover of the book. Since the book is aimed at boys as well as girls, having “fast-paced” appear in the blurb is invaluable.

Although I’ve sold the book at the Broad Universe table and read a few pages at Rapid Fire Readings at a couple of conventions, I haven’t had much time for promotion. Now that I’m recovering well from my third surgery this year, I’m starting promotion and quite glad to participate in this interview!

What do you have planned next?

I’m writing the third book in the series, The Firma Twins and the Paisley Egg, in which Isis encounters the ghost of Blackbeard and discovers the ultimate destiny of the Squrlon and the Firmas.

The Firma Twins adventures are an open-ended series. That is, I can write as many books as I wish. In the history of the Firma family, there are many Firma twins in the past and future. I have several more books in the series planned.

After the third Firma Twins book is complete, I plan to rewrite a middle grade science fiction book called Stranders in which Mariah, a twelve-year-old girl who has telekinetic ability, and her abusive family find themselves deserted on an unstable planet.

You can pick up a copy of The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment from 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MOgMA7

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-firma-twins-and-the-flute-of-enchantment-d-h-timpko/1128020249?ean=9780986088292

Follow D. H. at her website: www.dhtimpko.com.


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Behind “Still Life with Shattered Glass”

After I graduated from the University of Michigan, I got my first grownup job as the Undergraduate Secretary in the English Department.  It turned out to be a hell job that had burned out the last several women who’d held the position. It was a measure of how desperate the department was that they hired a 23-year-old who had  only one year of secretarial experience to deal with several thousand undergrad English majors.

A perk of the job was that I could audit all the creative writing classes in the department.  I sat in on beginning classes and MFA workshops, learning the focuses of the different teachers and reading no end of shitty roommate stories.  To be honest, telling a class of 20-somethings to write what they know is going to lead to a lot of shitty roommate stories. I wrote mine as a parody of the others.

The influences of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and the photography of Joel-Peter Witkin and David Wojnarowicz are clear, but I want to acknowledge some of the other inspirations in the story.

Several of the elements of “Still Life with Shattered Glass” were drawn from real life.  A news photo of the card on the dashboard beneath the head-sized hole in the windshield is something I saw in high school after one of the football players was killed in a car accident.  In that case, it was a graduation card on the dashboard.

The girl who jumped from University Towers really happened while I lived in Ann Arbor.  I never saw a photo of her, but I was thinking of the photo of Evelyn McHale, the woman who jumped off the Empire State Building, when I described her.

If you struggle with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

The story was originally written with a male point of view character. It was almost accepted to be published in that form, but the magazine made their acceptance contingent on changing the main character to a woman so she wouldn’t be in a gay relationship with her male roommate.  That was the first time I ever withdrew a story, rather than make an editorial change.

When I met Thomas Roche, I pitched him the story for his Noirotica anthologies. He said he didn’t get enough lesbian stories, so I revised the story to make the main character a bisexual woman. Thomas accepted the story, but the anthology was never published.

At the 2005 World Horror Convention, several of the publishers got together to judge a fiction challenge.  I submitted my story, but since I didn’t expect this jinxed story to win, I didn’t plan to attend the award ceremony.  Luckily, Kelly Laymon tracked me down and strongly encouraged me to go.  “Still Life with Shattered Glass” took 3rd place and won a nice monetary award.

I submitted the story to Cemetery Dance magazine, one of the judges of the contest. Thanks to more behind the scenes help by Kelly, it was published in Cemetery Dance #54 in March 2006.

When John Everson approached me about his Sins of the Siren project, he wanted to publish two new stories and two previously published stories. I revised “Still Life with Shattered Glass,” made it sexier, and he accepted it for the book.  I was thrilled to have my stories appear alongside Maria Alexander, Christa Faust, and Mehitobel Wilson.

Which brings us up to Tales for the Camp Fire. Initially I was going to include a different story in that book, but then I read Ben Monroe’s submission.  Our stories were very similar — kids on bikes riding down rutted paths, clandestine swimming holes, death — so I pulled my initial submission and swapped in “Still Life.”  I can say it’s like nothing else in the book.

I hope you’ll check it out for yourself.  The profits from sales of  Tales for the Camp Fire go to raise money for the North Valley Community Foundation, which supports survivors and recovery from last year’s devastating wildfire in Butte County, California.

The book is available for the kindle and in paperback on Amazon:  https://amzn.to/2GtGCH8

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5 Questions for Tom Deady

Deady-002Tom Deady is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Haven (Cemetery Dance, 2016), Eternal Darkness (Bloodshot Books, 2017), and Weekend Getaway (Grinning Skull Press, 2017). He also has several short stories published and a nonfiction publishing credit with Rue Morgue magazine. He holds a Master’s Degree in English and teaches Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. He is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association and a member of the New England Horror Writers.

His newest book is Backwater:

Tim Douglas returns to his home town of Edgewater to bury his mother, wanting nothing more than to get back to his retirement in Arizona. A strange sequence of events compels him to attend his 40th high school reunion, where the past encroaches on the present and Tim realizes that the ghosts of his youth must also be laid to rest.

There’s nothing like exploring an abandoned building to bring history back to life. So when Stan Powalski and his urban explorer friends learn that Edgewater’s Grand Hotel is slated for demolition, they can’t wait to get inside. None more than Stan, who has been raised on his grandmother’s stories of the majestic building, the site of his parents’ wedding. What Stan doesn’t know is the Grand holds its own memories — and history has a long reach.

Welcome to Edgewater, Massachusetts. You’ve driven through towns like it: quiet tree-lined streets, a gazebo on the town common where band concerts are held in the summer, maybe an ice cream truck surrounded by children. But haven’t you wondered what secrets lie hidden behind the elegant brickwork or buried in the postcard-pretty hills and forests? In Edgewater, nothing is as it seems.

Did something in the real world inspire Backwater?

BackwaterWSBackwater is a two-novella collection where the stories are loosely tied together. Each story was definitely inspired by real events, though in vastly different ways.

Class Reunion is about a man who returns to his hometown to bury his mother. Coincidentally (or not?), his 40th high school reunion is taking place that weekend. I’d been toying with the idea of a man who attends a reunion and discovers some secrets from his past, but the story just wouldn’t come to me. Then I attended my own 35th high school reunion and the feeling of nostalgia and talking with old friends just made it all fall into place.

One Night at the Grand began during a writing retreat at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. There was a Hollywood producer in attendance, who wanted to publish an anthology of Frankenstein-inspired stories and pitch it as a series to the networks. The gimmick was that Mary Shelley wrote the original manuscript while vacationing, so he wanted us to each write a story while we were staying at the Stanley. I had paid extra to rent a 4-hour writing block in the infamous Room 217. That’s where most of The Grand was written.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

Great question! In Reunion, it’s the entire flashback scene at the club between Tim and Judy. I think it’s a very powerful and poignant scene and true to the times (unfortunately). In The Grand — and you’ll think I’m weird for this answer — it’s when Stan is being questioned. He feels the detective is mocking him and says, “Play the fucking video, gumshoe.” It’s such a random and outdated expression for a younger person to say that it effectively demonstrates Stan’s state of mind.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

As I mentioned, a good part of The Grand was written at The Stanley Hotel. The project I wrote it for ultimately fell apart, but because of the project’s word count restrictions, I felt I had only told part of the story. So I revisited it and added Stan’s backstory. Class Reunion was written during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Every November, a bunch of lunatics hide in their writing bunkers and try to crank out fifty thousand words in thirty days. Reunion was mostly written in the blur of NaNo.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

Well, it’s not really part of the promotion, I guess, but having John R. Little write the introduction was a huge honor. He’s been both an inspiration and a supporter. For actual promotion, I participated in a horror panel at An Unlikely Story, a bookstore owned by Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). The third floor of the store is Jeff’s writing and drawing studio, all decorated in Wimpy Kid glory! On the panel with me were Pete Kahle of Bloodshot Books and Paul Tremblay (A Head Full of Ghosts and Cabin at the End of the World). It was an amazing night.

What do you have planned next?

I have a middle grade horror novel with my agent. I love the MG and YA arenas, because it’s where people fall in love with reading. It would be cool to be a part of that. I’d love to see it be a series and have already started book two. I also have a modern-day ghost story novel that’s about eighty percent done and a post-apocalyptic novel in its final stages. I want to write a sequel to Eternal Darkness and a tie-in novel to Haven. I just need a lot more hours in the day!

You can stalk Tom on his website: http://www.tomdeady.com and pick up his books on  Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WEyQ4j. Here’s the direct link to Backwater: https://amzn.to/2WEFPtZ.

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Behind “Elle a Vu un Loup”

My story “Elle a Vu un Loup” appeared in Weirdbook #40 at the end of last year. In the story, Alondra DeCourval travels to Mackinac Island to face a monster that has terrorized the close-knit community. You can check out the magazine at http://weirdbook-magazine.com/.

I started going to Mackinac Island as a child.  It’s a tourist island between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas, a pretty little place where cars are banned and life is punctuated by the clip-clop of horses’ hooves.

Islands are curious places, magically speaking. So many of the traditional monsters can’t cross running water, so a monster on an island is effectively trapped.  Elementally, an island represents earth, trapped in the currents of water and air. It’s a liminal place, betwixt and between. Since Alondra uses elemental magic, I wanted to play with that.

Alondra grew up on a horse ranch. That echoes my upbringing on a cattle farm in Michigan’s lower peninsula.  I combined my memories with visiting my dad’s cousin, who bred Arabian horses on his farm.

My family first moved to what would become our farm when I was 4.  The first animals my father owned were horses. One was a saddlebred mare that he showed called Kate.  My brother and I shared a foul-tempered Shetland pony named Scamper.

I never had riding lessons. I remember riding down the railroad tracks near my grandma’s farm, but I never rode often enough that I felt in control of the pony. I only ever rode with a western saddle, when I could get Scamper to allow it, and I never had a whip. He was too old and fat to trot.

The gate to St. Ann’s Catholic Cemetery on Mackinac Island.

Alondra has a much better rapport with horses than I ever did. Despite that, I always wanted to rent a horse and ride the circumference of Mackinac Island like she does. I’ve had to settle for doing it on a bike.

The history glimpsed in the story — the battle from the War of 1812, the French fur trader whose grave had been moved several times, the auto barons’ summer mansions — is all factual.  However, although it was inspired by a place I stayed on the island, there is no Tides Inn Bed and Breakfast.

I’ve never written a werewolf story before, but I’ve always loved the Larry Talbot model of the regretful killer. I am fascinated by the old cures for lycanthropy: the wild white roses, the belt made of fur. I’m not sure what Alondra plans to do with the pelt she harvests in the old Catholic graveyard. It’s probably in a closet somewhere.

I wrote about the cemeteries on Mackinac Island in Wish You Were Here and on Cemetery Travel, so it made sense to set an Alondra story there, too.  This story wasn’t the first time she’s visited a graveyard:  that happened in “Catalyst.”  It’s not even the first time that the ghosts in a graveyard have talked to her, although that story wasn’t published until before before this one came out. It is the first Alondra story to be set in Michigan, though.

Finally, the title:  elle a vu un loup is French, obviously. Directly translated, it means she saw a wolf. It’s an old idiom for a girl who is secretly pregnant. Alondra thinks the fur trader is teasing her about becoming prey for the werewolf, but he’s actually mocking the girl from whose grave Alondra picks the roses. I liked the double meaning.

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5 Questions for Kate Morgan (Alice Loweecey)

Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Kate Morgan celebrates the day she “jumped the wall” with as much enthusiasm as her birthday. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she takes a break from inspiring nightmares, she writes ex-nun PI mysteries under her real name, Alice Loweecey. In her spare time she can be found growing vegetables in her garden and water lilies in her koi pond.

She describes her novel Demons for Tea:

Ex-priest Denis Kaine is surviving on ramen and kicking otherworldly creatures off this planet. It’s all noise to fill his chasm of hate and guilt inside from letting his twin brother blow his brains out because he’d been possessed. Denis should’ve known. He should’ve seen. He should’ve… everything.

His survival techniques are no match for Emma Koroleva, the 1200-year-old entity he freed from imprisonment in Rome. She’s powerful, she’s got major attitude, and she hates ramen.

She changes into various poltergeists and forces Denis to “exorcise” her. Denis gets paid, they eat real food, and she toys with seducing him. Denis starts to think he’s living in the sitcom from hell until he learns his dead brother has become the plaything of something big, strong, and evil. Screw sitcoms. Denis is about to prove why his rep is legendary in the spirit world.

Did something in the real world inspire Demons for Tea?

Yes and no. My main character is a former priest and I’m a former nun. So. Much. Anger. I channeled years  of anger into Denis, including wanting to punch people. Denis got to throw that punch. My, that was satisfying. I’m also a research fiend and I’ve been researching entities from global mythologies for quite a while. When I was between books I thought, “What if I put the two together?” And Demons for Tea was born. There’s also a nod to one of my favorite movies, Michael J. Fox’s The Frighteners.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

The scene where Emma uses a tentacle to unlock Denis’s door, and then proceeds to take over his life. Denis has no clue how to deal with a strong woman who isn’t intimidated by his Roman collar. She blithely assumes command as he flounders.

That being said, I have several favorite lines in the book, beginning with Emma saying Denis has the manners of a goat. These characters were a delight to share headspace with.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

When I’m brainstorming, it’s with pen and paper as opposed to recording voice memos or such. I wrote thousands and thousands of words about Denis and Emma that never made it into the book. Emma’s backstory is a novella in itself. I have thousands more words relating to mythological creatures. I’m also a die-hard outliner, since writing mysteries involves planting clues and the writer ought to remember where those clues are hidden. That’s not to say my outlines are carved in stone. My characters delight in changing things up as I write. I’m constantly moving scenes around and inserting new scenes as the characters take off in a new direction. It’s a workout keeping up with them!

This was my opera book. I’d put on an opera for white noise and write. Other books I’ve written wanted Swedish death metal or Adam Hurst’s luscious cello music. I go with whatever the book requires.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

Having several people say to me that they could tell I had tons of fun writing this book. It’s true. It’s such a departure from my regular mystery series. To be honest, I’m a horror writer at the core of my dark, evil heart.

What do you have planned next?

I have a short story plus two different books coming out in 2019. The story is in Transmundane Press’s Transcendent anthology. The first novel, Staking Cinderella, is a paranormal romance coming from Dark Recesses Press on Valentine’s Day. This will also be under the name Kate Morgan. The latest in my ex-nun PI mystery series, Better than Nun, comes out May 21 from Henery Press. That’s an Alice Loweecey book.

On my keyboard is a retelling of the Orestia set in a modern-day traveling carnival. I was going to call it Empire, but now there’s a TV show with that title, so the brainstorming has commenced.

You can pick up a copy of Demons for Tea from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UQuKoK.

You can check out all of Kate Morgan’s books on her Amazon page: https://amzn.to/2S8DNQf.

Also visit Alice Loweecey’s website to learn more about their double life: http://www.aliceloweecey.net.

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