The Hinterlands Chronicles: Bilqis

Standard

It’s been a while friends. I’ve been busy with work, and even more gratifying, I have been getting some consistent writing done. I’m not making the great big leaps that I’d like but consistency is more important in my estimation. I haven’t forgotten about my blog here, or my reading, but with a full time job, well, something has got to give, yeah? And some of my indie writer friends have had recent successes (Lindsay Buroker being one such person) that have inspired me to work even harder to complete this project. I believe in this story and it has been with me for several years. I’m still quite a way off but I am so very hopeful. So hopeful in fact, that I thought I would share a little snippet from Bilqis. Read and enjoy.

Look alike hanger

Some time had passed since Bilqis left Sector Five, but not enough to forget how being there used to make her feel, like both prey and predator, both afraid and empowered. What came over Bilqis as she stepped from the ground floor platform was an instinct born of the emotions that came rushing back to her. The abrupt and easy squaring of her already broad shoulders, the cool set of her jaw, bright eyes hooded yet keenly alert was so deeply intrinsic it was as if she had shed a costume to reveal her true self. She had after all spent her entire life behind the invisible sector boundaries and it was only natural that she would, as much as she hated to admit it, find a certain comfort in the familiar yet treacherous surroundings.  

The weak didn’t survive Sector Five and many of the strong didn’t either. Bilqis moved east toward Middleton, compelled by some deep need to revisit her old home, cutting through the humanity and the detritus like a scythe.  

Authority investigators were still no closer the finding the person responsible for instigating the riot and the destruction of Ajutine Aeronautics, although a sketch of the nameless suspect, in his mid twenties, with a broad deep brow, dark deep set eyes, and a sensually curved mouth that seemed somehow too petite to belong to a man, had been plastered across the city. Bilqis stopped to study one such flier printed on thin bright yellow plastic paper. The digital image of the suspect rotated ninety degrees to the left and then to the right. When the image stopped center, it closed its eyes. She didn’t recognize him.

Beside the sketch of the suspect hung a faded flyer encouraging residents to visit their local clinic for free vaccinations and health exams. People complained about Goodwill’s tough policies but Bilqis thought that the efforts he made to take care of Ajutine’s residents were commendable, and more than previous mayors had done.

A left at the next intersection and three blocks east took Bilqis to Middleton and Bright. She was stupidly mollified to find that her old apartment building, all of Middleton and the two scant blocks north of it, had been spared the blaze that ate up nearly an eighth of Sector Five, though she was unsure why. She’d never liked living there. The plumbing always backed up foul green muck and every intimacy and indignity could be heard through the paper thin walls. And it wasn’t as if Taha would ever return. Too much time had passed.

A set of crumbling stairs led from the brief courtyard to a grungy little foyer lined with broken mailboxes, according to memory. She didn’t go inside. It was enough to see ithat the building had survived unashamedly ugly amongst even uglier buildings and circumstances. The residents here, like in much of Sector Five, were steeped on the kind of poverty that was worn beneath the skin. Even now, three years out, when she had plenty, there was always a lingering hunger, like an itch that no scratch would ever relieve.

But her success wasn’t so singular. Not everyone who could wished to leave Sector Five. Some were determined to call the place forever home, thinking themselves noble and devout. According to them the price of leaving was too high. According to Bilqis they were fools. They refused to take the pledge to forego faith, unwilling to sign away their gods. Bilqis had been willing.

Mayor Goodwill sought only to enforce the laws that already existed, under which Sector Five would cease to be a safe haven for the faithful. Starting at the beginning of the coming year everyone would be forced to sign the pledge of faithlessness or take their life to the hinterlands, eke out a life there on the vast barren plains. Bilqis figured that when that time came, plenty of people would let go of their notions of pride and submit. No number of riots or fires was likely to stop Goodwill’s plans to cleanse Ajutine, to prevent another disaster like that of 2035, to allow another Bilqis Harban, sword of the people, to be created.

Weaving through vehicles jammed at the intersection Bilqis crossed to the opposite side of the street. Half a block up she stopped at the cart of a street vendor and bought a sandwich of dried meat and onions and cheese wrapped in soft yeastless bread. She took a bite of the sandwich, unaware until that moment just how hungry she had been..

“Not protein meal,” she stated and enquired at once. She hadn’t eaten real animal flesh since leaving Sector Five. Everywhere else such fare was considered parochial.

The vendor unabashedly took her in from head to foot as he spoke. “Course not. I only sell real meat.” He pointed to the faded writing on the umbrella over his cart.

“What kind of meat is it?” She took another great mouthful.

He held up a finger as if struck by sudden inspiration. “Now that’s the question, isn’t it?” He didn’t elaborate further but he did extend his hand. “You owe two bills for that sandwich. Four if you’d like another.”

Bilqis paid the old vendor and left. Three blocks east, Bilqis turned into an alley. It was dark and buffered the cloister of noises from the street. She found the door at the very end of the alley where it butted up against a brick wall.

Bilqis knocked three times, waited five seconds and then knocked twice. Seconds later the door inched open, but Bilqis could see little more than a single glassy eye as it looked out at her.

“Who?” demanded the disembodied voice.

“Bushrah.” Bilqis crossed her arms. “She here?”

The door eased open a bit more and a face, mid-teens and male, emerged from the darkness. “Show me,” he said nodding.

Bilqis unzipped her jacket and pulled down the collar of her shirt to expose the tiny black fist tattooed just beneath her collarbone. He flashed the beam of a hand torch onto her face and then lowered it to the mark on her chest. His hard angular face softened beneath the weight of naked respect. “Banded in red,” he said, awe choking the timber of his voice, further betraying his youth.

Her memory of that tattoo was strong. Her brother Taha had drawn it himself, the needle loaded with ink laced with the oil of the atarahu. “So that you’ll never forget the pain of our people,” he’d told her. The tattoo had burned beneath her skin for months after it had healed. The very memory revived the old tat with stabs of prickly heat.

The black fist was the symbol of The Walls the largest and most fierce of the Sector Five cabals. The black fist rimmed with red indicated a member of high rank. In the case of Bilqis, it was not she who had possessed a high rank, but her brother Taha. He had ensured more than her safety with that red line. He’d guaranteed her protection. She was practically royalty among The Walls, untouchable.

“Who wants Bushrah?” he asked, back to business.

“Billie,” she said reclaiming the nickname she hadn’t used since leaving Sector Five.

He pushed open the door and signaled for her to enter ahead of him. “Okay Billie,” he said eyes flicking back to the area below her left collarbone, “I’ll take you to her.”

Character Traits

Standard

How to Care for Introverts:  Wise WordsWhat is your favorite characters personality type?

If you are a writer, how do you decide what your protagonist’s personality will be?

I recently started giving this deeper thought after watching Pitch Black for the millionth time.  I love that movie because of the titular character, Riddick. My favorite characters tend to be similar; taciturn, introverted, cunning, decided, and functioning by a moral compass of their own making. Riddick definitely possess all of those traits.

I considered Riddick’s personality traits and I tried to determine what his personality would be based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  The best I could come up with was ISTP (introversion, sensing, thinking, perception) because he is not a people person, he uses his senses to gather information and understand the world around him, hence the silver eyes that help him see in the dark, he acts based on what he thinks is right as opposed to his feelings, and he keeps his options open, usually for the swift get away.  Based on the old D&D alignment trait system, I believe that Riddick is chaotic neutral.

Chaotic neutral characters are wild, unpredictable and often follow their own personal code without a care for others – they are often selfish and the only thing predictable about them is their unpredictable natures. This is the alignment of rogues, anti-heroes, the mad (when not chaotic evil) as well as characters who do not follow normal ethical codes but do not actively seek to destroy the natural order either (as a chaotic evil character would).

Yup. Sounds like Riddick to me.

This got me thinking about the main character of my WIP, The Hinterland Chronicles. Dr. Bilqis Haq is a law abiding citizen. She wants to keep the peace, and although spiritually conflicted she is willing to do anything, including stuffing her feelings and beliefs, to bring such peace to fruition. She is what I like to term a sheeple. In other words, she is a follower and is never a willing leader. By the end of my WIP, life will change drastically for my poor little protagonist. The calm she wishes to maintain will be challenged. She will be forced to choose sides, neither of which is optimal. There will be no good choices and she will not have the option of hanging back and letting someone else do the choosing.

In the process, her personality will eventually change. She will cease to be lawful good. She will become chaotic good or perhaps, if pushed chaotic neutral. Watching Bilqis make the change will be exciting.

I decided to take the Alignment Test myself, just to see where I fall on the spectrum. I was not surprised to learn that, like Riddick I am chaotic neutral. I knew I’d be chaotic neutral because of ,my willingness to challenge tradition, my unwillingness to follow societal normative behaviors without first questioning their usefulness, and my willingness to break the rules if they do not make sense to me.

My Myers Briggs personality isINTP along with Marie Curie, Jung, Einstein, Data and Seven of Nine (Star Trek), Sherlock Holmes, and Albus Dumbledore.

What alignment trait is your favorite character? What alignment trait are you? What are your Myers-Briggs characteristics?

Starla Huchton On Her New Novel Entitled Maven

Standard

MAVEN_450x600I’m so happy to have Starla Huchton back that if I was a giggler I would, uhm, giggle. Needless to say, I’m excited to bring her back to talk about her new book Maven which is set to be released on June 3, 2013. That’s just over a week away! She’s such a busy woman, which I can totally understand and appreciate, so the fact that she spared the time to do this interview makes her presence here that much more sweet.

So Starla, talk to me…

1. For the sake of those who don’t know you yet, give us a little bit of information about yourself. You write, yes, but what else are you up to?

Most of what I do these days (outside of chasing my kids while my husband is deployed) is design book covers. I work with both independent authors and publishers alike. I believe my job as a designer is to get to the heart of a story and try to convey that into the visual. It’s not the easiest of tasks sometimes, but I love what I do and I’m thankful that others like my work enough that I can continue doing it.

Some might know me as an audiobook narrator. I’m currently working on the fourth book in Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge series, though I am woefully behind in this. It’s been a rough few months with moving and having the husband deploy amongst other things, but it’s coming.

2. Tell us about Maven. What was the inspiration? How long did it take to write it from inspiration to completion? Where do you hope to take the series and how long do you plan it to be?

Maven is the first book in my new Science Fiction Romance Endure series. There will be four total when the story arc completes, and I plan to have all of them out in the world before my birthday in March 2014. It’s an ambitious schedule, but I’m more than on-track to meet it. The majority of the story takes place in an underwater lab in the year 2050 (at the beginning of book 1), but by book 3 you get to see some of the outside world. It’s not a huge stretch from modern day, really, but enough so that it’s firmly planted in Science Fiction. Even with these futuristic leanings, it’s still a very accessible story, even for readers that are not typically fans of Science Fiction. I don’t generally like hard Sci-Fi, but I do like some of the elements, so I wanted to create something that others like me could really enjoy. As I’ve managed to sway at least two Paranormal or Urban Fantasy-only readers over to the dark side of SF, I’m counting this book as a success.

As for the inspiration, well… that’s a long story. Basically, as a teenager in the 90s I was a huge Jonathan Brandis fangirl. However, I didn’t discover him until one summer I happened to catch a rerun of the first season of a show called SeaQuest DSV, of which he was a cast member. In re-watching the show now, I inevitably wind up in fits of giggles over the “future tech” and somewhat cheesy scripts, but for a geek like me, especially back then, it filled a huge entertainment void in my world. I took my love of that show so far that 16-year-old me even tried my hand at writing my own scripts for it, neither of which I finished and neither of which will ever see the light of day because they are absolutely awful. But, there was some takeaway from it. The heroine of the Endure series, Dr. Lydia Ashley, was born from those precocious, immature scribblings, and she has stayed with me all these years.

So, that leads into another part of your question. If we’re talking how long it took from it to go from original inspiration to completed novel, the answer is seventeen years. However, I didn’t really pursue the story until January 2012. In six weeks I knocked out 68,000 words of Maven, but then I hit pause. The reason for this is probably because my Steampunk novel became a finalist in a contest, which it then won. My focus shifted to that book and its sequel and Lydia and Daniel got put on the shelf. Fast forward to January of this year, at which point I had 3 or 4 unfinished first drafts of things in various states. I decided it would be my goal to finish several of these up over the next year and went looking at each one to see which spoke to me the most. Honestly, I didn’t think Maven was the one that would make the cut, but the moment I opened the file I was immediately drawn back into that world. A week or so later, the book was complete, but I realized their story was not. I jumped right in to the second one, and then immediately the third right after that. At some point in book two, I figured out this was not going to be a trilogy. Four full novels would be required. It didn’t feel like a heavy weight to bear, however. This story is easy for me to bring to the page now. I would think so, after thinking about it for 17 years!

3. Maven isn’t your first novel length work. Tell us about your other writing endeavors.

My first finished novel was The Dreamer’s Thread. It’s a modern fantasy story and very much a first book. My writing style has changed and grown so much since I put it out as a podcast. People still enjoy it, however, so I leave it floating around the interwebs, waiting for unsuspecting folks to stumble across it.

My second book, which isn’t out anywhere yet, is the first of my Antigone’s Wrath series, a Steampunk adventure called Master of Myth. It’s the one that won first place in the Crested Butte Writers Conference annual contest, The Sandy, and, as a result, was requested in full by a senior editor at TOR/Forge (never did get an answer either way on it, but that’s neither here nor there). I’m a little over halfway done with the second in this series, Master of Machines. I was actually hoping to put the first one out this summer, but with all I’m doing with the Endure series, I’m no longer sure if I’ll have the time to devote to it that I think that story deserves. I know there are a lot of folks waiting to get their hands on it, so I hope they know I’m going to do my best here. I am only one person though. 🙂

4. Will you be podiocasting your book? If so will you read it, or will you have someone else do it?

At this time, I have no plans to podcast or audiobook the Endure series. Lydia and Daniel have unique voices to me, and I just don’t feel like I could do them justice if I were to narrate it myself. First and foremost, I’m concentrating on getting the written content out, so people can enjoy the entire story arc as fast as I can toss it out there. I know how hard it is to wait between books in a series, so this is an experiment in rapid-fire content for me. I’m curious to see how it plays out.

5. Where do you see yourself and your writing in ten years or so?

In ten years? Goodness. Right now I’m just trying to get through the week!

I don’t really know how to answer this. In an ideal world I’d say “on top of the NYT Bestseller’s List”, but, really, who wouldn’t want that? I suppose what I honestly want is for my writing to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and hopefully make a little money for me. I like to keep my goals realistic and achievable. That way, I don’t get too bogged down in how I’m not making any progress towards success. There will always be another milestone ahead, and another brass ring to grab. Definitions of success change all the time and vary greatly from one person to the next. Today I might tell you I’d be happy to sell even 100 copies of Maven. Tomorrow, it might be landing a great review on a book blog I admire with a lot of followers. A year from now I could be completely burnt out on this whole thing and just want six hours of uninterrupted sleep. I have no idea. That’s probably a terrible answer. Feel free to chuckle.

I can totally relate Starla. I wish you lots of luck getting those six hours of sleep, catching up to the kiddos, publishing and finding a giddy appreciative audience to read all of your work.

*****

 

starlaStarla Huchton released her first novel, The Dreamer’s Thread, as a full cast podcast production beginning in August 2009. Her first foray went on to become a double-nominee and finalist for the 2010 Parsec Awards. Since her debut, Starla’s voice has appeared in other podcasts including The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, The Drabblecast, and Erotica a la Carte. She is also a voice talent for Darkfire Productions, and narrates several of their projects, including The Emperor’s Edge series, This Path We Share, and others. Her writing has appeared in the Erotica a la Carte podcast, a short story for The Gearheart, and an episode of the Tales from the Archives podcast (the companion to Tee Morris and Philippa Balantine’s Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series), which garnered her a second finalist badge from the 2012 Parsec Awards. Her second novel, a Steampunk adventure entitled Master of Myth, was the first place winner in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category of The Sandy Writing Contest held annually by the Crested Butte Writers Conference. Maven is her third completed novel and the first in a planned series of four.

After completing her degree in Graphic Arts at Monterey Peninsula College, Starla opened up shop as a freelance graphic designer focusing on creating beautiful book covers for independent authors publishers. She currently lives in Virginia where she trains her three Minions and military husband.

You can find Starla here:

Twitter

Goodreads

Facebook

Designed by Starla

Upon the Wings of Greater Things