Off To A Nice Start

Standard

Last year this time I was not feeling very accomplished with regard to my writing. I was writing, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t have been any less focused. The book I had planned to complete by my birthday (September) seemed more daunting by the day and there was a point when I considered giving up this “writing thing”.

I didn’t, of course, and I am glad for it.

This year is off to a fantastic start. I sold a story to Escape Pod and it will be featured during the Artemis Rising event during the month of February. I fully expect you all to check out that series of podcasts because they’re going to be special. They’re all written by women. If you know anything about me, then you now that I am totally dedicated to seeing more women, more POC, more Others writing and publishing science fiction and fantasy. We need varied voices, yeah?

I’ve also qualified to become a member of Codex, which has seriously humbled me. Many of the wonderful writers that I have been reading and listening to for the last 3-4 years are there. They have been insanely inviting and wonderful.

Today, I took a moment to update my writing career bingo card. Looking good. Many of the white squares are now purple. (Thanks Rach by way of Christie Yant) for hooking me up with that wonderful motivational tool.

Here’s to more accomplishments this year for me and YOU.

 

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

When is Bad Writing Bad?

Standard

risa ikeda via Compfight

Some might argue that there is something of worth to be found in all literature. I believe that is true… to a point. There are some books that one can tell at first glance are pretty bad, but that doesn’t stop some people from not only reading but enjoying such questionable fare. Can anyone say ahem… Fifty Shades of Grey?

Bad writing is a matter of opinion, so I’m sharing mine.

Lately I’ve been thinking about this a lot. As a reader and a writer, I want to know what other people are reading and writing.  So I regularly check out both the self-pubbed books as well as the traditionally published books on Amazon.  I’ve seen some self-pubbed books where the synopsis is full of grammar errors and/or sport laughably cheesy cover art.  With that, how could I possibly have hope for the body of the book? Sometimes the very premise of the book sounds ridiculous.  And thanks to those people good enough to rate and comment, you need only read what others have to say to  know that the book may be sub par. You don’t need a degree in rocket science to know that you’re looking at a book of less than stellar quality. Despite the fact that I, in my self-appointed know-it-all-ness, have labeled such books as garbage unworthy of my time, let alone my money, in more instances than not, they sport four or five-star ratings.  I am mostly referencing indie books but by no means do indie authors hold the monopoly on bad writing.

So, I ask, what gives?

I’ll restate my earlier sentiment. Bad writing is a matter of opinion.

Several months ago I came upon a podcast book that was incredible, but not in a good way. The iTunes synopsis failed to insinuate it was a vampire tale. If you’re not rolling your eyes yet, hold on, I’ll do it for you. It was a Twilight-ish knock-off with a Mary Sue as the main character. And this Mary Sue was so extra Mary Sue that I sort of wished she would die. She was the most beautiful woman in all of the land and every man (there were no other women in this book – Bechdel Test FAIL!) fell hopelessly in love with her delicate fine-boned face, porcelain skin, hair like flames, and pretty petite body. The protagonist was inconsistent to the point of borderline schizophrenia, and utterly purposeless beyond her role as innocent damsel in distress. The story was aimless and predictable. The characters, in addition to also being aimless and predictable, lacked depth. The plot was cyclical. The book lacked proper editing. The grammar was awful. The verbiage repetitive and simplistic. The book was and still is, in my humble opinion, an enormous FAIL. I finished listening for the very purpose of writing a poor review. I was determined that I would warn off other unsuspecting people.

After I finished listening to the book, I pulled it up on Amazon and  Goodreads to see what other readers thought of the book.  I found out two things.

  1. This debacle is a series. Yes, there are more.
  2. The book has better than a four star rating.

I came to the conclusion that most likely those people who aren’t interested in this type of story either never get past the synopsis or if they were duped like me, stopped reading close to the beginning of the tale. What type of people would be interested in this story? Probably those who like romance, drama, damsels in distress…people who thought Twilight was a work of art but who maybe can’t read Twilight because the words are too big…. Okay okay.  I was just joking. I didn’t mean it. Okay, I’ll let it go.

Someone close to me suggested that I might be jealous of this author’s success. The objective person that I try to be, I gave the comment some thought, for about 0.21 seconds. I’m not jealous because I can happily say that jealousy is not and never has been my deal. I don’t want what other people have. I only want what was meant for me.
That said, I am baffled and intrigued about what makes people who they are, such that poorly written vampiresqe romances with idiotic  protagonists are interesting; such that SF, thrillers, or true crime appeals to others. Perhaps, and this is a scary thought, such writing isn’t really bad at all, perhaps my taste and understanding is skewed.

Maybe.  Right?

I mean that would explain a lot, like how one person would read my book and give it a glowing review with five stars and another person would give my novel only one star. It’s happened, and why not?

We all come with our own set of beliefs and baggage and for that reason alone entertaining and worthy literature is a matter of personal opinion and taste.

Eh. To each his own. As for what of worth I found in that book, let’s just say I learned what to write if I want to be instantly popular and what not to write if I want to maintain my self-respect.

Sorry, I had to get in one more jab.

There is something else to consider here as well. Apart from bad mechanics and problematic characters and storylines, these authors at some point felt they had a story to tell. Should they not get credit at least for the effort and guts to try? I don’t know the answer to that question myself, but I just thought I’d throw it out there. I mean it all boils down to this:

  • Who decides which literature is worthy?
  • How’d they get qualified to make that judgement?
  • What criteria is used to determine worthy literature?
  • Is there, can there, and should there be a universal measuring stick?

Seems way too subjective to me, which means there are no easy answers.

So what books have you read that you absolutely love but have the sneaking suspicion are actually quite bad?