Starla Huchton On Her New Novel Entitled Maven

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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:

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Designed by Starla

Upon the Wings of Greater Things

Search Terms

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Blogging Research Wordle

Kristina B via Compfight

 In about one month Khaalidah.com will be one year old, so I thought it would be interesting to review those search terms that have brought people to my website.  As my readership is fairly small, I figured most people stumble upon my site completely by mistake.  I was right to assume that, but I could have never imagined just how interesting this list would turn out to be.  I thought it would be fun to share a few of them.

The top five search terms that transport unsuspecting readers to my site are:

  • Moribito – I wrote a post about this anime several months ago.  It remains a favorite in my home because of the strong female protagonist, the refreshing lack of fan service and inuendo, and interesting unique storyline.
  • Bajoran – The Bajorans are a race of people from Star Trek: DS9.  I mentioned them in a post once when discussing the presence of religion and SF.
  • Fate Zero review – I wrote a somewhat lengthy review of Fate Zero a few months ago.  Have you seen the anime?  What do you think?
  • pretty white girls – While I did write a post by this name, I’m certain that the people, of which there were many, who typed this into their search engine were not actually looking or my post.
  • Sircarius Emperor’s Edge – Ah now… For this I have Lindsay Buroker to thank.  I caught up with the Emperor’s Edge podcast on iTunes over a year ago and became an instant fan.  I went on to read the next two books and become a fast admirer of Lindsay Buroker.  The EE series is fun and smart, steampunkish, and fast paced just like all of Lindsay Buroker’s books.  Let me expound a bit here.  Lindsay Buroker is an awesome author and cyber friend and I believe that I found her book by divine intervention.  I’d published my own novel but had done nothing to promote or network.  I was stuck and didn’t know how to become unstuck.  Lindsay inspired me.  An indie author herself, Lindsay is fairly successful at not only producing quality writing but at networking and selling her work.  In addition, Lindsay is the consummate professional and a lovely human being.  She agreed to an interview about my favorite character in her series named Sircarius, and she gave me an opportunity to write a guest post for her site.  Additionally she has produced a few how-to type podcasts directed at other indie authors and she keeps up an awesome website with loads of terrific information.  I’m going to send a shout out and many, many thanks to Lindsay Buroker.  I’d estimate that nearly 30-35% of the search terms leading to Khaalidah.com are in some form a reference to the Emperor’s Edge series or my favorite character Sircarius.  I guess I’m not the only one who loves the taciturn assassin.

The most interesting search terms that have guided people to my site are:

  • cool anime Muslim
  • albino teenager
  • i don’t understand ergo proxy
  • how to make a werewolf
  • too depressed to watch fate zero
  • fully clothed romance
  • nobody knew what Adam had in his suitcase – ?
  • what does take me to your leader mean – ?
  • im ready to take my faith to new levels by setting my mind on heavenly things – I wish this person much success.
  • light bulb worker – ?
  • angry white girl clothing – Is there a such thing?
  • harry potter and geds scar – I saw immediate similarities between Harry Potter series and The Wizard of Earthsea.
  • should i let my son watch fate zero – I love that someone actually asked this question.  As a parent I am very cognizant about what my children watch, even though two of them are technically adults.  I take a sincere interest in the things that interest them.  I watch anime with them and I play games with them in an effort to know and understand the things that interest them.  This is awesome.  My answer to this question would be, it depends on how old your son is and if you plan to watch Fate Zero with him.

Oddly or maybe not so oddly, there are several search terms to vulgar or inappropriate to mention so I won’t, but it makes me wonder what people are thinking, if it can actually be labeled thinking and why they are thinking that way.  But that would be another post.  Moving along.

This particular search term blows my mind a bit:

  •  who is Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali – I guess this person really was looking for me.  Heh.  Wow.

To those of you who have stopped by from time to time to read my posts, thank you and I hope to see you back again.

To Podiobook, or Not to Podiobook?

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I first came to know about Starla while listening to Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker on my iPod.  With absolutely spot on reading, Starla made listening to Emperor’s Edge, an already top notch story, a delight to listen too.  I decided to follow her on Twitter and then I looked her up online.  I learned that this woman not only does superb voice acting, but she’s also written and podcasted her own Parsec nominated novel.  Imagine how pleased I was when she agreed to visit my site to tell us about podcasting.  Thanks Starla, for stopping by!

*****

When I was first asked to write this guest post, I looked at the broad scope of the topic and had a brief fit of panic. Where do I start? After taking a deep breath, I decided “the beginning” was as good a place as any.

If you aren’t familiar with podcasting, think of it as on-demand radio. There are podcasts out there for every interest, be it Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom, quilting, astronomy… you name it, it’s probably there.  There’s another type of podcast out there too, the podcast audiobook. This is what I’m going to speak to specifically today.

“A podcast audiobook?” you ask. Yes. Otherwise known as the “podiobook”, these are (generally) free episodic releases of written works. They run the gamut from full-blown, full-cast productions complete with music, sound effects and character voices to simple, author-narrated short stories. They began appearing in 2005 with folks like Tee Morris and Scott Sigler among the first wave of these content producers. If you’re curious about these beginnings, I’d suggest this article.

Currently, podiobooks.com has 595 podiobooks available for download. All free, with the option to donate to the writers. That’s to say nothing of how many other authors and anthologies have works available in their own feeds.

The main question you might ask is “why?”. Why would a writer give away their work for free? Is it worth it?

Within the podiobooks community, that is the million-dollar question. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone knows the answer. Every individual measures success differently and takes away different experiences. Scott Sigler, Mur Lafferty, J.C. Hutchins, Philippa Ballantine, and Tee Morris (to name a few), have found their way to traditional publishing through this avenue. Many, many others… not so much. All I can tell you for sure is what my experience was and continues to be.

I started out in 2007 with a half-baked idea for my first National Novel Writing Month. A year later, I had a complete, albeit still half-baked, novel and was thinking about sending queries and riding the maddening traditional publishing merry-go-round.  A friend of mine discovered my little word habit, and pointed me to a podiobook he had produced the audio for: Mur Lafferty’s “Playing for Keeps”. It’s one of my all-time favorites to this day and was the major reason I decided to podcast “The Dreamer’s Thread”.

It snowballed from there. Before long I was buying audio equipment and obsessively scouring other podcasts for any voices I might be able to recruit for my own book. That’s right. First time out of the gate and I decided to go big with a full cast production. Essentially, I listened to other podiobooks and tried to match voices to my characters, and then sent out polite, self-deprecating, pleading emails in hopes that I’d get at least a few positive responses. To my shock, I received a slew of yeses, and only a single, solitary no. My excitement knew no bounds.

From there it was a whirlwind of sending out scripts, picking just the right music, recording the main narration, uploading files to my producer (Jamie Jordan, the saint he is), sending little reminders to stray actors, scrutinizing every episode for errors, and trying to be as vocal as I knew how to be on social media and my blog. In short, I had no idea what I was doing, but it was crazy fun!

My reward for all the hours of hard work and promotion? Well, I wouldn’t call it “book sales”, but I wouldn’t trade what I have gotten for anything (well, maybe a super-star literary agent and a six-figure contract, but that’s a big maybe). Not only was “The Dreamer’s Thread” a double-nominee and finalist for the 2010 Parsec Awards, but I have become a part of a community that is ASTOUNDINGLY supportive and helpful, made INCREDIBLE friends, grown and matured as a writer by LEAPS AND BOUNDS, been approached to write short pieces for several other projects, and even found employment doing audiobook narration for REAL MONEY.  Before my podiobook experience, I had no idea I had talent as a narrator. It turns out, people actually like listening to me read. Who knew? For me, all of these positives would outweigh by ten times what I had to put into it. You might then ask what that entailed…

It would be hard for me to put a price tag on my podiobook. I had a lot of help. Jamie did all the production work for free, the music I used was free (though the hours I spent looking for it were mind-numbing), everyone who voiced a character donated their time, and hosting the podcast on podiobooks.com is free (but I also pay for a personal feed). I invested in a fairly decent microphone and mixing board, but I do all of my recording in GarageBand, which is included on every Mac. However, not everyone can (or should) narrate their own work. This is where people like the guys I work for at DarkFire Productions come in.

One of the books I’ve narrated for DarkFire, “The Emperor’s Edge”, has done fairly well. If you’d like to see how the author, Lindsay Buroker, feels about her podiobooking experience, check out her post here  from when that podcast was about mid-way through it’s serialization. She can more definitively explain the monetary side of podcasting, for those curious about what it might cost to hire the whole thing out.

I completely agree with Lindsay’s assessment that podiobooking isn’t for everyone. Personally, I love it. It has enriched my life in more ways than I can count and I cannot say often enough how amazing the contributors and fans are in that community. If it’s something you’d like to get into, or even if you just want free audio fiction for your ears, podiobooks.com is a great starting point. Join us!

*****

Starla Huchton is an author, narrator, and freelance graphic designer, focusing mainly on book cover creation. Her first novel, The Dreamer’s Thread, is a full cast podcast audiobook and garnered a double-nomination and was a finalist for the 2010 Parsec Awards. Her short fiction has appeared in the Erotica a la Carte and Tales from the Archives podcasts, as well as the Farrago Anthology. When she is not stretching herself between 50 different creative projects, she is mom to three and wife to a Naval officer. You can find her on Twitter (@riznphnx), Facebook, Podiobooks.com, Designed By Starla, or her author site .