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

Review: Primary Inversion

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Primary Inversion (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #1)Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro

My rating:

At the beginning of the year I decided to actively seek out and read SF&F written by women or with women occupying the titular roles. As you may imagine, when I first learned about Catherine Asaro , a female author who writes hard SF while reading the Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction, I was excited and impressed and went in immediate search of books written by her. Aside from being an author and dancer, Asaro has degrees in chemistry and physics from Harvard. I felt immediately assured that her books would give me that blend of believable SF and intriguing narrative I love. However, not until I started to read Primary Inversion did I realize that she can also be billed as a romance author.

This is where things sort of went bad for me.

I’m not sure if this is the point at which I am supposed to hand over my honorary girl’s club membership card, but I have a difficult time with strong elements of romance in my books. This is a personal preference. More accurately, I can tolerate romance if it is tasteful, subtle, and does not make up the bulk of the story. Not quite so with PI, but this is not my only issue with this book.

It’s not that I hate romance… it’s just that I do. Ha. Specifically, I don’t appreciate the over sentimentalized, sappy, UNREALISTIC, heart-rung quality romance novels frequently present us with. Even more specifically, I prefer stories wherein the romance is a happenstance occurrence and not the crux of the tale.

Primary Inversion (PI) is the first novel in the Saga of the Skolian Empire series. PI is a hard SF, space opera, political intrigue and, yes, romance novel. As I typically do with my reviews, I will try to discuss the merits of the book as I see and understand them without spoiling it for those who eventually chose to go on and read it.

PI is written in first person POV in the voice of the main character, Sauscony Valdoria (Soz). Soz is an intelligent, powerful super soldier-type who leads her own fighter squadron. She is attractive and at forty-eight years old looks about half that. Part of her super soldier prowess is due to her many cybernetic implants, but also in part to her genetic make-up. She is Rhon (I still honestly don’t get it) and this makes her, in addition to everything else, a powerful empath. She is funny and spunky, bright and quick witted. Soz is also the sister of Kurj, Imperator of the Skolian Imperialate, and she is next in line to take his place. What this means is that she is old money wealthy and practically royalty.

Her biggest internal conflict is a ten year old psychological wound she carries after having been once kidnapped and raped by an Aristo, a race that derives pleasure from the pain of empaths.

At first I thought it was the first person POV that I didn’t like, but then I realized that in this case, first person wasn’t the issue so much as the character of Soz herself. She is quite the Mary Sue:

  • Very Beautiful
  • Strangely colored hair
  • All men want her
  • Even men who don’t like her want her
  • An especially skilled pilot/leader/soldier
  • Heiress apparent to the Skolian Imperialate
  • Practically royalty
  • Wealthy
  • Tragic past (rape) she is still traumatized by making her vulnerable at just the right situations
  • Highly potent empath (Empathy is her supernatural power further strengthen by cybernetic implants? Although there are others with this power, hers is particularly strong and well-honed.)
  • Pretentious name – Sauscony Valdoria? Really?
  • Incorruptible
  • Nearly fifty but looks twenty-something
  • Recognized her true love via ecstasy inducing mind meld

During the course of this book, which spans over a few months, Soz enters into three relationships. The first and most appropriate is with a man who eventually becomes a paraplegic. He breaks up with her so as not to destroy her life and prospects. Of course she was prepared to forego her comfort and her position for him, but… Her second relationship is with a twenty something year old who seems terribly naïve. Their relationship was hardly explored outside of their cuddling and romps. He was her golden haired boytoy. The last relationship was with a twenty year old named Jaibriol Qox, who she met in the beginning of the book. JQ wasn’t just naïve but he was wholly inexperienced and also, being Rhon, had this immediate mental connection with her that meant that they were soul mates. The problem with this was that JQ is the heir apparent of the opposing side a galactic war.

Yes, what we have here is a Romeo and Juliet-ish tale.

I don’t like Romeo and Juliet.

I don’t like my characters perfect and awesome and unflawed.

I don’t like spending an entire book stuck in the head of a character whose stuck on themselves. She spends a lot of time stuck in Woe-is-me-land and I can’t stand that place. Not only that, rape or not, I have a difficult time feeling as sorry for her as she does for herself. As a matter of fact, there was a scene in which, while drunk, she “mistakenly” held a loaded weapon to her head. I kinda wished she would have pulled the trigger. Oh, the misery.

I’d also like to note here that JQ is the much younger male mirror image of Soz. In other words, Gary Stu. See all those Mary Sue traits listed above? Yep. That’s him with the odd adjustment here and there.

So, you’re likely wondering why I finished this book. Well, in Asaro’s defense, and mine, PI presents so many interesting and fresh concepts and ideas that I can’t declare it a complete loss. The problem is that the ideas that I personally found interesting, were either not well developed of weighted in simple yet excessive narrative.

Again, first person brought me too close to this character who I did not care for. I believe that had this been written in third person, despite my dislike for Soz, I could have stomached her.

As far as the SF elements go, there are a ton of detailed technical descriptions that instead of adding to the overall depth of the story actually slowed the pacing. I skipped huge chunks to get back into the fray because at some point I’d just glaze over. Part of the issue, I believe, is the fact that PI has too many things going on. You know, less is more, and all that jazz. We have empathic beings, racial issues (although everyone in this book seemed human and white… don’t even get me started on that), cultural issues, strong military elements, space travel, political intrigue, cybernetic implantation, AI…

About halfway in, I started thinking about McMasters-Bujold with her subtle use of technical verbiage and easy believable romantic elements. I missed that while reading PI. I know it isn’t entirely fair to compare the two authors, but the similarities and the differences are striking, I think, and Asaro could learn something from McMasters-Bujold about subtlety and believable relationship progression.

For me, the crux of the issue is that this story with all of its political intrigue and SF elements, which I’d normally enjoy, appears to have been woven to support these unlikely romances as opposed to the romances occurring as the natural result of what happens when two attractive unattached and compatible people are thrown together. Deus Ex Machina is shamelessly and ruthlessly employed here and in the course of one tale is so over used as to become absolutely unacceptable.

The unfortunate past rape of Soz is a looming element in this tale, as it colors Soz’s future experiences. I know that rape happens in real life, that it can alter how a woman sees herself, how she feels about the world around her and that it colors future relationships. Rape is tragic and horrific and unacceptable no matter what. That said, I don’t object to the inclusion of such a tragic element in a story if employed with the sensitivity it deserves. However, in this case I do resent its use as it feels like a pillar upon which to prop the protagonist whose character is annoying, weakly constructed, and paper thin.
View all my reviews

NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop

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What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them.  I hope you’ll find new-to-you authors whose works you enjoy.  On this stop on the blog hop, you’ll find a bit of information on me and one of my books and links to three other authors you can explore!

Epcot - 30th Celebration FinaleI send my thanks, admiration and gratitude to fellow indie authors Melanie Edmonds and Matthew Williams for inviting me to participate in this event.  I found Melanie online a few years ago when I stumbled upon her serial called Starwalker.  I was immediately impressed by the quality of her writing and her very presence.  I’m still impressed.  Since then she and I have become great colleagues and co-contributors of Yuva, an anthology about space travel and colonization that Matthew Williams and I conceived of several months ago.

Matthew “Awesome Sauce” Williams is the most wickedly prolific author/bloggers I’ve ever known.  I envy his verve and talent.  He is an absolute inspiration and the the person I look to when I need a little push to keep writing.  We are currently co-editors and co-contributors of the Yuva Anthology.  More to come on that later.

In this blog hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered ten questions about our book or work-in-progress (giving you a sneak peek).  We’ve also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write: the characters, inspirations, plotting and other choices we make. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book? 

My novel is entitled An Unproductive Woman.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

You know what?  I don’t know the answer to that.  At the time that I wrote An Unproductive Woman I’d been watching a lot of Nigerian dramas most of which (at the time) typically centered very dramatically around family and marriage matters.

3. What genre does your book come under?

Hmm.  I can think of three that fit An Unproductive Woman perfectly: Women’s Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, and Contemporary Fiction.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I love that question and it is very difficult to answer.  Let’s see… hmm… well…

I see Adam, the man most people hate but end up rooting for by the end, played by maybe Keith David or Delroy Lindo.

Asabe, is a bit more difficult.  Perhaps Theresa Randall (15 years younger) or Sharon Leal.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One man’s failed faith and secret quest to right old wrongs threatens to destroy his life but instead brings him full circle.

Sheesh, I’m out of breath saying that.  How about you?

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

An Unproductive Woman is self published and is currently available through Amazon or CreateSpace.  For the record, starting today and for the next two weeks you can sign up to win a signed copy of An Unproductive Woman over at Good reads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

An Unproductive Woman by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

An Unproductive Woman

by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

Giveaway ends April 17, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m not certain how long it took me to write the first draft, it being so long ago, but from start to finish including editing it took me about two years.  Then after about a year of trying to get a publisher, An Unproductive Woman sat in a box for about ten years before I finally decided to do something with it.

Am I aging myself?

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Honestly I can’t make any good comparisons, but I have found my book on this list on Goodreads.  I am in the company of some great cultural reads such as Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Khaled Housseni’s The Kite Runner and another of his books, A Thousand Splendid Suns.  I’ve read Housseini and I think he is a genius.  I’d never compare myself to him, but I am definitely honored to be on that list among some literary heavy hitters.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

What I can say for certain is that at the time when I wrote An Unproductive Woman I was working out a lot of internal demons in terms of my family and also spiritually.  Writing An Unproductive Woman was cathartic and odd as it may sound, I gleaned a lot of strength from the titular character Asabe, and I learned loads about forgiveness by taking Adam through the paces.  I was emotionally invested in each of the characters even when they were behaving badly.

10: Are you writing anything else that people might be interested in?

I’ve hinted that I wrote An Unproductive Woman several years ago, at least fifteen.  While I feel that the story is timeless, I’m not.  Ha!  Today I am working on a project called The Hinterland Chronicles.  I am  unsure how many installments there will be, but I am planning on at least three short novels (about 75,000 words each) all taking place in the same “world”.  The Hinterland Chronicles, or some version of it has been with me for at least five years and has come to me in disconnected bits and pieces here and there.  Only recently did any of it make sense to me and I recently stated committing words to paper.  Drop back by here sometime to check out the progress meter over in the right hand margin.  I also plan to post shorts from this WIP on occasion to keep appetites whet.  The Hinterland Chronicles will be an entirely different genre than An Unproductive Woman and is best characterized at this time as dystopian SF.

Who’s next on the NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP?

So glad you asked! Below you will find authors who will be joining me by blog, next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on Works in Progress and New Releases! Happy writing and reading!

Alesha Escobar – She is the talented author of the Gray Tower Trilogy.  The Tower’s Alchemist, which is the first book in the trilogy is currently available for free on Amazon.  Check it out if you like fun, adventure and historical fantasy.

Courtney Worth Young – She writes YA paranormal fantasy, is a coffee aficionado, geek, and voice actress.  Hmm.  Voice actress.  Her novel After the Woods will debut in May 2013, so keep your eyes wide open and mark your calendars.

Nadine Ducca – She went from medical translation to writing.  That makes sense to me.  And it’s a good thing.  Nadine is the author of Serving Time which will soon be available.  The cover reveal was just a few days ago so hop on over to her site to see what it looks like.  Should be exciting, yeah?

Sallie Lundy-Frommer – Sallie is a co-poetess and author of the paranormal romance Yesterday’s Daughter.  Check her out if you dare.