A “Friendly” Undeserved Rating

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Shining StarLately sales have been close to nonexistent. Eh, I wish I could say otherwise but that’s the way it is. I’m still in the process of extricating myself from Xlibris but once that’s done and settled I will reevaluate whether or not I want to sign back up for Amazon’s KDP program.

Of late, my attention has been on my WIP, hence publicizing AUW has taken a far back seat in the clutter and lack of time that is my life. Despite this, and lagging sales, from time to time I check out how my title is ranking on Amazon and also to see if I have any new reviews. I also occasionally check to see if AUW has any new reviews on Goodreads.

Today I noticed something very curious. At some point in the recent past I was awarded a five star rating, sans review, from one of my Goodreads “friends”. Said “friend” will remain nameless. I found this curious because although I don’t really know this person, I am fairly certain this person has NEVER read AUW. In fact, if I was the gambling type, I’d bet everything I own that this is the case.

So, why would this person, my “friend”, give me a five star rating?

I think I know why. A couple of months ago this “friend” published a book and dove full steam into a publicity blitz that included mass friending on Goodreads, form emails offering a favor if and when the need arose (we’re talking Goodreads friends, not lifelong since we were wee pups in the cradle friends, so it seemed kind of icky weird), a free eBook download of the newly published novel, and the opportunity to win a free autographed copy, among other things. The email was, well, kind of weird, mostly because I don’t know this person, and also because who offers strangers online an anytime favor? But I saw it for what it was, an attempt to gain exposure and to sell books. I didn’t respond and I sort of forgot about it until today.

I’m of the opinion that my five star rating was one of those selfless favors meant to, at the very least, endear me to the author and at most, oblige me to reciprocate.

I can not.

I tried to read this person’s book a while back but couldn’t complete it. I just couldn’t. The writing was, well, suffice it to say, 4% was all I could take. If I can’t turn off my internal editor when I am reading a book then that’s a sure sign its chock full of writing flubs, grammar errors, inconsistencies, editing nightmares, and plain old WTHs. Despite the major issues with the writing, this book has a number of very impressive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so perhaps I’m wrong or being too harsh a critic.

In light of my undeserved five star rating from this author/”friend”, I wonder how many of this author’s five star reviews were because the author is a good writer with a compelling story as opposed to a selfless “friend” willing to do favors. Of note, the author has also rated their own book. Want to take a guess?

My personal opinion of self rating is that it should not be done. Besides tacky it is wholly unbiased.

My opinion on “friendly” ratings based on anything other than the opinion of one person who has actually read my book, is that I don’t need them nor do I want them. It lacks integrity. It makes me feel like a cheat.

I don’t need friends or ratings like that.

Character Traits

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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

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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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Upon the Wings of Greater Things