Wednesday, October 28, 2015

GENDER BENDERS: Flipped Fairytales by Starla Huchton (Don't Miss This!)

What if Snow White was a prince instead of a princess? What if the hero had to be rescued by the damsel instead of the other way around? Starla Huchton asked this very question. Her answer? A book called Shadows on Snow. This novel, which challenges the traditional idea of Snow White, was the beginning of her Flipped Fairytale Books, which takes those beautiful princesses we all know and love - and throws a wrench into the plot. I adore the idea. I like it when timeless tales get a new twist, and when the damsels-in-distress become kick-butt heroines who can hold their own with those dazzling princes! 

Starla has penned several different novels, A Bittersweet Summer, Master of Myth (The Antigone's Wrath Series), and the books from the Flipped Fairytales Series. 

I met Starla at the William Saroyan Theater in Fresno, California, while attending ZappCon with my brother. Naturally, I had to talk to every author there (I love meeting new writers!), and I'm so happy that she was kind enough to join us on Writing Belle and share her insight into the world of fairytales, writing and happily-ever-afters (or not!). 

Hello, Starla! It's so lovely having you here at Writing Belle. You're kind of a jack of all trades in the publishing world. Tell me about the work you've done in the past.
These days, I have to restrict the number of hats I wear purely for time management reasons. Currently I'm focused on the author aspect (which includes all the marketing and business stuff) and freelance book cover design. Two years ago, however, I was also a paid audiobook narrator after podcasting my first book, The Dreamer's Thread, where I discovered I had a knack for narration. I don't have a ton of titles under my belt in that field, but the first three books of Lindsey Buroker's Emperor's Edge series is probably the most popular of the works I narrated. In another life, I was a printer in the US Navy, which is where I first learned some of my desktop publishing skills, and I worked a lot with graphic design in the military while in Iceland, and then in Japan as a civilian. Anymore, I stay pretty busy with my own books (sixteen titles and counting), on top of doing design work for independent authors and small presses like Entangled Publishing.

What was it like being voice actor? What was your favorite part of that line of work?
Voice acting is a strange business. Basically, you get to take on a new personality in the form of spoken words, behind a microphone, with no one standing there giving you weird looks about it. LOL. It still amazes me that it's a thing I can do that people will pay me money for. Such a crazy world we live in!

I think my favorite part of that line of work is the same as it is for authoring and designing. In everything I do, I look at it as another means of storytelling. Sometimes I'm writing the story, sometimes I'm expressing it visually, and sometimes I get to breath life into someone else's world and characters by adding emphasis, inflection, emotion, and personality via audio. Storytelling is a passion of mine, and I wish I was better at speaking live so I could add that to my skill set as well.

I am very intrigued by your stories, especially your Flipped Fairytale books. Tell us about those.
My Flipped Fairy Tales sprung from a single question: can you tell the story of Snow White if Snow White is a prince instead of a princess? Once the idea occurred to me, I couldn't shake it. I had to find out if gender made any difference in the basic tale, and what, if any, effect that would have on such a story. I'd only ever intended it to be a single book (Shadows on Snow), but near the end of writing the first draft, I found I'd planted the seeds for more stories in the same world, tying in other fairy tales. So, I thought, why not keep going? Like anything new anyone tries, you're never sure if a thing will work as well as you hope, but I'm glad to say these books are striking a chord with readers. It seems I wasn't the only one curious about what happens when you gender flip stories that have been around for millennia. Modernizing and/or adding more mature heat levels these legends is perfectly fine, but I wanted to retain that fairy tale feel alongside this new take on old favorites and make them accessible and enjoyable for younger readers as well as adults.They're something familiar, yet refreshingly new at the same time. I also love that they share a connected world and can be read in any order. As an author, it keeps me from getting complacent and bored with the setting and characters, and readers can start with whichever story tickles their fancy and don't lose anything by only reading one, but discovering the ties between the stories is an adventure in itself as well.

Have you always loved fairytales? (I have!) 

I was raised not only on fairy tales, but stories out of mythology alongside Science Fiction and Fantasy novels, thanks to my mother. However, I think I enjoyed the fairy tales a little less because I found certain aspects of them bothersome or problematic. Some of the underlying ideas always troubled me, but in writing these Flipped Fairy Tales, I've discovered a way to fix those issues. Take Jack and the Beanstalk, for example. It's a story about a boy who makes a dumb (and potentially fatal) mistake, then breaks into someone's house, steals their stuff, and finally murders them when they come to reclaim their property. In The Stillness of the Sky, I instead make Jaqueline a victim of terrible circumstance, but she has a determination to be good to others, no matter where life takes her. By showing that kindness can be the harder path, but the more rewarding one, I've returned this fairy tale to the purpose all folk tales originally had. They were passed on not only as a means to entertain, but also to teach. Whether they were imparting valuable life lessons or religious beliefs, every story had a kernel of knowledge to pass on. I try not to be preachy with these stories, but I've always relished the opportunity to inform as I entertain. As people generally learn better when you explain how or why a thing should be done, my Flipped Fairy Tales gave me the chance to explain these qualities of decency in a way the original, bare bones tales can't. And I absolutely love that.

Your Flipped Fairytales remind me a bit of Once Upon A Time (my favorite show of the moment!) Have you ever seen it?
I'm not caught up with the current season, but it's definitely a show I've been watching since it began. The world of OUaT is very similar to mine, in that all the stories intertwine with one another, but it's obviously a modern day retelling of fairy tales, so it's very different from what I've created. I do love what they've done with some of the characters, like Hook and Regina, in that they're more than two-dimensional villains. The idea that anyone can be redeemed is amazing and powerful, and the world needs much more of that.

Who is your favorite storybook character - male and female?
If we're speaking about the very earliest picture books I read, I think I'd probably choose Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon, as that story speaks a lot about using art to explore your world (a thing a kid like I was would know a lot about) as the male choice. For female, the one I'd choose doesn't have a name. The heroine from East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a poor, peasant girl who is chosen by a cursed prince to break the curse upon him. She makes a terrible mistake and lets her doubts get the better of her, but then proceeds to own that mistake and do whatever it takes to fix it. I loved that story so much, it's the basis of my third Flipped Fairy Tale, Ride the Wind.

What other novels have you written?
I currently have 16 books available, and they range from YA Fantasy (my Flipped Fairy Tales), to YA Contemporary (My Bittersweet Summer), to Steampunk adventure (Master of Myth) to adult titles that aren't intended for younger readers. I keep them separated by author name, that being Starla Huchton for general audiences and S. A. Huchton for my books with mature language/situations. My adult titles cover Suspense (Lex Talionis), sexy superheroes (the Evolution series and the first in the follow-on series to that, Spark), and Science Fiction Romance (the Endure series and The Night Bridge). I have plans to release High Fantasy Romance titles next year, so I'll be adding that to my repertoire as well.

What was it like flying to Fresno, California, and participating in ZappCon?
Being a military family and a big fan of geeky conventions, I wasn't a stranger to travel or cons in general, but flying across the country to attend one as an invited guest was a brand new experience. ZappCon is a smaller con, and this was only it's second year, so I wasn't totally sure what would be waiting for me when I got there. I have to say, it was definitely an enjoyable experience. The staff was friendly, the con was well-organized, there was a huge range of nerdy interests to occupy all tastes, and I met some incredible and talented people. I used to live in California, but that was three and a half years ago and a lot has changed for me. Visiting the west coast as an author gave me an opportunity to connect with a whole new audience I don't normally get to interact with outside of the internet, so it was a huge treat for me. Most of the conventions I've been to were on the east coast, so I was really excited to see California bring their A-game when it came to cosplay, gaming, comics, and other geekery. I'm absolutely a huge nerd, so spending so much time on the vendor floor was more or less a dream come true. I got to stare at awesome artwork of superheroes and talk about books for two days straight. It was amazing. LOL

Are you working on any more projects?
I am ALWAYS working on more projects. Always. My list of works in progress is almost as long as my list of completed projects. At the top of the WIP list right now is my fourth Flipped Fairy Tale (Dust in the Desert), finishing up the second book in the Antigone's Wrath series (Master of Machines), and working on the third book in my unreleased and heretofore un-talked about High Fantasy Romance series, Hearts of Valentia. Yes, I said third book. I've already finished the first two, but haven't set a release date until I finish what I started. I have four of them planned, but I need to play a lot more Dragon Age for inspiration, I think. Not that I need a reason to play Dragon Age. Did I mention I'm a huge nerd? Hearts of Valentia is very much along the line of video games like Dragon Age and The Witcher... only more romance and less monster slaughter. Sort of. It wouldn't be High Fantasy if I didn't hack away at a few demons and ogres, at least.

Where can readers visit you online?
I'm around the web in lots of places. I have a blog where I post about writerly and bookish things from time to time, and there are links to all my titles there:
My Facebook Author Page, where I post teasers and the occasional giveaway and book news items:

I'm over on Twitter, though not as much as I used to be:

And, of course, there's my new release newsletter, for folks who hate spam, but still want to know when I have a new book out:

I'm always open to meeting new fans and readers, so please feel free to stop by and say hello!

Thank you so much for your time, Starla. Best of luck!

Thanks so much for having me as a guest! Happy reading to all!

About the Author 
A geek of all trades, Starla Huchton has been crafting stories in various genres since 2007. She is a three time finalist for Parsec Awards for her podcast, fiction work, and was the first place winner for science fiction and fantasy in the Sandy Competition in 2012. Her works span science fiction, fantasy, new adult romance, young adult titles, steampunk, contemporary, and various other varieties of stories. She is greedy and likes all the genres! 

When not writing, Starla trains three minions, a black lab and a military husband whilst designing book covers for independent authors and publishers at: DesignedByStarla.Com. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

STAY AWHILE....IF YOU DARE! An Author of Horror Talks SCARY for October

Halloween looms ever closer, ladies and gentlemen, and as the stores continue to sell buckets of sugary candies and Iron Man costumes, I've been sitting here, perusing the aisles of the bookstore...looking for scary books for October! I've already featured a few spooky reads so far this month, and now, it's time to turn the spook-o-meter (that's a word I just made up, by the way) up a notch. 

Today we're here with Anthony Vecchiarello, the author and creator of a terrifying tale called STAY AWHILE. (Have you seen the cover? CHILLS!) In this book, a desperate thief hides in the closet of a seemingly normal family's home...but guess what? They're not so normal. In fact, they're hiding a horrible and terrifying secret! Want to find out what it is? READ THE BOOK! 

I was excited to be able to talk with Anthony about what it takes to be a writer of horror fiction. Here's what he had to say about being a weaver of the suspenseful haunting tales that keep us up late at night! 

Let's start with you! Where are you from, and how did you get into writing? 

Suffolk County, New York. For those who don’t have any clue where that is, I’m on the east side of Long Island (closer to the tail end of the fish).

I started writing at a young age when I had trouble talking due to my troubling stutter. I resorted to writing as a healthy communicative alternative. In elementary school when we had poetry time everyone snickered while I reveled in the subject. My first poem had so much depth and visuals compared to the peers in my class. My classroom memoirs were descriptive and heartfelt. It was later when I was given a journal that I wanted to write and form creative stories. I was not much for recapping events in my life. What always stayed with me was my imagination.

Why do you think people are fascinated with scary stories? 

It plays and tickles their fears in a safe way. Scary stories are like roller coasters or psychological adrenaline rushes. It’s up to the readers to see how much they can handle before their skin begins to turn cold.

Where do you get the inspiration for your tales of horror? How many books have you published so far? 

Scary nightmares, from watching movies or from personal experience; either inspired by actual events or conveyed emotions. Sometimes the ideas come random. For ‘Stay Awhile’, I walked upstairs in my house until suddenly this crazy idea came into my head.

I’ve only published one book thus far.

Who are your favorite horror authors? 

The great ‘Stephen King’ of course and throughout public school I was fascinated by Edgar Allen Poe. Growing up I read R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps.

In terms of scariness, what do you think is the key to writing a good horror story? 

Write a visually detailed atmosphere. I like when I can make readers feel like they’re in that world. Adding a bit of mystery and finding ways to tie in everything makes for a more versatile story. Character development is also helpful. Challenge reader’s minds.

If you could dress up as any character for Halloween, who would it be?

Slender Man; it would be fun to just stand in the grass and scare people from afar without saying or doing anything else. I remember when I was dressed as Michael Myers from ‘Halloween’; I terrified everyone in the neighborhood.

What advice can you offer to those wishing to publish their own novel?  

First, before you publish the novel make sure the final draft is perfect, meaning no one needs to make anymore edits, etc. Then I would try publishing it as an Ebook on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which is through Amazon and set your promotion to five free days. Once you have that up promote the novel on social media through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and if you have a blog on WordPress or Tumblr. On Facebook you can join several writing and author groups that have over 30000 members each. Build your online presence and network with other like minded authors willing to help out. Then after 90 days of exclusivity I would switch to where you can turn that Ebook into a hard copy/paperback. You should also try joining large writer associations. There is a large one in New York called, Horror Writers Association where they help young indie authors get heavy exposure. Some even got signed to major publishers after they got an agent. HWA gives out awards during Stoker Con annually. Lastly, just continue to write and read. Gaining reviews on your book is another huge step. The more you publish, the more your name gets noticed.

Any upcoming projects or releases? 

I have several projects I’m sort of working on simultaneously. First I’m working on completing an extended/full version of ‘Stay Awhile’ that goes more in depth with Troy’s background and explains why he’s the way he is at the beginning of the story. Then there is a collection of 9 horror short stories that I’m working on that deal with situations that take place in the suburb and involve middle class employment and young adulthood. Moving from horror, there is an epic fantasy that I’m determined to finish within the next few years that is inspired by the Final Fantasy video game franchise, The Lord of the Rings, and A Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones). At some point I’d like to write a western with a strong female lead character, a science fiction crime noir about a detective who stops people from repainting the black and white world, and a girl who can rewind time.  It’s a bit crazy, but that’s how my mind works, I’m a Sagittarius.

Where can readers connect with you online? (website, blog, etc.) 

You can email me at
Tweet me @AnthonyVecch
Read my Amazon Author Page:
View my blog site at
Check out my Facebook Author Page here,

Thank you so much for visiting with Writing Belle today! 

The pleasure is mine.

About the Author 
Anthony began writing at an early age, which helped him communicate while having a stutter. Authors like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, and J.D. Salinger influenced his writing as well as years of being a movie buff and video game fanatic. His favorite genres consist of Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction, Adventure, and coming of age stories. Although he outgrew his stutter, he never lost his imagination.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Some Fabulous Spooky Reads for this Halloween!

I can't hide my love of scary fiction. I adore stories that suck me in, sneak up on me, and give me a good spook. There's no better excuse to read a chilling tale than October. Halloween is right around the corner, and it brings out the ghost in all of us. * wink * 

I have compiled a list of Halloween Reads for 2015. Some of them are my personal favorites, and some of them were recommended to Writing Belle by readers. I chose the scariest and included them here. Have any more books you think would scare the socks off me? I want to hear about them! 

Ready? Okay. One, two...scare! 

The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks 
The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.

Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack 

1. Organize before they rise! 
2. They feel no fear, why should you?
3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
4. Blades don’t need reloading.
5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it. 
7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
9. No place is safe, only safer. 
10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on. 

Don’t be carefree and foolish with your most precious asset—life. This book is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now without your even knowing it. The Zombie Survival Guide offers complete protection through trusted, proven tips for safeguarding yourself and your loved ones against the living dead. It is a book that can save your life.

Carrie, by Stephen King and The Shining, also by Stephen King 

Carrie knew she should not use the terrifying power she possessed... But one night at her senior prom, Carrie was scorned and humiliated just one time too many, and in a fit of uncontrollable fury she turned her clandestine game into a weapon of horror and destruction...

The Shining:
Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control. 

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive? 

Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel - and that too had begun to shine...

The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson 
Shirley Jackson's The Lottery is a memorable and terrifying masterpiece, fueled by a tension that creeps up on you slowly without any clear indication of why. This is just a townful of people, after all, choosing their numbers for the annual lottery. What's there to be scared of?

Asylum, by Madeleine Roux 
Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

Interview With The Vampire, by Anne Rice 
Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker 
The aristocratic vampire that haunts the Transylvanian countryside has captivated readers' imaginations since it was first published in 1897. Hindle asserts that Dracula depicts an embattled man's struggle to recover his "deepest sense of himself as a man", making it the "ultimate terror myth".

What are some of YOUR favorite spooky reads? I'd love to hear about them! Email me with any and all suggestions! 

Happy Halloween!