Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway The Endure Series by S.A. Huchton


How far would you go for love?

Since losing her parents at 14, young prodigy Dr. Lydia Ashley has focused on one thing: an appointment on the Deep Water Research Command Endure. Now 21, she’s about to realize that dream, but nothing is how she imagined it would be. Her transitional sponsor forgets her, her new lab is in complete chaos, and, as if that weren’t enough, she’s about to discover something so horrific it could potentially destroy all life on the planet.

Daniel Brewer, a noted playboy and genius in his own right, may be exactly what she needs… Or he may make everything worse.

Has she finally found a puzzle she can’t solve?

Tech genius Daniel Brewer isn't the only one with a romantic history. Already weighed down with the impossible problem of the Maven Initiative's plans for world domination and disaster, Dr. Lydia Ashley is finding it more and more difficult to keep things in balance. With an old flame reappearing and the schemes of a vindictive new rival thrown into the mix, her hopes for a life with Daniel may be on the brink of annihilation.

When Lydia's past is brought to light, one big secret could destroy everything.
Your work is developed on three plans: written, voice and design. How do they influence each other in general and there were advantages or disadvantages for The Endure Series in particular?
(MB' Topic)
I’m a bit of a unique bird when it comes to authors. Not only do I write, but I’m also a freelance cover designer and a sometimes audiobook narrator as well. The biggest challenge I face in all of this is having time for everything, as I’m also a temporary single parent to three kids while my husband is deployed. As a result, I’ve had to step away from a lot of the narration I was doing before, in order to focus on the projects I was more passionate about.

The narration didn’t really come into play for the Endure series. Some folks have asked if I planned to put out an audio version of the series, but, alas, I’ve had to tell them no. There are multiple reasons for this, but the biggest one is the time issue. But, as I didn’t plan to narrate this project from the start, that wasn’t a factor while I was writing it. One of my other finished books, however, was a different story. As I was writing the first of my Steampunk Adventure series (which is not out anywhere, should people go looking for it), I found myself limiting my characters, in the number of them I had as well as the exotic-ness of their voices, simply because I was approaching it with the mentality of a podcaster. Thinking about casting (in the case of a full cast project) or voicing these characters myself (in case of a straight, or single narrator, read) actually hindered the project. Admittedly, it was freeing to write a book where that wasn’t a concern. Creatively, it can be constricting to write with audio in mind, which is not something I expected. I battled my way through that story, trying to break myself of thinking that way. I think I succeeded in the end, but as very few folks have read it, no one can really say whether or not I was. I do, however, read everything out loud still, so if it sounds unnatural, I know I need to change something. So the narration stuff still helps me out from time to time.

The cover design is a different story. Because I wasn’t working on anyone’s deadline but my own for this series, I was able to take my time with the cover and poke, prod, and tweak it until the last possible moment… which is both good and bad. Good, in that I could get it as close to perfect as it was going to be, but also bad in that it’s hard to sit back and leave a thing alone before you mess it up completely. I think the hardest part in the design was finding the right people for the covers. I keep going back to book 3’s cover (which no one has seen yet) and debating on my choice of photos for it. Each book in the series features a different character on the cover, and it was a tough decision every time I settled on who to use. I still wonder if Maven would have been differently received if I’d chosen to put Daniel on the cover instead of Lydia. As someone who prides herself on being mindful of gender issues and what’s perceived in cover design, I was concerned that putting a girl on the cover might dissuade men from picking it up, or make it fall into preconceived notions about the content. In the end, I had to go with what felt right for the story. The book opens from Lydia’s point of view, and while I alternate pretty equally between her and Daniel, the title and plot of Maven demanded that she be the one featured. For what it’s worth, Daniel isn’t on the cover of book 2, Nemesis, either. It’s another character, Dr. Nicholas Miller, who’s a very pivotal character, but is not a narrator in the story. Again, the title and plot determined who needed to show up on the cover. Book 3, Progeny, is less about the title and more about the story when it comes to the character that will be on the cover. It’s actually giving me a bit of a headache right now as I don’t know that I’m pleased with my selection of model for this one. If I change it, it will be the third “final choice” for this character. That’s another pitfall to doing these things yourself. It’s far too easy to constantly doubt your decisions and change your mind.

The upswing to being a “one stop shop” author is the freedom to do all of this until I’m satisfied, with no pressure from anyone to get something done on anyone else’s timeline. If it’s late, it’s my fault. But, if it’s early, I get to reap the benefits of that. The other great part is the total control of my work. I can fret and fuss over a cover or text as much or little as I like. Once I’m happy with it (and, admittedly, I’m a bit of a perfectionist with this stuff), that’s when the excitement starts. I’m far enough along that I can tell when I’m at the point with a thing that it’s ready for prime time. And that comes with experience. You eventually know when to stop poking, prodding, and tweaking. Granted, nothing will ever be perfect (that’s impossible), but knowing when to stop is just as important as knowing when you need to keep going.

And that, my friends, is a difficult lesson to learn, and maybe the most important.


At 1045, there was a quiet rapping at her door. Lydia turned to see Dr. Corvis standing there, smiling politely. It was like watching a shark circling for an attack.

"Do you need something, Dr. Corvis?" Lydia said.

"Dr. Miller and I have worked out a possible sequence of alterations for one of the bacteria. Care to take a look?"

Sure she was walking into a trap, Lydia agreed anyway. One of the work stations had been arranged with four different devices: an electron microscope, a centrifuge, a chromosome splitter more compact than any she had seen before, and a rotating rack for petri dishes.

"Where did that come from?" She indicated the splitter. The display screen on the top showed a squirming object, pinned in place by the microlasers hovering above the sample tray. The controls hummed, waiting for their next command.

"My own personal stash," Nick said, coming up behind her. He was closer than she would've liked, but given the confines of the area there wasn't anything for it.

Lydia was stunned. "You own a chromosome splitter? How did you afford that?"

Nick shrugged. "It was a gift from Dr. DeBeauvoir."

"He's as generous as he is brilliant," Dr. Corvis gushed.

"Uh huh." Lydia gave her a sidelong glance. "So what have you been working on?"

Dr. Corvis answered for him. "Dr. Miller had some amazing insights on how to achieve the necessary virulence while maintaining its water-borne nature."

"You figured that out? That was the one thing I was dreading the most. I had hoped to find a workaround so I wouldn't mess with bacteria's environmental needs." What Lydia hadn't said was that she was terrified of creating some super bug that would become airborne and infect everyone on the station.

Nick moved over to the electron microscope and looked into the eyepiece, adjusting the focus. "If you take a look here, you can see the segment of the chromosome we're targeting."

He took a step back and she positioned herself in front of the device. "What am I looking at, exactly?"

Nick leaned against the table, closing the distance between them some. He was close enough that she caught the scent of sandalwood from the soap he'd used since she'd known him at Stanford. Focus, she reminded herself.

"These base pairs are responsible for virulence and environment adaptation. They're right beside one another so it can be difficult to separate them. You have to know exactly what you're doing or you could wind up with something really nasty."

Lydia looked up from the eyepiece and was startled to find his face less than a foot away from her own. "Good thing you're here to make sure we don't do that then, I guess." She sounded like an idiot. His proximity was flustering her.

"I was about to make the first cut with the splitter, but I wanted to show you one other thing first." Nick slid up to the microscope and she skittered away, as though he might burn her if they touched.

If he noticed, he didn't show it. He made another slight adjustment to the eyepiece. "Here." They traded places again. "This is the chromosome segment responsible for host selection. According to Anna, this was being altered to make it viable on multiple cellular types. What this basically means is that the cell wall degradation mechanism will be much more powerful and adapted to both rigid cells from plants and softer cells from animals. Really wicked stuff."

He was calling her Anna already? Damn. That woman worked fast. She pushed it aside. Lydia focused on what was important: a bacterium that could attack both flora and fauna. Something that strong could be devastating. "So it feeds off of organic material then, but doesn't discriminate in regards to the source? The environmental impact that will have..." Lydia rubbed her forehead. "Not only on human life. Anything within the release area will be obliterated."

"It's designed to only work for a certain period of time, within a certain range, remember," Dr. Corvis offered. Was she really defending the Maven Initiative? "The nanotags will ensure self-destruction of any infected phytoplankton outside that."

Lydia gaped at her. "And so that makes it okay?"

She shrugged. "To them, it was acceptable."


"Now I'll show you how to split the base pairs and graft the new ones," Nick said. Her spine went rigid as his hand touched the small of her back, ushering her towards the other piece of equipment. Fortunately, there wasn't far to go and the contact was brief.

Nick's hand grasped the controls, strong and steady. He talked her through the operation, explaining where the precise cuts needed to be made and directing the microlasers expertly.

"Did you do a lot of this with Dr. DeBeauvoir?" she asked.

"Not at first," he said, keeping his eyes on the screen. "But the last two years I was in the lab almost exclusively. I got a lot of practice with this thing. They were upgrading the equipment when I left so that's why I didn't feel guilty when they sent me away with this baby. We have spent many an hour together, Sheila and I."

She tried not to laugh, but couldn't help herself. "You named the splitter Sheila?"

"I thought about calling it Lydia, but that seemed inappropriate given the circumstances."

Her face burned as Dr. Corvis giggled. She actually giggled. Lydia was mortified, and Nick didn't so much as crack a smile. He couldn't be serious.

"There." He finished the cut and turned back to her. "Want to give it a try?"

Reining in her embarrassment, she nodded and stepped up to the controls. Nick loaded up another sample. He reached in front of her and punched in the autofocus on the sample camera. Another hit of sandalwood drifted up to her, scattering her thoughts.

"You're looking for the eighteenth base pair," he said, directing her where to shift the sample plate. "Stop."

She had to remind herself to breathe. With the way her entire body was shaking, she would probably wind up creating a highly virulent super bacterium.

"Good, now lock in the sample position."

Lydia flipped a switch and six microlasers pinned the sample in place.

"This is the tricky part," Nick said. "You have to have the right touch."

Every nerve in her body electrified as Nick slid behind her and wrapped his hands around hers. If she wasn't seven shades of scarlet before, she absolutely was now. This was not happening. No way was this professional by any stretch of the imagination.

"Slowly... slowly... now cut."

Her thumbs pressed down on the buttons to fire the incision lasers, and she was careful not to jerk away as soon as it was done.

"Perfect," he said, leaning over her shoulder to smile at her.

Right on cue, a throat cleared and she jumped, pushing away from both the machine and Dr. Miller.

Daniel was standing not ten feet away, looking none too happy about what he'd walked in on.

"We're dicing bacterial DNA," she blurted. "Dr. Miller was demonstrating how his equipment worked."

His eyebrow twitched and somewhere behind her, Dr. Corvis coughed to hide her laughter. Maybe her word choice had been a little questionable, but her brain was scrambled.

"Daniel Brewer, right?" Nick strode forward, hand extended. "I don't think we've been properly introduced. Nick Miller."

Daniel was not impressed.

Lydia hurried forward, cutting Nick off before he got any closer and all but pushed Daniel toward the door. "Time for lunch? Great! I'm famished. Let's go."

She was pretty sure Dr. Harpy was still laughing when they left the lab. Apparently, she'd decided on a new plan of attack.

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About the author:
Starla 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, 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, and a short story for The Gearheart (earning her a third Parsec finalist badge). 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 was her third completed novel and the first in a planned series of four, being released under the name S. A. Huchton. Nemesis is the second in the Endure series.

After completing her degree in Graphic Arts, Starla opened up shop as a freelance graphic designer focusing on creating beautiful book covers for independent authors and publishers. She currently lives in Virginia where she trains her three Minions and military husband.


Starla Huchton said...

Thanks so much for being part of the tour!

Unknown said...

Terrific tour..and excited for the chance to win.

sarah said...

Sounds like an interesting series, I look forward to reading them, thanks for the giveaway:)

Unknown said...

Such a great giveaway.. thank you for sharing and hosting!