What I’ve been loving lately

Hey Everyone! 

It’s been a little while since I last emailed, I know. Long enough for the weather to go from early autumn to something decidedly wintry. We even had a time change! 

I’ve been really busy with teaching the past few weeks, so I haven’t had much time to devote to Dr. Rowena & Co. But don’t worry! I’m busily thinking about the next book in the series, tentatively titled Under Review. As soon as I have any concrete news about it (which may be a while), you will be the first to know! 

Meanwhile, I have managed to fit in a little bit of reading for fun, although not as much as I’d like, of course. I’ve been enjoying the heck out of the Skip Langdon and Rebecca Schwartz mystery series, both by Julie Smith. The Skip Langdon series leans more towards gritty noir (and is set in New Orleans–always a good choice!), while the Rebecca Schwartz series is a bit more cozy, but they’re both engaging reads featuring smart female misfits as their main characters. Highly recommend if you’re looking for a new heroine to check out. 

What about you? What have you been reading lately? Any great recommendations? 

Oh, and I’m also participating in a the Mystery Giveaway on Bookfunnel this month. Check it out here if you’d like to pick up a few more free mysteries!

Send me those book recommendations, and happy reading!
Sid Stark

Dive into Total Immersion!

Hi All!

Exciting news! Total Immersion is now live! You can grab your copy through this universal link here. And of course, reviews are always super appreciated.

But that’s not all! In celebration of the release, I’ve made Trigger Warning free for a limited time. Here’s the universal link to grab it.

Total Immersion was a bit of a hard write for me, for a variety of reasons. I knew where the series as a whole needed to go, and that the action in this particular book would be key, but it was difficult to actually write that action. It was also difficult to figure out what I wanted the “small story” of just that particular book to be. The whole series has an overarching “big story” that I’m pretty certain on, but the “small story” of each book undergoes a lot of changes before and during the writing process. 

I’ve also found myself gravitating towards a detail-rich writing style that requires a fair amount of background work, especially when the story is set somewhere that’s real but that I don’t know really well. There’s a lot of time spent talking to people and looking at Google Maps and Google Earth. It’s interesting, but not smooth or quick.

Anyway, I’m very pleased with the end result, which as always came out much stranger and richer than what I had been thinking of going in. I hope you like it, and here are those links again:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Apple

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Kobo

Geotargetted universal link

Happy reading!

Sid Stark

Special Sneak Peek of “Total Immersion”! Plus audiobook deals on @NookBN

Hello All!

I hope you’re enjoying your June, wherever you are, and staying safe from the new Delta variant of the virus. We are truly living through interesting times.

I’ve got an excerpt from Total Immersion, my upcoming release, for your reading pleasure, but first a quick reminder that the audiobooks of Campus Confidential and Permanent Position are both deeply discounted on NookApple, and Google Play. They’re also in Nook’s Mystery & Thriller Indie Deals and Romance Indie Deals, so check those out before they expire at the end of June!

And if that’s not enough deals for you, check out the Thrillers for Free ebook giveaway on Bookfunnel!

And now for that promised excerpt. This is Chapter 10 of the story that I initially titled Summer Intensive but then later tentatively decided to call Total Immersion. Several of you have already weighed in, but if you have a preference for the title, let me know! It’s a long novella/short novel of about 45,000 words set over a single weekend in the summer following the end of Honor Court, book 5 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series.

I had a hard time finding a good excerpt, since pretty much the entire story is a massive spoiler for the cliffhanger at the end of Honor Court. But this chapter seemed safe enough. Well, actually, there is a bit of a spoiler, so proceed at your own risk 🙂

To set the scene, the action takes place in Monterey, CA, where Rowena is spending the summer teaching at the civilian language institute. She’s living with her boyfriend Alex, who works at the DLI, the military language institute there. But things are, as is so often the case, more fraught than they should be. Not only has their relationship hit a rocky patch, but someone has gone missing under alarming circumstances. Will they manage to resolve everything in time???…

***

10

Alex left, slamming the sticky door behind him so hard that the dishes rattled on the shelves. The front—and only—door to his apartment didn’t quite fit in the frame, so it required a good hard slam, and sometimes considerable shaking, jiggling, and prayers for mercy, to get it to shut enough to be able to shoot the deadbolt.

I shot the deadbolt. The door was still quivering in my hand. Alex must be even more worked up than I’d thought.

I went over to the kitchen/dining room table and sat down. What was that noise? The dishes—all two plates and two bowls that Alex owned—were still rattling on their shelves. Jeez. This place was even more ramshackle than I’d thought.

My legs were quivering. What was this? I was tired, sure, but I didn’t think I was this tired. Was I sick? What was that noise? Oh my God! Was I having aural hallucinations because I was having a stroke? No, wait. It was just a train…I wasn’t in Indiana. There weren’t any trains here…it must be a plane. We were right by Monterey Regional Airport. But planes didn’t make the ground shake like this…not unless they were about to crash right into you.

I looked up at the ceiling in terror, as if I could see right through it to the plane plummeting straight at my head. The table was shaking under my hand. It must be just outside the house…it didn’t sound like a plane.

The shaking and the deep rumbling I felt as much as heard stopped. I looked around in frantic confusion. Then I felt like an idiot. It had been an earthquake. Just an earthquake. The San Andreas fault ran through Monterey County, along with several smaller faults. By California standards, it wasn’t a particularly active fault zone, and the chances of half the town cracking off and falling into the bay were apparently small. But minor quakes weren’t uncommon. We’d already had one this summer. I just wasn’t used to them, and hadn’t thought this might be one. But it had to have been.

I brushed something off my face, then looked up again. Dust fell squarely into my eyes, sending me scurrying off to the bathroom to flush them out with cold water.

As I was bent over the sink, splashing my face with water, a soft paw reached out from behind the toilet and touched my ankle, making me shriek and jump, spraying water everywhere. I don’t know why. It was Fevronia, my tan long-haired rescue cat, whom I’d brought with me for the summer. Reaching out from hiding places and placing a paw on my ankle was one of her favorite hobbies. But it still made me leap like a gaffed salmon every time.

“I guess the earthquake didn’t freak you out too much,” I said, and reached down to pet her. Fevronia pinned back her ears, hissed at me, and darted off to the bedroom. At least she hadn’t drawn blood.

When I came back into the dining room, I saw that a small crack had opened up where the wall met the ceiling. Dust and bits of plasterboard were drifting down onto the table.

What do I do? Is the whole place about to come down around my ears? I watched the crack for a couple of minutes. It didn’t get any bigger, and after a while dust stopped floating down onto the table. We were probably safe enough. I’d point it out to Alex when he got back, and he’d probably notify the landlord, and the landlord would probably ignore it, and I’d be out of here by Sunday anyway and it wouldn’t be my problem. Meanwhile, I couldn’t use this as an excuse to get out of searching for Erin.

I wiped down the table. Then, unable to delay it any longer, I got out my phone and called Frank.

***

So there you have it! Stay tuned for more developments. I’m hoping to have the book available by the end of the summer.

Meanwhile, here are those links again:

Barnes & Noble Mystery and Thriller Indie Deals

Barnes & Noble Romance Indie Deals

Bookfunnel Thrillers for Free

Happy reading!

Sid Stark

Free ebooks, discount audiobooks, and more

Happy June!

Wow! Here we are, halfway through the year already. How did that happen?

It’s been a bit of a crazy week for me, between June advising, a nasty chemical exposure from the worksite next door, wild weather, and so on and so forth. Perhaps I will look back on it someday and feel like I’ve really grown as a person because of it. 

Meanwhile, I’ve got various exciting things to announce. First of all, I’ve finished a first draft of book #6 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series. I originally titled it Summer Intensive but now I’m contemplating calling it Total Immersion. If you have a preference for one over the other, let me know! And sneak peeks should be coming soon, so stay tuned for that.

Second of all, the audiobooks of Campus Confidential and Permanent Position have been chosen for promos at various retailers for June is Audiobook Month events. Campus Confidential is currently 99c on Google Play and Barnes & Noble, and $1.99 on ApplePermanent Position is currently $1.99 at the same stores (link to Apple here, GP here, and B&N here). AND Barnes & Noble is featuring both books in their June is Audiobook Month promos: check out the indie romance audiobook promo here and the indie mystery & thriller audiobook promo here.

I’m a big audiobook and podcast listener myself, and I’ve recently gotten into the Gangster Capitalism podcast. Seasons 1 & 3 are all about real-life crime and corruption at US universities, so if that’s something you’re interested in, or you just want to stoke your outrage, you should check it out! I have so many thoughts about it, but the main one is the incredibly corrupting effects of money on education, and the problems we’ve created by linking education with class and wealth in ways that have had all sorts of fallout. If you listen to the podcast, I’d love to hear what you think!

Finally, I’m participating this month in the Thrillers for FREE giveaway. Dozens of free thrillers, all available for immediate download! So if you want to stock up, check it out here.

Here are those links again:

B&N Mystery & Thriller Indie Deals 

B&N Romance Indie Deals

Thrillers for Free

Happy reading!

Sid Stark

Got reading or listening recommendations?

Hello!

Goodness, is it Memorial Day weekend already? Wow! Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a pleasant and safe weekend.

I’ve got an action-packed newsletter today, so I’ll dive right in. First of all, the audiobook of Honor Court is now up an all major storefronts. If you want to get it at a deep discount, you can buy it direct from me for $4.99. It will be delivered via Bookfunnel and you can listen to it on the free Bookfunnel app or download the MP3s and listen to them on the app of your choice. You can also rent it for 99c on Soundwise.

It’s also now available on Audible, KoboChirp, and all the other major stores (universal link here). Most of the stores are offering some kind of a discount on it right now. You can also get it on Scribd, and of course you can listen to it for free by requesting it from your local library!

Although I’ve been busy with a lot of research reading, I have managed to do some “fun” reading too. I just finished Nobody’s ChildBook 5 in the Jeri Howard series by Janet Dawson. The series is from the 90s, when badass women sleuths had their heyday…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fall into curmudgeonly nostalgia there. But seriously, don’t let the age of the series put you off. The books are page turners, with a tough female PI investigating cases on the mean streets of San Francisco and dealing with social issues that have only become more relevant 25 years later.

What about you? Do you have any reading recommendations? Let me know!

In writing news, I’m most of the way through the first draft of book 6 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series. Since I ended Book 5 on a cliffhanger, I knew I needed to get started on Book 6 pronto, but, frankly, I’ve been dealing with some burnout or writer’s block or something. I needed a little break from the series in order to figure out what happens next, since that ending to Honor Court came out of nowhere. I took a few months off to write something for my other pen name. Then I still didn’t know what to do.

Oh no! I kept worrying. I’ve got to get this project started! But how? HOW?

As I was fretting over this, YouTube started playing Florence + the Machine videos for me (I often have YouTube on while I write). The video for “Shake it Out” whispered something to my subconscious. 

I’ve always liked that particular video, with its fin de siecle aesthetic. Since Rowena’s research is on a Silver Age (early 20th century) author, this video speaks to that ethos and that general feeling. So after watching it, I felt like I was ready to start writing.

My original conception was to have Florence + the Machine songs running through the story as a repeating motif. I do have some scenes where Florence + the Machine songs play a role (although not “Shake it Out,” funnily enough), but things started to morph once the writing got underway, as they do.

From Florence + the Machine I found myself moving on to Miranda Lambert. At the moment, “Gunpowder and Lead” is part of an important plot twist (spoiler alert!).

Since the story is still in first draft stage, I can’t promise that the song will remain in the final version, but here’s hoping!

At that point I thought I’d figured everything out. Then YouTube started playing Fleetwood Mac songs for me, reigniting my love for what, let’s be honest, has to be one of the greatest pop bands of all time. At the moment, I have this feeling that the song “Gypsy” is somehow significant to the story.

I still don’t know exactly how I’ll be working the song into the story. Maybe I won’t. I keep discovering that whatever triggers the original moment of inspiration often needs to be considerably reworked, or even discarded entirely, during the actual writing process. So I can’t promise that “Gypsy” will actually appear in the finished product, but I’ve been listening to it a lot as I write the final scenes.

That’s where we are now! I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as there’s more news about the next book, so stay tuned for sneak peeks and other fun stuff! 

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear what you’re listening to. Send me your listening recommendations!

All the best, and happy reading,

Sid

Free and discount audiobooks!

Hello All!

How is it May already? How the time does fly, especially when you’re keeping busy!

The good news is that I’m continuing to recover from my COVID vaccine. It left me with some pretty significant joint/muscle pain and all-over fatigue that did get a little better every day after the shot but still has been lingering on for weeks. I thought it was gone, but a recent weather change brought it back a bit. Still much better than actually getting COVID, but not fun. Even so, I hope you’ve all been able to get vaccinated, or will be able to soon. It certainly makes me feel better about going out and about now, inasmuch as I can. I even had a tiny outdoor gathering with other people outside of my household recently, which was a lot of fun.

The even better news is that I’ve been hard at work on my audio projects. I finished the audio for Honor Court, which required some redoing, and recorded and edited the audio for the companion novella Spring Break as well. It’s been uploaded onto Audible but that could take a while–like several months–to go live. So in meantime, Honor Court plus Spring Break are available direct from me for a very low price! Yes, indeed. I keep hearing about selling direct, so I thought I’d dip my toes in it. 

What, you ask, is selling direct and why should I care? Basically, selling direct is when an author sets up their own store front and you buy directly from them instead of via Amazon or Apple or whatever. The benefit for both parties is that the author keeps a much higher percentage of royalties. So I can, for example, sell you the audiobook of Honor Court for $4.99 and make as much or more money as if you bought it from Audible at full price. My storefront is still a work in progress, but I’m slowly rolling it out.

So, with that in mind, there are currently two options for snagging the audiobook of Honor Court (with Spring Break as a bonus!).

  1. Buy it from my Payhip store for $4.99. It will be delivered via Bookfunnel, and you will have the option of listening to it on the free Bookfunnel app or downloading the MP3 files to have for yourself forever. I’ve used the Bookfunnel audio app and it’s pretty decent. They also have good tech support.
  2. Rent it (yes, RENT IT!) for 99c on Soundwise. You can listen to it on the free Soundwise app. I listened to it all the way through on Soundwise and I found the app serviceable, although not as slick as Bookfunnel’s app. Still, you can’t beat the price.

And if that isn’t enough, I’ve also put the audio version of Trigger Warning up on YouTube for free! You can listen to it here. And while it’s free for you, every view and listen helps me out 🙂 

So that’s about it for the moment. The animals and I are enjoying the flowers but fighting the pollen. I’ve even had some lovely roses come out already 🙂

I hope you have lots of flowers wherever you are, as well as lots of delightful literature.

All the best,

Sid Stark

Foreign Exchange is up on YouTube! Plus reading recommendations :)

Hello Everyone!

I hope you’re doing well. I’m slowly regaining my strength after getting my COVID shot a couple of weeks ago. Vaccines tend to knock me down pretty good, and this has been the roughest so far. As one of my friends (also dealing with a Lyme flare after getting vaccinated) said, “If this is the vaccine, I’d hate to have actual COVID!

Anyway, hopefully I have plenty of antibodies now, and can focus on other things. And I have been focusing on other things. I re-recorded Foreign Exchange, the prequel novella to the Doctor Rowena Halley series. The first recording was done with GarageBand, and the quality is…not of the best. And I’ve started doing character voices and accents since then. So I re-recorded it, and posted it on YouTube. You can listen to it for free here

Foreign Exchange is set in Moscow, in the winter of 2013-14. It shows some of the backstory between Rowena, my heroine, and her ex-fiance Dima. In Campus Confidential, the first book in the series, she mentions Dima and how he broke up with her and is refusing to have anything to do with her. Foreign Exchange shows how that happens–and sets up a lot of the intrigue and double-dealing that Dima, an investigative journalist and member of the Russian opposition, is poking around in. While it’s fictional, it’s inspired by a lot of real-world crime and corruption.

I’m hoping to have it up on Bookfunnel soon, but in the meantime, if you want to listen to it on YouTube, here’s that link again. It’s completely free (other than the time it takes), and listening, liking, and subscribing all help me out a lot! I’m hoping to put up several of my books on YouTube, although so far it’s been a fairly slow project. 

I’ve also been enjoying some other humorous/satirical mysteries set on college campuses. I recently listened to the audiobook of The Case of the Defunct Adjunct, which is too funny! My favorite line? “Of course it’s not personal! For it to be personal, they’d [senior administration] have to think of him as a person.”

And I read Ivy is a Weed earlier this spring. Written by a former university PR person, it alternates hilarious descriptions of university inner workings with a murder mystery.

What about you? Have you read anything interesting recently? Let me know!

Happy reading!

Sid Stark

Last Chance to get Campus Confidential for Free! Plus Giveaways with @FelonyFiction and @AppleBooks

Hello All!

Wherever you are, I hope you’re having the same beautiful transitional weather (spring or fall) that we’re having here. The flowers trees are blooming here in North Carolina, and it’s quite a lovely (if pollen-heavy) sight.

The critters are enjoying the warmer weather, too, and are holding up pretty well, considering the delicate state of their health. Even Zelda, who is going on 16 and has some very serious underlying health problems, has been able to get out and enjoy a bit of fresh air and sunshine. Then she rediscovered her love of laundry baskets yesterday, and spent the entire afternoon snoozing in my laundry.

As well as doting on precious pets, I’ve been working on the audiobook of Spring Break, the companion novella to Honor Court. The plan is to release the audiobook for Honor Court with Spring Break as bonus material. Hopefully it will happen soonish. Why does creating anything take so long? It just does.

Meanwhile, this is your last chance to get Campus Confidential, the first book in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, free. And not only that! This is also your last chance to get Permanent Position, book 2 in the series, for 99c. They’ll both be going back up to full price next week. Universal links to Campus Confidential here and Permanent Position here.

And if you’re thirsting for yet more free and discounted books, there are a few more days in a Felony Fiction book giveaway.

And the First in Series Free event on Apple is also ending next week, so if you’re an Apple reader (or just want to browse through a big selection of awesome mysteries and thrillers), check it out here.

That’s about it for this week! Stay safe, and have a wonderful weekend.

Happy reading!

Sid Stark

Honor Court is out and Campus Confidential is free on @AppleBooks

Hello All!

It’s certainly feeling springlike here in the Carolinas. I hope you are enjoying similarly lovely weather, wherever you are. My animals are having a great time out basking in the sun, rolling in the dirt, and generally having fun.

Okay, enough chitchat, time for the big news: I’m thrilled to announce that the ebook of Honor Court is now live and available on all retailers! Audiobook and hopefully paperback to come shortly.

And, as a special perk for my list, if you buy it direct from me, you can get 10% with the coupon code TENPERCENT! Link here.

As I’ve mentioned before, Honor Court holds a special place in my heart. All of my books do, of course. Each one has a specific, personal story behind it. With Honor Court, I incorporated a lot of my “day job” research on Chechnya and on PTSD into it. I also spent a lot of time chortling over various absurd campus activities, only some of which were made up. And I had great fun creating a playlist for the characters as I worked on it. You can check out the playlist on Spotify here. Some of the themes of the playlist are obvious, like Rowena’s brother John’s love of Gary Allan’s depressing breakup songs and her friend Mel’s fondness for lesbian pop, particularly Hayley Kiyoko. Others may not be so obvious. The songs associated with Rowena, like “Marching Bands of Manhattan” and “The Lightning Strike,” are full of water motifs, and she is repeatedly linked with water throughout the book, as part of her symbolism as a sacred prostitute and ritual bath.

I could go on and on about the structure and symbolism of the book, but I’ll stop there–for now. In the meantime, I’ll just say a huge thanks to everyone who’s already left a review, and put out a call to anyone who feels inspired to leave a review on the platform of your choice. Reviews are always extremely appreciated! If you’ve never done it before, it’s super easy: a line or two about what you thought of the book is all it takes. Here’s that universal link again.

And that’s not all! Campus Confidentialthe first book in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, is currently free. Not only that, it’s part of a First in Series Free event for mysteries and thrillers on Apple Books! Check out the whole selection here.

Well, that’s about it for this week! Here are those links again:

Universal link to Honor Courthttps://books2read.com/HonorCourt

Payhip link to Honor Court (use TENPERCENT at checkout to get 10% off): https://payhip.com/b/47iA

Universal link to Campus Confidentialhttps://books2read.com/CampusConfidential

Link to Apple Books free book event: http://apple.co/fiasfmysteries

Happy reading, everyone!

Sid Stark

Free books, dead snakes, and other weekend hijinks

Hi Everyone!

I hope you’re staying safe and having a great weekend. It’s warm and sunny here, which means all the animals have been spending a lot of time out in the sun basking. This involved the cats murdering a poor defenseless snake in the backyard, or so we assume by the crime scene we found this morning. I am in fact not at all fond of snakes, and prefer not to have them in my backyard, but on the other hand I don’t really want them to be murdered. The cats, though, don’t see it that way. The more murder the better, that’s what they say.

Anyway, lots of book news! This is last weekend to preorder Honor Court at the specially discounted price of $2.99 just for my newsletter members. Universal link here. And if you order it (or any of my other books) direct from the Helia Press Payhip store, you can get a further 10% off with the coupon code TENPERCENT. If you’ve been seeing lots of authors and publishers starting their own stores recently, it’s because selling direct means we can sell our books for less while keeping more of the royalties, which is a win for everyone 🙂 The Honor Court Payhip link is here.

And if that’s not enough, Campus Confidential is currently free! You can grab it and several other free mystery/thriller/suspense books at the Felony Fiction March book giveaway here.

Check it out here: https://www.felonyfiction.com/free-books.html
That’s it for now! Happy reading, everyone, and enjoy your weekend.
Sid Stark