Get “Summer Session” Free This Weekend!

Hi All!

It’s the official launch weekend of “Summer Session,” the third book in the Doctor Rowena Halley series! In celebration of this, I’m offering it free on Kindle for the next few days. And of course, if you’ve already gotten an ARC, reviews would be very much appreciated 🙂 The universal Amazon link is here.

Summer Session Cover Small

For those of you who haven’t read it yet, “Summer Session” is a shorter, lighter work than the other books in the series, with a strong dose of romance. It’s based in part on my experiences teaching at Indiana University’s Summer Language Workshop, and also on my experiences growing up in what Rowena calls the “alternative South,” where fundamentalist Christians and liberal hippies are all hanging out and homeschooling together.

I certainly hope you enjoy reading “Summer Session” as much as I enjoyed writing it! And now, without further ado, here’s this week’s selection of giveaways:

Foreign Exchange Cover Small

Want to find out how it all began? You can get “Foreign Exchange,” the series prequel novella, plus loads of other free books, in the Vigilantes, Kidnapping, and Murder book giveaway!

Campus Confidential Front Cover Final Small

And if you haven’t read  “Campus Confidential,” book one in the series, you can find it, plus dozens other suspense and mystery books, all free on KU, in the Fall Mystery & Suspense on KU book fair!

Love in the Strangest Places

The Love in the Strangest Places book giveaway, for non-romance books with a romantic subplot, is still going strong!

Spicy Fall Suspense Banner

Enjoying the crisp fall weather? Spice it up a little more with the Spicy Fall Suspense book giveaway!

Awesome Audio! Get a Free Review Copy of “Permanent Position”

Well, it’s finally autumn here. Of course, because of my mold/chemical sensitivity issues, being able to actually heat my house is turning into a bit of a challenge. Hopefully by the next time you hear from me, my house will be toasty warm, but at the moment I’m reminding myself that a bit of chill builds character.

But enough about that! I’ve got plenty of other, more exciting news.

First of all, a HUGE thanks to everyone to downloaded, shared, reviewed, or otherwise participated in the launch of the ebook of Permanent Position. It was a massive success, peaking at something like #32 in the overall free store on Amazon.com (not that I was obsessively checking or anything). So thanks once again! And, of course, if you feel moved to leave a review, it would be massively appreciated. The book’s universal Amazon link is here.

The next bit of exciting news is that the audiobook of Permanent Position is now available on all sellers EXCEPT, apparently, Amazon, which they say takes a month or more to happen. And in celebration of this foray into audio, I’m currently giving away links to free review copies. If you’d like one, reply to this post or send me an email at sidstarkauthor@gmail.com, and I’ll send you your very own personalized code to get a free copy of the book.

Permanent Position Audiobook Image

I had to do a crash course on Arabic and Persian accents as part of the recording of Permanent Position.

Oh, and speaking of audio, I’ve started posting podcast episodes of Summer Session. They’ll be up for a few weeks and then I’ll take them down when I release the audiobook version. In the meantime, you can start listening to it on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

Summer Session Audiobook Cover

I had to learn a tiny bit of Arabic to do the audio for Summer Session. Apparently my Arabic has a heavy Russian accent.

The official release for Summer Session will be coming soon, so stay tuned!

And here’s this week’s selection of giveaways

Spicy Fall Suspense Banner

Want to spice up your fall? Check out the Spicy Fall Suspense Giveaway!

Love in the Strangest Places

Want just a little bit of romance, but not too much? Check out the Love in the Strangest Places Giveaway!

International Women of Mystery

Have a Kindle that’s feeling empty and bereft? Go hit up the International Women of Mystery book event on Amazon!

Mystery & Suspense on KU

Looking to put your KU membership to good use? Come visit the Mystery & Suspense on KU book event!

 

“The Best American Mystery Stories 2019,” edited by Jonathan Lethem

Best American Mystery Stories 2019

“The Best American Mystery Stories 2019” is, as promised, full of excellent mystery stories. Although the word “mystery” in the title might be a little misleading. Many of the stories are not so much mysteries (although there are those as well) as they are suspense stories or thrillers. Strongly literary in their bent, they often hint at resolution rather than achieving it outright, and sometimes end at a most tantalizing moment. They span everything from the Civil War to a dystopian future of unnamed date, take place around the globe, and range in tone from Reed Johnson’s heartwarming story of a young girl trying to clear her father’s name, to Joyce Carol Oates’ chilling tale of a pedophilia victim who feels a special connection with her abuser.

What all the stories in this collection have in common is a keen eye and ear for pacing and plotting. All of them, whether the narrator is a vulnerable young girl or a hardened ex-con pulling off one more heist, will keep you turning the pages, desperate to find out what happens next. If you enjoy mystery, crime, or suspense, this collection offers a delicious sampler platter of different styles and subgenres. Recommended for all fans of mysteries and thrillers, as well as anyone wanting to get a taste of contemporary American fiction.

Buy it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

It’s here! Get “Permanent Position” for free on Kindle!

Hi All!

Well, as you might guess from the superfluity of exclamation marks, Permanent Position has finally launched and is now live on Kindle.

Permanent Position Front Cover

Booklinker is playing up and refusing to give me my universal link, so here’s the UK link, here’s the Canadian link, and here’s the Australian link.

Audio version to be following soon. So far I haven’t committed to doing a paperback, because A) I don’t sell a lot of paperbacks, and B) I want to reduce the overall pollution/carbon load of my bookselling. Because of A, B is really just empty posturing, and if I get a wave of requests for the paperback, I will probably do a print-on-demand run (cheaper for the publisher and better for the environment–we hope).

Anyway, I’m thrilled that Permanent Position is finally out in the world. And already climbing the charts! A heartfelt thanks to those of you who have already left reviews on Goodreads and/or Amazon. And of course, I would LOVE it if you left a review on Amazon if you haven’t already done so (Amazon.com link here). I can’t tell you how much reviews, especially Amazon reviews, mean to authors on both a personal and commercial level, so I’ll just go with saying that each and every one is appreciated.

I could go on about the real-life inspirations for Permanent Position and how meaningful it is for me to finally see it out in the real world, but I’ve already covered that in previous blog posts, so I’ll just thank everyone for your help and support, wish you all a wonderful weekend, and sign off.

Those links for Permanent Position again:

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com.au

And, of course, this week’s selection of promos and giveaways!

Edge of Your Seat Thrillers

There’s still one more week left of the Edge of Your Seat Thrillers Giveaway!

Summer Session Cover Small

If you haven’t picked up a free ARC of “Summer Session,” the novella that follows immediately after Permanent Position, you can grab one in the Feel-Good Crime and Thrillers Giveaway.

International Women of Mystery

Check out the International Women of Mystery Amazon sales book event, for mystery/suspense novels featuring female protagonists! Dozens of titles, most free on Kindle Unlimited.

 

“A Parliament of Crows” by Alan M. Clark #SouthernGothic #HistoricalMystery

A Parliament of Crows

A Parliament of Crows

“A Parliament of Crows” is another installment in Alan M. Clark’s collection of “horror that happened” historical mystery/horror books. It tells the story, based on historical fact, of the three Mortlow sisters, who went on a killing spree that lasted decades.

The story could have been lurid, and there are certainly moments in the book that may cause more squeamish readers to want to turn away, but, as with the author’s books about the victims of Jack the Ripper, the focus is not on the gory details, but on the psychological development of the characters. As the tale of the sisters’ crimes unfolds over the decades, we get each sister’s perspective on what happened and why they felt like they had to do what they did. What emerges is a surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of a trio of women struggling to survive in the South during and after the Civil War, and how psychopathology can meet extreme circumstances to create tragedy for all concerned.

The story, while spanning decades and told from three viewpoint characters, is not long, and the writing style is clean and simple, allowing the tale itself to shine through. This makes a complex story a surprisingly easy read. There are several different mysteries interwoven throughout the narrative, all of which draw the reader along and culminate in the denouement of the final chapters, when the events of the Civil War that set the sisters down their path are revealed. “A Parliament of Crows” is probably not for every reader, as it is far from cozy and fluffy, but fans of Southern Gothic and historical mysteries will find a lot to enjoy in the vivid historical detail and excellent plotting.

My thanks to the author for providing a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

You can grab the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

#AdjunctLife: The Real-Life Inspirations Behind “Permanent Position”

Hi All!

I am almost, almost ready to launch Permanent Position. Hurray! Doing the audiobook slowed me down considerably, but I’m hoping to have the launch for both the ebook and audiobook versions by the end of the month. Expect heartfelt requests for reviews to come rolling your way soon :).

Permanent Position Audiobook Image

The artwork for the audiobook

Like the other books in the Doctor Rowena Halley SeriesPermanent Position is fiction, but fiction drawn heavily from real-world experiences. The germ for the plot came from a request for help I got, back when I was still adjuncting, from an American man who had married a Belarusian woman and gotten involved in a nasty custody battle with her over their son. She had taken the boy back to Belarus and was refusing to give the father access to him.

I sent him some information about people and organizations who specialized in Belarus, and never heard from him again. But I always wondered what happened, and what the true story was. The man who contacted me represented himself as the victim, but I always had my doubts. He had probably married a mail-order bride, right? At least that’s what it seemed like to me. So that’s the story I went with in Permanent Position.

Many of the side plots, secondary characters, and recurring motifs throughout the book are also taken from life. The $3,200/course that Rowena earns while teaching at UNC-Matthews is the average pay per course for adjuncts in North Carolina. UNC-Matthews is fictional, but many of the experiences Rowena has there are based on my own experiences at various North Carolina institutions. The half-finished campus, the confusing or missing signage and students showing up for the wrong class, the lack of administrative support, and the precarious position of instructors and students waiting to see if a course will fill up enough to be held, are all things I’ve witnessed from both sides of the lectern, and not just in North Carolina.

Similarly, Rowena’s harrowing experiences with applications, interviews, and job offers are loosely based on things that happened to me too. The only thing that’s completely fictional is the presence of a sort-of-good, sort-of-sleazy Provost who may or may not be willing and able to help Rowena out.

The sexual harassment that follows Rowena wherever she goes is taken directly from my own experiences, some of it verbatim, so to speak. The proposition and all the intense “appreciation” Rowena receives while walking around in her “cold-weather burka,” and the construction crew who set up their scaffolding to be able to look directly into the women’s restroom are both taken straight from life, alas. As she says, the more she wears, the more attention she gets.

On a related note, the lecture Fatima gives Rowena about how Islam is a very liberal religion, a very good religion for women, and allows a career as long as you have your husband’s permission, was something an acquaintance once told me, and seemed too good not to share. The same acquaintance kept assuring me that she wasn’t gathering money for al Qaeda as I drove her around town to meet with potential donors to the Muslim charity she was representing. That also seems too good to waste, so I’m sure I’ll work it into a later book in the series. (For the record, this acquaintance was a lovely person and, as far as I know, not affiliated with al Qaeda in any way).

I’ve already written about how Rowena’s ex-fiance Dima is based heavily on real life. The Battle for the Donetsk Airport that he covers in Permanent Position was a real battle, and Givi and Dmytro Yarosh, the people he interviews, are also both real. Dima’s experience of being caught and tortured by Ukrainian forces who believe him to be a Russian spy is based on something similar that may have happened to Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who, in one of those amusing little ironies, is ardently anti-Russia and pro-Ukraine.

I could keep going, but you get the general drift. Like all fiction, Permanent Position is all about reality, but a reality that’s been carefully curated to create a coherent and satisfying narrative. It’s not a memoir, but I was heavily influenced by the genres of memoir and “documentary novel” as I composed it. And so, like those genres, it’s supposed to be a little slice of real life, one that has been framed in order to create art, but still open-ended, the way reality always is.

And now it’s time for this week’s selection of giveaways!

Crime & Thriller KU

Haven’t read Campus Confidential, book #1 in the series, yet? You can pick up it and many other books in the Crime, Mystery & Thriller KU book promo. All books are free to read on Kindle Unlimited!

Foreign Exchange Cover

And if you haven’t gotten Foreign Exchange, the prequel novella, you can grab it and lots of other books completely FREE in the International Espionage and Spy Thrillers book giveaway!

 

Edge of Your Seat Thrillers

And finally, check out the Edge of Your Seat Thrillers & Suspense giveaway!

Publish AND Perish: The Academic’s Dilemma. Plus musings on Ukraine, and this week’s selection of giveaways

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. If you’re in Florida: Stay safe! If you’re in my part of the world, I hope you can enjoy the beautiful weather we’re currently having.

I spent a while wondering what to write about today. Should I talk about the start of the new semester? (For those of you just joining us, I was on medical leave last semester due to a crippling case of late-stage Lyme disease, toxic mold poisoning, and other fun things). I just finished my first week of being back teaching, which has made it clear that, surprise surprise, I am in no way recovered. Sorry everyone who keeps asking in saccharine tones if I’m “All better.” Recovery is going to be very slow, inasmuch as it happens at all.

I am walking better than I was this time last year, so that’s encouraging, but I’ve been having a lot of problems with losing my voice. This is a bit of an issue for a teacher. The good news is that I have finished re-recording (long story) the audiobook for Permanent Position, Book #2 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, and am almost done editing it. Deciding to do an audiobook version has put a big delay on the release, but soon, soon it will be ready. Maybe even in September! Stay tuned for more updates.

Going back to my quandary of what to write today, I then thought of talking about the recent elections in Ukraine. If you haven’t been following along with that story, Volodymyr/Vladimir Zelensky, an actor who played the president of Ukraine in a popular sitcom was, in fact, elected president of the country in a landslide victory this May. You cannot make this stuff up. His party, “Servant of the People” (named after the tv show) just won a resounding majority in the parliamentary elections, taking control of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. Major reforms are promised. Of course, major reforms are always being promised in Ukraine. As with my health, improvement, if it happens at all, has been a slow and painful process. Everyone wants the miracle, the quick path to heaven. Unfortunately, that’s not normally how things work.

But at the moment everyone’s all full of rosy hopes for Ukraine. Will it finally manage to crack down on corruption? Will there be peace in the Donbass?

I’ve been keeping an eye on the situation in Ukraine for a few years now (full disclosure: as I write this I’m live-streaming Казачье Радио/Cossack Radio, a separatist radio station in Luhansk/Lugansk), and have woven a number of elements of the current conflict there into my novels. Dima, my heroine’s ex-fiance, is a journalist covering the war in Eastern Ukraine. In Permanent Position (click to get your free ARC if you haven’t already) I place him in the 2014/2015 battle for the Donetsk Airport, while in the follow-up novella Summer Session (click to get your free ARC if you haven’t already) he observes one of the many battles around Avdiivka/Avdeyevka during 2015 (names are in both Ukrainian and Russian, if you’re wondering about the doubling).

This is part of my general strategy in the series of hewing as close to real life as possible. My heroine Rowena and her friends aren’t real people, but their experiences are closely based on reality.

A major part of that reality is Rowena’s precarious financial situation, along with the tremendous pressure academics are under to publish. Like a lot of contingent faculty members, Rowena hopes that publishing a few articles, or better yet, a book, will help vault her into the ranks of the financially secure. This means that she is in no position to publish intellectually meaningful scholarship, since intellectually meaningful scholarship tends to have a hard time getting through peer review, something she meditates on in Book 1 of the series, Campus Confidential (click to get it on Amazon, where it’s free on KU).

Rowena’s financial and professional struggles are taken from real life, including the amounts she’s paid for teaching; the $3,200/course she’s paid in Permanent Position is the average rate per course for adjuncts in North Carolina. All her jokes about taking up bagging groceries, stripping, or streetwalking are taken from contingent academics’ real-life attempts to fund their teaching hobby with real work.

On the other hand, publishing and getting a “good” job is no guarantee of wealth and riches, as shown in Kathryn Rudy’s breakdown of what it costs her to publish her research, and why she, a full professor at a reasonably elite Western institution of higher education, is broke. In brief: she has to pay for all the travel costs, all the licensing of images and so on, and foot the bill for the actual publishing. As she points out, this isn’t “vanity” publishing. These are respectable academic presses that put out peer-reviewed scholarly works. If you want to get tenure and keep tenure, or even a halfway decent temporary position, you will probably need to publish a book, maybe several books, in this way. So even if you jump off the adjunct treadmill that Rowena finds herself in, you might not find yourself living the comfortable upper-class lifestyle of the senior academics in Lucky Jim.

The two things–post-Soviet politics and publishing–came together for me this week, when I was invited by an academic press to submit a proposal for my scholarly monograph about Chechen war literature. This entailed a fair amount of agonizing and hand-wringing on my part. Did I want to put in all that time, money, and effort, especially when my health is still so poor, into publishing a book that probably won’t make any money or even get read very much (scholarly works tend to sell a few dozen or hundred copies at best)?

On the other hand, I feel a moral obligation to spread the word about the topic of Chechnya and Chechen war literature, especially after the authors I profile have so graciously granted me interviews and expressed a strong desire to share their stories with the West. One of the reasons I include so much about Chechnya and Ukraine in the Doctor Rowena Halley series is because it’s the topic of my “day job” scholarly research. Not only am I interested in it, but I want other people to be interested in it as well.

And then there’s the fact that going through the process of attempting to publish a scholarly monograph with an academic press will no doubt provide much fodder for my fiction! When you look at it from that angle, it’s a win-win.

So if I do through with this other publishing endeavor, I’ll be sure to keep you posted, and let you know how it will inform my next novel! Expect hearty laughs–I hope.

Meanwhile, here’s this week’s selection of giveaways:

Back to School Special

Celebrate the start of the school year with the Back to School Special Giveaway! All the books are school-themed.

Summer Shorts

Enjoy the last few days of summer and pick up some mystery short stories in the Summer Shorts Giveaway!

Damsels who cause distress

Check out these butt-kicking heroines in the Damsels Who Cause Distress Giveaway on StoryOrigin!