“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.

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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.

 

#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!

 

What Are You Reading? Plus Meditations on Cliffhangers, and This Week’s Selection of Giveaways

“But Krymov was now in the grip of new impressions; he was walking on the earth of Stalingrad.”

Stalingrad

So ends Vasily Grossman’s magnificent Stalingrad, the “prequel,” as it were, to his even more magnificent Life and Fate. He originally intended them as a two-part work that would tell a complete story; due to the vagaries of publication, Stalingrad was published in the Soviet Union (under the title For a Just Cause) in the 1950s, while Life and Fate was published in the West in the 1980s. Stalingrad finally appeared in English translation for the first time this summer, in what was the Russian translation event of the year. So naturally I had to read it.

I could go on and on about how good it is, but I recommend reading it for yourself instead of taking my word for it. It’s a war novel, and a production novel, and a family drama, and a picture of Soviet life during the first part of WWII, when things were looking truly bleak for the USSR. Stalingrad ends, as you can see from the quote above, just as one of the main characters, finally sets foot in the city after retreating all the way from Kiev and receiving the “Not One Step Back” order to stop the Soviet retreat and hold the line at Stalingrad.

I’ve always loved this kind of ending, especially as, in this case, it concludes an early installment in a series. It’s very Romantic-with-a-Capital-R, as we see in the delightfully fragmented works of Pushkin, Lermontov, or “Odysseus’s Fate,” my favorite poem by Konstantin Batyushkov. I love the sudden opening of the narrative, the feeling that, just as you think the journey is over, a hidden vista has suddenly appeared on the horizon. They give so much space for the reader to create their own meaning, just when it seems that the author is about to collapse the storyline into one interpretation.

In other words, I’m an unashamed fan of what are commonly called cliffhangersadore encountering them in the novels that I read, and I love to incorporate them in my own books.

That being said, they have to be used with care. In the above example, it works so well in Stalingrad because 1) Krymov has been striving the entire book to get to Stalingrad, so his arrival is the resolution of that storyline as well as the beginning of a new storyline, about the actual Battle of Stalingrad, and 2) there’s a sequel.

Since I write stories that combine elements of mystery/thriller/suspense and romance, cliffhangers have to be approached with especial care. Both of those genres require a very specific kind of plot resolution. Mysteries have to end with the protagonist solving the main mystery, otherwise they’re not mystery stories, and romance novels have to end with the two main protagonists ending up together. No exceptions! Romance readers are very strict about this, as they should be. I mean, you can write a story about a failed romance, but it’s not a romance novel.

Of course, if you’re writing a series, the rules can be a bit looser, in that the resolution can happen at the end of the series rather than the end of each book. So in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike books, each book ends with a specific mystery being solved, but the ongoing romantic tension between the two characters only grows from book to book, without (yet) being resolved. In fact, the third book, Career of Evil, ends on a devilishly suspenseful moment.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge fan of the series. Have you read it? How do you think it compares with Harry Potter? I may actually prefer it to HP, although Harry will always hold a special place in my heart…

So in my own writing, I specifically sought to borrow techniques that I particularly enjoy from authors I particularly admire. Which means I resolve the main suspense/thriller/mystery conflict at the end of each of my Doctor Rowena Halley books, but then leave a little transitional moment at the very end that provides both resolution of the romantic subplot, and a cliffhanger-ish moment leading into the next book.

So in Campus Confidential,

(you see what I did there?)

Campus Confidential Front Cover Small

Speaking of Campus Confidential, KU subscribers should check out the Mysteries & Thrillers on Kindle Unlimited book event. Dozens of mysteries & thrillers, all free on KU, have been gathered together in one place for your perusing pleasure!

the main mystery and action scene are resolved, but I end with the hint that my protagonist Rowena *may* be starting a new romance.

In Permanent Position, the second book in the series, I up the cliffhanger stakes, ending with the following words (SPOILER ALERT!):

Permanent Position Front Cover

And if you haven’t yet picked up a free Advance Review Copy of Permanent Position, you can find it and dozens of other mysteries and thrillers in the Page Turning Mystery/Thriller Giveaway.

“But there, in amongst all the junk mail, was an email from Dima. Both the subject line and the body had the same, two-word message:

Forgive me.”

Like Krymov’s arrival in Stalingrad I quoted at the beginning of this post, this ending serves both as an end point and a beginning. A theme that runs through the entire novel is forgiveness and redemption. Dima’s request for forgiveness thus acts as the culmination of that thread of the story, while simultaneously opening up possibilities that until that moment had seemed closed. It’s literally a pivotal moment, causing the overall storyline of the series to pivot in a new direction at the “hinge” between two books.

Summer Session, the novella that comes right after Permanent Position, has a slightly less cliffhanger-y ending, but also has a kind of “hinge” moment in its final scene.

Summer Session Cover Small

If you haven’t yet gotten a free Advance Review Copy of Summer Session, you can get it and loads of other mystery shorts in the Summer Shorts! Giveaway.

Summer Session ends with the following conversation:

“Is that a promise?” I asked.

He grinned. “You bet.”

Again, it’s a resolution, but it’s a resolution that leaves a lot open. The juxtaposition of the words “promise” and “bet” suggest both certainty and uncertainty. The future, as Tom Petty would tell us, is actually wide open, even as the characters appear to be closing it down.

Wow! What a lot of writing! It’s fun to apply my carefully honed skills in close reading to my own works–until this moment I had never even *thought* about the “promise” and “bet” thing 🙂

But enough about that–what do you like to read? What are some books/series you’ve read recently that have really knocked your socks off?

And now for this week’s selection of giveaways:

Summer Thrills and Chills

The Summer Thrills & Chills Giveaway is still going strong!

Damsels who cause distress

Want to find a whole host of kickass heroines? Check out the Damsels Who Cause Distress Giveaway on StoryOrigin!

Back to School Special

School doesn’t have to be boring! Swing by the Back to School Special Giveaway to stock up on all your school-related reading.

 

The End! The First Draft of “Trigger Warning” is Finished :) Sneak Peek Enclosed

It is finished! Despite some setbacks with my health, I typed those all important words “THE END” on the first draft of “Trigger Warning,” the 3rd book in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, Friday morning.

The End Trigger Warning

It seems like “Trigger Warning” has taken a very long time to write, even though I think I only spent about two months cranking out the bulk of it. But I’ve been planning it for over a year, and at 112k words, it’s a bit longer than the previous books, plus darker and scarier.

But never fear! Not only is there darkness and fear, there’s also ludicrousness and farcical humor. My goal for the series all along has been for it to be a kind of chiaroscuro piece, with humor and tragedy intertwined.

The particular inspiration for “Trigger Warning” was a semester last year at my own college, when several students died, including one in a gang shooting incident at a party. (For the record, my college is an upscale, elite institution where gang violence is a huge shock. But it still happened). At the same time, the thing that really got the administration’s undies in a bundle was a blog post by an anonymous group complaining about injustices on campus such as the disgraceful pay for janitorial staff. Special walk-in counseling sessions were set up in case students felt threatened. Add in some stuff about sorting students into Houses a la Harry Potter, as one place I interviewed at did, and the controversy about having faculty act as bellhops when students move in, as various places have started doing, and voila! Instant laugh/cry material.

It’ll be a while before I’ll have “Trigger Warning” ready for release, even in ARC form, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of Chapter 10 to whet your appetite.

10

At 7:45 the next morning I was trotting across campus from the faculty parking behind the back quad to the main entrance in front of the front quad. In full regalia. It was a mere 75 degrees now, but temperatures were slated to rise another 20 degrees at least by noon. So a fine day to stand outside in ankle-length polyester robes and a velvet tam.

I stopped to adjust my hood. A purely ceremonial item, it was supposed to drape across my shoulders and hang down below my waist in the back. There was a little claspy thing in the front to hold it together and in place. But the little claspy thing was totally inadequate for the brisk pace I was setting, and the hood kept twisting around and slipping off.

“Rowena, right?” A middle-aged man in green Tulane robes stopped beside me to do some similar adjustments.

“Um, Keith, right? History?”

“You remembered! We must not be working you hard enough yet.”

“I suppose by some standards, standing around in academic regalia and welcoming incoming first years to their Hogwarts House wouldn’t count as ‘work’ at all. Not compared with cutting timber in a Siberian labor camp.”

Keith looked startled. “Oh, right, you’re the Russianist, aren’t you. I suppose that gives you a very…unique take on a lot of hardships. And you’re right, but my God. I voted against this nonsense when it came up last semester, and so did everyone else with even a grain of sense, but somehow we got overruled. I don’t even know how. I don’t know any faculty members who thought it was a good idea. But seems like our power is being eroded more and more every year. I’m sure a fiat came down on high from Recruitment and Admissions or Student Development or the Office of Babysitting and Spoonfeeding or whatever it’s called now, so here we are. I don’t see any of those people out here at the crack of dawn, prepared to spend the morning humiliating themselves and getting heatstroke.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Funny thing. And thanks, by the say. For agreeing to be Slytherin.”

Keith shrugged. “Whatever. I’ve never actually read the books, although my kids made me take them to one of the movies. But I have no emotional involvement in this BS.” He looked at me sideways. “I suppose you’re going to tell me they’re your favorite books in the world?”

“I’m a Russianist,” I said. “My favorite books in the world were all written in Russian. If you’re looking for something with magic in it, I recommend Master and Margarita. But these books are pretty good too, and the kids might get a kick out of this.”

“Yeah,” said Keith. “Too bad they’re here for a rigorous liberal arts education, not to get a kick out of seeing their professors cavort around in garish costumes. Oh, hey. Is this all of us?”

Mel, in her sky-blue Tar Heel getup, and Daniel, a gangly man from Political Science in bright yellow Johns Hopkins robes, were hurrying towards us. Mel had a stack of posterboard in her arms.

“Call me an overachiever, but I thought if we’re gonna do this, we should do this,” she said. “So I stopped by the store last night and got posterboard and markers. I figured we could make posters for each of the houses, with—and this is why we want to do this—instructions for how to find the correct entrance to the dorm that they’re supposed to use.”

“Oh, right,” said Keith. “We’re supposed to working as traffic cops as well. Does anyone remember where the little buggers are supposed to go?”

I pulled out the instructions that had been emailed to me, and which I had printed out on my own dime, since the email had come in after dinner the night before and I didn’t have access to the department printer/copier yet anyway. Somehow I had ended up in charge of this ill-advised venture, which was probably supposed to make me feel good about myself as a go-getter who was fitting in well with the campus community, but actually boded very ill for me as someone who was going to get press-ganged into doing this kind of stuff every semester, while getting harassed about my lack of productivity, or something like that.

“All first-year students are housed in Jackson Hall,” I said. I wondered if Jackson Hall was named after Andrew Jackson. So not a Confederate general, just a slave owner. Of course, in the US, as in Russia, pretty much anyone who had done anything worth naming a building after had been a slave owner. I wondered what future generations would say about us, and which of our actions would trigger outrage and furious revisions of history. I had my guesses, but there was just so much to choose from.

“Yeah, poor little kids,” said Keith. “That place has no air conditioning, and there are constant complaints about mold. But it’s tradition. Plus the college doesn’t have the money to renovate anything. It’s all going to hiring more Deans of Donations. Oh shit. Is that our first customer of the day?”

A car was pulling up to the entrance. It was decorated in crimson and cream streamers and balloons. A teenage face, barely visible behind all the braces and acne, stuck itself out the passenger side window.

“Whoa, this is awesome!” he said. “I’m Michael. Wait, am I supposed to tell you my House? That’s sooooo cool. Gryffindor.”

I bounded forward. “Great to meet you, Michael! I’m Professor Halley, the head of Gryffindor House, here to welcome you to Crimson College. First years are housed in Jackson Hall, and Gryffindors should check in at Entrance A. Which is, um…” I looked over at the others.

“Drive straight ahead and take a right at the T,” said Keith. “There will be signs leading you straight to Jackson Hall from there. Entrance A is the first entrance you’ll come to. There will be people there to direct you and help you unload your things.”

“Wow, really? This is incredible! Thank you guys so much! I think this is the best day of my life! Hey, are you professors? Any of you from Math?”

“No, but when you get to the dorm, ask around for Professor Irving and Professor Arlington. Oh, and I think Professor Li will be there too. They’re all from Math,” Keith told him.

“Whoa, thanks so much! Man, college is overfulfilling all my expectations already! Did you get that, Mom?”

Michael’s mom nodded, and, with an almost equally manic grin as her son, pulled past us and headed in the direction of Jackson Hall.

“Does anyone else feel like Goofy welcoming the kiddies to DisneyWorld?” asked Keith.

“Maybe a little,” I said.

“The sad thing is that this isn’t even the most humiliating thing I’ve ever done,” said Mel. “Not by a long shot. And hey, as I was telling Rowena yesterday, at least it’s not actual panhandling, which was what I thought I was going to be doing this fall. Still got me some extra posterboard, though, just in case I need that ‘Homeless Iraq Vet, Please Help’ sign after all. I figure if nothing else, this’ll be good practice for that. Okay, who likes to draw?”

It was quickly ascertained that the only person who liked to draw, or was even able to draw, was Mel herself. In short order she had turned out four very creditable posters, with the House logos and directions for check-in on each one.

“Yeah, whatever,” she said, when we remarked on how good the posters were. “I’m lefthanded and a lesbian. Of course I have artistic talent. Oh shit. Is that another student?”

An SUV large enough to raise the global temperature by at least half a degree all on its own was pulling through the gates. It, too, was decorated with crimson and cream streamers and balloons, but the excited teenage face looking out the passenger window was holding up a Ravenclaw sign that was almost as good as Mel’s.

“Guess this one’s mine,” she said. “Wish me luck!” And she danced up to the side of the car, waving her poster with enthusiasm that almost seemed real.

Stay tuned more more updates!

And now, this week’s selection of giveaways:

Summer Thrills and Chills

Check out a wide variety of free thrillers, suspense, fantasy, and horror in the Summer Thrills & Chills Giveaway, and register for a $25 gift cart to your favorite online retailer!

Sunshine & Smiles

Pick up some humorous women’s/contemporary fiction in the Sunshine & Smiles Giveaway!

Page Turning Mystery:Thriller

Get your thrill on with the Page Turning Mystery/Thriller Giveaway!

Women's Fiction Beach Reads

There’s still another week left in the Women’s Fiction Beach Reads Giveaway!

On Accidents and Accents: Narrating My Books

I hope everyone is enjoying the hot weather! Unless you’re Down Under, in which case I hope you’re enjoying the cold weather. I’ve always wanted to go Down Under and spend a while visiting Australia and New Zealand. Maybe someday I’ll get that chance. Maybe as part of the round-the-world trip by boat I keep fantasizing about. Crossing the oceans by boat would be a way of circumnavigating the globe while significantly reducing the carbon footprint of doing so, plus I’ve developed a significant aversion to flying in the past decade or so. It recently occurred to me that maybe it has something to do with the fact that planes are full of chemicals (I have multiple chemical sensitivity) and probably also mold (because they’re carpeted). Not sure if boats would be much better, but…

Wait, what does this have to do with writing? Nothing, so let’s move on.

As you know if you’ve been following along with these posts (and if you’re new here, then welcome!), I’v been podcasting my stories from the Doctor Rowena Halley series.

Listen to the latest episode on iTunes here.

The plan is eventually to make audiobooks out of them. The podcast has been a good, if occasionally frustrating, way to figure out the technical aspects and try out different narration techniques.

Recording studio

One iteration of my home recording studio, shortly before it collapsed, terrifying my Chihuahua and nearly taking out my computer–hence the “accidents” in the post title.

At the moment, I’m trying to rest up my voice after accidentally messing up my throat yesterday by trying to do voices for the male characters. I always found it annoying when narrators did silly (in my opinion) voices for the different characters, with their parodic accents and (shudder!) that horrid high-pitched, breathy sound when male narrators affect a female voice. As I say in Campus Confidential, that sound pretty much always marks the person being imitated as an idiot.

But, I discovered, it is very helpful to do something to mark the different characters as different while narrating dialogue. Doing the Russian characters was no problem: one thing I certainly do know how to do is a Russian accent, although it’s rather better in Russian than in English.

Things got more complicated when I started narrating other characters. The one that’s given me the most trouble so far is Rowena’s brother John. Obviously he should have some kind of a markedly masculine voice. And a bit of a Southern accent.

Well, I thought, I should be able to do a Southern accent. After all, I am from the South. Once upon a time I even had an accent, before I, like Rowena, suppressed it ruthlessly. Now it’s firmly repressed, and my regular accent is standard educated American, with a side of English (I used to live in England). My regular speaking voice has become quite posh, as I discovered with surprise when I started listening to recordings of myself.

But, lurking under all that, there is, it turns out, a Southern accent, one that was more than ready to come out once I had coaxed it to the surface. Now I’m finding it bursting forth at unexpected moments. Once I’m done narrating Permanent Position

Permanent Position Front Cover

If you haven’t yet picked up a free Advance Review Copy of Permanent Position, you can snag one in the Fierce Feminist Fiction book giveaway on Bookfunnel.

I’m going to have to go back to suppressing it ruthlessly.

Unfortunately, my native Southern accent is from Western Kentucky. So while John should have a Georgia drawl, what keeps coming out is more of a Midsouth twang. But whatever. At least it is a more or less authentic Southern accent, which is more than I can say about a lot of the “Southern” accents you hear on TV. But don’t get me started on that…

Next stop: Arabic and Persian accents! Now that will be a challenge!

You can listen to the podcast (with some but not all of the glorious accents I plan to deploy for the actual audiobooks) on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

And here’s this week’s selection of book giveaways!

Women's Fiction Beach Reads

Make an escapist getaway with the Women’s Fiction and Chick Lit Beach Reads giveaway!

Satire Giveaway

Get your rebel on and tickle your funny bone with the Politically Incorrect Satire giveaway!

Sizzling Suspense Banner

Celebrate the heat with the Sizzling Summer Suspense Stories giveaway!