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 Court

Payhip link to Honor Court (use TENPERCENT at checkout to get 10% off):

Universal link to Campus Confidential

Link to Apple Books free book event:

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:
That’s it for now! Happy reading, everyone, and enjoy your weekend.
Sid Stark

Best laid plans going awry

Hello Everyone!

I hope you are staying safe and warm, especially if you were in the path of the storms that have been sweeping the US recently. We got quite a lot of freezing rain here, which was not pleasant, but fortunately my neighborhood never lost power. I was relieved, but it also meant I had no excuse for not keeping up with all my projects, even if I might have wanted a break.

Soooo…yeah…As you may know, Honor Court, book 5 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, is scheduled to come out next month. And it is, but I had all these grandiose plans about having the audiobook and the paperback come out at the same time, while also having the preorder for the next book in the series set up and ready to go.

LOL! As usual, I bit off way more than I could chew. I’ve been spending most of the winter working on the audiobook, writing a massive epic trilogy for my other pen name (sometimes these things happen), and doing yet another revision for my day-job book on war literature. Somehow I thought all these projects would be a lot quicker and easier than they actually were. Somehow I always think that, and it’s so rarely true. Plus there were all the animal-related issues. I’m pleased to say that precious Renee the Italian Greyhound is doing a lot better than she was a couple of months ago. She’s still on soft food after her dental surgery in December, but she’s put on a bit of weight and is acting a lot more chipper. Poor Zelda the elderly long-haired cat is skeletally thin, but between steroids and special food, she’s hanging in there. But there have been a lot of anxious consultations with the vet this winter, which have been yet another distraction from the business of getting books out.

Anyway, the ebook of Honor Court will indeed, barring unforeseen catastrophes, come out on March 8th. If you haven’t already, you can preorder it here for $2.99. Once it’s out the price will go up to $3.99, so you can get a bit of a discount if you snaffle it up now. I have also posted the audiobook of it in serial format on YouTube and most major podcasting channels–search under Sid Stark and if it’s on your channel, it should pop up. So if you want to, you can listen to it for free right now! Listening to it on YouTube actually helps me a lot, since if I get enough listeners and subscribers, I will actually start getting paid for it. So that’s a win for everyone.

I’ve scrapped the idea of putting up the preorder for the next book in the series right now, but there will be a link in the back of Honor Court for a pretty substantial free bonus novella. I’m planning to record it as an audiobook and add it to the audiobook of Honor Court, which I’m hoping will be available later this spring. I’ll probably make the audiobook of Honor Court + bonus novella available to purchase from my direct store at a deep discount before it goes live on other retailers. So keep an eye out for that.

I think that’s about it for my big news right now. Links to the various forms of Honor Court are below. And as always, I’d love to hear from you. How have your plans been derailed this winter? What have you done to recover?

Stay safe, and happy reading!


Preorder link for ebook of Honor Court

YouTube playlist of free audio version of Honor Court:–fkpJAfnwdVX0yx3Q4hAtDSb8MtWOv

Podcasts and New Releases

Hello All!

Well, it continues to be a January full of events and excitement. Maybe a little too much excitement. We can hope that the sailing gets a little smoother from here on out.

I’m glad to say that my animals are currently doing better than they were last month. December was a difficult month for pets, but everyone is now eating again. Renee, my Italian Greyhound, has been living largely off of a mixture of goat milk and tripe, but whatever keeps her happy.

Amongst all this I’ve started working on the audiobook for Honor Court. As I did with the previous book, I’m podcasting it first, so you can listen to it in installments for free right now. I’ve also started a YouTube playlist, which you can find here. And you can catch the podcast on SoundCloudAppleGoogle PodcastsSpotifyStitcher, and TuneIn.

I’ll be adding episodes to it regularly up until release week, so stay tuned if you want to get catch an audio sneak peek of the book! I’m also hoping to record Spring Break, the companion novella that goes with it, but we’ll see whether I have the time or not.

Speaking of audio, I’m participating in an audiobook giveaway this month on Bookfunnel. It’s small but has some pretty good audiobooks, including one of mine. You can check it out here.

And finally, in reading recommendations, the box set Dead Silent is out now! This isn’t something I’m in, alas, but it looks really good, so I wanted to share it with you. It’s discounted to 99c for release week, after which it will go up to $9.99, so snap it up now if you’re interested.

Well, that’s about it, everyone. Stay safe, and happy reading!

Sid Stark

How *did* Rowena meet the love of her life?

Dear All!

How is it the end of November already?!? How time does fly! If you’re in the US, I hope you had a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and wherever you are, I hope you’re staying safe and enjoying the changing seasons.

I’ve been having some adventures this month, both good and bad. I signed up to do NaNoWriMo for the first time, and have been working feverishly on a book for my other pen name. This may delay some Sid Stark stuff, but don’t worry, I’ll be back! I have no intention of abandoning Rowena & co. anytime soon.

I’ve also been having (big sigh) computer trouble. After the excitement of all the basement work this summer, followed by the even greater excitement of the emergency main drain replacement this fall, I was more than ready for some smooth sailing. Famous last words! My computer crashed during a storm a couple of weeks ago, and is now limping along on its last legs. I just ordered a new one, so I devoutly hope that will be a big improvement. I decided to go for a desktop, in the hopes that it would last longer and be more comfortable and cause less eye/neck/back/wrist strain.

[And–breaking news–I was interrupted while composing this update because my neighbors called the cops on the crew working on my roof. Never a dull moment, never a dull moment…]

What about you? Any recommendations for reducing computer-caused work injuries? I think I have a safe job, but I keep discovering that is not the case!

In writing news, I’m excited to include a never-before-seen snippet from Honor Court, my upcoming release in the Doctor Rowena Halley series. But first, I thought I’d mention that the audiobook of Trigger Warning is currently $2.99 for a special Black Friday deal on Kobo only.

And now, without any further ado, here’s an excerpt from Honor Court! This is the first time Rowena describes how she met Dima:

Dima and I had a history. We’d met back when I had been working for an NGO in Russia. I’d been collecting the stories of victims and eyewitnesses to various human rights abuses. Dima had come into my shabby, half-underground office and said that he’d been sent by a friend to tell his story.

“But maybe you don’t want to hear it,” he’d said. “After all, I’m not one of the good guys.”

I’d said I listened to all stories without judgment. And I told myself that my willingness to listen to him had nothing to do with the way his shoulders strained against his shirt, or how his dark stubble emphasized the sharp lines of his Eurasian features, or how his eyes, so dark gray they were almost black, went from staring at the desk to staring at me as we spoke as if we shared some special secret.

The next day I met with him again. “To talk.” About his former life in OMON, the Russian special forces riot police, and his current life as an investigative reporter. The next week he took me home to meet his mother. She had a story to tell too, about being the daughter and widow of war heroes. Eight months later we were engaged.

Eight years had passed since then. We’d never gotten married, or had kids, or done any of the things that we’d promised each other we were going to do. Instead, Dima had sent me away after I’d been kidnapped by men intent on stopping him from releasing his latest story. Then he’d left Moscow for the war in the Donbass, and not spoken to me for a year.

After both of us had ended up in life-or-death situations and decided we had to make peace with each other, we had come, very gingerly, back into contact. I had even thought last fall that Dima wanted to get back together. Then, after the shooting, he had told me he couldn’t stand seeing me in danger anymore, and tried to cut off contact again.

That had lasted for all of three weeks before he’d texted me to wish me a happy New Year. He’d gone silent after that, but here he was, on January 11th, texting me again.


So there you have it! Stay tuned for more coming soon, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

What are my characters listening to?

Dear All! 

Happy Halloween! I hope you have some delightfully spooky but socially distanced fun lined up for tonight. I will be setting out trays of candy on my porch in preparation for what I expect might be hordes of trick-or-treaters. I live in a hundred-year-old neighborhood with small lawns and big sidewalks, so we normally get a lot of kids from all over town. It’s fun–except for my dogs, who are in a constant state of nerves as they try to protect the house from the monstrous intruders. Hopefully this year things will be a little less scary for them. 

On the book front, I just finished proofing the paperback of Trigger Warning. I need to submit a few changes, get a new proof copy, check that, and then hopefully it will exist in beautiful paperback form! I am doing it through Draft2Digital’s print program, which is currently in beta. This means everything is proceeding very slowly, but despite a few minor issues the book looks gorgeous, and I can’t wait to get all my books out in print. When I do, you will be the first to know 🙂 

I have also been having fun creating a playlist on Spotify for the Doctor Rowena Halley series. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it here.  It’s got a broad mix of songs. Most of them are from Honor Court, but I threw in “Get Off On the Pain” by Gary Allan, which John, Rowena’s brother mentions in Permanent PositionThen I have “Girls Like Girls,” Hayley Kiyoko’s lesbian-power anthem, which Mel has playing in her Jeep during a high-tension scene in Honor Court. There’s also “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab for Cutie, which plays during another car-related scene, Leonard Cohen’s classic “Anthem,” which Rowena and Alex reference during a tense time in their relationship, and Snow Patrol’s epic song trilogy “The Lightning Strike,” which plays during their reconciliation.  

Here’s the link to the playlist again if you want to check it out.  

And one final fun thing to check out: Dead Silent, an 18-book box by a group of bestselling thriller authors, is currently available for preorder for just 99c.
Get all 18 stories for just 99c!
So that’s about it for this week. Have a safe and spooky Halloween, and happy reading!


Sneak Peek of “Honor Court”

Hi All! 

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and enjoying delightful fall weather (in the Northern Hemisphere) or delightful spring weather (in the Southern Hemisphere). 

Before I get into the main news of the day, I wanted to let you know that the Chirp deal on the first two audiobooks in the Doctor Rowena Series is still going strong. You can currently get the audiobook of Campus Confidential for 99c here and the audiobook of Permanent Position for $1.99 here.

Okay, now for the big news. I’m thrilled to say that the I have a special treat this week–a sneak peek of Honor Court! Yes, book 5 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series is here!

Well, not quite here. I’m still doing another round of proofreading. But in the meantime, here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Honor Court. If you’re intrigued and want to know more, it’s currently available for preorder here.

Some background: Rowena and Chloe are having lunch together on the first day of the spring semester. As the scene starts, Chloe is telling Rowena about her mysterious ongoing health problems.

“Deal. So, they kept going on and on about somatization disorder and did I have any episodes of childhood trauma and what was my difficult childhood like growing up in the ‘hood. I told them I grew up in a loving nuclear family in a well-to-do suburb of Atlanta and I had about the least traumatic childhood a person could have, but they just shook their heads and muttered stuff about repressed memories and sent me to get more psychiatric counseling.”

“Is it helping?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Maybe. I keep trying to tell myself that at least they didn’t find anything really wrong with me, but I tell you what, there were times when I was hoping they would, just so that I could get them to take me seriously—is that girl trying to talk to us?”

A girl in a headscarf was edging towards us. Gosh, she looks North Caucasian, I thought.

“Professor Halley? The Russian professor?”

She sounds North Caucasian too. “Yes?” I said.

“I, um…I hoped I can talk to you,” she said in a rush.

“Yes, of course.”

“In Russian?” she asked hopefully.

“Of course,” I said in Russian.

“Oh, thank God! I’ve been here for years but I still don’t feel comfortable speaking English. My name’s Aishat, by the way.”

Boy, does she sound Chechen. The hairs on the back of my neck had risen at the sound of her distinctive Caucasian hard “n.” Which was completely unfair. Probably she was a perfectly nice person who had nothing to do with the man who had held me at gunpoint in Moscow. But the visceral terror provoked by her accent remained.

“So is Russian your native language, then?” I asked.

“Well…” She looked down, twisting her toe on the floor. “Chechen,” she mumbled, not catching my eye.

“I thought so,” I said.

“Really?” Now she did look up. “Do you know many Chechens, then?”

“I’ve known some,” I said. “Do you want to take Russian classes?” I couldn’t think of any other reason for her to seek me out, although I was surprised that she would do that. There was not a lot of love lost between Chechens and Russians, as a general rule. But maybe it was the closest she could get here in small-town Georgia to reconnecting with her native culture.

“No.” Now she was looking down at the ground again. “I, um…I might need your help. Over a question of honor.”

So there you have it! Here are those links again if you’re interested:

Preorder of Honor Court

99c deal on audiobook of Campus Confidential

$1.99 deal on audiobook of Permanent Position

Happy reading!


Chirp Deal and My Review of the Infamous “Troubled Blood”

Hi All!

I hope you are enjoying some beautiful autumnal/vernal weather, depending on which hemisphere you’re in. Here it’s sunny and slightly cool–finally! AND the Big Dig to replace the main drain to my house is mostly done and I have a fully functional water and drainage system once again.

In celebration of this, or because I just wanted to, I’m running a limited-time deal on a couple of my audiobooks on Chirp. The audiobook of Campus Confidential (book 1 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series) is currently 99c, and Permanent Position (book 2) is currently $1.99. If you haven’t heard of Chirp, it’s the audiobook wing of BookBub. They have their own online store where they offer deals as low as 99c for audiobooks, and their own app for playing them. They also have a daily email with curated audiobook deals. I’ve been a Chirp member for over a year now and I love it, so if you are looking for a way to get low-priced audiobooks, I strongly recommend it.

Those links again:

And now for more (highly controversial) reading recommendations…

I debated with myself for a while over whether or not to bring up Troubled Blood, the latest Robert Galbraith book. As you know unless you’ve been hiding out in a social-media-free cave (not a bad idea, really), Robert Galbraith is the pen name J.K. Rowling uses to publish her Cormoran Strike mysteries, and both she and this latest book have gotten caught up in a whirlwind of controversy over accusations of transphobia.

Having actually read both her statements and the book (unlike, as far as I can tell, many of her attackers), I can state with a fair amount of confidence that these accusations are vastly overblown. I am loath to jump into the cesspool of trolling and hatespeech that is currently roiling around the issue, so I will confine myself to saying that we need to ask hard questions about any movement that gains any sort of political power, just like we need to subject new scientific and academic claims to rigorous scrutiny. This includes the questions that Rowling brings up about the trans movement.

And yes, I’m very aware that it’s easy to use “scientific rigor” as a shield for cruelty and bias. I’m currently reading Edward Said’s foundational work Orientalism, which is all about how Western academics used their “enlightened,” “rational,” “scientific” frames of thought to justify the Western colonization of the East. And as a woman and someone with a longtime illness, I’ve experienced the use of science to label me as defective, aberrant, untrustworthy, inferior, etc. etc. firsthand.

AND YET. We still need to ask the hard questions. With compassion, with humility, with an awareness of our own underlying biases. But we still need to ask them. And right now in particular, with a pandemic raging and the world literally on fire, we really, really need to be considering the importance of physical reality and how it affects us.

So that’s a whole long preamble to Troubled Blood, which doesn’t actually have any trans characters, or mention trans issues once throughout the book.

I know! A whole lot of ado about nothing, you might say! So let’s talk about the book itself and whether or not you should actually read it.

Troubled Blood is the fifth book in the series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. Since it has a long-running plot about their private lives, the series is probably best read in order. However, the mystery in each book functions as a standalone, so you should be able to follow along pretty well if you choose to jump in now. The main mystery in Troubled Blood is a cold case about a woman who disappeared 40 years ago. Was she murdered by a serial killer, as everyone supposes, or did something even more bizarre happen to her?

I myself am not a huge fan of serial killer mysteries. However, gross serial killers aside, I loved Troubled Blood. Like the other books, but maybe even more so, it’s got an incredibly rich, dense, complicated plot. In this case it involves astrology. There’s nothing actually supernatural going on, but a lot of the clues are buried in astrological signs and symbols.

It also has a fair amount of social commentary worked into it. Rowling’s writing tends to include a sharply satirical aspect, and she unleashes it to devastating effect in Troubled Blood. This might make some people uncomfortable, but hey, that’s the point of satire. The thrust of a lot of it here is to argue that people, especially activists, need to prioritize substance over surface, and focus on actually helping people rather than personal exhibitionism. I can’t argue with that, even when she targets causes I believe in very passionately.. Again, this is the kind of criticism that keeps societies healthy.

So, should you read Troubled Blood? I consider it probably the best book I’ve read so far this year. But it’s not necessarily for everyone. It’s long, complicated, intense, and kind of scary. It’s also incredibly human and humane, as well as showcasing some amazing literary craft. I leave it up to each reader to decide whether it’s right for them.

Take care and stay safe!