Happy 2020! Updates and Audiobooks

Happy 2020, everyone! I hope the new year AND new decade is starting off well for you.

I’m still in winter break, which is giving me time to work on various tedious administrative tasks like switching my mailing list provider. So if there are weird breaks in service, my apologies.

It’s also given me time to post the audiobook for Campus Confidential. Yay! If you live in the US, Canada, or Australia, and would like a free review copy, just reply to this post or send me an email at SidStarkAuthor@gmail.com. If you live outside of those regions but would still like to listen to it, the book is slowly populating the major retailers and subscription services. You can also request it from your local library and listen to it for free that way.

Campus Confidential Audiobook Cover

While those blue shoes in the picture aren’t my own blue shoes that inspired that part of the story, they are almost identical

As I’ve mentioned before, doing the audiobooks has been a HUGE amount of work–a ten-hour book means 60-100 hours of recording and editing–but also a lot of fun. One thing that I thought I definitely wasn’t going to do, but did, was voices. To be honest, prior to this I was not a big audiobook fan, and thought that voices were kind of silly.

But when I started podcasting my books, I found myself doing Russian accents for the Russian characters. Listeners responded very positively, and so I eventually ended up doing more and more voices for the different characters. My learning curve for this is still very steep, but it’s turning into a fascinating project. Who knew!

Start Something New Banner

If you want to check out the (voice-free, alas–that came later) audio version of Foreign Exchange, the Doctor Rowena Halley prequel novella, plus a bunch of other free short audiobooks and samples, check out the Start Something New giveaway.

Doing all this audio has meant that my writing has slowed down a bit, but I am also on the final round of revision for Trigger Warning, book 4 in the series. I hope to have ARCs out soon, so stay tuned for that as well! Meanwhile, have a wonderful start to this new year and new decade.

And now for this week’s selection of giveaways:

New Year's Noir Banner

The New Year’s Noir giveaway is still going strong.

New Year's Mysteries

Start the new year off right with the New Year’s Mystery giveaway.

A Thrilling Experience

Get some thrillers and chills with the Thrilling Experience giveaway.

 

 

What Are We All Reading?

Hi Everyone! Happy Solstice!

I hope you are all having a good and low-stress holiday season. I am pleased to say that I got all my final grades submitted a good 36 hours before the registrar’s deadline, *despite* having finals scheduled the Friday and Saturday of exam week. Yes, Saturday finals are a big thing now, in case you haven’t been keeping pace with the innovations in higher education.

I’ve also managed to read some pretty interesting stuff, which I’ll share in a bit. But first I wanted to remind everyone that the audiobook of Permanent Position is currently free on Apple and Nook.

Permanent Position Audiobook Image

The Apple link is here and the Nook link is here.

I’ve also just uploaded the audiobook for Campus Confidential, book 1 in the series, and I’m working on revisions of Trigger Warning, book 4 in the series. So keep an eye open for excerpts from that, coming soon!

Meanwhile, though, I thought I’d share a couple of things I’ve been reading and enjoying recently. And of course I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

First of all, I was riveted by The Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers, their in-depth report on the current war in Afghanistan. I highly recommend it to, well, everyone. Afghanistan is the longest-running conflict in US history, and soon we will have soldiers serving over there who weren’t born when it started. So it behooves us to pay attention to it.

I also have a personal/artistic stake in this, since John, my heroine’s brother, is deployed in Afghanistan in Campus Confidential, and comes home at the beginning of Permanent Position. This was a way to work my “day job” research on contemporary war literature into my fiction. As I like to stress, while the Doctor Rowena Halley series shouldn’t be taken as pure autobiography, it is based on the experiences of myself, my friends, my students, my colleagues, and people I’ve encountered for my research. It’s meant to reflect the current zeitgeist, and as such includes a lot of current events.

I also recently finished reading the English translation of Margarita Khemlin’s Klotsvog.

Klotsvog

It’s another must-read of the year, in my opinion. The story of Maya Abramovna Klotsvog, a Ukrainian Jewish woman born in 1930, it follows her Becky Sharp-like career from husband to husband and lover to lover. WWII, the Holocaust, and the post-war repression of Soviet Jews all form a backdrop to Maya Abramovna’s picaresque strivings to achieve upward mobility. That might not sound attractive, but it’s actually a riveting picture of Soviet life.

I was finishing up the edits on the audiobook of Campus Confidential at the time, so it was particularly apropos. Each of my books depicts a different social group, and Campus Confidential focuses on the experiences of Soviet Jewish emigres. The stories of my characters were inspired, again, by the stories of my friends, students, and colleagues, as well as those of Soviet Jewish authors such as Vasily Grossman and immigrant writes such as Gary Shteyngart. (Believe me, you also want to rush out and snap up their books ASAP if you haven’t already done so).

And for something maybe a little more mainstream, although still delightfully off-the-beaten-path, I’m currently reading Palm Beach Finland, by Antti Tuomainen.

Palm Beach Finland

Not sure if I’ve shared this yet, but I’ve been to Finland and speak a bit of Finnish. Although not enough to read the book easily in the original, alas.

It’s a kind Nordic-Noir-meets-Carl Hiaasen, if you can imagine such a thing. I’m only about halfway through right now, but I’m riveted in expectation of the inevitable showdown between the sleazy hitman, the undercover police officer, and the various people who have decided to investigate the mysterious murder on their own.

So that’s what I’ve been reading! What about you?

And now for this week’s selection of giveaways!

Ice Cold Vengeance

It’s cold out there! Warm up with a little vengeance in the Ice Cold Vengeance giveaway.

Crime Filled Christmas

Celebrate the season with the Crime Filled Christmas giveaway.

Snowed In

Enjoy the wintry weather with the Snowed In giveaway.

New Year's Noir Banner

Ring in the New Year with the New Year’s Noir giveaway.

Yet More Artistic Adventures in Audio–And Free Audiobooks!

Hello everyone!

Yes indeed, you may have noticed that I’m a bit obsessed with audio right now. Of course, anyone who knows me will not be surprised. I have a bit of an, um, obsessive personality. One of those greatest strengths/greatest weaknesses things.

Permanent Position Audiobook Image

Now seems like a good time to mention that the audiobook of Permanent Position is currently free on AppleBooks and Nook Audiobooks.

Suspense and Thriller Audiobooks for Review

Oh, and if you’d like to get into reviewing audiobooks, StoryOrigin is currently running a review code giveaway for suspense and thriller audiobooks.

So what’s so great about audiobooks? I have to admit that I have always had a love/hate relationship with being read to. When I was a small child, I enjoyed it tremendously (thanks, Mom & Dad!). Then I learned how to read myself, and immediately realized all the advantages of that. Ever since then, I’ve preferred to read to myself rather than to be read to. Reading text is faster and you, the reader, have more control over how you interact with it. Plus it allows things like side-by-side or back-and-forth comparison in a way that other media forms do not.

However, listening to someone else read, whether it’s an audiobook or they’re reading out loud to you “live,” is a great way to get a story or information while driving, doing chores, or working on handicrafts. It frees up your eyes and your hands, and also connects you back to the primal human experience of telling stories while sitting around working together.

Dead of Winter Thriller Audio Shorts

Want to experience more audiobooks? Check out the Dead of Winter Thriller Audio Shorts giveaway.

And there’s also the fact that you can gain new insight into a work by experiencing someone else’s interpretation of it. My doctoral advisor always used to tell us that the best way to understand a work was to see someone else’s interpretation of it, like in a stage or film adaptation. If you liked it, great; if not, you still gained new insight into the work. At the time I think I said something narky about that, and I definitely said something narky about the some of the adaptations of Checkhov plays he made us watch. Needless to say, I don’t appreciate having other people’s artistic visions imposed on me.

But, as is so often the case, I now, ten years later, see the wisdom in my advisor’s advice. I hate it when that happens! Actually, no. It’s a comforting reminder that we can grow and change and learn to appreciate more and more things as we do so.

And, to return to audiobooks and my insatiable need for artistic control, my own interpretation of my own work is of course of considerable interest, at least to me. We treasure crackling 30-second recordings of poets from the 1920s reciting their poems, and wish we could have anything like that of poets from the 1820s. But now that it’s (almost) the 2020s, anyone with a mic and a makeshift recording studio, or even just a smartphone, can record themselves reading their own work. Or anyone with a spare $3,000 lying around can get an actual professional to do it all for them. Which often seems like the more attractive option when you’re knee-deep in the recording and editing process.

Yeah, because it turns out that recording an audiobook is SUPER exhausting. Even  perfectly healthy, fit people describe it as physically debilitating. For me, since I struggle to speak, or even remain upright for long periods (for those of you just joining us, I have been seriously ill for a number of years from a combination of Lyme disease, toxic mold exposure, and who knows what else), it’s, like, a crazy-difficult thing that I can only do in short bursts. And let’s not even get into the editing…other than to say I’m doing good if I can do a ten-minute section of finished audio in an hour of editing work.

On the other hand, it’s an absolutely fascinating experience from the artistic standpoint, and I do like the thought that, if you’re listening to one of my audiobooks, you’re getting that immediate experience of me telling my story. It may not be as polished as if professionals are doing it, although I certainly did my best to polish it up–in the future I’ll have to share some of the cat-snoring clips I had to cut out–but it is in keeping with the overall aesthetic I’m attempting to cultivate in the series of authenticity and immediacy.

I could, and no doubt will, say a lot more about the experience of actually reading the words and my thoughts on spoken vs. written media, but this is already going on pretty long and, frankly, I’m exhausted, so I’ll save it for next time. In the meantime, happy listening!

Those links to get a free audio copy of Permanent Position again:

Apple Books

Nook Audiobooks

Oh, and if you’re in the US, Canada, or Australia and you’d like a review code for the audiobook of Summer Session, book 3 in the series, reply to this post or email me at sidstarkauthor@gmail.com and let me know!

And now for this week’s giveaways:

Ice Cold Vengeance

The holiday season got you feeling vengeful? Check out the Ice Cold Vengeance promo! Mysteries, thrillers, and suspense with a revenge plot or subplot.

Snowed In

On the other hand, if you’re starting to get into the season, check out the Snowed In giveaway.

Crime Filled Christmas

And you’ll absolutely want to visit the Crime Filled Christmas giveaway.

Foreign Exchange Cover Small

If you haven’t read Foreign Exchange, the prequel to the Doctor Rowena Halley series, you can get it and many other suspense stories for free in the Domestic Suspense giveaway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Adventures in Audio! And Thanks for a Great Launch

Hi Everyone!

Well, it’s a *very* blustery day here in North Carolina right now. I’m hoping this doesn’t derail my plans to do a little more recording today. Because yes, I’m going full throttle on this audiobook thing now.

But first, a huge thanks to everyone who helped with the launch of Summer Session, whether by sharing, downloading, or leaving a review. The launch was even more successful than I expected, putting me briefly in the #2 spot on the Amazon.com free store for Suspense. Will the next release hit #1? I guess we’ll find out…Meanwhile, if you got a free copy and feel moved to leave a review, it would be much appreciated! The universal Amazon link is here.

And I just uploaded the audiobook of Summer Session to Findaway Voices yesterday evening, so that should be coming soon. You may point out that I don’t yet have an audiobook of Campus Confidential, book 1 in the series. You would be right. What do you think I’m planning to work on once this post goes out?

You see, making audiobooks, it turns out, is rather a lot of work. First you have to record the dang things, which for me has included things like learning how to do a Middle Eastern accent in English for Permanent Position, book 2, and then learning a few phrases in actual Arabic for Summer Session. Apparently my Arabic has a heavy Russian accent, surprise, surprise. I also spent a while last week trying and failing to master a Jersey accent for Campus Confidential. This was particularly frustrating because I worked in Jersey for a year–hence the setting for the book–and did in fact pick up a bit of a Jersey accent from my students. I’m one of those people who picks up the speech patterns of those around them very strongly. But now, several years later, I’ve reverted back to my native Southern accent when I try to imitate regional speech.

And then, once you’ve done the recording, you have to edit them, which is even more time-consuming and requires all kinds of esoteric knowledge. For example, you have to learn how to read displays like this:

Spectral readout screenshot

And once you learn how to read it, you have to learn how to edit the dang thing

But since learning new things is one of life’s great joys, overall I’ve been having a lot of fun with this. It’s just been so…freaking…slow. But повторение–мать учения (repetition is the mother of learning), so after months of hard work, I *am* getting faster.

So stay tuned for more updates about my adventures, in audio, coming soon! In the meantime, if you want to pick up a free copy of my very first, and therefore still rather amateur, efforts at audiobook narration, you can do so in the Audio Shorts giveaway, going on now on BookFunnel:

Audio Shorts

Since audio is just getting going, this is a very select giveaway–but still very much worth checking out.

Looking for just some regular old e-books? Don’t worry, we’ve got those too!

Never Miss a Mystery

The Never Miss a Mystery giveaway has just started on My Book Cave

Vigilantes Kidnapping Murder

And the Vigilantes, Kidnapping, & Murder giveaway is still going strong on BookFunnel

 

 

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 Innocence of Father Brown” by G.K. Chesterton

The Innocence of Father Brown

I recently began watching the “Father Brown” series on Netflix and was utterly charmed by it (I *do* have a fondness for British detective stories, both cozy and gritty), so when I saw that there was a deal on the audiobook version of “The Innocence of Father Brown,” I snapped it up.

Father Brown, for those of you who don’t know him, is a rather unprepossessing Roman Catholic priest who happens to be brilliant at solving mysteries. While the TV show has been transplanted to the 1950s, the original stories must take place sometime in the 1920s, and are full of period charm–and what these days we would call the “problematic” nature of that period’s characterizations. But such is life. If you only read works from your own era, you’ll never really challenge yourself and your mindset. If nothing else, reading things from earlier eras should make you ask yourself what will horrify people fifty or a hundred years down the road when they read *our* cultural artifacts.

The mysteries themselves have that slightly over-the-top coziness and cunning of early British mystery stories, in which the hero makes incredibly clever deductions to solve wildly improbable and extremely complicated mysteries. While there’s plenty of murder, the actual gore quotient is low. So if you’re a fan of that style of mystery, you’re likely to enjoy these.

The mysteries are good fun, and Father Brown is a singular character, but what really sets these stories apart is Chesterton’s way with words. The stories are sprinkled with sparkling gems of poetry or pithy humor. Reading them in textual form would no doubt be delightful, but I also enjoyed Frederick Davidson’s narration, which allowed the underlying brilliance of the text to shine through, while adding to it through the use of different accents and character voices. A charming mystery experience all around.

Buy the book at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Happy Midsummer! Plus Podcasting and Other Fun

Hi All! Hope you’re having a fabulous Midsummer.

I’m hoping I’m having a fabulous Midsummer too, especially since it’s my birthday, but I’m now starting to worry that I might have picked up a cold during my visit to the doctor yesterday. That could be either really bad news (because it could plunge me into a major crash), or really good news (there’s a school of thought that says that getting a cold is a sign of your immune system returning to normal after the ravages of Lyme disease). Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, I’ve been pressing on with the podcast. In fact, I’ve finished podcasting Campus Confidential, and started Permanent PositionSo if you want to listen to me narrating my own books (with accompanying bird tweets–they make a tremendous racket around my house, and I’m not always successful at editing them out), you can do so on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

Permanent Position Front Cover

And if you haven’t downloaded an ARC of Permanent Position yet, you can do so in the Fabulous, Feisty & Female Book Giveaway, going on now on StoryOrigin.

More Giveaways!

Mystery Shorts

It’s the last weekend to check out the Mystery Shorts Giveaway!

Psychological Thrillers

The Psychological Thriller Summer Book Bonanza is still going strong.

Summer Session Cover Small

And last but not least, you can pick up an ARC of my novella “Summer Session,” plus lots of other family-themed stories, in the It’s a Family Affair Giveaway.