Reading Recommendations and a Request for Help

Hi All!

I hope you’re enjoying your July. I’m trying, with marginal success, to stay calm, cool, and collected. I’ll get back to you next month on how that’s working.

I have gotten in some pretty great reading recently, at least. So if you’re casting about for something to read, here’s what I’ve been enjoying:

With the interest in reading works by black authors at a high, now is a great time to check out some great thrillers by black authors, featuring black characters. I just read a couple of books from Kevin Macklin’s Jon Dough series, about a drug dealer with a heart of gold who deals out vigilante justice on the side. Maybe it sounds a little off the wall, but “Certain Reprisal,” the book I just finished, has some very telling and prescient critiques of police violence. Plus the books are zippy, fast-paced thrillers that will keep you turning the pages to the end.

In a different but equally enjoyable vein I just finished “Take a Number” by Janet Dawson. The book came out in 1993, so it’s got some amusingly dated stuff in it about fax machines and pay phones (remember those days? What a blast from the past!), but at its heart it’s a complex, richly told mystery featuring a spunky female PI. If you like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series, you should definitely check out Dawson. Plus, in “Take a Number,” the heroine is dating a Navy officer named Alex, to my intense amusement!

(Spoiler alert!!!!!!

 

 

 

My heroine Rowena dates an ex-Navy officer named Alex.

 

 

 

Spoiler over).

 

What about you? Any great reads lately?

Okay, and in a slightly related vein, this is where I ask you for help. First of all, now that my newsletter is getting bigger, I’m setting up a separate ARC team. So if you’re interested in being an ARC reader/reviewer for me, please click here. You’ll get first crack at reading books before they’re released. You’re not obliged to leave reviews, but of course I would appreciate honest reviews, preferably left on at least two platforms since I’m in the process of expanding beyond Amazon.

Here’s that link again.

Second of all, I’m currently working on “Honor Court,” the next book in the Doctor Rowena Halley series. I’m planning for Rowena to go to Monterey, California over spring break. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Monterey myself and even if my health permitted travel, the pandemic wouldn’t! So if you’ve ever been to Monterey, Monterey County, Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Defense Language Institute, or the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, send me your recommendations for landmarks I need to include in the book, and sights Rowena has to see. If I include something you sent me, I’ll give you a shoutout in the acknowledgements!

And now time for this week’s giveaway:

Mystery & Crime Book Cave July

Check out the Mystery and Crime giveaway on My Book Cave

Happy reading!

Sid

P.S. I normally listen to music when I write, and sometimes I incorporate the music into my writing. I just worked “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab for Cutie into my current work in progress. Check it out below, and keep an eye out for it when the book comes out 🙂

Special Sneak Peek of “Winter Break”

Hi All!

It’s the hottest part of the summer in my neck of the woods, so I figured now was a perfect time to share a special sneak peek of my novella “Winter Break” with you!

“Winter Break” is one of the short stories and novellas I’ve been writing about Dima, my heroine’s Russian ex-fiance. The first one, “Summer Break,” is currently being given away as an exclusive bonus for preordering Trigger Warning. If you haven’t already gotten yourself a copy of “Summer Break,” you can preorder Trigger Warning for 99c and send me the proof of preorder to sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com, and I’ll send you “Summer Break.”

All the “Dima” stories are set in the Donbass, the war zone in Eastern Ukraine, where Dima was working as a war correspondent from 2014-16. In “Summer Break,” which takes place in June 2015, Dima discovers that a hit has been ordered against him. In “Winter Break,” which I’ll probably be giving away as a download bonus when Trigger Warning goes live, the plot thickens…So without further ado, here’s the first chapter!

Oh no, wait, I lied. There is some further ado. As is often the case in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, there’s a certain amount of bad language in this chapter. You’ve been warned!

1

Happy New Year!

Dima hit the little “Send” arrow on WhatsApp before he could think better of it.

She won’t write back, he told himself. Surely after last time she won’t write back. She shouldn’t write back. But…I can’t not wish her a Happy New Year. It would be…uncouth.

His conscience told him that he had been uncouth, and worse than uncouth, on many previous occasions. Also, he had no business texting Inna, not even to wish her a Happy New Year, after what he had done.

He had meant it for the best, he really had. He was painfully aware of how many of his friends and former comrades-in-arms had made exactly the same excuse for their bad behavior, and here he was, repeating their mistakes. It was humbling to realize how much he was like everyone else, at least in this.

He hadn’t meant drive Inna away again. He had broken off their engagement right after New Year 2014. They had tentatively gotten back into contact in the spring of 2015, when he had impulsively reached out to her after Boris Nemtsov’s murder. Over the summer of 2015 he had vowed to himself that he’d get her back somehow or another, once his life was back in order and he could offer her something other than poverty and danger. But here it was—he checked his phone—12:02am on January 1st, 2016, and he was still broke, still in danger, and still separated from Inna. Worst of all, those were deliberate choices he had made.

“Kuznetsov! Hey, Kuznetsov!”

Dima looked up. Two very drunken men were bearing down on him from the other side of the Svobodnyi Donetsk (Free Donetsk) cafe, carrying a bottle of champagne and three glasses.

“You missed the toast! The Kremlin clocktower striking midnight! And now you’re sitting around by yourself! That’s no way to see in the New Year! You know what they say: How you see in the New Year is how you’ll spend it.”

“You’re right.” Dima put his phone in his pocket and stood up. “Don’t want to spend all of 2016 checking my phone, do I?” Don’t want to spend it in masochistic, destructive, pointless…His phone vibrated.

“Just a moment, guys,” he said, reaching into his pocket. “I have to get this.”

“That must be a hell of a story, Kuznetsov,” said Kirill Fainzilberg, the drunker of the two men. Like Dima, he was a journalist, although unlike Dima, he was in the good graces of both the Donetsk and Moscow governments.

“Or a hell of a woman,” said Rinat Mustafaev, the other man. He was only slightly drunk. He practiced, as he had explained to Dima on more than one inebriated occasion, a fluid, culturally appropriate form of Islam, one that permitted indulging in spirits, within acceptable limits.

“What are acceptable limits?” Dima had asked at one point.

“Don’t get so shit-faced you puke all over yourself and pass out in the gutter,” Rinat had explained. Dima had agreed that that seemed reasonable.

Tonight, in keeping with his fluid, culturally appropriate practice of Islam, Rinat was only wavering slightly, and was hardly slurring his speech at all. By the standards of the party they were at, that was practically stone-cold sober. The only person more sober than him was Dima. But sobriety hadn’t stopped him from sending that text.

“A woman?” Kirill grabbed at Dima’s phone. He missed it, staggering wildly and body-slamming Dima instead. “I didn’t know you had a woman. Is she cute? Does she put out easily? Why didn’t I know about her?”

“She’s not from around here,” Dima said, pulling Kirill upright and leaning him against the wall.

“Where is she from? Ooo, I bet she’s from Lvov or something, isn’t she? Or maybe one of those liberal students from Kiev. A hardcore pro-Western, anti-Russian, black-browed Ukrainian beauty. But secretly she thirsts for a real Russian man. ‘Fuck me, you Russian beast, fuck me hard, officer-style, lobster-style, harder, harder,’ she screams, and then when it’s over, she makes you promise not to tell anyone, doesn’t she?”

“You,” said Dima, “talk a lot of shit. I’d say it’s because you’re drunk, but you talk a lot of shit when you’re sober too.”

“A walking chronic case of verbal diarrhea, that’s him,” agreed Rinat cheerfully. “Come on, Kiryusha: let’s leave him. I think there’s someone from the LNR here; maybe you can get a story from him.”

“The LNR? But we’re in Donetsk,” slurred Kirill. “What’s someone from Lugansk doing here?”

“Strengthening the sacred ties of brotherhood and comradeship between the two glorious new republics, presumably,” said Rinat. “Come on: I know you’ve been trying to get an in with the LNR for weeks. Maybe now’s your chance.”

“So has Kuznetsov,” said Kirill. “He should come too.”

“He can make his own way over when he’s ready,” said Rinat, and shepherded Kirill away before he could do anything to annoy Dima further.

Dima finally looked at his phone. He had been telling himself since he had felt it vibrate that it was probably a source, his mother, his uncle—anyone other than Inna. Or if it was her, it was to tell him to fuck off and die and never speak to her again. Which was no more than he deserved.

Happy New Year to you too! said the message. How are you?

I’m fine, he wrote back. He tried to tell himself the sweat trickling down his sides was from the crush of the party and the half a glass of champagne he’d had earlier. Is it the New Year where you are yet?

Not yet, she texted. I’m in California. It’s only two in the afternoon here.

California? Why are you in California?

I’m visiting a friend.

I didn’t know you had any friends in California. Is this someone from grad school?

No. Even over text message he could feel her sudden reticence.

It’s him, isn’t it? he wrote.

Yes.

I wish you both a Happy New Year when it reaches California, Dima wrote, and put his phone back in his pocket. It vibrated with another message, but he went over to Rinat, Kirill, and the man they had cornered by the drinks table without checking it.

***

I hope you enjoyed it! Fun fact: Kirill Fainzilberg is named after Ilya Fainzilberg, one half of the Soviet comedy writing duo Ilf & Petrov. I sort of hint that Kirill is his grandson.

I will be back with more sneak peeks and updates on my progress in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, check out the Mysteries with Humor contest currently going on at BookSweeps. The grand prize is an ereader and 30 free mysteries with humor!

Mysteries with Humor Giveaway

A Very Cool Contest

Hi All!

I wish the contest I’m about to mention were cool in physical form as well as concept, but alas, at the moment it’s pretty ephemeral, so you’ll just have to settle for metaphorical coolness.

I hope you’re getting plenty of coolness, physical or metaphorical, in real life as well. I’ve been admiring my flowers, which are flourishing in the jungles of North Carolina. I’ve also been wondering how much this weekend’s dust storm is going to irritate me. Answer: At least somewhat. How are you faring? Has anyone gotten hit hard in the Caribbean?

And I know I’ve been emailing you a lot recently, but there’s good reason! First there was the sale on Campus Confidential. Thanks, by the way, to everyone who helped make it a success. And while the sale on the ebook is now over (although you can still pick it up for a cool $3.99 if you so desire–universal link here–or read it for free by requesting it through your local library), Google Play is still doing a 99c deal on the audiobook. Link here. I don’t know how long that deal will last, so snap it up while you can!

And now I’m participating in a cool contest, run by BookSweeps. You can enter here (entering is free) for a chance at winning a whole bunch of first-in-series books featuring women sleuths, plus a shot at an e-reader. Not only is Campus Confidential one of the books on offer, but I also entered it myself as a contestant–although if I win, I’ll probably give away my winnings to one of my readers 🙂

Female Sleuths Giveaway

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, good luck in all your endeavors!

Take care,

Sid

 

It’s a Brave New Remote World

Hi All!

I hope you are all doing well and staying safe. It’s a crazy, crazy world out there right now, isn’t it? My thoughts go out to all of you, especially those of you living in Italy, Spain, New York, and New Orleans.

I’m pretty much in lockdown here–which is not that different from my regular lifestyle, except that I’m teaching remotely instead of in person. Those of us with chronic health conditions are welcoming everyone else into our world, with only a little bit of side eye.

Ah yes, remote teaching…the world of education, as I’m sure many of you are aware, has just undergone a massive sea change. What will come of it, other than a bunch of extremely frazzled teachers? Too soon to tell. There’s a prediction that this will lead to a huge move away from residential colleges to online degrees. Of course, we’ve had those predictions before and it hasn’t happened yet, so who knows?

What we *can* be sure of is that there is much fodder for fiction here! I’m not quite ready to start working it into my own fiction, but I am definitely taking notes. Expect hilarious hijinks in the medium future…

I don’t really have a good segue from there to my standard plug to preorder my upcoming release, Trigger Warning (currently just 99c on preorder!), so I won’t bother to finesse it. Other than to say that if you send me your proof of preorder (email me at sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com), I’ll send you a link to a free short story set in Donetsk in the summer of 2015, which might take your mind off your troubles for a bit. I’m also most of the way through a draft of a novella that will be a follow-up to Trigger Warningso I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

The universal preorder link is here.

Stay safe, everyone, and keep your sense of humor!

This week’s selection of giveaways

Sneak peek promo banner

Want to get the goods before the competition does? Check out the Sneak Peek Giveaway!

Notorious Criminals Crime Giveaway

Find some new crime fiction in the Notorious Criminals Crime Giveaway!

 

Living in Interesting Times

Hi All!

I hope everyone is safe and sound and at home. We live in interesting times, do we not? Of course, so do most people. If you’re feeling apprehensive/panicky/outraged at how everyone’s losing their dang minds, maybe now is the time to watch my favorite inspirational speech of all time:

There are other forces at work besides the will of evil.

The good news, from my point of view, is that my university, like many other universities around the country, has mandated a switch to remote learning for an indefinite period into the future. This is good because proactive closing of schools is supposed to be one of the most effective measures you can take to stop the spread of disease. It’s a little irritating for those of us who had our disability accommodations request to study or teach remotely denied because it just “didn’t meet our rigorous standards” or was a “hardship” for our programs, but it is an amusing lesson in karma, I suppose.

It is my sincere hope that in a few weeks we’ll all look back on this and wonder what the big fuss was about. Successful contagion-containment measures always look like overkill. And that’s okay. Better to be safe than sorry.

Meanwhile, for those of us who do mainly intellectual/creative labor, perhaps being trapped at home will bring about a tremendous burst of productivity! As someone who’s mainly trapped at home all the time, I can testify that there’s nothing like it for getting your creative/intellectual work done.

For example, Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s most beloved writer, had one of his most famous bursts of inspiration and productivity while under quarantine at a family estate in the country, as cholera ravaged Russia. He was untouched by it, and wrote some of his most magnificent works, including the wonderful A Feast in Time of Plague. If you’re casting about for something to do while in self-isolation, maybe check it out! Get the entire collection of his Little Tragedies! See what wonderful things can come of quarantine, alongside all the bad stuff.

This also, of course, seems like a great time to plug my own writing, so as a reminder, Trigger Warning, book 4 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, is currently on pre-order. I’m in the process of transitioning everything to “wide,” meaning available on all stores, not just Amazon, so the link for Trigger Warning is a universal link that will take you to your preferred store.

Trigger Warning Cover 4.5 Small

Currently trialing yet another cover.

And if you preorder Trigger Warning now (it’s just 99c!) and send me your proof of preorder, I’ll send you an exclusive short story, completely free! What’s not to like? Email me your proof of preorder to sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com or reply to this post, and I’ll send you the link for Summer Break, a little side story set in the war zone in the Donbass.

Stay safe, everyone!

And last but not least, here are this week’s selection of giveaways:

Sneak peek promo banner

Check out the Sneak Peek Giveaway to get an exclusive preview of upcoming releases

The Art of Murder

Get an armful of murder mysteries in the Art of Murder Giveaway!

Get a Very Early ARC of “Trigger Warning”!

Hello everyone!

Well, it’s practically sort of wintry here right now, with temperatures below freezing. This is after a bunch of 60-degree days in December and January, and an actual tornado last week. Luckily it didn’t get too close, but any sort of tornado event anywhere within a three-county area knocks me out pretty good. One of the side effects of my health issues is that I appear to have become a weather witch. Who knew?? Has anyone else experienced a sudden ability to read the weather like this? The researcher in me is fascinated by this.

But magical powers are not the topic of this email–Advance Review Copies of Trigger Warning are! You can get an e-copy of it on Bookfunnel here.

It’s still cover-less, since the vote that many of you so kindly participated in the other week returned an almost exact 30/30/30 split between the three covers. So I’m going to have to do some more testing with them. But in the meantime, I thought I’d start letting my most dedicated readers have first crack at the (coverless) book itself. You’ll have plenty of time to read it and, if you feel moved, leave a review on Goodreads, because I’ve tentatively set the release date for the first week of September.

I decided to set the release date so far out for several reasons. One is that I’m also working on my academic non-fiction book, and I’m hoping to wrap up the revisions by the end of this semester. Another is that I’m planning to “go wide” with my books and release them on all retailers instead of just Amazon. This means that they will no longer be available on KU, which is a bummer, but on the flip side, anyone can request them through their local library. And, of course, I’m always happy to send readers free review copies 🙂 But it will take a little while to get everything up and running on all the retail and library sites.

The third reason I’m waiting so long is because I’m hoping to get A) the next book in the series (tentatively titled Honor Court) finished by then so that I can release them in rapid succession, and B) I’m planning to write a series of short stories from Dima’s point of view that interweave with Rowena’s main storyline. They will be available as exclusive preorder or download bonuses, so stay tuned for that! But it will take me a little while to get them all written and edited.

But enough about future hopes and dreams! Once again, if you would like to get an ARC of Trigger Warning, the link is here. It’s on a restricted list so it should ask you to provide your email address again in order to have access to it. If you have any problems with it, just let me know at sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com and I can email your the files directly.

A note about the content: A major topic in the book is gun violence in schools. This is something that I care about deeply. Not only is it something that all teachers have to consider these days–my friends and I have discussed our plans for what we would do in the event of a shooting more than once–but in the past two years there have been fatal shootings both at my BA alma mater and at the college where I currently teach. There have also been multiple fatal off-campus shootings of students at my PhD alma mater. The one at my BA alma mater was a typical “school shooting,” while the one at my current campus was the result of gang violence, but in both cases young people were gunned down by other young people who strolled onto campus and into a school event with loaded firearms.

If you find this upsetting–YOU SHOULD! Channel those strong emotions into political action.

So Trigger Warning takes on the topic of gun violence, as well as bullying and incel culture. A lot of it, as usual, is based on my own experiences and those of my friends, colleagues, and students. It’s fiction, but it’s the type of realist, partially autobiographical fiction that Toril Moi has identified as a trend towards what she defines as modern existential character-based fiction.

That’s a fancy way to say that it’s supposed to feel super-real to the reader, while dealing with “big issues” questions. So like all of my books, Trigger Warning has its dark moments. But also like all of my books, it also has a lot of comedy (I’m going for a chiaroscuro effect), and very little on-camera violence or gore. So you can go into it knowing that some difficult questions might be asked, but there is not going to be a high body count or explicit scenes of violence. Explicit language, yes :), explicit scenes of killing or torture, no.

Wow, that was a lot of writing! We probably all need to get on with our days, so without any further ado, here’s that link again to the Trigger Warning ARC.

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

Listen to Books in 2020

There’s just a few more days of the Listen to Books in 2020 giveaway!

And check out the Short Story Suspense Promo, going on all this month!

Vote on the Cover for “Trigger Warning”!

Hey Everyone!

This post will be short and sweet. I’ve got some rough mock-ups of potential covers for Trigger Warning, book 4 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series, and I want you to vote on your favorite! You can vote by responding to this post or by visiting my Facebook page and commenting on the covers there. Or you can always email me at sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com. As always, thanks for your input!

  1. Trigger Warning Mock Cover 1
  2. Trigger Warning Mock Cover 2
  3. Trigger Warning Mock Cover 3

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

Start Something New Banner

This is the last week for the Start Something New Audiobook Shorts giveaway!

International Mysteries and Thrillers

Want to start the year off with an international adventure? Check out the International Mysteries & Thrillers giveaways.

A Thrilling Experience

Get your thrill on with the Thrilling Experience giveaway!

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.