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!

Preorder “Trigger Warning” and Get an Exclusive Free Story

Hi everyone! Happy March!

In Russia it’s the first day of spring. Feels a lot more spring-like here in North Carolina, however, than I imagine it does in Russia. Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying the changing seasons.

I have another short and to the point post today: Trigger Warning is on preorder! For 99c! I’ve decided to “go wide” with the series, so it’s available at most major retailers (Google Play is being a little slow, but it should appear there soon). The universal link is here.

And, as a special exclusive treat, I’ve written a short story that I’ll be giving away just to people who preorder Trigger Warning. Just send me your proof of preorder to sidstark@sidstarkauthor.com and I’ll send you a link to download your copy of “Summer Break,” a short story from Dima’s point of view.

Happy reading, everyone!

This week’s selection of free books is The Art of Murder giveaway on Bookfunnel

The Art of Murder

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!

Another Sneak Peek of “Trigger Warning”!

Hi Everyone!

I am slowly, more slowly than I was initially expecting, making my way through the revisions of Trigger Warning, book 4 in the Doctor Rowena Halley series. I’ve been slowed down by my work on books for my other pen name, my academic writing, the beginning of the new semester–it’s so pesky the way you’re expected to show up and teach classes regularly–and my own rather slow revision process.

One of my rounds of revisions is to read the entire book out loud. This is prior to making the actual audiobook, although it did give me the idea of making audiobooks. But it’s a pretty slow stage, even if, in my opinion, an essential one, especially if I’m trying to preserve my already-strained voice–again, that pesky teaching!

Listen to Books in 2020

Speaking of audio, you can get free samples of my books and many others in the Listen to Books in 2020 giveaway on Bookfunnel.

However, I do expect to have e-ARCs of Trigger Warning ready sometime this spring, and of course, you will be the first to know! Meanwhile, here’s a quick excerpt:

3

I got up from the table and, with all eyes focused on me, made my way past the woman from food service, who was staring ahead impassively like she was a hair’s breadth away from snapping and calling all these assholes on their pretentious bullshit, and Tanika Scott, who gave me a smile that was probably supposed to be encouraging but came out as stricken, and left the basement. Even though I tried to close it soundlessly, the door slammed behind me. Good thing I wasn’t being disruptive by texting silently.

I checked my phone as soon as I was out the door. Three more texts had come from Dima while I’d been sitting there getting lectured on sensitivity and consideration. I figured this was as good a reason as any to go all the way outside and get out of the oppressive basement for a while, so I did.

By the time I got out onto the sidewalk, a fourth text had come from Dima. A shell fragment had lightly grazed his shoulder, he said, but it was absolutely nothing to worry about. He’d been bandaged up and pumped full of antibiotics, and was already back out on the front lines. Best of all, it was his left shoulder.

Now I’m balanced, he wrote. A wound on my left shoulder to counterbalance the one to my right hand.

I don’t think that’s a good kind of balance, I replied. While covering the battle for the Donetsk Airport in December, Dima had gotten three fingers on his right hand snapped by Ukrainian forces who thought he was a separatist, not a journalist. Luckily he’d convinced them of his journalistic bona fides before the torture had gone any further. He’d even gotten an interview with Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the paramilitary Right Sektor, out of the bargain, so he considered it all worth it. I was less sure.

No worries! he texted. Like I said, it’ll heal by the wedding. Meanwhile, not sure whether to stay here around Mariupol, go up to Donetsk city, or check out Stanitsa Luganskaya. There’s so much action I’m spoilt for choice!

How long have you been on the front? I texted back.

Oh, you know how it is.

Yes, I do. How long have you been on the front without a break?

You know I can’t go home.

I know. Dima’s home was Moscow, but he wasn’t welcome there anymore.

You can go to Kiev, I pointed out.

True. I was there just…well, I guess it was six months ago, at least. No, more. Before New Year’s. I came out here to greet the New Year with my comrades, and I guess I haven’t left since.

That’s eight months on the front! After another year already. You need to take a break. At least go to Kiev for a few days. Or maybe you could go somewhere else. Have you done anything about Israeli citizenship?

Dima’s maternal grandmother had been Jewish, so there was a chance that he might qualify for Israeli citizenship. It was something he’d talked about on and off for years, but never actually done anything about. Dima might write blistering diatribes against the corruption poisoning the Russian Federation, but the homemade tattoo over his heart that read “Russians Don’t Surrender” was the real expression of his one true faith. I suspected that the only way to get him to renounce his Russian citizenship would be to pry it from his cold, dead fingers.

Not yet, he texted back. Someone I know in Kiev said he’d look into it for me, but I haven’t heard anything about it yet.

I ground my teeth a little. What about American citizenship? I texted. You could probably qualify for political asylum.

Still trying to get your stars and stripes on me, Inna? ))))) Actually, no fooling, I did ask about that the last time I was in Kiev. They told me officially maybe, but they told me unofficially I’d need to do something like marry a native-born American citizen to be sure.

I stared at the phone for a long time. Was it the heat of an August morning in Georgia making me feel sick, or was it a rush of crazy emotion at those words? I wanted to laugh, cry, vomit, kiss someone, and punch someone in the face all at once.

You know that would be easy enough to organize, I texted back.

Really? Who’d you have in mind for the bride? ))))) Kim Kardashian? ))))))

Is that who you want? I meant to add some smiley faces to help keep the tone light and joking, but my hands were clumsy on the phone, and I accidentally sent the text instead.

No thanks. Armenians are nice to look at, but I’ve never wanted to marry one )))) I’m afraid there’s only one American woman I’ve ever considered worth a second glance, Inna, and that’s you.

Why was my heart beating so fast? I must have gone soft after a few years up North, and now I was getting heatstroke from a little warmth and sunlight. It wasn’t even that hot yet.

This might not be the best moment, and I don’t…I erased that text, started another one, erased that one, tried again, erased that one too, and went back to my original words. This might not be the best moment to say this, and I don’t want you to feel, I don’t know, awkward or obliged, but you know that if you ever need an American bride in order to get an American passport, that can be arranged.

There was an excruciating eternity of waiting before Dima’s next text came through.

Are you offering? ))))

Of course, if that’s what you need.

There was another excruciating eternity of waiting.

Oh, Innochka. My little Decembrist’s wife. Don’t waste yourself on me, Innochka, my silly little girl. Aren’t you still with that American? What’s his name?

Alex. Yes. But we’re not married. We’re not even engaged. It’s just a…thing.

Does he know that?

I don’t know.

Is he a good man?

Yes.

Better than me?

Different.

That means he’s better. And I hope he is. Because I want you to marry him.

Who are you, my father? Do you also have a dowry you’re prepared to offer along with my hand and heart to the first suitable suitor?

))))) Still as witty as ever, Inna )))) But no fooling, Innochka, if he’s a good man, you should marry him. Didn’t you just turn thirty-five? You’re not getting any younger, and old age is not a pleasure, especially when you’re alone.

And what about you?

Let me take care of myself, Inna.

You don’t seem capable of taking care of yourself. You just got hit by a shell!

A shell fragment. If it had been a direct hit, I’d be smeared from here to Rostov ))))

You know what I mean! You say you can take care of yourself, but you’re not doing a very good job of it. For the love of Christ, Dima, go see a surgeon about this wound. And take at least a little break from the front. Go to Kiev, go to Lvov, go to wherever the hell you want, just get out of the Donbass for a while. At least until your shoulder heals.

I obey, Comrade General!!!! )))))

Naughty boy!

You know it ))))) Wait: aren’t you supposed to be at work? Some kind of training?

They kicked me out for texting.

They kicked you out for texting?!??! What is this, a strict regime of freedom deprivation? Are they going to send you to do corrective labor next?!?

So it seems. But with a paycheck.

A paycheck—that’s good. Get back in there and earn it!

I obey, Comrade General!

Akh, Inna, what am I going to do with you? ))))) Look, I have to go. My phone’s about to die. Try not to get into trouble, okay?

I’ll promise if you will, I wrote. But there was no reply.

***

I hope you enjoyed it! And here are a few more giveaways:

Foreign Exchange Cover Small

Did that excerpt want to make you find out more about Dima? You can read a bit about the backstory between him and Rowena in Foreign Exchange. Grab it and many other free suspense stories in the Short Story Suspense Promo.

International Mysteries and Thrillers

Want to read about more international women and men of mystery? Check out the International Mysteries & Thrillers giveaway.

A Thrilling Experience

And the Thrilling Experience thriller and suspense giveaway is still going strong!

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.

 

 

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.