Saturday, December 29, 2007

2008 Is Right Around the Corner!

What goals do you have for 2008? What challenges are waiting for you?

To recap, let's just say that 2007 was a whirlwind year; a great year me. My first novel was published by the first publisher I contacted and it's been a perfect match. I worked harder on my novel than I ever worked at anything before in my life. Made some mistakes, tried several new ventures, learned a few lessons, made lots great new friends, and some dreams came true.

At this time a year ago, I was finalizing the edits on Silenced Cry with my editor while starting work on the second book. I developed my website (a very intimidating experience), had a blast creating my book trailer, and outlined my marketing plan. But the truth of the matter is that I had no expectations as far a sales or promotions. I was at a point where I didn't know I didn't know ... but now I do.

Thankfully 2008 promises to bring more of the same. I submitted the second book in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series to my publisher on December 18 and have started work on book three. If accepted, the entire process will begin again starting with the editing the second book which will take some time. My photographer friend is brainstorming ideas for the cover and the graphic designer is standing by. My website will need to be updated with the new book information, and I'll need to develop a new book trailer and will have to evaluate and tweak my marketing tactics. I look forward to more book signings, a conference or two, maybe another virtual book tour, adding more friends to my list, and hopefully getting a few more interviews and reviews.

So what's the short list of things I learned in 2007? That ...

1. family still comes first.

2. writing is 5% passion and 95% hard work.

3. anything is achievable if I put my mind to it.

4. some days I'll work like a dog and get nowhere and that's okay as long as I walk away having learned something from the experience.

5. some days, I'll just get lucky and that's okay too.

6. success is up to me.

7. what works for someone else won't necessarily work for me--so dare to try something new.

8. reciprocate, reciprocate, reciprocate.

9. timing is everything especially when there's a deadline involved.

10. it's okay to cry.

11. I should choose my battles carefully.

12. many will pat me on the back, but a true friend will be honest.

13. there's nothing wrong with standing up for myself.

14. I am less experienced than most and more than others, but we all have one thing in common. We had to start somewhere.

15. I will never stop learning.

16. not everyone is who they say they are.

17. it's good to pay it forward.

18. I should always listen to my heart. Unlike my brain, it doesn't second guess itself.

19. if the green-eye monsters come out of hiding, I must be doing something right. Skip to number 22.

20. e-mails and forums are addictive.

21. the relationships I nurture today will become life-long gems.

22. Smile. It drives people crazy.

23. the real work starts AFTER I typed "The End."

24. I need to remain true to myself.

24. I need to remember to breathe!

As great as 2007 was, I'm ready for 2008. How about you?

Happy New Year Everyone!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

I finally had a chance to take a moment to update my website today with the latest reviews. I also added a new link for those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of SILENCED CRY, but unable to make it to one of my book signings (see below).

If you have a crime mystery lover on your Christmas list, please consider ordering an autographed copy of SILENCED CRY. For more details, visit

Books are always a great present option regardless of the occasion. :)

Upcoming book signings:

I have three book signings of my debut crime mystery, SILENCED CRY coming up this month. If any of you plan to be in the Muncie area on November 30 and/or December 1, I hope you’ll have a chance to stop by.

November 30 & December 1, 2007
6 – 9 PM
Authors Showcase sponsored by the Midwest Writers Workshop in conjunction with the “Enchanted Luminaria Walk” at the Minnetrista Cultural Center in Muncie . If you need a map, please go to the Minnetrista web site: Click on “Site Map” then click on “Directions.”

Date/Time to be announced)
BSU Barnes & Noble
The Arts and Journalism Building
McKinley Avenue
Metered parking available between the A J Building and Teachers College

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I wrote this in response to a challenge posted in Gathers by my good friend, Aaron Lazar to write a conversation between his character Gus LeGarde of the Gus LeGarde series and someone else.

A Chance Meeting
by Marta Stephens
copyright 2007 all rights reserved

The rolling two-lane road spread out before me in quiet solitude as it had every day for the past several years. Behind me was my work day—students with questions, forgotten assignments, and more excuses than answers. To my right, the late October sun flickered, emitting its final golden rays over a passing rutted field. I glanced into the rear view mirror; the city was now nothing more than a distance glow against an indigo sky.

I knew home was minutes away when I drove over the crest on the road. I could almost hear Max barking his exuberant greeting the minute he’d hear my car turn into the driveway. I yearned for the smell of that pot roast and apple pie Mrs. Pierce had promised to prepare for my evening meal. As I made my way around the next bend in the road, my headlights swept over a black jeep parked on the shoulder of the road to my right. Its lights were flashing and steam rolled out from under the hood. I thought for a moment, but no one from these parts drove anything like it. I immediately became suspicious wondering who would drive through this isolated section of back road that was miles away from anything.

My stomach grumbled in protest at the thought of delaying a taste of Mrs. Pierce’s cooking. But guilt set in. How often had I worried about Frederica’s car breaking down along an isolated country road such as this one? Would anyone stop to help her? The predicted drop in the temperature had arrived so I did what I hoped any stranger would do for my child. I parked behind the jeep, grabbed my flashlight, and got out of my old Volvo sedan.

“What seems to be the problem?” A quick glance at the license plate told me this driver was a long way from home.

A pleasant enough looking young man stepped out from under the hood. Except for the short blond hair, he could have been me when I was in my thirties. He was casually dressed in jeans, a dark mock turtle neck shirt, light colored jacket, and not a spot of grease on him that I could see.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Are you from around here?”

I studied him for a second or two, uncertain if I trusted him enough to say. He must have read my mind though and stretched out his hand.

“Sam Harper.” As soon as we shook, he unzipped his jacket and reached into his breast pocket.

“I’m a detective from Chandler, Massachusetts.”

The badge in his hand was as real as the Magnum I noticed hugging his side. “Gus LeGarde,” I said. “Homicide?”

“Where’s the nearest tow service?”

“About fifteen miles back that way, but it won’t do you any good at this hour on a Friday night. Where’re you headed?”

“Silver Lake. Am I anywhere near it?”

“It’s not more than a forty minute drive from here.” I was immediately filled with curiosity about him; why would a homicide officer from Massachusetts be interested in going to the quiet community of Silver Lake? My brother-in-law, Siegfried, immediately came to mind and how quickly people had judged him since his accident at such a tender young age. It seemed easier to judge than to slip into another man’s shoes. Against my better judgment, I allowed my inquisitive nature to take over. “A hot meal is just down the road if you’re interested.”

He glanced at his watch then back toward his jeep. The offer seemed to make him nervous. Again I questioned my sanity. I would have hesitated to take the offer too, but we both knew he had no other alternative.

“Look,” I said, “I live a quarter mile down the road and if I know my housekeeper, there’s more than enough food for both of us. All we have around here are small privately owned shops. I guarantee they’re all closed by now. You’re not going to get anything done tonight.”


By the time Sam and I arrived at the farm, he seemed more at ease knowing that I was a harmless music professor. He told me about his parents; his hero father, the former city detective, and his late mother, the high school music teacher. We shared our love for music and although I prefer Chopin, to Sam’s BB King, in theory we had more in common than I imagined possible between two strangers.

After enjoying the delicious pot roast Mrs. Pierce cooked with the end of the season vegetables from our garden, Sam grabbed his beer and followed me into the great room in the foyer.
I settled into my leather recliner leaving my late wife’s over-stuffed chair across from the woodstove for my guest. To my surprise, Max immediately took to Sam and followed him in on his heels.

“Feels good in here,” Sam took a drink and gazed into the warm glow of the fire. “This is a big home. Do you have a family?”

“My wife’s passed away several years ago – we have one daughter; married.” I tried not to roll my eyes. Except for the joy of having a beautiful child, the union was one that should have been dissolved years ago. Instead, I focused on the positive. “Have a two-year-old grandson, Johnny. He’s my buddy, chubby cheeks and all. What about you?”

Sam swallowed hard; his eyes drifted back to the blue and orange flames dancing along the logs. “I’m working on it.”

“Someone special, I take it?”


His subsequent silence made it clear his love life was none of my business so I quickly changed the subject. We talked about the house and the gardens and Genesee Valley. I told him of my travels to France, Germany, and Austria which shifted our conversation back to our love of music.

I noticed Max hadn’t left Sam alone all evening. He was at his feet during dinner and now my Husky-Wire-Haired Dachshund mutt rested his head on Sam’s lap and shot guilty glances between the two of us. Sam scratched him behind the ear and smiled. “You and this farm remind me of home.”

“You’re welcome to stay the night if you want. Heaven knows I have the room. I’ll call the tow truck in the morning for you. You could rent a car if you want. Old Sam down at the garage could probably have your car fixed by the time you get back from Silver Lake.”

“Another Sam, huh? Must be good at what he does,” he said with a tease in his voice. “Thanks. I’d appreciate that.”

I was beginning to enjoy young Mr. Harper’s company, but something about him continued to tug at the back of my mind.

“You’re a long way from home. If you don’t mind me asking, what’s in Silver Lake?”

“A witness.” Sam paused as if measuring his words. “I’m working a cold case.”

“A murder in Silver Lake?”

“No, in Chandler. I followed a lead to the only living witness in a twenty-year old murder.”

“I see. I can’t imagine it’s easy piecing old evidence together.”

“Sometimes we get lucky.”

“Like finding a witness?”

He nodded.

For a moment, the only sound in the room was the snap and crackling of the fire. Sam took another drink then scratched at the label on the bottle. I watch the way he continued to stare at the flames dance across the log in the stove. He was far more intense for a man his age than I had seen in a while, and thus I sense this was more than a case to him.

“This murder case – it’s personal, isn’t it?”

He slowly turned to face me. I felt as if I had breached hollow ground.

He reached into his wallet and produced a small faded picture of a beautiful blond little girl.

“The murder of an innocent child always is.”
The End
Setting The Record Straight

As I imagine most authors do, I routinely Google my name to see if any new reviews of SILENCED CRY have been posted that I am not aware of. A few weeks ago, a link to the November 2007, Southern Review of Books blog mentioning my name in an articled titled: “Authors seeking publicity turn to virtual blog tours for attention” written by Noel Griese. It naturally caught my attention. The article criticized authors who conduct virtual book tours by stating: “While best-selling authors tend to regard book tours as passé and a waste of time, others less successful, desperate for attention, are turning to virtual tours of blogs as a less expensive alternative.” He made examples of two recent virtual book tours; mine and that of a fellow author friend, Marilyn Meredith. Marilyn was on of several who graciously agreed to sponsor and interview me as part of my August tour. I chose to ignore Griese’s comments and took it for what it was, his opinion.

This morning, I received a Google Alert that led me to Frank Creed’s post on referencing Mr. Greise’s comment. This time I was more than curious. After reading Creed’s blog, I wrote the following comment, but as yet, more than eight hours later, it has not yet been approved by the blog’s author.

My comment:
Since neither Mr. Griese of “The Southern Review of Books” nor Frank Creed contacted me for information, readers should know that the comments made in their blogs relative to my virtual book tour were not based on facts, but assumptions made about this author and the goals for her August virtual book tour.

This author doesn’t measure success by sales alone. Had they asked, I would have gladly told them my purpose in conducting the August virtual book tour was not increased sales, but to reach a diverse target audience and create name recognition for myself and my novel, SILENCED CRY (released on April 23, 2007 by BeWrite Books, UK). Griese didn’t measure the response from readers, the increased traffic to my website, or list a summary of the reviews; all these things would have given his readers an opportunity to reach their own conclusions, but they were conveniently omitted from his “study.” Had he asked, I could have also informed him of the number of reviewers who contacted me and asked to review the book, the number of new interviews the tour generated, or the number of offers I received to be a guest writer on other sites. Further, a true case study of book tour vs. sales would have also included an interview with my publisher who would have been glad to inform Mr. Griese that sales went up in August and September, not only as a result of the exposure the book received via the tour, but due to all the other marketing efforts I had been involved with over the span of several months.

For the record, SILENCED CRY has been internationally reviewed and is available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa, and Australia. Since I launched my website on March 12 of this year, it has received over 25,000 hits from visitors in 77 countries. To post an opinion based solely on the US Amazon ratings over 4-8 weeks is a meager attempt to manipulate the information to fit a one-sided view.

What is truly unfortunate about these articles is that aside from being slanted, they discourage new authors to use virtual book tours as a networking tool. News flash, call it what you want, but every time an author posts an article or a commentary anywhere on the web, they are in essence promoting their writing and books. This is no different than what an author does when conducting a virtual book tour.

Sales are the results of continued, consistent marketing efforts and to imply that a book tour is akin to sending out a resume on the net followed by the comment, “ah, my résumé (or in this case, book tour) has reached millions of people, now I can sit back and reap the benefits.” is to accuse authors of being naive and uninformed individuals who think that a single marketing strategy will generate long-term sales. This is the biggest fallacy I’ve read thus far.

One final note, after quoting Griese, Creed wrote: “COMMENTS on story above:” implying that I wrote the comment to Griese’s article. I didn’t – it was written by Griese’s other targeted author, Marilyn Meredith. This is one more example of another misleading bit of information written to fit the author’s agenda.

Now, I am curious to know how Mr. Griese found me in the first place if not through my virtual book tour which, of course, makes my point. It caught his attention.

Keep in mind that once a comment or article is posted on the web, it will be available to readers for years, long after a site is shut down. Don’t believe me? Google my name or better yet, Google your own. And that Amazon rating? It has been dropping steadily over the past several weeks. Yesterday it had dropped to around 145,000, I had a rating of 88,000 at B&N. Today they're both up a bit, but I can't stress over this. I write for my readers, and what they have to say about my work. Success to me is knowing that I've touched someone's life and that my writing has given someone pleasure.

If you are so inclined, please read the latest review I received this week by Aaron Lazar on this blog. All other reviews are available on my website, To read all my virtual book tour articles, please visit the August archives on this blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Silenced Cry
by Marta Stephens
Review by Aaron Paul Lazar
Author of the
LeGarde Mystery Series

Heads up, mystery lovers. There's a new crime writer in town, and her name is Marta Stephens.
Stephens' debut novel, Silenced Cry, is supremely addictive, propelling readers into the action from page one and corkscrewing through a wild ride of corruption, abuse, and villainy.
When Detective Sam Harper's partner, Frank Gillies, gets a peculiar tip about a drug-related suspect holed up in a local bar, they hurry to apprehend him. The bust goes terribly wrong, and in one heart-pounding moment awash with bizarre twists, the suspect and Gillies end up dead in a rain-soaked alley.

Riddled with guilt and facing an increasing number of unanswered questions about Gillies' past, Sam tries to move forward, but becomes exasperated when he's placed with a new partner who hails from a corrupt precinct. In spite of their rocky start, Harper and Mann learn to tolerate each other. Their first case calls them to a construction site to investigate remains found in a sealed up wall. Horrified, they discover the remains belong to that of a baby girl - killed when she was only days old.

The cold case consumes Harper, who digs into the past with persistence and unparalleled drive. Strange connections with his and Gillies' past pop up. Walt Harper, Sam's father and an ex-cop familiar with the suspects, grows distant and secretive.

What is Walt hiding from his son? And could it possibly relate to Sam's partner's death? The answers lie embedded in a complex maze that will shock and satisfy the most assiduous crime mystery buff.

Stephens writes with a consummate skill. She's serious about her craft, and it shows. Tight suspense, perfectly chosen verbs, natural and innovative beats, and authentic dialog propel this work to a level far beyond those works commonly found on the best sellers list. Stephens' writing soars with focused intensity and her characters are real - they hurt, they fall in love, they suffer angst and explode with anger.

Stephen's second book in the Sam Harper series promises thrills and intrigue matched only by Silenced Cry. This reviewer will be first in line for his much-anticipated copy.

Aaron Paul Lazar resides in Upstate New York with his wife, three daughters, two grandsons, mother-in-law, dog, and four cats. After writing in the early morning hours, he works as an electrophotographic engineer at Kodak, in Rochester, New York. Additional passions include vegetable, fruit, and flower gardening; preparing large family feasts; photographing his family, gardens, and the breathtakingly beautiful Genesee Valley; cross-country skiing across the rolling hills; playing a distinctly amateur level of piano, and spending "time" with the French Impressionists whenever possible. Although he adored raising his three delightful daughters, Mr. Lazar finds grandfathering his "two little buddies" to be one of the finest experiences of his life.

Double Fortéis the founding book of the LeGarde Mystery series and was released in November, 2004. Upstaged followed in October, 2005. His third, Tremolo: cry of the loon, was released via Twilight Times Books in November 2007. Mr. Lazar is currently working on his twelfth book, For Keeps. The first book of his paranormal mystery series, Moore Mysteries, will be released in early 2008, followed closely by Mazurka, the next book in the LeGarde mystery series. He is a regular columnist for FMAM (Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine), and has been published in Great Mystery and Suspense magazine and the Absolute Write Newsletter. Contact him at:, visit his blog at, or stop by his websites at

Monday, October 22, 2007

Interview on a UK Blog Conversations With POD - 10/21/07

SILENCED CRY: A Sam Harper Crime Mysteryby Marta Stephens Crime/Mystery GenreBeWrite Books (UK)ISBN 978-1-905202-72-0 US $15.50, UK GBP 7.99, Canada 18.50

What is your book about?
Homicide detective Sam Harper is the new officer on the beat; SILENCED CRY is his calling card. Torn between guilt and suspicion, Harper tries to make sense of the events that led to his partner’s murder during a routine surveillance of a drug supplier. It quickly becomes evident that his late partner, Frank Gillies, intentionally muddied the facts. Key points don’t add up and make Harper believe Gillies is involved in illegal activities. When questions surrounding his partner’s death go unanswered, Harper suspects a cover up.

Determined to find Gillies’ killer, Harper plunges back into his work. He and his a new partner, Dave Mann are called to their first case at the Harbor View Apartments, a building marked for demolition where workers discover the skeletal remains of an infant entombed in one of the walls. The investigation into the infant’s murder opens the floodgates of questions. When the suspects in the Baby Doe case link back to Gillies, the evidence mounds as quickly as the bodies in the morgue, and the truth leads Harper to the person he least suspects.

Why did you write the book?
I’ve loved mysteries since I was a little girl; the more complicated, the better. My passion began in grade school with ghost stories and eventually led to Agatha Christie and other greats like Alfred Hitchcock. Since I am the whole of my life experiences, my writing has also been influenced by the classic noir films I’ve enjoyed over the years. I wanted to touch upon the emotions that millions of people around the could relate to: grief, anger, joy, fears, resentment, worry, suspicion, etc., and trigger those emotions in my readers through the characters in my books.

How does your book differ from others that are similar?
The consistent comment in all my reviews is the complexity of the plot. Armchair Review wrote: “If you are looking for a novel ripe with twists and turns and intricate interweaving of plots ...” Chrystal Reviews (NY) wrote: “She knows how to spin a complex, credible, action-packed and gripping story with plot, subplot and more subplot. Every page crackles with intrigue, questions, and clues.” Euro-Reviews wrote: “This reviewer has read mysteries since childhood, and even I was hard-pressed to guess the villainous identities, and found it impossible to predict the turns this roller-coaster story would take.”

SILENCED CRY introduced the young Homicide Detective Sam Harper, but unlike other heroes of detective mysteries, Harper is far from perfect. In the beginning, he is content to let his partner call the shots. After his partner, Frank Gillies, is killed in the line of duty, it quickly becomes evident that Gillies intentionally muddied the facts in their case. Key points don’t add up raising suspicions of Gillies’ involvement in illegal activities. When questions surrounding his partner’s death go unanswered, Harper suspects a cover up. The more he digs, the closer the crime leads to his doorsteps. The consistent theme is betrayal and how each character, including Harper deals with it.

Where did you get your inspiration from?
I wanted to create a different type of police drama. The storyline for SILENCED CRY developed over time, but I wanted to show the human side of the detective as well as his development from being a complacent individual to a determined, seasoned officer.

Why did you choose POD?
I know the hurdles new authors face when they try to place their first novel with an agent and large publishing firm. I believed in my story and felt that given the chance, it would prove to be successful. Going with a print on demand is not necessarily the easy way out as some may think. It is not self-publishing. My publisher has stringent guidelines and an editorial team so I consider myself fortunate to have been published. However, because it is a small press, there’s a sense of family and one-on-one communication—working as a team, and to me this is critical.

How did you market your book?
I belong to numerous writing organizations and on-line author groups and have promoted the book through intense internet networking. I launched my website weeks before SILENCED CRY was released and began to build a “buzz” for the book through direct mailings as well as blogs. My August virtual book tour attracted new interest from readers and critics alike. Now in these last two months of 2007, I’m focusing on several promotional events locally.

What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of this method?
The advantage of internet promotion is that it gives the author immediate access to readers throughout the world. The disadvantage is not knowing if you have reached your focus target. The key to internet marketing is consistency. Results won’t happen over night, but it will happen if the author takes advantages of networking opportunities. Join writing groups, post announcements and articles in a variety of blogs and forums; develop relationships, encourage and help other authors; and always reciprocate the kindness.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
The misconceptions about POD. Most people don’t understand it and equate it to self-publishing. Another challenge has been getting the book into independent and chain bookstores. However, with the distribution centers in the US and the UK, any bookstore, large or small can order it. The flip side of this relates to the previous question—POD also sells books through a multitude of on-line bookstores making it available world wide giving the reader a wide range of options.

What would you say to others considering POD?
I believe it’s definitely something for a first-time author to consider. PODs not only help authors get their foot in the door, but it allows them to learn about the publishing world and gain valuable experience and confidence before moving on.

Where can I get a copy of your book?
SILENCED CRY, BeWrite Books (UK) publisher; paperback US $15.50, UK GBP 7.99, Canada 18.50; ISBN 978-1-905202-72-0; is available on-line from all Amazon sites, B&N, BAM, your local bookstore, or directly from BeWrite Books: ttp:// view a more extensive list of other locations, please visit:

All the reviews and the book excerpt are available at

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nominations for Spinetingler Awards

I received word this week that my novel, SILENCED CRY, (April 2007) published by BeWrite Books is eligible for nomination into the “Best Novel: New Voice” category and the “Best Cover Art” for Sandra Ruttan's "Spinetingler Award."

Your nomination of SILENCED CRY in these two categories would be much appreciated. Please e-mail your nominations to for this and other works published between October 1, 2006 and September 30, 2007.

IMPORTANT: See Rules below before you send in your votes.

Categories are:

Special Services to the Industry:
Each person may make up to five nominations in this category, for tireless contributions to ezines, writing reviews, running discussion lists or forums. Tell us who you nominate and give us a short summary of why or where they routinely contribute, so that we can acknowledge them.

Best Novel: New Voice
Authors with 1-3 published works in total.** Each person can nominate up to five authors in this categoryPlease include the author’s name and title of book.

Best Novel: Rising Star
Authors with 4-8 published works in total.** Each person can nominate up to five authors in this categoryPlease include the author’s name and title of book.

Best Novel: Legend
Authors with 9 or more books published*** Each person can nominate up to five authors in this categoryPlease include the author’s name and title of book.

Best Cover Art
Tell us what covers do it for you.
** Each person can nominate up to five titles in this category. Please include the author’s name and title of book, and publisher or countryof origin. Yes, the books usually have different covers in the US and UK …
SILENCED CRY has the same cover in both the domestic and foreign markets.

Best Publisher
It’s time to take note of the publishers who are doing things right. After all, authors wouldn’t be here without the publishers. If you’re a reader whose had wonderful experiences, an author with nothing but good things to say, tell us who you nominate and why. Maybe they have a wonderful website that’s easy to navigate. Maybe they always send your favorites on tour to your area. Maybe they just publish a lot of books you love. It doesn’t matter why, we just want to hear about the good ones.
** Each person can nominate a maximum of three publishers in this category

Best Editor
You don’t need to know the editor’s name. All we need to know is the author, book title and publisher’s name. We’ll find out who the editor is. With so many complaints about poor editing and typos in books we thought it was time to take note of the hard-working editors who are getting things right.
** Each person can nominate a maximum of three editors in this category

Best Short Story on the Web
** Each person can nominate five stories in this category. Please include the writer’s name, title of the story and source. Stories must be published in a recognized ezine, such as Shots, Mouth Full ofBullets, Pulp Pusher, Demolition, etc. Stories published by the authors on their own blogs or websites will not be considered – they must pass through an editorial selection process.

The Rules
1. Only one e-mail per person will be considered. Think your nominationsthrough carefully before sending them. We reserve the right to investigatethe source of any e-mails received. If we have any reason to believe e-mailsare suspect, that an individual has assumed false identities and multiplee-mail addresses, we reserve the right to eliminate those e-mails fromconsideration.

2. Nominations should be made for books published in their original formatonly. Those who start in hardcover get nominated in hardcover. Authors don’tget a second kick at the can when they come out in mmpb. Sorry.

3. *Concerning the “Legends” category, authors with less than 9 publishedtitles may be moved to this category, at our discretion. For example, Ibelieve Dan Brown has only four or five published titles. However, his salesrecord justifies moving him to the “Legends” category. Authors with majorpublishing deals may be moved. We separated the categories in three sectionsin an attempt to make sure newer authors stood a chance of receiving theattention they deserve.

4. We may not be able to consider nominated works if they are not availablein Canada . In order to be able to consider the nominated works in the secondphase of judging, we need to be able to read them. Books that are out ofprint or that we can’t order or that are not received in time may be removedfrom consideration.

5. Sandra Ruttan’s debut novel will not be considered for the New Voiceaward. You can nominate it… but it won’t be considered for the list.A note about location of publication.If you’re in the UK , nominate based on what was released in the UK . If you’re in the US , nominate based on what was released in the US . This is not a perfect system, but in Canada , we tend to get UK authors based on their UKrelease schedule, and US authors based on their US release schedule. We arean international ezine. Just go local to you, and we’ll sort it out from there as best we can. A note for publishers. Worried your titles might be overlooked? Feel free to contact me with a listof eligible titles in each category. Please do so by October 15, 2007. Nominations will close on November 15, 2007, and the short list of nominees will be posted early December. At that time, people will be invited to voteagain, selecting their favorite in each category. Public vote will be weighed against the rankings of the editors to determine the winners in eachcategory.This is the first time this site is doing these awards, and they expect there to be somekinks to sort out. They’ll continue to update you throughout the process. Please feel free to spread the word about these awards on lists, forums andplaces where it would be considered appropriate.

Direct link to this post:

Monday, October 01, 2007

Silence Cry Won Cover of The Month

I received word this morning that my debut crime mystery, Silenced Cry won August Cover of The Month. I haven’t yet heard who won a free copy of it, but will announce it here as soon as I do.

You may view the page at


Homicide detective Sam Harper is the new officer on the beat; Silenced Cry is his calling card. Torn between guilt and suspicion, Harper tries to make sense of the events that led to his partner’s murder during a routine surveillance of a drug supplier. It quickly becomes evident that his late partner, Frank Gillies, intentionally muddied the facts. Key points don’t add up and make Harper believe Gillies is involved in illegal activities. When questions surrounding his partner’s death go unanswered, Harper suspects a cover up.

Determined to find Gillies’ killer, Harper plunges back into his work. He and his a new partner, Dave Mann are called to their first case at the Harbor View Apartments, a building marked for demolition, where workers discover the skeletal remains of an infant entombed in one of the walls. The investigation into the infant’s murder opens the floodgates of questions. When the suspects in the Baby Doe case link back to Gillies, the evidence mounds as quickly as the bodies in the morgue, and the truth leads Harper to the person he least suspects.

Anyone interested in reading an excerpt of Silenced Cry will find it available on my site, Those wishing to buy a copy may link to Amazon from my site as well.

Silenced Cry is available from most online and traditional book stores world wide. $15.50 ISBN 978-1-905202-72-0.

Thanks to all who voted!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Links of interest

Mouth Full of Bullets has graciously announced Silenced Cry on page five of their announcement pages, but the site is full of other great information for those interested in mysteries. Check it out!

Looking for a place to hang your writer's hat? Bibliophilia has a little bit of everything. A place where novice and veterans meet for informative chats and constructive critiques and reviews. Stop by for a visit and do let them know you found the link here!

And don't forget to vote for Silenced Cry--Book Cover of the Month!!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Vote NOW for a chance to win a copy of SILENCED CRY!

The voting page for AUGUST Book Cover of the Month is up and the cover of my crime mystery, SILENCED CRY is awaiting your vote.

Voting will run through SEPTEMBER 30.

Every voter will be entered in a drawing for the winning title. Voting is simple, and the instructions are on the voting page at:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Chance To Win A Copy of SILENCED CRY.

Erin Aislinn's website featured the SILENCED CRY book cover during the last week in August. Now's your chance to win a copy of SILENCED CRY. Go to and vote!

Voting for the Best of AUGUST will run from SEPTEMBER 3-30, so I invite you to please take a moment to visit the site, and vote for the SILENCED CRY book cover. Voters will be automatically entered for a chance to win a copy of my book.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Virtual Book Tour: Promoting Silenced Cry
... and how I did it

After I announced the start of my virtual book tour on July 31, I received numerous e-mails a day from fellow authors who wanted to know how I had organized the tour.

First let me emphasize that the following is based purely on my experience. It is not intended as the perfect model, but simply a list of things that worked for me this time around. Keep in mind that there are several sites available that offer to help authors schedule virtual tours for a fee. However, I found that with a few basic communication skills, a little time, and some careful planning, it is not only doable, it is an inexpensive and fun way to promote your book.

The key word is NETWORK and RELATIONSHIPS, but don’t wait until your book is published to begin building a communication network. I joined my first author forum several years before Silenced Cry was released in April 2007, by BeWrite Books (UK). I've build my network of friends and contacts through membership in about 16-18 sites. These sites represent approximately 15,431 members and potential readers. The number of readers increases when I add in the number of people who visit my website, my pages in Myspace, Gather, Squidoo, Amazon, and other such sites. Also not included in that figure are the friends and family on my mailing list.

Join diverse groups that provide different focuses such as some general author forums where anything having to do with writing can and is discussed. Other groups may have a membership with focused interest on your preferred genre, while yet others may have be places where members discuss marketing, agents, and publishing.

Several people have asked me how I find time to stay current with the various posts and keep up with my writing. Getting involved within those networks doesn't mean you have to devote hours a day to each one, but do make yourself known to others. Get involved in the conversations that are of interest to you and ones that you can contribute to. Think of how many people you know and come in contact with every day. Each member in these sites probably knows as many or possibly more people than you do. Get to know them. Pay attention to what is being discussed and follow the links they mentioned. You never know where they may lead you. If a certain link is not to your liking, go on to the next one.

Get Ready:
So, the day of your book launch has come and gone and now you feel it’s time to beef up your promotions. Great! Roll up your sleeves and prepare to work for several weeks on nothing but your virtual book tour.

Step 1:
I wrote a basic announcement and customized it to fit each site based on their criteria for self-promotion. Beware, there are author sites frown on self-promotion. Make the announcement short, sweet, and to the point. Mention that you are making plans for a virtual book tour (give the dates) and indicate that you would like to know if anyone would be willing to sponsor you on their website or blog. Don’t be afraid to ask. Virtual book tours are a win/win situation—more on this in a minute.

Step 2:
Within hours of my announcement I began to receive e-mails from some of my contacts with an “I’d love to sponsor you—please send...”

Remember, everything about the tour is entirely your responsibility.
1. Study the sites of those who have invited you to be a guest writer. Read what others have posted to those sites. What can you write about yourself, your book, your characters, etc., that will fit the site’s format?

2. Don’t make the mistake of accepting the offer to post if the site doesn’t fit your schedule. I turned one offer down because they wanted a book review. I was reading a book at the time, but I wasn’t going to have time to finish it and write a review in time for my tour.

3. Get a calendar and write down the names of your contacts and the blog’s name and URL.
Don’t over commit. If you can’t write more than four or five articles, don’t promise to do seven or eight. It’s better to add events to your tour than to commit and not follow through.

4. I found it helpful to create an e-mail folder titled Virtual Book Tour. I moved all my e-mails (received and sent) into that folder so I could find certain e-mails easily. I also printed the final e-mails confirming the date/time of the event and placed them in a manila folder in event date order.

5. Create a folder in your favorites and save the links to each website and/or blog that is sponsoring you so you can find the links quickly.

6. Try to do a variety of events. Ask if you can write an article for some of the blogs, ask others if they would like to interview you. Check to see if a group has a chat room and would be willing to schedule an hour chat with you and their members. Check into other media opportunities such as radio and/or television. Be prepared to send a picture of your book cover or banner to some of the sites. Remember to include a few local blogs if they are available, such as a community or library blog.

7. Start writing. Type, type, type—breathe—type, type, type—breathe again! Vary the topics of your articles. Your sponsor will more than likely makes suggestions. They may want to know what inspired you to write. Others may want you to discuss specifics about your book. Take their lead, but if they leave the topic up to you, one idea source is to review some of your previous interview questions. Maybe there’s one that is particularly thought provoking that you would like to expand on.

8. When you e-mail your article to the website owner, be sure to remind him or her of your purpose, the name of your article, the agreed date to post the article and which blog to post it in if they have multiple blogs.

9. If your website has an events page, post the tour schedule and links. Join a site such as (mention my name if you join, please!). Book Tour is a super easy site to work with and it has a nice, clean look. It allows you to link to your website and book trailer (if you have one). There may be others, but this one has some other nice features I like such as allowing visitors to send reminders of the tour dates to their e-mails or websites.

10. A few days to a week before the tour, prepare another standard announcement to post on the various websites. This time, list the details of your tour and/or the links to the sites that lists your schedule.

11. Two-three days before each event, contact your sponsors and remind him or her to post your blog. This is also a good time to send out private e-mails to everyone listed in your address book to remind them of the tour. Be sure to ask them to post comments on your blogs and to forward your e-mail to a friend or two.

12. Check your posts for comments and type a response.

13. After each article has been published on the host site for the day, post it on your own website and/or blob. This way, your article will appear on the search engines via the host site as well as yours and your work will be available in one convenient place for visitors to read.

Step 3:
Measure your success in sales, exposure, and new opportunities. I won’t know until the tour is over exactly how my sales compared with previous months. I know I’ve sold more than a few books based on the number of people who have written to me. But sales aren’t the only measuring stick to success. This tour attracted the attention of critical reviewers, additional interview opportunities, and invitations to write for other sites. The tour kick-off was July 31 with a live interview on Internet Voices Radio. The following day, the hits on my website jumped by 44%. To listen to the interview visit,

Don’t be shy. You'll find that most authors or site owners will be more than happy to showcase you. It's a win/win situation. The site owner wins because you’re doing all the work; writing the articles and promoting their site. You win because you will be able to promote yourself and your book to a target audience that you might not have had access to prior to the tour.

Step 4:
Thank your sponsors and make sure you offer to reciprocate their kindness.

All the articles and interviews from my August 2007 Virtual Book Tour are available on this site. I look forward to your questions and/or comments!

Monday, August 20, 2007

When do I find time to write?
August 2007 Virtual Book Tour

That’s the question I’m most frequently asked.

First let me say that I work full time outside the home. I’m married with two children in college and my husband and I both care for our parents. We live in a large home in the historic section of town that has been a fantastic place to raise our children, has given us endless gardening pleasure, and is still a wonderful gathering place for family and friends—especially during the holidays.

I love to cook and have spoiled my family with homemade meals seven days a week from day one. This October will mark our 20th year in this house. The first 16 years I spent nearly every weeknight catching up with household chores, doing laundry, and helping the kids with homework. Countless weekends were spent painting and/or papering walls, stripping layers of paint from the hardwood, ripping out carpeting, sewing curtains, and dealing with the handymen that came to our rescue when something broke. I’ve spent untold hours scrubbing down surfaces and planting new flower beds. I’ve driven my children to ball game practices, dance rehearsals, school dances, and attended every science fair, play, and orchestra recital they were in from K-12.

And then ... I got bit by the writing bug. But life didn’t change right away. At first, I used to work writing into my schedule much like I would a hobby. I set it aside and picked it up as time permitted. But the more I learned, the more I enjoyed it. My writing time quickly moved up on my list of priorities. Now that I have one book published and the second book in the series in the works, writing has become my second job. Therefore I treat it as such.

My best advice is: Organize your time, prioritize the tasks, establish a schedule, and delegate, delegate, delegate. The first thing I had to admit to myself was that I couldn’t write and continue to do all the things that I had been accustomed to doing. Eventually I learned to say: “No.”

The day job is a must. It pays for my paper, ink cartridges, and the postage I use to mail out review copies of SILENCED CRY. It also helps pays for little things like the mortgage on this big old house and all the things that make it a home.

I can, however, take control of my time. Weekends are still errand days, but I don’t drag them out into an all day affair. I can get the downstairs picked up, swept, and dusted within an hour. I usually have several places to go as well, like the bank, the grocery story, and the dry cleaners. I get everything done in one run so I can free up my afternoon and write. The next day, I’ll clean the upstairs. As long as my kitchen and baths are clean, bed linens and towels are changed regularly, and the laundry is done. I’m happy.

Learn to delegate. Everyone in my family knows how to run the sweeper and my favorite small kitchen appliance is my crock-pot cook; better it cook all day than me. Our son is in charge of the trash detail and mows the lawn; my daughter helps in the kitchen. Dare I say it? She’s a better cook than I am.

So the question remains: When do I write? In the evenings I focus an average of 4-5 hours a night to writing, research, reading, and/or marketing and promotion. At the present time, I’m promoting of my debut novel, SILENCED CRY and working on the edits of my second book in the series.

Everyone is different. What has worked for me, may not work for someone else. Each person needs to find what method and schedule works best for them. The key to success in any venture, however, is dedication and consistency. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Prioritize your tasks and establish a schedule you can adhere to.

My house isn’t as spotless as it used to be and granted, the weeds in the flower beds have gotten a little out of hand this summer, but it’s still home, and I couldn’t ask for a more supportive family who lets me indulge in my passion.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Perfect Crime
August 2007 Virtual Book Tour
For other reader comments, please visit the August 15, 2007 post in

Have you ever thought of committing the perfect crime? You scheme and plan every detail from beginning to end. You know your victim. You have a motive and means. Keep to your routines—don’t draw any attention. And now you wait—patiently for the perfect window of opportunity. You strike when your victim least expects it, then you attack fast, clean, and leave without being noticed.

Except, murders are rarely planned, they’re seldom clean, and the killer always leaves something behind. A strand of hair, a careless fingerprint, a trace of saliva on a cigarette butt or the edge of a drinking glass is all it takes. One slip and you’re caught.

Regardless of how random the crime might seem, there is always a motive. It could be as immediate as an impulsive response to an argument or as obscured as a childhood experience. Once I decide who committed the crime in Silenced Cry, my challenge as an author was to understand the killer’s motive, his madness. The hardest part, of course, was making the killer invisible until the last possible moment.

My writing has been influenced as much by film as it has been by literature. One of my favorite past times, in fact, is to watch a suspense or thriller and try to guess who perpetrated the crime. I’m usually good at fingering the right person, but I hate to be right. There’s nothing better than to not see it coming. Sitting on the edge of my seat with one expectation and getting blown away by the truth is half the fun. Two movies that immediately come to mind are, High Crimes, and Presumed Innocent. Both films successfully divert the viewer’s attention from the killer. In both cases, the charges against the defendant are dismissed, and just when I thought the cases were solved and nothing else could possibly happen—it did.

In chapter one of my novel, a shot is fired and the first of several victims is killed. In chapter 10, Homicide is called to investigate a cold case. Workers find the skeletal remains of an infant entombed in a wall of an apartment building marked for demolition. Two murders, no connection, and still no motive or suspect. The killer’s only advantage in this case is time. The Baby Doe murder was committed years before DNA was admissible in a court of law. It was an era when all a killer had to do was to lurk in the shadows, watch his back for a while, and if need be, pay someone off to keep quiet.

The investigation heats up when Homicide Detective Sam Harper discovers a connection between the suspects in the Baby Doe case and his late partner’s murder. Evidence thrusts him ahead to unveil a host of crimes and a multitude of suspects. This modern day detective and his team of forensic scientists know all they need is that single hair, a sample of semen, or a trace of saliva to pin-point the guilty.

With the criminals safely behind bars, the cases appear to be solved until Harper’s attention is drawn to an otherwise ordinary event in the killer’s life. It’s an unlikely slip but to the trained eye it is as damning as a bloody fingerprint. A key turns, the lock flips open, and the truth flashes across Harper’s mind with the force of rippling white lightning. He discovers the trigger, what began the throng of crimes, each intended to conceal another. Yes, the killer committed the perfect crime and for nearly two decades his house of cards stood erect until a seasoned eye and DNA fingerprinting revealed far more than the killer’s identity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where In The World Did This Story Come From?
August 2007 Virtual Book Tour
For other reader comments, please visit the August 12, 2007 post in

Embarking on my first virtual book tour has taken time and a bit of work to come up with a fresh approach to many of the same questions I’ve been asked over the past several months. The best thing about a virtual book tour though is that I haven’t had to move from my desk. I must say that the process has been as enjoyable as it was enlightening.

I thought I knew my characters and the story line, but this has forced me to analyze my motivation to write Silenced Cry and the other three books in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series. One of the best questions I received was, “How much of yourself is in the book?” I didn’t dwell on the question at first, but surprisingly, it forced me to think more than I had anticipated.

Consider the plot and setting. Silenced Cry is a detective crime mystery that takes place in a fictitious city of Chandler, Massachusetts. I’ve never worked in law enforcement and although I’ve always wanted to visit Massachusetts, I haven’t yet had the pleasure. That’s probably why I chose it as a backdrop for the book. Ah! I’ve influence the setting. My sister claims that Homicide Detective Sam Harper has my dry sense of humor. Maybe so, but aside from that similarity, the greatest “crime” I’ve ever committed was not putting enough postage stamps on an envelope filled with my bookmarks destined for a library event this past July. Thanks to my oversight and a late notification from the post office, they didn’t quite make it. As far as the characters, I’m pleased to say I’m nothing like them. I’ve never dealt in drugs, killed anyone, been arrested or raped so the question remains, where did this story come from?

I’ve loved mysteries since I was a little girl; the more complicated, the better. My passion began in grade school with ghost stories and eventually led to Agatha Christie and other greats. Since I am the whole of my life experiences, my writing has also been influenced by the classic noir films I’ve enjoyed over the years. So as I thought of how I would answer the question, I decided to first consider the emotions that millions of people around the world relate to: grief, anger, joy, fear, resentment, worry, suspicion, etc. Next, what would trigger those emotions in my characters and how uniquely would they each respond?

It took some doing getting into the antagonist’s skin and viewing the world through his or her eyes. But in truth, I thoroughly enjoyed writing their characters. It was what I would call a liberating experience. These contemptible creatures do all the vile things I would never dream of doing. Still, as much as I tried to step back away from my own viewpoint, I think it has every bit to do with the way the main character, Sam Harper feels about the case. His hatred for one of the suspects and his desire to avenge his partner’s death nearly pushes him over the legal line. He struggles with his sympathy toward one of the victims who snaps, retaliates, and becomes his next suspect.
The story could have ended any number of ways, but knowing Harper as well as I do, there was only one path for him to take.

Maybe that’s where I’ve snuck into to book; my idea of morals and ethics, the belief in the golden rule, acknowledging the difference between right and wrong, and the expectation that justice will prevail. Then again, one reviewer called Silenced Cry a “... convoluted and complex story that demonstrates a vivid imaginative gift ...” Alright, imagination or not, I’m sure a part of me is in there someplace. I only hope Silenced Cry is as enjoyable for others to read as it was for me to write.

(The entire interview mentioned in this blog was posted on August 9, at

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Making of Silenced Cry
Interview by Marilyn Meredith August 2007 Virtual Book Tour
For other reader comments, please visit the August 8, 2007 post in

Marilyn is asking author Marta Stephens about her newest book.

MM: Tell me about your latest book.

MS: Silenced Cry is the story of a young narcotics detective, Sam Harper. He and his partner, Gillies, are on surveillance of a drug supplier who had eluded capture. It quickly becomes evident that Gillies is intentionally muddying up the facts. Key points don’t add up and makes Harper believe Gillies is involved in illegal activities. His partner is shot and killed during the surveillance. When questions surrounding his partner’s death go unanswered, Harper suspects a cover up.Harper is transferred into homicide and given a new partner, Dave Mann. Their first case takes them to the Harbor View Apartments, a building marked for demolition, where workers discover the skeletal remains of an infant entombed in one of the walls. The investigation into the infant’s murder opens the floodgates of questions when the suspects in the Baby Doe case all tie back to Gillies. Evidence mounds as quickly as the bodies in the morgue and the truth leads Harper to the person he least suspects.Silenced Cry is a layered, multi-plot story about the events, disappointments, and successes that transform the character, Sam Harper, into the man who emerges in the final pages of Silenced Cry.

MM: Where can we buy it?

MS: Silenced Cry, ISBN: 978-1-905202-72-0, is a 248 page paperback available on several online bookstores including all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, ABEBooks, and Powells to name a few. It is being distributed by booksellers both here in the States and in Europe so most independent bookstore owners have access to the book and can make it available to their customers. My publisher, BeWrite Books (UK) makes both the paperback and the e-book version of Silenced Cry available on their website, For additional locations, please visit my website,

MM: What gave you the idea to write Silenced Cry?

MS: Silenced Cry was actually the third book I wrote in the series. I wanted the set to include at least four stand-alone stories. But once the first two books were drafted and I was ready to draft out the third, I decided that instead of moving forward in time, I needed to show the beginning and therefore, needed to delve deeper into Harper’s makeup, his drive. I quickly learned that there was a great deal more to the Sam Harper character than catching criminals. It was important that he become personally affected by the crimes and once I understood Harper’s motivations and the depths of his emotions, I set out to create criminals who were so vial and their crimes so vicious that it would push Harper to the brink of potentially crossing the legal line.In short, Silenced Cry, is a story about Homicide Detective Sam Harper. He isn’t a flawless hero. He doesn't always get things right, the evidence doesn't always fall neatly into place, and doors don't always open to reveal the answer. His short-comings are what makes him human. Even though there are a multitude of crimes, criminals, interrogation scenes and visits to the city morgue in Silenced Cry, at its core, this is a story about the events, disappointments, and successes that transform Sam Harper into the man who emerges in the final pages of Silenced Cry.

MM: How much of yourself or your experiences are in the book?

MS: I’ve never dealt in drugs, never killed anyone, I was never arrested or raped, and I’ve never worked in law enforcement. Still, I can’t imagine a writer not bleeding a little bit into their books with what I’d call human experiences; grief, anger, joy, fear, resentment, worry, suspicion—everyone can relate to those feelings. I dug deep into my own emotions in order to understand how and why these characters acted and reacted the way they did. At times, it took some doing to step into the antagonists’ skin and to look at the world from their perspective. There’s something to be said about the writer’s belief system too and how it affects the plot and the characters’ behaviors. As much as I tried to step back away from my own viewpoint, I think a part of me snuck in between the lines.

MM: What would you like to see happen with Silenced Cry?

MS: Sam Harper is the new detective on the beat; Silenced Cry is his calling card.

The book introduces Harper and a host of characters to mystery lovers around the world. It’s a layered story with multiple subplots that pulls the reader from one twist and turn into another. While reviewers have repeatedly dubbed Silenced Cry a pager turner (visit for a complete list of reviews), one reader wrote, “Silenced Cry held my interest from the first gunshot, past the first, second, and third plot twist into the clubhouse turn and on to an ending I hadn’t anticipated.”

My first goal was to create a character readers could connect with and love. The second was to develop a story line that would draw and hold the reader through a battery of crimes and a maze of clues. As a first-time author, the challenge has been to create an awareness. We geared the promotional campaign to draw interest to the book. However, sales aside, I’ve found that in spite of all our marketing efforts, word of mouth is still the best sure-fire way to sell books. People pay attention to testimonials from those they trust. Nothing thrills me more than to hear that a reader has passed the book on to friends and family members and they in turn have passed it on to others as a must read.Nearly all who have read Silenced Cry have asked about the next book in the series. This tells me that Silenced Cry is doing exactly what I hoped it would do; it has grabbed the mystery lover’s attention (and even a few non-mystery fans) and started a following for the series. To those who have read Silenced Cry, thank you! I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Sam Harper will be around for a long time. In fact, he’s already working on his next case.

MM: What are your writing habits?

MS: Time is precious. I squeeze it out of my evenings after work and on weekends to write. Still, I average three to four hours of writing every day—quite a bit more on weekends.The first thing I do when I begin a project is to briefly outline the storyline. My outline, however, is never written in stone. It is extremely flexible and only used as a guideline that changes as the story develops. When I began to write Silenced Cry, it was a linear plot line; one case, one murderer, one solution. But then I started to wonder what could possibly happen next? That’s when a whole string of possibilities emerged.I find it helpful to write bios and back-stories for each of the main characters. Real people don’t live in a vacuum. They have deep-rooted reasons for their behaviors, and have trigger points that have made them behave as they do. Back-stories tell me some amazing things that help me to create three-dimensional characters.Once I understand where the story is going, I do extensive research on police procedures (including consultations with professionals in the field), forensics and anything else I need to understand. Research, however, is on-going.After I’ve briefly outlined the plot line, have written character bios and back-stories, and researched my subject, I clear my desk and start typing. Some chapters come very quickly for me, but writing is a process that doesn’t always follow a logical path. I’ve written chapters and chapter sections out of sequence only because they came to me at the most unexpected moments and I had to put my thoughts to writing.An important lesson I’ve learned is to not to fall in love with my writing. I’ve cut entire chapters from my manuscripts more than once. Some I’ve really liked. One in particular was a provocative and fast-paced chapter. It had great dialogue and tense action, but no matter how much I wanted it to add to the plot, I couldn’t justify it. It’s in a special file in my hard drive waiting for the day when it will be resurrected. I never know if and when I might be able to use deleted sections again so I keep a good majority of them. The second book in the series is a perfect example of how important it is to sacrifice words for the sake of the plot. As I mentioned earlier, I wrote the book a couple of years ago. When it was time to revisit it, I didn’t have to read past the first chapter or two to know I had to start over. After cutting out around 45,000 words, the only thing that remains of the original story is its essence, but this is a story that Sam Harper fans will enjoy.

MM: What are you working on now?

MS: I’m in the middle of the edits on my second book in the series. The reader will find a few familiar characters in it. When bodies start washing ashore no one, including Harper, suspects their murderer or his motives. He is up against a cunning killer whose purpose and tactics would have escaped detection had it not been for a personality flaw—over confidence. This is a classic murder mystery with an added splash of the supernatural, a power-hungry drug dealer, a religious fanatic, and a hint of romance just to make things interesting.

MM: Thank you so much, Marta, for answering my questions.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Who do you love to hate?
Results of this week's poll.

1 for Deana
1 for Chuck Toomey
2 for Owens
1 for Flanagan.

Have YOU read SILENCED CRY? Who was your favorite character and why?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Year of Firsts

What a difference a year makes. As I look back on how my life has changed since last August, it seems incredible so much has happened.

SILENCED CRY, my first novel was published. I had never design a web site before--I'm a little more knowledgeable about codes now. It was the first attempt at creating a book trailer--too addictive! I discovered all the free features for authors in Amazon. I had never been interviewed before now there are several listed on my website and a few more coming. To those interested in hearing my voice, you'll be able to connect from my website at the "Stephens Interrogated" page to my first live interview on Internet Voices Radio.

I'm now in the second week of my first Virtual Book Tour to promote SILENCED CRY. Check out the links to the tour sites on the Events page of my website, All the tour articles are being posted onto this blog after they have been published on the host sites. If you scroll down, you'll also find an interview with SILENCED CRY's Homicide Detective Sam Harper. He's waiting to answer your questions so post away!

It's been a year of ups and down but never hopeless. I've said good-bye family and friends, then made new acquaintances. Our daughter (21) became engaged--how joyous. She moved back home; we gained two new dogs--no comment. Our son graduated from high school. Two in college, now that's a first! Daughter is moving back out this week; mother-in-law moving in. In a few more months I'll be a year older. Okay, maybe that's not so new, but it is yet another change that will add to my treasure trove of life experiences.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This Writer’s Journey
August 2007 Virtual Book Tour
For other reader comments, please visit the August 3, 2007 post in

I’d like to say that writing has been a life-long passion, but the fact of the matter is, my first love was art. From the day I could hold a pencil in my hand, I drew. I studied a wide variety of art forms in school; charcoals, oils, watercolors, ink washes, ceramics, sculpture—love it all. Later I studied graphic design and got hooked on it. Although writing and art are two vastly different creative forms of expression, I am the whole of my life experiences. The art discipline helped me to develop an observant eye and sharpened my senses to the subtle nuances of the world around me. I can visualize the details of a scene as clearly as if I were looking at it with my eyes. The trick for me is to transform those images and other sensory messages into words. Is the scene vivid enough for the reader to smell the stench of death when Harper walks into the morgue; see the glint of light bouncing off a pool of water on the sidewalk, and hear the rain drumming onto a metal awning?

The literal beginning of my writing journey began on Thanksgiving morning 1985, six months after our eldest daughter passed away. She was born in October 1983, with a congenital heart defect. Words couldn’t express the ache or the emptiness I felt after her loss. I found console in my faith and in the journaling of my thoughts. That Thanksgiving holiday was especially difficult, yet in the midst of it, something happened that brought me peace and an understanding that I was spiritually not alone. I jotted my thoughts but quickly put it away knowing I couldn’t dwell on it for long stretches of time. That first story took several years to complete in spite that it is only 500 words long.

Time doesn’t heal but it does pass. Several years later, I read an article that briefly mentioned the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. I was struck to read of the brutality inflicted on the Chinese people by the invading forces, but what was even more gripping was that those events hadn’t been mentioned in any of my high school or college history courses. I researched the topic for several weeks. The more I thought about it, the more inspired I became to write a spy murder mystery. My challenge was that I had never taken a creative writing course in my life. I didn’t know the difference between a beat and a tag, how to write dialogue, how to develop a character, or how to identify a point of view slip. I managed to get the first draft completed but was unable to move it forward. I joined several author groups, read the discussions, followed suggested links, and forged great friendships. I also bought every how-to book I could get my hands on and read each one cover to cover. All this in an attempt to learn the craft and complete the novel I had not been able to finish.

I was on a major learning curve for a couple of years. I set the novel aside and began to write shorts and flash fiction. Ironically though, I found I had a tendency to write much longer pieces than most publications would accept as short stories. Most of my works begged for more room to develop the plot. I experimented with different lengths and discovered that novellas were the perfect fit for my style; longer than a short story, but not as complex as a novel. I knew I had reached a pivotal point in my life. The writing bug bit—I was hooked.

Homicide Detective Sam Harper arrived on the scene: The creation of The Sam Harper Crime Mystery series and its diverse set of characters go back to a fall afternoon in 2004. That was the day I wrote The Black Pearl which will now be the second book in the Sam Harper Crime Mysteries series. Although I’ve changed the story line considerably, the idea for that book was sparked by a tale of a cursed ring my mother told me when I was eight. I wrote The Black Pearl and (at the time) books two and three but needed a fourth story to complete the series, however, instead of moving forward in time, I decided to show the beginning in “Silenced Cry.” I felt there was much more to the Sam Harper character than catching criminals. I wanted the reader to understand who Homicide Detective Sam Harper is and what drives him. Harper has his share of flaws. He doesn't always get it right, the evidence doesn't always fall neatly into place, and doors don't always open to reveal the answer. The deeper Harper digs into the case, the closer the crime gets nudged toward his doorstep. He is consumed with suspicion, doubt, and a hatred that nearly destroys him.

The journey is far from over. Each day brings a new encounter and another incident to add to the treasure trove of life experiences I can infuse into my writing.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Interview with Homicide Detective Sam Harper of Silenced Cry
by Kaycee Conners
August 2007 Virtual Book Tour
For other reader comments, please visit the August 1, 2007 post in

KC: Detective Harper—

SH: My friends call me, Sam.

KC: Sam, thank you for agreeing to let me interview you. I know you’re on a tight schedule. Let’s start with you, shall we? Tell us a little about yourself.

SH: Home is Litchfield, Massachusetts, a small rural community just north of Chandler. I wasn’t real fond of it at the time. Dad was a city detective in Chandler, a thirty minute drive from the house. He knew what life was like in the city and didn’t want any part of it. He wanted a place where my brother Paul and I could grow up without looking over our shoulders and where he could come home and forget about things. When I was a kid, I thought he was being selfish; I know where he’s coming from now. Anyway, that’s where I went to school too. My dad still owns the house I grew up in. I go home every chance I get. Sometimes it’s the only place I can think.

KC: I understand you went to Compton College there in Chandler. Did you go with the intent of becoming a law enforcement officer?

SH: What kid knows what he wants when he’s 17? Guess being a police officer was always in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t ready for it then. The truth of the matter is, I went to college on a music scholarship. My mother taught band and orchestra at the high school for as long as I can remember—been playing the piano since I was five. When I got into Compton, I didn’t have a clue what to do with the rest of my life. I knew it wasn’t going to have anything to do with music though. I entered the police academy a couple of years after graduation, almost ten years to the day.

KC: You say you weren’t ready at 17. What changed?

SH: Society, the justice system, me--everything. I’d hear Dad come home and talk about some of his cases; the tough ones they couldn’t crack. There were more than one night the old man didn’t sleep. I was cocky enough to think I could do better. I found out real fast that nothing good ever comes easy.

KC: You mentioned earlier that you guessed being a police officer was always in the back of your mind. I read in your bio on your site about the death of a young schoolmate. Did that incident really have an impact on your decision to become a detective?

SH: I’ve never been able to get that day out of my mind. Cute little girl. Used to drive past our bus stop every day and wave. One morning, she rode her bike by as usual—never made to school. A few days later, one of the neighbors found her battered body near a creek that ran through his farm. There were no witnesses. No one heard her scream. It was as if she had vanished. Dad was one of the investigating officers. He knew her parents well and the investigation damn near tore him apart.

KC: Was her murderer ever caught?

SH: No. Her case is still open. Twenty years later and I’ve never stopped thinking about her killer.

KC: You’d like to get your hands on her case, wouldn’t you?

SH: You bet. But those old ones are the cases we work on in between the current ones.

KC: Yes, your current cases. So tell me. What’s a day in the life of a detective like?

SH: A good day in Homicide is the day we make an arrest; when all the pieces come together and they point straight to the killer.

KC: But ... what about you?

SH: I’m on call 24/7. Homicide is exhausting and rewarding all at the same time. My day starts at 5:30 in the morning; I’m at police headquarters before seven. I spend the first two hours of my day reviewing case files. I analyze the previous day’s activities and study the witnesses’ statements. Then my partner Dave Mann and I set up the day’s roster. We’re usually out the door by 9:00, but the cases we investigate dictate our schedule.

KC: How so?

SH: We never know what we’ll be up against. We go into homes most people don’t want to drive by in broad daylight. We knock on doors without knowing who’s hiding behind them. It could be a felon pointing a weapon or a weeping child. It’s all about timing. A minute lost pushes the case an inch further into the cold case stack. So we watch the clock. The sooner we can get to the scene of the crime, talk with witnesses, and check for evidence, the better our chances are of solving the case.

KC: And that’s when you catch the killer?

SH: No. All that just to find a potential suspect.

KC: I know you have a partner, Dave Mann. But wouldn’t it be easier to work alone?

SH: We’re a team. Besides Dave, my three most trusted colleagues are medical examiners Jack Fowler and Yolanda Cruz. The other is Carter Graves, head of Forensics; nerdy looking guy, smart as a whip and always right. I’d be nothing without them. When I’m not on the streets, I’m consulting with one of them.

KC: And after hours? What do you do to relax?

SH: Life outside the force doesn’t happen. The only thing waiting for me at home at the end of the day is a tall Scotch and soda and the six o’clock news that lets me rehash my day. I eat frozen dinners—sometimes I’ll watch an old film—a Bogart or Edward G. Eventually I crash on the couch. A few hours later I do it all over again.

KC: You seem to have everything going for you. Are you ever frightened?

SH: Sure. Loss of integrity scares the hell out of me. In myself, my partner, the system. You’re nothing without it.

KC: And anger? What’s the one thing that angers you most?

SH: The immense disregard for life. Indifference -- an apathetical point of view. No law or consequence will stop a person who doesn’t care.

KC: And when it’s over, how hard is it to recover from a crime scene?

SH: It depends. I’m immersed in death, day in and day out. After a while you get used to it. So you tell yourself to be careful, don’t get desensitized. But you can’t help it. You have to look beyond the gore to do the job.

KC: Are some cases harder to work than others?

SH Seeing kids in the morgue is never easy. I’m not talking about the thugs that roam the streets. I’m talking about the innocent. The babies, the grade school kids that are unwanted at birth, get in some low-life’s way, and are tossed out like yesterday’s garbage. The guys on the force, the ones with families think about their kids. I’ve seen some of them cry when they didn’t think anyone was watching.

KC: What about you? What do you think about?

SH: I keep wondering if it’s fair to bring a child into this world, into a society as corrupt as ours.

KC: Have you found an answer?

There’s a pause.

SH: Change has to start somewhere.

KC: Clearly your job has had an impact on you. Can you talk about it?

SH: I’m conscious of time. I’m thirty-two and don’t know if I’ll see thirty-three. That’s what the job does to a guy. I’m trained to defend myself and others. I don’t worry about getting killed, but it is a reality. You never know. So I try to take time for the things that are important to me—my family and friends, because in the end that’s all that matters.

KC: That leads me to my next question. I hope this isn’t too personal, but is there someone special in your life?

SH: Sure. He smiles for the first time. There are a million possibilities. I’ll let you know the minute I meet her. He looks at his watch.

KC: I know ... you’re busy, but one more thing before you go. Can we use your name to get out of a jam?

SH: He smiles again and stares at me for only a moment. Only if it’s legal.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On Step At A Time
August 2007 Virtual Book Tour
For other reader comments, please visit the July 31, 2007 post in:

During a recent interview, the reporter said, “Stephens’s life has had as many twists and turns as her novel,” and then went on to list some of my accomplishments. This encouraged me to take a quick inventory and draw up my own list.

I live in the Midwest with my husband and two children. I returned to college as a non-traditional student, earned a degree in journalism in my late forties, and am fortunate to be gainfully employed. I maintain our home, shop for groceries, do laundry, take the dogs to the vet, and pay bills. In my book, this adds up to an amazingly ordinary life.

The only thing not on the list is that I’m a risk-taker. Calculated or not, sometimes we need to crawl out of the comfort zone and feel the edge of an uncharted path before moving forward. I prefer to describe my life as a series of stepping stones, each one leading to a new goal and the next level of development. The catch is, after achieving one set of goals, there are always choices: should I stop while I’m ahead or move forward?

Through my work at the university and growing network of friends, I see adults returning to the classroom every day in the hopes of career advancements or for the sake of exploring new interest. Others have sought the satisfaction of becoming entrepreneurs or giving of themselves for volunteer work. I applaud them all. It takes courage to chart a new path and re-invent ones self. Regardless of age, at the core of their decisions is a deep-rooted desire to secure their happiness.

My adventurous streak was never more evident to me than after the release of my debut crime/mystery novel, Silenced Cry. The reactions from those who have known me for the past 20 to 30 years ranged from disbelief to wild excitement. Most were extremely supportive. Some, however, were curious as to why I had pursued a writing career at this point in my life and why I had chosen a genre so different from my “normal” lifestyle. Invariably, the next thing out of their mouth was, “I always wanted to ___.” Fill in the blank with a dream. When I asked them why they hadn’t pursued whatever “it” was, the consistent answer centered on a lack of confidence.

Compared with most other authors, my four-year writing career is in its infancy. Now that I’m in the midst of promoting my book, I’m grateful for my public relations background, but I found that fact-based journalism hadn’t prepare me for a career as a fiction writer. Still, I believed I could write a novel and was willing to risk failure for the chance at success. I’m not alone.

I recently spoke with a long-time friend who had a similar experience. We met years ago when we held secretarial positions at the university. A while back, she became involved in local politics, won the primary election this year, and is now running for mayor. Sharon asked me the same questions about my writing. When, what, how? I explained that now that the word “retirement” has crept into my vocabulary, I didn’t want to wake up one day to find that everyone I cared about had moved on with their lives and that I hadn’t taken time to plant the seeds of my own happiness.

“Women are nurturers,” I told her, “and like millions of others, I’ve been a supportive wife and raised two fantastic children who are now in college working toward meaningful careers. I’ve done the committee work, plotted a career path, did the PTA thing, and in recent years, I’ve also helped to care for my aging parents. Now it’s my turn. I’ll never stop caring for others, but writing fulfills a need and feeds my passion. It’s where a lifetime of stepping stones has led me.”

“You could have been telling my story,” she said.

My friend and I both faced challenges and certain stumbling blocks in the pursuit of our goals, but the words, “I can’t” or “I’ll never” didn’t stop us from trying.

I’m reminded of a great line in the movie City Slickers. Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch is riding his horse on the range next to crusty old Curly. Mitch is desperate to find life’s secret to happiness. Curly tells him he knows the answer, holds up one finger, and says, “This. One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and the rest don’t mean (anything).” Mitch, expecting a magical revelation asks, “But what is the one thing?”
A sardonic smile slips across Curly’s sun-creased face as he says, “That’s what you have to find out.”

The neat thing about dreams is that they are as unique as the people who dare to follow them. I don’t know what the future will hold except to say that Homicide Detective Sam Harper will keep on the hunt of wily criminals and will continue to solve impossible murders. As for me, I’m grateful for the here and now; the people I’ve met and the opportunities extended to me. In spite of the hurdles, the endless revisions, and insanely late hours of typing, I’m living my dream and having a ball!
Today marks the third day of my virtual book tour. The entire schedule and links to articles and interviews are available on the events page of my website,

Today, you'll have a chance to meet the main character of SILENCED CRY, Homicide Detective Sam Harper in a personal interview with Kaycee Conners on her Live Journal Blog

Please stop by and pay Detective Harper a visit. Post your comments. He's ready to answer your questions!! Harper's first crime mystery novel, SILENCED CRY, is available on-line at all the Amazons, B&N, Books-a-Million, and Powells just to name a few!

Also check the July 31 blog on

The idea of the virtual tour is to draw attention to the host site as well as the author’s books. Look forward to your comments!

Monday, July 30, 2007

I survived my first live Internet radio interview tonight!

Here are the links to the first two events on my virtual book tour. Please click on the link dated 7/30 to listen to my half hour interview with Phil Harris and our disucssion about SILENCED CRY at

This is the link to my article on the Working Stiffs Blog

You’ll find the tour details in the events page on my site, and on

I look forward to your comments here and on Working Stiff.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My virtual book tour kicks off with a live interview this Monday, July 30, on the Phil Harris Internet Voices Radio.

I received the following from Phil last night. The entire tour schedule is available on my site as well as on Hope you'll be able to listen in on the interview and check out some of my other articles and interviews on the tour. I look forward to your comments!

My Guest is: MARTA STEPHENSAuthor of "Silenced Cry"
We will discuss:
Sometimes it's those unpredictable events in our lives, the ones that force us to make a choice that make or break us. My first was theloss of our eldest daughter (at 19 mo.) She passed 22 years ago. Iwas born in Argentina, all my extended family is there and although I had relatives who passed, I was four when my family moved to the States and therefore didn't feel close to any of them. Hers was the first personal loss I had ever experienced. That's whenI realized how fragile life is and how quickly everything can betaken away. It forced me to re-evaluate things.