Monday, November 16, 2009

NOVEL WORKS - My new authors blog

Need a little help promoting your novel?

As an internationally multi-published author, I understand the amount of time and effort it takes to promote a book. Regardless of whether you are self-published, with a small independent press, or with a large publishing house, marketing dollars only go so far. Need I mention that the publishing business is tough and it’s getting tougher with each passing day? Today, more than ever before, the bulk of book promotion efforts fall squarely on the author’s shoulders.

As the founding member and administrator of the widely successful and nationally acclaimed collective writer’s blog, Murder By 4, Writer’s Digest 2009 101 Best Websites for Writers, I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of the Internet and how consistent and continuous postings can influence a writer’s stance in search engines. Blogs allow us to reach millions of potential readers, reviewers, book buyers, editors, agents, publicists, and countless others on a daily basis. The beauty of the Internet is long-term exposure (your post will remain indefinitely) and a means through which to give your book wide exposure to a multitude of potential readers outside of your network.

As one who has a degree in journalism/public relations and over 20 years of marketing and promotion in higher education, I know the value of promotion and exposure to a target audience. I also know that most, especially new writers, have neither the experience, established network/connections necessary to succeed, nor the time to effectively promote their books on a wide scale.

I'm not a publicist or a book tour consultant. If those are the services you’re seeking, I’ll be more than glad to refer you to one of several reputable firms and individuals who I’ve worked with over the years.

What I can offer you is the benefit of my experience and networking capabilities. Keep in mind that developing an Internet presence takes time. One post on a blog--any blog, won't attract the attention I know you want. Although I can't offer any guarantees of increased sales, I do promise to give your post(s) as much attention and promotional exposure as I would give one of my own articles. My efforts in combination with yours will considerably increase your chances of gaining new readership.

Still with me? Great! Please visit Novel Works and follow the link to my submission page. Feel free to drop me a line if you're interested! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Review Arrived Today ...

... for "The Devil Can Wait" written by James Goodman.

James Goodman is a fellow author I met via my collective writer's blog, MURDER BY 4. Nothing better than to open my e-mail at the end of the day to a glowing review. Thanks so much, James!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's Here! It's Really here!

Arrived today! Sixty day, five locations, three countries, and about $40 or so dollars later, my bronze arrived!!! :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Best Wishes, Not Good-Bye!

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

I’ve been sitting on some news a couple of months, but now that it’s public knowledge, it’s only fitting to share with our MB4 readers a bit about my publisher, Caitlin Myers.

I met Cait in 2004 when she administered BeWrite, a UK author’s forum. For me, it was an eye-opening experience at a time when the Internet wasn’t yet busting at the seams with author forums, social sites, and other groups (or at least that’s what it seemed like to me). It was a special place, a small, nurturing, energetic group that gave a good number of writers, including yours truly, the nudge we needed to get ahead in the publishing world. BeWrite worked hard at encouraging new talent. They provided critiques, lively discussions, and the chance to get our short stories and poetry published on line. A couple of years later, the firm dropped the forum to dedicate their energies to book publishing and became BeWrite Books (UK).

It wasn’t until July 31, 2006, that I began to get to know Cait really well. By then she had been named publisher of BeWrite Books and requested the full manuscript of my debut novel, SILENCED CRY. As a result of working with her, I've found myself using several words to describe her. A few of them are, sharp, professional, level-headed, amazing, understanding, funny, (I mean how many publishers have taken your book to the London Book Fair and shot a picture of it just to make you feel a part of the total experience? :) She labeled this pic, "Sam Tours London." And when I wanted photos for my web, she sent the one I posted at the top.) personable, savvy, tough, did I mention professional? And the word that's always at the top of my list, lady.

When my debut novel in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery Series was ready for press and going through the final proofreading, I read through the pages and began to panic. The guidelines clearly stated “no major changes” ... I had several. This was my first experience working with a publisher and I certainly didn’t want to anger her, but the clock was ticking and there I was, biting my nails and questioning every line I’d written. After reading some of the horror stories other writers told of their experiences when questioning the process, I wasn't sure what to do. But Cait listened with the patience of Job, understood my jitters, and said, “We want you to be happy with it.” Proof that she trusted my judgment as much as I respected hers. A lesser person would have probably said, “Tough tea cookies, kid. Next!”

In the end, when it came to quality, we both knew it was worth the sweat to get it right. The proof is in the awards.

By the time THE DEVIL CAN WAIT was released in November 2008, she and I had become close friends. E-mails flew between Indiana and Germany every day. At times, I’d open my e-mail to find 8 or more waiting for me to respond to edits, the art work, book trailers, marketing and promotions, author interviews, virtual book tours, signings, reviews and a multitude of promotional ideas she wanted me to consider. Of course, there was that little matter of the “curse.” It even affected things on her end, files missing, formatting gone, etc. Fun times. We never knew what the day would bring, but whatever the issue, whatever the delay, she always came back with, “No problem. It’ll get done. Cheers!”

Okay, so now to the news. Having said all of this, imagine how I felt when I first received word that Cait planned to leave BeWrite Books, the company she helped build, by the end of July 2009. My head spun around for a day or two and a pea green substance spewed from my lips.Okay, maybe I exaggerate ... a little ... but not by much. Sam Harper said it best, "That's when the knot rose to my throat and wedged against my windpipe."

Now that I’ve had time to digest things, I’m okay and I know Cait will be too. Hey, what did you expect from two strong-headed women, anyway? Sure life sometimes shoves us into a revolving door called change, but a little shift in life, no matter how cruel, often opens the doors to unexpected and exciting new challenges. It’s the cup’s half full attitude that keeps that old spark lit and forces us to go in directions we would have never gone to on our own.

I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to worked with Cait and even though she won't be a part of BeWrite after this week, those e-mails will continue to zip across the globe. I also know she’ll visit us here at Murder By 4 from time to time. You'll also find Cait on Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other blogs so stop by and wish her well. The most exciting news of all though is that she and I will meet for the first time this fall when she visits the States. I can’t wait!So this Friday, July 24, when Cait turns over the reigns to her successor at BeWrite, my best wishes will be with her. I’m not going to cry or say, "I’ll miss you Cait." Instead, I'll raise my glass and wish her the very best.

Thanks, Cait for believing in this newbie. Maybe Sam Harper would have gotten published by another press, but Sam and I agree that it wouldn’t have been half as much fun without you.

To read more about Cait Meyers, please visit:

* * *
Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK)

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT – (2008), Bronze metal winner, 2009 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

SILENCED CRY (2007), Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thought of the day ...

Don't think of giving up something as a sacrifice, but rather you are making space to receive something else in your life. Life is full of compromises, and this can occur on many levels.

Sometimes change isn't easy to accept, but it's what renews our souls and keeps us going.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Devil Can Wait ... In More Ways Than One.

It's been a while since my last "newsletter" and although a great number of things have happened since then, I'd like to share with you another story about THE DEVIL CAN WAIT. For those of you who know that the subject of this book is a cursed ring and the many weird things that happened during the final stages of preparing it for press, what follows won't be a surprise.

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, is the second in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery Series. It was initially written as a short story in 2004, then later was expanded into a novella in 2005, and was finally released in November 2008, as a 316 page novel. It was selected as a bronze medal finalist on May 29, in the 2009 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY).

I knew about this award in early May, but it wasn't official until the 29th when the winning entries were announced at the BookExpo award ceremonies in New York City.
I was thrilled beyond words and blogged a bit about it on June 24. As noted, I wasn't able to attend the event, but was assured the items pictured above would be mailed to me within days from their offices in Michigan. I waited for the mailman every day knowing that I wouldn't be able to believe I won until I saw the medal with my own eyes.

When the medal and certificate didn't arrive two weeks later, I wrote to the PR firm to ask about them. I was assured that the medal had been mailed out 3-4 days before. I waited another two weeks and wrote again. This time, I was told the items had been mailed to my publisher in the UK. Unfortunately, she lived in Germany, but good fortune prevailed and a family member received and shipped them from the UK to Germany.
I received this photograph taken by my publisher today (July 9) with a note telling me the package finally arrived in Germany safe and sound and that she would send them on ASAP. Needless today, this medal has earned more flyer miles than the wandering gnome, but at least I now know they're in trustworthy hands.

Fortunately, the apparent curse couldn’t keep the book from receiving wonderful reviews or winning a prestigious award like the IPPY--not as long as Sam Harper's fans continue to read it. But it seems the curse insists on getting the last jab, because eight months after it’s release, my bronze medal has gone on a world tour without me.

To learn more about the "weird things," read on ...

Thumb through the pages of your favorite book. Now, look close between the lines. That’s where the author bled onto the pages and wove together a mystic world of fiction fed by life experiences. Every line of narrative and section of dialogue holds a thimbleful of truth. The second book in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series is no exception. THE DEVIL CAN WAIT was forged from the memory of an unholy event as frightening as it was intriguing. It’s a tale about belief, unholy forces, and one man’s determination to stop an obsessed killer.

The story behind the story involved a quarrel and a cursed black pearl ring that nearly killed the object of a jilted young man’s affection. Filled with resentment, he begged her to take the ring as a parting gesture. Within days of accepting his gift, the young woman fell victim to a number of life-threatening accidents that came in quick succession. She survived each incident, but evil remained a constant threat to her life. It was only after she destroyed the black pearl ring that all appeared to return to normal.

Such was the spark behind THE DEVIL CAN WAIT; fiction with a taste of the unexplained. I was an impressionable eight-year-old, unable to distinguish fact from fiction, yet that event seared itself into my mind and eventually gave birth to THE DEVIL CAN WAIT. Can inanimate objects receive and transmit energies through a single touch? Is the good or evil nature of a person a predictor of luck or misfortune?

Years later, I can neither prove nor disprove that curses exist, yet I’m left to wonder what truths have slipped between the pages of this Sam Harper mystery that kept critical e-mails from reaching my editor? What power made manuscript files disappear and Internet connections break off for days at a time without rhyme or reason? Coincidence? I thought it was, until the literary contract sent to my publisher at the same street address I’ve used for several years found its way back into my mailbox three months later marked, “Insufficient address.” Subsequent mailing attempts met the same fate, yet my greeting card arrived at her office without a hitch. I can’t explain these things nor is it clear why the first three artists who were eager to work on the book cover had to stop soon after starting due to … pressing events that forced them to quit.

In THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, the city of Chandler, Massachusetts is plunged into terror when the bodies of three local teenagers wash ashore. While homicide detective Sam Harper hunts down the guilty, a sinister plot emerges overseas. From the Vatican to the jungles of South America, a cursed black pearl ring, the demonic prophecy it represents, and the men who pursue its powers find their unfortunate way into Harper’s turf.

Enthralled by the ring’s story and a front-page spread, newspaper reporter Jennifer Blake agrees to pick up the ring at a local pawnshop for her former college professor. When she does, unforeseen events shoot Blake to the top of Harper's prime suspect lists. Soon, the seemingly unrelated cases converge and the heat is on for Harper to expose the truth behind a Vatican secret and stop the self-righteous man who does the unthinkable in the name of God.

Did the sound of keystrokes tapping life into THE DEVIL CAN WAIT wake a slumbering presence from the depth of obscurity where holiness clashes against the dark and profane? I’ll let you, the reader, be the judge. The only certainty is that THE DEVIL CAN WAIT can wait no more. It’s here, so light a candle, take a sip of your favorite brew, ease into that over-stuffed chair, and immerse yourself in the pages of THE DEVIL CAN WAIT—if you dare.

If you're interested in receiving an autographed copy, please let me know. My books are also available at Amazon, B & N and other online shops.

Have a great summer and more new to come soon!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Words Straight From the Heart

2009 has been a year of challenges and change for me on so many levels, all of which I’ll write about at a later date—probably a New Year piece to give 2009 a proper send off and hope it doesn’t have a twin.

Anyway, one thing that’s been hovering over me, weighing me down like an anchor tied around my neck has had to do with my writing.

Do you see the empty box at the top of the page? That’s what writer’s block looks like. Stiff and empty. Nothing going in, nothing going out. I was working on the third book in my Harper series, but the more I pushed the writing, the emptier the box became. Some of you may have even noticed my absence from the Internet. Yes, it affected all of my writing and finally, things got to the point where I didn’t care.

I’ve been struggling with this book for nearly a year. I managed to write 45,000 words and it has several chapters I’m proud of. For those who are familiar with my writing the dialogue is typical Harper, and the characters jump off the page. So what’s the problem? I have no idea except to say, the book simply didn’t want to be written.

If I’m going to be completely honest with myself, part of the pressure comes from having had my first two books receive professional recognition (THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, 2008, 2009 IPPY Bronze Medal Finalist and SILENCED CRY 2007, honorable mention at the 2008 New York Book Fair). What a waste of everyone’s time it would be if this next book wasn’t in line with the others so I pushed it and it pushed back.

Whatever the reason, the longer I worked on it, the harder and less exciting it became. I’d sit down at my computer, type a few lines and find any excuse to leave (needed to put some laundry in, bathrooms needed cleaning, brush my teeth again, must go to the market ... and so on and so forth). Worse, I couldn’t see the story or the ending and when that happens, when I can’t see the characters or the action, I know it’s doomed.

I was looking forward to a week-long vacation my family and I had planned for the first part of June. In the early hours while everyone slept, I got out the laptop and tried to do a bit of typing. I actually did, but my new surroundings in the beautiful mountains of Tennessee didn’t light the spark I needed to get me going.

This went on for a few days until I realized that all I was thinking of was my submission goal—get it completed by the end of summer and ready for submission to my publisher in the fall. I knew right then that if I didn’t break out of this writer’s block soon, I might very well stop writing all together. I was devastated so, on June 17, I set that book aside for the last time and began a new one.

This still untitled book is totally different from my previous books. It features a woman private investigator named Rhonie Lude. I’m writing it in first person (my other books are in 3rd POV limited), it takes place in Los Angeles where I lived for a few years, and it has an interesting twist which I can’t discuss at the moment, but one that stems from a very personal experience. Hence, write what you know. And WOW! Two weeks later I've written nearly 20,000 words of this story. It's flying from my heart to my fingertips to my computer.

That nagging voice in the back of my head continues to say, “It’s gotta be better, gotta be better.” And this time it will be, because I’m writing from the heart and not the head.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Grammar & Spelling Made Easy ...

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

... but I haven't seen pigs fly yet!

My daily morning routine is to turn on the news in the morning while I'm getting ready to go to work. This week was no exception. The commentators served up some more of the same stuff we've been hearing about for months; the hike in crime, rise in costs, more failed industries, and the steady increased percentage of unemployment. News about our economy came while I dried my hair, I put on my make-up to word from Iran, and I slipped on my clothes while I listened to the latest celebrity gossip.

If life isn't frustrating enough, what I heard next made me sit up, take notice, and gnash my teeth.

New British guidelines are telling teachers that the standard grammar rule, i before e except after c is too confusing and because the rule isn't consistently used, citing examples such as sufficient, veil and their. Hence, that rule should no longer be taught. Don't believe me? Here's a link to one of the articles from CBS News.

Come on, now. Who are we kidding? The English language is full of inconsistencies. Let's not stop with poor little i and e. How about if we make a few other spellings more consistent while we're at it?

Let's start with that "shun" sound. Why is the word operation written with a "tion", circumcision with a "sion", and suspicion written with "cion"? Wouldn't it be easier to remember these spellings if we could write, operashun, circumcishun, and suspishun? Add to this words that have the same "shun" sound but end in "cian" like beautician. I mean, if you read the following sentence, you'd know what it meant, right?"

Sweatheart, I'm going to see my beautishun. I just pulled my hair out and can't do a thing with it!"

Which brings me to words like phone, phantom, philosophy, and phenomenon. What's that all about? Just drop the ph and spell them with an f for crying out loud! Oh, now there's another example, why is out loud two words, but outlook one? Hmmm?

Okay, we're making some progress. Let's move on to homonyms (words that sound alike but have different meanings like air (what we breathe), e'er (contraction of "ever"), ere (eventually), err (a mistake), and heir (one who will inherit). Still with me? Good, for more homonyms check out:

Synonyms are different words with similar meanings, here's proof: For example, a synonym for the word train is locomotive, engine, or depending on your age, choo-choo. However, if you're in a new job, someone will surely train or teach, coach, educate, instruct, guide, prepare or tutor you on the proper procedures of your new position.

Antonyms are the easiest to remember because they are simply words opposite in meaning to other words, such as fast is an antonym of slow, and complicated is the opposite of easy.

But if the Brits are really concerned about easing up on the confusion of the English language, I say do something about, effect/affect and advice/advise! No matter how often I use them, I always have to look them up.

Now I ask you, is it any wonder the English language is the hardest to learn? I don't know about you, but I feel just a little smarter this morning because most of the rules are nicely tucked in the back of my head, especially i before e except after c which has been one of the easiest to remember. Maybe if someone could come up with a cute rhyme for me to remember when to use the words lie, lay, laid and lain, I wouldn't need to fone my beautishun as often which would help me save money on gas and wear/where/ware on my car/auto/vehicle. More money in my pocket, now wouldn't that be a great site/cite/sight?

As always, my final word on the subject: life is grand if you don't weaken! ;)

* * *

Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK)
THE DEVIL CAN WAIT - (2008), Bronze metal finalist, 2009 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)
SILENCED CRY (2007), Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"The Devil Can Wait" 2009 IPPY Bronze Medal Finalist

I received word a few weeks ago that the second book in my Sam Harper Crime Mystery, "The Devil Can Wait" tied for the bronze medal in the 2009 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY) -- a finalist in the mystery/suspense/thriller category. The winners were announced on May 29, at the BookExpo in New York City.

I was unable to attend the May 29, event and I've been waiting to receive the medal and other materials in the mail. After several e-mails I found out tonight that everything was shipped to my publisher in the UK. I had hoped to take a picture of it to post, but now it looks like it will be a while longer.

According to the IPPY site , of the 3,380 books entered in the national contest, 120 entries made it into the mystery suspense/thriller.When I consider the competition, I'm honored and amazed. I'm also extremely grateful to be blessed with some pretty awesome people in my corner during the writing of this book. To view my list, please visit my post on Murder By 4.

For those interested, here's the blurb:

The city of Chandler, Massachusetts is plunged into terror when the bodies of three local teenagers wash ashore. While homicide detective Sam Harper hunts down the guilty, a sinister plot emerges overseas. From the Vatican to the jungles of South America, a cursed black pearl ring, the demonic prophecy it represents, and the men who pursue its powers find their unfortunate way onto Harper's turf.Enthralled by the ring's story and a front-page spread, newspaper reporter Jennifer Blake agrees to pick up the ring at a local pawnshop for her former college professor. When she does, unforeseen events shoot Blake to the top of Harper's prime suspect list. Soon, the seemingly unrelated cases converge and the heat is on for Harper to expose the truth behind a Vatican secret and stop the self-righteous man who does the unthinkable in the name of God.

For more information, reviews, a chance to buy an autographed copy, please visit:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

"The Devil Can Wait" IPPY Award Semifinalist

The Devil Can Wait, has been shortlisted in the highly competitive mystery/suspense/thriller genre for the 2009 IPPY awards.

The winners will be announce on May 29th on the first evening of the BookExpo America convention in NYC. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani in Book Reviews, Reviews

If you like mystery novels with rich plots that dig into the past, then you’ll enjoy Silenced Cry by Marta Stephens.

During a routine pick-up for questioning, Detective Sam Harper loses his partner and friend, Gillies. Harper is confused and distraught by the event, which happens under suspicious circumstances. Soon afterwards he’s called to solve a murder case like none he’s been involved before: the homicide of an infant. In a rundown building that’s about to be demolished, trapped behind a wall, they find the skeletal remains of an newborn baby. To make matters worse, the murder seems to have taken place not recently but over a decade ago, making the investigation a lot harder.

As Detective Harper begins to investigate, a line of suspects slowly emerges. The detective must moved back in time in order to uncover the terrible events which let to the infant’s demise. Soon he’s pulled into a vortex of drugs, corruption, rape and murder as other members of the police force become suspects. At the same time, someone wants the case close and the building demolished as soon as possible, someone who doesn’t want Harper opening the door to the past.

Who murdered the infant? Is the murder only a small part of a much larger set of crimes which have been kept secret all these years? Is Harper ready to face the truth and come to terms with the results of his own investigation?

Silenced Cry is deftly crafted and an impressive first novel. The pace moves steadily without being too quick nor too slow, allowing the reader to savor each stage of the investigation. The dialogue is sharp and natural and the prose focuses on the action without letting unnecessary details and description get in the way. The police procedurals read realistically, giving the impression that the author either knows well about the subject or did a fair amount of research. For me, this was not a thriller that read at a fast pace, but a ‘gourmet’ mystery that I enjoyed at every stage of the story. Sam Harper is a likable character, but I would say that this is a plot-driven novel more than a character-driven one. Our detective protagonist is sympathetic, but there were times when, for me, he got lost in the midst of the plot. I feel he would have stood out more given stronger, more sharply defined characteristics or quirks. This is an observation more than a criticism, as it didn’t lessen by desire to keep on reading. The secondary characters are quite realistic as well, especially some of the suspects–though I don’t dare say more for fear of giving away spoilers.

Marta Stephens is a mystery author to watch out for. I will be soon reviewing the second book in the series, The Devil Can Wait, and I have to say I’m very much looking forward to it. If you enjoy an intelligently crafted detective story, I recommend you give this one a try.

I should point out that Detective Sam Harper has his own character blog a Sam Harper Crime Scene.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Review of THE DEVIL CAN WAIT on Midwest Book Review

The Devil Can Wait (Sam Harper Mysteries)
Marta Stephens
BeWrite Books (UK)
ISBN 9781905202867

Reviewed by Thomas Fortenberry for Midwest Book Review.

The latest Sam Harper mystery may leave the devil waiting, but not the readers. This gritty mystery series lies at the crossroads of crime and thrillers, both 87th Precinct and Davinci Code. Bodies of teenagers are washing ashore in an apocalypse of murder and intrigue spanning the dark dangerous world, from Vatican to Colombia to Harper’s hometown of Chandler, Mass. Drugs to ancient religious secrets to serial killers, this book has it all.

But the book’s unrelenting drama isn’t what captures me. It is the character Sam Harper and author Stephens. She writes with a forensic authority that makes these pages bleed with real world angst. Detective Harper is a well-realized, no-nonsense cop, a streetwise guy who refuses to give up despite the odds. When the going gets rough, everyone else has given up, an easy option looms, and the race becomes overwhelming, Harper is just getting started. He is the original it ain’t over guy. He literally pushes himself beyond physical collapse to solve crimes. He refuses to let any criminal escape on his watch.

The Devil Can Wait is a good mystery. Sam Harper is a better cop. I can’t wait to follow his next career move.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Interview With Author, Kim Smith

Kim, congratulations on the launch of your first published book, “Avenging Angel.” I know you’ve waiting a long time for this. Please tell us about your journey, where you’ve been and how you got here.

Ah yes. It has been a wild ride, I admit. I began seriously considering getting Avenging Angel published back in 2004. I hired an editor, and had it overhauled just to give it the best start I could. Then I began submitting it sometime in 2005 but although I received positive responses from agents who always asked for the full, I just couldn’t make the next step. In November, 2007, I finally found a small publisher who showed interest and subsequently signed with them. But after a long period of inactivity, whereby I felt my time would be better spent elsewhere, I cancelled my contract and went out hunting again. I think authors should know that it is okay to pull a book if they feel like things are not transpiring in the manner in which they think it ought to. I lucked out and went with Red Rose Publishing, and have been very happy and satisfied that I did.

What is Avenging Angel all about?

Avenging Angel is all about a bad week in the life of Shannon Wallace, a somewhat naïve, and zany woman who discovers her “bedroom ballet” collection of DVD’s are missing from her murdered boyfriend’s apartment. The detective in charge of the case, Salvador Ramirez, has a grudge against Shannon and she has to find those videos before he does. She is aided in her mission by her old college buddy, Dwayne Brown. Dwayne has a natural knack for aiding in a true Ethel and Lucy style, which makes for funny, moments where he is as much stumbling block as sidekick.

What prompted you to write this book and what makes it stand out among other books in this genre?

This book originated with an idea of what would happen if a two-bit hood started a PI business and pressed his old college buddy into service upon learning of her being down on her luck. The story really just grew and changed out of that idea. It is NOTHING like the original idea, but it has been a grand journey getting from point A to today.

What do you feel is has been your greatest strengths as a writer?

I would have to say my openness to change. I have always said if someone wanted me to make changes to my work, I would totally be willing to do it. I think that sort of flexibility and lack of attachment to our work can very well open doors sometimes. I have never been asked to make that supreme sacrifice either, but the thought that I might have to has helped loosen the stranglehold I had on my work.

In what way do you or don’t you see yourself in your main character, Shannon Wallace?

I actually see a lot of myself in Shannon when I was a young woman, pre-children. I was pretty innocent and naïve, sheltered and protected, and life, as it always does, played some hard tricks on me. I enjoyed writing about where I live, too. South Lake Mississippi is an invented town, but it is based on where I live, and if anyone reads the book and is from around here, they will know JUST where I am talking about in many ways.

Please tell us about the setting for your book and why you chose it.

I have always heard from others to write what you know. Well, I know this region. I was Memphis born, Memphis bred, and when I die I will be Memphis dead. There is very little that you can ask about this area that I cannot tell you. I wrote more effectively since I knew the setting so intimately. Maybe one day I will write a book set in a place far from here, but for now, writing from about where I sit, is a great way to go.

What has been your greatest challenging in writing this book or writing in general?

My greatest challenge in writing in general has been one of trust. Trust in my own knowledge, my trust in others to be fair in their critiques, my trust in the publishing industry. I have had it all shaken not stirred several times, but I have come back and been wiser, and learned that trust has to be earned. Now I know that I have to be a trustworthy person also, so that I can pay it forward and help someone else. I do enjoy helping aspiring authors get started, and help producing authors to get the word out about their work.

Every author has at least one turning point in their career. That moment when they know the path they must take and accept the challenge. Please tell us about yours.

It was when my husband plunked me down in front of a computer and said, “Now. Quit making excuses and write that book.” He is the one that was the final straw. My mother had begged me for years to write a book. She wanted to be published as much as anyone I have ever known, but then, publishing was a whole different animal from today. She didn’t know how to break in, and she never tried. I wanted to do it for her, and for me. When he bought the computer, he literally took my last excuse away.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

I am either working at my paying job, the one that pays my bills, or I am working at the job that doesn’t pay my bills but helps keep my kids in car insurance, which is photography and videography. We have had our own video production company since 1992. Running a business, putting in forty plus hours at my job as a network admin, and having kids and a hubby is pretty much all I have time for. The writing, radio show, and promotions are what keeps me sane.
What has been the most valuable advice you’ve received along the way? How has it shaped your path?

The most valuable advice I have ever received was to keep going. I have tried to quit writing on a number of occasions and it was my friends, and my family who believed in me when I had given up. So when I say I owe this book to my friends and family, I really mean it. Those words, “don’t give up”, mean the most to me. And I would encourage another writer in a minute with the same words. It’s your dream, isn’t it? Then, don’t ever give up.

Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your life and writing. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I have had such a blast with this book and am working hard on the next two, so if you like Shannon’s horrible, awful, terrible, very bad, no good week in Avenging Angel, then you need to make room for the others to come. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!
* * *
About the author:
Kim Smith was born in Memphis Tennessee, the youngest of four children. After a short stint in a Northwest Mississippi junior college, during the era of John Grisham’s rise as a lawyer, she gave up educational pursuits to marry and begin family life.

She has worked in many fields in her life, from fast food waitress to telephone sales. “I always got the seniors on the phone who were lonely and wanted someone to talk to. My boss couldn’t understand why in the world I spent so much time talking to them and not enough time selling. That was when I realized I love people and care deeply about their lives.”
Writing was a dream, hidden but not forgotten, and soon Kim began to talk again of trying her hand at it. She played with words, and wrote several poems, one of which was picked up for an anthology

One day in the early nineties her husband came home with a desktop computer and sat her in front of it. “Now you have no more excuses,” he said, and she realized the truth in his words. Procrastination, now no longer an option, she took off on the pursuit of penning her first book. Though that book, a young adult fantasy, was lost due to unforeseen circumstances, she kept going, writing a historical romance, and another YA.

When she decided to try out her hand at mystery writing, she discovered her true love and niche in the writing journey. She has since had four short stories, and her first mystery novel accepted for publication.
Kim is a member of Sisters in Crime, and is a Coffeetime Romance and More author member. She still lives in the Mid South region of the United States and is currently working on her second book in the Shannon Wallace mystery series.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Review of A Very Classy, Compelling Tale

Title: Chronicles of the Undead
Author: A. F. Stewart
ISBN 978-0-557-02670-8

Reviewed by Marta Stephens, author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series

“Chronicles of the Undead” transports the reader into the realm of London vampires between the years of 1793 and 1826. Written in diary format, author A. F. Stewart masterfully reveals the quest of three generations of the Harrington family to record their interactions with the undead.

Samuel Harrington begins the diary entries on April 26, 1793, when new neighbors move in. Upon meeting Henri Forain and his cousin, Eleanor de Burgh, Samuel immediately strikes a friendship with Henri. Their relationship is forged by the number of common interests they share. It begins as an enjoyable encounter, but when Samuel discovers certain truths about his new friend, the situation takes a turn.

Samuel descends into a darker, far more sinister realm than he thought imaginable. Too enthralled by his new knowledge, he discards the things he has held dear throughout his life and begins a new evil existence. It isn’t long before Samuel pulls those he formally loved most into his menacing acts as unwilling victims.

Samuel’s son, Edmund and later Edmunds’ daughter Charlotte take up the quest to stop the evil that has destroyed their family.

Without one line of dialogue, and with an exquisite command of the written word, Stewart has created memorable, well-rounded, developed characters and has painted an intriguing and highly entertaining dark tale that kept this reader turning one page after another. “Chronicles of the Undead” is akin to “Interview with a Vampire” in its classy depiction of vampires and the twists and turns that influence the characters’ lives.

When the writing shines as is the case of A. F. Stewart, genre is never an issue. Whether you enjoy fantasy or not, “Chronicles of the Undead” is a must read and is guaranteed to hold the reader’s attention from the innocent beginning to its deadly end. I definitely look forward to more from author A. F. Stewart.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review of Harry Hughes's THE BAIT SHACK

Title: The Bait Shack
Author: Harry Hughes
Publisher: Bewrite Books (October 28, 2008)
ISBN-10: 190520292X
ISBN-13: 978-1905202928

Reviewed by Marta Stephens, author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series

The Bait Shack is an intriguingly entertaining and engaging murder mystery that demonstrates a vivid imaginative gift on the part of author, Harry Hughes. In his debut novel, Hughes expertly created a small but complex cast of characters whose quirky persona and relationship dynamics lend much to the novel's appeal.

Dale Cooles, a mathematician/number cruncher walks way from his university position to begin a new life with his bride, Lacy Chamblet. He is content to stay home, cook and clean for a change while Lacy goes to work for the property management firm of Meredith Holdings and its less than reputable owner, Henry Meredith.

Meredith is known for his unsavory business practices, his sleazy relationships, and his employ of undesirable characters to do his bidding. But Meredith’s life gets complicated when a key business deal doesn’t pan out and he hires an unsavory goon to collect unpaid rent on the properties. All this aside, living in a cottage situated behind one of Meredith’s old empty homes has its advantages for Dale and Lacy. That is, until they slip into the main house and find evidence that points to a few unsolved murders. Angers flair and egos collide but the pace never lets up until the very ending I didn’t see coming.

Hughes has crafted a solid read around a twisted tail that explores the dark side of the human soul and peppered it with his own brand of deliciously dry humor. The Bait Shack is a fast read that will easily hold the attention of any murder mystery buff. I definitely look forward to more from Harry Hughes.
** *

Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK)
SILENCED CRY (2007), Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Latest Review of "The Devil Can Wait"

I was impressed by Marta Stephens’ first novel Silenced Cry, and was looking forward to her next book. I was not disappointed, finding The Devil Can Wait even more enjoyable. Again, as with her first book, I was drawn in by the realistic character interplay, especially the portrayal of the often frustrating work of a homicide detective.

The book begins in the middle of a messy crime spree, with the discovery of the latest teenage body in a string of possibly related murders. Short-handed and overworked, Sam Harper and his partner have no leads and a workload of aggravation. Throw in several more strange murders, a homicidal Colombian, a cursed ring that could bring the apocalypse, an attractive, vibrant reporter slated to become a damsel in distress, and Sam Harper is up against the clock to save lives by solving the case.

“He didn’t need one of Jack’s lectures on viable evidence. Not now. What he wanted was a neon sign pointing straight to the killer. As it was, there were as many possibilities for how that tiny bruise got on the boy’s finger as there were reasons to keep digging for answers.”

Marta Stephens does an admirable job of blending a solid crime mystery with an exotic supernatural touch and the undertone of religious beliefs. She never veers into the outrageous or unbelievable, but still manages to keep that small air of “what if”, integrating it all into a fabulous whole.

“The urgency that prodded him two minutes ago was suddenly gone. It’s nothing but hogwash, he told himself. A wives’ tale told to scare the shit out of weak men and innocent children.”

I am fast becoming a rabid fan of Ms. Stephens, appreciating her reliable plot work and her memorable characters. Her superb protagonist, Sam Harper, is a genuine, somewhat imperfect, thoroughly human personality. From his dedication to the job to his rather messy personal life, it is this character that breathes vivid life into the pages of her books.

A definite recommend for all fans of crime/mystery fiction.

Reviewed by A. F. Stewart

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Was The Virtual Book Tour Worth It?

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

We hear that term “Virtual Book Tours” tossed around quite a bit these days, but what exactly does “virtual tour” mean? What does it entail and is it worth an author’s efforts?
A virtual book tour gives an author the chance to promote his or her book to millions of readers via the Internet. It can be arranged by either the author or a tour professional. I’ve done both, but for the sake of this article, I’ll concentrate on my experience during my December 2008, virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotions.

What Does It Involve?

Please visit the above link for the full article and feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Relax And Be Yourself

Since the November 2008, release of the latest in the Sam Harper Crime Mysteries, THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, I’ve focused more attention at doing local talks and book signings. My first speaking engagement was at a library back in October. When it comes to public speaking, I’m no different than most. Although my heart doesn’t pound and my palms stay dry these days, it’s still not my favorite thing to do. But, I was determined to get through that talk one way or another. I spend several days, outlining my thoughts, typing my notes, highlighting sections in my books I wanted to read, and trying to memorize my lines. All this in an attempt to come across as “perfectly natural.”

On the day of the gathering, all eyes were on me and I quickly discovered that no amount of planning or rehearsing was going to save me. Worried that I’d forget to say a key word or phrase stressed me to the point that at times, I drew a blank in mid sentence. Yes, readers say I’m capable of crafting complex plots and creating well-developed characters, but I couldn’t remember a simple outline.

A few minutes into the talk I tossed out my notes and started to tell my story from the heart. Smiles eased across the faces before me, heads began to nod and questions started to pop up. Clearly, those people weren’t there for a speech, they just wanted to talk. They wanted to know who I was, why I had chosen to write, and how this middle-aged woman from Indiana had managed to “do it.”

Recently, an elementary school teacher friend of mine invited me to speak with her sorority group. When I called to confirm things, she said she was very excited and was looking forward to my speech. She gasped when I told her I didn’t have anything planned.

“But, but—” she said.

I assured her that everything would be fine, that I would say a few things about myself and my writing and then see what the group was most interested in. As it turned out, it was a great group of women and the evening was a huge success. I love meeting people and doing what is most natural to me; talking about my books and the Sam Harper character. But more important, in the eyes of those present, I was as real as the person sitting next to them. I was approachable; just another woman in the group who happened to be a published author. It was wonderful!

What I hope writers will take from this is that no one knows your journey or your writing better than you. Whether you’re doing a local talk or chatting online, the most important thing you can do is to be yourself, connect with your readers and have fun, because there’s nothing more contagious than that.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

News & Announcements

First, thanks to all who tossed in their vote for my book cover! The Devil Can Wait won November cover of the month on Erin Aislinn's website, Now it and the other 11 covers from 2008 are eligible to compete for 2008 cover of the year. More on this as soon as the link is up!

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT is now up for a vote at the 2009 Preditors & Editors readers' poll in the mystery section There are lots of familiar author names and book titles listed. Be sure to read throughall the categories and vote for your favorite read!

FYI, the first book in the Harper series, Silenced Cry, got to 4th place last in this the P&E. I'd love to get The Devil Can Wait within the top ten too!!

Now for the BIG announcement. I've launched a new blog called, SAM HARPER CRIME SCENE featuring none other than myprotagonist, homicide detective Sam Harper.

The inspiration for this blog came from you, the readers and fans—I love it and appreciate your many kind words of encouragement more than you know.

In an attempt to do something a different with this blog, I've developed a series of short Harper stories to post in segments that will continue for 3-4 weeks. Every few weeks I'll post the beginning of a new story.

Part one of DIRTY LITTLE SECRET will be posted on Friday, January 9. I hope you'll enjoy the Harper Shorts. As always, I look forward to your comments!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Preditors & Editors Readers Poll 2009

"The Devil Can Wait" is up for votes in the mystery section of the annual Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.

Here's the link:

To vote, find my book title and click on the dot next to it then scroll down to the bottom of the page to complete your vote submission.