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.