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: http://bewritebooks.blogspot.com/2009/06/publisher-caitlin-myers-to-leave.html

* * *
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.