Audio Spotlight & Author Interview: Murder At St. Margaret + Excerpt

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Title: Murder At St. Margaret

Author: Lynn Morrison

Narrator: Pearl Hewitt

Length: 8 hours 16 minutes

Series: Oxford Key Mysteries, Book 1

Released: Sep. 27, 2021

Publisher: Marketing Chair Press

Genre: Cozy Mystery

“Grief can change us… rewire our brains and shift the way we look at the world…”

A dead chef. A ruined gala. And the ghosts didn’t see a thing.
As Oxford’s new Head of Ceremonies, Natalie Payne’s first task is to organize St Margaret’s autumn gala. However, her plans are dashed when she finds their famed chef dead in the kitchen.
And then a centuries-old cat informs Nat she has her own magical legacy…and responsibilities. A murder in the halls is a sure sign that something has gone wrong with Oxford’s magical protections.
Now Nat has to solve the murder, find a new chef for the gala, and figure out why Oxford’s magical defenses are down. With the help of Oxford’s magical Eternals and some new friends, Nat has a chance.
But can she do it before St Margaret loses its connection to the magic of Oxford?
If you like cozy mysteries where ghosts walk the halls, paintings come to life, creatures play, and magic seems within reach, the Oxford Key Mysteries are sure to delight.

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Q&A with Author Lynn Morrison
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • I wish! Murder at St Margaret was the first cozy mystery I wrote, and at the time, my only thought was about writing a story which would hold together. I could not have imagined how many copies of the book would sell, or even begin to dream of making an audiobook. It wasn’t until the fourth book in the series came out, and I started to see a steady income, that I began to think about making audio versions.
    • Now that I am farther along in my career, I do keep the idea of audio in the back of my mind as I write. I try to cut down on the dialogue tags and introduce more motion and movements instead. But, I think some of that comes along as part of your natural progression as you get better over time.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I didn’t start thinking about producing an audio version of Murder at St Margaret until a year after it was released. By then, I had good information on what other books my readers liked. I looked up those titles on Audible and checked which narrators the authors had chosen. Pearl Hewitt’s name came up again and again. She has an incredible ability to effortlessly switch character voices as she reads, and really brings the story to life in a way only audio can. It was no surprise that listeners love her. I contacted her out of the blue via her website, and lo and behold, she said yes!
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • I put together character bios for each of the main characters, and prepared a 15 minute test script pulling out different excerpts from the book. I specifically chose scenes which were dialogue-heavy so I could hear how she would differentiate between the characters. There were a few smaller characters which I didn’t include in my advance preparation. After reading the book, Pearl came up with suggestions for how their voices should sound – and I have to say that she did a brilliant job of it. She recorded the 15 minute sample and I circulated it to a few fans for feedback. Pearl took on board all their comments and then took care of everything from there. I didn’t have to do anything else until the book was ready to approve in Audible.
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • I pulled from both my own experiences of living in Oxford and being a professor’s wife, along with doing a ton of background research into the colleges themselves when writing this series. Oxford is such a unique city, and the university is full of quirks and traditions which are fascinating to outsiders. I wanted to bring my readers behind the closed doors of the colleges and let them see what life is really like. I haven’t seen any ghosts in Oxford, nor have any of the paintings come to life as I’ve walked past, but my imagination was more than happy to fill in the blanks when it came to dreaming up the magical elements.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • Writers talk a lot about the importance of refilling your creative well, and I fully agree with that sentiment. I read a LOT of books each year – 150 or more on average. I need to lose myself in someone else’s story to remember why I write.
    • I also spend a long time thinking about a book idea before I sit down to start a project. I flesh it out in my mind until I am super excited to see the story come to life. I am usually thinking one or two books ahead of whatever project I’m currently doing. This helps me keep up my writing pace – each finish line marks the start of something I’m excited to tackle.
    • One of the funnest parts of being a writer (and one of the weirdest) is seeing your characters take on a life of their own as you write the story. I am a plotter. I write a synopsis and outline before I put the first word onto paper. But no matter how much I prep, there is always a moment where a character will suddenly veer in a new and interesting direction. Wherever that happens, I can only sit back in amazement and see where they lead me. It keeps me guessing, even though I’m the writer.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I wrote this series in first person, present tense because I wanted the reader to feel like they are experiencing everything at the same time as my main character is doing so in the story. When put into an audio format, this gives the story a real sense of immediacy. I think it allows the listener to sink deeper into the tale, and feel as though they are sitting in on the conversations and making each discovery along with Natalie and her friends.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • As an author, I want readers to enjoy my story in whatever format is most comfortable for them. That might be a paperback, or an ebook, or the audio version. Arguing over “which format is better” misses the point – the main focus should be on accessibility. The only person who gets a vote on the format is the reader.
    • On a personal note, my younger daughter is dyslexic, and for a long while she hated reading. She has, however, always loved listening to stories. Audiobooks were a natural fit for her.
  • How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
    • We ate cake! I started a tradition of either baking or buying a cake whenever I finish a book. It gives me something to look forward to when I am elbow deep in edits, and it also reminds my family there is a reward for putting up with my book deadline stress. As I start to get close to the end, we all discuss which cake we want to eat when it comes time to celebrate.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    • Don’t stress over the quality of your first draft. I am a strong believer that anything can be fixed in edits – even if that means you have to do a major rewrite. Major rewrites aren’t that bad! The key thing is to get a first draft done so you can enjoy the satisfaction that comes from writing a book. It is an incredible accomplishment – and the warm feelings you get will support you through the editing process. I would also suggest that you start networking with other writers in your genre as soon as you can. Join author groups on Facebook or Discord, or post comments and replies to authors on other social media platforms. The writing community is filled with supportive people who are happy to cheer you on or lend a hand (or be a sympathetic ear). Writing can feel lonely at times, and knowing other writers can make a big difference on dark days.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I am hard at work on the next book! I jump from one project to another, and always have at least one book in progress. At the moment I’m working on two books – one is for the Oxford Key Mysteries and the other is for my Midlife in Raven series.

Lynn Morrison lives in Oxford, England along with her husband, two daughters and two cats. Born and raised in Mississippi, her wanderlust attitude has led her to live in California, Italy, France, and the Netherlands, in addition to the UK. It’s no surprise then that she loves to travel, with a never-ending wish list of destinations to visit.

She is as passionate about reading as she is writing, and can almost always be found with a book in hand. You can find out more about her on her website LynnMorrisonWriter.com.

If you want to chat with her directly, join her Facebook group – Lynn Morrison’s Not a Book Club – where she happily talks about books, life and anything else that crosses her mind.

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Narrator Bio

Originally from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in Northeast England, audiobook narrator Pearl Hewitt currently lives with her husband and two children in Houston, Texas. Over the years she has worked as a customer service rep, a teaching assistant, and a teacher, but deep down there was always a performer wanting to get out. In 2007 her twelve-year-old son told her that he believed she was so good at reading stories out loud that she should do that as a job. That was her defining, eureka moment, and she’s never looked back. Pearl immersed herself in training and pursued a career in general voice acting but in 2012 she decided to focus her attention to narrating audiobooks in a wide range of genres. It was then that her professional career blossomed. She regularly works directly with indie authors but also narrates for a number of major publishers and has gained lots of recognition in the process including IAAIS awards, a Voice Arts Award nomination and Audiofile Magazine reviews. Pearl’s is comfortable narrating both fiction and non-fiction titles and has been very successful reading British Regency romance, cozy murder mysteries, fantasy/science fiction, children’s literature, the classics, history, biographies and more.

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Spotlight & Author Interview: No Song, But Silence + Giveaway

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No Song but Silence EBook

No Song, But Silence
Series: Wind Tide (#3)
by Jonathan Nevair
Published: November 18, 2021 by Shadow Spark Publishing
Genre: Space Opera, Science Fiction
Pages: 387

CW: death of parent (mentioned), death of sibling, graphic violence and death, blood, trauma, genocide, colonialism, terrorism, executions

POSSIBLE ULTIMATE TOUR EXPERIENCE TICKETS: Represent, Lost In Space, It’s All About The Journey, I’m Not Crying, You Are Crying

Book Blurb

The tide of justice ebbs. A mysterious and reclusive superpower threatens to extend its reach, colonizing new star systems for Wind energy and spreading a corrupt political empire. The People’s Army, once the hope for a new federation of allies in the Arm, has dwindled to a mere spectator in the fight for political control. Ailo’s role in its revolutionary fervor is over. The esoteric philosophy of the legendary Cin Quinti is her only concern now. But when an unimaginable threat sends a political shock wave through the Arm she must weigh the cost of self-preservation, hiding in the shadows as civilization falls to despotism and tyranny.

Light years away on Kol 2, a young librarian grows inspired by a mentor’s clandestine teachings. What he discovers with the newfound knowledge reveals a moral avalanche. The dubious and cruel political power corrupting his society must be exposed, but it will take a leap of faith to challenge an empire.

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Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

The Wind Tide series started with a voice – Razor speaking first-person in the opening chapter of Goodbye to the Sun. From there, a world grew around that opening passage. I tend to be very visual and sensory based in creating content for my books. Most of the settings derive from mental images or feelings, often these come in the form of light, color, and sound. I’m all about mood. But I will say that the series overall tackles issues of morality, and that’s a concept and dilemma that runs through all three books – the struggle of family vs. state responsibility, one’s obligation to others in society, and struggling to consider the consequences of forms of justice that aren’t based on personal vengeance and retribution (and that includes broader ecologies as well as human relations).

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?

That the last book in a trilogy is hard to write! You have many responsibilities to readers in that final book. You need a story that stands on its own but also connects to the previous novels, even if only through central themes or a few characters. Add to that the need to make it have a dramatic climax and resolution to not just the one book but all three books that work as a larger narrative. I didn’t realize just how many promises I’d made to readers in the first two books, and I learned that it’s very hard to weave a tight story fabric in that last book in a series.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?

Characters that pop up while writing! Ferra came out of nowhere and ended up being a key player in the story. Sometimes while writing your fingers type a person onto the page and you are like, “oh hello, who are you?” I’ve learned to welcome those surprises and not fight them – it’s your subconscious sending you signals that someone needs to be there. Ferra needed to be there (don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t say more on that).

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?

Ahhh… I can’t say because it would spoil it! I can share this: it comes from a line in Antigone by Sophocles (which is the inspiration for Book I: Goodbye to the Sun).

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

Absolutely! (And no they don’t know) I’ll also never say who they are. Jati especially is based partly on someone who was a unique thinker and psychic life adventurer who didn’t adhere to limits or restrictions that many others do in our world. Since the series is based on Greek sources, many of the characters in all three books share aspects with people in the earlier texts but none are direct re-castings.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?

Oh, absolutely. All three books do, in fact. Though again, I am hesitant to share them. They relate to themes about personal vs. state responsibility, a struggle with forms of justice that go beyond revenge, ecological ethics, and a need to respect differences and work toward collective futures by breaking out of longstanding intellectual binaries.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?

The end! It’s everything I wanted it to be and yet, it terrified me for the longest time not knowing what it would be and how it might turn out on the page. I’ve read it too many times with editing stages etc, but it still gets me every time (eyes watering thinking about it now…)

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Lazro, for sure. He goes through a series of transitions and transformations in this book, both ethically and culturally, and it was difficult to express in writing what he kept and what he lost in that process throughout the story. I had a difficult time with his personality because he is fairly reserved and even-tempered. It’s much more difficult for me to write a character like that than someone who is snarky, outspoken, or daring, etc.

9. What are your immediate future plans?

I’m writing a standalone space opera that will release next November 2022 (Shadow Spark Publishing). I’m pretty excited because it’s an opportunity to write a story in a new setting that will go from start to finish in a single novel. I’ve also got a short story dropping in the next few months and I’ll be appearing on a podcast in January about world building in space opera with other authors I greatly respect and admire so that should be super fun.


Author Info:

jonathan-nevairFrom the moment he saw Star Wars: Episode IV in the theater as a child, Jonathan’s eyes turned to the night sky and the capability of FTL drives to whisk him off to distant star systems. After two decades of academic publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction and bring those worlds to life.

Jonathan lives in southeastern PA with his wife and rambunctious mountain feist, Cricket. When not writing and teaching, he spends his time chasing his dog through the woods and hoping he’ll be able to walk in space before he croaks.

Jonathan Nevair (he/him/his) is the pen name for Dr. Jonathan Wallis, Professor of Art History at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia

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Spotlight & Author Interview: Servant of the Lesser Good

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Servant of the Lesser Good
Feyrlands Collection, #1
by Shaun Paul Stevens
Out: 2nd December 2021
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Page count: 270 pages
Pitt Norton Publishing

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A cursed symphony and magic which tells stories in your mind.

High Mistress Talia is a hellraising socialite with a murky past. But she has a bright future. Beautiful, rich, and a virtuoso harpist, she’s betrothed to the Count of Brecht. In short, she has it all. Or so it would seem.

Marla Holst is the new lady’s maid, but never has the ‘help’ been so unhelpful. Marla, real name Mist, has only one mission: to stop the high mistress’s marriage. By any means necessary.

But complications abound. Talia’s disturbed daughter, a girl who can see into the future, is cursed with the stigma of a devil-worshipping father. The count’s father, the Duke of Rizak, is a recluse, too afraid of assassins to show his face. And all the nobility want to do is duel.

Meanwhile, the highlight of the season—a recital of the famous ‘Cursed Symphony,’ draws ever closer.

servant of the lesser good
Servant of the Lesser Good is the latest book by SPFBO finalist Shaun Paul Stevens. Set in his Feyrlands universe, this standalone story follows the deadly but delightful Mist (one of the main characters in Nether Light) in her covert mission to avert civil war by destroying an alliance between two of Sendal’s most powerful southern duchies.

Read a preview here.

Or pre-order your copy from Amazon
*AVAILABLE FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED


servant of the lesser good


Author Interview:

1. What inspired you to write this book?
I love the character of Mist, who featured in Nether Light, and wanted to explore her earlier life within a royal court, period drama setting.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I learned a great deal about period dress, 18th century etiquette, and how to tell a fast-paced, explosive story.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
How the story took on a life of its own.

4. What does the title mean?
The main character, Mist, plays the role of a servant with a none-so-pure, ulterior motive.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Not at all, and although that may have made portraying them easier, they wouldn’t have felt as real to me if I’d based them on people I knew.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
Yes. There is always a price to pay for selfishness.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
I love the regatta – a beautiful, hot summer afternoon on the river, sipping champagne and playing dress-up, dodging snide comments and watching the upper class’s insecurities play out.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
The most challenging character to create was High Mistress Talia—trying to make someone so vile at the same time likeable proved quite hard.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
I’m currently working on books 2 and 3 of my other Rankers series in the Feyrlands Collection, featuring the grizzled warrior, Villa Kiprik.


About the Author:

Shaun Paul Stevens was born in October 1972 in London. He spent his formative years in the shadows of the dreaming spires of Oxford, before moving to Nottingham, where he graduated university with a degree in English and Media.

Navigating a path through music, art and the internet, writing came calling and he found himself ensconced in alternate realities and gritty fantasy worlds. He has written several books to date.

Shaun now lives in Brighton, on the south coast of England, with his patient family and ungrateful cat, generally being a nerd.

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Email: contact@shaunpaulstevens.com

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