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THE FLAWED DANCE

Thriller/Noir by Laura Elvebak

Thriller/Noir by Laura Elvebak

A NEW RELEASE FROM BLACK OPAL BOOKS MADE ITS DEBUT ON JULY 18, 2015. 

After five years of being the traveling companion and lover of a secretive man thirty years her senior, Erin Matthews fears his increasing paranoia. At age twenty-two, Erin escapes to a new city, determined to survive with her limited skills and experience. She cannot run, however, from the dark act that facilitated her escape. Making one bad decision after another, she lands in the Philadelphia demimonde world of entertainers, hustlers, and thugs. But will her newly learned skills, native intelligence, and honed instincts be enough to keep her alive until she gains the redemption and forgiveness she seeks?

Excerpt from THE FLAWED DANCE

I knew I was taking a risk, but I had no idea how much trouble it could cause me…

I couldn’t hide forever so I lathered more makeup on my face, hoped the darkness and smoke below would hide any traces left by Charley’s fist. I left the empty dressing room and went downstairs. Nothing seemed different. Trixie was on stage. A few eyes were on her, but as usual most of the men were either drinking, masturbating, smoking, or all of the above. Yet, for me everything had changed. I lingered at the bottom step and looked for Charley. If I saw him, I would have Joe arrest the bastard.

I sat by myself in a corner under the stage, thinking what I needed was a stiff drink. Joe was busy with a group at the other end of the bar. While I waited for him to notice me, I kept busy imagining Charley behind bars. I knew that wouldn’t happen. Not to Tony Corelli’s partner. Corelli knew judges. He’d proven that with my case.

Tony wouldn’t let anything interfere with his plans for Atlantic City. He made that plain enough. He was in trouble and I was the oil that would grease the kinks to smooth sailing. Once he found out I willingly went upstairs with Charley, he’d say I deserved whatever I got. He might even look at the incident as a betrayal. I’d gone behind his back and possibly made Charley a threat to his plans. How stupid could a girl get?

Joe noticed me after about five minutes. His eyes narrowed and his jaw tightened.

“Charley Rossino stormed out of here like the devil himself was after him. Never knew he could move so fast.” He leaned closer. “Did he do that to you?”

“Let it go, Joe.”

“No way,” he said. “That asshole hit you. You can’t hide the bruises with makeup.”

A Look at Covenant House

In the Niki Alexander mystery series, Niki is a counselor for a teen shelter. In Houston we have Covenant House.  As part of my research in 2007 when I was writing the first of the series, Less Dead, I visited the shelter and was taken on a tour by one of the counselors. I also knew some kids who spent a few days there. Covenant House became the model for Open Palms, the fictional shelter. More more information, I spent one evening interviewing kids at the street church across from the shelter. That evening was the inspiration for Lost Witness and much that I witnessed is included in the book.

Recently, Covenant House had open house with an invitation to take a tour. Naturally, I wanted to see if it had changed since my research in 2007. It had. I was amazed at the change.

The biggest change was the age group. Back 2007, young teens were allowed to stay there. Now the accepted age is 18-21. The reason for this, I was told, was to protect the younger kids from possible preditors who might sell them drugs or pimp them or use them sexually.

 Young kids who find their way off the street to Covenant House are not turned away, however. They can be visited by a staff nurse, can take a shower, get some clothes, some food, and talk to a counselor. They are encouraged to call their parents and work out a solution so they can return home.  Sometimes this isn’t possible because of severe abuse or neglect at home. In that case, CPA is called in and they are taken to another shelter for children.

 

Covenant House has counselors trained in drug abuse, anger management, sexual abuse. They have a nursing staff. The older teens can attend school, get their GED, learn a trade, write a resume and get recommended for jobs. Before they can do this, however, they will have to stay at the shelter for six months to get clean of drugs and go through counseling before they can go through the Rite of Passage and attend their college.

They don’t have a 100% success rate. Who does? These young people have had to struggle with abuse and/or neglect, have nowhere else to go. They are offered a chance. Some will succeed. Others will fail. But it offers hope and a life beyond what they had before.

Open Palms will continue in my Niki Alexander books that started with Less Dead and Lost Witness. I’m in the process of writing the third in the series. Open Palms will still open its arms to teens regardless of age and Niki will continue the fight to protect them, teach them skills and see that no harm comes to them.

 

CLOSE UP ON PROMOTION

One day about a month ago, I was steadily working on the third Niki Alexander book. I was not thinking primarily about promotion, although in the back of my mind, I knew promotion was part of the business. First, I had to have a book to promote. In my mind, that involved getting the third book completed and sold. Or my standalone bought and produced.

Meanwhile, I needed to reissue my first two Niki Alexander books after getting my rights reverted back to me from my publisher. I knew this would also take time. A wonderful artist was recommended by Jeffrey Marks, who moderates the Mystery Must Advertise Yahoo Group. Patty G. Henderson designed the new covers for both books. Hitch, who often offers good advice on the same Yahoo Group, has a business called Booknook.biz. I hired her to format both books to sell as e-books in all venues. Both Patty and Hitch are very reasonably priced and their work is outstanding.

I discovered ACX (Audiobook Creative Exchange) at ThrillerFest, a conference in New York put on by the International Thriller Writers. Through ACX I found a narrator and soon both books were in production and would soon be released on Audible, iTunes and Amazon as audiobooks.

Also during the time, I was trying to sell my standalone noir/thriller/suspense/women’s fiction (or whatever met the agent/publisher’s needs).

With all that going on, I didn’t think about promotion. Too early. Then, out of the blue, I listened to a voice mail on my land-line  Anthony Holmes, of Close-Up Talk Radio, said I was one of three authors chosen to be interviewed for global promotion. He said their research department had read my books and were very impressed. If I passed their initial interview, I would be spotlighted in the month of March and will receive huge promotion and marketing support. The author (me) would be interviewed four weeks in a row. Two by Doug Llewelyn (formerly the host of the People’s Court), and two by Jim Masters of PBS.

This was quite a production. Anthony called me every day. He did a pre-interview. The script writer called to get my background or life story. The only matter of concern was my website. They were right. My website was put up in 2008 and hasn’t been updated since. Anthony said they would need to put their website guru to work on it and the result would sell thousands of books. Also, they were interested in my screenplay that had been twice optioned in 2000. All this sounded fantastic. I sent them the script and finally agreed to let their webmaster redo my website.

They said I was chosen over the other two writers on the strength of my initial interview. I was thrilled and flattered. My website was getting a fresh new look. They did a press release and sent me a copy along with their clipping list of 101 news outlets they were sending with the caption: “Close-Up Talk Radio spotlights author Laura Elvebak.” These went to all the major news outlets in the United States as well as International news. They sent me a list of questions they plan to ask so I would be prepared ahead of the schedule interviews and Tips For A Professional Radio Interview.

I spent most of my time preparing by getting the e-books on Amazon, the audiobooks narrated, reviewed and online. I needed print books in hand, because of all the talks I would be giving. I gave the first two Niki Alexander books a final re-edit and went to Createspace. The process was easier than I expected and when I received the proofs from UPS, I was thrilled with the result and ordered copies. I was then prepared for the call from Houston Writers Guild. They wanted me to speak for an hour at the April Workshop. I agreed and could sell books..

The first two interviews with Doug Llewelyn had a rocky start. I had been sick with the crud all week, but I struggled through the first interview. In about the middle, there was some interference on the line. Toward the end I had a coughing spell that lasted too long. A disaster. However, the second interview went very well and both of us were pleased with the result.

By the time the first interview with Jim Masters rolled along, I was more prepared and more at ease. I was completely well by that time and the interview went by so fast that even Jim remarked how it seemed like ten minutes instead of thirty. We have since become Facebook and Twitter friends. The next and last interview is Thursday, April 4, again with Jim Masters.

The result is nebulous. It’s too early to tell by sales results. On the pro side, I had print copies of the books and the audio and e-books were available. The problem I see is timing. The books I’m promoting, after all, were first published in 2008 and 2009, and I haven’t finished the third book yet. I’m still trying to sell my standalone. So no new book to promote yet, but I have pre-promoted both books by including them in the interviews.

Okay, now you’re wondering about the real downside.  First, a question to all of you. How much are you willing to spend on promotion? How big of a risk are you willing to take? Was this no more than a scam? I had to fork over $5000.00 for everything but the website. Their webmaster, whom they pushed on me, cost $3500.00. In my head, I could just about justify spending $5,000 on promotion, but I know I could have a comparable or better website for a fraction of what I paid this guy. The website looks good, but more is needed. Question is, was it worth the money? Now I’m out $8500. Was it worth it? I recently saw an article on Writer Beware Blogs written as a Solicitation Alert for Close-Up Talk Radio. They described all the steps I went through. They called it a scam.

I know I’m an impulse buyer. I’m probably naïve about some things. If I didn’t happen to have the money at the time, I wouldn’t have a story to write. But I would still have money. Now I’m just hoping I get enough future book sales to eventually recover what I spent. So again, I put the question to you. How much would you pay for promotion? 

A Fresh Start

When I decided to get the rights back on my two published mysteries, Less Dead and Lost Witness, I had no idea what I was in for. I wanted a fresh, new beginning to my books, with new life and a new cover. But that wasn’t my original idea.

It all started when I attended Thriller Fest last year, put on by the International Thriller Writers. Because my books were published, I became a member. Thriller Fest is like no other conference. Huge! Starts out with Craft Fest, where the top thriller writers give advice and impart their knowledge and writing expertise. Next comes Agent Fest where 60 or so agents await your three-minute spiel intended to capture their attention and thrust you into the rarefied region of published authors. Of course, rare is the operative word here.

Next comes Thriller Fest with the varied panels on every subject you can name if it concerns books and writing. I always seem to get on a panel that has to do with sex. Don’t ask me why. However, this time the topic was promoting e-books. Now, of course, both my books were already available as e-books and I worked at promotion – maybe not as hard as I should, but a writer has to write. Right?

However, I have digressed. While I was attending Thriller Fest, I met the representatives of ACX, the full name of which is Audiobook Creation Exchange. They told me I could turn my books into an audio recording and be published on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. I know about Audible since I joined years ago and always have 6-8 audio books on my MP3 player. I listen while driving. This way I can read two books at a time – a paper book or e-book and an audio book.

I investigated further when I came home after the conference. The process is fairly simple and straightforward. I questioned my publisher, L&L Dreamspell, on whether I had the audio rights. They said I did. What I found out later is I had to have all the rights reverted to me. I like my publisher, but the three-year contract on both had expired and I hadn’t made any money with them. Therefore, I followed the instructions on the written contract and had all rights reverted back to me.

Nothing is simple, as I am finding out. Actually, I found that out years ago, but I’m constantly reminded of the fact. Nothing is simple. I had both my books, but to get them back on Amazon as e-books, they had to be reformatted. Also, I needed new covers. This is not my area of expertise. I write and let someone else do the other stuff.

I checked around, did my due diligence, and discovered Booknook.biz for the formatting and Patty G. Henderson to do the covers.. Yes, everything takes time and money, but the price was reasonable and the timing worked out better than I expected.

So now that they are e-books again with the new look, I have placed them on ACX and hope to have a narrator soon. I had hoped they would be narrated and out for Christmas, but even having Less Dead ready by Christmas is pushing my luck. My narrator would have to be not only great but fast. But I reach for the moon and take no for an answer. And that is enough cliches for this writing.

A New Look at Teen Shelters

In the Niki Alexander mystery series, Niki is a counselor for a teen shelter. In Houston we have Covenant House.  As part of my research in 2007 when I was writing the first of the series, Less Dead, I visited the shelter and was taken on a tour by one of the counselors. I also knew some kids who spent a few days there. Covenant House became the model for Open Palms, the fictional shelter. More more information, I spent one evening interviewing kids at the street church across from the shelter. That evening was the inspiration for Lost Witness and much that I witnessed is included in the book.

Recently, Covenant House had open house with an invitation to take a tour. Naturally, I wanted to see if it had changed since my research in 2007. It had. I was amazed at the change.

The biggest change was the age group. Back 2007, young teens were allowed to stay there. Now the accepted age is 18-21. The reason for this, I was told, was to protect the younger kids from possible preditors who might sell them drugs or pimp them or use them sexually. 
Young kids who find their way off the street to Covenant House are not turned away, however. They can be visited by a staff nurse, can take a shower, get some clothes, some food, and talk to a counselor. They are encouraged to call their parents and work out a solution so they can return home.  Sometimes this isn’t possible because of severe abuse or neglect at home. In that case, CPA is called in and they are taken to another shelter for children. 
Covenant House has counselors trained in drug abuse, anger management, sexual abuse. They have a nursing staff. The older teens can attend school, get their GED, learn a trade, write a resume and get recommended for jobs. Before they can do this, however, they will have to stay at the shelter for six months to get clean of drugs and go through counseling before they can go through the Rite of Passage and attend their college.
They don’t have a 100% success rate. Who does? These young people have had to struggle with abuse and/or neglect, have nowhere else to go. They are offered a chance. Some will succeed. Others will fail. But it offers hope and a life beyond what they had before.
Open Palms will continue in my Niki Alexander books that started with Less Dead and Lost Witness. I’m in the process of writing the third in the series. Open Palms will still open its arms to teens regardless of age and Niki will continue the fight to protect them, teach them skills and see that no harm comes to them.

Sleuthfest -A New Experience

I’d heard about Sleuthfest, the Florida chapter of MWA’s annual conference, for years – how wonderful it was, how generous and kind to other writers. So this year I decided to go, and you know what? It was wonderful. Everything everyone said about it was right. But the best part was connecting with dear friends and meeting new ones.

Yes, the panels were informative, funny, entertaining and educational. My own panel on publicizing ebooks drew a good crowd, which emphasized how popular ebooks were these days in an ever evolving world of publishing. My own books, Less Dead and Lost Witness, were published by a small press who simultaneously put them both in print and in ebook format. How do I publicize ebooks? Social network and word of mouth, much the same as the print edition.

Sleuthfest wouldn’t have been the same if my friend Anita wasn’t there. She always makes me feel included and her vibrant laugh is infectious. We’re Reed’s Rowdy Redheads – that would be Reed Farrel Coleman, who is unfailingly engaging, warm, encouraging, and funny, even when he is under deadline and in pain from a shoulder injury.

We met new friends, too. Micki and Dave Browning, retired cops from California now living the good life, traveling and enjoying each other. Micky is a very talented writer who will soon be discovered. Of that I have no doubt. Deborah was another new friend. We met her at the Saturday luncheon and her bubbly personality won us over.

The panels I attended were great, and I’ve ordered ten others that I missed.

Elaine Viets, moderator (one of the best for being funny and keeping everyone on track), Charlaine Harris, Brendan Dubois, Toni LP Kelner, Chris Grabenstein and Dana Cameron.

Fun for all Saturday night at Agents and Editors Cocktail Party. That’s Jeffrey Deaver on the end Chris
Grabenstein at the microphone.

Don Bruns, Reed Farrel Coleman and Michael Haskins.  And the winner is…

These are only a few of the highlights.The live auction with Chris Grabenstein, Donna Andrews and Hank Phillippi Ryan was a tremendous success. Two winners pledged $1000 for a chance to meet Nicole Resciniti, agent with The Seymour Agency in New York. The auctioneers did a terrific job – kept us laughing and never let up until they squeezed every bit of money out of the audience.

To top off the conference, Heather Graham’s The Slushpile entertained us at The House of Blues with her wacky band of misfits.

I didn’t sell any books at the conference, but I met a lovely lady on the plane on the way, Jan Yates, who loves cat mysteries. I emailed her the name of Leann Sweeney and Dean James (writing under Miranda James) for their wonderful cat books.

At the airport coming home, I sold two books. One each to two gentlemen who sat with Anita and me for lunch. When they found out we were writers, they wanted to see our books. I happened to have ten copies of Lost Witness with me. They each bought one. One man worked for Chevron in Louisiana and the other was an ex-cop from Oakland, CA. That made the conference complete.

Kitty Has An Ally

Giving medicine to cats have always meant an all out battle of wills. Kitty knows what you are trying to force down its throat and the claws are out, curved and pointy sharp. If I could avoid the trauma, I would.

But Jazzy, my six month tabby who only weighs six pounds, just got spayed. Had to, she was in heat and with two males – her brother and an older neutered male – was after her and all she could do was writh and squirm around the floor in obvious need and a real temptation to the boys.

Jazzy was back from the vet’s office who gave me two vials of medicine to give her. One to be taken twice a day and the other once a day. I got a towel and wrapped it around her body to hold her close and protect myself from those nails of hers, pried her mouth open and – she squirmed backwards and slipped out of my arms. I took after her leaving the open bottle of medicine on the table.

Finally caught her and came back only to find Smokey, my male Tonkinese, had knocked over the bottle. A pool of pink liquid spread under it, about a dose full. Guess he felt he was helping poor Jazzy.

Amazingly, however, the next time the dosage was due, Jazzy seemed calm in my lap. So instead of wrapping her up and terrifying her again, I filled the plunger, stuck it in her mouth and let the liquid go in. I could hardly believe it. She took it without a fight, and for the most part she has been calm and agreeable ever since.

I’ve had other cats that I literally had to sit on to force feed medicine. The worst is when it’s in pill form. That never seems to work.

But liquid? Something else. It was as if she trusted me. Nothing to it.

My Neighborhood Library is Alive

Last Saturday Linda Stevens of the Harris County Public Library spoke to the Southwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America in Houston at our monthly luncheon.

I was amazed at the changes going on. I meakly admit I haven’t visited my local library in a while so I was delighted to find that the libraries have been updated. By that I mean they are no longer the “no talking” quiet room that we expected in the past. Although they do provide a quiet room if you wish.

The new library has several computers which are free for card holding members. They welcome writers groups, talks from writers, even signings. They welcome children and have a children’s hour during which someone reads aloud to them. They also hold classes, such as the free computer classes in my neighborhood branch.

To cut down on expenses, several close on Saturdays or Sundays or shortened their hours. I’m glad to report that my library, the Everett D. Collier Branch on Pinemont near Bingle in the Northwest is open on the weekends.

Another addition is Overdrive where you can rent e-books and load them on your computer. When the rental period is up, the e-book magically disappears. I’m happy to say that even my books are available to read on Overdrive, thanks to L&L Dreamspell, my wonderful publisher of the Niki Alexander series, Less Dead and Lost Witness.

 
A REVIEW BY
LAURA ELVEBAK

In the white irises in the Hargrove Family Cemetery in DeWitt County, Texas, a black professor from San Antonio is murdered as he tries to dig up hidden treasure.

Caroline Hargrove Hamilton, a former journalist and recent widow from Houston, is finding new meaning to her life by returning to her roots in DeWitt County to chronicle her family’s history dating back to the Civil War. Getting re-acquainted with her cousin Janet as her guide, they become amateur detectives after they stumble upon the body of Professor Harrison next to an old grave dating back to 1875, where a second body is suspected to have been buried with the original deceased. Only by digging up the past and solving an old murder can Caroline and Janet find the answer to who killed the professor. By doing so they unearth a treasure of secrets that no one could have foretold, bringing unexpected revelations about their ancestors to an exciting climax that pits Caroline with the murderer.

Well written in a leisurely and detailed style, Connie Knight uses her skill as a journalist and magazine editor to introduce us to a diverse and delightful cast of characters that could only come from the South Texas Plains. We meet Caroline’s extended family as well as learning about her ancestors as she researches the past with the meticulous gathering of papers, letters and interviews. We also meet Constable Bob Bennett who is not only investigating the case but is sparking the flames of love that Caroline once thought had died with her husband. Cemetery Whites is a thoroughly enjoyable excursion into the heart of Texas and the rugged, hardy people who made it great.

What Would You Do For Love?

I’ve given Niki Alexander a short break while I embark on a new endeavor.

Meanwhile, there is a story that has begged telling for a long time, and my muse, stubborn and insistent, refuses to stay silent and hidden. I’ve entitled the work, The Flawed Dance, which takes place from 1968 through 1970 in Philadelphia. I have dug into my past for a life so far away from my own present life that it must be fiction. While I wouldn’t call this a memoir, per se, it takes from my memories of life back then. I’ve twisted reality into a darker place, a noir mystery. The result is the story of Erin Matthews, early twenties, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble and makes all the wrong decisions that leads her further down a dangerous road from which escape is near impossible as she seeks love, acceptance and redemption.

A funny thing happened to me as I immerged into Erin’s mind and soul. I became embroiled in a love affair that Erin would have jumped into without a second look, as she did with every challenge in her life. If it was beyond the norm, or a little risky, she might have doubts. But if it also had romance, glamour, excitement and passion, Erin would not hesitate. She is a sucker for love, needs it desperately, but will turn away as abruptly and cruelly if the object of her passion turns and bites her.

For several weeks I have become Erin, much older and, I thought, much wiser, though now I have my doubts. You see, I have fallen in love with words. The written word can be very powerful. Letters from an unknown lover, for instance, can arouse the imagination and create a passionate foreplay that could far surpass reality. Words can convey hope and promise. Words can convey a great love and ignores pending disappointment and failure.

I know which road Erin in the past will travel in The Flawed Dance. I am not sure what happens to the Erin in the present. But I will keep you apprised, dear reader, in future installments.