Category Archives: Writing

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.

 

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.