Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Third Niki Alexander Mystery Coming Soon

Niki Alexander will soon make an appearance in her third mystery, A Matter of Revenge

This book follows Less Dead and Lost Witness. 


As a woman who used to be a street cop, Niki's instincts for finding the lost and abandoned children on the Houston streets is only sharpened after she quit to become a counselor for a teen shelter. Quitting anything is never easy for Niki, but especially hard to turn her back on the career she loved. Only the aftermath of a officer-involved shooting of a seventeen-year-old boy, crazed by drugs, could knock her to her knees. She got up to fight again but nothing was ever the same, and the nightmare of pulling the trigger still visits her. She vowed never to walk away from another troubled child and to do all she could to prevent that happening again.  

I realized, after I finished writing A Matter of Revenge, that a theme had developed in each of these books. In Less Dead  abandonment was the central theme. In Lost Witness it was drugs, families and borders.

In A Matter of Revenge, the refusal to be a victim emerges. Niki is astounded to find two pre-teens daring to expose a wealthy sexual predator by burglarizing his home.  She steps in to assist them in their fight for justice and relief. . 

Assisting Niki is Nelson Spalonetti, the cop who now worked with her ex-partner. They met first in Less Dead and became lovers in Lost Witness. They both get a jolt when someone from Niki's past shows up in A Matter of Revenge. Seventeen years is a long time to be out of touch with family, even for a step-mother whose divorce from Niki's Hawaiian father had not been civil. Niki doesn't buy the coincidence of the woman's timing. Did she come to reunite with her stepdaughter, or is she there for another purpose altogether?.

A Matter of Revenge will  be out in e-book and print editions on January 28, 2017 and will be available wherever books are sold. In the meantime you can catch up on the first two Niki Alexander books.

Here are the Amazon buy links:

LESS DEAD

https://www.amazon.com/Less-Dead-Niki-Alexander-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B009ZURM70/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1477598429&sr=8-3&keywords=Less+Dead  

LOST WITNESS 

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Witness-Niki-Alexander-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00ACOGFOE/ref=sr_1_16?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477598973&sr=1-16&keywords=lost+witness&refinements=p_n_feature_browse-bin%3A618073011

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where I Get My Ideas - The Real Story Behind the Fiction


There’s one question I hear all the time. “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” or “When or how or why did you become a writer?” Here’s the real scoop.

I always wanted to be a writer but first I was a dreamer and a reader. My taste tended toward great adventures and romance: War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Gone With The Wind, and mysteries with Nancy Drew, or the dashing heroes spun by Frank Yerby and Sidney Sheldon. I yearned to escape into those worlds. Every night when I went to bed, I dreamed up a story to be continued the next night. There would be previews first, a taste of what was to come.

I read books on writing, attended university classes, and workshops. One suggestion repeated over and over was to write what you know. Great. I didn’t know anything. I wasn’t happy with my life and I didn’t want to grow up to be normal like my almost invisible parents and their friends. I didn’t want what other kids seem to want: school, jobs, marriage, kids. That wasn’t for me. Since I was going to be a writer, I must experience adventure and romance so I could write about them and understand life.

That’s how I met my six husbands. That’s how I got to ride on the back of a motorcycle and participate in a documentary with the Hell’s Angels. It’s why I chose a bus ride to Canada to see a motorcycle race instead of staying in college. It’s why I became a go-go dancer to support myself and my daughter.

Okay, to explain, I have to go back to the beginning. I was born in 1942 in North Dakota at the home of my maternal grandparents. My mother was staying at her childhood home until my father got out of the service. He was stationed on an army base in Tennessee. My maternal grandmother was a force of nature not unlike a tornado. She turned their home into a boarding house to supplement the income my grandfather made as a mason. Her word was law and no one dared to go against her. My mother rebelled. I don’t know the circumstances of why we left, I was just a baby, but she took me and hitchhiked from North Dakota to Los Angeles and to the home of my father’s parents. She endured terrible hardships on the way.

I never knew my mother very well but I’m sure I got my rebellious streak from her. I do remember the Quonset hut the army provided where we lived when my father came home. Unfortunately, my mother got sick with cancer and we spent the last year of her life at my paternal grandparents’ home. I still remember the morning she died. I always went with both grandparents to the Lutheran church on Sundays. This Sunday only my grandfather took me. Even though I was only five, I knew already what I’d find when we got home. Soon afterward, my father left on business to San Francisco. When he returned three years later, he brought me a new mother.

Some of my happiest childhood memories were the years I spent with my paternal grandparents. Both were good, sturdy, Norwegians. My grandfather was born in Norway and wrote a book about his adventures as a fisherman in the fjords. My grandmother was always either cooking, sewing, crocheting, or knitting. I remember sitting with her in the sewing room listening to The Shadow or The Green Horner on the radio while she sewed my clothes.

I had one friend in the neighborhood my age. Vida's beautiful chestnut hair fell past her shoulders in corkscrew curls. Next to her I felt like an awkward colt. Her mother had also died young and she lived with her grandmother. Her father had remarried, but Vida refused to go live with them.

My father chose my new mother because her mother had died young and she had hated her stepmother. So my father thought she would understand me. But I never got the chance to know her or like her before she was forced on me as “my mother.” My father thought he’d fixed our family and we would live happily ever after. We all knew that wouldn’t happen.

I dreamed of living on the Left Bank of Paris and attending the Sorbonne. I would travel through Europe on a motorcycle with a typewriter in the sidecar and earn my living as a writer, like Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald.

Sadly, I never got to Europe. Spent six months in Mexico, though. Almost got to Canada.
I did want to go to college. My aim was for a small liberal arts college. My parents vetoed that idea right away. Too close to Camp Pendleton. My parents picked a Lutheran college in Tacoma, Washington where there were relatives to watch over me and I could stay with an aunt.

I met my first husband when I was selling Christmas cards door to door through Junior Achievement. I was seventeen. Mark was 27, working on his motorcycle with his bohemian, poetry writer, motorcycle rider, friends, and he bought a box of Xmas cards from me even though he was Jewish. 

I was in love. He was the exact opposite of my parents. They were horrified and refused to let me see him. I ran away two weeks before my eighteenth birthday when I was supposed to be going to Washington for college. Mark hid me out with the leader of the Hell’s Angels. They only agreed because he could fix their bikes when they broke down. They kept me in a back room, where no one was allowed in, and told Mark that I couldn’t stay long. They were naturally nervous and didn’t want to get caught with an underage runaway. I didn’t want them in trouble so I went home and told my parents I was ready to go to college. My stepmother took me shopping and bought me a new college wardrobe.

I never did go to that Lutheran college after all. I arrived to stay with a cousin who would be attending same college. A week before classes were to start, Mark told me he had a race in Canada. I told my aunt that I had to leave to see him race, but then I'd be back and be a good girl and attend college. Please don’t tell my father. I got on a bus, got as far as Seattle and got cold feet. I got back to my aunt’s house and as I feared she had called my father. Sorry for me, my bags were packed, tuition refunded, and I was put on a bus back to Los Angeles and given a room at the YWCA.

I married Mark on the way to a motorcycle race when I was nineteen. I went to all his races, which were run on the same race tracks as the car races, which made it twice as exciting. Some time later he was invited to participate in a documentary with the Hell’s Angels. I rode on the back of Mark's Vincent Black Shadow. Mark had the required chain around his waist to ward off aggressive truck drivers. 

I left Mark one year later and my father arranged to get the marriage annulled. Shortly afterward, when I turned twenty-one, I met Husband No. 2.

Johnny was fifty and looked like Kurt Douglas or Burt Lancaster. He was the character out of the Frank Yerby and Sidney Shelton books. He was exciting and different. He’d been a hard hat diver and demolitions expert and freelanced for the oil companies. He knew movie stars, was friends with John Wayne, and even got to be an extra on one of his films, Red River. He’d been around the world many times. One time in France, an Arab once shot at him six times and missed. Johnny was half-Apache and could drink like no other I’ve seen and still walk straight. I met him in a Santa Monica bar. He was recuperating from a fall off a three story building and had fractured both feet. 

I move in with him and rubbed his feet and nursed him for three years until he could walk without a limp. We lived in Mexico for six months, New York City for a summer, several cities in Florida, then New Jersey. We changed our name a few times also. That’s when I figured out that his ex-wife’s Sicilian brother was in the Mafia, and was hunting him.

He delivered our daughter in a car while we were living in in the Florida Keys. We were too far from a hospital. My little girl was six months old when we left Johnny and moved to Philadelphia.
I supported my daughter by working as a medical secretary, a waitress, and a go-go dancer. The Flawed Dance became the fictionalized version of those years in the late sixties. In fiction I could be the heroine who fought the bad guys, infiltrated the mob and saved a couple of lives. Writing was therapeutic and helped me to understand those times in hindsight.

I met Husband No. 3, a bartender who gave me my wonderful son. After a rocky five years with that husband, I took my son and we left and moved back to California.

Husband No. 4 was a Hawaiian chef who took me to Hawaii where I met his wonderful family and later gave birth to my beautiful youngest daughter.  No. 4 wasn’t so wonderful. He stabbed a leader in the Mexican Mafia and we had to run for our lives and hide for a while. 

Two husbands followed after I moved to Texas. One was for convenience. The other went to prison for killing a guy in a bar fight. I decided no more marriages. I had my fill of adventure and romance. From then on, I would just write about them.

So you think that after all these experiences I would have all the material I needed to write. I had enough characters running through my head to turn any of them into whoever I wanted them to be. 

Now I watch my children and grandchildren make the same kind of mistakes and I know I can’t help them. I know they wouldn't listen to me as I wouldn't listen to my parents. But at the same time I learn from them. They introduced me to troubled teens, runaways, parents struggling with their children, and making painful decisions. 

From them and for them I write my Niki Alexander mystery series. Niki is an ex-cop turned counselor for a teen shelter. She is the champion of the runaways, the throwaways, the ones looking for a different life, seeking adventure and excitement. She knows the dangers they face and she is there for them. 

In the first book, Less Dead, Niki has to find an abandoned teenager, who might have witnessed a murder, before the murderer finds her. Lost Witness deals with a lost little boy caught in the center of a drug ring involving two brothers and the border between Texas and Mexico. Both books are available as e-books, print, and audio, and can be found on Amazon, iTunes and Audible.

The third book in the Niki Alexander series is A Matter of Revenge and is due to be released in September from Black Opal Books. This time Niki is faced with two pre-teen, runaway streets kids who have taken on as their mission to destroy a dangerous pedophile ring. More to come as the launch date approaches.

Love to read your comments. 
http://lauraelvebak.com

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Flawed Dance

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?


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.”


Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Flawed Dance has a Home!

After years of writing, editing, and submitted to numerous agents and editors, The Flawed Dance has been accepted by Black Opal Books a publisher approved by both Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers. It proves the adage, Never Give Up.

I never gave up. The story of Flawed Dance is close to my heart. It tells the story of a young woman, Erin, who runs from her much older lover. For the past few years she has been his companion and lover while he has been on the run from the Mob. Arriving in Philadelphia with ten dollars, knowing no one, even her new roommate, the brother of the man who drove her, she must learn to survive while constantly looking over her shoulder.

The Flawed Dance takes place during the late sixties amidst racial unrest, Vietnam, and rebellion. Grateful for the help from her new roommate, an older black man who takes her in sight unseen, she works several jobs to get her independence. The most lucrative is go-go dancing. Saving another dancer from being almost killed, she has a run in an ex-mob enforcer turned club owner. The encounter leads to a confrontation with the past she tried so hard to flee from.

Taken from a page in my own past, The Flawed Dance has been and still is a work of love and self-discovery, but for the readers it is foremost a suspense thriller with plenty of action, conflict and sex to keep the pages turning.

Monday, April 8, 2013

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 na├»ve 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? 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

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.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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.