“The Calm Before the Storm: Evan’s Sins” – Nail-biting Murder Mystery Suspense

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If you like extreme suspense that lingers somewhere in the dark with The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock and Mary Higgins Clark, then you need to check out Elle Klass’ latest chiller, Calm Before the Storm: Evan’s Sins. There were parts of this book that were simply too much for this faint-hearted reader to handle!

There were a few scenes I contributed to via my Whobeda persona. I had fun doing this interview for Elle’s blog with the fictitious Whobeda which you can find here. After we discovered that astrology works on fictitious characters (see my previous blog on the subject here) Elle decided what we’d discovered was too good not to include in the book as part of its occult angle. Stay turned for an excerpt that contains some of the results. It wasn’t originally intended to be a blatant plug for my book, Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology, but it turned out that way. In fact, the reason it’s now available in print as well as an ebook is because Elle wanted to give away an autographed copy as part of her book launch activities. Talk about motivation!

It’s no surprise that Elle’s a night-owl whose imagination feeds off shadows and creaks in the attic. Her previous works include As Snow Falls (which I loved); Eye of the Storm Eilida’s Tragedy (creeped me out), and the Baby Girl series (if you haven’t met Cleo, you need to). Eye of the Storm Eilida’s Tragedy, first book in this new series, is a Reader’s Favorite Fiction-Paranormal Finalist in the 2015 Reader’s Favorite Awards. The Calm Before the Storm Evan’s Sins is a worthy sequel (prequel, actually) that’s even creepier. Elle has a gift for suspense which in this series has turned lethal. (It’s moderately graphic in the sex and violence department to say nothing of nail-biting suspense so I’d rate it in the “R” range.)

Visit her website at https://elleklass.weebly.com.

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Video Trailer

Blurb:

Evan O’Conner isn’t a normal child. His father’s alcoholism and mother’s abuse drive him to concoct a plan to rid his life of them permanently. The night is fraught with a horrendous storm, thunder and lightning as the beast inside him is born. Even in her death his mother won’t leave. She haunts his subconscious as he attempts over and over to kill her.

Evan meets his match when Officer Burkhalder enters the picture. One of her closest friends and his family fall victim to violent deaths during the worst hurricane Billows Hollow has ever seen. With only a sketch she learns the identity of the perpetrator and digs into his life, pries into his past – hunting him. Will she stop him? Or will somebody else?

Excerpt

Eilida yelped at the chance to make the OPA conference and her chance to meet nationally renowned Patrice Renard. The 9th annual professional astrology retreat in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She flew down the stairs and flopped her body on the couch next to Sage. Leaning her head against her friend’s shoulder she blurted her news. “I did it. We’re in!” She lifted her head to gauge Sage’s response.

“OMG!” The two women leapt off the couch and jumped up and down like two school girls going to see their favorite band. Both women believed there was more to life, something brewing beneath the surface, or in this case above the surface – dictated by the stars and planets of the vast universe.

Sage and Eilida arrived at the convention center and took the nearest escalator to where the conference was being held. They stepped inside the vendor room, eyes soaking in the activity around them. The huge room was divided into several aisles with more vendors lining both sides as well as the perimeter. Astrology related materials, from jewelry to crystals, were everywhere. As they strolled the aisles, Eilida tried not to be too obvious ogling the name badges of those around them, looking for someone whose name she’d recognize. Some astrologers looked appropriately weird in long, flowing skirts matched only by their hair, with more rings than fingers while others were in jeans and others still in business dress. The men were mostly in casual dress, though one in particular was wearing a kilt. Her eyes took in his strong, muscular legs and sent a quiver bounding through her as she imagined the kilt tossed on the arm of a chair and… She shook the image from her mind.

The pair perused the plethora of goodies, Eilida dragging her friend by the hand when she saw a crystal table, spending a good bit of time examining the many offerings. She felt drawn to certain ones, slips of cardstock the size of a business card accompanying each one describing the stone’s influence.

She stood there a while, admiring one in particular for its odd shape. The card said it was a desert rose, good for transmuting hatred into love and healing past conflicts. She took it in her hand to see how it felt. It felt good but she could see the vendor guy was occupied with other customers so set it back carefully, deciding to come back later.

Another table caught her eye, this one apparently occupied by an astrologer. The lady behind it had shoulder length salt and pepper hair, maybe a bit more salt than pepper. Her genuine smile and attentiveness to those talking to her attracted Eilida. While other patrons talked to the astrologer Eilida browsed her books, one of which was entitled Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology. She picked it up and flipped through the pages, reading sporadically.

As much of an astrology buff as she was, most of it really confused her. Written in terms that made sense, Eilida decided to buy one and waited in line to get it autographed.

At last it was her turn and she handed over the book, grateful no one was behind her so she could chat a bit.

“Hi,” the woman said with a smile. “Would you like me to inscribe it to you personally or leave it plain so you can sell it on eBay when you’re done?”

Eilida laughed. “I wouldn’t do that!” she responded.

“Yes, you would,” Sage muttered, giving her a friendly nudge.

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Authors & Readers: Symbiotic or Parasitic Relationship?

writingprocessI think the majority of people agree that the most difficult challenge of mortality is dealing with relationships. Much has been written about romantic relationships, parent-child relationships and business relationships. Marketers certainly understand the supplier – consumer relationship. Other types of relationships, however, such as the implied partnership between authors and their readers, don’t quite fit these other models.

The first and most basic thing to remember is that no one likes much less gets along with everyone. As an astrologer I can explain why, but that isn’t the point I want to explore. Just remember that the basics of human interactions apply whenever you work with another person in any capacity. Everyone is programmed in a different way. Some are friendly and generous, others aggressive and selfish with these traits possible on either side of the author/reader equation. Some authors expect too much, some readers expect too much. Such is life. Don’t even get me going on the entitlement mentality prevalent at all economic levels in today’s society or this will turn into a book instead of a blog.

Getting back on point, consider that authors are of necessity also readers but readers are not always authors. Remember the quote not to judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins? Well, kick off your shoes and get ready as I attempt to take readers and authors alike down the others’ path.

Understanding is one of the reasons that authors band together, read each other’s stories and provide reviews as well as feedback or editing tips. While there is a hint of competition within any career field, there is also support and understanding. This is not to say all authors get along, either, only that there’s a fundamental understanding that exists amongst any group doing similar work.

Readers who have never crafted so much as a short story outside of that required in a language arts class may be familiar with an author’s fictitious world yet not understand what it takes to build one. Authors are artists who use words just like visual artists use color and texture, sculptors use tangible material, musicians use sounds, and chefs use food to name a few. Creative expression is an important part of life as can be seen in ancient civilizations no matter how ancient or primitive. So to begin to understand an author a person should examine their own means of creative expression which provides at least rudimentary common ground.

faulknerquoteCreativity comes out in different ways coupled with varying degrees of motivation and expectations on the part of the creator. Most will agree it’s something they are compelled to do, at least once you get past Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and enter the realm of self-actualization. After the expression itself things get trickier. If a person wants to share his or her craft with others s/he wants it validated with praise and appreciation because their work is an extension of their ego. The person may not be dependent on this reinforcement but it’s definitely nice. This is why writers keep writing in spite of a plethora of rejections and why the options for self-publishing have produced millions of wannabe authors. The same goes for musicians and any other type of artist.

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The next step beyond art for art’s sake is to receive compensation, even though it may originate as a labor of love. Some authors prostitute themselves writing for hire just to make a living. Writers are valued by those who can’t. It is often the trump card, especially for a job where literary expression is not required; as an engineer who could write I never had trouble finding a job. Writing for hire may pay the bills but it doesn’t feed your soul. That only comes when you get praise and, better yet, compensated in some way for something that came from within your heart.

How much blood, sweat and tears goes into any work of art varies. There are those who can crank out a story on a rainy afternoon versus those who labor over an epic novel for years or even decades. Neither case is necessarily a measure of talent or readability. In other words, some authors would make a killing if paid by the hour while others would be so poorly compensated it would defy measurement in any monetary currency.

The issue here diverts to the plea these days to raise the USA minimum wage. Many authors would give blood and pay money to make even the existing minimum wage. Yet authors are usually expected in today’s glutted market to sell their work for ninety-nine cents or even give it away for free.

The days when a book was on the shelf in a bookstore for six weeks, was remaindered and then considered “out of print” are essentially over. For writers that is both good news and bad news. Readers have at least nine million books from which to choose and writers can keep their book in the sales arena as long as they wish. To get a visual on the competition, however, think back to any time you attended a professional or college level sporting event or rock concert in a full-to-capacity stadium or auditorium. Now consider what it would take to draw attention to yourself in that crowd. Then multiply the crowd by at least one hundred. That, my friend, is what the average author is up against.

Clearly it’s a “Readers’ Market” which shows why the people making money in publishing these days are the promoters. For many Indie authors the work may be a labor of love but also an expensive hobby if one hopes to be discovered. I saw a comment on LinkedIn a while back where an author stated that for every 500 books downloaded for FREE, he was lucky to get one review. If he’d been paid even ninety-nine cents for each of those books he would have been happy. Note, however, that even if that were the case he probably would have only received about thirty cents for each one from Amazon. So distributors, likewise, often make far more than authors; booksellers are not into it from the goodness of their hearts.

At this point any authors out there are probably vigorously nodding in agreement and not too happy about being reminded of their place in the literary food-chain which segues over to readers and hopefully reviewers, the importance of which I’ll try to explain. From a reader’s point of view, mention of providing a review may trigger unpleasant flashes of deja-vu back to high school English class where those mandatory book reports on dry and hopelessly boring stories had as much appeal as a root canal. Some readers pay attention to reviews before buying a book while others couldn’t care less. However, they’re important to authors for more reasons than to attract more readers.

It comes back to competition. Some promotional websites won’t even feature a book until it has a minimum number of favorable reviews, even for paid listings. Furthermore, Amazon ranks each book based on reviews as well as sales which in turn contribute to its ranking. Its ranking, in turn, determines whether it comes up on page one or two hundred via search engines. This is also a reason authors offer their book for free because even books that are given away on Amazon count toward its rankings. If it gets ranked highly enough, people will find it and hopefully eventually buy it when it’s no longer free.

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So now we’re back to the relationship issue and why authors need readers and vice versa. It also helps explain reactions based on the personality of each and why some readers may be annoyed when asked for a review while authors may expect at least a review in return (especially if they provided their book for free and even more so if it was a print copy which cost them for the book itself and possibly postage as opposed to transmitting an ebook via email or download link).

In the hopes that at least a few authors and readers have slogged through this much-longer-than-intended blog, consider whether your attitude is symbiotic or parasitic. Readers, do you respect and support, either financially or otherwise, the authors who put part of themselves into the work you enjoy? Or do you expect to enjoy their creative efforts while giving nothing in return? Authors, do you expect your readers to have the same ease of expression in writing as you do and jump at the chance to leave their opinion as a review? Or are you grateful to have readers at all given the many choices they have at their fingertips?

Here are a few points to remember for those on both sides of these important partnerships.

Author Admonitions

  1. Readers may react to the thought of writing a review with all the fondness of a 10th grade book report.
  2. Readers do so for pleasure and don’t want to be pushed to do something they see as unpleasant.
  3. Readers are not always writers and often find written expression difficult.
  4. Readers have literally millions of books to choose from so it’s best to treat them like the treasures they are.

Reader Admonitions

  1. Any creative work represents a part of its creator’s heart and soul.
  2. Is it fair to expect authors to work for free?
  3. Reviews can comprise a few heart-felt sentences as if talking to a friend and don’t have to be lengthy or Pulitzer Prize material.
  4. Cutting and pasting your review to more than one site (e.g., Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads) takes a few minutes of your time but will be greatly appreciated and make an author’s day, which is good karma.

Face it, authors and readers need each other but authors have a distinct and even quantifiable disadvantage. Readers, please show your love and appreciation for the authors whose books occupy your shelves or e-reader of choice by leaving a short review. Authors, recognize not everyone finds putting their thoughts into words enjoyable and love your readers regardless.

And finally, it’s my sincerest hope that no authors or readers suffered too many blisters while treading along this long and convoluted path of mutual understanding.