The first 11 chapters of BETRAYED are now in the form of a FREE book excerpt. By clicking HERE you can read the heart-wrenching experience BETRAYED BANNERLaurel Murphy endured when she woke up tied and gagged in a strange room.

While this is fiction, many parts of the book were inspired by true events  that happened in Chicago in the 1950s. As I wrote I asked myself how Laurel could contain the resentment for the people who did this to her. Would she want revenge? What twists and turns would her life take? Would she ever find peace, happiness and success?

The real person endured so much trauma and heartbreak, but still did build a life for herself. Maybe not the life contained in this book, but it could have happened.

I hope you enjoy reading the excerpt. 



If you’ve already read Betrayed and loved it, please let your friends and family know that it’s free 10/22 through 10/24 on Kindle.But, If you haven’t read it, this is your chance to pick up a free copy of this compelling story inspired by true events that shaped the life of Laurel Murphy beginning in the late 1950s in Chicago.


Imagine waking up in a strange bedroom bound and gagged. Teenage ballerina Laurel Murphy was destined to have a brilliant career until she was kidnapped, sold into a brothel, raped, brutalized and left for dead. Follow Laurel’s struggle to rebuild her body and life. Then, just when life seemed good, it changed in a heartbeat. She will grab your heartstrings and not let go. Human trafficking of American teenagers is even more prevalent now than it was then.



BETRAYED COVER FLATTENEDKindle edition of BETRAYED on Kindle Countdown Deal from today through Saturday, March 8. Instead of $3.99, just $1.99. I invite you to check it out. 

Inspired by true events, this work of fiction begins in the late 1950s, but human trafficking of American teenagers is even more prevalent now than it was then.

EXCERPT: Sherry and Tommy both stood there staring at me as though I was a piece of meat in the butcher’s case. My eyes darted around the room frantically looking for anything faintly familiar. The pounding of my heart echoed in my ears. I told myself it was okay and tried not to be so afraid. After all, the walking dead aren’t supposed to care about anything, are they? It didn’t work. I was petrified.
Tiny blood red specks blinked furiously, growing larger and larger on the dark blanket inside my head. Then everything turned pitch black.


BETRAYED COVER FLATTENEDAt this point I’d decided that I didn’t have to stick  to what actually happened because the book was going to be fiction INSPIRED by true events. Remember, I was still a novice at writing fiction so I was poised to make many mistakes. I’d begun reading articles in Writers Digest and was slowly building a respectable library related to writing fiction, but looking back I’d still say my attempts were commendable but tinged with an amateurish quality. Too many adjectives, too many rambling sentences and too many divergences that did nothing to further the story. That said, it was finally shaping up to be far better than the attempt Mort Reed shot down.

I’d decided there would be a revenge murder in this new version, Laurel would have a second chance at success if she chose to try and she would triumph in the end. Therefore coming out of the tragedy of her first marriage she would find a new love in a way she didn’t expect. Now I needed the perfect personality for that role in her life. Someone totally unlike her first husband who was the father of her child. She also would have one child, not the four the real model for Laurel had. Four children would have been too complicated for the plot that was developing. Having mulled many possibilities around in my mind, the light bulb finally went on over my head. A person I had loved who died much too early from cancer would be perfect as a model for Vince. His personality was just the contrast I needed–Italian, outspoken, devil-may-care, older but with a young appearance, personality and energy.

In some ways it was also healing for me to use him as a character in the story because it was as though I had one more chance to connect with the real person. Some of the incidents in the book, like a scene where Laurel is flying a kite, are things that we really did. One reader said it felt so real. That was because it was real. And, I decided that Vince would be a hair stylist who had opened a restaurant, just like it was in real life.

I experimented with several possibilities about how he would enter her life and was finally satisfied that it wouldn’t be something instant, but rather something that grew. Something arranged by another person. After all, with all she had been through in real life someone like my character Laurel would not trust instantly. She would be guarded and cautious.

It was also lots of fun creating the characters of Maxine and Brian Stanley, Laurel’s in-laws. Maxine was particularly fun because she is so nasty and conniving. She begs to be taken down. As for Brian, I didn’t know I would write in his redemption as a person, but he came to life for me as characters sometimes do. Brian told me many things I hadn’t planned for his character that further enhanced the plot.




BETRAYED now in Kindle and paperback editions. It is in the new MatchBook program.

If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $1.99 (Save 50%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more. Length: 358 pages


One morning I decided to read the printed copy of the manuscript that had been shelved two years before. There is something very different about reading a printed manuscript compared to reading it on the computer, just as there is something very different between reading the printed manuscript and an actual proof of the book. The eye just seems to see what it expects to in each of the formats. The most effective is reading a proof, but in this case I was nowhere near ready for that. Plus, we didn’t have easy self-publishing back then so doing a proof would have been extremely expensive..

As I read through the 600 pages, not having seen it in two years, I was shocked. It wasn’t very good at all. Why had I thought it was a masterpiece? Maybe because it was the first book I’d ever written and we always love our babies.

Anyway, having learned a lot during those years I was “rarin’ to go.” Pulled out the red pencil and sticky pads and really had at it. I also realized that since it was not going to be represented as a true story, but as one inspired by true events, I had lots of artistic license including introducing a whole new set of circumstances for her to navigate and a whole new group of people by the time we reached mid-book. Up until then everything in these early renditions and the now-published Betrayed was inspired by true events .

The real person was a beautiful ballet protege who was kidnapped and sold into a brothel. The circumstances of her discovery were different than what  was depicted in Devil’s Dance and now in Betrayed  but believe it or not, the reality sounded too much like something that was made up. You know the saying “truth is stranger than fiction.” She was actually found by the police because her younger sister remembered that the woman who kidnapped her –someone she knew and thought was a best friend–made a phone call before they left and wrote the number on a pad of paper.

The friend tore off the sheet and took it with her when they left. This determined little kid, now involved in a real mystery, was a Nancy Drew wannabe, did the old trick of scraping a pencil against the indentations on the next sheet. Lo and behold the number appeared. She insisted that the cops check it out even though they treated her like a pain in the butt. They finally checked it out to shut her up and that’s how they found her sister, drugged, in heavy makeup with a multitude of bruises, but safe.

Now I ask you–would you have believed that or thought the author had read too many cheap novels or watched to many trumped up TV shows? Well, you’ll have to read the book to see what I came up with as the alternative.

The things that followed were also based in truth–the refusal to go back to her mother’s home, the untenable situation at her father’s house, contracting hepatitis from dirty needles used to drug her and running away to California–all true.


The first step on the road to REALLY getting this book published

Once I allowed myself to admit that Mort Reed was indeed right and admitted I did have lots and lots to learn about writing fiction, I made the first step of subscribing to Writer’s Digest and devouring the information. I learned quite a bit, but there was still so much missing from my bag of writers tips and tricks.

I took another stab at it. The title was still Dance, Ballerina, Dance. One of the things I didn’t realize was that the fact that she was a ballerina was not the most important thing in the book. It took me years and several rewrites to come to that conclusion The gist of the story was how many times she trusted the wrong people, the strength and support of those who were her true friends, and how many times she was betrayed and hurt mentally and physically. The fact that she didn’t know how strong she really was until she fought to regain herself was very important to the story.

So, on the next go around I was still pretty much sticking to the facts that had inspired me to write it in the first place. At that point I didn’t even consider adding elements and people that had no place in the real story. It was still a long, long manuscript and were I to read that second stab today I would pull it to pieces. There were so many glitches, errors in the timeline, tangents that had no place in the story and the writing was not tight. As I said I would probably have echoed Mort’s words of doom: “This will never get published.”

I sent out some queries following the guidelines in Writers’ Market and Writers’ Digest and, of course, got enough rejection notices to paper a wall. Somewhat discouraged, I put it on the back burner again.

Not too long after that my sister Phyllice Bradner and I decided to take a stab at writing our own mystery series. We were both published in other genres and thought it would be a snap. Well, the concept which was a light, funny mystery series was right on but neither of us really knew the fine points of writing fiction–a much different animal than newspaper articles, magazine articles, cookbooks or ad copy. We had the right idea but the wrong skill set. And Dance, Ballerina, Dance sat untouched on old floppy disks for almost two years.




And I thought I had a winner….

The man’s name was Mort Reed, and he has since passed away, but thanks to Mort I had to come face-to-face with the fact that I knew very little about writing fiction.

He did read my manuscript, and instead of the awesome praise I expected, he crashed my world, but in a way that made me determined to learn how to deal with writing this story that continued to haunt me.

Mort said, “Look, I know you write good magazine and newspaper articles, but this book will never get published. First of all, it is way, way too long. At that time the manuscript was about 700 pages. You see, I thought you had to have a BIG book in order to get published.

He continued, “It is filled with cliches and tangents that take me away from the core of the story. You have lots of information dumps, too. The gist of the story is good, but you need to learn how to write fiction, my friend.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, as I tried to hold back the tears of humiliation, he gave me one more sage bit of advice. “I don’t feel your characters. You need to become them. Particularly the woman whose story this is. Feel her feelings, shake with fear like she does. Make the reader buy into it. If you can do all of what I’ve suggested, I think you’ll have a publishable manuscript.”

He was right, but it took many more years to become BETRAYED.





Sherry and Tommy both stood there staring at me as though I was a piece of meat in the butcher’s case. My eyes darted around the room frantically looking for

anything faintly familiar. The pounding of my heart echoed in my ears. I told myself it was okay and tried not to be so afraid. After all, the walking dead aren’t supposed to care about anything, are they? It didn’t work. I was petrified.

Tiny blood red specks blinked furiously, growing larger and larger on the dark blanket inside my head. Then everything turned pitch black.




She was a ballerina, but the book is about betrayal

Because the kidnap victim, who has had different names in the various versions of this story, was a ballet protege, I thought something about dancing had to be in the title, when the reality is that it is a story of multiple betrayals. The element of dance weaves through all of the real events that inspired this story, but after years of wrestling with it to get just the right balance and writing technique, I finally realized there was no need to highlight “dance” in the title.

Sadly, my first attempt back in the early 90s was that of an amateur when it came to writing fiction. For one thing, coming from the world of magazine and newspaper articles, I had the tendency to do lots of “information dumps”–in case you are not familiar with that term it refers to big blocks of information contained within a paragraph or several paragraphs like a litany of facts.

That’s what you often do when trying to fit a lot of information into the limited space allotted for articles, but as I learned the hard way, it doesn’t work for fiction. When writing fiction you have to dole out the information in appropriate places.

Because it was imperative to write in first person to grab the drama of the scenes, I later learned I should have used dialogue and other devices to inform the reader of back story or things Laurel Murphy couldn’t see but were critical to the action. However, like most novices, I didn’t realize how many mistakes I was making. Hey, I was a published writer, right?

One of the lessons learned the hard way was to understand your genre before crafting the story. I hadn’t done that.

I also thought you had to have a massive book to get published, so my manuscript was over 200,000 words. When, after a few years of working on it, I typed that last line and breathed a sigh of accomplishment, deep in my heart I knew I’d written a best seller.

Then came the crash to the ground and to reality. I’d written a big, thick book that would never get published, but I was so confident it was great I asked a friend who had written some best selling thrillers to read it and give me his opinion. He was brutally frank.

More about this in the next post.