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Second-hand stores

My First Choice: Second Hand

I am a huge fan of second-hand stores. So is Hank. Our reasons are identical. We love buying quality clothing and furnishings we can’t afford to buy new but can find in these types of stores. Let me add — if we’re lucky. And honestly, that’s part of the fun.

I will admit a majority of my wardrobe was found in a second-hand store. I like clothing with quality fabrics and classic designs, which I often can’t find new in stores. (Retail outlets used to have good finds until the stores started making clothing specifically for this market.) I feel the same way going to second-hand bookstores.

The best place to find a good second-hand store? Where rich people live and donate what they no longer want.

My technique is simple. I go along the racks, looking at the fabric. If I see something I like, I check the style and size. I also check whether it needs to be dry-cleaned, which might be a deal-breaker for me unless it’s a special garment like the Saks Fifth Avenue silk dress coat and a wool Pendelton dress jacket I found.

When in doubt, I try it on. I also check the discard rack near the dressing room.

But my ultimate rule: I gotta love it.

And a second ultimate rule: sometimes I win, oftentimes I don’t. But to be honest, if I go to a second-hand store a few times and consistently strike out, I won’t be back.

But in my shopping experience, I rank two that are the crème-de-la-crème of second-hand stores.

The first was a consignment store in Northampton, where the owner only carried quality clothing that was less than two years old. That was 15 years ago, and I still wear clothes I bought there. Unfortunately, the store is no longer in business.

The second was Pieces in Taos — the town in Northern New Mexico where I lived 11 years. Hank and I tested our luck at least once a week and over the years got great clothes and furniture like our Stickley couch and lamp.

One of my favorite finds was the set of pinecone candle lamps. That’s them above.

When we think of the things we miss about Taos, shopping at Pieces is one of them.

Alas, I saw a post on Facebook (from The Taos News) that Pieces is closing for a number of reasons. I am sorry that is happening, but I treasure the hours I spent there on the hunt for great stuff at great prices and the stuff I scored.

 

 

 

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Author Interview, Business of writing, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Getting the Word Out

First, if you’re a writer, you have to get the words down. Then, you gotta get the word out. Well, that’s the case when you are an indie author competing with other indie authors, and then there are those who have a lot of muscle behind them via a big shot publisher.

Ah, as I’ve said many times before — there’s writing and then there’s the business of writing.

I much prefer the first.

But then an author gets unexpected help. That’s what happened recently when Carrie Healy of New England Public Radio contacted me to be a part of a summer series that featured author on Friday mornings. She requested a copy of my latest book, which in this case is Checking the Traps, third in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Then after reading the novel, she arranged for a recorded interview, which conveniently took place in an empty office at the Greenfield Recorder. (My day job is editor-in-chief.) She had a list of good questions. I hoped I came up with good answers. I read aloud a bit from the book’s start. (Carrie took the photo of me above.)

I found out Aug. 1 when Carrie sent me a link. She nicely took out the stumbles and the ums. I thought it came out well. I suppose others did too since I had a jump in sales, especially for the first in the series: Chasing the Case. And people were kind to mention they heard me on the radio.

Here have a listen. Here’s the link: http://www.tinyurl.com/yyjsr7fo

Four days later, I gave a reading at a bar in Northampton. It was the monthly event for Straw Dog Writers Guild at the Basement. First a duo played and 10 people in the audience each got five minutes to read from a work in progress, poetry and prose. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety, how 3cef0c4a-159e-4416-a3ba-49dcfb34e7ebpeople use our language to come up with stories and different ways to tell them.

Then, I had my chance to speak as the featured writer. I did less reading from Checking the Traps and more talking about my adventure with writing, how I started as a poet long ago, had a 25 years writers block, and finally found my creative outlet. Yeah, I talked about writing and the business of writing. And, smile, people bought books.

A few days later I noticed on Amazon a bump in sales for the next two books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. (Redneck’s Revenge is number two.)  I am guessing those who bought the first liked it enough to read the rest. Well, readers, thank you very much.

Here is the link if you want to check out my books on Amazon:

http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

 http://mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

https://mybook.to/checkingthetraps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life lessons, New Mexico, Western Massachusetts

In Two Years’ Time

Two years ago, Hank and I were driving somewhere in the Midwest as we made our way from Taos, New Mexico to Western Massachusetts. Hank was at the wheel. Our cat sat on my lap for almost the entire 2,400 miles.

I know for sure because Facebook reminded me. I wrote “Adios, Taos.”

We lived in Northern New Mexico for 11 years. We built a home there. I ran the editorial department of the local newspaper. Hank got into the artistic side of woodworking. We enjoyed grand views of the mesa, mountains and big skies. Great food. It was an interesting place to live.

But we had our reasons for leaving.

And a lot has happened since then. A lot of good things.

Having easier access to more of our family is an important one. Four of our six kids and our two granddaughters live in Massachusetts. (You gotta love it when your two-year-old granddaughter calls you Grandma Applesauce.) Then there is my 95-year-old mother and other kin.

We found and bought the style of home we wanted — an arts and crafts bungalow. (My wish then: we find the right house for the right price in the right location.) Youngest daughter, Julia, a real estate agent, negotiated the deal.

The home, built in 1900, has great bones. We had to fix the things the previous owners either did or didn’t do to the home. Luckily, Hank is a skilled woodworker. Me? I was the unskilled helper. The only work we hired out was the roof, floor sanding in two rooms, plumbing and electrical. But as it goes in older homes, there’s still work ahead for Hank.

We live on the Buckland side of Shelburne Falls, a charming village in a rural area. Think small shops, restaurants, and our son’s microbrewery, Floodwater Brewing, which opened last November. And for the most part, friendly people. Folks come from all over to admire the Bridge of Flowers that spans the Deerfield River. We achieved our goal of being able to walk to places from our home — only four-tenths of a mile to Floodwater.

It’s been a productive year for me writing-wise. I’ve published the first three books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series through Crooked Cat Books. I am onto the fourth.

I have a freelance gig copyediting history books for the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio. I’ve learned a lot about our nation’s history.

If that weren’t enough, I am now the editor-in-chief of The Greenfield Recorder. I didn’t think I would go back in the biz, but here I am again running the paper’s editorial department. I am glad to say I have a hardworking and friendly staff devoted to community news.

Oh, our cat, Two, who is around 15, is just fine.

Yes, we got a lot done in two years. What will the next two bring? Bring it on.

PHOTO ABOVE: A not very flattering selfie taken somewhere on our cross-country trek with our cat Two glued to my lap. She hated the carrier.

 

 

 

 

 

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Isabel Long Mystery Series

Writing a Mystery Series

Writing a series means that I can hold onto the characters I love but let them do something else. Certainly, that’s the case for Isabel Long, the protagonist, and for many others in my mystery series.

So far, the Isabel Long Mystery Series has three books: Chasing the Case, Redneck’s Revenge, and Checking the Traps, all published by Crooked Cat Books. I am making my way through the fourth, called Killing the Story.

For those just tuning in, Isabel was a longtime journalist who uses her transferable skills in her new life as a private investigator in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Each book features a cold case she decides to solve. So far, a family member has approached Isabel to find out what happened to a loved one.

I carry some of the characters from one book to the other. In the second book, two bad boy drug-dealing brothers, Gary and Larry Beaumont, terrorized Isabel although they did eventually make amends. Certainly, all is forgiven in Checking the Traps because Gary hires Isabel to find out how his half-brother — a poetry-writing guy on a local highway crew — died. Was it a suicide, as the cops say, or murder?

Now, that that case is over, the Beaumont brothers are not key characters but their path — the brothers are joined at the hip —  do cross with Isabel’s, and they will have a key role because of a favor that was promised. Hey, I’m not telling.

Among the other characters I kept are: Jack, the owner of the Rooster Bar and Isabel’s love interest; her 93-year-old mother, Maria, who’s her Watson; the Old Farts, a group of gossipy men stationed in the general store’s backroom; and Annette and Marsha, two cousins who I will say are country tough. Then, there’s Jack’s nuisance ex-wife — they were married for a minute. I also expect a brief meetup with the Big Shot Poet and Cherie, the victim’s widow from the third book.

But Killing the Story has a new people including Emerson Crane, the owner of a tiny weekly newspaper who hires Isabel to investigate his mother’s death years back. At the time, everybody, including Emerson, thought she slipped on ice and died when she hit her head. But then while cleaning the newsroom, he discovers a suitcase filled with papers that indicates his mother was working on something big. Maybe it wasn’t an accident after all.

This case takes Isabel to a new town, Dillard, and a new set of suspects and sources. Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun.

BOOKS: Interested in reading the series and my other books? I thank you in advance. Here’s the link on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

 

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Day Job, Newspapers

My Day Job

Well, I didn’t expect this to happen. Once I was done with my job as the managing editor of The Taos News, I figured I was finished with the news biz. No more deadlines. No more being in the thick of what was happening in the community. No more complaints about coverage. No more… oh the list goes on.

But then I found an opportunity I couldn’t let slip away: running the editorial department of the Greenfield Recorder in Western Massachusetts. And — surprise — I got hired as the editor-in-chief.

At the start of March, my life became suddenly busy as I learned the ropes and after a month, I went solo. Actually, I was extraordinarily busy as we were missing a news editor, so until we were able to fill that position, I was working two jobs. As you might guess, that didn’t leave me time for much of anything else, like my own writing. But thankfully, that has changed, and I’m back into my next book. (I will admit, however, I have cut back on my social media presence.)

So, what’s this newspaper like? The Greenfield Recorder, founded in 1792, is a daily paper covering 26 towns in Franklin County in Massachusetts. It has one town that became a city — Greenfield. The rest are towns of varying sizes. Most are very rural. I live in one of them, so I am mindful we need to give people the info they need to make good decisions about their communities — and often entertain them. Yes, we are a community newspaper.

The Recorder — that’s its logo above — is owned by Newspapers of New England, which has a total of nine papers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, including the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where I once worked as a reporter and editor a long time ago. I like my bosses.

I feel fortunate to have inherited a great staff from my predecessor. Most are millennials who came here straight from college or their first job. Including sports, we have eight reporters (we just hired a sport reporter and are currently down one position on the news-side we’re trying to fill), two photographers, and five editors not including me. They are a hard-working and friendly group — I am often amused by the topics of their spontaneous conversations.

I’m glad I had the experience at The Taos News and can apply what I learned when I was the boss there. For instance, don’t lead by emotion. Help to bring out the best in your staff. (My question every day: What do you have for the front page?) Express appreciation for the work our staff does. I represent the paper wherever I go, so I need to be on best behavior. Oh, the list goes on.

Yes, once again, I’m in the thick of things. And I’m liking it.

THE SWEET SPOT: Hey, suddenly people are catching onto The Sweet Spot, a novel I published two years ago. Set in the hill towns of Western Mass., it’s the story of what happens when a woman is thescan TSS center of a small town’s biggest scandal. It has many of my favorite characters. Here take a look: http://myBook.to/The_Sweet_Spot

 

 

 

 

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