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Isabel Long Mystery Series, Working the Beat

Smashin’ and Crashin’

So far, four books have been published in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, and now I’m working on the fifth. I’m not giving away what’s going happen in Working the Beat. Actually, that would be impossible since the story comes to me as I write. Yeah, I’m one of those so-called pansters.

I’m nearly 10,000 words into the novel, so what I can tell you is that so far this book has a demolition derby because Isabel, my protagonist, is at one in the chapter I’m writing — titled Smashin’ and Crashin’. Jack, owner of the Rooster Bar and Grille and Isabel’s love interest, took herIMG_4079 to the one at the Titus Country Fair. He even shut down the bar on a Saturday night. Well, frankly, none of his customers would likely pass up the derby to drink beer and play pool at his place.

Isabel’s never been to a demotion derby, but her interest is piqued because her next case, if she takes it, involves a death that happened at one. She was approached earlier in the day by the dead man’s rather crusty grandmother. Good timing, as Isabel would say. She can go to the scene of the supposed crime and come back the next day to investigate some more.

Jack naturally puts up with her snooping and her questions about the derby cause he’s crazy about her.

Unlike Isabel, I’ve been to a demolition derby at the Cummington Fair and even truck pulls. I had hoped to go to the one at the fair this year, but this pandemic ruined that plan. So, I’ve taken to watching videos of demotion derbies to refresh my memory. There sure are a lot of them, of varying quality. It’s not my sport of choice, but it is for the characters in Working the Beat. Well, maybe not for Isabel, but now, she is more than interested.

So, what’s with the title of this book? For journalists and ex-journalists like Isabel, a beat is the territory a reporter covers. It could be geographic area, say a city or group of towns, or a topic such as cops and courts, higher education, you get the idea. When I was a reporter a long time ago, my beat was the hilltowns of Western Mass. And working one, means staying on top of things, checking in with sources, being curious and available. Isabel did that as a reporter, and now, she does it as a P.I.

Yeah, you can probably tell, I’m liking this book.

PHOTO ABOVE: That’s one I snagged at the Cummington Fair’s demolition derby.

MORE: Thanks to all who downloaded their free copies of Chasing the Case, no. 1, and Killing the Story, no. 4 and the latest, this past weekend. Great to have more readers.

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Killing IG website
Book Sale, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Such a Deal: Two Free Books This Weekend

Yes, no. 1 and 4 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series are free to get on Saturday, Oct. 17 and Sunday, Oct. 18. That’s Chasing the Case and Killing the Story. The one catch is that deal is for Kindle readersChasing IG copy only.

So why in the heck would I give my books away for free? Simply put, to attract more readers to my series. Also, I do make money if the books are picked up by those who have Kindle Unlimited when they read pages.

I tried this experiment earlier this spring and was surprised by the results. I found readership rose on the other books in the series, plus the ones I’ve self-published — The Sweet Spot and Peace, Love, & You Know What. Last weekend, I gave away Peace etc. and found people picking up a short collection of short stories — Professor Groovy and Other Stories — that has been largely ignored.

Then, there are reviews on Amazon, where my series is available. Chasing the Case, the first, has now 118. That number jumped dramatically when I started giving it away.

As I’ve said before, there is writing and then there is the business of writing. The second is the trickiest, considering drastic changes in the publishing industry and the flood of self-produced books of varying quality. I have a strong ally in Darkstroke Books, for my mystery series, but as a small indie publisher, authors must actively promote their books. It’s kinda tough considering my time-consuming job as editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper and my early morning writing sessions.

But, hey, I am determined. And, I’ve learned to pay for promotions — not a lot — but that has made a big difference on these freebie weekends. My social media presence doesn’t have their reach, which is in the multiple thousands.

So, here are the links to Chasing the Case and Killing the Story. Enjoy and if you are so inclined, leave a review on Amazon. I do appreciate your support.

 

 

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Peace FB promo copy
free, hippies, Peace Love and You Know What

Steal My Book

Well, it’s not really stealing if I give it away, which is the case for my novel, Peace, Love, & You Know What. And that’s the situation when I make the Kindle version free Friday, Oct. 9, and Saturday, Oct. 10.

Many of you might be familiar with my Isabel Long Mystery Series, published by Darkstroke Books, and The Sweet Spot, which I self-published. I also self-published Peace, Love, & You Know What.

As a comedy, perhaps it’s the perfect escape from these troubling times.

So what’s Peace, Love, & You Know What about? Here’s my pitch: First a three-day graduation bash at a college hippie pad, then maybe adulthood; Peace, Love, & You Know What is a comedy framed by the Vietnam War and Watergate.

Here’s more: There’s Tim, who is actually faking his graduation, and his roommates Mack, Manny, and the poetry-spouting Joey. Then, there’s Lenora, their queen, who is graduating and splitting for Europe. Tim and Lenora have been tight friends for four years, and he figures this might be his last chance with her.

The three-day bash is a big hit for every hippie freak and dirty professor at Westbridge State College. But the story doesn’t end there. We follow them, well, mostly Tim and Lenora, as they stumble through adulthood. As to be expected, I love my characters, well, maybe not one of them, but I bet you can figure out who that is if you read the book.

Peace, Love, & You Know What is inspired by my own experiences, so I believe I portray that time with authenticity. However, I will be upfront that none of it happened in real life. When the novel, which I wrote when I lived in Taos, New Mexico, came out, a few friends from that era weren’t happy. But this book is a work of fiction and not a memoir. The difference is that I take what I know and have my way with it.

Interested? Here’s the link: Peace, Love, & You Know What

By the way the title to this post is a takeoff of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book. Hoffman was a counter-culture activist, who published wrote that book in 1970.

And thank you for reading what I write.

 

 

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audio, cars, French

Parlez-vous français?  Oui, in my car

That’s dans ma voiture by the way. A while back, I wrote how I am listening to audiobooks on my commute to work. Now, I am using that time to relearn French.

Why French? Well, I took it for seven years when I was a kid starting in seventh grade. I recall reading some heavy-duty French lit in high school, but I didn’t get to be truly fluent until I went to Paris when I was a college student. I will cut to the chase, but my curiosity about the Seine got me into a sticky situation with a man I met, and I was suddenly fluent enough to rescue myself. Then, I used that skill to get me through Europe for a couple of months.

But after that, I didn’t have an opportunity to use French, and so it sunk into my subconscious.

Well, until now.

Ella, my 7-year-old granddaughter, is in her second year in a French immersion program at her elementary school. When she spoke with me in French, I realize how rusty I was. (Her mother, my daughter, Emily, is taking a French course as well.)

Wouldn’t it be fun to converse in French with my smart granddaughter? Mais, oui.

So, I found a course on Audible. “Learn French for Beginners” with Paul Noble , who takes those listening through the paces for 12 hours and 38 minutes. A native-speaking French expert assists with pronunciation.

(I am excited that he has advanced courses in French on Audible, plus basics in many other languages.)

So, at the start of my 15-20-minute trip, I plug in my ear buds and use the app on my phone.

Right now, we are on the so-called language ground rules. We build sentences, and many seem appropriate if I was a traveler in a French-speaking country. It certainly wasn’t that way when I originally learned the language.

So how is going? Frankly, I surprise myself how much I recall, that the French language is indeed inside me. The words and phrases roll off the tongue. If I run into a complicated lesson, I back track and go over it again. Paul Noble says that’s fine. He is a reassuring teacher, urging his students not to worry. He says it will all make sense when we reach the end.

But my first test will be coming soon when I visit Ella later this month. Or rather …. Je vais visiter Ella.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A snapshot of me in Paris a long time ago. Sorry, it’s very small photo.

THANKS: I am thankful for the readers who have bought my books and even given reviews. Here’s a link to my books in case you are curious: Joan Livingston books on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rewriting, Writing

Hey, Look What I Found

I was rearranging stuff in the attic, when I discovered another version of my novel The Swanson Shuffle. As yet unpublished, the novel was inspired by my experience living and working in a psychiatric halfway house. I have envelopes containing manuscripts of my other works, but what made this one especially interesting is that it’s bound with plastic cover and rings. I believe it was a requirement for one of the contests I entered a long time ago, and I had a copy made for me as well. Although a bit yellowed on the bottom, it has survived two 2,400-mile moves across the country.

I wrote Walking in Place, which is the book’s original name, in 1999. I failed to lure an agent or a publisher for it. Actually, the agent I did get passed on the book and instead agreed to represent one of my hilltowns novels, which alas, he couldn’t get published. Yes, it’s been a long, strange trip.

Then in early 2014, I rewrote Walking in Place and renamed it The Swanson Shuffle. Both titles refer to the side-effect of one drug a few of the residents of Swanson House take. I have had a hard time finding a publisher for that one as well, so I’ve decided to read the original and see if there is anything in there I could use to make the novel better.

The two versions have many of the same characters. The protagonist is named Rose in the first book and Bia in second. The first is written in first-person past tense, and the second, first-person present tense.

Walking in Place begins when one of the residents, Jerry, has been arrested. The Swanson Shuffle starts with Bia coming for a weekend as part of the interview process. She meets Jerry outside while he’s working on his car.

The first version has hardly any chapter breaks. The second, as is typical of my current writing style, has lots.

In the first book, a lot of the plot revolves around Rose’s relations with the staff, including a bit of romance. The second focuses on Bia’s relationships with the residents, who, frankly, are far more interesting than the staff.

I finished reading Walking in Place when I awoke this morning at 2 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. In the end, I decided I made the right move rewriting Walking in Place. I was pleased at the progress my writing made during those fifteen years. The Swanson Shuffle is tighter, livelier and certainly better written. It’s also a better story.

But I acknowledge there might be some passages and ideas I could take from the first.

I am also weighing which title to use — and whether to change the novel to past tense or even third-person. I may experiment with a couple of chapters. Such fun.IMG_0904

By the way, that was my second discovery last week. The other was a copy of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, circa 1928, that I scored in a free book box in downtown Greenfield. It originally belonged to a local library, and considering its controversy, I am a bit surprised.

I will go through my collection and see what I can spare in return.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: My copy of Walking in Place.

 

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