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Life lessons

One good turn

When my job as editor-in-chief for one paper was expanded to two in January, it meant meeting and learning about the people who worked in the second newsroom. One of the first things I noticed was the paper towel dispenser in the women’s room. Huh, you say, but please stay with me.

When COVID-19 disrupted jobs, I still went to the office most of the time, as did a number of people. We just followed safety rules. That means anything from wearing your mask everywhere except at your desk to staying six feet away. And then there’s washing your hands a whole lot and drying them, which is how this story twists back to that paper towel dispenser

When it was time to wash and dry my hands the first time in the women’s room, I noticed somebody had thoughtfully left a couple of feet of paper toweling hanging down, which meant I didn’t have to use my wet hands on the lever. Instead, I got paper ready to dry my hands, and then I used the lever (with a towel) to leave paper for the next woman who would need it.

No, it doesn’t happen all the time because not every woman in the building does it although it is rare when I don’t see paper hanging. And sometimes I catch someone doing it. I always thank them.

My parents taught me good manners like saying “please” and “thank you,” which I find goes a long way. You give up your seat to someone who is a lot older. You hold the door for others. You find something nice to say about somebody. I believe I have passed that onto our kids, who are very good human beings.

But back to those paper towels. I make sure I leave toweling for the next person. Actually, I’ve started doing it in the women’s room of my first newsroom and will see if it catches on. It isn’t a big deal, but it is in a way, you know, because one good turn deserves another.

WRITING UPDATE: I am nearing the two-thirds mark for the fifth book in the Isabel Long Mystery Series. This one is called Working the Beat. You can check out my books on Amazon at this link: Joan Livingston books

 

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Book Sale, The Twin Jinn

Making Magic

I am not a magician and, sadly, I don’t have magical powers although, darn, I really wish I had. So, the next best thing is creating magic through my writing.

Specifically, I am talking about my Twin Jinn series for middle grade series and those who want a bitTwinJinn_book_3b copy
of magical realism in their lives. The first book in the series, which I released this spring, is called The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Series.

And good news: the book is free for two days Saturday, May 15 and Sunday, May 16 on Amazon if you or your kids are Kindle readers.

This series is about a family of jinn or genies who trick their evil master into letting them go free. In this book, they hide out at a carnival, where they have a magic act, except their magic is real. I feel I created realistic, likable kids — Jute and Fina who are twin brother  and sister — and their protective parents. The twins are mischievous and curious about the human world. I’ve had a wonderful time living in it with them.

I have two more completed books and one in the works. There’s plenty of magic to go around.

Curious? Here’s the link: The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries

 

 

 

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Northern Comfort

Listening to Frank

Frank is the name I give to the mechanical voice in the Read Aloud function of Word who recites whatever document is open. Currently, Frank is reading aloud my novel, Northern Comfort, which I plan to self-publish soon. His voice has zero emotion and some of his pronunciations are a bit weird — although I love how he says “pop” — but he’s been the most helpful fellow while I proof this novel.

I wrote Northern Comfort when I lived in the Western Mass. hilltown of Worthington way over 15 years ago, and despite the efforts of an agent and my persistence, I couldn’t find a publisher willing to take it on. Too bad. It’s a really good story. (Alas, it doesn’t fit for my publisher’s genres of choice.)

So, I’m going to do it myself. I have gone over this novel countless times. I even used a program that catches grammatical errors. But I’ve found the most effective way is to hear it being read by somebody else, and that’s where Frank helps out. I read the words on my computer screen as he says them.

Here you can hear Frank read the opening chapter, Worst of Winter:

It is a time-consuming process, but now that I am nearing the end, I will admit Frank has done a great job showing me typos and missing words. There have been instances when a word or phrase didn’t work when he said it, and I made the change.

Next, I will send the book onto my son-in-law, Chris, who will bring fresh eyes to the story. Then I will turn it over to Michelle to handle its design.

So what is Northern Comfort about? Here’s the synopsis:

Willi Miller and her young son are a charity case in a New England town that holds dear to the traditions of making maple syrup, playing old-time music, and keeping family secrets. Willi does her best by Cody, who was brain-damaged at birth, supporting him by cutting hair and doing dye jobs. Their home is a cabin left by the grandfather who took them in after Junior Miller abandoned them. Then, on a snowy day, Cody’s sled sends him into the path of a truck driven by Miles Potter. Willi and Miles have known each other since they were kids, but until the moment her son dies, they are separated by their families’ place in town.

Northern Comfort is my novel about the harsh realities of rural life: A single mother raising her disabled child alone because his father doesn’t accept any responsibility; a girl abused by her stepfather, who threatens to leave the family poor if she tells; and a man of means feeling helpless after he is suddenly thrust into a tragedy.

Cody’s death has a powerful effect on the three people involved. For Miles, he discovers he and Willi have more in common than the accident that brought them together. For Junior, he faces his failings as a father and tries to make amends that matter to his child’s mother.

And Willi, a slight woman with a powerful resolve, is able to confront her dark secret and find peace after her son’s death. For the first time in her life, she feels optimism.

Northern Comfort will be the next novel I publish. I will certainly let you know when that happens. But first, I have to get back to following along with Frank.

MY BOOKS: Looking for something to read in the meantime? Here’s the link to my books on Amazon: Joan Livingston books

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The Twin Jinn

Let’s pretend

I had a childhood steeped in imaginative play. This was out of necessity as I lived a rather sheltered life. My parents, the children of immigrants, didn’t get the concept that we could play at a friend’s house. That’s what family is for. And so that’s what happened.

My chief playmate was my sister, Christine, who is three years younger. One of us would think up a fantasy to play with the invitation: “Let’s pretend …” I don’t remember all of the scenarios we or our TwinJinn_book_3b copydolls acted, but it doesn’t matter. What I do remember is that during those hours we spent together, we were delightfully in another world.

Another outlet was reading. Our mother would take us to the town library once or twice a week to stock up on books. In the summer, the bookmobile came to the church parking lot at the bottom of the street. I spent hours and hours — in the summer staying up late — lost in those words.

And when I became my mother, I enjoyed watching my children do the same.

Now the words “let’s pretend” is the motivation behind my writing fiction. I sit in front of my laptop and let my imagination take over. For my Isabel Long Mystery Series, it’s let’s pretend a former newspaper editor decides to solve cold cases in the hilltowns. Isabel’s elderly mother is her “Watson.” Her first case involves the disappearance of a woman 28 years earlier in her town.

The same is true for the fiction I’ve written for adult and young readers.

My most recent release is the first in The Twin Jinn Series. For this book, I circled back to those times in the backyard when my sister and I played, or upstairs in my bedroom reading a book I couldn’t put down.

First, I’ve always been fascinated by genies. Yes, there’s that Aladdin story. But my genies or jinn, as I prefer to call them, don’t live in lamps. In the first book — The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries — they live and have a magic act in a traveling carnival. Of course, their magic is just one of their many powers such as being invisible, flying, casting spells, oh, the list goes on. The twins are Jute and Fina, brother and sister who are 11 by human age. They are sweet but mischievous and like so many siblings, competitive. Their parents, Jeffer and Mira, are protective, but that’s because they tricked their evil master into letting them go. Yes, he’s trying to find them.

Pretending with The Jinn family is so much fun that I completed two more books, and a third is halfway done. I plan to continue publishing them, because I want to inspire young readers and anyone else who loves magical realism.

So how can you get a copy? The paperback is available. Note the great illustration by Ezra Livingston, one of my sons. If you like Kindle, that will launch March 6. Here’s the link to Amazon: https://mybook.to/TwinJinnAtHappyJacks

And thank you for joining me.

 

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Magical Realism, The Twin Jinn

Ta-da! Magic by The Twin Jinn and Friends

The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries — the first book in my new series — is now available for pre-order on Amazon, well the Kindle version for now. Click on pre-order and it will TwinJinn_book_3b copymagically appear in your device on March 6. The link is below.

This series has a lot of what entertained me as a book-reading child: genies, magic, and family. Now I offer it to middle grade readers, those who read to children, and perhaps adults who want a little light-hearted magical realism in their lives, especially now.

Here’s a brief synopsis from the back of the book:

Jute and Fina Jinn, twin brother and sister, and their parents, Elwin and Mira, are enchanted beings who seek refuge at a traveling carnival after escaping their cruel master. 

While in hiding, the twins must pretend to be 11-year-old humans, but mischievous and curious, they sometimes get carried away. Who could blame them? The twins have the power to fly, be invisible, and use spells. Thankfully, they have an outlet as carnival kids assisting their parents in a magic act and making friends with their fellow performers, including a shy boy.

Still, amid the fun, there is danger for the Jinn family because their former master, a man with evil intentions, is desperate to get them back, and having a magic act that turns out to be a huge hit could be their undoing.

You will learn more about this book as I lead up to the launch. But I wanted you to know, I relied on the creativity of two people to see this book materialize: Michelle Gutierrez and Ezra Livingston.

I worked with Michelle at The Taos News, where she was our editorial designer. She also did the layout for my novels, The Sweet Spot and Peace, Love, and You Know What. Here’s her website: www.mmgcreate.com. I love that Michelle is able to transform words and illustrations into a book.

Ezra Livingston is my son and an artist since he was a young child. He created the illustration for the cover, which I believe captures the playfulness of the book’s main characters. He created the illustration above.

So how can you pre-order my book? Here’s the link: The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries

I will let you know as soon as the print version is uploaded. I can hardly wait.

 

 

 

 

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