four books
Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story, Launch party

Party on for Killing the Story

For the Aug. 26 official release of my next mystery, Killing the Story, I am depending on the experts to get the word out to potential readers. Their social media reach is far greater than I could ever achieve. But I would be remiss in not doing a little something on my own to celebrate, namely a Facebook party that day.

I did FB events for the first two books in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, and enjoyed them a great deal, posing questions and contests. For the third, I had started a full-time job as a newspaper’s editor-in-chief, and couldn’t spare the time. I still have that position, but for this book’s launch, I’m taking the day off.

I’ve decided to keep it live 90 minutes: noon to 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

That means people on the East Coast of the U.S. can tune in during lunch. Those on the West, it might be brunch. It will be dinner time perhaps for my friends across the pond. (The active party will take place during those 90 minutes, but I will leave the posts intact for 24 hours for those who might want to drift in later.)

All you have to do is go to my Facebook Author Page — @JoanLivingstonAuthor — and check off “going.”

What can people expect at this event? I like having fun contests related to the novel I’m promoting.

Killing the Story takes place in the rural hilltowns of New England, to be specific in Western Massachusetts where I live.

Isabel Long’s fourth case involves proving a small town newspaper editor’s death wasn’t an accident after all. Perhaps she was onto a story that put herself in danger. Of course, Isabel faces her own threats, including a police chief who makes it clear she isn’t welcome in his town. But then again, he and the victim have a dark history. Could there be a connection? Isabel is about to find out.

I am working on the contest questions, but this time the prizes are a bit unique. Winners will have the chance to name a demotion derby vehicle and/or a driver that will be used in book No. 5. The cold case for that one? A body was discovered after the crowd watching a demolition derby at a small country fair was cleared. (I was inspired by something my friend Victor said.) And in the fifth book, Isabel goes with Jack, owner of the Rooster bar and her guy, to one at the Titus Country Fair.

But back to Killing the Story. While I have you here, let me share an excerpt from Killing the Story. Isabel meets Emerson Crane, who wants her to find out how his mother died. Supposedly it was a fall on ice as she walked home from the newsroom. But a cryptic note he finds eight years later indicates she might have been in trouble. So, Isabel and her 93-year-old mother, Marie, who is her sidekick in these cases, go to The Observer’s newsroom in Dillard to meet Emerson and learn more about the potential case. And Isabel, a former journalist, feels right at home.

The town of Dillard is larger than the town of Conwell, where I live, which has one store, one church, one school, one stoplight, and, of course, one bar. Dillard has a small downtown, a one-street block that dead ends, with storefronts, although not all are filled, a diner, and, of course, a bar. On the other end, across the main road are railroad tracks. I understand Dillard was a happening place when the railroad that runs through town actually stopped here for passengers and goods, for wood that was logged and sawn here, plus grain. But those days are long gone. And the rail is a freight line that doesn’t stop. I had to cross the tracks on my way here, so I could joke that Dillard is on the other side of, oh, you know what I’m gonna say. For those unfamiliar with the layout of this part of the world, Dillard is two towns east from Caulfield, which is a few towns northwest from Conwell. Got that?

 The Observer’s newsroom is located in a storefront that appears to have apartments above and with plenty of open parking spaces on the street. A wooden sign hanging over the front door says: The Observer — Get Your Local News Here.

 “It looks as if it’s been a while since anybody washed those windows,” Ma says.

“Or painted the outside.” I glance up. “Or done much of anything to this building.”

A bell above the door signals our arrival. My immediate impression? This place would go up in flames if somebody threw a lit match. Really, it wouldn’t take much. Bundles of newspapers are stacked everywhere. Notebooks and loose paper are piled on the desks along with computers that are seriously way overdue for an upgrade. A woman tends to a customer at the long counter.

“Be with you in a minute,” she tells Ma and me. 

But before I can explain why we are here Emerson Crane gets up from a desk and walks toward us.

“It’s okay, Martha. They’re here to see me,” he says. “I won’t be taking any calls for a while.”

We three exchange greetings, and then my mother and I follow Emerson between the desks and chairs toward the rear of the newsroom. I have a flashback to my former newsroom even though this is a much smaller and messier version than the one at the Daily Star. I get the feeling the people working here have to do several jobs, like deliver the paper or mop the floors. I never had to do anything like that although for many years, my life revolved around heavy workloads and constant deadlines.

My attention is drawn toward the framed portrait of a middle-aged woman high on one wall. Her chin is up. Her eyes are partially closed. Her lips curl in a wry smile. A sign below the photo says: Tell the whole damn world. Estelle Crane.

I gesture.

“Great quote,” I say.

“It was one of her favorites,” Emerson says. “We may be a small community paper, but in her day, Mom was rather fearless.”

My mother gives me a knowing smile. I can read her mind. Isabel, you may have found a kindred spirit. Too bad this woman’s dead although perhaps being fearless is why she is.

Inside a walled-off section of the newsroom, Emerson slides piles of newspaper across the long wooden table. He sits on one side. Ma and I are on the other. She places her purse on the tabletop. I pull out my phone. 

“Do you mind if I record this?”

“Go right ahead.”

“Let’s start with a little background about your mother if that’s all right with you. Unfortunately, Dillard wasn’t in the Star’s coverage area, so I’m unfamiliar with her story. And it would help us decide whether we want to take this case. Does that work for you?”

Emerson nods and sits back. From what I hear next, Estelle Crane spent her whole life, which amounted to fifty-nine years, in Dillard, except when she went away to college in Boston. She was born a Templeton, then became a Crane when she married Emerson’s father, Hamilton Crane. Ham, as he preferred to be called, worked at The Observer, picking up the papers at the printer and then delivering them to the stores in the area. He was also the newsroom’s custodian. The good parts of the marriage didn’t last long. Neither did the husband. He was two times over the limit when he crashed his car two years before Estelle’s death, so if my math is correct, that was eleven years ago.

“Mom didn’t spare him in The Observer’s news story.” Emerson’s head shakes side to side. “She reported the details of the police report, including the alcohol content of my father’s blood, and that they had separated but never actually divorced. She even ran the story on the bottom of the front page. I was at first unhappy about it. I was in my mid-twenties when he died. I loved my father. He was a good man with faults, and like a lot of our readers, I didn’t want him exposed in the paper. But Mom told me, ‘We treat everybody the same. If I ever do something wrong, ever break the law, I’d expect you to do the same. Make sure you put it right on the front page.’ Her code of journalist ethics couldn’t be broken even when it was that personal.”

Estelle wanted to be a college professor. History was her thing. But she still worked for the paper and her father, Charles Templeton, when she came home summers and on school vacations. Charles Templeton died long before Emerson was born. He had a heart attack while shoveling spring snow, one of those widow-maker storms. His wife had died years before.

“My mother and her sister had to make a decision about the paper. Aunt Alice was already running the business end. If they wanted to keep the paper in the family, my mother would have to drop out of grad school and take care of the news side. So, that’s what she did.”

“Why didn’t they sell the paper?”

“I believe they tried, but they had no takers. After a while, the sisters got so into running the paper, they gave up on that idea.” He pauses. “Excuse my manners, but could I get you both some water?”

I glance at my mother.

“We’re fine. Right, Ma?”

“Yes, I am,” she says. “Your mother sounds like an interesting person.”

Emerson smiles.

“That she was.”

WANT TO ORDER YOU COPY? Here’s the link: mybook.to/KillingTheStory

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The four books thus far in my Isabel Long Mystery Series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
Killing the Story Cover4 smaller
Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

Killing the Story: Ready for Pre-Order

Today’s a big day for this author. My latest novel, Killing the Story, number four in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, is available for pre-order for Kindle readers.

The official release date is Aug. 26. Yeah, yeah, that’s a ways off. But you can order the Kindle version of book now and forget about it until that day arrives when it will mysteriously appear in your device. Or if you can buy the hard copy, when it’s ready soon, and it will be making its way in the mail on that date.

The last several days have been busy for Laurence Patterson, of Darkstroke Books, and I. We worked hard to to find just the right image for the cover. It was important that the fourth match the other three in its theme, color and composition. There were other design parameters. But in the end I found the right image and then Laurence worked his magic.

What else? I came up with a new bio, dedication, acknowledgment, and the all-important blurb for the back cover. Here it is:

An accidental death that was no accident…

For the record, Estelle Crane, the gutsy editor of The Observer newspaper, died after a hard fall on ice. But years later, her son discovers a cryptic note hinting her death might not have been an accident after all.

Was Estelle pursuing a big story that put her life in danger?

That’s what Isabel Long — along with her 93-year-old mother, Maria, her ‘Watson’ — agrees to investigate in Dillard, a town whose best days are in the past.

A former journalist, Isabel follows leads and interviews sources, new and familiar. She quickly finds a formidable threat in Police Chief James Hawthorne, who makes it clear Isabel is not welcome in his town — and who warns her against poking her nose into Estelle’s death.

Of course, that’s after Isabel has discovered the chief’s questionable policing and a troubled history with Estelle that goes way back.

Killing the story means dropping it because there aren’t enough facts to back it up. But Isabel won’t make that mistake. She’ll see this one through to the very end.

Can she uncover the plot that led to Estelle’s murder?

Killing the Story is the fourth in the popular Isabel Long Mystery Series.

Of course there is more work to be done like edits. I am collecting endorsements from fellow authors. And I am planning on how to celebrate and promote release day. For something new, I may do a Google Hangout or a Zoom session. Would you be interested in participating?

So here’s the link to place your pre-order: Killing the Story on Amazon

And thank you if you do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
IMG_6966
Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

A Peek at Killing the Story

It’s official: Killing the Story, the fourth in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, will officially launch Aug. 21.

Yes, the writing is finished. I did numerous rounds of edits on my own before I sent it to my publishers, Laurence and Steph Patterson of Darkstroke Books for their approval. (Thanks Laurence and Steph.) They, in turn, passed it onto Miriam Drori, who edited the other Isabel Long books. This is a rather international team by the way with the Pattersons, originally from the UK, living in France, and Miriam, in Israel. I, of course, am in the U.S.

Laurence and I are settling on the right image for the cover — in keeping with the theme of the series. Today I sent him the blurb for the back, bio, dedication etc.

So, what’s Isabel Long up to in Killing the Story? Actually, her sidekick, Maria, finds this case while the two of them are attending a raucous open house at the Pit Stop, that gas station/convenient store cousins Annette and Marsha, aka the Tough Cookie and Floozy, own. Emerson Crane, owner of The Observer, a weekly newspaper covering a slew of small towns, wants Isabel to look into the death of his mother, the paper’s former editor. Supposedly she died after slipping on some ice while walking home from the newsroom. But a cryptic note he found suggests that it might not have been an accident after all.

I’ve created new characters and a new setting — Dillard, a town whose best days are behind it. And, of course, I brought along favorites from the other books like Jack, of course, the Old Farts, the lively clientele at the Rooster and the bad boy Beaumont brothers.

It is important to me to maintain continuity for this series. I share just enough info about previous cases without giving them away in case a reader starts in the middle. Plus I love many of my characters too much to let them go.

For the next couple of months, I will be writing more about Killing the Story here. But for this post I give you an excerpt of the very beginning. It starts with the funeral of a good small town police chief, who is definitely a contrast to the one Isabel must contend with as she pursues this case. The chapter is called “Farewell to the Chief.”

We buried the old chief today. Yes, Police Chief Benjamin Hendricks Sr. finally died. I hate to use the word finally, but I’m being a realist here. I believe the same might go for his family, who’s been grieving since Alzheimer’s took away the man we all once knew, a small-town cop who witnessed the dark side of our town and didn’t blab about it. I should know from my reporting days when I practically had to strong-arm the man to get anything from him for a story. He didn’t want people to think unfavorably about the town of Conwell even though he and his officers went to calls where a guy would be beating on his wife or kids. They arrested drunken drivers and went to car crashes when the cops didn’t stop them first. The list goes on.

Yes, crime happens in this hilltown of a thousand people in Western Massachusetts, and the ones around it, but sometimes, the cases go unsolved. That’s my job now that I’m a private investigator. I’m Isabel Long. Glad to meet you. I have three cases under my belt, and I’m looking for another. Know of one?

But back to Chief Ben Sr., the Conwell Congregational Church was packed this Saturday morning with mourners. His large extended family filled several pews up front. His pallbearers were police chiefs from the hilltowns, all in uniform, their faces somber as they honored their late comrade. A double line of other police chiefs and officers followed. I will admit the scene got me teary-eyed, Jack Smith, too, who handed me the handkerchief he had tucked in the back pocket of his dress pants.

Many in the church followed the hearse to the cemetery for his burial, and now we’re in the backyard of his family’s home for food, drink, and reminiscing. I’ve heard good stories about the old chief. I offered mine. My mother decided to skip this event. I told her she’d be missing out on a regular who’s who in law enforcement from the hilltowns. But Ma said she felt funny because she had never met the chief and his family in the short time she’s lived with me. I’m here to represent us both.

So, I came with Jack, who’s off getting us beers from the keg in the garage. He found it a good excuse to duck out and not have to listen to another rehashing of my last case with the Beaumont brothers for the True Blue Rooster Regular standing beside me. I don’t blame Jack. People can’t get enough about this case, and frankly, I can’t say much to satisfy the nosy so-and-sos.

“Come on, Isabel. It’s not like you to hold back,” the True Blue, who is a nephew of the old chief, says. He bends closer and lowers his voice to a soft growl. “I promise I won’t tell anybody.”

Yeah, sure. That’s what he said last night, too, when I was tending bar at the Rooster. He even left two bucks for a tip.

“I told you Gary Beaumont wanted me to find out how his brother, Cary, died, and I did. Nobody’s going to jail for it,” I say. “If you wanna find out more, you’re gonna have to ask him yourself. He’s the one who hired me, and we have an agreement.”

The True Blue frowns.

“Like hell I’d do that. That guy’s an asshole.” He inches closer. “I thought you and me were pals.” 

Pals? Uh, I don’t think so. I just pour the guy beer when he buys it at the Rooster. I’m friendly when I see him, and I’m not going to risk getting on the wrong side of Gary Beaumont for him.

“Sorry. I wish I could, but I can’t. Hey, here comes Jack with my beer.”

Finally, if you are reading this Sunday, June 14 this is the last day Kindle readers can get the firstchasing the case full size book Chasing the Case for free. I have been excited to see so many people download the book and even buy the other two in the series outright. Here’s the link: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
IMG_0403
Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

Ta-Da I’ve Reached the End

Yes, I am writing about Killing the Story, the fourth in the Isabel Long Mystery Series. I typed the last words on the last page this morning. Congratulations to me.

One would think I would be giddy about finishing. But I know full well I have editing ahead. I’ve printed all 302 pages and now I will get out my red markers, looking for weak lines, over-used words, and other pitfalls. I will read the manuscript aloud. (For one novel, I read it backwards, which made me focus on the writing and not the plot. I’ll see if I will do the same for Killing the Story.) Two author friends have volunteered to give it a read.

Of course, I will need to work with my publisher’s editor.

But I will admit I love the editing part of the creative process as well. It’s like taking up a daydream and making it better.

This book took longer than the other three. Normally, I can write a novel in six months. This one took almost a year. Chalk it up to having a full-time job as a newspaper’s editor-in-chief, which certainly means more than forty-hour workweeks. I got up insanely early to write before I left for the newsroom. Then, there were the weekends.

But enough about me.

What’s Killing the Story about? This case takes Isabel to Dillard, another small town that’s down on its luck since the railroad doesn’t stop there anymore. Instead of passengers, the trains haul freight to faraway places. It has a sad little downtown, with a corner bar, a greasy spoon of a diner, and low-end commerce in its storefronts. But it also has a weekly newspaper that covers that part of the world: The Observer.

As a former journalist, Isabel gets hooked on this case because of that newspaper. Estelle Crane, the former editor and co-owner, supposedly died when she slipped on ice and hit her head hard. But a note her son, Emerson Crane finds raises questions about Estelle’s death — and even her husband’s death two years earlier.

In the midst of her investigation, Isabel digs into small town secrets, including one involving a crooked cop who quickly becomes a suspect.

Of course, Isabel has her mother’s sage advice. And her relationship with Jack, owner of the Rooster Bar, makes a turn. Characters from the other books like the Old Farts, Annette Waters aka Tough Cookie, and the Beaumont brothers come along in this one. Of course, I’ve created new characters for this book.

I will certainly let you know when Killing the Story is ready to buy. Now, that will be exciting.

 

 

 

Standard
MATTAPOISETT SKY
Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Isabel Long Series

Moving Over to the Dark Side

I am happy to announce that my Isabel Long Mystery Series is now in the hands of Darkstroke Books. Darkstroke is an imprint of Crooked Cat Books, which is the series’ original publisher.

While Crooked Cat published mystery, romance and other genres, Darkstroke, as its name implies, focuses on the darker things in life: crime fiction, mysteries, thrillers and dystopian, sci-fi and horror.

Yes, welcome to the dark side.chasing the case full size

I am grateful to Laurence and Stephanie Patterson for taking on the first Isabel Long book — Chasing the Case — and for sticking with the series. I can’t tell you how many publishing houses and agents I approached, sometimes getting a nice rejection, most of the times just a cold shoulder. I still laugh about the publishing house that rejected my first book, Chasing the Case, in part because I broke a supposed rule by killing off a pet. Actually, Isabel Long, my protagonist, was digging a grave for her cat.

Thank you, Laurence and Steph.

I knew when I signed on in late 2017 that Crooked Cat Books, which is based in France, was going to end in four years. The Pattersons were upfront about it. But I decided I would see where this would lead. And so I wrote two more books — Rednecks Revenge full sizeRedneck’s Revenge and Checking the Traps — that Crooked Cats published.

Three is a good number for a series. But, frankly, I can’t let go of Isabel and the rest of my characters. I love them too much, even the bad guys. And not to sound like a complete nut, they are very real to me.

And so I am working on the fourth, Killing the Story — yes, another journalistic term. As I’ve posted before, this one’s taking a bit longer because of my full-time job as editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper. But I’m more than two-thirds of the way done. Most weekdays I am up at 5:30 a.m. to write before I head to the newsroom. I have more time on the weekends.

For the past several months, I’ve been wondering what will happen to this series. Would another publisher be interested in picking up my new book when the rest of the series is under contract? Would it be willing to buy out my contract? Should I self-publish again? Ah, the business of writing.

And then Laurence emailed me an invitation last week asking if I wanted to join Darkstroke. When I thought it over that night, it made sense to move the series there. I can concentrate on the books I Checking the Traps full sizewant to write and promote them . Yes, I have ideas for two more books after I finish Killing the Story.

Plus, I admire the other authors from Crooked Cat Books who have moved over to Darkstroke. One of the pluses of being part of an international house is getting to know authors on the other side of the pond. I suggest you check out their books. Find them on darkstroke.com.

If you haven’t read my books, head to Amazon for a copy either in paperback or kindle. I have a few others that I self-published there. Here’s the link: Joan Livingston on Amazon

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the harbor in Mattapoisett, Mass. in December.

 

Standard