Isabel Long Mystery Series

Who’s New in the Series

I mean the characters in Following the Lead, next in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. As those who have read my books know, I have many who appear in every or nearly every book: Jack, the owner of the Rooster and Isabel’s love interest, of course.; the Old Farts; Annette aka Tough Cookie; the Beaumont brothers. Even ex-police chief Jim Hawthorne aka Thorny, an appropriate name because he’s a thorn in Isabel’s side, lingers in this series.

But fresh blood is welcome. And that’s what happens in each book, including this one, which had a Nov. 3 release.

First, a refresher of Following the Lead’s plot: Isabel’s old boss, Lin Pierce was a boy when his baby sister was abducted from the front yard and never found. He was supposed to be watching her but he got distracted. Lin hopes Isabel can bring closure and perhaps find his sister.

So who’s and what’s new? We do get see a different side to Lin, who hired Isabel in the second book at the ridiculous rate of a buck a day. But it was an arrangement that was OK because Isabel had to work for a licensed P.I. for three years before she could strike out on her own. In Following the Lead, we meet Lin, the distraught and hopeful brother.

We also get to know his parents, Ben and Jessica Pierce. Ben we know under his alias, the Bald Old Fart. The abduction of their daughter severed that marriage. Ben also had issues with his son, blaming him and his ex-wife for the baby’s abduction. But he goes along with Isabel taking on this case because he knows her from her visits to the backroom of the general store where the Old Farts gather.

Jessica is less enthused. A musician, at the time she was giving a lesson to a student who would later go onto to be a well-known pianist. She is a bit uneasy about Isabel’s line of questioning, actually more than that, but I won’t spoil what happens there.

Then, there is the well-known musician, Tim Robert Todd. He’s retired now and happens to live in Caulfield near Gary and Larry Beaumont. Isabel believes he’s key to the investigation but has a hard time meeting him. For much of the book, his reputation precedes him, but that changes dramatically.

Then, there’s the person responsible for stealing Baby Elizabeth, as she became to be known. Like the musician Tim Todd, they are part of this mystery’s unfolding. Of course, there are sources Isabel meets like two former neighbors.

Here’s an excerpt. Isabel and her mother, her partner in solving crimes, are meeting with Lin Pierce at his home. He reveals his father is Ben Pierce, aka the Bald Old Fart and the strife his sister’s abduction created for the family.

And now that Lin has shared that information, I see the family resemblance in the facial features between the two men although Lin still has some hair and the Bald Old Fart, one of the older members of the group, is heavier. I wonder if he has an inkling his son wants me to pursue this case because he was oddly quiet during my last visit to the store’s backroom. I don’t go every week, just when I need their help with a case or for a little local levity. 

“I do know your father. Is he aware you want to solve this case about your sister?”

“Let’s say my father and I aren’t very close, but I told him. I felt I had to. Besides, he may have useful info he hasn’t shared with me. At first, Dad wasn’t happy about it, but he changed his mind when I told him it would be you. He said he was impressed how you handled your other cases.”

“That’s nice of him.”

“Oh, and just so you know, I paid for one of the services where they use your DNA to tell you about your ancestors.” He frowns. “That didn’t turn up any long lost family members or even the ones I have. But it was worth a shot.”

“Glad you told us that,” I say. “Ma?”

As planned, I let my mother ask a few questions. She reminds him we would need a list of other persons of interest. It gives me the opportunity to think about the Bald Old Fart and how I should handle him. Certainly, the other Old Farts must know his back story since they all grew up in the hilltowns. The Bald Old Fart is married to a local gal, his second wife it seems. He taught math at a local high school and is retired like his backroom pals. If my memory serves me better, I believe my son, Alex, the engineer had him in class. Maybe even my daughter, Ruth. Matt, the heavy equipment operator, didn’t as he went to a vocational high school. I will have to quiz them the next time we are together although Ruth won’t like it that I took another case. She worries about my safety too much. Alex and Matt? They actually think it’s cool their mother is a P.I. Thank you, boys.

“That must have been hard on you as a young boy,” I hear my mother say. “I take it your parents didn’t have another child.”

“No, they didn’t. My father didn’t when he got remarried. My mother never married again. Once was enough. And, yes, it was hard on me as a kid. Really hard.” He clears his throat. “I heard it over and over from my father. Why did I have to leave my sister to go chase a stupid dog? Why didn’t I check with my mother to make sure she had her? Why did I make a big fuss when she asked me to watch her? The list goes on. I tell myself I was only eleven. Just a boy. Dad has tried to make it up to me in his way. Sometimes it helps.” He looks at me directly. “Here’s why I am hiring you. I want to know for sure what happened to my sister. If she’s alive, I want to meet her, to tell her about her real family. If she isn’t, I want to grieve for her like a brother would.”

“You mention in your notes about meeting a woman you thought could be your sister. I saw the photo you took of the woman at Luella’s. But I couldn’t make out her face very well.”

“Unfortunately, that was the best I could do under the circumstances. Plus, it was a piece of crap phone.”

My mother speaks, “What features did she share with your mother?”

“The eyes definitely. One was blue and the other brown, a trait on my mother’s side that unfortunately I didn’t inherit. And the long nose. She had what I would call an elegant face. When you meet my mother, you will understand.” 

As I jot down that detail, I have to ask the all-important question.

“Does your mother know that you want to hire me to investigate this case?”

“Yes, we’ve talked it over. She’s fine with it.” He pauses. “But she wants to meet you and your mother alone the first time without me. I understand. I believe she’ll be more comfortable talking with you than me. Maybe there are things she doesn’t want me to know. I’ve tried in the past but she pushed me aside. Too much pain, I believe. I was surprised she didn’t resist when I brought it up recently. She, of course, knew of your success. That won her over.”

“When can we meet her?”

“She mentioned Wednesday. I’ll give you her number before you leave, so you can set up a time.”

I glance at my mother, who gives me a nod. A day of surprises for certain.

“Yes, that would work for us.”

“I will let her know.” He finishes his glass of water. “So, how would you two like to go for a ride? I’d like to show you my old neighborhood.”

“Please do,” I say. “I did bring a copy of that map you gave me.”

Lin nods.

“Too bad someone with your brains wasn’t investigating this case when it happened.”

My mother speaks up.

“Yes, it is.”

LINK: Thank you for those readers who have already downloaded Following the Lead. Here is the link to buy it on Amazon: https://mybook.to/followingthelead Paperbacks will be out soon.

PHOTO ABOVE: Saw this birdhouse on a recent walk. The hole wasn’t big enough for whatever bird wanted to nest there so it did a renovation.


Standard
Isabel Long Mystery Series

Now for Following the Lead

Today’s the day, Nov. 3, for Following the Lead — the next book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Readers who have been following Isabel for five cases can now join her for the sixth.

I decided to throw Isabel into a really challenging case this time. After all, it’s been almost a year since she started her first in Chasing the Case. That’s when she decided to find out what happened to a woman who disappeared 28 years ago. Both women lived in the same town and the disappearance was Isabel’s first big story as a rookie reporter. Since then she’s investigated the deaths of a junkyard owner, a poetry-writing highway worker, the owner of a small town newspaper, and the beloved grandson of a poor, distraught woman.  

But this case is different. It involves a baby who was abducted 50 years ago and never found. Lin Pierce, Isabel’s former boss, was just a boy when that happened as his mother was giving a music lesson in their home. He believes he might have met his sister. The woman did look a lot like his mother and shared a distinctive family feature — different colored eyes.

Now, Isabel isn’t going to let something like 50 years stop her from taking this case. Besides, she has her mother Maria, who is 93, to help her. 

Of course, I make sure Isabel encounters danger actually from two sources. But I will let you read about that. Does she find Lin’s sister? Mum’s the word.

When I wrote Chasing the Case, I didn’t anticipate I would create a series. But I got easily hooked by the mystery genre. And frankly, the positive feedback I’ve received has been so encouraging — so thank you readers. I love reading a good series. I like even better creating one. This is the second book in the series released this year. And, yes, I’ve begun the next. You’ll be hearing more about it in the future.

Also a series enables me to hold onto my characters, good and bad, who are very real to me. I used to be a big day dreamer. Now I put those skills to use writing.

In writing this series, I was mindful that I wanted each to stand on its own in case it was the first book a reader picked up. So, I don’t do much rehashing from the previous books although I do include hints and coded references. I try to develop each character and their description as if this was on the only book I wrote.

The same goes for those readers who have been following the series. I want these readers to feel like insiders.

I hope you will enjoy reading Following the Lead as much as I did writing it. 

LINK: Following the Lead is now available on Kindle. Soon it will be in paperback. Here’s the link to Amazon: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

Standard
Isabel Long Mystery Series, Uncategorized

Staying in Character

Great actors are famous for it. We the viewers forget the actor and only see the person they are playing on stage or screen. Some even take it a step further and stay in that role off camera.

But writers like myself have more than one character to consider. We get into their skin, so what they say and do are authentic to the stories we write.

My Isabel Long Mystery Series is written as a first-person present-tense narrative. Isabel is a smart, mature woman who is a bit of a wise ass. As a former journalist, she developed the ability to see through people and any bull they try to dish her. Just like reporting a new story, she’s methodical about her cases. I will admit there is a lot of me in Isabel although I am not a widow and I never worked as a private investigator. I don’t like that much danger.

It’s rather easy for me to figure out what Isabel will do in any given scene or situation whether it’s solving a mystery, pouring beer at the Rooster, being with its owner Jack or dealing with her family, including her mother, Maria, her partner in solving crime. 

In Following the Lead, she’s given a tough case. Her old boss, Lin was just a boy when his baby sister was stolen from the front yard and never found. That was nearly 50 years ago. So how should Isabel approach such a case? I channel Isabel and we figure it out together.

But, of course, Isabel isn’t the only character in this series. Some are one and done in a book. Many others have stuck around. As each one appears on a page, I channel that character so know how they should react to any situation I throw at them. 

Take Annette Waters aka the Tough Cookie. She wouldn’t be shy about anything. If someone dared to give her a hard time, she’d dish it back and twice as hard. But then again she runs a garage and junkyard. There’s her cousin, Marsha aka the Floozie who co-owns the Pit Stop convenience store. She’s another one who doesn’t take crap from anyone. Both are locals but they’ve grown fond of Isabel and her mother even though they are newcomers. 

It doesn’t matter the character’s gender. I know what will come out of Jack Smith’s mouth before he says it. Jack’s cousin Fred Lewis aka el Creepo typically says the wrong thing. He’s a bit of an idiot as demonstrated by what he does in Following the Lead

I believe the best training I received — like Isabel — was as a journalist. I had to listen carefully to what people said and observe how they behaved. It was a great experience that I believe has paid off with authentic characters. I hope my readers feel the same way.

LINK: Nov. 3, release date is getting oh so close. Here’s the link for Following the Lead: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Saw this along State Street in Shelburne Falls near Floodwater Brewing. Isabel Long would find it amusing.

Standard
Following the Lead, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Those Old Farts Again

Many readers tell me that the Old Farts are among their favorite characters in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Frankly, I love all of my characters even the ones with no redeeming qualities. Certainly that includes Jim Hawthorne aka Thorny the ex-police chief from Killing the Story who continues to haunt Isabel in book no. 6 Following the Lead. But the Old Farts have so much going for them.

So who are the Old Farts? They are a group of retired men who meet in the backroom of the Conwell General Store to gossip over cups of crappy coffee. I suppose lots of stores and restaurants have groups of men and women who do the same. Perhaps the coffee is even good.

Isabel has given them all secret nicknames — they don’t know she calls them the Old Farts — keyed to their salient characteristic. There’s the Fattest Old Fart (the group’s loud mouth ring leader), Silent Old Fart, Old Fart with Glasses, Bald Old Fart, Skinniest Old Fart and the Serious Old Fart. Sometimes there’s a Visiting Old Fart. And, no, readers who know me, they are not based on anyone real.

Isabel will visit the Old Farts when she has a case to solve because these guys have the intel on what’s happened in the hilltowns of Western Mass. Their reach is quite extensive although Isabel knows to back up their sometimes so-called facts with her own research. The Old Farts welcome her visits — and there is a humorous scene in Following the Lead when they seek her out because she has been too busy to visit them. And for this case one of them is actually involved. 

Following the Lead, no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, is only a couple weeks away from its Nov. 3 release. When I began writing this one I realized I wanted to try a different kind of mystery. This one required Isabel to go way back, say nearly fifty years ago, to find out what happened when a baby was snatched from a family’s front yard. Sounds a bit impossible. But our gutsy P.I. was up for the challenge.

Lin Pierce, Isabel’s boss briefly, was an 11-year-old boy, who was cleverly lured away. The loss hit his parents and him hard. But Lin believes Isabel has the wherewithal and smarts to find out what happened to Elizabeth and bring some closure to his family — or better yet, actually locate her.

Of course, Isabel starts with the family. His mother, Jessica was giving a piano lesson when the baby was stolen. His father, Ben, was at work. Ah-ha, Ben turns out to be one of the Old Farts, actually the Bald Old Fart.

Here’s a scene from Following the Lead involving the Old Farts:

Jack’s still sleeping when I duck out for my visit with the Old Farts in the backroom of the general store. This is definitely going to be tricky considering the seriousness of my case and who is involved. From the vehicles parked near the store, I assume I will have one hundred percent attendance, and as I make my way through the stockroom, I hear a chorus of laughter. Naturally, the Fattest Old Fart, the group’s lookout, announces my arrival.

“Where in the heck have you been, Isabel? We’ve been waiting to hear all about your last case.” He pats the spot beside him on the school bus seat. “Sit yourself right down, kiddo. We had to read about it in the Daily Fart.”

Laughing, I do as I’m told. I forgot that’s what this group of old men called my old newspaper just to tease me when I still worked for it. Little do they know that it inspired their secret nicknames.

The Serious Old Fart is already up getting my coffee. As expected, he jokes, “How about a cappuccino, Isabel,” which is a far cry from the crappy coffee he will serve me. But I graciously accept the cup before I proceed with a detailed narrative of my last case. Of course, they’ve read about it in the Daily Star. I imagine one of them brought in a copy and read the article aloud to the others. What they want to hear is what wasn’t in the paper, and I gladly oblige their comments and questions, except for the really personal details. While we talk, I take in the Bald Old Fart, trying my darndest not to be obvious he’s the primary reason I am here. And then I get hit with the question I’ve been expecting. It comes from the Silent Old Fart, who isn’t living up to his name this morning. 

“So, Isabel, when are you starting your next case?” he asks.

The Bald Old Fart and I exchange glances.

“I have one already,” I say quietly.

“Speak up, Isabel,” the Fattest Old Fart says. “We can’t hear you.”

I’m about to do just that when the Bald Old Fart clears his throat.

“It’s about my family,” he says. “My daughter …”

For once there are no wisecracks as the Bald Old Fart’s voice trails off. Just serious faces. The Old Farts already have the intel on his sad family history. Perhaps they’ve even discussed it as a group. I decide to let him off the hook.

“His son, Lin, has hired me. He wants closure after all these years.”

The Bald Old Fart nods and wipes away a tear.

“Closure. That’s a good way to put it,” he says. “I believe we should meet in private, Isabel. Yes? Fine.” He puts his attention on his buddies. “If you don’t mind, fellas, I’d like to find something else to talk about. If I, er, we have news to report on this case, I will let you know.”

This is an interesting turn of events. I’ve been here before when the Old Farts were gabbing about somebody’s missteps or misfortune, and even being a little free with the facts. Certainly, they have been a source of info for my cases, but like the good reporter I once was, I backed up whatever they told me with more research. As I mentioned earlier, two other Old Farts had a connection to my cases but none were as close as this one.

“All right, fellas, let’s move on,” the Fattest Old Fart says. “Before you got here, Isabel, we were talking about the town’s latest romance.”

“Oh, you mean Jack’s cousin, Fred?”

“Ha. Heard he was moving in with Amy Prentice.”

“How’d you hear … oh, was he just in here?”

“No, but thanks for confirming it.”

I check the wall clock. I bet Jack should be up by now.

“And with that I will be leaving you, fellas,” I say, drawing the typical chorus of protests, all part of the fun since they will be skedaddling it out of here soon to whatever they do back home.

I have my hand on my car’s door when I hear my name being called. You guessed it, the Bald Old Fart has followed me outside. 

“Thanks for your discretion back there,” he says. 

I throw my bag into the car and face him.

“Be honest. How do you feel about your son hiring me for this case?”

He shakes his head.

“I have mixed feelings. I’m the father, so I have a different take on what happened almost fifty years ago. He was just a boy.” He raises his hand. “But I agreed to speak with you. When would you like to do that? How about tomorrow morning, say ten?”

I check the store’s windows as we agree on a time. The rest of the Old Farts are staying put out of consideration for their friend, nice guys. I decide that I will go solo on this visit. I’m sensing there might be some sensitive adult issues involved that Lin isn’t aware happened.

“See you soon.”

LINKS: Following the Lead is available for pre-order here https://mybook.to/followingthelead

Order now and it will magically appear on your Kindle device. And thank you if you do. Paperbacks will be out in a couple of months.

PHOTO ABOVE: The view to the north on a recent ride, fitting since Following the Lead takes place in the fall.

Standard
Following the Lead, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Killing off a Character

This is a true story although I can’t divulge names because that would give away too much of the plot for Following the Lead, no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. But even so, it’s one worth telling.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that our son, Zack owns Floodwater Brewing in our village of Shelburne Falls. And this where I met, oh, let’s call him Mr. X, one of the regulars.

Mr. X, who lives within walking distance of the brewery, loves to play cribbage. So does Hank. And they will often coax one or two people to join them playing a game I don’t understand that involves moving pegs around a board depending on what cards you and the others are holding. Floodwater has a cribbage board that resembles a small table so the players gather around on chairs.

Originally from Canada, Mr. X has lived in Western Massachusetts for many years. He’s got a great sense of humor that sometimes borders on him being a wise guy. He also reads all of my books, including the Isabel Long Mystery Series

Mr. X likes to dish out the wisecracks, especially when I was the editor-in-chief of the local daily newspaper. One day, I decided to dish it back. I told him, “I’m gonna put you in one of my books and kill you off,” or something close to that. He laughed.

Then, I forgot I said it.

But I guess others didn’t. I was reminded one day by Mr. X’s pal and fellow cribbage player that I threatened to bump him off in one of my books and how much he loved that idea. That was when I was about a third of the way through Following the Lead. I checked in with Mr. X, who said he would be delighted if that happened.

Oh, dear, how was I going to pull that off?

In the past, I have used the names of real people in my books as a prize for a virtual launch party on Facebook. But I specifically created characters I thought they would like. One was a ranger, another a mail deliver. I even used the names of people’s pets.

Yes, I use Mr. X’s real name in Following the Lead. Let’s say he is what I would call a person of interest in a case involving a baby’s abduction from her front yard 49 years earlier. Isabel feels he may have useful information, but she is having the darndest time trying to meet him in person. So for a good part of the book all she knows about this person of interest comes from other people. 

While writing the book, I would tease Mr. X about his character but reveal nothing when I would see him at the brewery. I didn’t even let him see a draft. But I know he’s looking forward to reading it when the Kindle version comes out Nov. 3 since he’s told me so.

And, that’s all I’m going to say right now abut Mr. X and his doppelganger.

BOOK LINK: Following the Lead will have a Nov. 3 release for Kindle and soon after for paperback. It is now in pre-order mode and I am grateful to those who do that. It helps with ratings. Thank you. Here is the link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the wooden sign above Floodwater our son, Zack hand-carved and painted. There’s one more piece to go. Here’s the link to the website: http://floodwaterbrewing.com/index.html


Standard