Chasing the Case, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Batting a Thousand

Technically, it means a ballplayer gets a hit every time they’ve been up to bat in a game. But for me as an author, it has a whole different connotation because Chasing the Case, the first in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, broke a thousand reviews Friday on Amazon. As I write this, sixteen more came in.

First, thank you to those who chose to read my book and made the effort to tell people what they thought of it. These days, many people do ratings while others give a bit of feedback. Both are welcome. The general outlook is 4½ stars, which makes me smile.

I will admit I am not obsessive about reading reviews, especially since you will get a couple of stinkers like the person who gave a one star for another book and wrote he/she doesn’t do reviews. One person complained it was obvious I wasn’t into religion because my main character isn’t and couldn’t finish the book. I am aware not everybody is going to love or even like what I write. And being a journalist for 35 years gave me the hide of a rhino when it comes to criticism.

What did captivate me was watching the reviews grow. I recall being excited when Chasing the Case broke a hundred, then two hundred. A successful promo in January with BookBub got it downloaded by 31,000 readers. It was no. 1 for free books in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. That promo threw the proverbial gasoline on the fire. (Thanks BookBub.)

Yes, the book was free but my publisher and I get royalties for pages read if the reader subscribes to Kindle Unlimited. Of course, those who aren’t subscribers got the book outright. That’s to be expected.

Here’s a sampling of the most recent reviews, all except two, which I note, gave five stars. By the way, Amazon requires reviews to come from a verified purchase.

A solid whodunnit — enjoyable read.

The author has created believable characters and a relatable community. She builds the story patiently and discloses just enough information to keep you guessing without being totally blindsided by the ending. I will be checking out more of her work!

A great read

I really enjoyed this book. I loved all the characters . They felt so real. The mystery was excellent. Very well written, even a touch sad.

Good Mystery

The author dumps the reader in the middle of Isabel’s life and it’s hard to get away from her. Isabel is a great character. Her mother is also. I liked the way Livingston plotted Isabel’s investigation and let the story lead the action. The Old Farts are a particular enjoyable part of the book. Good mystery. (This one gave four stars.)

Small Town Secrets

I loved the small town feel, the closeness and protective nature of the residents. The Old Farts are perfectly adorable. I’m glad Isabel has her mother for company and I’m happy Jack came back.

A decent read but a long way to get there  

There were so many space-filling dead ends and smoke screens plus descriptions about the town(s) and just stuff, that this could have been told in half the time. It needs more honest insights and ‘distractors’ to be a better-than-average read. (This one gave three stars.)

My hope is that if readers like the first book, they will want to buy the next four in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, actually five since I am two-thirds of the way writing number six. I typically aim for 500 words a day, a manageable and enjoyable pace. But on Friday, I surprised myself and wrote a thousand. Yes, it was a good day.

PHOTO ABOVE: On my daily walk Monday, I came across this flowering bush, so fragrant I kept inhaling its blossoms. I returned yesterday just to smell it again.

MY BOOKS: Interested in reading my series? Here’s the link to all of them on Amazon: Joan Livingston books

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Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

When Inspiration Hits

It turns out, for me, at least, that can happen anytime. Yes, some ideas for my books come when I’m in the shower, riding in a car, or doing some physical chore that allows my brain to drift elsewhere. Sometimes it happens while I was on a walk, which happened yesterday, and talking with somebody, ditto. Let me tell you about it.

As you’ve probably know, I’m a seat-of-your-pants kind of writer. No outlines. No notes ahead of time. I get up early, although not as early as I did — 5 a.m. — when I had a job. I toast a half-bagel and pour myself a large mug of coffee, then log on to my computer. After checking with the news, I open the manuscript on my screen and pick up where I left off. My fingers fly as the words come to me. I don’t understand how it happens, but I welcome it.

But back to those inspiring moments, those are the ones that often help to fill in the blanks that will make the story better. Currently, I am in the midst of no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series — Following the Lead. I don’t want to give away too much, but Isabel’s old boss hired her for this case. He wants to know what happened to his sister, who was taken from the family’s yard when she was a baby fifty years ago. (It’s more complicated than that.) Lin believes he might have even met a woman who could have been his sister. How would he know? She had a distinctive facial feature that is hereditary, and on my walk, it came to me what it could be. While I am not divulging what it is, I had to rush home from my walk to make that addition.

Then, last night, I was at my son Zack’s  Floodwater Brewing for Comedy Night when I was approached by two local fans. One man reminded me that I had told his friend I planned to bump him off in my next book. While I don’t remember the moment, I believe I said it. His pal is a friendly guy who’s also a likable wiseass that doesn’t mind getting it dished back to him. My understanding is that he would be more than honored to get killed off in my next book.

As I sat there, enjoying the comedians’ jokes, my mind kept going back to that conversation. And then it came to me how I could do it. I hadn’t planned on bumping anyone off in this book, but I’ve had a change of heart about a character Isabel is trying to meet. And perhaps after last night’s conversation, he won’t be long for this world.

So, this morning, I jumped right into the book, made a few changes here and there before moving on with the story. Yes, they all work.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: We happen to live not far from the tracks that freight trains take from the western part of the state to Boston. Long before we moved here, passenger trains used those tracks with a stop in our village — there are plans maybe to bring that back. The village also has the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum, which contains lots of rail paraphernalia and short tracks for its trolley. This sign, located at the end of each, is rather fitting for this post.

LINK TO MY BOOKS: Here you go — Joan Livingston books on Amazon

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Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Now in the Middle

Well, I am actually past the middle of my next mystery as I write this post. So, let me back up a bit and tell you what I actually did when I reached that point for Following the Lead is no. six in my Isabel Long Mystery Series.

As I did with the others, I aim for about 75,000 words, long enough I believe to tell a good story. So half of that is 37,500, which I reached several days ago. As I post this, I’ve reached 40,500.

I aim for 500 words a day, and except for a day here or there when I wasn’t home, I’ve maintained that pace since I began in earnest early in February when I retired from journalism. Somehow it works for me although once in a while I surprise myself and hit a thousand.

So, reaching mid-way, I decided it was time to print out what I had written thus far and get out the red marker. At this point, I am a little hard on myself. Gee, didn’t I use that phrase somewhere else? Hey, I would expand this part more. Oops, I need to go back to an earlier chapter to fix some loose threads or revisit one of the earlier books to see if a “fact” (this is fiction after all) is correct. Surely, there’s another way to write this part.

Besides finding the usual typos and missing words, it’s an opportunity to immerse myself in the book’s story and its characters, especially as Isabel Long moves forward with her most recent case. But first, I make the corrections and additions on the computer’s document.

What is this case about? This one involves a baby taken fifty years ago and never found although the man who hires Isabel is convinced he met her once by chance.

Now, like Isabel Long, I will keep going until I reach the end.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: This is the second year this amaryllis has bloomed. Its sister amaryllis is getting close to blooming — the fourth time including last summer.

LINKS TO MY BOOKS: Interested in the Isabel Long Mystery Series? I will make it easy for you to find it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

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hilltowns, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Having My Way With It

Actually, that title is an abbreviation of what I will be talking about March 9 at an event sponsored by the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club. Specifically, I will talk about how the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where I live, have been an inspiration for my fiction.

Actually, if I were to give the whole title it would be: I Take What I Know and Have My Way With It.

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Andrew Heinrich on the bassoon at Brodksy Bookshop in Taos, NM

I will be honest in saying I love doing these events. I’ve done them at libraries, classrooms, book stores, on stage and for literary groups — in person and virtually. One memorable reading was for my novel, Peace, Love, and You Know What, at Brodsky Bookshop in Taos, NM, where my friend, Andrew Heinrich played Beatles tunes on the bassoon. It was appropriate given the book’s pitch: First a three-day bash at a college hippie pad … and then maybe adulthood. Peace, Love, and You Know What is a comedy framed by the Vietnam War and Watergate.

Now I will be talking and reading in Shelburne Falls, Mass., the village where I live. For this event, I will concentrate on my Isabel Long Mystery Series. As I’ve said before, there’s a lot of me in Isabel. Given it’s written in first-person, present tense, I can’t help it. But I have no plans to be a private investigator now that I’ve left journalism for good. I will write about one instead — plus work on my other writing projects. It’s been a month, by the way, since I left that profession.

I admit I pay homage to family members, especially my mother, in this series. But this is definitely not a memoir. The rest of the characters are made up. So are Isabel’s cases.

But I honestly believe the hilltowns are a permanent part of my DNA considering the the length of time I’ve lived in Western Mass. — 25 years the first go-round and reaching five years this one — and importantly covering it as a reporter.  It helps my books be authentic.

I’ve been to lots of readings by other authors, so I am familiar with what works and what doesn’t. For the next few days I will concentrate on what I will say and how much I will read. There will be time for questions and I will have books for sale at a discount.

If you’re in the area, here are the event’s details: Wednesday, March 9, 4 p.m. at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center at 53 Main St., on the Shelburne side of Shelburne Falls.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE:

That’s me giving a reading at SOMOS in Taos — “a place for the written and spoken word.”

HOW TO FIND MY BOOKS:

Here’s the link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

 

 

 

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Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Putting My Daydreaming Skills to Good Use

I confess that I’m a daydreamer. Big time. For much of my life, I used those dreams to try fixing whatever was going on in my life and make them turn out the way I imagined. Admittedly, that typically didn’t happen. But all that changed when I got serious about my writing and put my daydreaming skills to much better use in the fiction I create.

Author Stephen King put it well when he said writing is telepathic. That came from his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” and when I read it, I totally agreed that, at least for me, when I sit down at my computer, the words come from somewhere else. I never work by outlines. I don’t plan ahead. Frankly, I don’t even know “who dunnit” when I start one of my Isabel Long Mysteries. I’m figuring that out along Isabel.

Often times, the next chapter will pop into my head when I’m driving or doing some mindless chore. I can remember once weeding my garden when I got a revelation about the relationship between two characters that I had to leave what I was doing and run inside to write — it also changed the focus of my novel, The Sweet Spot.

Currently, I’m writing Following the Lead, number six in the Isabel Long Mystery Series. I am only 15,000 words into it so the story line and characters are still fluid. It’s too soon to give details about the book except in this one a baby was kidnapped from her front yard fifty years ago and never found. At first, the baby’s father had since died. But then a much more exciting idea popped into my head as I was taking a shower — I kid you not — that the father was indeed alive and actually one of the gossipy old men who hang out at the town’s general store. Isabel has counted on the Old Farts, as she calls them although they don’t know it, for tips and background for her cases. Naturally, she’s wary about how she will handle news that she’s pursuing this case to the group. That was a fun chapter to write.

I write because I thoroughly enjoy the experience. And it is so gratifying when I can share that enjoyment with my books’ readers.

NOTE OF THANK: I am glad so many people downloaded Chasing the Case, no. 1 in my series, during the two-day freebie promotion Feb. 27-28. Thanks to a promo with BookBub, it was no. 1 on Amazon for free Kindle books in the US, UK and Canada and in three categories. Fellow authors tell me it’s a game changer. I hope so.

ANOTHER NOTE: I originally wrote this post for Jo Fenton, a fellow darkstroke books author, in May. Here is an updated version with a new title. Here is Jo’s blog: https://jofenton137.com

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The Deerfield River running through my Shelburne Falls Village changes with the winter. Here the river has an icy, snowy texture. That’s the well-known Bridge of Flowers.

LINK TO MY BOOKS: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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