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Checking the Traps, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Checking the Traps: Full Speed Ahead

As mentioned in a post last week, things are moving faster toward the release of my next mystery, Checking the Traps. We now have a release date, a cover, and I am working with my editor to get the novel in the best shape possible. Read on for the details.

For those new to my blog or just need a gentle reminder, Checking the Traps is the third book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series set in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Isabel is a longtime journalist turned P.I., who is handling cold cases in her neck of the woods. Her clients tend to be on the country gritty side. Her 93-year-old mystery-loving mother is her sidekick.

First: March 22 is the official launch date of Checking the Traps. That’s when the Kindle version will be released. (The paperback version will be earlier.) I will let you know when pre-orders begin.

Second: Above is the cover created by Laurence Patterson, co-publisher at Crooked Cat Books. The other two book covers feature the back view of a woman outside in black and white. This cover matches that theme well while capturing an important element of the book: a bridge.

Third: My editor, Miriam Drori, and I are going over the manuscript very carefully. It’s great having someone who has fresh eyes — and mind — give my book a close read. Certainly, I’ve read it a gazillion times. We are on round two.

However, for this book, I have a not-so-secret weapon: the “read aloud” mechanism of my newly purchased Word program. Alas, my old version stopped working, so I was forced to upgrade, and I’m glad I did. I click on “read aloud” and a man reads my book aloud. It’s slow and I can only take listening for so long. (I am amused at some of “his” pronunciations.) But in the process I have found missing words, typos, and overused words. Dang, I wish I had used this for my other books.

Finally: I want to say congrats to anyone who picked up the Kindle version of Chasing the Case, the first book in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, which was free this past weekend. By my standards, it did well, including reaching #7 in the popular Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Crime Fiction > Murder category in Amazon US.

Of course, this is for free books. But as I explained in my last post, I’m hunting for readers who will get hooked by this series. It’s all part of the publishing game.

 

 

 

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Chasing the Case, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Yes, My Book Is Really Free

Such a deal. The Kindle version of Chasing the Case, my first mystery, is free for two days but only this weekend, Jan. 12 and 13. Here’s the link on Amazon: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase. And for those who think I must be nuts giving away a book I worked so hard on, let me explain.

Actually, let me back up a bit and express my gratitude to those who bought the Kindle version at the $2.99 price. I appreciate your support.

But what I’ve learned is there is writing, and then there is the business of writing. And like any business, I have competition. Lots of competition when you consider the books being pushed by big and little houses, plus the gazillion people who are publishing themselves. How do you get your book to stand out? Good question.

I have been flattered by what people who have read Chasing the Case and the sequel, Redneck’s Revenge, have had to say. Some have even left reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. (Hint, hint, if you haven’t, please do!) Having people enjoy my books is exactly what I — or any author for that matter — want. I loved writing them. I want people to love reading them.

Ah, but first they have to know about my books.

So for two days, I want to catch mystery-loving readers who will be swayed by a freebie. They hopefully will read the book, get hooked and want to pay for the second and the third, Checking the Traps, which will be launched officially March 22. And, yes, the fourth, is in the works.

Here’s a brief synopsis of Chasing the Case: How does a woman disappear in a town of a thousand people? That’s a 28-year-old mystery Isabel Long wants to solve.

Isabel has the time to investigate. She just lost her husband and her job as a managing editor of a newspaper. (Yes, it’s been a bad year.) And she’s got a Watson – her 92-year-old mother who lives with her.

To help her case, Isabel takes a job at the local watering hole, so she can get up close and personal with those connected to the mystery.

As a journalist, Isabel never lost a story she chased. Now, as an amateur P.I., she’s not about to lose this case either.

That’s it in a nutshell.

Know a mystery lover? Then please spread the word. I thank you very much. And I will make it easy. Here’s the link again: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

 

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Isabel Long Mystery Series

Writing about Strong Women

When I decided to write a mystery series, I wanted strong women characters. They wouldn’t be damsels in distress but women who knew what they wanted and went after it. Topping the list, of course, is Isabel Long, the protagonist of the series, which began with Chasing the Case. The sequels are Redneck’s Revenge, plus Checking the Traps, which will be out early next year.

Isabel is a former journalist turned amateur sleuth when she lost her job as managing editor of a newspaper. Isabel is not a sweet, young thing. She’s got some miles on her. She’s smart, sassy and doesn’t doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’s also a good listener with a big heart, which makes it easy to connect with people, especially since she encounters a rather rough crowd in Redneck’s Revenge and Checking the Traps.

A recent widow, Isabel is also done grieving and ready for a relationship with a man.

Then there’s her 92-year-old mother, Maria Ferreira, who lives with her. Ma is a big reader. Mysteries and spicy romance novels are her big thing. She’s also a great ‘Watson’ for Isabel, giving her ideas to ponder and even going on interviews.

Redneck’s Revenge has two other characters who don’t take crap from anybody. Isabel hits it off with them despite their different backgrounds.

Marsha, who Isabel and her mother nicknamed the Floozy, is a character in the first book. She was an alibi for one of the suspects. In the second book, she introduces Isabel to her cousin, Annette, who hires her.

Annette, aka the Tough Cookie, runs a garage and junkyard that used to belong to her SOB of a father. She wants Isabel to find out how her father died. The cops say he was passed-out drunk when his house burned down. Annette says he was murdered.

By the way, I so enjoyed writing about Marsha and Annette, they appear in Checking the Traps.

Other women in Redneck’s Revenge: a woman police chief and the co-owner of a gas station, who eventually finds her inner strength.

Here’s an excerpt. Isabel goes to Baxter’s, a biker bar with the cousins for her case. By the way, the Rooster is the bar in Isabel’s town where the band played the previous night.

As we head toward the front entrance, I hear music, something by the group Alabama, bouncing through the walls. Beer signs flash through the windows. Ahead of me, Marsha marches inside as if she owns the damn place. She stops short of the dance floor, nods, and then points toward the far end. Annette already has a table. Some guy is talking in her ear while he stares at the cleavage rising about her low-cut sweater. She paws at him as she laughs.

Marsha turns toward me.

“My cousin’s a slut, what can I tell ya?”

“She looks like she’s just having a good time.”

“Same difference.” Marsha slaps my arm and points at the band. “Well, well, look who’s playin’. It’s the Country Plowboys. You didn’t miss ’em after all.”

When the song ends, Marsha and I make our way across the thinning dance floor. Annette, aka the Tough Cookie, gives the guy she’s with a friendly push and says, “You gotta get lost now. Maybe later.”

The guy, in the usual country attire of flannel, canvas, and denim, checks us out, but he clearly isn’t interested. We take our seats. Marsha whistles sharply through her teeth to get the waitress’s attention.

I lean forward.

“I’ll get this round,” I say.

“All right,” the Floozy says.

I glance around the barroom. It’s three times the size of the Rooster, with a long bar on one side and an actual stage. Tables border the dance floor on three sides. It’s dark inside except for the wide-screen TVs lit over the three shelves of booze behind the bar. The clientele is on the rustic side, which I expect and enjoy. Frankly, as a reporter and a denizen of the hilltowns, I found the natives often more interesting than the white-collar folks who commuted to the city.

That’s when I notice the beer cans. Everybody who doesn’t have a mixed drink has a can of Bud or whatever. The woman who took our order is carrying a tray of them.

“No beer in bottles here?” I ask my companions.

“Nah, it’s safer with cans,” the Floozy says. “Even the glasses are plastic. I’d say that was being real smart with this crowd.”

I hand the bills to the waitress.

“Keep the change,” I say, remembering the buck-a-round-rule at the Rooster.

The cousins are gabbing about the men, which ones are decent looking and who’s available for a roll in the sack. They appear to like men with hair and a steady job, which is a sound idea, or as Annette puts it, “I don’t want some guy spongin’ off of me. Did that. Won’t do it again.” They also don’t like guys with big beer bellies or steady girlfriends and wives. No sloppy seconds, the Tough Cookie says.

“What about you?” Annette asks with a grin. “See anybody here you might be interested in?”

MORE: This piece appeared in author Susan Barnard’s blog earlier this fall, but I believe it was worth a spot here. Here is a link to her blog.

WHERE TO GET MY BOOKS IN KINDLE AND PAPERBACK ON AMAZON: Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: On the bridge over the Deerfield River in Shelburne Falls village in Western Mass., where I live. Yes, winter will be sticking around for a while.

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Isabel Long Mystery Series

Portuguese Forever

I am a hundred percent Portuguese and proud of it. My grandparents came over on the boat, as they say, from the Madeira and Azores islands. The same is true for Isabel Long, the protagonist of my mystery series, including the latest, Redneck’s Revenge. She’s proud of her heritage as well.

Isabel was born with the last name Ferreira but took Long when she married. I used Ferreira because that’s my mother’s family name. (My father’s family name is Medeiros.)

Let me tell you a little bit about her. Isabel was a long-time journalist who lost her job as a newspaper’s managing editor when it went corporate. With time on her hands, she decided to solve a missing person’s case — her first big story as a rookie reporter. The case also happened in the tiny hilltown where Isabel lives in rural Western Massachusetts. Also, Isabel was also coming off a bad year that included the death of her husband. She was ready to reinvent herself.

Her mother, Maria Ferreira also moved in with her. Here, I’ll let Isabel tell you about it.

Ma moved in with me last year because she was tired of living alone. I was alone, too, after my Sam died. Our three kids, Ruth, Matt, and Alex, are out of the house although they don’t live too far from me. It’s worked out well with Ma. She’s a fun companion. Who would have thought when I was younger and wilder? She’s a good cook, and like the fine Portuguese woman she is, she keeps me in kale soup, a staple of our people. Yes, Long is my married name. Ferreira is the name I got at birth. I’m a hundred percent Portagee and proud that I’ve invaded a Yankee stronghold in the hilltowns.

Yes, kale soup or Caldo Verde is a staple in their household, as it is mine, at least in the cold weather months. I love other dishes when I can get them, usually when I visit my hometown.

As a child I grew up in Southeastern Massachusetts, where many Portuguese immigrants settled. They found work on the fishing boats and in the case of my mother’s parents, the textile mills. It was a huge adjustment from the rural lives they once led “back home” although both sets of grandparents kept animals and large gardens to support their families. I have fond memories of the time I spent with them.

Let me tell you about my grandmother, Angela Ferreira. She was the youngest of a large family in Madeira. Her older sister worked for a wealthy family who wanted a companion for their daughter, so my grandmother went to live with them. Every day she carried the girl’s books to school and waited in the back of the room until they went home to play. One day the teacher caught her trying to read. She got permission for my grandmother to go to school.

When my grandmother was sixteen, she and her sister went by boat to the U.S., a trip that included a huge storm in which people were swept out to sea. I admire my grandmother’s bravery.

My childhood was a mixture of celebrating our heritage, especially at local feasts, still going strong in the New Bedford area, to being as American as possible.

I will admit there is a lot of me in Isabel Long. She’s sassy and savvy. She doesn’t take crap from anybody. She’s got a good heart and cares. Plus she has that arsenal of skills she acquired as a journalist.

All of this comes in handy for her second case, in Redneck’s Revenge. A woman hires her to find out how her father, an ornery so-and-so, died. The cops say he was passed-out drunk when his house caught fire. She says he was murdered.

But before she can take any case, Isabel has some business to attend to after the cops tell her there are legal requirements if she wants to be a P.I. She’s also a bit ungrounded after solving her first case — for personal and professional reasons. Here’s an excerpt.

Mostly, I moped.

Ma noticed it, too.

“When are you going to find something to do?” she asked me one day.

“What do you mean?”

“Like when you solved that mystery.”

“You heard what the state cop said about getting a license,” I reminded her. “I need to find a licensed P.I. to take me on.”

“What’s stopping you?”

Ma had a point. I have a hard head and an iron will. I suppose I’m generalizing when I say it’s because I’m a full-blooded Portagee. But I’m descended from people who went all over the world in tiny wooden ships. My grandparents came over from the Madeira and Azores islands in them.

Yes, try stopping us.

MORE ABOUT THIS POST: I wrote this post for author Sue Roebuck’s blog and decided to share it here. Sue, who is a fellow Crooked Cat Books author, lives in Portugal.

HOW TO GET MY BOOKS: Here, I’ll make it easy for you. mybook.to/chasingthecase mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

ABOUT THAT PHOTO ABOVE: That’s me at age 6, dressed as St. Teresa of Avila to march in the parade of Our Lady of Angels feast in my hometown of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. I am posing in my parents’ backyard.

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Isabel Long Mystery Series, kale soup

A Helping of Kale Soup in My Mystery Series

Now that it is getting colder, I made kale soup for the first time this season on Saturday, with enough left over for another round Sunday. Here is a post about the remarkable Portuguese soup and its place in my mystery series. (It first appeared in author Isabella May’s blog isabellamayauthor.com, but like the soup, it’s worth reheating for a second serving.)

Growing up, kale soup or Caldo Verde was a staple in my family’s household. It’s the same for Isabel Long, the protagonist of my mystery series. She and I are of Portuguese descent, and it’s one of the dishes of our people. In fact, it is the number one food mentioned — after bar fare — in Chasing the Case and the newest, Redneck’s Revenge.

Caldo Verde is one of those stick-to-your-ribs soups— kale, potatoes, white beans if you like them, sausage if you eat them. All you need is some good hearty bread. And it can last days as long as you refrigerate it.

And now that Isabel’s 92-year-old mother — her ‘Watson’ — lives with her, she eats a lot of it at least during the cold weather months.

Here Isabel talks about it in Chasing the Case:

The kitchen smells like kale soup. Ma’s been busy. Long before kale became the foodie thing to eat, we Portagees ate the green. No kale salads for us. No kale smoothies. We cook the kale to death in soup with white beans, potatoes, chorizo pork sausage, and cubed beef. That’s the way my mother makes Caldo Verde, and we eat it three days in a row. The soup only gets better, well, as long as it’s refrigerated. Being one of those natural food nuts who prefers not to eat red meat, I skip the chunks of beef when I make the soup, and if I have to use sausage, then it’s turkey or chicken instead of pork, which horrifies my meat-loving mother. I figure if it makes my ninety-two-year-old mother happy, I can eat a soup with pork sausage and beef cooked in it.

Kale soup is not haute cuisine, but the food of working people.

Here’s an excerpt from Redneck’s Revenge:

Ma moved in with me last year because she was tired of living alone. I was alone, too, after my Sam died. Our three kids, Ruth, Matt, and Alex, are out of the house although they don’t live too far from me. It’s worked out well with Ma. She’s a fun companion. Who would have thought when I was younger and wilder? She’s a good cook, and like the fine Portuguese woman she is, she keeps me in kale soup, a staple of our people. Yes, Long is my married name. Ferreira is the name I got at birth.

Here’s a family legend: My grandmother, Angela, ate kale soup every day. If so, it may account for her longevity. She lived to be in her 90s and strong nearly to the end.

Yes, I make kale soup at home during the cold weather months. When I had a garden, I made sure I grew enough kale, and if I was lucky it lasted almost to winter. I even taught my husband, who is not Portuguese, how to make it.

There are times, when I’m not eating meat, I don’t add sausage, or I use a spicy poultry sausage. I add white beans (from the can). Other cooks don’t. I’ve even seen recipes that use chicken. I am not the kind of cook who follows recipes, except when I bake a cake. Besides, the original calls for a certain cabbage that isn’t available in the U.S. So kale — or collards, I suppose — it is.

Here’s how I make it. Because it contains white beans and potatoes, the broth gets thicker every meal it was served.

Kale Soup or Caldo Verde 

Serves 6-8 people

1 pound kale, washed carefully, chopped

2 quarts soup stock

6 ounces chourico pork, turkey or chicken sausage (any spicy sausage), thickly sliced

3 large potatoes, cut in chunks

1 can white beans

1 large onion, chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Cilantro, chopped

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until they are translucent. Add the soup stock, kale, potatoes, sausage, and the can of beans. Bring to a boil, lower, and then simmer an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with minced cilantro. Serve with chunks of good bread.

Optional: Add browned stewing beef; half pound should do it. Or a half cabbage cut into wedges.

MORE: It makes me happy to hear from readers who say how much they’ve enjoyed reading Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge. Like me, they love the series’ characters. Thank you very much.

Both books are available in paperback and on Kindle. Here are the links: mybook.to/chasingthecase and mybook.to/rednecksrevenge.

By the way, the third, Checking the Traps will be out next year.

And if you feel moved, please write a review on Amazon. One line will do it. You can even make up your name. I thank you if you do.

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