Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Getting Oh So Closer to the End

Specifically, I mean Missing the Deadline, the next Isabel Long Mystery, number seven in the series. I began this book late last fall and kept at it despite distractions such as working with my editor on The Sacred Dog, holidays, family visits, and personal stuff. You know real life.

My head these days has been filled with what-ifs as I come to the story’s conclusion.

What is Missing the Deadline about? Cyrus Nilsson, aka the Big Shot Poet who first appeared in Checking the Traps, hires Isabel to investigate the shooting of his former literary agent. Gerald Danielson survived what the police ruled an attempted suicide, but he has serious cognitive issues. After overhearing what somebody said at a party though, Cyrus questions whether someone else could be responsible.

Gerald lives with his devoted sister, Wendy, who now runs the literary agency, in a village called Meadows Falls. He has an aide, Miguel. As Isabel delves into this case, she looks for people who might have a reason to shoot Gerald Danielson, and there are definitely suspects, including an ex-wife who writes smutty romance novels and a sci-fi writer who is bold-faced liar. For those following the series, many of my notable characters, like Jack, Isabel’s mother, Annette, the Beaumont brothers, the Old Farts, Dave Baxter, even Lisa, have roles in this one. Of course, I’ve created new characters.

People often ask how I plot my book, and I will admit I don’t. I start with an idea for a mystery and create a lot of possibilities about who could have dunnit as I write. Isabel Long and I solve the case together. At this point, she and I have finally figured it out.

My aim is to make the climax true to the book and hopefully fool readers until the end. 

On Friday, I was fortunate to give a reading at the Arms Library in my village of Shelburne Falls. (Thanks Arms Library.) I was delighted that fans of the series showed up. They were pleased the seventh book is so close to the end. Well, so am I.

When I read a scene from Following the Lead about the Old Farts, those nosy old men who gather in the backroom of the Conwell General Store to gossip, I asked if there could be a similar situation around here. Ah, yes, I got several locations. Ha. I also got two great suggestions: to consider audiobooks and to approach another mystery writer about doing a collaboration. My lips are sealed about who that might be but I do plan to reach out. Another person also suggested having Isabel work on an active case. That’s something to consider.

I have perhaps a thousand words to go in Missing the Deadline. Then, I will print it and give the book a good hard look for holes or where a part needs tightening. I will listen to the book via the mechanical voice in the Read Aloud function of Word. I call him Frank, by the way. Then I will send it to my publisher to see if it meets their approval. I will certainly let you know about that.

By the way, I already have an idea for number eight.

LINK TO MY BOOKS: Here they are on Amazon —

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s a lovely chandelier at the Millicent Library in my hometown of Fairhaven Mass., which I visited recently. The library does carry my books.

Isabel Long Mystery Series

Two-Thirds of the Way There

Ah, progress. Missing the Deadline, no. 7 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, is past the two-thirds mark. Believe me I’m smiling.

I began this book last fall and kept at it despite distractions like holidays, going back and forth with my editor/publisher, Laurence Patterson on The Sacred Dog (not part of the series), family visits, other writing projects, and personal stuff. My aim is around 75,000 for the books in this series. So, if you do the math, I am past the 50,000-word mark. 

To note this accomplishment, I printed what I’ve written so far and got out a red flare pen to mark up what I want to add, change or subtract. I also note with big red stars a bit of information that needs to be brought up later in the book, or perhaps I’ve found a repetition of a certain phrase. Then there is the big, red FIX beside a paragraph that needs work.

My plan is to finish to today and begin making the edits before I go full-steam ahead to finish the book. As I’ve stated before, I aim for 500 words a day although lately I’ve been writing more. So, it will take me maybe six or seven more weeks. That should give Isabel and me time to solve this case.

So what is Missing the Deadline about? Cyrus Nilsson, who readers of the series will recall is the Big Shot Poet, hires Isabel to investigate the shooting of his former agent. Gerald Danielson survived the shooting, which the police ruled an attempted suicide, but he is not the same man. He is now seriously impaired. After overhearing what somebody said at a party, Cyrus questions whether Gerald actually shot himself or someone else did it.

Gerald lives with his devoted sister, Wendy, who now runs the literary agency, in a village called Meadows Falls. He has an aide, Miguel. As Isabel delves into this case, she looks for people who might have a reason to want to kill Gerald Danielson, and there are definitely suspects, including an ex-wife who writes smutty romance novels.

Of course, I’ve carried over many of the characters who have become regulars, including Annette Waters and the Beaumont brothers. Yes, Isabel tends bar Friday nights at the Rooster with Jack. And her 93-year-old mother, Maria is still her helpful ‘Watson.’

I certainly will be telling you more about Missing the Deadline in the future.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t already caught up, here’s the link to my Isabel Long Mystery Series on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback:

And if you have read them all, I sincerely thank you and hope you look forward to reading the next.

free, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Following the Lead: Two Days Free

Good news for Kindle readers: Following the Lead is free two days — Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19. This book is no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. I will cut to the chase and give you the link:

So why in the heck am I giving my book away? Let me tell you.

First, I want to express my gratitude to those who bought the Kindle version at the $3.99 price. I appreciate your support. But as I’ve said before, there is writing, and then there is the business of writing. We authors have a lot of competition when you consider the books being pushed by big and little houses, plus oh-so-many people who are publishing themselves. How do you get your book to stand out? Good question. 

One way is to lure writers with a freebie promotion. Hopefully, if a reader likes Following the Lead, they will want to read the others. By the way, while it is part of a series, each book can be read on their own. And yes, the seventh, Missing the Deadline, is way past the half-way mark. 

I am pleased, as I was Thursday, meeting in person a fan who has read the entire series — especially when I totally fooled him about whodunnit on Following the Lead. But since most of my sales are digital aka Kindle, it is rare I will get that kind of experience, except in ratings on Amazon (thank you if you do) and post on social media (ditto).

I love writing my books. I want people to love reading them. But first they have to know about my books.

The Isabel Long Mystery Series is published by darkstroke books, but as a small indie publisher, authors must actively promote their books. I’ve learned to pay for promotions — not a lot — but that has made a big difference on these freebie weekends. My social media presence doesn’t have their reach, which is in the many thousands.

It’s also a lot of fun watching a book rise in the listings on Amazon.

Enough from me on the whys or wise of a freebie giveaway. Here is a brief synopsis for Following the Lead.

Isabel Long moves quickly onto the next case when a former boss entrusts her with a mystery that has haunted him since he was child. Lin Pierce, then only 11, was supposed to be minding his sister while his mother gave a piano lesson inside their home. But the sleeping baby was stolen from her carriage after he was lured away in a well-executed kidnapping that devastated the family. 

Forty-nine years later, Lin is convinced he met his long-lost sister by chance. Afterall, the woman not only resembled his mother but she had a distinctive family trait — different colored eyes. 

As she works her sixth case, Isabel believes the student taking the piano lesson that day, later a well-known musician, is key to solving it. But meeting him in person proves to be nearly impossible. 

As she did when she was a journalist, Isabel use her resources — including her mother Maria — to follow that lead until the end.

ALL OF THE SERIES: Here’s the link for that —

Isabel Long Mystery Series, The Sacred Dog

Voices in My Head

I don’t mean those kinds of voices, the ones that get you into trouble or treatment. I am writing about the voices of the characters in my books and the conversations they have with each other whether they are adults or children. As you can see from the stack of books in the photo above, I have been doing that for a while.

Right now, I am working on the seventh in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. This one is called Missing the Deadline. I don’t want to give away too much just yet, but I am way past the half-way mark. 

For those who haven’t read the series, it is written in first-person, present-tense so the primary voice in my head is Isabel telling the story. Of course, there are the conversations she has with other people and what she might overhear. There are a number of other characters in the series, many who appear throughout. 

Say Isabel is having a conversation with Jack, the owner of the Rooster Bar and her love interest. Part of their thing is a good-natured back and forth, teasing, you might say. Maria, Isabel’s 93-year-old mother, is the level-headed observer who at times pulls parenting rank on her daughter. Annette Waters, who owns a junkyard and garage, lives up to her nickname the Tough Cookie. Gary Beaumont is always bossing around his brother, Larry.  Then, there are the Old Farts, those gossipy men who hold court in the backroom of the Conwell General Store.

I guess it all started when I was a kid living a sheltered life, which mean I only left our yard to go to school, church, watch my father’s softball team play, or to visit relatives. My siblings and I were big into pretending games. Plus I was a big reader. I loved getting lost in books.

Later in adulthood, when I no longer lived a sheltered life, I was a newspaper reporter. That experience, reporting on the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, enabled me to listen to how people of all walks of life talked and to write it down. It was great training. Plus it inspired making rural New England the setting for most of my books.

The Sacred Dog, which is not part of the series, is my most recently published novel. That one, a thriller set in rural New England, is written in third-person, past-tense. The Sacred Dog is a country bar where the locals drink and gab, so there is that barroom banter to get right. But I needed to capture what the book’s three main characters would say. Frank Hooker, the owner, hates Al Kitchen, who he wrongfully blames for his brother’s death. Their conversations are terse and tense at best. I “hear” how they relate when Al has the nerve to show up at the bar. The same goes into their dealings with other people, including Frank’s ex-wife Verona, who returns to town with a dark secret, and his young daughter. One of my favorite dialogues happens between Jenny Kitchen, Al’s scratchy grandma, and Frank. 

But back to Isabel Long, specifically Missing the Deadline, who has been inside my head lately? My favorites, of course, like Jack, the Old Farts, Annette, the Beaumont brothers, and of course her mother. But Cyrus Nilsson, aka the Big Shot Poet, plays a significant role in that he hires Isabel for her seventh case. Plus, as this case — my lips are sealed — takes Isabel to another place and people of interest, there are new characters to hear. I will be sharing more about Missing the Deadline in the future.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: Yes that’s the books I’ve published so far. Darkstroke books published the Isabel Long Mystery Series and The Sacred Dog. I self-published the rest. By the way, the second in the Twin Jinn Series will be published this year.

LINK: Here’s the way to find my books in Kindle and paperback on Amazon:

The paperback versions of most of my books are also available on Barnes and Noble:

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: 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.