IMG_0491
Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

They All Add Up

Adding up? I’d say that’s true for words and berries.

First, the words, which in my case totals 78,000 for my new novel, Killing the Story, which will be published Aug. 26, a month from when I am writing this blog. The book is No. 4 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series.

In Killing the Story, I started with the first word, in this case, “we,” and then moved onto the rest of the sentence “buried the old chief today.” I kept it going, one word at a time, until the end.

Of course, nobody writes a perfect book in one fell swoop. I certainly haven’t. So, I went back, saw what I was missing, just like today when I was picking berries.

But before I blog about berries, here’s a trailer I created about Killing the Story. Check it out.

 

Now, about those berries. Today, Hank and I made two harvests: blueberries at a pick-your-own farm near our village and raspberries at our neighbors’ across the street. That’s him in the photo above. (Yes, masks on even there.)

At the farm, we’d choose a row, look for the bushes that had ripened berries and get to work. Sometimes I picked just one blueberry, sometimes a few at a time. And, funny, just like writing, I wasn’t thinking of doing anything else. At the end, we had enough for a pie I baked later, some toIMG_0499 freeze, and some to keep for fresh eating.

Then, we headed across the street. Our neighbors, who already had their fill of their raspberry crop, invited us to take whatever was left. It was obvious the bulk of the crop was gone, but there was certainly enough for Hank and I to collect a generous amount of berries in our colanders.

Here’s what I noticed this time. I would pick between the overgrown rows, thinking I got all of the ripened berries along the way, but when I turned around, I saw more I had missed on the very same row.

Another perspective for certain, sort of like the editing process.

As I wrote before, my editor, Miriam helped me see the things I missed while writing Killing the Story. Yes, there were typos to fix, but I’m thinking about her questions about the plot and characters.

The same thing happened when my publisher sent me a pdf of the book he had laid out. A different format for sure, and, yes, when I looked, I saw small things for him to change.

So, the fruits of our labor, at least at the pick-your-own-farm, were baked into a pie. I also froze a bunch IMG_0506 and kept some for fresh eating.

And in a month, fans of the Isabel Long Mystery Series will get to see the end result when Killing the Story is published on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Here’s the link to pre-order: Killing the Story on Amazon

 

 

Standard
IMG_0462
Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

Back and Forth with My Editor

Another important step for my next book, Killing the Story: My editor has emailed the final draft to the publisher.

Miriam Drori edited the first three books in the Isabel Long Mystery Series. So, I was glad when Laurence Patterson, from Darkstroke Books, said she would be handling the fourth, since she is so familiar with the characters, setting, and my style of writing.

Let me tell you a little bit about Miriam. She’s originally from the UK, but has lived in Israel for many years and does a lot of traveling. Besides being an editor, Miriam is also an author. (See the links to her books below.)

Laurence sent Miriam the draft I submitted to him and she got to work. She read the ms carefully twice, tracking questions, comments, and suggestions in the document. I responded. She did another round. So did I. That went on for a few weeks.

What I especially like about working with Miriam: she keeps my writer’s voice, but she finds the loose ends and knots I left behind.

Some of her suggested edits involve the misuse of a word, a missing article, a weird use of a preposition, plot problems … oh the list goes on. Several times her questions led me to discover an error I made in the story line or a character — like mixing up in one scene the Old Farts, a group of gossipy old men who station themselves in the back of the town’s general store.

I also enjoy her humor and comments about who she thinks “dunnit.”

Frankly, I am amazed at what she found because I read this manuscript oh so many times before I handed it off and thought I caught it all. Shows you how wrong I was.

Here are some of her comments tracked in the first round of edits.

After the first chapter called Farewell to the Chief:

Miriam: You’re so good at recapping while beginning again.

Me: Thanks. I try to reward those who read the others without giving it way for those who haven’t.

From the chapter where Isabel and her mother go to an open house at the Pit Stop gas station/convenience store: Bobby Collins forks slices of pork onto Ma’s plate. I wave him off mine and stick with the potato salad, coleslaw, and a roll. Then, with the plates raised high, I make my way through the crowd.

Miriam: I’m trying to imagine Isabel holding a plate in each hand and waving him off! Maybe you didn’t mean it literally?

Me: Ha good point! Yeah, that would make a mess.

Here’s a scene between Jack, owner of the Rooster Bar, and Isabel: “Oh, that. Well, get yourself ready. The Truck Stoppers are taking a request. I suggested ‘Honky Tonk Man.’ I recall how much you like Dwight Yoakam.”

“And you think he’s singing about you?”

Miriam: What does that mean when it refers to a person?

Me: A fun-loving guy who hangs around bars typically low-end having a good ol’ time. Besides Isabel likes to tease Jack. You gotta hear the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT2sdgBtAW8

Of course, sometimes an Americanism catches her eye like this one: Fred makes that shave-and-a-haircut knock and then he’s working the handle. “Hey, Billy, how you doin’?” he asks the man sitting on a recliner.

Miriam: Wow! Never heard the term, although the tune/rhythm is familiar.

My response: American I suppose. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWbjP_ahuB4

We went several rounds on the book. Just before the last, I reread it, and made my last suggested changes. I also found two troublesome scenes that needed more work. A couple of errors. Miriam patiently accommodated me.

Monday she sent the final draft to the publisher and me. Killing the Story will be available Aug. 26 in paperback and Kindle: https://mybook.to/KillingtheStory. I honestly feel it’s the best one so far, and I thank Miriam for her part in it.

Here are links to Miriam Drori’s books: https://www.amazon.com/Miriam-Drori/e/B00L11J6D4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1 and https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/social-anxiety-revealed-miriam-drori/1126948726?ean=2940164083809

ABOUT THE PHOTO: My neighbor’s hydrangea bush. Acid pellets helped to turn the flowers blue.

Standard
chair
Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

Real Characters Part One

Well, at least they are real to me. In each book I’ve written, including the Isabel Long Mystery Series, they have popped inside my brain and then I had my way with them.

Some characters have lasted one book. Others have lingered through more than one and in several instances stayed through the series. By the way, Killing the Story, no. 4, will be officially released Aug. 26.

For this post, I will write about the one-off characters. Stay tuned for a post on those that last.

First off, though, let me tell you about the series. Isabel Long is a former longtime journalist turned amateur P.I. A recent widow — yeah, she’s no kid — she lives with her 93-year-old mystery-loving mother, Maria, who is her “Watson.” Isabel is rather sassy and savvy, and reinventing herself, which includes a relationship with Jack, the owner of the Rooster Bar, where she works part-time. Oh, they live in a small town in the sticks of Western Massachusetts.

The characters who made an appearance in one book served a purpose for its plot. In fact, in each book they were dead by time Isabel Long took on their case. (I should add there are lesser characters, perhaps relatives, sources, and even persons of interest that are one-book only characters. But they serve a purpose as well for Isabel in each case.)

And as she tries to figure out who might have murdered each one, Isabel gets a really good idea — and I hope my readers — of who they were when they were living.

In these cases, the other characters give their impressions of the victims as Isabel quizzes them, calling on the interview skills she used as a reporter. In the process, she gets to know their strengths and weaknesses, what they liked and didn’t like, oh the list goes on.

So far, I’ve created these victims: a woman with secrets who worked in her parents’ general store and went missing 28 years earlier — Chasing the Case; a crusty so-and-so of a junkyard dealer who died when his shack caught fire — Redneck’s Revenge; and a sensitive, poetry-writing highway worker who may have committed suicide jumping off a bridge known for it — Checking the Traps.

In Killing the Story, Isabel’s investigation revolves around Estelle Crane, who ran a small town weekly newspaper with her sister. She supposedly died walking home from the newsroom when she slipped on ice and smashed her head against pavement. But later, her son, who took over the paper, finds evidence it might not have been an accident.

So what was Estelle Crane like? Here’s what Isabel found when she and her mother, Maria, her sidekick, went to The Observer newsroom as she considers whether to take the case. Isabel is the narrator here.

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.

 By the way, Killing the Story is available for pre-order, in Kindle only right now. The paperback version will be ready soon. Here’s the link: Killing the Story on Amazon

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: One of four Adirondack chairs Hank made for us. I am lucky to have a husband who creates beautiful furniture for our home.

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