Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story, Mystery, New release

A Healthy Obsession

I’m talking about writing fiction. I just can’t help myself and hopefully, there is no cure for it.

In college and a few years afterward, I was a poet. When I read the poems I’ve kept, I still like what I wrote. But I kicked that habit when I started having kids, lots of kids, six in all, now all adults. By then, I was more interested in prose although I couldn’t manage more than a few paragraphs and letters to friends. I read what other people wrote and thought one day I would do the same.

I honestly believe each kid I had is the equivalent of one or two books each.

Then, I got a job as a correspondent for the hilltown where I lived for a daily newspaper. Over the years, I covered more hilltowns, and then it became a full-time job. It wasn’t fiction, but I was writing and better yet, immersing myself in rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting for most of my  books. And I was learning how to sustain prose.

It wasn’t until I became an editor for the same newspaper, that I started writing fiction. I didn’t write down the date, too bad, but from that day on, I couldn’t go without writing. Yes, I was hooked and pretty darn fast.

I estimate I overcame a 25-year writer’s block.

My fixation has led to completed books, published and unpublished, for adults and young readers.

Killing the Story is the fourth book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, which started when I decided to try writing a mystery. All of my other books, save the ones for young readers, are what I would call literary fiction. But after I finished the first, Chasing the Case, I was fixated on the characters, the setting, and coming up with a story that would have twists and turns that would fool readers about who might have dunnit. (I will admit I don’t know either as I solve the cold case along with my protagonist, Isabel Long and her sidekick, her mother.)

In Killing the Story, Isabel is investigating the death of a small town newspaper editor. Was it an accident or murder? She’s determined to find out despite obstacles thrown her way by the local police chief. But then again, he and the victim have a dark history.

The book, which was officially released Aug. 26, just completed a blog tour that garnered some great reviews. Now NewInBooks is giving it a push.

And so, I am onto the next mystery. This one is called Working the Beat. I started this week, getting up at 5 a.m. to write before I head to work. (I am the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper.) As of this morning, I hit the 3,700-word mark. Isabel is just about to find her next case. Damn, I’m excited.

Interested in reading Killing the Story? Thank you very much. Hopefully, you, too, will get hooked on my series. Here’s the link on Amazon: Killing the Story

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Lobsters awaiting their doom in a tank during a recent visit to Cape Cod.








Beatles, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story, launch

A Magical Mystery Tour with Killing the Story

It’s a big day for me Wednesday, Aug. 26 as Killing the Story, No. 4 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series is officially released. I am celebrating a bit on FB at noon in the Eastern Time Zone in the U.S. with fun posts and contests. Please join me then although I will keep it up for 24 hours to accommodate people’s busy schedules and homes around the world. Here’s the link: Killing the Story Facebook party

Aug. 26 also will be the start of a blog tour via Rachel’s Random Resources beginning Wednesday and lasting eight days until Sept. 2. See the schedule above. The tour will be a mix of reviews and posts from readers who have received advanced copies. I am looking forward to what they have to say about the new book. I will certainly share them on social media.

And in a week’s time, on Sept. 1, Written Word Media will spread the word about Killing the Story via its weeklong promotion. More later.

As I’ve said before, there’s writing and then there’s the business of writing. And today there is a heckuva lot of competition. So I need a little help from my friends to spread the word and to spend a little money doing it.

If you have ordered Killing the Story, I thank you very much. If you enjoyed it, please leave a review on Amazon.

And, yes, there are three references to the Beatles in this post. Oh, why not?

Here’s the link to Killing the Story on Amazon:





Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story, mysteries

Challenges to Writing a Series

When I began writing Chasing the Case three years ago, it was my experiment in writing a mystery, a different genre for me. But as I got into the thick of it, I recognized its potential as a series. Hence, I finished number four, Killing the Story, which has an official release Aug. 26.

The first book was relatively easy because I was introducing amateur P.I. Isabel Long — the protagonist and narrator — and other characters I am carrying throughout the series. They include: Isabel’s 92-year-old mystery-loving mother who is her “Watson;” Jack, who owns the Rooster Bar, where Isabel gets a part-time job; the Old Farts, a group of gossipy old men who hold court in the back room of the general store; plus Isabel’s adult children and regulars at the Rooster. Then there are characters who are one and done such as the father of the woman who disappeared 28 years earlier — Isabel takes this cold case on her own.

So, then I moved onto the second, Redneck’s Revenge, then the third, Checking the Traps, and for now, Killing the Story.

In writing these other books, I was mindful that I wanted to make each to stand on its own in case that it was the first book picked up by a reader. On purpose, I don’t do much rehashing of the previous books although I do include hints and coded references. I develop each character and their description as if this was on the only book I wrote. I don’t want to gyp these readers.

The same goes for those readers who have been following the series. I use those coded references and hints to acknowledge that. I don’t want to beleaguer the past or hit people over the head. I believe that drags a book and readers down. I want these readers to feel like insiders.

So, I address this continuity in the first chapter of Killing the Story. Isabel no longer has the sling she wore throughout case no. 3 after breaking a collarbone in a car crash in no. 2. And per an agreement she made with Gary Beaumont, who hired her in book no. 3, she doesn’t reveal in book no. 4 the results of that case that involved the death of his half-brother. Of course, being nosy New Englanders, especially at the Rooster, she is pestered to spill the beans.

Oh, yes, no. 5 is in the works.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from Killing the Story that will give you an idea of how I handle it. Isabel and Jack attended the funeral for the Police Chief Benjamin Hendricks Sr. in the first chapter.

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.”

Jack stops to chat briefly with someone, but he picks up his pace across the family’s lawn when I make a sideways wave that this conversation with the True Blue is coming to an end. He gives me a wink. By my estimation, Jack is the best-looking man here, certainly for the over-fifty crowd. But then again, I’m prejudiced. He’s a big hunk of a guy who jokes about his size. He’s got a square jaw and brown eyes. His hair is mostly dark still even though he’s in his sixties, and it’s natural, I know for certain. Mr. Natural. That’s Jack’s style.

He’s also rather new at this togetherness stuff. Before we hooked up, Jack went through a long, long series of dead-end relationships. He’s told me some entertaining stories about the women in town he’s been with, mostly natives. But none ever led to a lasting romance. Well, he came close with one, but that relationship didn’t end well. Remember?

I know Jack cares a lot for me, an awful lot. A couple of weeks ago, I thought for sure he was gonna tell me how much. He was looking for the right moment. It almost happened on an actual date in a fancy restaurant, but we got interrupted by his ex-wife, of all people. Another time, he was about to try again, but then he had to break up a bar fight between two women. Like I said, Jack is new to this kind of relationship. And I can be patient when I put my mind to it.

Ma asked, “Do you think Jack was going to say he loves you?”

I said I didn’t know.

Do I love Jack? I sure like being with him. We have a lot of good laughs and sex. We can talk about most anything. And the man does look out for me. That counts for something. Of course, I’ve just come off a long marriage that produced three kids. Sam and I would still be happy together if he didn’t have that damn heart attack. It was different when I fell for Sam. I was young and giddy. Now, I’m a lot older. I’ve experienced life and death. Do I need someone to tell me he loves me to feel it?

Being with another man after all these years is definitely a new experience, and I don’t want to confuse the joy in that with big love.

Jack hands me a plastic cup.

“This guy bothering you?” he jokes.

“Nah, he’s just being nosy like everybody else in town.”

The True Blue snorts a laugh before he strolls away. I take a sip from my beer. I’m sure it won’t be the final time he or anybody else asks me about my third case, especially since I’m being so close-mouthed. It was that way last night at the Rooster. People were less interested that I was no longer serving beer with my left arm in a sling and more interested in the results of this latest case, which I solved exactly a week before. I got all kinds of offers for the full story. Bigger tips. A venison roast from a guy’s freezer. The choice of a litter of puppies. I will admit the truckload of manure for my garden was awfully tempting.

Even Lisa, the Rooster’s cook, tried to ply me for info by making me a huge salad. She made a noticeable effort to call me Isabel and not Izzie, a name I detest. I will give her credit for originality. But no to Lisa, too.

A promise is a promise even to a bottom-feeder like Gary Beaumont, a bottom-feeder I will admit I’ve come to like.

Not even the Old Farts, those gossipy men stationed in the backroom of the Conwell General Store, got the whole story. I could tell it was driving them nuts on my last visit. The Fattest Old Fart complained the loudest, but then again, he could rightfully be called the Loudest Old Fart.

“See if we share any tips with you again, Isabel,” he said.

“Fat chance that’ll happen,” I responded. “Face it. You guys can’t keep anything to yourselves.”

That comment generated a chorus of snorts and chuckles.

The sling came off Monday after six weeks of being bound up. The doc gave me a clean bill of health although my left collarbone has a permanent jut from where it broke in that car crash. That injury was from two cases ago. I still need to take it easy about heavy lifting on my left side for a while, doctor’s orders. But I have Jack and my two sons to help me with things like that.

Jack leans toward me.

“How much longer you wanna stay?”

“I’d like to say something to the chief’s wife. I didn’t get a chance before,” I say. “Uh-oh, here comes another.”

BOOK: Interested in getting your own copy?

Here’s the link to Kindle and paperback on Amazon:

PHOTO ABOVE: That’s me on a hot summer day after receiving a copy of Killing the Story in the mail from my publisher Darkstroke Books.


Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

Finding the Next Cold Case — Plus an Excerpt

Isabel Long, the protagonist in my mystery series, is always on the lookout for a new case to solve. She hasn’t been at it very long. Those who have read the first book will recall she started after a bad year — her husband died and she lost her job as a paper’s editor-in-chief — and decided to use the skills from her journalism days to solve cold cases in the sticks of Western Massachusetts in the U.S.

Her first case involved discovering what happened to a woman who went missing 28 years ago from her small town. That was in Chasing the Case.

In the second, Isabel proves a junkyard dealer was murdered and not too drunk to get out of his house after it caught fire. His daughter approached her in the bar where Isabel worked part-time. That was in Redneck’s Revenge.

For the third, she was hired by a local drug dealer to find out the true circumstances around his brother’s death. He supposedly jumped off a bridge known for suicides, but maybe he was pushed. That was in Checking the Traps.

Joan and Killing the Story

Here I am holding a copy of my new novel Killing the Story after it arrived in the mail.

So what case does Isabel solve in book number four, Killing the Story, which will be out Aug. 26? This one is near and dear to her because it involves the death of a small town newspaper editor. How does she find this one? Isabel and Marie, her 93-year-old mother and her ‘Watson,’ attend the open house for the Pit Stop, a gas station and convenience store in the small hilltown of Caulfield. The new owners are cousins Annette (daughter of the junkyard dealer from case no. 2) and Marsha (alibi for a suspect in case no. 1), who celebrate with a pig roast, cheap beer, and a band called the Country Bumpkins. It’s a lively event, and a fortuitous one because that’s where Isabel finds her next case.

Here let me give you an excerpt. Isabel went to fetch food for the two of them, and when she returns she finds her mother talking with a man.

Ma looks up when she sees my approach. I hand her the plate loaded with pork. The man stands. That’s when I notice the camera hanging by a strap around his neck.

“Isabel, this is Mr. Emerson Crane,” she says. “He’d like to talk with you. He might have a case you’d be interested in pursuing.”


Emerson Crane grabs my free hand in a shake, warm, dry, and not too tight, which I take as a good sign.

“Isabel, I heard you’ve been successful solving a few cold cases in the hilltowns,” he says. “I was telling your mother I’m hoping you’ll take mine.”

Some guy bumps me from behind, and after a “sorry” and a splash of beer on my blouse, I glance around for another free chair.

“Why don’t you grab that chair, Mr. Crane, and we can have a talk,” I say.

“Please call me Emerson. And in case you are wondering, I am named for Ralph Waldo Emerson. My mother was a big fan.”

While the man does as I ask, I note his clothes, a button-down blue shirt with short sleeves and khakis that seem a bit worn. I’m guessing this wouldn’t be a get-rich case although I have to admit after I checked the envelope, I found Gary Beaumont paid me more than I expected, so I’m set for a while. But as Jack often reminds me, I probably make more money tending his bar one night a week than I do chasing criminals.

I wait with the plate on my lap. I’m more interested in hearing the man’s story than eating although I note my mother has already sampled the pork. The woman has a satisfied smile.

I ask my mother, “Murder or money?”

“I’ll let him tell you. I think you’ll be interested in this one. It involves a newspaper.”

Newspaper? Ma knows how to get my attention. As many of you know, I worked for the Daily Star in Hampton for a gazillion years, starting as the hilltown reporter getting paid by the inch to running the damn paper as its managing editor for fifteen years until I lost that job when the Star went corporate. I was ticked off at the time that the new owner had the nerve to say I had to reapply for the position as if I hadn’t been doing a good enough job. Okay, it wasn’t like I was singled out. Everybody had to reapply. And frankly, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Now, I get to use the skills I had as a journalist working as a private investigator. I still get to be paid to be nosy although so far, not as much. And I sure don’t miss living by deadlines.

Emerson Crane grunts as he drops his body onto his seat. His back is to the crowd.

“Well, Emerson, I’m all ears.”

He nods.

“I own a little weekly paper called The Observer in Dillard. We cover all the towns in our county,” he says. “I actually came to take photos and do a little writeup about the opening, but then I heard you were here.”

It’s coming back to me. The Observer is one of those small-town papers that report the news the bigger papers don’t print or even care about. There aren’t any wire stories with national news. That’s not what people up here are interested in anyways. They can get those stories on the TV or internet. They want to know what’s happening locally like town meetings, game suppers, and the grand reopening of a gas station. I picked up a copy at the Pit Stop and found it admirable that in these troubled times for newspapers this one appears to be chugging along.

“I used to cover events like this when I was a reporter,” I say.

“I’m familiar with your background. I used to follow you in the Star.” His chest rises and falls in a bit of a wheeze as he takes a pause. “My case is about my mother.”

I take a peek at Ma, who has an all-knowing smile on her lips. Dang, she’s got one over on me.

“Your mother,” I say. “Please, tell me more.”

“She died nine years ago. My mother, her name’s Estelle Crane, owned The Observer. Actually, she and her sister, my Aunt Alice, inherited it from their father when they were in their twenties. Aunt Alice took care of the business side. Mom was all about the news. She wanted people to know what was going on in their communities. She used to say the goal of a newspaper is to inform people, so they can make good decisions about their towns.”

I start smiling.

“That was my philosophy when I was in the business.”

Now, Emerson is smiling.

“I started reporting for her when I was a kid in middle school,” he says. “She drilled that into my head.”

“Tell me more.”

“One night after she put the paper to bed, she was walking home. We didn’t live that far from The Observer’s office. It was mid-winter. She was supposed to have slipped on some ice and hit her head on the pavement so hard she died.” His voice cracks. “I was the one who found her. I went to look for her after she didn’t come home.”

Ah, I hear that telling word “supposed.”

“I take it you don’t believe it was an accident.”

His smile is gone. His head bobs in long arcs.

“I did at the time,” he says quietly. “But not anymore.”

I glance behind Emerson. This conversation deserves privacy. Too many people are within earshot, and now, those Country Bumpkins are blasting Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,” and fans are hollering their heads off, so it’d be hard to follow what Emerson has to say.

“Why do you think that?”

“I believe it had to do with a story she was chasing.”

I glance at Ma. Her brows flick upward once. I can read what’s on her mind.

“Emerson, I am interested in hearing the details, but this obviously isn’t the place for it. I can barely hear myself talk. How about we meet at your office instead? Name a day that fits your deadlines.”

“How about tomorrow?”

This guy wants to jump on this opportunity. I like that.

“That works. How about eleven?”

We exchange phone numbers, and then Emerson Crane is gone. He removes the reporter’s notebook from his back pocket and takes the pen from behind his ear. He’s back at work.

Ma and I dig into our food.

“I figured the newspaper part would get you,” she says after she swallows.

“As usual, you figured correctly.”

You can order Killing the Story, in Kindle and paperback, on Amazon. Here’s the link: Killing the Story on Amazon

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Vibrant coleus plants I found on my walk around our village.

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