Anger on the Menu

While in my hometown recently, I settled for a fast food place when the restaurant I wanted wasn’t open. It was a favorite of my mother, who I was visiting at a convalescent home, and I thought it would make this meal a tribute of sorts. But I wasn’t prepared for what else was on the menu.

As I stood looking at the menu on the wall to find something I would want to eat, I overheard an exchange several feet away between a customer and the young woman behind the counter. The man, middle-aged with a long bushy beard, was complaining loudly. It concerned points he had accumulated and a burger with cheese and bacon he felt he was entitled to get. He wanted the problem fixed right then and there.

The woman behind the counter said he would need to speak with a manager who wasn’t available right then. But the man wouldn’t let it go. It was clear he thought he was being ripped off and was angry about it.

I realize this restaurant chain has its rules, but the common sense thing would have been to make amends with this unhappy customer by offering him something on the menu for free although that might not have satisfied him. But obviously the woman didn’t feel she could do anything like that on her own.

The exchange made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know this man and what he was capable of doing. I flashed on national events of recent weeks, in which acts of violence were committed in public places or on private property. Surely, you have read or heard about them.

I left the restaurant and stood outside. There’s no way I wanted to be a victim of this man’s rage. But I also didn’t want fear to rule my life.

So I went back inside.

The man was no longer at the counter. I spotted him eating in the far corner. I gave my order and when the wrap arrived, I found a seat on the opposite side. As I ate, the woman who worked behind the counter stopped after she had finished cleaning a table.

“How is your food?” she asked.

I told her it was good. Then I mentioned the exchange she had with the customer. She said she was waiting for the manager still.

I told her, “Considering what’s been happening, that made me a little nervous.”

Her face was serious as she nodded. “I know what you mean,” she said.

As I left, the man had finished his dinner and was back at the counter. I hope he and the manager were able to find a satisfying solution, a common ground. We surely need more of that these days.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: That’s one of three flowering bushes in our side yard we believe are azaleas.

Isabel Long Mystery Series, Uncategorized

Staying in Character

Great actors are famous for it. We the viewers forget the actor and only see the person they are playing on stage or screen. Some even take it a step further and stay in that role off camera.

But writers like myself have more than one character to consider. We get into their skin, so what they say and do are authentic to the stories we write.

My Isabel Long Mystery Series is written as a first-person present-tense narrative. Isabel is a smart, mature woman who is a bit of a wise ass. As a former journalist, she developed the ability to see through people and any bull they try to dish her. Just like reporting a new story, she’s methodical about her cases. I will admit there is a lot of me in Isabel although I am not a widow and I never worked as a private investigator. I don’t like that much danger.

It’s rather easy for me to figure out what Isabel will do in any given scene or situation whether it’s solving a mystery, pouring beer at the Rooster, being with its owner Jack or dealing with her family, including her mother, Maria, her partner in solving crime. 

In Following the Lead, she’s given a tough case. Her old boss, Lin was just a boy when his baby sister was stolen from the front yard and never found. That was nearly 50 years ago. So how should Isabel approach such a case? I channel Isabel and we figure it out together.

But, of course, Isabel isn’t the only character in this series. Some are one and done in a book. Many others have stuck around. As each one appears on a page, I channel that character so know how they should react to any situation I throw at them. 

Take Annette Waters aka the Tough Cookie. She wouldn’t be shy about anything. If someone dared to give her a hard time, she’d dish it back and twice as hard. But then again she runs a garage and junkyard. There’s her cousin, Marsha aka the Floozie who co-owns the Pit Stop convenience store. She’s another one who doesn’t take crap from anyone. Both are locals but they’ve grown fond of Isabel and her mother even though they are newcomers. 

It doesn’t matter the character’s gender. I know what will come out of Jack Smith’s mouth before he says it. Jack’s cousin Fred Lewis aka el Creepo typically says the wrong thing. He’s a bit of an idiot as demonstrated by what he does in Following the Lead

I believe the best training I received — like Isabel — was as a journalist. I had to listen carefully to what people said and observe how they behaved. It was a great experience that I believe has paid off with authentic characters. I hope my readers feel the same way.

LINK: Nov. 3, release date is getting oh so close. Here’s the link for Following the Lead: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Saw this along State Street in Shelburne Falls near Floodwater Brewing. Isabel Long would find it amusing.


We All Scream for Ice Cream

Well, not really, but ice cream was a big deal for me growing up. It certainly was for my Dad, and since today is Father’s Day I will share that story with you. It all came back to me when Hank and I went for takeout ice cream today.

dad for web

Dad, as a young man, working on a car.

My Dad, the late Antone Medeiros, grew up in a very large family, the child of immigrants from Portugal’s Azores Islands. I don’t imagine there were many opportunities to have ice cream, I wonder if ever.

During my childhood, we rarely ate out, perhaps fish and chips on a Friday. Dad did his best to support his family as an auto body man for a Ford dealership. I don’t recall going to a sit-down restaurant until I was a teenager. But going out for ice cream was a post-softball ritual.

Dad coached the Livesey Club’s men’s softball team in what I believe was a slow-pitch league. He was even a pitcher. He also managed the league. (As an aside, I started doing write-ups on the weekly stats for my Dad, and even dropping them off at the sports desk at the New Bedford Standard Times while he waited in the car. I believe that’s how I got the journalism bug.)

But back to ice cream. My siblings and I would hang out in the playground and/or watch the youngest while my Dad’s team played and our mother, Algerina kept score. We tried to be on our best behavior because afterward we would go out for ice cream. In the car we would sing: “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.”

Now, my Dad, being an ice cream lover, wanted to get the most for his money. We would travel all over the area searching for whoever served the biggest cone. Sometimes he got a lead that someone he knew, likely a teenager, would be working at an ice cream stand, guaranteeing a really large cone, until that person no longer worked there.

We ate soft serve (including when they started dipping the cones in chocolate) and hard — as long as it was ice cream.

My Dad was almost 93 when he left us nearly five years ago. There is so much more I could tell you about what a great guy he was, but now this is one part of him.

So, today I got two scoops: strawberry and maple walnut, one of his faves. Here’s to you Dad!

MY BOOK: Killing the Story, the fourth book in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, which will launch Sept. 26 is now available on pre-order (Kindle right now). Thanks to all who placed their order. Here’s the link: https://mybook.to/KillingtheStory


Checking the Traps: Meet My Next Victim

For the next couple of weeks, I will be running posts that appeared in blogs by my fellow authors and others. Here is one about the victim, Cary Moore,
in my latest mystery, Checking the Traps. This one appeared in author Sue Barnard’s blog http://broad-thoughts-from-a-home.blogspot.com/. Like what you read? Here’s how to buy the book on Amazon: https://mybook.to/checkingthetraps

My mysteries always have a victim. And it’s Isabel Long’s mission to find out what really happened to that person.

Isabel, a longtime journalist turned P.I., focuses on solving cold cases in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. In the first, Chasing the Case, a woman had disappeared 28 years earlier. In the second, Redneck’s Revenge, a junkyard owner supposedly died in a fire because he was too drunk to get out.

And in Checking the Traps, the victim is a highway worker by day and a poet by night. The official ruling was that Cary Moore jumped from a bridge known for suicides. His half-brother, Gary Beaumont, doesn’t believe it. For years, Gary has been trying to get someone to look into it, and now that Isabel has solved two cases, he turns to her for help.

It’s not as if Isabel and Gary have had a friendly relationship. After all, he and his brother, Larry, are drug-dealing bad boys who terrorized Isabel a bit in her last case.

But Isabel has a fondness for those men who take care of the roads, especially in snowy winters.

Plus, she is intrigued by the story of a poetry-writing truck driver. Cary hand-wrote his poems in composition books, and as Isabel goes through them, she sees a vast improvement. Perhaps that is the influence of the famous poet who was his neighbor. And as the case goes on, she finds the poems he wrote as gifts to people.

His poetry certainly reflects the person Cary was. Here’s an excerpt:

As I read Cary’s poems, I get an image of the self-taught poet. Or perhaps he was a natural and only needed practice to get it down. He wrote about the world around him. I smile when I read in one he calls “Close to Home” that he’s never traveled more than a hundred miles from where he lives and doesn’t feel he needs to go any farther.

Cary wrote about cutting wood, apologizing to these grand beasts, as he calls the trees on his land, but his family needs to keep warm this winter. In one poem, he finds a pair of old skates in his barn and remembers as a child, gliding on ice, if only life was still that easy.

Cary was married to a woman, Cherie, who runs a hair salon in their home. They were expecting a child when he died. He was a handy guy and a hard worker. But he’s also a bit of a boozer and drug user, so he’s got problems. And as it turns out, he was a bit naïve, especially concerning his famous neighbor.

In this scene, Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother, Maria — visit Cherie. Isabel wants to know more about her late husband’s poetry. Cherie works on Maria’s hair while they talk.

 “I think he got ideas for poems when he was drivin’ truck for the town, especially when he was plowin’ in the winter. He’d keep his eyes on the road, but his mind would wander. He started keepin’ a notebook in the cab of his truck, and on his breaks, he scribbled stuff down.” She laughs. “The other guys on the crew kidded him about it, but he didn’t care.”

“When did he write?”

“At night usually, on the weekends some. He did it at the kitchen table. He wrote on paper. He didn’t use a typewriter or computer. When he was finished with a poem, he’d write it down in one of his notebooks.”

“Did he show you his poems?”

“All the time. He read them out loud, too. They changed over the years. You’ll see. They get more serious.”

“One of the notebooks looks like it caught on fire.”

“I came home one day and saw Cary throwing it into the woodstove. I grabbed the book and put out the fire. I think he was going to burn ’em all. He wouldn’t tell me why, but he was upset about somethin’.”

“How long was that before he died?”

She holds the scissors above a strand of hair as she thinks. She turns, blinking toward me.

“It was a few weeks before. I hadn’t thought of that.”



Breaking Bad Habits

I am going solo for the next six weeks or so. That means I can be a selfish writer. I can tackle those home projects I’ve put off. And I can watch what I want to watch, which in this case is the entire series of Breaking Bad.

I wrote in December I was starting with the first episode and working my way through. Like a lot of hit TV shows, I missed being a part of this one. But I didn’t get too far, only midway into the second season. I got too busy and Hank didn’t buy into the show. 

So I decided to return to the second season and see Breaking Bad to the end. I’m now on the second half of season four. I average one or two episodes a night. I get home, make dinner, write, treat myself to some Breaking Bad, and then write again.

I read recently Breaking Bad tops the list for binge-watchers. I can see why.

Of course, the show is set in my state of New Mexico, but south in Albuquerque, a much bigger and badder city it would appear than Taos. That has a lot of appeal.

I am taken with the characters, Walter, Jesse, Gus, etc. and the plot. I am an astute reader and movie/TV watcher. I can usually see what’s going to happen next but I’ve been delightfully surprised, such as the death of Combo and how that was resolved story wise. Or brother-in-law Hank’s near-demise. Resolution. That’s another good attribute of this show. Story lines come around. Characters change, or for those who don’t, their circumstances do.

And, there are no commercials.

So far there has only been one stinker, the episode called The Fly. Walter White is obsessed about a fly in the lab. Frankly, I didn’t care and fast-forwarded to the next episode.

Like a zillion other TV viewers, I watched the show’s final episode so I know what’s coming for Walter and Jesse. But it doesn’t matter. I have a lot of good Breaking Bad still ahead.