For the Aug. 26 official release of my next mystery, Killing the Story, I am depending on the experts to get the word out to potential readers. Their social media reach is far greater than I could ever achieve. But I would be remiss in not doing a little something on my own to celebrate, namely a Facebook party that day.
I did FB events for the first two books in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, and enjoyed them a great deal, posing questions and contests. For the third, I had started a full-time job as a newspaper’s editor-in-chief, and couldn’t spare the time. I still have that position, but for this book’s launch, I’m taking the day off.
I’ve decided to keep it live 90 minutes: noon to 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
That means people on the East Coast of the U.S. can tune in during lunch. Those on the West, it might be brunch. It will be dinner time perhaps for my friends across the pond. (The active party will take place during those 90 minutes, but I will leave the posts intact for 24 hours for those who might want to drift in later.)
All you have to do is go to my Facebook Author Page — @JoanLivingstonAuthor — and check off “going.”
What can people expect at this event? I like having fun contests related to the novel I’m promoting.
Killing the Story takes place in the rural hilltowns of New England, to be specific in Western Massachusetts where I live.
Isabel Long’s fourth case involves proving a small town newspaper editor’s death wasn’t an accident after all. Perhaps she was onto a story that put herself in danger. Of course, Isabel faces her own threats, including a police chief who makes it clear she isn’t welcome in his town. But then again, he and the victim have a dark history. Could there be a connection? Isabel is about to find out.
I am working on the contest questions, but this time the prizes are a bit unique. Winners will have the chance to name a demotion derby vehicle and/or a driver that will be used in book No. 5. The cold case for that one? A body was discovered after the crowd watching a demolition derby at a small country fair was cleared. (I was inspired by something my friend Victor said.) And in the fifth book, Isabel goes with Jack, owner of the Rooster bar and her guy, to one at the Titus Country Fair.
But back to Killing the Story. While I have you here, let me share an excerpt from Killing the Story. Isabel meets Emerson Crane, who wants her to find out how his mother died. Supposedly it was a fall on ice as she walked home from the newsroom. But a cryptic note he finds eight years later indicates she might have been in trouble. So, Isabel and her 93-year-old mother, Marie, who is her sidekick in these cases, go to The Observer’s newsroom in Dillard to meet Emerson and learn more about the potential case. And Isabel, a former journalist, feels right at home.
The town of Dillard is larger than the town of Conwell, where I live, which has one store, one church, one school, one stoplight, and, of course, one bar. Dillard has a small downtown, a one-street block that dead ends, with storefronts, although not all are filled, a diner, and, of course, a bar. On the other end, across the main road are railroad tracks. I understand Dillard was a happening place when the railroad that runs through town actually stopped here for passengers and goods, for wood that was logged and sawn here, plus grain. But those days are long gone. And the rail is a freight line that doesn’t stop. I had to cross the tracks on my way here, so I could joke that Dillard is on the other side of, oh, you know what I’m gonna say. For those unfamiliar with the layout of this part of the world, Dillard is two towns east from Caulfield, which is a few towns northwest from Conwell. Got that?
The Observer’s newsroom is located in a storefront that appears to have apartments above and with plenty of open parking spaces on the street. A wooden sign hanging over the front door says: The Observer — Get Your Local News Here.
“It looks as if it’s been a while since anybody washed those windows,” Ma says.
“Or painted the outside.” I glance up. “Or done much of anything to this building.”
A bell above the door signals our arrival. My immediate impression? This place would go up in flames if somebody threw a lit match. Really, it wouldn’t take much. Bundles of newspapers are stacked everywhere. Notebooks and loose paper are piled on the desks along with computers that are seriously way overdue for an upgrade. A woman tends to a customer at the long counter.
“Be with you in a minute,” she tells Ma and me.
But before I can explain why we are here Emerson Crane gets up from a desk and walks toward us.
“It’s okay, Martha. They’re here to see me,” he says. “I won’t be taking any calls for a while.”
We three exchange greetings, and then my mother and I follow Emerson between the desks and chairs toward the rear of the newsroom. I have a flashback to my former newsroom even though this is a much smaller and messier version than the one at the Daily Star. I get the feeling the people working here have to do several jobs, like deliver the paper or mop the floors. I never had to do anything like that although for many years, my life revolved around heavy workloads and constant deadlines.
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.
“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.
Inside a walled-off section of the newsroom, Emerson slides piles of newspaper across the long wooden table. He sits on one side. Ma and I are on the other. She places her purse on the tabletop. I pull out my phone.
“Do you mind if I record this?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Let’s start with a little background about your mother if that’s all right with you. Unfortunately, Dillard wasn’t in the Star’s coverage area, so I’m unfamiliar with her story. And it would help us decide whether we want to take this case. Does that work for you?”
Emerson nods and sits back. From what I hear next, Estelle Crane spent her whole life, which amounted to fifty-nine years, in Dillard, except when she went away to college in Boston. She was born a Templeton, then became a Crane when she married Emerson’s father, Hamilton Crane. Ham, as he preferred to be called, worked at The Observer, picking up the papers at the printer and then delivering them to the stores in the area. He was also the newsroom’s custodian. The good parts of the marriage didn’t last long. Neither did the husband. He was two times over the limit when he crashed his car two years before Estelle’s death, so if my math is correct, that was eleven years ago.
“Mom didn’t spare him in The Observer’s news story.” Emerson’s head shakes side to side. “She reported the details of the police report, including the alcohol content of my father’s blood, and that they had separated but never actually divorced. She even ran the story on the bottom of the front page. I was at first unhappy about it. I was in my mid-twenties when he died. I loved my father. He was a good man with faults, and like a lot of our readers, I didn’t want him exposed in the paper. But Mom told me, ‘We treat everybody the same. If I ever do something wrong, ever break the law, I’d expect you to do the same. Make sure you put it right on the front page.’ Her code of journalist ethics couldn’t be broken even when it was that personal.”
Estelle wanted to be a college professor. History was her thing. But she still worked for the paper and her father, Charles Templeton, when she came home summers and on school vacations. Charles Templeton died long before Emerson was born. He had a heart attack while shoveling spring snow, one of those widow-maker storms. His wife had died years before.
“My mother and her sister had to make a decision about the paper. Aunt Alice was already running the business end. If they wanted to keep the paper in the family, my mother would have to drop out of grad school and take care of the news side. So, that’s what she did.”
“Why didn’t they sell the paper?”
“I believe they tried, but they had no takers. After a while, the sisters got so into running the paper, they gave up on that idea.” He pauses. “Excuse my manners, but could I get you both some water?”
I glance at my mother.
“We’re fine. Right, Ma?”
“Yes, I am,” she says. “Your mother sounds like an interesting person.”
“That she was.”
WANT TO ORDER YOU COPY? Here’s the link: mybook.to/KillingTheStory
ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The four books thus far in my Isabel Long Mystery Series.