Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Keeping a Series Going

Following the Lead, no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, is in the works for a Nov. 3 release and available for pre-order. But before I started no. 7, I was inspired to take a pause and reread each book. I had the time and motivation to maintain the series’ consistency.

So, as I sat on the front porch, my alternate office these warm weather days, I went through each one, as a reader and not as the writer. Chasing the Case. Redneck’s Revenge. Checking the Traps. Killing the Story. Working the Beat.

Frankly, key to this series is Isabel Long who makes it easy for me to create and continue a series since she tells the story. A widow a year. A former long-time journalist who plans to put that profession’s transferable skills to good use investigating cold cases in the sticks where she lives. A part-time bartender. She’s not some sweet young thing. Smart, savvy, and a bit of a wise-ass, especially about her observations of hilltown life. I admit there’s a lot of me in this character, save the widow part.

As I have mentioned before there are characters I love too much to let go. Annette Waters aka Tough Cookie is one. She runs a junkyard, garage, and co-owner of a convenience store in the middle of nowhere called the Pit Stop. The Old Farts, those nosy geezers who meet in the backroom of the Conwell General Store, are others. Of course, there’s Maria, Isabel’s mother and sidekick, plus Jack, her love interest that owns the Rooster Bar. Bad boys Gary and Larry Beaumont. Marsha. Annette’s son, Abe. Isabel’s old boss, Lin Pierce. Dancin’ Dave Baxter. And Jim Hawthorne aka Thorny.

Some characters I create don’t appear in every book. Others are one and done.

But as I move onto the seventh, I’ve decided to draw up a chart of who’s who for each character, so I keep them and details about their backgrounds straight — also key moments for them.

The same will go for each town. Isabel lives in Conwell, which has one store, one bar, one school, one school and one stoplight. Dillard, from book four, is the only one with a railroad passing through it. Titus has a country fair. Caulfield has the Pit Stop and Baxter’s, a biker bar on the lake. There are rivers and landmarks.

I have to say rereading the books has been an enjoyable pastime. I even found myself laughing out loud at some of the parts. I liked the flow and interaction of characters. I am happy I wrote them. I am glad I worked with editor, Miriam Drori.

And since I had an idea for no. 7, I marked pages with pieces of paper for info I will want to include.

Okay, full disclosure: I also found a few errors, which in this digital age and print on demand can be changed — certainly part of my inspiration for the chart. A couple of readers mentioned after reading Checking the Traps, I had Isabel giggle too much. I believe I used that form of laughter to show Isabel was a little unsure as she finds later in life a new love in Jack and situation as a P.I. But I see what they mean. Isabel is tougher than that, and I stopped her giggling from book four on. 

But with only the fifth book to go, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve started no. 7, tentatively called Making a Deadline. On Friday, I sat down with my computer, and the story just began itself. Remember Cary Moore, the highway worker who wrote poetry good enough for a famous poet to steal? Well, thanks to that remorseful poet, Cyrus Nilsson aka the Big Shot Poet, his collection, “Country Boy,” is having a release party at the Penfield Town Hall. It’s standing room only for local folks. And that’s where Isabel — and her mother — find the next case. My lips are sealed for now.

PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the stack of books for the Isabel Long Mystery Series.

LINKS TO MY BOOKS: If you are reader, thank you very much. If you are tempted to be one, here’s the link to the series: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

And if you are interested in pre-ordering Following the Lead — againthank you — here’s that link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead That’s for Kindle orders. Paperback will be released a little later.

Standard
hilltowns, Western Massachusetts

Up Next: The Sacred Dog

I am pleased to report that my publisher, darkstroke books, has agreed to take on my novel The Sacred Dog. This book isn’t part of my Isabel Long Mystery Series. But it has one of my favorite settings — the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts.

The official release is Dec. 27, and darkstroke will make the formal announcement when the Kindle version is ready to pre-order. But let me tell you a little about The Sacred Dog.

The Sacred Dog is the first book I completed at the start of the millennium. We were living then in Worthington, one of the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. At that time I was immersed in the area, editing stories for the daily newspaper where I worked. Before that, I was the hill town reporter. Plus our family was involved in the town. So, I had lots of inspiration there.

I was able to sign on with an agent, Dan Green of Pom Inc., who tried his darndest to sell it to a publishing house. This was long before digital books and writers had easy access to self-publish. But it didn’t work out and I’ve held onto the book since then. Once in a great while, I’d print it out and get out the red pen, or edit it on the screen. Now, I am happy it will be available to readers.

The story is basically about bad blood between two men — Frank Hooker and Al Kitchen — and that feud’s ultimate climax. Frank Hooker owns The Sacred Dog, the only bar in town, where the locals gather to drink beer, gab, and get away from their families. The only person not welcome is Al Kitchen, but Frank has his reason — he blames him for his brother, Wes’s death. But after an appeal from the grandmother who raised him, Al is allowed to have two beers. Frank figures it’s better to keep his eye on someone he doesn’t trust or like.

Al Kitchen is a hell raiser, no surprise considering the grandfather who raised him was a drunk and an abuser. About the only good thing the man did was teach him to hit a baseball well. But Al always has his kerosene-smelling granny on his side even as an adult. Al was in the car crash that killed his best buddy, Wes, but he wasn’t at the wheel — a fact Frank won’t accept.

Frank’s life is about to change now that his ex-wife and their daughter have returned after living in Florida for three years. Verona says she misses her old life although coming back might mean facing a dark secret that involves both men. 

All is about to come to a reckoning.

I certainly will be writing in the future more about the characters, setting, and why the bar is called The Sacred Dog. 

So sit tight. Besides, I have another book coming out — Following the Lead, No. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. It has a Nov. 3 release but you can pre-order now, which is helpful to authors. And thank you if you already have. Here is the link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the opening page. The chapter is called King of the Road, a favorite tune among the drinkers at The Dog, as they call it.

Standard
Our Lady of Angels Feast, Portuguese

Saintly Intentions Again

Note: In 2013, I wrote about the Feast of Our Lady of Angels that occurs on Labor Day in my hometown. Nine years later it deserved to be updated.

Labor Day. Here in my village of Shelburne Falls, it’s a holiday weekend as summer fades and fall takes over. Earlier in my life, it meant the three-day Feast of Our Lady of Angels at the bottom of our street in my hometown of Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

First, a little history. At the start of the last century, the Portuguese migrated from the Azores and Madeira islands, an often treacherous trip by ship to the land of opportunity. Many found work in the textile mills or fishing industry in New Bedford. My grandparents on both sides of the family were among them.

Among the hopeful immigrants were four Azoreans who started the feast in North Fairhaven — across the harbor from New Bedford — to show their gratitude. They raised $800 to commission a sculptor back in the old country to carve a statue of Our Lady of Angels from wood. The 11-foot statue of Mary with cherubs at her feet arrived August 1930 and the first feast was held the next month. The statue is kept at St. Mary’s Church not far from the feast grounds.

The feast has Portuguese food, band music, games of chance, and auctions. (We kids hung near the auction, hoping someone would buy a large sweetbread and say “cut it up for the kids.”) We could hear the feast from our home, only three houses away, but we were at the feast grounds most of those days.

During the parade held Monday, men carry the statue from St. Mary’s Church up and down Main Street. The statue is adorned with wreaths of money given by the faithful as part of the promises they’ve made.

My father, Antone “Hawk” Medeiros, was one of the men who carried the statue for years — he is on the left, hoisting it onto his shoulder in the photo above — until he was 90. That was in 2013. He died two years later, around the time of the feast. We, of course, attended in honor of him. By the way, the tradition of carrying the statue continues with my brother, Tony Medeiros, who has done it for years. 

As a child, I marched in the parade. I was dressed as Saint Teresa, a costume my mother made. She said I had the round face for it. That’s me in the photo above. Frankly, it’s the closest I will likely come to sainthood.

My sisters, Christine and Kij, went as angels when it was their turn. My brother fittingly was Saint Anthony.

When we were older, Christine and I sold soda, candy, and ice cream in one of the concession stands at the feast. We were stationed next to the women who were in charge of the malassadas — delicious deep-fried, yeasted dough that was rolled in sugar. People stand in long lines to buy them. Our father worked in the beer shack. Late at night, we sat on the beer cartons stacked against the wall rather than go home just yet.

The feast was such an important and enjoyable part of my early life, and I am glad to share it with you.

MORE: If you are interested in reading more of my writing, here’s the link to Amazon, where you will find my books: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

By the way, I use my Portuguese heritage in several of my books, including my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Following the Lead, no. 6, will have a Nov. 3 release and is ready for pre-order. Thanks if you do. Here’s that link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead




Standard
Following the Lead, Isabel Long Series

Following the Lead: How It Begins

This novel was an easy one to get started. Afterall, Following the Lead, No. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series that has a Nov. 3 release, starts minutes after No. 5, Working the Beat. I am not going be a spoilsport and reveal how that one ends. But I will say Isabel and her mother, Maria aka her “Watson” are on their way back home with an envelope filled with papers in the back seat.

I will give you more about that in a bit, but I wanted to talk about beginning a novel or at least, how it works for me. Without sounding like a total nut, they just come to me when I sit down at my desk. Later, while I may change a word here and there, I’ve kept each one.

My aim is to catch up readers (without giving away stuff to those who haven’t read the previous book/books) and get them into the action of the next one. I know what I like to read and hope to provide that experience to readers of this series.

In Chasing the Case, the first, Isabel is in her back yard digging a grave for a beloved pet cat while it is snowing. As she puts that shovel into the ground, she reflects on the past year, which I use to let readers know where she’s at. Isabel’s a recent widow. She lost her job running a newspaper and her 92-year-old mother has come to live with her. But as importantly, we learn that she wants to investigate on her own a 28-year-old mystery in her small town — and her first big story as a rookie reporter. 

(By the way, this book got rejected by a publisher because I was told that I broke a cardinal rule that you don’t kill off pets in books. I wrote back that writers are supposed to break rules.)

In the second, Redneck’s Revenge, Isabel meets Lin Pierce, who will be her boss of sorts. Isabel found out she just can’t investigate crimes on her own. Right away, she takes on her first legitimate case: Annette Waters, a junkyard owner, hires her to investigate the death of her father who supposedly was too drunk to get out of his shack of a home when it caught fire.

In Checking the Traps, the third, Isabel is tending bar at the Rooster with one arm after she was hurt when her car was run off the road in the previous case. Lots of questions from the customers, and then she gets a call from Gary Beaumont, a suspect in her last case who wants to hire her. 

In Killing the Story, the fourth, Isabel attends a funeral for the town’s police chief, but the next day she’s at a pig roast at the Pit Stop convenience store when she is approached by the editor/co-owner of a small town newspaper. He believes the death of his mother, who had the position before him, wasn’t accidental. Of course, with her background, it was an easy sell for Isabel.

In Working the Beat, the fifth, Isabel is losing badly at poker with Jack, the owner of the Rooster, during a dead night at the bar. Everybody is at the Titus Country Fair. The next day she’s there with her mother when she is approached by an old woman, whose beloved grandson was found dead after the demolition derby four years ago.

So what about the sixth, Following the Lead? Here is the very beginning.

Lin Pierce said not to open the envelope he gave me until I get home, but since when do I listen to what my old bosses tell me? I bet he said it only as a test, a tease, or knowing Lin, a joke. The manila envelope’s contents have been on my mind since he handed it to me in his office and said, “It’s your next case.” And there it sits on the back seat of my car, bugging the heck out of me to stop and rip it open. Thanks a lot, Lin.

“Do you think it’s another unsolved murder?” my mother asks after she gives the fat envelope another glance.

My mother and I are on our way home after I stopped to see Lin at his office. I shipped her to my brother’s home when things got a little bit scary with the last case, but now she’s back, and it appears ready for the next one.

“No clue,” I answer.

Ha, my mother, who you may know as my partner in crime, that is solving them, is as nosy as I am. When I was a kid, she kept a close eye and ear on the neighborhood where I grew up in the eastern part of this state. In those days, the town would broadcast the location of a fire by a series of loud horns, and my mother would look them up in a booklet she kept on a table beside her comfy chair. She would announce the street and number where the fire was happening, although one summer when the call was for a business several streets away from our home, we walked there in the middle of the night to watch. The only difference between my mother and me, regarding nosiness, is that I turned it into a profession, journalism. As a reporter, then editor, being nosy is a job requirement. Now I use that trait as a private investigator solving cold cases in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts where we live. So far, I’ve solved five, and now it appears I will be moving onto number six sooner than I expected.

“You looked really excited when you left Lin’s office,” my mother says.

“Uh-huh. Lin wouldn’t give me a case that isn’t worth pursuing. He knows better than that.”

Ma checks over her shoulder again.

“I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

Hmm, not soon enough in my mind.

My mother and I have been talking about what could be inside that envelope ever since we left Lin’s empty office in Jefferson. He’s officially out of the private investigation business now that he’s sold it to Bob Montgomery, the retired state cop who’s still interested in solving crimes. Once a cop, always a cop although as a private investigator, he can’t arrest people or shoot them. Lin, who I would rightly describe as a bit of a fuddy-duddy, isn’t what comes to mind when I think of a P.I., certainly not the ones I’ve seen in movies and TV shows or read about in novels. He didn’t solve crimes but took insurance cases, usually on behalf of the company trying to disprove one. It wasn’t until I came on board earlier this year that he ventured into crime. Actually, I did the criminal part. I earned a buck a day and he got a cut of what I made from my client, including the case where I was paid free mechanical service for my vehicles for life. Lin does, too. That was the deal I made with Annette Waters aka the Tough Cookie when I investigated her father’s death in case number two.

From now on, I will get two bucks a day from Bob Montgomery. His stipulation for buying the business was that I come with it. No, I’m not an indentured servant, but Bob likes the zip I added to Lin’s business. Certainly, my solving those mysteries gave Lin’s business some badly needed publicity after my cases were written up in the local newspapers and even covered by a couple of TV stations. As for me, Bob’s offer is likely the best and only one I could get to continue what I love doing. I didn’t bother applying to other private investigation firms since I need an arrangement that doesn’t take me away from my mother, who is ninety-three. Besides, I want to investigate cases that interest me and I sure as heck don’t want to work full time because I plan to keep my part-time gig tending bar at the Rooster on Friday nights.

I tip my head toward the back seat.

“He said it was an old case. Maybe it was before he started doing business with those insurance companies.”

“Could be something personal, Isabel.” 

“Now that would be interesting.”

HOW TO GET FOLLOWING THE LEAD: The official release is Nov. 3 for Kindle on Amazon, but pre-ordering — and thank you if you have done that — is appreciated. Pre-order now and the book will magically appear in your device on that day. I will be frank that selling books that one writes is a numbers game and pre-orders help with rankings. The price is $3.99. (If you have Kindle Unlimited, I will get paid for pages read.) Now about paperbacks … there will be a bit of a wait, per my publisher’s policy, but I will let you know when that happens. Here’s the link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

Here is the one for all of the Isabel Long Mystery Series: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG


ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A great sky from our front porch.

 

Standard
Isabel Long Mystery Series, New release, Pre-order

Big News: Following the Lead Ready for Pre-Order

Well, it’s big news to me, and I hope the readers of my Isabel Long Mystery Series, that Following the Lead, No. 6 has a Nov. 3 release date. 

Starting now, Kindle readers can pre-order their copy and it will magically appear in their device on that date. More below on the logistics, but here is a link to get you started: https://amzn.to/3cs6FCh

So, what is Following the Lead about? Isabel has moved from one case to the next rather fast. If you read No. 5 to the end, you understand. No worries if you haven’t or are new to the series. Each book can stand alone. 

Lin Pierce, Isabel’s former boss, wants her to go way back into the past to solve a family mystery. When he was a boy, his baby sister was abducted from their family’s front yard. Lin was supposed to be minding his sister while their mother was giving a piano lesson inside their home, but he was distracted in a carefully orchestrated kidnapping. That was 49 years ago and the family has never gotten over it.

Lin is convinced he met his sister when they were adults. After all, the woman looked a lot like his mother at that age, and she had a distinguishing family trait — different colored eyes. 

As Isabel pursues this case, she zeros in on the student, now a well-known musician, who was being given a lesson that day. She’s having a difficult time getting to speak with him, but, of course, that’s not going to stop her.

Besides Lin, Following the Lead has many of the characters, good and bad, I love too much to let go. The might be yours as well, like Annette, Marsha, Gary and Larry Beaumont, the Old Farts, and, of course, Isabel’s sidekick, her mother Maria, and Jack. But a new case means new characters. Over the next weeks, I will be writing posts to hopefully inspire you to get my book. 

Now about those logistics … pre-orders on Amazon help to bring the book attention via ratings. So thank you if you do. As for paperback, that version won’t be ready for a little while after the Kindle launch — the policy of my publisher.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m already thinking about the No. 7. I’m having too much fun to let this series go.

IMAGE ABOVE: Check out the great cover Laurence Patterson of darkstroke books, my publisher, created. Yes, that’s Isabel Long following a trail as she solves a very old mystery.

LINKS TO MY OTHER BOOKS: While you are waiting for No. 6, you might like to catch up with the other books if you haven’t already done that. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

Standard