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Checking the Traps, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Checking the Traps: How It Begins

In case you missed the Feb. 5 announcement, fans of my Isabel Long Mystery Series are able to pre-order the third book, Checking the Traps. Click on a box in Amazon, and March 22, the book will pop into your Kindle or other device. (Paperback fans: an announcement will happen soon.) Here’s the link for both: mybook.to/checkingthetraps 

First, a heart-felt thanks to anyone who pre-ordered the Checking the Traps. Now, let me interest those who haven’t with this blurb:

Isabel Long is banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer, who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his half-brother, Cary Moore, didn’t jump off a bridge known as a suicide spot. Somebody pushed him. 

Cary was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.

The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his half-brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.

As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it ‘checking the traps.’ She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.

Yes, despite her injuries, the gutsy Isabel and her mother is ready for another cold case. Those who read the first two books will have met many of the characters in this one like Annette, Marsha, Old Farts (those snoopy men in the store’s backroom), and of course, Jack.  I loved being around them so much, I couldn’t let them go. But I have new ones, such as Cyrus Nilsson, a fictional famous poet who is a bit of a snake, plus other people Isabel meets for this case.

And now I will give you a peek at how the book begins. The chapter is called the One-Armed Bartender.

It’s Friday night at the Rooster Bar and Grille, and I’m behind the bar taking care of business with my one good arm. The other is in a sling. A broken collarbone and a few badly bruised ribs are souvenirs from my second case, that and the satisfaction I nailed the bastard who ran my car off the road. I’m right-handed, and luckily, my injuries are on my left side, so it’s a piece of cake, really, snapping the caps off Buds with the opener mounted on the back of the counter. I only need one arm to reach for beers in the cooler and drop empties into the carton below. I’m not able to deliver food or clean tables, but then again, I have a very understanding boss. You remember Jack Smith, don’t you?

Besides, my getup is a conversation starter here at the town of Conwell’s only drinking establishment. The Rooster’s True Blue Regulars, of course, are all aware of what happened two weeks ago, but being nosy New Englanders, they prod me for details. They can’t get enough of the story. I gladly accommodate them. They’re friendly guys and good tippers.

“Isabel, how fast were you goin’ when Pete hit the back of your mother’s car?” one guy asks when I hand him his beer.

“Last I looked it was eighty.”

“Damn. On that road? You and Barbie were lucky you didn’t get yourselves killed.”

Uh, that might have been Pete Woodrell’s intention when he tailed us in his pickup. His wife, Barbie, was terrified and screaming beside me in the front seat. I didn’t blame her. I felt like screaming, too, but I had to pay attention to the road.

Hold on a minute. I have a line of customers stacking up. The dinner crowd has come and gone, or come and stayed if they’re making a night of it. The kitchen is closed, and I hear Carole, the cook, cleaning inside. The Back Door Men, tonight’s band, are hauling their instruments and speakers through the side door. There’s a full house tonight, which makes Jack, who owns the joint, one happy man.

 Being the start of April, the snowmobiles are gone because the snow is pretty much gone. We are in the thick of mud season, at least on the back roads, so the Rooster’s floor is getting awfully gritty. That’s okay. The Rooster is almost a shack in the woods, no frills, except for the large-screen TVs for sports games mostly, the jukebox, and thankfully, a clean women’s room. Jack told me he’s getting ready to spruce up the bar’s interior with some fresh paint and a new toilet in the men’s room. He couldn’t recall the last time the Rooster was painted, oh, maybe when he first bought the place. As for the men’s room toilet, it’s probably an original.

“What’ll it be tonight, Luke?” I ask the guy in front of me as if I don’t know what he’ll order.

“Make it a Bud.”

I reach inside the cooler.

“You sure? We do have a fine selection of beers on tap.”

He smiles to himself as he reaches into his back pocket for his wallet. Most folks here pay cash for their drinks and meals although Jack started taking credit cards years ago.

“You think the murder charges will stick?” he asks.

I smile to myself, too.

“I sure as hell hope so.”

 

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Shelburne Falls, Mass.
Winter

Stay Warm

That’s what I’ve been telling people these days. As I write this post, the weather app says it’s minus-5, but it feels like minus-19 in the Western Massachusetts village where I live. Well, it is winter, and staying warm is on everybody’s mind these days.

So, I say “Stay warm” to the clerks in the stores where I shop, the person pouring my tea, and frankly, whomever I meet wherever I go.

I’m as prepared as I can be for this weather. Long johns and wool socks are now part of my everyday costume, well, except when I went for a job interview. (I suffered a bit wearing a suit, nylons, and dress shoes.) I wear a hat, scarf, and gloves when I venture outside. I don’t fool around.

As I write this, I can hear the furnace cranking. We have one of those programable thermostats so we have variable temps throughout the day and night. The thermostat’s set at 55 degrees at night because we like sleeping in a cool home. You know it was cold last night when the furnace had to kick in to maintain that level. That and the cat slept with us under the covers.

And then there’s the wood stove in Hank’s workshop, which is off my office. We’ll keep a fire going in there.

It’s good weather to work on the final edits of the next book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series — Checking the Traps — which has a March 22 launch. I also just received the next history book to copyedit for a university.

Still, we might just venture a walk down to the village for hot beverages and just to see how tough we are.

In this weather, I feel fortunate that I have a warm place to live. That’s not true for everybody, and this is where this post turns serious. I see homeless people whenever I visit a nearby city. During the last cold snap, a man and woman died in a tent in the woods. While the cause of their death hasn’t been officially determined, the weather must have been a factor.

I will admit to being a bit hard-hearted in the past when I was approached by panhandlers. Although I often don’t have any cash on me, I didn’t give when I did. My justification? They’ll spend the money on something other than food or a place to live.

But after those deaths, I’ve changed my mind. I plan to keep singles in my bag, and if someone is holding one of those cardboard signs, I will give what I can. I may not have a lot, but I certainly have a lot more than they do. How they spend it is their business.

“Stay warm.” I told that to the homeless woman huddled on the sidewalk when I gave her money the other day. She said, “I’m trying.” And, you know, I believed her.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The frozen village of Shelburne Falls, where I live on the Buckland side.

 

 

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Author Interview, Building Character

Meet Enya of Agricola’s Bane

This post launches a new series I call Building Character, in which authors write about a character in their novel. Nancy Jardine is the first with Enya of Garrigill, a young warrior in her Celtic Fervour Series. Historical fiction fans can find the fourth, Agricola’s Bane, on Amazon: Nancy Jardine books

But back to Enya of Garrigill, I like this description: “Enya has strong features which are in keeping with her resolute determination.” She may be young, but she’s tough.

Here. I’ll let Nancy do the talking.

Who is your character?SONY DSC

Her name is Enya of Garrigill. Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the Celtic Fervour Series, opens with Enya having passed fourteen summers and she’s already a well-seasoned Late Iron Age Celtic warrior.

What does she look like?

Enya has strong features which are in keeping with her resolute determination. Her wide brow is softened by arresting eyes the colour of a changeable grey winter storm, eyes which sometimes betray her tender years and physical immaturity. Strong cheekbones flank a long nose that sits above front teeth which overlap slightly. Her chin is neat but often used with great effect to display her single-mindedness. The light brown soft-textured hair that has a tendency to escape her lengthy hair braids feathers the edges of her oval face and lifts her to comeliness, especially when her rare humour surfaces. The circumstances she inhabits are highly dangerous, but when Enya gives her wholehearted trust and love, it softens an often stern appearance.

What is your character’s back story?

Enya is a second-generation Garrigill warrior, a clan member who as a small child fled from Brigantia (Book 1 of the series), her family’s flight northwards being to avoid inclusion into the Roman Empire when the Roman legions dominate Brigantia (currently Cumbria and Yorkshire, England). By the end of Book 3 of the series, the Garrigill clan have migrated to Taexali Territory (current Aberdeenshire, Scotland) where they fight a pitched battle alongside the Celtic warriors of Calgach against the Ancient Roman legions of General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola.

The battle is disastrous for the Celtic warriors of the north who flee to the safety of the Caledon Mountains when the battle turns in the favour of the Romans. Enya bloodies her blade at this Battle of Beinn na Ciche: her warrior status elevated. In the chaos of the final moments of the battle she becomes separated from most of her family members, though days afterwards she finds them sheltering in the foothills of the Caledon Mountains.

What is your character’s role in your novel?

Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the series, opens with Enya determined to find her slightly older brother Ruoridh and her younger cousin Beathan who have not been seen since the Battle at Beinn na Ciche. Ruoridh and Beathan are not believed dead – there’s been no evidence of their corpses even ten days after the battle – and Enya is convinced she will be able to find them. The difficulty is that Taexali Territory is now flooded with Ancient Roman soldiers who are moving from temporary camp to AB 1000x625temporary camp in a north westwards direction. It’s hazardous for anyone to be moving around anywhere since the locals have mainly fled to the mountains after the battle. Along with Nith of Tarras and Feargus of Monymusk Enya sets out to find her kin; establish they are dead; or prove the lads have been taken as slaves by the Romans which is a distinct possibility. Along with her companions, she also has the perilous task of gathering information about the movements, and future military campaign intentions, of General Agricola’s legions. A spy captured can expect inevitable death!

Why should readers care about this character?

Enya isn’t only battling with separation anxiety from her lost kin, who are both very dear to her and in fact can be named among her best friends; she’s also a prisoner of her own developing physical emotions. She’s not yet chosen her first lover even though she’s reached childrearing status and battles with her developing sexual emotions. She finds herself torn between her developing romantic feelings for Nith who has been an almost foster-brother for the last couple of years, and her other travelling companion Feargus who now seems to be an orphan, his family having been decimated by the Roman usurpers. Her physical warrior strength is counterbalanced by her growing emotional maturity.

Give a brief excerpt featuring your character.

This scene is near the beginning of Agricola’s Bane. Enya and her scouting patrol encounter some Roman auxiliaries while on surveillance duty in woods near Ceann Druimin where her family have taken shelter.

When Enya reached Colm, the soldier she had speared to the ground squealed and bleated as he squirmed to free his upper arm from the entrapment, his attempt to break the shaft unsuccessful. Frantically swinging it in her direction, the young auxiliary whirled and bucked to avoid the slashes of her blade. As she raised her long knife anew, the end of the spear walloped against her jaw, the impact splintering the tip, the sudden pain excruciating. The blow was not sound enough to knock her over, but the jarring sent the man sprawling. Landing heavily on his side, he yelped when the pole cracked asunder, the spear tip still stuck firmly in his upper arm. Forcing him onto his front with one well aimed boot roll, Enya clipped away the shallow helmet neck-guard with her knife.

She had him at her mercy but she would give him none.

Striking repeatedly at the freed flesh with her long blade, which was not much shorter than the Roman’s gladius, a white hot rage engulfed her. Blood spattered and bone cracked.

Would her Celtic lands never be free of the Roman scum? The next cut was for Ruoridh. Another hack was for her cousin, Beathan, and more for Feargus’ dead kin from Monymusk. Her blade continued a repetitious slashing. Her brother would be found or avenged. Either way, she vowed to remove as many of the Roman usurpers as she could.

“Enya!”

Fergus’ noisy reprimand eventually penetrated her frenzy. Lowering her blade she stared at him, the thudding inside her chest almost engulfing her.

It was his palms cradling her shoulders and his soft voice at her ear that reminded her to breathe properly. “Enough. He will trouble Colm no longer.”

Synopsis of Agricola’s Bane:

A.D. 84 Northern Roman Britain

Nith of Tarras helps Enya of Garrigill in the search for her kin, missing after the disastrous battle at Beinn na Ciche fought between the Caledonian warriors and the mighty Ancient Roman legions. Enya soon has a heartrending choice to make. Should she tread Vacomagi territory that’s swarming with Roman auxiliaries to find her brother? Or, should she head south in search of her cousin who has probably been enslaved by the Romans?

Commander of the Britannic Legions and Governor of Britannia – General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola – is determined to claim more barbarian territory for the Roman Empire, indeed plans to invade the whole island, but finds not all decisions are his to make. It increasingly seems that the goddess, Fortuna, does not favour him.

The adventures of the Garrigill clan continue…

You can find Nancy Jardine at these places:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

Website: www.nancyjardineauthor.com/

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG& http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

 

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Winter

A Wintry Mix

It is -5 as I write this post. That’s -20.5556 Celsius. The weather app on my phone says “feels like -27” (-32.7778 C) because of the wind. Yeah, that’s cold. And the frigid temps are only a part of a wintry mix these past few days. How about snow, shoveling, and sourdough bread?

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Our driveway

First, I’m not complaining since this weekend’s snowstorm was the first significant one the village where I live has had this season. The ground wasn’t frozen during an earlier storm when a few inches fell, and the only hard part was the wet snow was heavy to shovel. Then, it all melted. And following that puny snowfall, the cycle of weather was cold temps when clear and relatively warm temps when it wasn’t, so we got rain instead.

The bulk of this weekend’s snow — I’d guess a foot — fell from Saturday night to Sunday morning. Hank and I grabbed our shovels to clear paths, the large deck, in front of the garage — and the biggest part of the job, the rather steep driveway. We were out there after breakfast although it was sleeting. We had to get the job done before the temps dropped.

As I tossed shovelfuls of snow above the driveway’s high banks, I was envious of our neighbors’ snow blowers. Should we get one? Sounds like a good idea. Well, we don’t have one today.

Shelburne Falls, Mass.

Shelburne Falls Village, Mass.

The job took two hours.

Afterward, we treated ourselves to a walk downhill to the snowy village for hot beverages. Chunks of snow filled the Deerfield River that runs through its middle. Thankfully, Mocha Maya’s was open, as was Keystone Market across the street. But that was it. Downtown was deserted.

Then there was bread. Since early morning, I began prepping dough to make sourdough bread using Michael Pollan’s recipe. For a couple of days, I had fed the new starter I bought, so it was ready to work. In between shoveling and other chores, I was in the kitchen pulling and folding the dough in its bowl, then letting it rest for a while — a process that takes several hours.

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Sourdough bread I baked.

I was more than pleased by the end result. That night, we ate slices of bread with a potato leek quinoa soup I made along with a good Portuguese wine.

And except for another trip outside to scrape new snow off the driveway, I stayed put inside — working on the fourth in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. I’m up to 20,000 words. I usually aim for 500 words in a day and I’m chuffed, as my UK friends say, if I go more. I answered questions about the third from my editor in Israel via email and worked on promotional stuff.

The furnace in the basement, which is set to a timer, just kicked in. Hank’s got the wood stove going in his shop beside my office. Soon, I will open the door to steal some of its heat. I am guessing that later we will bundle up in long johns and other suitable clothes before we venture outside for a walk. But pretty much, it will be a reading, writing, and a talking with family on the phone kind of day.

Yeah, it’s all about keeping warm these days.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Snow in the Deerfield River.

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Checking the Traps, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Checking the Traps: Full Speed Ahead

As mentioned in a post last week, things are moving faster toward the release of my next mystery, Checking the Traps. We now have a release date, a cover, and I am working with my editor to get the novel in the best shape possible. Read on for the details.

For those new to my blog or just need a gentle reminder, Checking the Traps is the third book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series set in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Isabel is a longtime journalist turned P.I., who is handling cold cases in her neck of the woods. Her clients tend to be on the country gritty side. Her 93-year-old mystery-loving mother is her sidekick.

First: March 22 is the official launch date of Checking the Traps. That’s when the Kindle version will be released. (The paperback version will be earlier.) I will let you know when pre-orders begin.

Second: Above is the cover created by Laurence Patterson, co-publisher at Crooked Cat Books. The other two book covers feature the back view of a woman outside in black and white. This cover matches that theme well while capturing an important element of the book: a bridge.

Third: My editor, Miriam Drori, and I are going over the manuscript very carefully. It’s great having someone who has fresh eyes — and mind — give my book a close read. Certainly, I’ve read it a gazillion times. We are on round two.

However, for this book, I have a not-so-secret weapon: the “read aloud” mechanism of my newly purchased Word program. Alas, my old version stopped working, so I was forced to upgrade, and I’m glad I did. I click on “read aloud” and a man reads my book aloud. It’s slow and I can only take listening for so long. (I am amused at some of “his” pronunciations.) But in the process I have found missing words, typos, and overused words. Dang, I wish I had used this for my other books.

Finally: I want to say congrats to anyone who picked up the Kindle version of Chasing the Case, the first book in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, which was free this past weekend. By my standards, it did well, including reaching #7 in the popular Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Crime Fiction > Murder category in Amazon US.

Of course, this is for free books. But as I explained in my last post, I’m hunting for readers who will get hooked by this series. It’s all part of the publishing game.

 

 

 

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