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Isabel Long Series, Redneck's Revenge

Meet Isabel Long P.I.

Isabel Long is the star of my mystery series set in the sticks of Western Massachusetts. Actually, I name the series, which includes Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge, after her. She’s a long-time journalist who tries her hand at being a private investigator and does well by it. But who the heck is she?

First off, when I decided to write a mystery, I wanted a protagonist who is a woman. Rednecks Revenge smallShe wasn’t going to be a sweet, young thing. She was going to be a woman with some good miles on her — what the French call une femme d’un certain age. Isabel has three grown kids and a granddaughter. She’s also a recent widow. As for looks, she’s attractive enough to gain the attention of older men.

And Isabel had a long career as a journalist — starting as a reporter covering the dinky hilltown where she lives to being the managing editor of a newspaper until that ended when it went corporate. When the new owner said everybody had to reapply for their job. Isabel said, “To hell with that.”

Yeah, Isabel is a bit on the sassy side. She doesn’t take crap from anybody. She’s also savvy, which made her a good journalist. Now it will come in handy as a private investigator.

Isabel lives in a hilltown in rural Western Massachusetts. She and her late husband, Sam moved there from the city to make a better life for their children. Conwell, population a thousand, is the kind of place where most people know each other for better or worse. Isabel probably knows them even better because her first job as Chasing the Case cover copyreporter was covering it. In fact her first case, featured in Chasing the Case, was also her first big story as a rookie reporter. That involved the disappearance of Adela Collins 28 years earlier.

Other occupational benefits: Keeping an open mind and being able to talk with just about anybody. Oh, yeah, being relentless until she gets her story — or the culprit.

Isabel is also of Portuguese heritage, or as she says, “Yes, Long is my married name. Ferreira is the name I got at birth. I’m a hundred percent Portuguese and proud that I’ve invaded a Yankee stronghold in the hilltowns.”

Isabel’s also ready to reinvent herself — as a private investigator and as a single woman. The second part means after a year of properly grieving her late husband whom she loved, she’s ready for relationship with another man — and she finds it. Her relationship with Jack, owner of the Rooster Bar, has its ups and a big down. But I’m not going to spoil what happens for readers.

So, how much of me is in Isabel? I’d like to say the sassy and savvy part, especially since I wrote these books in first person. I, too, was a journalist who started in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where I’ve lived twice. But unlike Isabel, I didn’t become a P.I. Instead I write about one, and that’s fine with me.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter in Redneck’s Revenge. Isabel is meeting a licensed P.I. to see if he will take her on as an associate. The cops told her she had to work for one for three years before she could go solo.

I smile and extend my hand to Franklin Pierce. I feel a bit self-conscious my skin is colder and rougher than his. I’m curious why someone would name their kid after one of the worst presidents so far although I can think of a few other contenders. But now isn’t the time to bring up that observation. I need to win this man over. So, what will it be: Franklin or Frank although I seriously doubt Frankie. I play it safe.

“Mr. Pierce, hello.”

“Please call me Lin. And you? Is it Isabel or Izzie? Which do you prefer?”

I shake my head.

“Never Izzie,” I say.

“I’ll remember that.”

“Okay, Lin. How do you spell that?”

“L-I-N.”

Gotcha. I follow him inside. For a man who makes money investigating private cases, this office is a bit of a joke, or maybe he doesn’t make much. Someone could easily move in one of the cheapo dollar stores or a salon where they fix blue hair for old ladies. A cracked vinyl couch is set near the entrance along with a coffee table stacked with magazines I bet aren’t current. The only art on the walls are a print of Norman Rockwell’s “Runaway,” the one in which a cop talks to a boy inside what looks like a diner, and framed newspaper pages that are yellow and faded. We’re moving too fast toward the back of the office for me to read what they say. A desk piled high with papers but no booze bottles or ashtrays, I’m relieved not to see, is semi-hidden by a partition along with two chairs for guests, a file cabinet, and beyond them a door I presume leads to a bathroom. I smell pizza through the walls from the joint next door.

Lin places his cowboy hat on the desktop and throws his long canvas coat over the back of his chair before he sits. He wears a dark suit, a bit frayed in the cuffs. His striped tie has a stain, perhaps coffee or a drop of grease. He shaved this morning. And he’s almost due for a haircut. Yes, my observation skills are getting sharper. I will need them if I continue to investigate cases.

I take Lin’s cue and choose one of the chairs opposite him. He studies me as I unbutton my coat and slide it away. I came dressed for this interview in a blouse and skirt. I pulled my silver hair back into a twist, now that it’s long enough. I haven’t dressed this fancy since I got canned from my job as the managing editor of the Daily Star. Now that I’m not sitting at a desk all day, I’ve lost some weight, a welcome development. My cheekbones are even more pronounced.

“Nice work on the Adela Collins case,” Lin says. “I was impressed. It’s tough to solve a missing person’s case after so many years. How many was it?”

“Twenty-eight.”

He repeats the number.

“Yup, that’s a long time.”

REDNECK’S REVENGE: The second in the Isabel Long mystery series has a formal launch Sept. 26. You can buy paperbacks now and pre-order the Kindle version, which will pop into your device that day. Here’s the link: mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

By the way both versions are available for its predecessor Chasing the Case: mybook.to/chasingthecase

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: A sunflower on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Mass., the village where I live.

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6Ws, Author Interview, Crooked Cat Books

6Ws with Author Jo Fenton

Jo Fenton is the latest Crooked Cat Books author to participate in the 6Ws series. Her psychological thriller, The Brotherhood, has an official launch July 25 although you can pre-order the Kindle version now and buy a paperback outright.

Jo was inspired to begin writing The Brotherhood by NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month although she says it actually took her six years and ten drafts. Book coverNow, that’s persistence.

Here are Jo’s responses to my 6Ws — who, what, when, where, how, and why. (How does end with a W.)

Who is author Jo Fenton?

Clinical researcher by day, writer by night (or whenever time allows), I am a short, friendly soul who loves chatting to people, running very slowly, and being helpful whenever needed. I live in Manchester, UK, with my nearly grown up sons, husband, a beautiful Corgi and two fish tanks.

What does she write?

Psychological thrillers with a strong emphasis on relationships, belief and power.

When did she begin writing?

I began writing at 41, when my kids reached an age where full time attention was no longer required, and my husband suggested it might be a good time. This was triggered by publicity for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. The novel, an early version of The Brotherhood, didn’t quite get completed in a month. Six years and 10 drafts later, it was submitted to Crooked Cat, who fortunately loved it.

How does she write?

The Brotherhood started as a vague premise with some notes, and character descriptions. Plot changed significantly over the first few drafts, but there was not much planning done at any point. It just developed. The current work in progress, a sequel to The Brotherhood, is being subjected to much more planning, but every now and again, the muse takes over, and adds an unexpected twist or two.

Writing is facilitated by music – certain scenes require specific soundtracks, but generally any favourite music will serve as good background. Coffee or wine can also help depending on time of day.

Where does she write?

As I work from home a lot, I have an office (very untidy), which is the scene of most of my writing. However, I’m very flexible, and can write just as easily in a hotel room (when travelling for the day job), on a plane, or on holiday (sea-view balconies and cruise ship bars are definitely favourite writing spots!)

Why does she write?

For many years, I played out stories in my head, retreating into a virtual universe for days at a time. It was only when I began to write my first novel, that I realized how important it was to have that outlet. Writing became an escape from everyday life; a safe way to explore fears, dreams and the wildest corners of my imagination. Due to demands on time, it’s not always possible to write, but I return to my novels whenever I can, with a huge sense of relief.

More on The Brotherhood:

The Brotherhood will be released by Crooked Cat books on 25thJuly. The Brotherhood is a psychological thriller set in a religious sect and is available for pre-order on Amazon http://mybook.to/fentonthebrotherhood.

Other works:

None yet, but I’m working on it.

Jo Fenton on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jl_fenton

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jo-Fenton-Author

Blog: https://www.jofenton137.com

 

 

 

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Isabel Long Series

And Now for the Sequel

Here’s some very welcome news: Crooked Cat Books has signed Redneck’s Revenge. The mystery will be published several months after its prequel Chasing the Case — Crooked Cat has that one too.

Two mysteries written and signed this year. Damn, I’m excited.

Those who know me also know that it’s been a challenge breaking into the business side of writing. I thank Laurence and Steph Patterson for providing that break.logosmall2

So, here’s the lowdown on Redneck’s Revenge, which like most of my books takes place in Western Massachusetts — although my characters and towns are pure fiction.

Isabel Long, a journalist turned amateur P.I., has taken on her second case: the suspicious death of a junkyard owner.

Despite her success, Isabel is feeling a bit lost months after solving her first. Her relationship with Jack, the owner of the Rooster Bar, has cooled. Then the police warn Isabel she must work for a licensed P.I. before she can go out on her own.

With the encouragement of her 92-year-old mother, Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case. The official ruling is that Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered.

Topping the list of suspects she gives Isabel are two dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband. Isabel is unfamiliar with the hilltown of Caulfield and its rough-and-tumble residents. But as she did when she worked as a journalist, Isabel checks out leads and builds a story.

Could Chet’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

Right now, Chasing the Case is in the hands of my editor Miriam Drori. And I’m onto writing the next one. It’s called Checking the Traps. Yup, Isabel is once again in the thick of things.

Here’s the link for Crooked Cat Books: www.crookedcatbooks.com

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Getting My Revenge

They say revenge is sweet. In my case, it’s part of the title of the mystery I finished this week, and really, that accomplishment is indeed sweet for me.  Redneck’s Revenge, its full name, is the second in my Isabel Long mystery series.

So, who is Isabel Long? She’s the main character in this series set in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, the preferred setting for most of my adult fiction. Isabel’s a former journalist who got canned after the newspaper she managed went corporate, part of a bad year in which she also lost her husband. So she uses the skills she learned as a journalist to solve a 28-year-old missing persons case in her town. (She also has a Watson — her 92-year-old mother who lives with her.) Adela Collins’ disappearance way back when was her first big story as a reporter. The mystery is written from Isabel’s rather sassy POV.

It’s taking me a while to find a publisher for Chasing the Case. Yeah, that’s a bit disappointing, but it hasn’t stopped me from writing another mystery featuring Isabel and some of other characters I created in the first, plus new ones.

In Redneck’s Revenge, a woman contacts Isabel to find out who killed her father, an ornery SOB named Chet Waters who owned a junkyard and repair shop in a nearby hilltown. Now Annette Waters, who’s a bit rough around the edges, owns it. She doesn’t believe the official ruling her father passed out from booze and died when a cigarette set his small house on fire. Isabel decides to take on the case even though Annette can only pay her through free service on her car.

Another glitch: legally Isabel needs to work for a licensed P.I. for three years before she can go on her own. She finds a P.I. who’s a bit down on his luck that agrees to take her on.

I began writing Redneck’s Revenge in May and kept at it despite a 2,400-mile move from New Mexico back to New England and all that entails. A couple of weeks ago I wrote the so-called last word. Then I went through the novel one more time, changing things here and there.

I will surely do it again, looking for little things to change here and there. But I am happy about what I wrote. I feel the novel is complete.

What do I do when I get to the end of a novel? I’m not the type to whoop it up although perhaps I should. Using 84,000 words to tell a story is, as I stated above, an accomplishment.

I will tell you what I did do. I started the next one. Isabel, who’s a bit banged up from her last case, and her mother will be asked to solve another hilltown mystery.  This one is called Checking the Traps — a phrase I used as a reporter when I would make the round with my sources. I’m a few pages in and raring to go. Damn, I’m excited.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Along the Deerfield River on a recent hike.

ONE MORE THING: Here is a link for my books for sale on Amazon, including my most recent, The Sweet Spot, set in Western Mass. They’re not free, but they are for the taking. Check them out: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

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The Sweet Spot

Something Ever After

My characters live with me long after a book is finished. And it appears that’s true for some of my readers, in particular, those who finished my recently released The Sweet Spot. They want to know if I will write another novel about Edie.

Edie St. Claire is the main character of the novel, set in a fictional town in Western Massachusetts. She’s the young widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam and a caring mother to their daughter, Amber. Most people love Edie, who knows how to have fun, whether it’s working at scan TSSher in-laws’ general store, playing softball or kicking back at the Do-Si-Do Bar. She is good to her father, a cantankerous old coot who runs the town dump, and her aunt, a woman with no brake on her mouth.

But all is not rosy for Edie, who still grieves for Gil, who by my accounts was a sweetheart of a guy. And then, there is her secret affair with his baddish brother, Walker, which ends tragically. We learn about Edie’s strength when that damn little town blames her. She also has the support of her family and Harlan, the stranger who moved next door.

I admire Edie’s spunk. So have my readers. They ask if there will be a sequel. Funny, I mentioned that possibility to my former agent one time, but he didn’t get it. I had a vision of Edie bringing Amber to the Vietnam Memorial Wall to find her father’s name. I wondered if the townspeople ever forgave her. Did she and Harlan make it?

Does Edie live happily ever after or is it something else?

I am considering it, but I am in the midst of another sequel — to the mystery Chasing the Case that I completed in March. Right now, it’s in the hands of a few publishing house editors. But I am so taken by the characters, including journalist-turned-sleuth Isabel Long, and her 92-year-old mother, who’s her Watson.  They solve a 28-year-old case of woman who went missing in her town. It was Isabel’s first big story as a rookie reporter. Yes, the mystery is set in Western Massachusetts.

Among my other books, I have turned two into series. I am two-thirds of the way through the fourth book in The Twin Jinn series, as yet unpublished. I have two more books for the Los Primos/The Cousins bilingual series.

As for Edie, I definitely can see spending time with her again, her rough-and-tough family, and the other characters. I had such a good time with them.

Want to get your own copy of The Sweet Spot in paperback or Kindle? Here’s the link:The Sweet Spot on Amazon

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s a mural at Bowlin’s Mesilla Book Center in Mesilla, New Mexico, where we attended the New Mexico Press Women’s conference. “The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los Primos y el Pez Magíco” was the second-runnerup for the Zia Award.

 

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