Writing

A Different Way of Writing

I believe the change began around the time I left journalism. Perhaps it’s because I no longer have the distractions of working long hours as editor-in-chief reading what other people wrote plus handling my managerial duties. Perhaps it’s because I have more time. Most likely, it’s both.

Even before I left my job, I was having too much fun writing my Isabel Long Mystery Series to let that workload stop me. I got up at 5 a.m. to put down 500 words. The words flowed. The story flowed. From one chapter to the next until the end. First five in the series were published this way. It was a bit miraculous.

But how I write has changed and I am now realizing that as I’m into no. 7. I believe it began with Working the Beat, no. 5, as I was winding down from my job, and intensified with Following the Lead, no. 6.

I still aim for 500 words a day.  But before I begin, I look back to what I wrote the previous day to add, if needed, a word, sentence or paragraph in the one before. Essentially I am expanding — and in my mind improving — what I wrote recently before I move onto the new chapter or chapters. (I still write short ones.) Basically, I am not waiting until I reach the half-way point or the end to look for holes

I am also finding that as I move through the story, I think back whether something is missing earlier.

Making the Deadline, the tentative title for no. 7, involves a shooting possibly made to look like a suicide attempt. Isabel has been approached by a possible client, Cyrus Nilsson aka the Big Shot Poet. He’s made a good pitch, but she’s not sure, so she’s doing her initial research and interviews. 

The victim, a literary agent (frustrated authors will enjoy this), is now mentally incapacitated. I realized early this morning that as Isabel begins gathering her list of contacts, she should be checking the agency’s website. An earlier online check revealed no reports of a shooting in the local papers since most do not report suicides or attempts. There was a brief in an online magazine that the agent has stepped away from the business “for health reasons” but I realized I wanted more. What about the agency’s website? Bingo. Isabel needs to find that online.

And although I never plan ahead — Isabel’s next case starts as a fragment in my brain — I am mindful I do not want to have a series that is formulaic. I liken it to what my protagonist, Isabel, does. As the series moves on, she’s taking more complicated and unusual cases. There will always be new characters but I also want to keep the old ones fresh. I feel I owe it to my readers. And to myself. I don’t want to just call it in.

THE SACRED DOG: This novel is not part of my Isabel Long Mystery Series although the setting is similar. Basically, there’s bad blood between two men. The title comes from the name of a bar one of them owns. I will be telling you a whole lot more about it from now until its launch date Dec. 27 and beyond. Here’s the link to learn more: https://mybook.to/thesacreddog

FOLLOWING THE LEAD: Here’s the link for no. 6 in the Isabel Long Mystery Series: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A mural spotted in Brattleboro, Vermont.

.

Standard
Following the Lead

My Bad Beaumont Brothers

Of course, I am writing about Gary and Larry Beaumont, two characters in the Isabel Long Mystery Series. I’ve kept them through the most of the series because despite their feral tendencies, I’ve grown fond of them. So has Isabel Long. They are back in the next, Following the Lead, which has a Nov. 3 release.

Gary is the alpha brother. Larry, not the sharpest tool in the shed, does whatever he says. They tend to wear shirts advertising alcohol and both have mullets. They live in a dump of a house with a stash of junked metal in the front yard.

The Beaumonts make their living selling drugs and because of it, they were banned for life from the Rooster Bar and Grille, where Isabel tends bar on Friday nights. Jack, the owner, wouldn’t have them back because they were dealing in the parking lot. I can’t blame him.

The Beaumont brothers joined the series in Redneck’s Revenge, book no. 2, as unlikeable suspects who terrorize Isabel in the case involving the death of a junkyard owner. Hmm, perhaps drugs discovered in one of the vehicles had something to do with it. 

In the next, Checking the Traps, Gary hires Isabel to investigate the death of his half-brother Cary, who supposedly jumped off a bridge known for suicides. Isabel and her mother, her partner in crime, get to know the brothers up close and personal.

The brothers were not raised in the best of family situations. Isabel is also privy to a secret about Gary: in high school, he fathered Annette Waters’ son Abe. Annette aka the Tough Cookie doesn’t ever want him to know. (By the way in Working the Beat, no. 5, Gary and Annette compete against each other in a demolition derby.)

There are a few incidents when Gary and Larry actually come to Isabel’s rescue. That’s when she finally convinces Jack to let them come back to the Rooster on probation. He doesn’t like it but he loves Isabel too much to deny her.

So what are the Beaumont Brothers up to in Following the Lead? Well, they happen to live near a person of interest in this case — a famous musician who likes his privacy so much Isabel has a hard time meeting him. This case involves the abduction of a baby nearly fifty years ago. And much later in the book, one of them comes once again to her rescue.

Here’s a scene midway in the book when Isabel and her mother visit Gary and Larry.

A dog barks and paws at the front window of Gary and Larry Beaumont’s house as Ma and I make our way through the junked vehicles and plain old junk to the front door. I swear there is more stuff here than the last time we came earlier this year. That’s when Gary hired me for a case involving his late brother, Cary. On her previous visit here, my mother joked about finding the kitchen sink among this mess. No sinks but I do see an old kitchen stove and washer.

“Those boys really should take care of this mess,” my mother says with a click of her tongue. “People driving by this place would think it’s abandoned.”

“Perhaps that’s their motivation all along.”

Larry, the beta brother, comes onto the front porch, carrying his little pooch Ricky that was yapping in the window. He walks down the steps to give my mother first dibs to pet the dog, which makes happy little yips. Ricky is one of those terriers whose role here is to make Larry happy and to bark like crazy when anybody shows up. Nobody will be sneaking up at Chez Beaumont.

“Ricky, did you say? He looks like a nice little lap dog,” Ma tells a grinning Larry, who usually isn’t the center of attention. 

“He’s mine. Gary got him for me.”

Gary, definitely the alpha brother, comes through the open door. He wears a Jim Beam tee-shirt, which goes nicely with Larry’s Budweiser shirt, and I have indeed filled that order many times on a Friday night at the Rooster. Both brothers have freshly groomed mullets. They even have shaved. 

“Come on in, ladies,” Gary says. “Would you like some coffee? I made a fresh pot.”

Fresh pot? The last time Ma and I were here we were offered instant coffee, which I can’t tolerate even for a case. The boys are moving up, I’d say. And it appears, they did some cleaning in our honor or perhaps they’ve reformed. Dishes are piled in the sink, but the kitchen is nearly as clean as the one I have home. The rest of the house? I’ve never gone further than the kitchen. I didn’t even want to attempt using the bathroom no matter how badly I needed to go, so I have no clue about the conditions in there. Am I brave enough to use the bathroom this time? We’ll see.

“We’ll take a cup. Right, Ma? Milk if you have it for me. Ma likes it regular, milk and a little sugar.”

Larry chuckles.

“Course, I know what regular means. I’ll let you fix it the way you like.”

Ma nods as she sits. Our aim on these info gathering visits is to make people feel comfortable so they start blabbing without realizing it although by now, the brothers have become somewhat old chums and they know my methods. I smile as I watch Gary pour us coffee and boss his brother around to bring the milk and sugar to the table. Ricky sits in the corner away from their feet.

“You said over the phone you wanted to ask us about that guy Robert who lives near us. What’s that all about?”

I take a sip of coffee, which isn’t half bad, and compliment the boys before I clue them in about the Baby Elizabeth case and how his neighbor might have some involvement. The brothers sit forward as they pay close attention to what I say. 

“Robert appears to be a rather secretive fellow,” I say at the end. “Lucky for us, he turns out to live near you two.”

LINK TO THE BOOK: Following the Lead’s release is only days away on Nov. 3. Here is the link to get yours on Amazon: https://mybook.to/followingthelead Paperback will follow soon.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: A fall view of my village of Shelburne Falls in Western Mass.

Standard
Following the Lead

And Now the Junkyard Dogs

No, they are not real dogs guarding a junkyard but the name of a band I made up for Following the Lead, the next in Isabel Long Mystery Series. As I write this series, I have a great deal of fun coming up with names for the local bands who play at the Rooster Bar and Grille. That happens on Fridays, the nights Isabel tends bar because as Jack, its owner and her love interest, knows a band tends to draw a big crowd of thirsty music lovers.

The musicians are all local guys who have no serious aspirations. And as the author, I have had a great deal of fun coming up with names for their bands. Here goes: Cowlicks, Lone Sums, Potholes, Slim Jims, Hunters and Gatherers, Back Door Men, Country Bumpkins, Plowboys, Truck Stoppers, and Wild Fire.

And now we have the Junkyard Dogs, but more about that band in a bit.

Some bands that Jack hires are regulars. A few are one and done if their playing doesn’t pan out. Other times a band dissolves, one time because one band member made off with another’s girlfriend and I believe there was a chainsaw accident for one player in another.

Because this is a bar stuck practically in the middle of nowhere in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, the playlist tends to be country, rock, maybe a little blues, but frankly, most country. And the emphasis is on danceable tunes. Covers are the rule.

So, count on hearing “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Rambling Man” and “Mustang Sally.” When a band plays “Brown-Eyed Girl” or something by Patsy Cline, Jack will shut down the bar and get Isabel onto the dance floor.

And now for the Junkyard Dogs. Well, the name make sense since it’s lead singer, Annette Waters owns a junkyard. Her son, on drums, works there, and the two guitarists have their own garage. The Junkyard Dogs make their debut at the Rooster. Here, I will let Isabel tell you about them. This is a scene from Following the Lead.

“Who’s playing tonight?”

“New band. Called the Junkyard Dogs,” he says with a chuckle. “You might recognize a couple of those dogs.”

But before I can quiz Jack further, he’s striding across the room and shouting at the guy with the keyboard. 

The Rooster has a band playing Friday nights, with the one exception being during the Titus Country Fair when Jack wisely figured nobody is going to pass that up to listen to music. The musicians are all local guys and gals with varying degrees of talent but an unbridled enthusiasm for playing that familiar mix of country, rock, and blues. I remember when the Plowboys attempted semi-successfully James Brown’s “Papa’s Gotta Brand New Bag.” It took a while for the dancers to catch on, but they finally did to my amusement. Anyway, Jack pays the bands what he can afford and throws in a couple of beers. One of my jobs is to keep tabs on how much more they drink, so he can deduct it from their pay. I believe one night a hard-drinking band barely got enough for gas money.

I’m on my toes and leaning forward to see what’s what or rather who’s who I will recognize coming inside. A couple of Rooster Regulars who just came through the front door are blocking my view. I raise my finger as I scoot around the bar’s corner.

“Be right back, fellas,” I say.

Jack leaves the building, and then a very recognizable person does come inside. A grinning Annette Waters carries a guitar case and gives me a wave with the hand that’s free. Now I get it. Annette owns a junkyard. Her son Abe is behind her with a drum. He’s got to be one of the Dogs, as are the two other guys who are hauling speakers. I wasn’t aware the Tough Cookie, my secret nickname for her, plays music although earlier this summer when my mother and I were at Rough Waters Garage and Junkyard to have my car serviced, we heard Annette belt out that Tammy Wynette number “Stand by Your Man” inside her garage. She had a great voice although Ma and I joked whether the Tough Cookie had a new guy or she would actually do what the song’s lyrics say. 

Annette, who has dressed for the occasion with a sequined halter top, tight jeans, and a black Stetson walks toward me.

“You one of the band’s groupies?” I joke.

Annette slaps my arm, a form of endearment from the Tough Cookie, and laughs.

“Nah, this is my band. I’m the lead singer.” She tips her head toward the other side of the room.

 “Abe plays the drums. Those other guys work at that garage in Rossville. Rick and Rob.

Brothers. Don’t think you know ’em.”

“No, I don’t. What kind of music do you play?”

She rolls her eyes as if I really need to ask, but she plays along.

“What kind do you think?”

“Jazz?”

She sticks out her tongue and makes a gagging noise.

“Try again.”

“The usual?”

She grins.

“You got that right.”

I glance back at the bar. A line of thirsty customers has formed. Duty calls.

“Hey, I gotta go.”

“Any requests?”

I smile.

“How about something from Patsy Cline.”

Annette winks.

“You got it. I know just the song.”

LINK: If you pre-ordered Following the Lead, you don’t have too long to wait for its release on Amazon. That’s Kindle. Paperback will follow. Here’s the link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

PHOTO ABOVE: A few CDs from our collection. Yes, I’m a big country fan. These are left over from pre-Spotify days.

Standard