The Sacred Dog

King of the Road

Country fans will recognize this vintage tune by Roger Miller. You have to go way back, say 1964, when Miller, who wrote it, sang about a “man of means by no means” who proclaims himself with humor and a bit of cynicism “King of the Road.” And if The Sacred Dog, my next book out, had a soundtrack, this song would be at the top of the list.

Certainly King of the Road is a favorite for one of the characters, Monk Stevens who plays it on the jukebox at The Sacred Dog — a bar situated in a hilltown that’s a gathering place for locals.

Monk likes to drop the coins in the slot (the story is set in 1984) and sing along typically after he’s had a few beers.

Truthfully, The Sacred Dog is a dark book about a bad feud between two men. One is Frank Hooker, the owner of The Sacred Dog. The other is Al Kitchen, a local with a rather feral upbringing. Frank blames Al for his brother’s death and won’t believe it’s not true. Of course, Al resents it. There’s a whole lot more to this story, but I will let you know about it in future posts. By the way, this book is not part of my Isabel Long Mystery Series although the setting is familiar — the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts.

While The Sacred Dog may be dark, I also wanted to portray the bar, its patrons, and owner realistically. Of course, there is humor, whether it’s the antics of the regulars or what comes out of their mouths. I believe this helps to heighten the book’s drama.

When I began this novel, I bought a CD of Best of Roger Miller — His Greatest Hits. Well that was 22 years ago. Now I could hear it on Spotify. But I listened to that song, plus the others like Chug-A-Lugand Do-Wacka-Do. But King of the Road did it for me. It described a carefree life the people at Frank’s bar only imagined.

There is also something serious to consider here. In 1964, the man singing the song was considered a “hobo,” a wandering person who picked up work, often menial, wherever it could be found. Today, those people are called homeless, who live that way for a variety of reasons. I doubt if many feel the same way as Miller’s King of the Road.

I wanted to quote lines from the song in my book, but there are copyright issues. So, I try to give readers a feeling for the song which plays more than a few times at The Dog, which is what the locals call Frank’s bar. Here, I found a video on YouTube that will give you an idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c7D0YsgnrE

And here is an excerpt from The Sacred Dog in which King of the Road is featured:

The jukebox played King of the Road by Roger Miller. Monk Stevens, who sat on one side of his Uncle Early, got going when he heard the finger-snapping, fiddle-strumming start. He mouthed the words he knew by heart, half-singing the lyrics along with Roger, but his voice got louder. Early tapped the beat with the bottom edge of his lighter and grinned at his nephew, Monk, who used his fingertips to mimic the sound. Frank enjoyed the show. It was an easy song to sing, and though none of them led as carefree a life as Roger Miller described in his lyrics, they fancied they understood its true grit.

“Hey, Monk. Sing next to the window, and I’ll help you out,” Early joked as he lifted his bottle.

Conversations stopped with each clap of thunder, and when they resumed, many talked about the storm and compared it to others they experienced. 

“I remember the time I was out in the middle of my cornfield when the storm hit,” one drinker said. “I thought for sure I was a gonna. I tried to make myself as low to the ground I could.”

“That must’ve taken some doin’,” his buddy said.

“Aw, shut up.”

Frank had a theory that every drunk in a bar was either an authority or a sad sack.

“Which one are you?” Frank once asked Early.

“I’d say a little of both,” Early replied. “Why don’t you get me another beer and a shot.” 

The lights went out, and Roger Miller’s voice from the jukebox slowed unnaturally. The racket from the pinball machines petered out. Frank, who had already put a large flashlight on the counter, snapped it on. There were a few wisecracks, but most people were quiet as Frank went into the backroom to collect candles and a kerosene lantern that had belonged to his dad.

“It’s okay. Calm down, girl,” he told the dog, who whimpered beneath the counter.

Frank arranged candle stubs on Budweiser bottles and raised the globe of the lantern to light its wick. 

“Those aren’t gonna last long if this storm keeps up,” Early said.

But Frank didn’t answer. He and everybody else in the place turned when a truck stopped in The Dog’s parking lot, and a man moved across its headlights toward the bar’s front door. Hippie Joe, his long hair plastered to his head and neck, stood drenched as lightning lit the space behind him.

“Accident,” he shouted. “Call it in. A car hit that large maple on the curve near Cole Road. Tree was down, and the driver didn’t see it. His car’s wedged under. Some people stopped to help him. He’s hurt, but I dunno how much. Big mess. Tree took a couple of poles with it.”

Frank, who was on the phone to the power company, relayed quickly what Joe said before he called the emergency dispatch. The volunteer firefighters in the bar drained their beers and were out the door before their beepers sounded. Frank handed the phone to Joe, who gave dispatch more information about the accident before he followed the others outside.

Early shook a finger.

“The tree warden wanted to take that maple ’cause it was leaning a little more each year,” he said. “The selectmen were ready. They even held one of those tree hearings, but old lady Smith who owns the property next to it raised a fuss. So they all agreed to let it be.” He looked about ready to spit. “And then this happens.”

Frank half-listened to Early. His mind was elsewhere, on his brother’s open casket, Wes, only in his twenties, lying there in the suit he wore to his high school graduation. Frank’s ex-wife was a month away from giving birth to their daughter, but even that joyous event didn’t help his parents recover from their younger son’s death. Their grief was like a dry wind that drew life from them, and though they were only middle-aged, they died within months of each other a few years later. 

He recalled how his brother’s buddies who came to the wake seemed scared, as if his death could be contagious. Wes was a little foolish, but he would have turned out okay, Frank was certain. He watched Al joke with one of the ballplayer’s girlfriends, a well-built blonde whose head rocked forward as she laughed. It should’ve been somebody else who died that night. It should’ve been Al.

LINK: The Sacred Dog will be released by darkstroke books on Dec. 27, but it’s ready for Kindle readers to pre-order. Please do as it helps a great deal with ratings. Thank you. Here I will make it easy with the link: https://mybook.to/thesacreddog

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Yes, that’s my CD of Best of Roger Miller — His Greatest Songs.  


Standard
Isabel Long Mystery Series

Now for Following the Lead

Today’s the day, Nov. 3, for Following the Lead — the next book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Readers who have been following Isabel for five cases can now join her for the sixth.

I decided to throw Isabel into a really challenging case this time. After all, it’s been almost a year since she started her first in Chasing the Case. That’s when she decided to find out what happened to a woman who disappeared 28 years ago. Both women lived in the same town and the disappearance was Isabel’s first big story as a rookie reporter. Since then she’s investigated the deaths of a junkyard owner, a poetry-writing highway worker, the owner of a small town newspaper, and the beloved grandson of a poor, distraught woman.  

But this case is different. It involves a baby who was abducted 50 years ago and never found. Lin Pierce, Isabel’s former boss, was just a boy when that happened as his mother was giving a music lesson in their home. He believes he might have met his sister. The woman did look a lot like his mother and shared a distinctive family feature — different colored eyes.

Now, Isabel isn’t going to let something like 50 years stop her from taking this case. Besides, she has her mother Maria, who is 93, to help her. 

Of course, I make sure Isabel encounters danger actually from two sources. But I will let you read about that. Does she find Lin’s sister? Mum’s the word.

When I wrote Chasing the Case, I didn’t anticipate I would create a series. But I got easily hooked by the mystery genre. And frankly, the positive feedback I’ve received has been so encouraging — so thank you readers. I love reading a good series. I like even better creating one. This is the second book in the series released this year. And, yes, I’ve begun the next. You’ll be hearing more about it in the future.

Also a series enables me to hold onto my characters, good and bad, who are very real to me. I used to be a big day dreamer. Now I put those skills to use writing.

In writing this series, I was mindful that I wanted each to stand on its own in case it was the first book a reader picked up. So, I don’t do much rehashing from the previous books although I do include hints and coded references. I try to develop each character and their description as if this was on the only book I wrote.

The same goes for those readers who have been following the series. I want these readers to feel like insiders.

I hope you will enjoy reading Following the Lead as much as I did writing it. 

LINK: Following the Lead is now available on Kindle. Soon it will be in paperback. Here’s the link to Amazon: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

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
Havana Mystery, Teresa Dovalpage

Enjoy a Cuban mystery: Death Under the Perseids


This is a pitch for readers who like a good mystery in an exotic setting. I am writing about Death Under the Perseids by Teresa Dovalpage — the third in her Havana Mystery Series. And for Kindle readers, it’s a deal at $2.99 for the month of June. 

I will get right to it. Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/3xjidj2 You can also get Death Under the Perseids in hard cover, paperback, and audiobook.

So what’s Death Under the Perseids about? Cuban-born Mercedes Spivey and her American husband win a five-day cruise to Cuba. Mercedes is a bit wary. Afterall, who wins a free trip like that? She goes along since this trip might be good for their marriage. But once aboard, Mercedes meets other people connected to a former boyfriend Lorenzo — and they coincidently won free cruises. Things heat up as one person disappears and another dies under mysterious circumstances. And then Mercedes has to search Havana to find her husband who has gone missing.

What I especially like about this Death Under the Perseids is that the writing and story capture the author’s energy. It’s a lively read with enough darkness to keep one guessing.

Now let me tell you about Teresa, or la Te as I call her. She writes with authenticity about Cuba because that’s where she was born and lived until she came to the U.S. as an adult. Now she lives in New Mexico, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College. She is also the author of nine novels and three collections of short stories. (And she is the one who inspired me to try writing mysteries. Gracias, la Te.)

We met when I lived in Taos and took the Spanish 101 course she taught at the local branch of the University of New Mexico. Then she started reporting on a freelance basis for The Taos News — I was the editor-in-chief then — for our Spanish page, plus writing features in English. 

We became friends. I enjoyed her energy, humor, and Cuban coffee. We even collaborated on a project — a bilingual series for kids. Now that we live more than 2,000 miles apart, we keep in touch via social media, email, and the occasional phone call. I can also reread her books since I own nearly all of them.

Standard
Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

Killing the Story: Ready for Pre-Order

Today’s a big day for this author. My latest novel, Killing the Story, number four in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, is available for pre-order for Kindle readers.

The official release date is Aug. 26. Yeah, yeah, that’s a ways off. But you can order the Kindle version of book now and forget about it until that day arrives when it will mysteriously appear in your device. Or if you can buy the hard copy, when it’s ready soon, and it will be making its way in the mail on that date.

The last several days have been busy for Laurence Patterson, of Darkstroke Books, and I. We worked hard to to find just the right image for the cover. It was important that the fourth match the other three in its theme, color and composition. There were other design parameters. But in the end I found the right image and then Laurence worked his magic.

What else? I came up with a new bio, dedication, acknowledgment, and the all-important blurb for the back cover. Here it is:

An accidental death that was no accident…

For the record, Estelle Crane, the gutsy editor of The Observer newspaper, died after a hard fall on ice. But years later, her son discovers a cryptic note hinting her death might not have been an accident after all.

Was Estelle pursuing a big story that put her life in danger?

That’s what Isabel Long — along with her 93-year-old mother, Maria, her ‘Watson’ — agrees to investigate in Dillard, a town whose best days are in the past.

A former journalist, Isabel follows leads and interviews sources, new and familiar. She quickly finds a formidable threat in Police Chief James Hawthorne, who makes it clear Isabel is not welcome in his town — and who warns her against poking her nose into Estelle’s death.

Of course, that’s after Isabel has discovered the chief’s questionable policing and a troubled history with Estelle that goes way back.

Killing the story means dropping it because there aren’t enough facts to back it up. But Isabel won’t make that mistake. She’ll see this one through to the very end.

Can she uncover the plot that led to Estelle’s murder?

Killing the Story is the fourth in the popular Isabel Long Mystery Series.

Of course there is more work to be done like edits. I am collecting endorsements from fellow authors. And I am planning on how to celebrate and promote release day. For something new, I may do a Google Hangout or a Zoom session. Would you be interested in participating?

So here’s the link to place your pre-order: Killing the Story on Amazon

And thank you if you do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard