four books
Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story, Launch party

Party on for Killing the Story

For the Aug. 26 official release of my next mystery, Killing the Story, I am depending on the experts to get the word out to potential readers. Their social media reach is far greater than I could ever achieve. But I would be remiss in not doing a little something on my own to celebrate, namely a Facebook party that day.

I did FB events for the first two books in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, and enjoyed them a great deal, posing questions and contests. For the third, I had started a full-time job as a newspaper’s editor-in-chief, and couldn’t spare the time. I still have that position, but for this book’s launch, I’m taking the day off.

I’ve decided to keep it live 90 minutes: noon to 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

That means people on the East Coast of the U.S. can tune in during lunch. Those on the West, it might be brunch. It will be dinner time perhaps for my friends across the pond. (The active party will take place during those 90 minutes, but I will leave the posts intact for 24 hours for those who might want to drift in later.)

All you have to do is go to my Facebook Author Page — @JoanLivingstonAuthor — and check off “going.”

What can people expect at this event? I like having fun contests related to the novel I’m promoting.

Killing the Story takes place in the rural hilltowns of New England, to be specific in Western Massachusetts where I live.

Isabel Long’s fourth case involves proving a small town newspaper editor’s death wasn’t an accident after all. Perhaps she was onto a story that put herself in danger. Of course, Isabel faces her own threats, including a police chief who makes it clear she isn’t welcome in his town. But then again, he and the victim have a dark history. Could there be a connection? Isabel is about to find out.

I am working on the contest questions, but this time the prizes are a bit unique. Winners will have the chance to name a demotion derby vehicle and/or a driver that will be used in book No. 5. The cold case for that one? A body was discovered after the crowd watching a demolition derby at a small country fair was cleared. (I was inspired by something my friend Victor said.) And in the fifth book, Isabel goes with Jack, owner of the Rooster bar and her guy, to one at the Titus Country Fair.

But back to Killing the Story. While I have you here, let me share an excerpt from Killing the Story. Isabel meets Emerson Crane, who wants her to find out how his mother died. Supposedly it was a fall on ice as she walked home from the newsroom. But a cryptic note he finds eight years later indicates she might have been in trouble. So, Isabel and her 93-year-old mother, Marie, who is her sidekick in these cases, go to The Observer’s newsroom in Dillard to meet Emerson and learn more about the potential case. And Isabel, a former journalist, feels right at home.

The town of Dillard is larger than the town of Conwell, where I live, which has one store, one church, one school, one stoplight, and, of course, one bar. Dillard has a small downtown, a one-street block that dead ends, with storefronts, although not all are filled, a diner, and, of course, a bar. On the other end, across the main road are railroad tracks. I understand Dillard was a happening place when the railroad that runs through town actually stopped here for passengers and goods, for wood that was logged and sawn here, plus grain. But those days are long gone. And the rail is a freight line that doesn’t stop. I had to cross the tracks on my way here, so I could joke that Dillard is on the other side of, oh, you know what I’m gonna say. For those unfamiliar with the layout of this part of the world, Dillard is two towns east from Caulfield, which is a few towns northwest from Conwell. Got that?

 The Observer’s newsroom is located in a storefront that appears to have apartments above and with plenty of open parking spaces on the street. A wooden sign hanging over the front door says: The Observer — Get Your Local News Here.

 “It looks as if it’s been a while since anybody washed those windows,” Ma says.

“Or painted the outside.” I glance up. “Or done much of anything to this building.”

A bell above the door signals our arrival. My immediate impression? This place would go up in flames if somebody threw a lit match. Really, it wouldn’t take much. Bundles of newspapers are stacked everywhere. Notebooks and loose paper are piled on the desks along with computers that are seriously way overdue for an upgrade. A woman tends to a customer at the long counter.

“Be with you in a minute,” she tells Ma and me. 

But before I can explain why we are here Emerson Crane gets up from a desk and walks toward us.

“It’s okay, Martha. They’re here to see me,” he says. “I won’t be taking any calls for a while.”

We three exchange greetings, and then my mother and I follow Emerson between the desks and chairs toward the rear of the newsroom. I have a flashback to my former newsroom even though this is a much smaller and messier version than the one at the Daily Star. I get the feeling the people working here have to do several jobs, like deliver the paper or mop the floors. I never had to do anything like that although for many years, my life revolved around heavy workloads and constant deadlines.

My attention is drawn toward the framed portrait of a middle-aged woman high on one wall. Her chin is up. Her eyes are partially closed. Her lips curl in a wry smile. A sign below the photo says: Tell the whole damn world. Estelle Crane.

I gesture.

“Great quote,” I say.

“It was one of her favorites,” Emerson says. “We may be a small community paper, but in her day, Mom was rather fearless.”

My mother gives me a knowing smile. I can read her mind. Isabel, you may have found a kindred spirit. Too bad this woman’s dead although perhaps being fearless is why she is.

Inside a walled-off section of the newsroom, Emerson slides piles of newspaper across the long wooden table. He sits on one side. Ma and I are on the other. She places her purse on the tabletop. I pull out my phone. 

“Do you mind if I record this?”

“Go right ahead.”

“Let’s start with a little background about your mother if that’s all right with you. Unfortunately, Dillard wasn’t in the Star’s coverage area, so I’m unfamiliar with her story. And it would help us decide whether we want to take this case. Does that work for you?”

Emerson nods and sits back. From what I hear next, Estelle Crane spent her whole life, which amounted to fifty-nine years, in Dillard, except when she went away to college in Boston. She was born a Templeton, then became a Crane when she married Emerson’s father, Hamilton Crane. Ham, as he preferred to be called, worked at The Observer, picking up the papers at the printer and then delivering them to the stores in the area. He was also the newsroom’s custodian. The good parts of the marriage didn’t last long. Neither did the husband. He was two times over the limit when he crashed his car two years before Estelle’s death, so if my math is correct, that was eleven years ago.

“Mom didn’t spare him in The Observer’s news story.” Emerson’s head shakes side to side. “She reported the details of the police report, including the alcohol content of my father’s blood, and that they had separated but never actually divorced. She even ran the story on the bottom of the front page. I was at first unhappy about it. I was in my mid-twenties when he died. I loved my father. He was a good man with faults, and like a lot of our readers, I didn’t want him exposed in the paper. But Mom told me, ‘We treat everybody the same. If I ever do something wrong, ever break the law, I’d expect you to do the same. Make sure you put it right on the front page.’ Her code of journalist ethics couldn’t be broken even when it was that personal.”

Estelle wanted to be a college professor. History was her thing. But she still worked for the paper and her father, Charles Templeton, when she came home summers and on school vacations. Charles Templeton died long before Emerson was born. He had a heart attack while shoveling spring snow, one of those widow-maker storms. His wife had died years before.

“My mother and her sister had to make a decision about the paper. Aunt Alice was already running the business end. If they wanted to keep the paper in the family, my mother would have to drop out of grad school and take care of the news side. So, that’s what she did.”

“Why didn’t they sell the paper?”

“I believe they tried, but they had no takers. After a while, the sisters got so into running the paper, they gave up on that idea.” He pauses. “Excuse my manners, but could I get you both some water?”

I glance at my mother.

“We’re fine. Right, Ma?”

“Yes, I am,” she says. “Your mother sounds like an interesting person.”

Emerson smiles.

“That she was.”

WANT TO ORDER YOU COPY? Here’s the link: mybook.to/KillingTheStory

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The four books thus far in my Isabel Long Mystery Series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
Chasing the Case launch party (dragged)
Chasing the Case, Isabel Long Series

Virtual Party, Real Fun

It was my first rodeo, as they say, for a Facebook launch party last Friday for my new mystery Chasing the Case. I had already done a physical reading, but this online event would be a way to reach people who live around the globe and obviously couldn’t attend in person. Yes, a lot is possible on the Web.

I will admit this was new to me, so I was lucky enough to have the camaraderie of my fellow authors at Crooked Cat Books. I popped into their Facebook launches. They were free with their advice such as writing posts and gathering graphics ahead of time, so they can be inserted easily.

I planned my prizes: appearances in a third Isabel Long book plus signed editions of my earlier books. I created a welcome video.

Just have fun, my author friends said. Hmm.

The hardest part was choosing a time given friends live in Europe, the Mideast, Australia, and of course the U.S. So I settled on 2 p.m. Eastern Time Zone. I planned to keep the discussion up for 24 hours, so people could join in when it was convenient.

The fun actually began before 2 p.m. with authors posting celebratory good wishes. Thank you.

Then 2 p.m. came. First the video and then a contest question. Here it is: “I always have a bar in all of my adult fiction. Chasing the Case has the Rooster. In my novel, The Sweet Spot, it’s the Do-Si-Do. It’s your turn to create a name for a bar. I will use your name as a character in my next Isabel Long mystery. Fair warning: the character could be a suspect.”

I was a little worried because it started slowly. But my son, Zack, weighed in and then my longtime friend, Fred. Then things started rolling.

In all I had six contests, all connected to Chasing the Case.

I was surprised who came to the party — a delightful mix of family (my husband’s cousins who are now my cousins had a strong showing), authors, high school and college friends. Oh, the list goes on.

I returned in the evening to find my author friends from Australia weighing in. I was glad to go back and forth with them.

The contest winners have been notified. To tell you the truth, it was hard. There were some clever people on Facebook that day.

I believe the launch went well. Others said the same. A few who were also rookies to these sort of events said they look forward to the next one. Yes, there will be another Sept. 26 for the next in this series, Redneck’s Revenge. I will let you all know. I hope you can make it.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A portion of the conversation at my Facebook launch party.

GET YOUR OWN COPY: Here’s the link to get your copy of Chasing the Case: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

 

Standard
Joan cover 2 copy
The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot Is Here

As of today, my new novel The Sweet Spot is available in paperback and Kindle. I hope you will read the first of my hilltown novels set in Western Massachusetts. Of course, that means I hope you will buy my novel in whatever format you prefer. Thank you if you do.

To get the business out of the way, here is the link to my author page on Amazon where you can find my novel: The Sweet Spot on Amazon

Just like Edie St. Claire offers her new neighbor, Harlan Doyle, I toast the novel’s launch with a glass of well water that I’ve let run until it’s as cold as it is deep in the ground. Well, it is morning. Maybe later I’ll have a beer straight from the bottle.

To set the mood, I choose Country and Western music, preferably pre-eight track with the likes of Patsy Cline and Hank Williams.

For those new to my novel, here is a brief synopsis. It is set in 1978 by the way. Most in Conwell love Edie St. Claire, the widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam, until her affair with his married brother ends badly. She tries to survive this small town’s biggest scandal through the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start.

It’s been a bit of a process bringing The Sweet Spot to readers. I wrote the first draft in 2004 while I was recuperating from being hit by a car. I was a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The guy claimed he didn’t see me. It took me less than two months to finish the draft. I was living in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where the novel takes place.

My then-agent wanted me to start the book in the middle, which I did, but he couldn’t sell it after all. The Sweet Spot remained unpublished for years. Once in a while I would give it a read until finally I decided to return to its original and rightful plot.

Eventually, after I had moved to Northern New Mexico, I showed The Sweet Spot to my second agent, who gave me some solid advice about upping the dialogue, which is one of my strengths. There were other changes. The novel got better. Alas, he didn’t sell it either.

So here I am doing it on my own, except for Michelle Guiterrez, the novel’s skilled designer. She came up with the cover and font after she read the novel. I believe it’s a classy-looking book. Thanks, Michelle.

I have also had the encouragement of writer friends like Teresa Dovalpage and Fred Fullerton.

Doing it on your own is tough. I should have kept track of how many times I read The Sweet Spot — forwards, out loud, and even backwards a few times. But it makes me feel good that I still enjoy reading the book. I love its characters, even its so-called bad guy. Edie. Walker. Gil. Harlan. Benny. Leona. Amber. The whole damn town of Conwell. They all came from my imagination but they are very real to me. I hope you feel the same. And if you do, I’d love a review.

The Sweet Spot on Kindle

The Sweet Spot in Paperback

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Hank shot that photo of me holding The Sweet Spot in our front yard. Yeah, I’m really that happy about it.

Standard