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Isabel Long Mystery Series, Working the Beat

No. 5 Is Finished — Sort Of

Today, I reached the end of Working the Beat, no. 5 in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, which weighs in at 74,940 words. Well, I’m sort of at the end. I have printed all 279 pages and will go through them with my trusty red flare before I listen to them on my computer.

And then I will happily submit Working the Beat to my publisher, darkstroke books.

Yesterday, a son asked if this was only a first draft. My answer: I don’t work that way. I will stop at certain points in a novel’s process, basically when I feel I am ready, print out what I’ve written so far and go at it. I feel by time I’ve reached “the end” that it’s in solid shape. Of course, my editor will find things I need to fix as well.

I will admit it hasn’t been easy finding the time to write — and promote — given the increased demands of my job as editor-in-chief of three newspapers. But when I could, I found a great deal of satisfaction being with the characters and setting I created as I let Isabel Long try to solve yet another mystery.

So, what is this one about? A man’s body is found after a demotion derby at a country fair. The official story is that he was drunk and fell down a rocky ravine. His scrappy grandmother doesn’t believe it, so she hires Isabel to get to the truth. Once again Isabel encounters family secrets, unsolved crimes and the unusual suspects.

Just to get you started, here’s the opening scene to the book’s first chapter “Dead at the Rooster.” For those new to the series, Isabel and Jack, who owns the Rooster Bar and Grill, are an item, as they say. She tends bar part-time for Jack as well as being a P.I. solving cold cases in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts.

It’s a dead night at the Rooster, deader than I’ve ever seen it. There’s no band even though it’s a Friday night, but Jack was smart not to book one. A few drinkers have bellied up to the bar, but nobody lingers long. Neither did those who come for dinner. Jack’s customers have somewhere else more important to go: the Titus Country Fair in the next town over. It was the same yesterday for truck pull night. That’s when drivers, mostly guys, try to get their stripped-down and souped-up car or pickup to pull as much weight as possible over a line, and everybody in the crowd watches to see if they make or break it. Tonight, horses are pulling, a draw for the traditionalists. And tomorrow, Saturday, is demolition derby night. Jack’s not even going to bother opening his bar. Besides, he wants to go like his pals. And he wants me with him. That’s what I get for hooking up with a local boy. 

Right now, Jack and I are sitting at the bar, playing poker and listening to tunes on the jukebox to pass the time until much later when people will likely show up when the fair shuts down. No booze is allowed at the Titus Country Fair, for good reasons, so people will be mighty thirsty unless they managed to sneak in something.  

“Ready for our hot date tomorrow night, Isabel?” Jack asks. 

“Are you saying watching cars smash into each other until only one of them is left is your idea of a hot date?” 

He grins as he throws down his cards. Crap, he’s beat me again. 

“Uh-huh. What’s your idea?” He chuckles. “By the way, you’re one lousy poker player. If we was playin’ strip poker, you would’ve been naked a few hands ago.”

“Me naked at your bar?” 

Jack grins.

“Not a bad idea.”

“Sure, boss.”

Okay, that’s enough. It’s back to work for me. In the meantime, if you want to check out my other books on Amazon, here’s the link: Joan Livingston Books

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Isabel Long Mystery Series

The Suspense Is Killing Me

No, not really, but I wanted to get your attention. Besides, it’s an appropriate sentence given I’m closing in on the ending to the next book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. This one, number five, is called Working the Beat. I believe I’m on track to have it wrapped up by the end of the month and shipped off to my publisher.

As I’ve written before, I solve my mysteries along with my protagonist Isabel Long, a long-time journalist who uses the skills she learned in that prematurely shortened career to solve cold cases in the very rural area where she lives in Western Massachusetts. Yes, you have guessed correctly I am not one of those authors who plots ahead of time. I let my imagination loose on the characters I create, several from past books plus new ones, the setting and the story line. Without sounding like a total nut, I channel Isabel as she tries to solve a case.

I’ve read and watched enough mysteries that I am disappointed when I figure out whodunnit way before the P.I., cop or whoever does. Throw me some curveballs please. But likewise I don’t want too many long leads that turn out to be obvious dead ends.

So, what’s Isabel up to this time? It’s the end of summer and the Titus Country Fair is being held. That’s where and when Isabel is approached by this crusty old gal, Shirley Dawes, who wants her to investigate the death of her grandson at the fair four years earlier. It happened during demolition derby night although his body was found the next morning. The case brings Isabel — and her mother, who is her sidekick — in contact with a new set of characters after she agrees to take it on. I’ll be sharing more on that soon.

But back to that crucial scene. It involves the people of interest in this case at a place and setting that pulls them all together — a birthday party at Baxter’s Bar. Isabel just showed up. Jack’s with her. What kind of trouble can she get herself into there?

I can’t wait to find out.

MY BOOKS: In the meantime, if you haven’t read them already see the links below to the series on Amazon. If you have, thank you very much,

http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

http://mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

https://mybook.to/checkingthetraps

https://mybook.to/killingthestory

PHOTO ABOVE: I was chuffed, as my UK friends would say, to see the Portuguese flags strung above the main drag in Provincetown on a recent trip. Isabel would like that too.

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Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Isabel Long Series

Moving Over to the Dark Side

I am happy to announce that my Isabel Long Mystery Series is now in the hands of Darkstroke Books. Darkstroke is an imprint of Crooked Cat Books, which is the series’ original publisher.

While Crooked Cat published mystery, romance and other genres, Darkstroke, as its name implies, focuses on the darker things in life: crime fiction, mysteries, thrillers and dystopian, sci-fi and horror.

Yes, welcome to the dark side.chasing the case full size

I am grateful to Laurence and Stephanie Patterson for taking on the first Isabel Long book — Chasing the Case — and for sticking with the series. I can’t tell you how many publishing houses and agents I approached, sometimes getting a nice rejection, most of the times just a cold shoulder. I still laugh about the publishing house that rejected my first book, Chasing the Case, in part because I broke a supposed rule by killing off a pet. Actually, Isabel Long, my protagonist, was digging a grave for her cat.

Thank you, Laurence and Steph.

I knew when I signed on in late 2017 that Crooked Cat Books, which is based in France, was going to end in four years. The Pattersons were upfront about it. But I decided I would see where this would lead. And so I wrote two more books — Rednecks Revenge full sizeRedneck’s Revenge and Checking the Traps — that Crooked Cats published.

Three is a good number for a series. But, frankly, I can’t let go of Isabel and the rest of my characters. I love them too much, even the bad guys. And not to sound like a complete nut, they are very real to me.

And so I am working on the fourth, Killing the Story — yes, another journalistic term. As I’ve posted before, this one’s taking a bit longer because of my full-time job as editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper. But I’m more than two-thirds of the way done. Most weekdays I am up at 5:30 a.m. to write before I head to the newsroom. I have more time on the weekends.

For the past several months, I’ve been wondering what will happen to this series. Would another publisher be interested in picking up my new book when the rest of the series is under contract? Would it be willing to buy out my contract? Should I self-publish again? Ah, the business of writing.

And then Laurence emailed me an invitation last week asking if I wanted to join Darkstroke. When I thought it over that night, it made sense to move the series there. I can concentrate on the books I Checking the Traps full sizewant to write and promote them . Yes, I have ideas for two more books after I finish Killing the Story.

Plus, I admire the other authors from Crooked Cat Books who have moved over to Darkstroke. One of the pluses of being part of an international house is getting to know authors on the other side of the pond. I suggest you check out their books. Find them on darkstroke.com.

If you haven’t read my books, head to Amazon for a copy either in paperback or kindle. I have a few others that I self-published there. Here’s the link: Joan Livingston on Amazon

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the harbor in Mattapoisett, Mass. in December.

 

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Author Interview, Business of writing, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Getting the Word Out

First, if you’re a writer, you have to get the words down. Then, you gotta get the word out. Well, that’s the case when you are an indie author competing with other indie authors, and then there are those who have a lot of muscle behind them via a big shot publisher.

Ah, as I’ve said many times before — there’s writing and then there’s the business of writing.

I much prefer the first.

But then an author gets unexpected help. That’s what happened recently when Carrie Healy of New England Public Radio contacted me to be a part of a summer series that featured author on Friday mornings. She requested a copy of my latest book, which in this case is Checking the Traps, third in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Then after reading the novel, she arranged for a recorded interview, which conveniently took place in an empty office at the Greenfield Recorder. (My day job is editor-in-chief.) She had a list of good questions. I hoped I came up with good answers. I read aloud a bit from the book’s start. (Carrie took the photo of me above.)

I found out Aug. 1 when Carrie sent me a link. She nicely took out the stumbles and the ums. I thought it came out well. I suppose others did too since I had a jump in sales, especially for the first in the series: Chasing the Case. And people were kind to mention they heard me on the radio.

Here have a listen. Here’s the link: http://www.tinyurl.com/yyjsr7fo

Four days later, I gave a reading at a bar in Northampton. It was the monthly event for Straw Dog Writers Guild at the Basement. First a duo played and 10 people in the audience each got five minutes to read from a work in progress, poetry and prose. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety, how 3cef0c4a-159e-4416-a3ba-49dcfb34e7ebpeople use our language to come up with stories and different ways to tell them.

Then, I had my chance to speak as the featured writer. I did less reading from Checking the Traps and more talking about my adventure with writing, how I started as a poet long ago, had a 25 years writers block, and finally found my creative outlet. Yeah, I talked about writing and the business of writing. And, smile, people bought books.

A few days later I noticed on Amazon a bump in sales for the next two books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. (Redneck’s Revenge is number two.)  I am guessing those who bought the first liked it enough to read the rest. Well, readers, thank you very much.

Here is the link if you want to check out my books on Amazon:

http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

 http://mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

https://mybook.to/checkingthetraps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Isabel Long Mystery Series

Writing a Mystery Series

Writing a series means that I can hold onto the characters I love but let them do something else. Certainly, that’s the case for Isabel Long, the protagonist, and for many others in my mystery series.

So far, the Isabel Long Mystery Series has three books: Chasing the Case, Redneck’s Revenge, and Checking the Traps, all published by Crooked Cat Books. I am making my way through the fourth, called Killing the Story.

For those just tuning in, Isabel was a longtime journalist who uses her transferable skills in her new life as a private investigator in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Each book features a cold case she decides to solve. So far, a family member has approached Isabel to find out what happened to a loved one.

I carry some of the characters from one book to the other. In the second book, two bad boy drug-dealing brothers, Gary and Larry Beaumont, terrorized Isabel although they did eventually make amends. Certainly, all is forgiven in Checking the Traps because Gary hires Isabel to find out how his half-brother — a poetry-writing guy on a local highway crew — died. Was it a suicide, as the cops say, or murder?

Now, that that case is over, the Beaumont brothers are not key characters but their path — the brothers are joined at the hip —  do cross with Isabel’s, and they will have a key role because of a favor that was promised. Hey, I’m not telling.

Among the other characters I kept are: Jack, the owner of the Rooster Bar and Isabel’s love interest; her 93-year-old mother, Maria, who’s her Watson; the Old Farts, a group of gossipy men stationed in the general store’s backroom; and Annette and Marsha, two cousins who I will say are country tough. Then, there’s Jack’s nuisance ex-wife — they were married for a minute. I also expect a brief meetup with the Big Shot Poet and Cherie, the victim’s widow from the third book.

But Killing the Story has a new people including Emerson Crane, the owner of a tiny weekly newspaper who hires Isabel to investigate his mother’s death years back. At the time, everybody, including Emerson, thought she slipped on ice and died when she hit her head. But then while cleaning the newsroom, he discovers a suitcase filled with papers that indicates his mother was working on something big. Maybe it wasn’t an accident after all.

This case takes Isabel to a new town, Dillard, and a new set of suspects and sources. Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun.

BOOKS: Interested in reading the series and my other books? I thank you in advance. Here’s the link on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

 

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