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Building Character, On Writing

Meet Beth Haldane of the London Murder Mysteries

Alice Castle is the latest author to appear in this series I call Building Character. The author of the London Murder Mysteries series, Alice chose to write about her protagonist, Beth Haldane, who she calls a Marmite character. That means you either love her or loathe her.

But as Alice puts it, “Beth cares about the right things. She loves her son, she hates injustice.” I would say those are commendable traits.

Here I will let Alice do the talking.

Who is your character?

My favourite character in my London Murder Mysteries series has to be my protagonist, Beth Haldane. She’s a bit of a Marmite character, as we say in the UK – you either love her or loathe her, 17362662_1817860305204464_694387859854246869_nalthough luckily for me even the people who’ve told me she drives them nuts have carried on reading the books. I think she has enough redeeming features to atone for the fact that she’s a terrible prevaricator. She’s so bad she’ll even put off prevaricating until tomorrow.

What does she look like?

Beth has a long fringe which, as one of my reviewers pointed out, is now almost a separate character in the stories. The rest of her hair is brown and also pretty wilful. She wears it in a pony tail which she has to adjust a lot. She is also very short. The fact that she often can’t quite reach things or see over the heads of other people makes her try a lot harder in many ways and is one of the clues to her determined character.

What is your character’s back story?

Beth is part of Dulwich, as she has lived there all her life, but she has always felt like an underdog, due to her height, her appearance and her family circumstances. This enables her to see the absurdities of the place (and there are plenty) more clearly.

What is your character’s role in your novel?

Beth drives the action – she is forced by circumstances to become an amateur sleuth, then astonishes everyone, including herself, by being rather good at it.

Why should readers care about this character?

Beth cares about the right things. She loves her son, she hates injustice. She doesn’t like the idea of people getting away with bad things. In a city like London, where crime often goes unsolved and people can die unmourned, Beth is determined to get the bottom of the mysteries that she stumbles into.

Give a brief excerpt featuring your character.

Beth Haldane’s small hand tucked itself into DI Harry York’s big, comforting paw. The warmth and firmness of his grip did a lot to distract from the horrible scene in front of her.

‘Can you see the head anywhere?’ she said through half-closed lids.

There was a pause.

‘Nope,’ York confirmed. ‘Looks like it’s been… eaten.’

‘That might explain the crunching sound I heard earlier,’ said Beth faintly.

As crime scenes went, it wasn’t actually the worst she’d ever attended. But the fact that it was in her own kitchen did make things very nasty. And seeing the perpetrator, sitting only a yard away from the grisly remains, was altogether too much.

‘Magpie, you’re a bad, bad cat,’ said Beth crossly. Magpie, looking up from washing her paws after a delicious extra breakfast, gave Beth a mildly affronted glance before continuing her ablutions. Feathers really did stick in the teeth.

(From Revenge on the Rye, published December 2018)

A synopsis of Revenge on the Rye:

Beth Haldane, SE21’s answer to Miss Marple, thinks she is going for a carefree stroll on Peckham Rye with her best friend, Katie, and her annoying new puppy, Teddy. But before Beth knows it, she is embroiled in her most perplexing mystery yet.

Strange events from her family’s past, present-day skulduggery in the art world, and the pressures of moving school in south London threaten to overwhelm Beth. Will she be able to piece together the puzzle before her son’s crucial interview at Wyatt’s? Or will Beth’s insatiable curiosity finally drag down all her dreams for the future?

Join Beth, her irascible on-off boyfriend, Detective Inspector Harry York of the Metropolitan Police, and the dog walkers of Peckham Rye in a tale of murder, mayhem – and bloody revenge.

About Alice Castle

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim and also hit the number one spot. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, was published in August 2018, with Homicide in Herne Hill following in October 2018. Revenge on the Rye came out in December 2018. Alice is currently working on the sixth London Murder Mystery adventure, The Body in Belair Park. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

She is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicecastleauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en

Links to buy books: http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery

http://www.myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich,

http://myBook.to/CiC

http://myBook.to/homicideinhernehill

http://myBook.to/revengeontherye

Death in Dulwich is now also out as an audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B07N1VNMLT/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-140657&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_140657_rh_us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chasing the Case, Readers

Viewed and Reviewed: Thank You Very Much

My parents taught me good manners. Say please when you want something and thank you when you get it. It’s pretty simple, really.

I’ve been saying please read my new book, Chasing the Case. Now I say thank you for those who have, and especially those who took the time to leave a review on Amazon.

Why are reviews important? As I’ve said many times, there is writing and then there is the business of writing. Books that get a certain amount of Chasing the Case cover copyreviews get love from Amazon. From what I’ve been told by fellow authors, 30 is an important number.

Chasing the Case doesn’t have 30 reviews. It has 14, and for those I am grateful. A couple are hefty. Most are short. The majority gave the mystery five stars. I am thankful for each one.

Here’s a sampling. (I will omit the names. You can find them on Amazon.)

“Love it.”

“Just finished Chasing the Case by Joan Livingston. This talented storyteller has woven an intricate tale of love, betrayal, and family loyalty. The perfect read to begin the summer!

“This book is an auspicious start to a promised series all featuring the same detective. The book is set in Western Massachusetts and, after reading it, it seems that I lived there for a chunk of my life. The characters are nicely drawn and developed and the plot is suitably complicated. All in all, this was a fun read! Indeed, Ms. Livingston has create a cadre of fascinating characters and has set herself up nicely for the future books that I am now eagerly anticipating.”

There are the international reviews, thanks to my connection with my publisher Crooked Cat Books. Amazon has UK and AU branches, where people from the United Kingdom and Australia buy anything — and can leave reviews.

I’m chuffed, as my friends in the UK would say, that my mystery set in the rural U.S. resonates with people in other parts of the world.

Here are fans from the UK site.

“I heard great things about the first title in Joan Livingston’s Mystery series… and book 1 has certainly lived up to the hype, and some. Sassy female characters who break every stereotype, a rugged array of male suspects, and a fabulously quirky style of writing, kept me up late 2 nights in a row and turning the pages. I can’t wait for the next installment!”

“I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well drawn and very engaging, the murder mystery well plotted. I loved the setting too — a small town where everybody knows everybody else’s business. I particularly enjoyed the way Isobel, the main character, develops as the story unfolds. I love coming across a new-to-me author and discovering that the book I’m reading is the first in a series. (In this case, The Isobel Long Myseries) I can’t wait for the second in the series, Redneck’s Revenge, which I have already pre-ordered.”

Here is one from Australia:

“It’s always a good sign when I finish a book less than 24 hours after starting it! I literally couldn’t put this book down (apologies to my family). Everything about this story was unique and refreshing – the writing style, the setting, the storyline and my favourite part … the characters. I was in awe of the stereotype-busting silver-haired widow and her 92 year old mother, who were the lead sleuths solving this case. We need more books like this! Which is lucky for me (and you!) because I believe there is a second book coming out soon.”

And not to seem ungrateful, I do get a kick out of meeting people who tell me in person they read and enjoyed Chasing the Case. How much fun is that?

So here is my pitch. If you read Chasing the Case, again thank you very much. If you are so inspired, please leave a review on Amazon. I’d like to hit that number 30. You didn’t have to buy the book on Amazon, and yes, it can be very short and done with a pseudonym.

UPDATE: So what am I working on now? I am heavy into the final edits of my novel, Redneck’s Revenge, which is the next in the Isabel Long mystery series. The book will officially launch Sept. 26. The Kindle versionRednecks Revenge small is available to pre-order now: http://mybook.to/rednecksrevenge. Paperbacks will be out in August.

Of course, Chasing the Case is available in both forms now: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

And in the midst of all this and moving into the home we renovated, I’ve been writing the third book in the series: Checking the Traps. To use baseball terminology, I am rounding third on that one.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s part of my office in the home we renovated. Yeah, I will be getting a more comfy chair sometime in the future.

 

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Chasing the Case, New release

I Killed Off the Husband

Of course, the husband in this case belongs to Isabel Long, the protagonist in my new mystery, Chasing the Case. My own is alive and well, thank you.

But when I wrote this book, I made Isabel a widow. Her husband, Sam, had died of natural causes and not by anybody’s hand. Oh, why not?

Chasing the Case is written in the first person, so I will admit there is more than a little of me in Isabel. We’re both nosy smart asses. She and I live in a small, Chasing the Case cover copyrural town. I was a longtime journalist, and so was she. But she is an amateur P.I. and I’m not. I just get to write about one.

For those who might be wondering, I didn’t start this book thinking I would have a widow as my main character. Like so many other things, it just happened.

Isabel was happily married to Sam, a skilled woodworker who was kinda deaf from power tools. He was a nice guy and a good dancer.

For those who know me, Sam sounds a little bit like Hank, my real-life spouse. Well, as I’ve said before, you take what you know and have your way with it. Most of my adult fiction has a character who is a carpenter. I joke that in this one, I bumped him off. Hank didn’t mind.

Anyway, Isabel loved and grieved for Sam when he died — it was actually the start of her bad year. (The end to her long-time career as a journalist was also a part of that year.)

She chose to mourn him properly before deciding “to do something foolish,” as she says.

And that’s where the book starts. Besides giving a go at being a private investigator, Isabel gets interested in a man. I’m not going to spoil the story by telling you who, but I like the guy. I bet you will, too.

I also believe you will find the inscription Isabel chose to put on Sam’s gravestone amusing. But that’s too far into the book. I offer instead an excerpt about Sam from the first chapter. Here, Isabel is digging a grave in the back yard for a pet cat that loved Sam. It’s late October, but the town is getting hit with an unexpected early snow.

I dip the shovel into the hole and eyeball the depth. I figure I have at least a foot to go. I’ve reached a rocky patch, but if I need to, I’ll get the crowbar from the shed. That’s the way Sam would do it, so I follow his advice. The crowbar is hanging where he left it.

Sam was a master woodworker although he was too humble to say that about himself. Anyone who hired him to build a staircase or do finish work in their house always got more than their money’s worth. He did the same when he built this house.

His workshop was in the basement. I could hear him banging around down there, building something beautiful. I haven’t had the heart to do anything with his tools. Sometimes I take my coffee down there, especially the first months after he was gone, just like I used to when he was alive. I’d bring him a cup. He’d light up a cigarette, the only place in the house he smoked, and tell me what he was doing.

Yes, I miss him like hell.

We met in Boston, got married pretty fast, and started having kids. We moved to Conwell with the first, Matthew, because we wanted to raise him in the country, and then had two more close together. After taking a break to be with the kids when they were little, I started writing for the Daily Star as a correspondent, covering my town and the ones around it. I got paid, first by the inch, and then by the story. I used to be a reporter in Boston, not the Globe or Herald but something a lot smaller and now nonexistent – a victim of the big crash in 2008 and the rise of online news. At the Star, I went from correspondent to staff reporter to editor, and as I joke, clawed my way to the top, where I liked it until the paper got sold.

Sam and I made a good life here for our kids and us. He was a trustworthy guy, a little deaf from the power equipment and used to keeping things inside. But he was kind, hardworking, and a great dancer.

Yup, it still hurts.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Like what you read? Chasing the Case is available from Amazon. Here’s the link: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase 

You can pre-order the Kindle version, which has an official launch of May 18, or buy a paperback now. Thanks for your support.

By the way, if you’re on Facebook, join me for an online launch party that day, 2 p.m. Eastern Time Zone for online discussion and contests.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: That’s an alleyway that leads to the Shelburne Falls Candlepin Bowling Alley in Western Massachusetts.

 

 

 

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