Specifically, I mean Missing the Deadline, the next Isabel Long Mystery, number seven in the series. I began this book late last fall and kept at it despite distractions such as working with my editor on The Sacred Dog, holidays, family visits, and personal stuff. You know real life.
My head these days has been filled with what-ifs as I come to the story’s conclusion.
What is Missing the Deadline about? Cyrus Nilsson, aka the Big Shot Poet who first appeared in Checking the Traps, hires Isabel to investigate the shooting of his former literary agent. Gerald Danielson survived what the police ruled an attempted suicide, but he has serious cognitive issues. After overhearing what somebody said at a party though, Cyrus questions whether someone else could be responsible.
Gerald lives with his devoted sister, Wendy, who now runs the literary agency, in a village called Meadows Falls. He has an aide, Miguel. As Isabel delves into this case, she looks for people who might have a reason to shoot Gerald Danielson, and there are definitely suspects, including an ex-wife who writes smutty romance novels and a sci-fi writer who is bold-faced liar. For those following the series, many of my notable characters, like Jack, Isabel’s mother, Annette, the Beaumont brothers, the Old Farts, Dave Baxter, even Lisa, have roles in this one. Of course, I’ve created new characters.
People often ask how I plot my book, and I will admit I don’t. I start with an idea for a mystery and create a lot of possibilities about who could have dunnit as I write. Isabel Long and I solve the case together. At this point, she and I have finally figured it out.
My aim is to make the climax true to the book and hopefully fool readers until the end.
On Friday, I was fortunate to give a reading at the Arms Library in my village of Shelburne Falls. (Thanks Arms Library.) I was delighted that fans of the series showed up. They were pleased the seventh book is so close to the end. Well, so am I.
When I read a scene from Following the Lead about the Old Farts, those nosy old men who gather in the backroom of the Conwell General Store to gossip, I asked if there could be a similar situation around here. Ah, yes, I got several locations. Ha. I also got two great suggestions: to consider audiobooks and to approach another mystery writer about doing a collaboration. My lips are sealed about who that might be but I do plan to reach out. Another person also suggested having Isabel work on an active case. That’s something to consider.
I have perhaps a thousand words to go in Missing the Deadline. Then, I will print it and give the book a good hard look for holes or where a part needs tightening. I will listen to the book via the mechanical voice in the Read Aloud function of Word. I call him Frank, by the way. Then I will send it to my publisher to see if it meets their approval. I will certainly let you know about that.
By the way, I already have an idea for number eight.
Good news for Kindle readers: Following the Lead is free two days — Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19. This book is no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. I will cut to the chase and give you the link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead
So why in the heck am I giving my book away? Let me tell you.
First, I want to express my gratitude to those who bought the Kindle version at the $3.99 price. I appreciate your support. But as I’ve said before, there is writing, and then there is the business of writing. We authors have a lot of competition when you consider the books being pushed by big and little houses, plus oh-so-many people who are publishing themselves. How do you get your book to stand out? Good question.
One way is to lure writers with a freebie promotion. Hopefully, if a reader likes Following the Lead, they will want to read the others. By the way, while it is part of a series, each book can be read on their own. And yes, the seventh, Missing the Deadline, is way past the half-way mark.
I am pleased, as I was Thursday, meeting in person a fan who has read the entire series — especially when I totally fooled him about whodunnit on Following the Lead. But since most of my sales are digital aka Kindle, it is rare I will get that kind of experience, except in ratings on Amazon (thank you if you do) and post on social media (ditto).
I love writing my books. I want people to love reading them. But first they have to know about my books.
The Isabel Long Mystery Series is published by darkstroke books, but as a small indie publisher, authors must actively promote their books. I’ve learned to pay for promotions — not a lot — but that has made a big difference on these freebie weekends. My social media presence doesn’t have their reach, which is in the many thousands.
It’s also a lot of fun watching a book rise in the listings on Amazon.
Enough from me on the whys or wise of a freebie giveaway. Here is a brief synopsis for Following the Lead.
Isabel Long moves quickly onto the next case when a former boss entrusts her with a mystery that has haunted him since he was child. Lin Pierce, then only 11, was supposed to be minding his sister while his mother gave a piano lesson inside their home. But the sleeping baby was stolen from her carriage after he was lured away in a well-executed kidnapping that devastated the family.
Forty-nine years later, Lin is convinced he met his long-lost sister by chance. Afterall, the woman not only resembled his mother but she had a distinctive family trait — different colored eyes.
As she works her sixth case, Isabel believes the student taking the piano lesson that day, later a well-known musician, is key to solving it. But meeting him in person proves to be nearly impossible.
As she did when she was a journalist, Isabel use her resources — including her mother Maria — to follow that lead until the end.
I am, of course, referring to Annette Waters, who has had a continuing role in my Isabel Long Mystery Series since the second book, Redneck’s Revenge. That’s when she hired Isabel to investigate the death of her father, Chet, who died when his shack of a house burned to the ground. She didn’t believe it was an accident.
Right off the bat, Isabel gave Annette the nickname the “Tough Cookie,” although not to her face. After all, the woman runs a garage and junkyard she inherited from her father. Plus, Annette is one woman you don’t mess around with. She’s a single mother who got pregnant in high school and raised her son by herself via a regimen of so-called tough love. (The father is a local drug dealer who wouldn’t be the ideal role model in her mind.) She was married oh-so-briefly to another local guy and since then, enjoys the full company of any man she likes. And being an attractive woman in her late 30s, she has plenty of men interested in her.
Annette’s what I would call a hot ticket. She doesn’t take crap from anybody and isn’t afraid to dish it out, with humor, of course. She and her cousin, Marsha, aka the Floozy, (Isabel is fond of giving people secret nicknames) own the Pit Stop, a small convenience store with gas pumps in the hill town of Caulfield. Her son, Abe, lives in the back. He also works with his mother in the garage and at the store. She’s trying to teach him to be a responsible adult, in her own way.
And in case you’re wondering, Annette is not based on anyone I know. She comes totally from my imagination although I will admit knowing women who have as much spunk as her.
Both Isabel and her mother are fond of Annette. She is also a great source of information for Isabel’s cases. Frequently, she will contact her to find out the local dirt. She’s been helpful as the series goes on. I am currently writing no. 7 and, of course, she’s in this one. I like her too much to let her go.
Oh, by the way, Annette paid Isabel with free mechanical service for life. Her former boss got the same deal.
Annette’s new pastime is being the lead singer in a band she appropriately called the Junkyard Dogs. Her son, Abe plays drums and the guitarists are mechanics from another garage. The band plays at the Rooster on Fridays nights when Isabel is tending bar, and at Baxter’s another local watering hole.
Here’s I’ll give you an excerpt from Following the Lead, no. 6 in the series, that features the Tough Cookie. Isabel’s mother, Maria, her partner in solving crime, has decided she no longer wants to drive, so she is selling her car to Annette’s son, Abe.
Annette and Abe walk up the front path. This is a first for Abe, but Annette has been here before, when she hired me for my second case, plus another time with Marsha for my mother’s birthday party, which shocked my daughter Ruth a bit but their appearance made for a lively event.
But this time it’s for business. Annette nods at Abe and growls something under her breath I don’t catch before he hands my mother a fat envelope filled presumably with cash, a figure the two of them arranged without my input. Ma bought the car from Annette after I totaled the one she brought here. Hey, it wasn’t my fault. I had an alleged murderer trying to run me off the road.
“Do you want to count it, Mrs. Ferreira?” Abe’s face reddens. “It’s the amount we agreed to over the phone.”
My mother and Abe had a telephone conversation? This is news to me. Ma has the car’s title, plus a bill of sale I created on my computer ready.
“Here you go Abe,” my mother says. “It’s all yours.”
Annette gives her son the evil eye. She’s been working hard to train him to be a good adult in her own way, giving him a job and a place to live in the apartment behind the Pit Stop, the convenience store she co-owns. And now, he’s the drummer in the Junkyard Dogs. I half expect her to slap his arm and grumble, “What do you say?” But Abe beats her to it with a genuine thanks to my mother as he takes the paperwork, gives my mother an awkward hug that startles my non-hugging mother, and with a quick bow of his head, he’s out the door to get to work.
The Tough Cookie takes a seat.
“How’s your new case goin’?” she asks.
“I’m just getting started. This one’s gonna be tough.”
She shakes her head after I tell her about my new case.
“Don’t know anythin’ about that one. Almost fifty years ago? Really?”
I’m not surprised Annette hasn’t heard about the kidnapping. Given she’s in Caulfield, a few towns north and west of where I live, she has access to a different set of locals. Caulfield and Jefferson have few if any connections. No one from one town would go to the other unless they had kin living there. And I would wager Caulfield has more natives percentage wise than Jefferson, which has become a semi-suburb of Hampton, the county seat.
But then again, Caulfield and the towns around it would be a great place for a man or woman with a past to hide out. Plus, she and her cousin, Marsha own the Pit Stop, the only gas station and convenience store for miles. She’s lived there all of her life, and like a lot of the natives, she keeps tabs on the newcomers.
“You ever hear of a man named Tim Todd or Robert Todd? He is or was a musician. Plays the piano.”
“There’s a guy named Robert Todd who comes into Baxter’s. Sometimes he plays the piano. He’ll come in on a Sunday or sometime when there’s not a lot of people. He seems rather harmless, quiet and kind of a loner.” She stops and laughs when she realizes she just used a description for people who are often guilty as hell. “Anyway Dave lets him play. You should talk with him about the guy.”
My mother chuckles. I can read her mind. I can’t escape talking with Dave Baxter about a case it seems.
“What’s he look like?”
“He’s kinda old. White hair, lots of it. Not bad lookin’ for his age.” She shakes her finger. “And he has the longest damn fingers I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t play the kind of music the regulars like. It’s that highbrow stuff. You look excited there, Isabel. You, too, Maria.”
“He definitely sounds like the guy I’m looking for. Any idea where he might live?”
“No, I don’t. You could ask Marsha if he comes into the Pit Stop for gas. She’s there more than me. I bet Dave Baxter will know.” She gives me a sly laugh. “He won’t mind you askin’.”
Annette is clearly alluding to the obvious crush Dave has on me.
“That might be a good time to tell him we’re going to live with Jack,” my mother says. “Fred’s moving out.”
“You two?” She snorts a laugh. “How come I don’t know about this?”
I try to conceal my surprise. I don’t want my mother to feel badly about blurting out the news, but some damage control is needed here.
“Uh, because it just happened and we haven’t told anybody. There’s stuff to work out. If you don’t mind, Annette, could you keep it to yourself please? But when people start talking about it, you can tell them you already knew. Okay?”
Annette leans back in her seat as she focuses on the living room window.
“Will do. Abe’s got the car hitched up. I gotta check to make sure he did it right. I don’t wanna lose the car on the way.” She stands and knocks the table top with a fist. “Nice to see you both, and I’ll make sure Abe takes real good care of your car, Maria. Gotta get back to the junkyard. Somebody’s droppin’ off a Crown Vic. I’m keepin’ that one for myself for next year’s demolition derby.” She laughs. “This time I’m gonna make sure I win. Gary Beaumont better watch out.”
“See you around,” I tell her, and then I remember something I want to ask her. “When’s your next gig at the Rooster? My mother wants to hear you play.”
Annette smiles at Ma.
“You do, do you? Jack’s kinda booked, so I hope soon. We’re playing at Baxter’s two Saturdays from now. Why don’t you come, Isabel?” She makes a chuckle that contains a large amount of mischief. “I’m sure Dave would love it.”
And thank you if you do. That’s the cover above by the way.
SPECIAL THANKS: I am grateful for the services of Travis Johnston, owner and web architect at Creo Coding — Web Design and Development for rescuing my website. I couldn’t log in for days and Travis not only figured out the problem, he upgraded every part that needed to be done. He lives in my village but, eh, the internet is international. Here’s his website: www.CreoCoding.com
Val Penny and I haven’t met in real life, but I feel I know her well from her crime novels, plus our exchanges on social media and Zoom. My hope is to some day meet with her in person in Scotland where she lives. We’d have a wonderful time talking about writing. In the meantime, I have her DI Hunter Wilson Thrillers that are set in Edinburgh — including no. 3 Hunter’s Force, which was released Jan. 25 by Spellbound Books. I am quite fond of the characters she has created, especially DI Hunter Wilson.
First a little more about Val: She is an American author living in Scotland with her husband and their cat. She has two adult daughters.
Val has an Llb degree from the University of Edinburgh and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, banker, azalea farmer, and lecturer. She writes poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and of course, novels. Read more about Hunter’s Force below.
BLURB FOR HUNTER’S FORCE
Hunter by name – Hunter by nature. Can DI Hunter Wilson keep Edinburgh safe when he is the hunted?
Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is woken in the early hours of the morning by a call from his son. Cameron’s flatmate was murdered. Why would anybody want to kill a young woman recently arrived in the city?
Hunter must call in the new Major Incident Team (MIT) to lead the investigation due to the reorganisation of police services. Hunter’s ability to be involved, however, is put in severe doubt when someone from his past decides to take revenge on him. He goes missing, and his team have no idea where to look for him. Who would want to stop Hunter in his tracks?
Meanwhile, Hunter’s team must work closely with the MIT and with or without him, solve the murder in this taut crime thriller.
HUNTER’S FORCE EXCERPT
DI Hunter Wilson looked at the time on his phone before he answered the call. 4.03am. If this was some comedian from the sub-continent calling to tell him about putting in a claim for the accident he hadn’t had… Then he noticed it was Cameron calling him.
“What’s the matter, son? This is a hell of a time to phone.” Hunter whispered.
“I didn’t know who else to call.”
“What’s the matter? And it had better be good.”
“It’s far from good.” Cameron told his father of the scene that had met him and his new friends when they got back to his flat.
“She’s had what cut off? Bloody hell!”
“I know, Dad, I know. And her head has been bashed in too. What do I do?”
“Well, now we have Police Scotland in place there is a Major Incidents Team, imaginatively know as MIT, that deals with cases like this.”
“Oh, Dad no! The other girls’ll go mental. You come. Please? At least at first. I need your help.”
Hunter thought back to the days when Cameron used to ask for his help regularly: tying his shoelaces, drying him after swimming, learning to ride a bike. Those had been the golden years. It had been a long, long time since his son had sounded so desperate and pleaded for his help. It made Hunter feel good. He could help Cameron again. Brilliant!
“You’re not back on the cocaine are you, Cameron? You’re not hallucinating?” Hunter said suddenly.
“No, I’m bloody not! But thanks for the vote of confidence. Believe me, I will be if you don’t get your arse over here pronto!”
“And that’s how you ask for help from your dad? A favour? Stuff you!” Hunter shouted back.
“What is it?” a bleary voice beside Hunter said.
“Please, Dad. Just come. I need you.” Cameron sounded like a little boy about to burst into tears. “Another person’s in my flat too. I’ve never seen her before. Just come, quickly, please Dad! I can’t tell you how awful it all is here.”
Hunter got out of bed and patted Meera’ s arm. “Go back to sleep, pet. I’ve got to go and see Cameron. It’s an emergency.”
“At four o’clock in the morning? What’s wrong? Is he using again?”
“No. But he was out for the evening and got back to his home to find his flat mate dead on the floor”
“Why does he need you? Shouldn’t he call an ambulance?” Meera asked.
“It’s a bit late for that. She’s been mutilated; her head has been bashed in and the tops of her fingers cut off.”
“I’d guess she’s probably dead, right enough. But doesn’t Cameron need me more than he needs you? I’m coming with you,” Meera said in a determined voice that brooked no contradiction.
LINK: Kindle readers, here’s the link to buy Val Penny’s Hunter’s Force : DI Hunter Wilson Series: Book 3 : https://geni.us/f5eJb
Who wouldn’t want to live in house with a secret passageway? I did, sort of, when I was a growing up.
When my industrious parents constructed their Cape-style home, they held off having bedrooms in the attic for years. The door they had built blocking the upstairs wasn’t ordinary, however. It was also a bookcase with paneling at the bottom, and if someone didn’t notice the hinges, they wouldn’t think it was a doorway.
It was our secret passageway. And I always felt it was one of the best features of our house — along with our player piano in the cellar, my father’s gardens, and a huge genie my mother painted on the wall beside it.
Eventually, the upstairs bedrooms were finished when our family expanded to four children. We three girls slept upstairs. The bookcase door was then moved upstairs to seal off a storage area. Now that no one sleeps there except for visiting family, the door is back where it was originally installed on the first floor. Old books fill its shelves. You can see it in the photo above.
My fascination for secret passageways was intensified as a kid when I read Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. This book wasn’t fiction, but a moving account of how her family and others attempted to survive the Nazi regime in Amsterdam by hiding in the Secret Annex. That doorway also was disguised as a bookcase. Unfortunately it was not enough to keep Anne and the others safe. Our experiences couldn’t have been more different.
During my childhood, I read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and the entire Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum. There were other books and movies in which people could escape to some place secret and didn’t know what they would find there.
The bookcase door in my parents’ home, alas, didn’t bring me to a magical place. But it certainly kindled my imagination, and I thank them for that.
NEW BOOK: I credit the imagination I had as a child and the determination I have as an adult for creating yet another book: The Sacred Dog. This thriller set in rural New England launched Dec. 27. Kindle readers can find it here: https://mybook.to/thesacreddog The paperback version will follow soon.