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Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Killing the Story

Ta-Da I’ve Reached the End

Yes, I am writing about Killing the Story, the fourth in the Isabel Long Mystery Series. I typed the last words on the last page this morning. Congratulations to me.

One would think I would be giddy about finishing. But I know full well I have editing ahead. I’ve printed all 302 pages and now I will get out my red markers, looking for weak lines, over-used words, and other pitfalls. I will read the manuscript aloud. (For one novel, I read it backwards, which made me focus on the writing and not the plot. I’ll see if I will do the same for Killing the Story.) Two author friends have volunteered to give it a read.

Of course, I will need to work with my publisher’s editor.

But I will admit I love the editing part of the creative process as well. It’s like taking up a daydream and making it better.

This book took longer than the other three. Normally, I can write a novel in six months. This one took almost a year. Chalk it up to having a full-time job as a newspaper’s editor-in-chief, which certainly means more than forty-hour workweeks. I got up insanely early to write before I left for the newsroom. Then, there were the weekends.

But enough about me.

What’s Killing the Story about? This case takes Isabel to Dillard, another small town that’s down on its luck since the railroad doesn’t stop there anymore. Instead of passengers, the trains haul freight to faraway places. It has a sad little downtown, with a corner bar, a greasy spoon of a diner, and low-end commerce in its storefronts. But it also has a weekly newspaper that covers that part of the world: The Observer.

As a former journalist, Isabel gets hooked on this case because of that newspaper. Estelle Crane, the former editor and co-owner, supposedly died when she slipped on ice and hit her head hard. But a note her son, Emerson Crane finds raises questions about Estelle’s death — and even her husband’s death two years earlier.

In the midst of her investigation, Isabel digs into small town secrets, including one involving a crooked cop who quickly becomes a suspect.

Of course, Isabel has her mother’s sage advice. And her relationship with Jack, owner of the Rooster Bar, makes a turn. Characters from the other books like the Old Farts, Annette Waters aka Tough Cookie, and the Beaumont brothers come along in this one. Of course, I’ve created new characters for this book.

I will certainly let you know when Killing the Story is ready to buy. Now, that will be exciting.

 

 

 

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Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Giving It My Undivided Attention

I can write anywhere. I’ve proven that to myself numerous times. Perhaps, it comes from when I was a kid doing my homework in front of the TV and getting good enough grades to be on the honor roll. I am well past schoolwork, and these days my focus outside of my job is writing fiction, to be specific finishing the fourth in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. This one is called Killing the Story by the way.

As I write this, I have about 15,000 words to go and a self-imposed deadline of April 1 to finish this draft. (I also mentioned to my publisher, Laurence Patterson of Darkstroke Books, I am hoping to launch this book by early summer.)

It’s taken quite an effort for me to find the time to write this book, given I work 9-10 hours a day at the newsroom. As I’ve posted before, I try to get up very early, hoping to reach 500 words before I have to head out. Ah, but often real life gets in the way.

I’ve decided I need to shake things up to reach those goals .

So, Wednesday I tried something different. I had an hour before the newsroom opened at 8 after I dropped off Hank for a very early appointment. It didn’t make sense to go back home, so I headed to a coffee shop around the corner.

At 7 a.m. the only people there were the woman behind the counter and me, likely because the baked goods hadn’t arrived yet. I ordered a black tea, found a table and went to work. It was the most productive hour I’ve had in a long time.

Perhaps it’s the change of scenery or the fact I couldn’t get up to load or unload the dishwasher, take a shower, make my lunch, or whatever. I had already done that before I left the house. And I could easily ignore the few customers who came.

When it turned 8 a.m., I collected my things and walked halfway around the block to the newsroom — feeling pretty damn good about myself.

I did the same Thursday, then Friday, with the same results, so I plan to continue until I finish this novel. (On weekends, I will use my office at home or maybe find another writing spot in the village where I live.) I love writing fiction. I just want to give this novel the undivided attention it deserves.

Sounds like a plan to me.

LINK: Here’s how to find my books:  Joan Livingston on Amazon

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Checking the Traps, Isabel Long Mystery Series

When You Gotta Write Poetry

For the next few weeks, I will be running posts that appeared in blogs by my fellow authors and others. Here is one about writing poems for my latest mystery, Checking the Traps. Not my typical form of expression, but my victim and a suspect write poetry. So, I had to. This post appeared in author Angela Wren’s blog: http://www.angelawren.co.uk/

Like what you read? Here’s how to buy the book on Amazon: https://mybook.to/checkingthetraps

I wrote poetry before I could write prose. I began in college, where I fancied myself a poet, and a few years afterward until real life, including having six kids and a 25-year writer’s block, took over. When I did resume writing, I turned to prose, that is, novels and short stories. I no longer wrote poetry. Ah, but that changed when I wrote the third book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series.

In Checking the Traps, Isabel is hired by a local bad boy drug dealer, Gary Beaumont, to find out how his half-brother died. Did Cary Moore jump from a bridge known for suicides or was he pushed? But what fires up Isabel’s interest in this case is that Cary drove heavy equipment by day and wrote poetry at night.

Gary lends Isabel the notebooks in which his half-brother transcribed all of his poems. As Isabel discovers, Cary’s poetry in the early books are really juvenile. But he gets better, well, enough that a famous poet uses the poems for his own in what turns out to be an award-winning book. (Yes, the poet is a suspect in the man’s death.)

Isabel also finds poetry that Cary wrote as gifts for other people.

So, that meant I had to write poetry, too, for this book.

Actually I found writing poetry wasn’t hard at all. I was able to channel that inner poet to come up with several complete poems plus lines from others. I tried to imagine what a man who had never gone farther than 100 miles from his country home would write about and how he would write it. I figured on a plain but sturdy style of writing. There would have lots of imagery from nature. The poems would not be long.

Poetry, including a reading where Isabel corners the famous poet, figures big in this book.

Did the experience inspire me to write more poetry? I will be honest and say no. But I enjoyed letting one of my characters do it instead.

Here’s an excerpt from Checking the Traps. Jack is the owner of the Rooster Bar, where Isabel works part-time. He’s also her love interest in this series.

Jack motions me to come behind the counter.

“I’ve got somethin’ to show you,” he says. “I forgot all about it. Here you go.”

Jack hands me a paper. I immediately recognize Cary Moore’s handwriting. It’s a poem he called “The Barman.” It’s a lot more sophisticated than his second book of poetry, aptly named Book Deuce, which I read this afternoon after Ma and I returned from our field trip and before I got myself ready for work. Cary got heavy into rhyming with Book Deuce. Sometimes it works, a lot of the time it doesn’t. They remind me of the poems I read when I was a kid in elementary school. It appears Cary read them, too.

But here’s “The Barman.”

What’ll it be tonight, boys?

The barman asks each one.

Give me some hope in a bottle.

Give me courage.

Give me love.

The barman laughs.

Sorry, boys, it’s only beer.

He even signed the bottom.

“I like it a lot,” I tell Jack. “You should frame it and hang it behind the bar. Want me to do that for you?”

Jack’s face squeezes into an amused squint.

“Really, Isabel?”

“Yeah, really, Jack. Let me put it in my bag.”

 

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Building Character, On Writing

Meet Helen Anne Carter of The Departed

J.V. Baptie is the next author to participate in what I call the Building Character series on this website. I invite authors to write about one of the characters crucial to their novel. J.V., a fellow Crooked Cat Books author, chose Helen Anne Carter, who appears in her new novel, The Departed, as well as her first, The Forgotten. (I read The Forgotten and highly recommend it to fans of UK crime mysteries.)

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I like this about Helen — “Helen never gives up, she cares about her cases and the people around her.” We sure need more people like that. Here, I’ll let J.V. tell you all about her.

Who is your character?

A main protagonist in both my novel is Helen Anne Carter. She features very heavily in my first novel, The Forgotten.

What does he/she look like?

Helen likes to keep fit by jogging.  So she is slim but likes to have a box of Cadburys milk tray occasional and a glass of red wine. She had brown eyes and short brown to just above her shoulders. Often described as a bit of a tomboy as a child but she sometimes she likes to dress up and wear some mascara when the occasional calls for it.

What is your character’s back story?

Helen is a police officer, just like her late father. She studied psychology at college.  She’s not afraid to stand up for herself and speak the truth. (That gets her into trouble sometimes.)

What is your character’s role in your novel?

Helen never gives up, she cares about her cases and the people around her. She wants to get justice for victims, despite her own anxieties and the fact that it might put her in danger.

A brief synopsis

One secret will tear a family apart. 2008.

A body is found in a car boot following an accident, and Detective Inspector John Morrison is under pressure to identify the killer. Was it someone who had murdered before, several decades ago? Or is it a copycat killing?

Meanwhile, Trish, John’s ex-girlfriend, had been working hard to forget the past – until she finds new evidence about her aunt Moira’s disappearance nearly two decades earlier.

Did Detective Inspector Helen Carter miss something in the initial investigation in 1978, and could she live with the consequences if she had?

The past and present intertwine in this gripping case of murders and missing persons.

 

From The Departed

This is a snippet from the second novel that Helen features in, The Departed.  (This scene is about the case she investigates.)

‘Is it a good idea?’

‘I don’t know.’ Moira McKenzie shrugged and pulled away. She rubbed the condensation from her glass as a classical record spun on the turntable. Most of the sound was being drowned out by the heavy rain that pounded off the windows. She swallowed hard to push back the words that wanted to spill from her. ‘I think Reggie suspects,’ she finally said. ‘I’m sure he does.’ She could feel the familiar burn at the back of her eyes. Reggie’s words echoed in her ears.Worthless. No one would ever want you. Mutton dressed as lamb. Pathetic. Each one like a punch to the stomach.

‘He can’t.’

‘It’s in his eyes.’ She paused to think. ‘The way he looks at me. It’s hard to explain.’ She shivered thinking about his moods and how quick they could change.

‘A man like Reggie.’ He grimaced. ‘He would do something if he really suspected. No,’ he reached out and squeezed her hand, ‘that’s just the guilt talking. You’re just feeling guilty because you’re finally happy.’

Moira shrugged and looked at the chandelier that hung above them. She never imagined herself in a lovely house like this, with big bay windows and garden, on the other side of Edinburgh.

‘I can’t do this.’ She put her glass down on the coffee table. ‘I need to go home.’

‘Don’t.’ He looked at her wide-eyed. ‘I don’t understand—’

She dragged the heel of her hand down her face. ‘We’re both married. This will end badly.’ Moira stood up and grabbed her jacket from the coat stand. ‘What happens when your wife is back from her mother’s?’ Her eyes pleading with his, willing him to say the words that she wanted to hear. Say something to stop her going home. She swallowed back the painful lump in her throat. ‘When your wife gets back, I’ll be forgotten about.’

He lowered the volume on the record player and stared at her. ‘That’s not true. I just don’t want to tell her about us until she gets better. It would knock her back… We’ve been through all this.’

‘Do you even think she’ll get better?’ Moira asked, leaning forward. ‘You didn’t think so before.’

He shook his head slowly and stepped towards her, arms outstretched. ‘Don’t be like that. I can’t just walk away from her now.’

‘I should leave.’

His cool fingers brushed against her hand. ‘Will I drop you home, then?’ He frowned. ‘We can meet for dinner next week. We could go to Aperitif again?’

She looked away from him. What was she thinking, a good-looking, educated man – what the hell would he see in her? This was like a dream and all dreams end when you wake up to reality. She nodded and slipped her mac on. ‘Drop me home.’ She kept her gaze on the red carpet and blinked back tears; not wanting to look at the wedding photographs that adorned the mantelpiece and the pictures of his wife that always seemed to be staring at her.

‘If that’s what you really want.’ He picked up his keys from the coffee table. ‘I wish you would stay, though.’

Moira twisted the wedding band on her finger. ‘I can’t. I should be home waiting for Reggie.’

‘After all the things you’ve told me he’s done to you? All the bruises I’ve seen?’

‘I’m married. What else am I meant to do?’

‘Do as I say. Let me protect you.’

‘He’ll never let me leave.’

‘Then let me help.’ He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand.

‘No,’ she pulled away. ‘You can’t. Take me home.’

Moira got out the car a few streets away from the house, despite his protests that it wasn’t safe. Reggie was right, anyway. She sobbed. No one would want her. She reached into her pocket for her tissues and dabbed at the mascara that trailed down her face. Reggie would probably still be at the pub, so there would be enough time to get cleaned up before he got home. He was always there on a Friday night before he’d come home pissed and overly friendly. It was the only time that he would be nice to her. Shivering, she wrapped her arms around her body. Rain seeped through her trousers and trickled down her spine. She sniffled and look over her shoulder. She was enclosed by council flats on both sides of the street; only a few lights were on and the lampposts flickered. The sudden screaming howl of a fox filled the silence and she whipped around but couldn’t see anything. She walked faster towards home. Her stomach twitched when she looked up at her flat and saw the bathroom light on.

Moira closed the front door softly. The sound of rushing water and banging pipes trailed from the bathroom. The door was ajar. She saw Reggie hunched over the sink scrubbing at his arms with a pink towel. Strange, as she couldn’t remember them having any pink towels. The sleeves of his white shirt rolled up to just underneath his elbows and his brown hair flopped over his forehead. She stood at the gap in the doorway. The sink was stained red, it was only then Moira realised that it wasn’t a pink towel. It was a bloodstained towel! His head snapped towards her. Moira gasped and stumbled backwards.

‘Why are you back? I thought your mother was sick,’ he snarled.

‘Are you hurt?’ Moira mustered, feeling the bile rise in her throat, as the metallic smell drifted up her nostrils. There was something about the sight of blood that just made her want heave.

Reggie shook his head. ‘It’s just a cut.’

‘How?’

‘You dinnae want to know,’ he spat and threw a towel at her. ‘Wash this.’

‘Reggie,’ she sobbed. ‘You promised.’

‘Someone jumped me when I left the pub.’

‘Where are you bleeding from? You need to go to the hospital. Have you called the police?’

‘Am I on Mastermind?’ He clenched his jaw. ‘Just dae as you’re telt before I lose my rag.’

After she had cleaned the bathroom, Moira peeled her jacket from her shoulders and slumped down into the armchair. Reggie had cleaned himself up and gone to bed. She closed her eyes and heard the soft mumbles of his snores. How could he sleep after what she had just cleaned up? She couldn’t follow him to bed, that was for sure. She climbed up from the seat and grabbed a half-empty can of Tartan from the dresser. She downed the warm lager in one gulp, and her eyes fell to the Evening News that lay next to it.

Picture House Murder Solved.

They don’t solve the ones that matter, though, do they?

She needed another drink. Crushing the can in her hand, she stood up and staggered through to the kitchen. Her temples throbbed, and even though the blood was gone, she could still smell it, taste it, every time she swallowed. She envied Reggie. The way he never had trouble sleeping, never seemed to have trouble forcing any of the horrible things from his mind. Her only escape was a drink. She picked up another one of Reggie’s Tartans from the worktop and sat down, glancing at a couple of books she got from the library which were lying on the centre of the table.

Reggie cleared his throat behind her. She had her back to him but could imagine the look on his face if she’d woken him up. From the corner of her eye, she could see him take a step forward.

‘What are you doing up?’ he asked.

‘I… couldn’t sleep.’

He placed his hand on her shoulder. ‘It’s no’ good for you.’

‘I’ll go in a minute.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he muttered. ‘I shouldn’t have been so…’

Moira straightened. ‘It’s fine.’

He grimaced as he sat down opposite her and rubbed his side.

Moira glanced at him. He looked like he was thinking of what to say next. She made a move to stand but he stopped her.

‘Wait.’ He put his hand over hers. ‘Let’s start again. I got into a fight because I was so upset about your affair.’

‘I’m not—’

‘Don’t. I saw you.’

‘What are you going to do?’

‘Nothing – if everything stops.’ He reached into his dressing gown pocket and pulled out a little gold chain with a cross. ‘I got you this.’

Moira made no move to take the thin necklace. She wasn’t even religious, nor was Reggie. They’d only got married because she’d fallen pregnant, and it was the done thing.

‘Everything that happened tonight is your fault. I wouldn’t have got into that fight otherwise. I wouldn’t have been so angry…’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘You’re always sorry. Ah’ve had enough of this.’ He stood up and walked over to the window, keeping his back to her. ‘I try so hard to make you happy. Given you everything.’

She saw the peeling wallpaper, along with the space in the kitchen where the washing machine used to be. ‘I made a mistake, Reggie. It won’t happen again.’

‘Why have you always got tae annoy me, Moira?’ Reggie picked up the photo of their son on the windowsill, brushing dust off the silver frame with his thumb. ‘We had everything then, eh?’ He put the photo back.

‘I miss him too, Reggie. Not a day goes by—’

‘Nah!’ He scoffed and shrugged his shoulders. ‘It doesnae matter now, does it? He’s dead, nothing’s going to change that.’

He turned to face her and looked her up and down, a sneer curling his top lip.

‘Reggie, please. Let’s just have a quiet night.’

Reggie scoffed and grabbed one of her books from the table. He flung it against the wall where it landed with a thud in the sink. Smiling, he picked up the glass of wine from the worktop and emptied it onto her lap.

‘Sorry, Reggie. I didn’t mean it.’ The wine seeped through her denim skirt and soaked her legs. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she sobbed.

Reggie had his hand braced to slap her.

‘I’m sorry, Reggie. I’m clumsy.’ She shook and swallowed back tears. ‘I’ve been drinking too much. I didn’t mean to make you angry. I’ll stop and do anything you want. Just don’t…’

‘Ah ken,’ he snarled and knelt in front of her, putting his hand on her shoulder on top of the bruise, ‘you just know how to wind me up. You’re trying to play games with me.’

She bit down on her lip. Ready for the familiar sting.

‘You’re always daeing ma heid in.’ He squeezed her shoulder as he stood back up. Her eyes were shiny from tears.

The dog in the flat below was barking wildly.

‘Do you want me to get you a drink, Reggie?’

‘A drink? That’s your answer to bloody everything’ He shook his head and rubbed a hand through his perm of black hair. ‘You ken I dinnae like you drinking, but you do it anyway.’

‘It was just an idea, Reggie.’

‘You always have to have an idea, don’t you? You cannae have a bloody good one, though, can you?’ he spat.

‘I’m sorry.’ Moira clambered up and moved towards the sink. He followed her. She put the glass in the basin and ran the dishcloth under the tap to clean her skirt. The maroon stain wouldn’t budge.

‘I didnae mean to say that you dinnae have good ideas. It’s just been bad at work. The production’s no’ where it’s needed, and now we’ve lost another contract.’

She nodded and dabbed her skirt. ‘But you’ve lost contracts before and we’ve got by. The company has always got by. Indestructible – that’s what you said. We always get by somehow. We can ask my mum and dad for some money to tide us over.’

‘Why? What hiv you been saying to them?’

‘Nothing.’ Moira shuddered.

‘You better keep it that way.’ He stabbed a finger into the small of her back. ‘I’ll find the money fae somewhere. We’re no’ doing that again, I ken you dinnae understand all of this but it’s different this time. It really is.’

JV Baptie on social media

http://getbook.at/TheForgotten

Website@ http://www.jvbaptie.com

Twitter: @jvbaptie

Facebook: @authorjvbaptie

 

 

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Checking the Traps, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Checking the Traps: How It Begins

In case you missed the Feb. 5 announcement, fans of my Isabel Long Mystery Series are able to pre-order the third book, Checking the Traps. Click on a box in Amazon, and March 22, the book will pop into your Kindle or other device. (Paperback fans: an announcement will happen soon.) Here’s the link for both: mybook.to/checkingthetraps 

First, a heart-felt thanks to anyone who pre-ordered the Checking the Traps. Now, let me interest those who haven’t with this blurb:

Isabel Long is banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer, who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his half-brother, Cary Moore, didn’t jump off a bridge known as a suicide spot. Somebody pushed him. 

Cary was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.

The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his half-brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.

As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it ‘checking the traps.’ She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.

Yes, despite her injuries, the gutsy Isabel and her mother is ready for another cold case. Those who read the first two books will have met many of the characters in this one like Annette, Marsha, Old Farts (those snoopy men in the store’s backroom), and of course, Jack.  I loved being around them so much, I couldn’t let them go. But I have new ones, such as Cyrus Nilsson, a fictional famous poet who is a bit of a snake, plus other people Isabel meets for this case.

And now I will give you a peek at how the book begins. The chapter is called the One-Armed Bartender.

It’s Friday night at the Rooster Bar and Grille, and I’m behind the bar taking care of business with my one good arm. The other is in a sling. A broken collarbone and a few badly bruised ribs are souvenirs from my second case, that and the satisfaction I nailed the bastard who ran my car off the road. I’m right-handed, and luckily, my injuries are on my left side, so it’s a piece of cake, really, snapping the caps off Buds with the opener mounted on the back of the counter. I only need one arm to reach for beers in the cooler and drop empties into the carton below. I’m not able to deliver food or clean tables, but then again, I have a very understanding boss. You remember Jack Smith, don’t you?

Besides, my getup is a conversation starter here at the town of Conwell’s only drinking establishment. The Rooster’s True Blue Regulars, of course, are all aware of what happened two weeks ago, but being nosy New Englanders, they prod me for details. They can’t get enough of the story. I gladly accommodate them. They’re friendly guys and good tippers.

“Isabel, how fast were you goin’ when Pete hit the back of your mother’s car?” one guy asks when I hand him his beer.

“Last I looked it was eighty.”

“Damn. On that road? You and Barbie were lucky you didn’t get yourselves killed.”

Uh, that might have been Pete Woodrell’s intention when he tailed us in his pickup. His wife, Barbie, was terrified and screaming beside me in the front seat. I didn’t blame her. I felt like screaming, too, but I had to pay attention to the road.

Hold on a minute. I have a line of customers stacking up. The dinner crowd has come and gone, or come and stayed if they’re making a night of it. The kitchen is closed, and I hear Carole, the cook, cleaning inside. The Back Door Men, tonight’s band, are hauling their instruments and speakers through the side door. There’s a full house tonight, which makes Jack, who owns the joint, one happy man.

 Being the start of April, the snowmobiles are gone because the snow is pretty much gone. We are in the thick of mud season, at least on the back roads, so the Rooster’s floor is getting awfully gritty. That’s okay. The Rooster is almost a shack in the woods, no frills, except for the large-screen TVs for sports games mostly, the jukebox, and thankfully, a clean women’s room. Jack told me he’s getting ready to spruce up the bar’s interior with some fresh paint and a new toilet in the men’s room. He couldn’t recall the last time the Rooster was painted, oh, maybe when he first bought the place. As for the men’s room toilet, it’s probably an original.

“What’ll it be tonight, Luke?” I ask the guy in front of me as if I don’t know what he’ll order.

“Make it a Bud.”

I reach inside the cooler.

“You sure? We do have a fine selection of beers on tap.”

He smiles to himself as he reaches into his back pocket for his wallet. Most folks here pay cash for their drinks and meals although Jack started taking credit cards years ago.

“You think the murder charges will stick?” he asks.

I smile to myself, too.

“I sure as hell hope so.”

 

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