hilltowns, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Having My Way With It

Actually, that title is an abbreviation of what I will be talking about March 9 at an event sponsored by the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club. Specifically, I will talk about how the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where I live, have been an inspiration for my fiction.

Actually, if I were to give the whole title it would be: I Take What I Know and Have My Way With It.

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Andrew Heinrich on the bassoon at Brodksy Bookshop in Taos, NM

I will be honest in saying I love doing these events. I’ve done them at libraries, classrooms, book stores, on stage and for literary groups — in person and virtually. One memorable reading was for my novel, Peace, Love, and You Know What, at Brodsky Bookshop in Taos, NM, where my friend, Andrew Heinrich played Beatles tunes on the bassoon. It was appropriate given the book’s pitch: First a three-day bash at a college hippie pad … and then maybe adulthood. Peace, Love, and You Know What is a comedy framed by the Vietnam War and Watergate.

Now I will be talking and reading in Shelburne Falls, Mass., the village where I live. For this event, I will concentrate on my Isabel Long Mystery Series. As I’ve said before, there’s a lot of me in Isabel. Given it’s written in first-person, present tense, I can’t help it. But I have no plans to be a private investigator now that I’ve left journalism for good. I will write about one instead — plus work on my other writing projects. It’s been a month, by the way, since I left that profession.

I admit I pay homage to family members, especially my mother, in this series. But this is definitely not a memoir. The rest of the characters are made up. So are Isabel’s cases.

But I honestly believe the hilltowns are a permanent part of my DNA considering the the length of time I’ve lived in Western Mass. — 25 years the first go-round and reaching five years this one — and importantly covering it as a reporter.  It helps my books be authentic.

I’ve been to lots of readings by other authors, so I am familiar with what works and what doesn’t. For the next few days I will concentrate on what I will say and how much I will read. There will be time for questions and I will have books for sale at a discount.

If you’re in the area, here are the event’s details: Wednesday, March 9, 4 p.m. at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center at 53 Main St., on the Shelburne side of Shelburne Falls.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE:

That’s me giving a reading at SOMOS in Taos — “a place for the written and spoken word.”

HOW TO FIND MY BOOKS:

Here’s the link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

 

 

 

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Darkstroke Books, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Readers

Out of Nowhere

One never knows who will want to read your books. Lately, I had two experiences that brought this home.

First, I should say I don’t write books to sell books. Of course, I want to make money from my hard work. It would be great if it were a great deal of money. But I write because I love to write and I hope people will have the same experience reading the words I put together on paper or screen. I want them to forget they are reading but feel they are inside the story I created.

I certainly appreciate the support I receive from fellow authors, especially those I have met through my publisher darkstroke books. You know who you are. I smile at the reviews and ratings that perfect strangers leave on Amazon and their comments via social media. Then there are those who come to in-person readings or I meet randomly, say at my son’s brewery. Of course, I have the backing of my family and longtime friends.

But let me tell you about those two experiences I mentioned above.

The first was aided by Fred, a writer who I met in college and continues to be a close friend. He was in communication with a friend who is incarcerated in a prison. I won’t go into the reasons why, but he does share with Fred an interest in books. Fred recommended my Isabel Long Mystery Series. It turns out Fred’s friend belongs to a reading group in prison, and upon his request, the members took up my first book, “Chasing the Case.” Last I heard, they enjoyed it enough to move onto the second, “Redneck’s Revenge.”

The second is an encounter I had with the person at one of the newsrooms where I work. She handles many responsibilities for the ad department. I happened to be near her desk when she showed the paperback copies of the first four books in my series. Would I be willing to sign them? And as I did, she told me she asked for them as a Christmas present and was so happy when she found them under the tree. She had heard I write mysteries, her favorite genre. I was touched and promised her a gift of the fifth that will be out later this month.

Both experiences made me smile and glad that I write books people wanted to read.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the full cover of Working the Beat, no. 5 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, set for a Jan. 27 release. Here’s the link: mybook.to/workingthebeat

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Isabel Long Mystery Series, Working the Beat

What’s Behind the Title?

Working the Beat is number five in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Like the other books in this series, that title popped into my head. It’s a bit of a tribute to Isabel’s former career as a journalist, first as a reporter and then as an editor. And I would be remiss in not stating my long career has been in that field.

As I can attest,  a reporter has a beat, whether it’s a topic such as higher education or crime, or one that’s geographic. A good reporter will work that beat to find and report stories — staying with them until the end.

When I was a reporter, I covered a rural area in Western Massachusetts for a daily newspaper. One might think there wouldn’t be any news in a town of say a thousand people, but as I found out, there was plenty to write about‚ even crime. I developed a list of reliable sources. I kept my ears and eyes open for possible tips, finding them sometimes in unexpected places. I was friendly when I needed to be. And a good listener. Yes, I put being nosy to a good cause.

Yes, these are transferable skills. And those are what Isabel Long uses as a private investigator.

In Working the Beat, Isabel is at a country fair with her mother when she is approached by a woman who says her grandson’s body was found there four years ago. Shirley Dawes raised Lucas after he was abandoned by his drug-addicted mother. She did better by him than she did her own children, when she was married to a no-good abuser.

As Isabel learns, the  young man’s body was found in a ravine after he apparently fell during a demotion derby. Nobody saw what happened. But Shirley doesn’t believe it was an accident.

Once again, Isabel is a sucker for a sad story.

She begins this case doing a thorough interview with Shirley. She speaks to people who knew Lucas. Then there is that file of clippings she snagged the day she lost her job at the newspaper.

Isabel works the beat meeting reliable sources from her other cases like the Old Farts in the back room of the general store, cousins Annette and Marsha, even the Beaumont brothers. Her timing is spot on — the demolition derby is the night she meets Shirley. I call that reporter’s good luck or in the case of Isabel, a P.I’s good luck.

As Isabel pursues this case, she encounters new persons of interest — an unsavory group who quickly become suspects. She also uncovers a secret about Lucas and a possible connection to another mystery.

I admit I am not brave enough to be a private investigator. So, I do it vicariously through Isabel Long.

By the way Working the Beat has an official release of Jan. 27 although the Kindle version is available for pre-order. (Soon on paperback.) Thanks for your support. Here is the link: mybook.to/workingthebeat

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The covers for the books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, designed by Laurence Patterson, co-publisher of darkstroke books.

 

 

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The Sweet Spot

Readying for a Reading

I will be sharing something I love — the written word — at a book event in Taos on Saturday, March 25. Specifically, I will be reading from my recently released novel, The Sweet Spot.

The reading and signing will be held 2 p.m. at Op. Cit. Books in the John Dunn Shops in downtown Taos.

For those who don’t regularly follow my posts on this website, The Sweet Spot is the first of my hilltown novels to be published.

Here’s the two-sentence synopsis: Most in Conwell love Edie St. Claire, the widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam, until her affair with his married brother ends tragically. 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.

At readings for other novels, I’ve been interviewed by a fellow author and had a friend play music — The Beatles on the bassoon no less. I’ve served brownies sans pot. Once, I had a slideshow of images taken from a middle grade book. This time, I will be strictly chatting and reading aloud.

Right now I am deciding the passages I want to share Saturday. I want people to get to know Edie St. Claire, the novel’s main character, so I might start with the opening scene.

There are two more crucial characters in The Sweet Spot. One is Edie’s married brother-in-law Walker St. Claire. Their affair ends horribly for both of them. Then there is Harlan Doyle, the scarred stranger who moves next door for his fresh start.

The Sweet Spot has two fun characters: Edie’s father, who is a delightful old coot, and Leona, her no-holds-barred aunt. They offer a humorous counterpoint to the novel’s tragic elements. Plus, they are wonderfully rough-sawn in a hilltown kind of way. I must find a way to share them with listeners.

I am fond of one scene I find hilarious — when Edie’s softball team debates what constitutes a good man. Would listeners be lost because it has so many characters? I will have to figure that one out.

Although there are scenes later in the book I’d love to read aloud, I don’t want to give anything away, so I will stick with those in the first part.

My job for the next few days is to rehearse the selected passages. I want this to be a fun event.

For those who live in Taos, I hope you’ll join me Saturday. Live too far away? Please be there in spirit. I could use your support.

And here’s the link to The Sweet Spot on Amazon

 

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The Sweet Spot

A Book in Hand

The Sweet Spot went live nine days ago, and I am grateful to those who have shown interest in my new novel. My own paperbacks arrived at the post office late last week. There’s something about a book in hand, especially one you’ve written.

I’ve been visiting our local bookstores — yes, Taos still has them — to request they scan TSScarry The Sweet Spot.

Thank you to Rick Smith at Brodsky Bookshop for adding The Sweet Spot to its inventory. (He even had a check for selling Peace, Love, and You Know What. I told him I felt rich that day, much to his amusement.)

Brodsky is delightfully jammed with used books and locally written books. He had the first signed copies of John Nichols’ My Heart Belongs to Nature.

Of course, a visit to Brodsky is not complete without an exchange with its orange cat, Willy, named for the character Willy Loman. That day he was hugging the portable heater. Yes, that’s him above.

My second visit was to Op. Cit. Books at the John Dunne Shops. Besides dropping off books, I arranged to have a reading Saturday, March 25 at 2 p.m. Thank you very much, Betty.

I have a couple of more places to visit.

And in the spirit of keeping things moving, today I finished the first draft of Isabel Long, a mystery I began this fall. This is my first stab at a mystery, and I will admit I enjoy the genre. Isabel Long weighs in at 73,000 words.

Here is a very brief synopsis. Twenty-nine years ago, a  woman went missing in her little town. Newly out of work as a newspaper editor, Isabel Long decides on her own to solve the mystery. (She also gets a part-time job at the local bar called the Rooster.) Yes, the setting is the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. The characters are, well, interesting characters. It even took me a while to figure out who dunnit.

So I quietly raise my mug of tea in hurrah and then plan to get back to the novel’s beginning. I have a ways to go before I finish this mystery.

Don’t live in Taos and you want to buy my novel? Here you go on Amazon: The Sweet Spot paperback and The Sweet Spot Kindle

I am pleased that Kindle version is ranked at 1,715 in Literary Women’s Fiction.

And if you enjoy the book, I would love a review. Thank you all.

 

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