Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Keeping a Series Going

Following the Lead, no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, is in the works for a Nov. 3 release and available for pre-order. But before I started no. 7, I was inspired to take a pause and reread each book. I had the time and motivation to maintain the series’ consistency.

So, as I sat on the front porch, my alternate office these warm weather days, I went through each one, as a reader and not as the writer. Chasing the Case. Redneck’s Revenge. Checking the Traps. Killing the Story. Working the Beat.

Frankly, key to this series is Isabel Long who makes it easy for me to create and continue a series since she tells the story. A widow a year. A former long-time journalist who plans to put that profession’s transferable skills to good use investigating cold cases in the sticks where she lives. A part-time bartender. She’s not some sweet young thing. Smart, savvy, and a bit of a wise-ass, especially about her observations of hilltown life. I admit there’s a lot of me in this character, save the widow part.

As I have mentioned before there are characters I love too much to let go. Annette Waters aka Tough Cookie is one. She runs a junkyard, garage, and co-owner of a convenience store in the middle of nowhere called the Pit Stop. The Old Farts, those nosy geezers who meet in the backroom of the Conwell General Store, are others. Of course, there’s Maria, Isabel’s mother and sidekick, plus Jack, her love interest that owns the Rooster Bar. Bad boys Gary and Larry Beaumont. Marsha. Annette’s son, Abe. Isabel’s old boss, Lin Pierce. Dancin’ Dave Baxter. And Jim Hawthorne aka Thorny.

Some characters I create don’t appear in every book. Others are one and done.

But as I move onto the seventh, I’ve decided to draw up a chart of who’s who for each character, so I keep them and details about their backgrounds straight — also key moments for them.

The same will go for each town. Isabel lives in Conwell, which has one store, one bar, one school, one school and one stoplight. Dillard, from book four, is the only one with a railroad passing through it. Titus has a country fair. Caulfield has the Pit Stop and Baxter’s, a biker bar on the lake. There are rivers and landmarks.

I have to say rereading the books has been an enjoyable pastime. I even found myself laughing out loud at some of the parts. I liked the flow and interaction of characters. I am happy I wrote them. I am glad I worked with editor, Miriam Drori.

And since I had an idea for no. 7, I marked pages with pieces of paper for info I will want to include.

Okay, full disclosure: I also found a few errors, which in this digital age and print on demand can be changed — certainly part of my inspiration for the chart. A couple of readers mentioned after reading Checking the Traps, I had Isabel giggle too much. I believe I used that form of laughter to show Isabel was a little unsure as she finds later in life a new love in Jack and situation as a P.I. But I see what they mean. Isabel is tougher than that, and I stopped her giggling from book four on. 

But with only the fifth book to go, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve started no. 7, tentatively called Making a Deadline. On Friday, I sat down with my computer, and the story just began itself. Remember Cary Moore, the highway worker who wrote poetry good enough for a famous poet to steal? Well, thanks to that remorseful poet, Cyrus Nilsson aka the Big Shot Poet, his collection, “Country Boy,” is having a release party at the Penfield Town Hall. It’s standing room only for local folks. And that’s where Isabel — and her mother — find the next case. My lips are sealed for now.

PHOTO ABOVE: That’s the stack of books for the Isabel Long Mystery Series.

LINKS TO MY BOOKS: If you are reader, thank you very much. If you are tempted to be one, here’s the link to the series: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

And if you are interested in pre-ordering Following the Lead — againthank you — here’s that link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead That’s for Kindle orders. Paperback will be released a little later.

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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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