Sunday 30 September 2018

#Review 30 of my Goodreads Challenge for 2018

Here's the third update on my recent reads!

The Dead Virgins by K.M. Ashman

This was a really absorbing read. I love to read historical fiction and love mysteries almost as much, so the combination of history and mystery in this novel was a fabulous mix. I already knew a little of the ancient cult of the Vestal Virgins and by the end of this novel feel I know more - so well was this fictional story written that it all appears entirely authentic.

The threads of the Ancient Roman story and that of the contemporary investigators blend perfectly in this breath taking, rapid search in different European locations. The main characters of India and Brandon are portrayed excellently in a way that makes India’s historical knowledge shine, and Brandon’s ‘military’ expertise seem realistic without being overbearing as they interact. There are some other lovely characters but since I don’t do spoilers, I won’t mention their involvement towards the end of the story.

There were a few instances that jolted me out of my absorption of the story as in things like "How did she have her passport handy?" or some of the dialogue set in the Roman 'Nero' era which seemed to be 20th century phrases but in general I was so intrigued by the story that I just wanted to read on... and on. 

I’ll be stacking my kindle with the next India and Brandon adventures.


#Review 29 of my Goodreads Challenge

This is the second of my latest batch of reviews. 

In Love with a Portrait by Francine Howarth

Can you fall in love with a portrait? Maybe someone could, but it seems a much easier proposition for Cassandra when the flesh and blood man is right in front of her. 

Ms Howarth’s stories are always entertaining and this one is perfect for steeping yourself in the period. When I want to enjoy a simple and quick read, I'm never disappointed when I reach for a novel, or novella, by this author.

Historical detail is well-embedded, and I enjoy the author’s use of language since the dialogue plunges me right into the historical setting, as though I was reading a novel that actually was written in the Georgian era. That may not be to every reader's taste but it appeals to me.

I liked Cassandra and her hero, Francis - though, as was intended, I didn’t find much to like in the mischievous Sarah even though her character is also very well written. The plot lines may be simple, and maybe even a tiny bit predictable in a Georgian romance, but I found it a very enjoyable read.


Review 28 of my Goodreads Challenge Fire and Sword

Happy Sunday to you!

Book reviews? They seem to have been neglected of late and yes, I'm still behind with my reading challenge. I spend plenty of time reading non-fiction research books but my time spent on fiction has been woefully limited, of late.

That said, over the last few weeks, I have slowly been squeezing in some personal recreational reading. The fact that I have taken days to read a book is nothing to do with their quality, but more to do with my organisation of personal time. At the end of a day, exhaustion has sneaked in and left me unable to manage more than a handful of pages, even when I've been desperate to read on.

I now have a few books to mention that I've recently enjoyed and here's the first of them. 

Fire and Sword by Louise Turner  

This was a thoroughly engrossing read. At first I wasn’t sure if John Sempill had the strength of the hero, though it wasn’t long before I enjoyed the fact that his strength of character had to have been more important at a time when most things were measured by a man’s aggressive involvement in physical retribution- ie the physical slaying of opposite clan factions. 

In such a time of political upheaval, survival must have taken many forms and I really appreciated the author’s portrayal of how the relatively young John Sempill stuck by own decisions and his principles - even when they seemed to be contrary to most of those in his locale environment. An old head on a young shoulder was a burden, but it comes across very well in this portrayal. The other characters are also well drawn and the historical setting so well done it makes me impatient to learn much more of this historical era.

I've recently read other novels set during this era of Scottish history that used to be relatively neglected. I'm delighted to find that more effort has been expended over the last couple of decades to shed much more light on what happened during these troubled late 15th century times. 

If you enjoy Scottish historical fiction, I have no qualms in recommending Fire and Sword. I look forward to reading more of Ms Turner's work. 


Saturday 29 September 2018

#Publishing tip- #The last Plantagenet? with Ocelot Press

Jennifer C. Wilson

Happy Saturday to you! 

I don't have any particular theme running on Saturdays just now, but today a good friend of mine has popped in with information about a different publishing venture. 

Jennifer has visited a number of times before though on those occasions she''s generally been discussing 'Kindred Spirits:... ', her highly original and entertaining historical fiction/fantasy series published by our mutual publisher - Crooked Cat Books. 

Today, her post is about a different sub-genre of writing that she's been involved in. 

I'm absolutely thrilled to say that Jennifer's here today to share with us that The last Plantagenet? will soon be re-published under the Ocelot Press banner.

As always, Jennifer, welcome.  Please give us an update...

In January 2017, when I had just submitted my second Kindred Spirits novel, I was looking about for what I wanted to work on next, and remembered a project I had begun a few years back, a timeslip historical romance, which looked like it might end at the ‘awkward’ length of ~15,000 words, and no longer fit the planned brief. 

The Last Plantagenet? had started life as a possible submission to the Mills & Boon Historical Undone imprint, but it wasn’t meant to be, and it had been consigned to the metaphorical bottom drawer and all but abandoned. Now though, with two books published, I was feeling a bit more confident, and besides, it featured Richard III, and I’d just spent a year working on a book set in Scotland, which hadn’t featured my favourite monarch at all, so why not have a bit of a break, do something different, and see if I could finish the project?

Having decided, I pressed on, and by around April, it was finished, now at ~20,000 words, and feeling a lot more like a rounded story, thanks to help from the writing group I attend. Speaking to my publisher, they confirmed what I had expected; it was too short for them to publish. Not knowing where else it could be placed, and now having other things I wanted to move onto as well, I decided that self-publishing was the answer, and set about those two critical items – a full edit of the text, and a great cover design.

I’d gone through both these processes before, but it was completely different going it alone. Yes, there’s more control (not that I have had any issue with what’s been done with Crooked Cat Books), but there’s also no safety net, that if you come up with an idea, say for a cover, and are adamant about it, there’s no publisher to gently tell you that it really won’t do you or your book any good. Nope, all decisions rest with you. Happily, I had a great design from SoQoQo Designs, and a reliable editor I could trust in Victoria Watson, so ‘all I had to do now’ was get myself set up with Amazon.
Amazon tackled, the ebook was released on, what else, 2nd October 2017.

The last year has been a learning curve, but an enjoyable one. The key things I’ve discovered:
·       People are incredibly helpful. Yes, I already knew this to an extent through the great support network within Crooked Cat, but in this case, nobody ‘has’ to help you. Instead though, I’ve found that if you ask for help, writers in general are more than willing to help. And helping others back, helping build that lovely sense of community, makes everything win-win.

·       Forward-planning is key. Working to your own schedule sounds like you can sit back and relax, but I found that setting a release date at the very start really helped me. If I hadn’t, I suspect I’d still be thinking about releasing it now, rather than being almost a year down the line! Also, being wholly responsible for every aspect means getting blog posts sorted, marketing set up, and any edits sorted well in advance, or you could risk missing the boat.

·  You never know where an opportunity will take you. Taking advance from a writing friend at Swanwick this year, I’ve decided to start responding to the call-outs for guest blog spots which I’ve seen for the last couple of years, but never felt brave enough to respond to. One thing you can risk doing with a supportive group, is basically writing the same things to the same people every couple of weeks – it’s important to find ways to break out of that from time to time, getting you and your work further afield.

So what’s next for The Last Plantagenet? Well, I’m thrilled to be part of Ocelot Press, an independent co-operation of Crooked Cat Books authors (past and present), who have come together to support each other in editing, producing and marketing our books, while we individually retain our control as authors. To this end, I’ve reissued The Last Plantagenet?, under the Ocelot Press banner, and it’s really exciting to be part of this new venture.

The past year has been a great one in terms of learning new things, meeting new people, and honing skills – I cannot wait to see what the next year might hold in store!

The Last Plantagenet? is available as an ebook, or on Kindle Unlimited, here.

The Last Plantagenet?

The fireplace hadn't looked like a time-portal.
All Kate had wanted was a fun, relaxing day out, watching the knights jousting at Nottingham Castle. What she ended up with was something quite different.
Transported in a heartbeat from 2011 to 1485, how will Kate handle life at the Ricardian court? Even more importantly, how will she cope when she catches the eye of the king himself?
Find out in this 'giddily romantic' romp, set just prior to the Battle of Bosworth.

About Jennifer
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.
Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and available via Amazon, along with her self-published timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet? She can be found online at her blog, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you for visiting today, Jennifer, and for sharing your information. Best wishes for your 2nd October 2018 official launch of The Last Plantagenet?. I'm thrilled that you're my colleague at Ocelot Press and look forward to having lots more books published under our mutual Ocelot Banner. 


Friday 28 September 2018

#Aye. Ken it wis like this...with Marie Macpherson

Series image- Dunkeld Cathedral
I love Fridays, especially so because it's time again for my #Aye. Ken it wis like this... historical blog series. 

Today, my guest Marie Macpherson brings a really super post with lots of brilliant illustrations to share with us, but she's also offering something different - read on to find out details of her #FREE GIVEAWAY of a Signed Paperback copy of the The First Blast of the Trumpet. 

Welcome to my blog, Marie. Please give us the historical setting to your fiction series based on the life of John Knox. 

St. Mary's 
Thanks for inviting me as a guest on your blog, Nancy, and for the opportunity to share the background to my trilogy set in 16th century Scotland, in particular Haddington, the cradle of the Scottish Reformation.

Growing up in Musselburgh, on the site of the Battle of Pinkie, within sight of Carberry Tower and Fa’side Castle, I’ve always been haunted by the stories and legends set in the turbulent reign of Mary Queen of Scots and the Reformation. 

John Knox
Now the rich history of the ancient burgh of Haddington provides the inspiration for my trilogy based on the life of the firebrand preacher, John Knox

This often raises eyebrows for why should I, a woman, choose to write about the pulpit thumping preacher forever labelled a misogynist for his polemical pamphlet, The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women? The louring figure of Knox has cast a long shadow but, love him or loathe him, revere or revile him, there’s no denying the impact this iconoclastic figure has had on our history and culture.

We’re all familiar with stereotypical, Calvinist caricature, but what was Knox really like? Who was the man behind myth? That’s what piqued my interest. What drove the Roman Catholic priest to become one of the most famous Protestant reformers in history? And was he, as so many claim, a rampant misogynist? Not only does his life story read more like adventure thriller than history, but Knox turns out to be quite the ladies’ man – he had two wives, fathered five children and had a large female following.

Memorial Plaque marking
John Knox's birthplace
Most of what we know about him is filtered through Knox himself, in his History of Reformation, more an autobiography than a historical account. He clearly wanted to draw a veil over the first 30 years of his life before 1540, which led to many misconceptions. For many years it was assumed he was born in Gifford, a village near Haddington in 1505, and that he attended Glasgow University. Even the great historian Thomas Carlyle, who planted an oak tree with a memorial plaque, was taken in. 

John Knox's Birthplace-
Giffordgate Haddington (Canmore)
It’s now established that he was born c. 1513/14 in Giffordgate, a suburb of Haddington, and was orphaned at an early age.

Being a resident in the episcopal see of St Andrews, Knox studied at the university there and not Glasgow. Knox describes himself as a ‘man of base estate and condition’ which puzzled me. How could a poor orphan afford a university education and train to become a Notary Apostolic, an ecclesiastical lawyer?

Hailes Castle
That led me to conjecture a compelling link with his feudal superiors – the Hepburns of Hailes, granted the earldom of Bothwell – under whose banner his father had died at Flodden. A member of this powerful family, Elisabeth Hepburn, was Prioress of St Mary’s Abbey, where the Treaty of Haddington – betrothing Queen Mary to the French Dauphin – was signed in 1548. A strong relationship with the prioress drives The First Blast of the Trumpet. 
Wishart martyrdom

At some point Knox fell under spell of the charismatic Protestant preacher, George Wishart, who pulled him from ‘the puddle of papistry’. He dropped everything to follow his master and when Wishart preached in Haddington in 1546, Knox was standing at the foot of the pulpit wielding a two-handed sword. However, he failed to prevent his arrest by Patrick Hepburn, (3rd Earl of Bothwell and father of the infamous James) , on the orders of Cardinal Beaton who had Wishart tried as a heretic and burnt at the stake in St Andrews. His death instilled a lifelong fear of the pyre in Knox – who nevertheless died in his bed in 1572.

Sir David Lindsay
Another important influence in his life was the poet and playwright, Sir David Lindsay,

Lindsay author of Ane Satire of the Thrie Estates – a scathing attack on the Roman Catholic church. Lindsay was exiled to his castle at Garleton, outside Haddington and may have met the student Knox at some point. 

Later, he persuaded Knox to preach his first sermon during the siege of St Andrews Castle. Arrested by the French, Knox was sentenced to toil in the galleys – where I left him at end of The First Blast of the Trumpet.

Garleton Castle 
The Second Blast of the Trumpet follows Knox in exile after his release from the galleys in spring 1549.  A pariah in Scotland, Knox was welcomed by English Reformed church who sent him to be pastor in the frontier town of Berwick-upon-Tweed and then to the court of Edward VI until the king’s untimely death. 

Mary Tudor
In Berwick, Knox met Elizabeth Bowes, a middle-aged mother of 15 children and religious hypochondriac, who developed a crush on the charismatic firebrand preacher. His tender letters to her – and to other female followers – shed a completely different light on Knox and contradict his reputation as a misogynist.

When Knox married her 16-year-old daughter, Mrs Bowes left her husband to follow them to Geneva where Knox had fled to escape Mary Tudor’s persecution.  In 1558 he penned his infamous treatise on the ‘Monstrous Regiment’ – not an attack on the female sex in general – but directed at the unnatural regime of female Catholic rulers: in particular Mary Tudor in England, Mary, Queen of Scots and Mary of Guise in Scotland.
Mary of Guise

Knox’s First Blast was not only misjudged – it drew howls of horror from all sides – even from the arch Calvinist, Calvin – it was grossly mistimed. Despite his famous gift of prophecy, he failed to foresee death of Mary Tudor in November 1558 or the accession of another queen. Elizabeth I was not at all amused and refused to allow him back in England.

I’m now working on The Last Blast of the Trumpet which begins in May 1559 when Knox lands in Scotland, called by the Lords of the Congregation to lead the Protestant Reformation. His famous sermon at Perth against idolatry sparked a wholesale riot by the ‘rascal multitude’. As civil war raged, four deaths in fairly quick succession had a great impact on Knox. In July 1559, the French King Henri II died from a jousting wound, making Mary queen of France. A year later, in June 1560 Mary of Guise died of dropsy. Later, in December, Knox’s young wife, Marjory died unexpectedly as did Mary’s husband, François. No longer queen of France, Mary returned to Scotland to claim her throne – much to Knox’s annoyance. In The Last Blast, I’m covering well-trodden ground as Mary enters the scene to begin her tragic decline and fall. 
Mary Queen of Scots

To be continued ....

Marie Macpherson

For more about Marie Macpherson please click HERE 
Find Marie at the following places: 


Twitter: @MGMacpherson


To **WIN** a #FREE copy of The First Blast of the Trumpet, please leave a comment, or question in the comments box about Marie's excellent post to ENTER the Draw. The Winner will be drawn on Sunday 30th September at NOON (UK/ GMT)  
(Please leave some method of contacting the winner)
[offer applies to UK only] 


To buy Marie's books click HERE

Fabulous post, Marie, packed full of really interesting information. Thank you so much for contributing to my Friday series. My very best wishes to you for happy writing - current and future! (I just wish I had loads of time to read this period of history, as well as have another read of my very old copy of 'The Three Estates' -see below) 

List of Illustrations
St Mary’s Haddington
John Knox Statue Haddington
3 . Memorial marking John Knox’s birthplace
4. Birthplace of John Knox
5. Hailes Castle
7. Sir David Lindsay
8. Garleton Castle
9. Mary Tudor
10. Mary of Guise
11. Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox by Samuel Sidley, Towneley Hall Art Gallery

My copy of 'The Three Estates'  - Heinemann Ed bought 1970 at 16 shillings. An adaptation created for Tyrone Guthrie's play production at the Edinburgh Festival 1948. A set text during my B.Ed English course of 1970 at Glasgow University/ Jordanhill College of Education.


Friday 21 September 2018

#Aye. Ken it wis like this...with Renee Dahlia

series image: Dunkeld Cathedral
It's Friday again, and time for another addition to my historical background series. 

I’m delighted to welcome Renee Dahlia to the blog to discuss her historical romance, The Heart of a Bluestocking. Set in 1888, in Victorian London, the novel is based on a real life horse racing mystery. 

I must admit to having read more recent novels set in the racing world, like those of Jilly Cooper, but none that I remember which went back to a Victorian setting. And none which had such a novel, intriguing mystery.... 

Hello Renee! Please tell us more of the Victorian London setting in The Heart of a Bluestocking, Book 3 of your 'Bluestocking' series which will be launched on 20th October 2018. 

Horse racing has over three hundred years of official history in England, with Weatherbys Stud Book dating back to 1770, although informal horse racing took place for centuries before this. As horse racing became more developed the rules have evolved to ensure fairness for punters – however, this wasn’t always the case, and many fascinating tales of the turf come from the pre-computing era of horse racing. One of these happened on the Bank Monday holiday in August of 1898, when an entire race meeting was invented by an unknown punter in order to scam the city bookmakers of some serious coin. In the weeks leading up to the August bank holiday, the Sportsman newspaper received a series of communications from a member of the Trodmore Hunt Club notifying them of their upcoming meeting. The Sportsman published the fields for the meeting, later saying the quality of their communications with the club was of such a high standard, it seemed obvious the club was real.

The Encyclopaedia of Sport  - Wikimedia Commons 
The Sportsman couldn’t commit a journalist to cover the raceday, as they were busy with the nearby Newton Abbot meeting, but noted that if one of the stewards would be obliged to send the result, that would be appreciated. Enter Mr Martin. He agreed to cover the event for the Sportsman for the fee of one guinea, with full results wired at the end of the meeting. As this day was one of the few public holidays in 1898, it was a huge day for the races, and very busy with bookies. The bookies did a roaring trade on Trodmore, bigger than expected for a minor meeting but not completely unexpected for a holiday.

The evening papers published the results from the major meetings held that day but didn’t publish the Trodmore results until the next day. As a side note, the telegraph first came into use in 1837, and by 1845, the Electric Telegraph Company had formed and the technology was about to take off. Australia became connected to the world in October 1872, and the telegraph across the Pacific was finally completed in 1902 to encircle the whole world. Therefore, by 1898, the idea that race results could be sent quickly to newspapers was old news!

Mr Martin wrote an effusive letter about the success of the meeting, and the Trodmore results were published in the Sportsman. Punters will notice an important feature of the results.
First race – Jim 5/4
Second race – Rosy 5/1
Third race – Spur 2/1
Fourth race – Reaper 5/1
Fifth race – Curfew 6/4
Sixth race – Fairy Bells 7/4

Every winner won at low odds with nothing dramatic for the bookies to pay attention to. So how did anyone find out that the whole meeting didn’t exist? The Sporting Life didn’t print the results (remember, they hadn’t printed the racecard either), and bookies asked them to confirm the odds, refusing to pay out until such time. Mr Martin contacted The Sporting Life, as the journalist who had represented the Sportsman at the meeting and agreed to write an article for The Sporting Life. However, he couldn’t send it through until the following afternoon. With the bookies furiously wanting to confirm the results, The Sporting Life decided to copy the results from the Sportsman to save time. The printer, perhaps tired or hungover, erroneously made a typo, putting Reaper as having won at 5/2. Now the bookies were really paying attention – which newspaper was right? And where was Trodmore anyway? 

The Sportsman’s editor telegraphed Mr Martin and received no response. The addresses on the original letters were traced, and no place called Trodmore existed. The matter was handed over to police, and the Sportsman printed an apology note. The scam took thousands of pounds from bookmakers, and the punter who set up the scam was never caught. One theory is that only someone with journalism skills and a strong racing background had the working understanding of both the papers and horse racing to be able to pull off such an idea.

In The Heart of a Bluestocking, Claire and Ravi must solve a mystery based on the Trodmore Hunt Scam. The Trodmore Hunt Scam is a simple scam, but for characters who have no knowledge of horse racing, it creates tension as they try to understand racing, the scam, and save their families from the consequences. In The Heart of a Bluestocking, the fictional scam occurs in 1888, and there are some alterations to the scam to keep the reader guessing (as well as the characters solving the crime).

When an uncommon lawyer meets an unusual doctor, their story must be extraordinary...

The Heart of a Bluestocking

September 1888: Dr Claire Carlingford owns the bluestocking label. Her tycoon father encouraged her to study, and with the support of her two best friends, she took it further than anyone could imagine, graduating as a doctor and running her own medical practice. But it's not enough for her father. He wants her to take over the business, so he can retire. Then his sudden arrest throws the family into chaos and his business into peril.
Mr James Ravi Howick, second son of Lord Dalhinge, wants to use his position as a lawyer to improve conditions for his mother's family in India. When an opportunity arises to work for Carlingford Enterprises, one of the richest companies in the world, Ravi leaps at the chance to open his own legal practise. But his employment becomes personal as he spends more time with Claire and she learns the secret that could destroy his family.
Both Ravi and Claire are used to being outsiders and alone. But as they work together to save their respective families from disaster, it becomes clear that these two misfits might just fit together perfectly.
Out: 20 October 2018

See Renee's Amazon page HERE for more details.

Thank you for visiting today, Renee, and for bringing such an interesting concept for your novel. My very best wishes for The Heart of a Bluestocking when it launches next month.  I can see my kindle pile increasing again, and since I always like to start a new series at the beginning I might just have enough time to squeeze in Books 1 & 2 first... 

Monday 17 September 2018

#Monday Matters... How did That Happen with Joan Livingston

Today's 'How Did That Happen' 
is equally about the 'When Did That Happen' with my return guest, fellow Crooked Cat author, Joan Livingston. 

Joan was a guest here earlier this year, when Book 1 of her 'Isabel Long' mystery series was published, but today she's here to give us some information about Redneck's Revenge (Book 2) which launches soon ...and we have the privilege of having a sneak peek at the story! 

I knew Joan has been writing for a good few years, but I didn't realise she had written so many different stories and series. Here's Joan to tell us about them.

Welcome back, Joan...

Writing the Isabel Long Series
Sometimes I love my characters too much for them to have only one book. That’s the case of Isabel Long and many of the characters in my mystery series. The first, Chasing the Case, was released this past spring. The official launch for Redneck’s Revenge, the second, is Sept. 26. And the third, Checking the Traps, will be ready for readers next year.

And I plan to continue this series.

Actually, this isn’t the first one I’ve written. My first is a middle-grade series featuring a family of jinn (genies). In the first, they hide out in a traveling carnival’s show, where they put their magical powers to good use. They live in a small town next, then on a ranch in the Southwest. I am halfway through the fourth, where they live in a town with retired circus performers.

Alas, as of this writing none of the books have been published.

Nancy says: Maybe soon they'll be published? I'm sure middle grade kids will love them! 

But I loved the Jinn family — the last name they use — and the mischievous twins, Jute and Fina, so much that I wanted to plunk them into different situations. I should backtrack here a bit and say they managed to escape from their evil master, so they are supposed to keep a low profile. Tell that to the kids.

My other is the Los Primos/The Cousins series. This bilingual series for kids features two cousins, their grandfather, and magical realism. The first, The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los Primos y el Pez Mágico, was self-published. I hope to release the next two, which have been completed.

Nancy: Finding the time to squeeze in self-publishing, I think, is an art, Joan. And if you're doing the translation as well, then even more so! 

But back to the Isabel Long series… mysteries lend themselves well to it. Each book features a cold case Isabel takes. So far, a family member approaches Isabel to find out what happened to a loved one.

I carry some of the characters over from one book to the other. Others I leave behind. I create new ones.

Nancy: In my historical series, I've also carried over some characters in later books. And as they age, some of the younger clan members in the first book become the main characters of later books, with the earlier characters as the revered, and aging relatives.

I also use different settings for the crimes she is supposed to solve.

The trick is to give continuity while not giving away too much of the previous book or books.

In Redneck’s Revenge, I catch readers up in the first chapter when she meets Franklin “Lin” Pierce, a private investigator. She has found out that legally she needs to work for a licensed P.I. for three years before going solo. Lin, whose best days as a P.I. behind him, is more interested in Isabel’s first case.

Here’s an excerpt:

Isabel Long. The man’s greeting was more of a statement than a question, but then again, Franklin Pierce is expecting me. He’s a private investigator and I need his services. It’s not what you think. I don’t have a case for him to solve. I want him to hire me for three years, so I can be a bona fide P.I. We are meeting at his office, which is just a narrow storefront between a Cumby’s – that’s Cumberland Farms to those who don’t live in New England – and a pizza joint. The sign on the window says:




Franklin Pierce is on the pudgy side, pushing seventy or more, maybe, with glasses and a double chin that hangs loose like a turkey’s wattle. He’s got to be about five-foot-two or shorter because I tower over him. Get this. He’s wearing a cowboy hat and a long canvas coat as if he’s a cattleman out West. But when he opens his mouth, he’s pure Yankee with those missing Rs and added Rs, plus a twang that says his folks have lived in this part of the world, that is, Western Massachusetts, since the white folks found it and the people who lived here before them.

He clutches a set of keys as I make my approach to the front door. Naturally, I was ten minutes early, my M.O., and waited in the car with my mother before he arrived. Yes, Maria Ferreira, my ninety-two-year-old mother, soon to be my ninety-three-year-old mother April 2, is with me. But when Ma saw Cumby’s, she hightailed it out of my car. She says she’ll go to the pizza joint afterward to get something to drink. She could have stayed home, but it’s February, and like the rest of us, she’s got a bit of cabin fever from the seemingly endless winter that began in October.

I smile and extend my hand to Franklin Pierce. I feel a bit self-conscious my skin is colder and rougher than his. I’m curious why someone would name their kid after one of the worst presidents so far although I can think of a few other contenders. But now isn’t the time to bring up that observation. I need to win this man over. So, what will it be: Franklin or Frank although I seriously doubt Frankie. I play it safe.

“Mr. Pierce, hello.”

“Please call me Lin. And you? Is it Isabel or Izzie? Which do you prefer?”

I shake my head.

“Never Izzie,” I say.

“I’ll remember that.”

“Okay, Lin. How do you spell that?”


Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over, but no surprise there since his sister turned out to be the killer. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother  — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.
Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

Joan Livingston
Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Joan Livingston on social media:

Twitter: @joanlivingston 

Book links to Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge:

Thank you for visiting today, Joan, and for bringing along Isabel. Wishing you the very best for your launch of Redneck's Revenge, which sounds like a very entertaining read! And additional good wishes for successful publication of your other writing.