Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Last week Nicole McCaffrey tagged me for The Next Big Thing blog hop, a chance to talk about the new books we have coming out or in the works. Most of the authors I know have already participated (I'm always the last to get on the action!) so I'm not passing the game along. Anyway, here's a sneak peek into my next work.

What is the working title of your book?
A Thousand Words. As in "A picture is worth..."

Where did the idea come from for the book?
As in my last book, Framed, I'm using themes related to art as titles for my series set in an art gallery and picture framing shop. Other titles might be Still Life, Oil and Water, and so on. In this one, the action is instigated by an advertising image from the late 1950s.

What genre does your book fall under?
Cozy mystery.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
No idea! Mature ladies, that's for sure. The dogs should be  German short-haired pointers, and the setting should be the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, for its beauty and colonial history.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When a reporter  investigates the most hated man in her small town, she discovers that sometimes the sword is mightier than the pen.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Thirty days. I wrote it during National Novel Writing month in 2010.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The Crewel World series by Monica Ferris: amateur sleuths who are very good in their own field get tangled up in murder and find solutions because of their esoteric knowledge.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Hmm. How do I say this without committing libel? Let's just say that when people get laid off, they often bear a grudge against their former employers. And when I worked as a picture framer (no grudges there, trust me) my co-workers and I often indulged in making up stories about the figures in the artwork we framed. "This one looks like she'd cheat on her husband." Or "I think he's really a murderer."

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Readers will learn a little something about the art of framing, abandoned settlements from colonial times, and the behavior of bears. Bird dogs play a crucial part, and how newspaper "stringers" earn a living might make readers value their contributions more.
Here's the prologue from A Thousand Words:
A Thousand Words
     “Get yourself up here now, Jenny!” The voice on the phone was breathless and urgent.
                “What’s going on, Ed?”
                A string of muttered curses filled her ear, then, “That son-of-a-bitch Royce is tearing out the floor at the town hall. Get up here before the cops haul him away.”
                Jenny Southbury didn’t even bother to reply. She snatched up her purse and a yellow legal pad and hustled out to her dark red compact sedan, managing the rickety steps from her porch door with a groan for her achy knees.
                Constitution Hall, commonly referred to as the old town hall, sat at the highest point in Linford, New Hampshire, only a mile or two from her antique farmhouse. As Old Red steadily climbed the curving road, Jenny focused on the police radio mounted on her dash. Although she regularly wrote for the local newspapers, she didn’t normally report on accidents or crimes. Her beat was town meetings, local committee reports, and human interest stories. A corner of her mind noted that whatever she was headed for might involve all three.
                The radio was quiet for the moment, emitting only the occasional squawk of static. That meant the first excitement had passed and the responding officers were on the scene, doing what needed to be done. No sirens or flashing lights prompted her to pull over, so she didn’t think she’d run into anything exciting. Still, whenever Quentin Royce was involved, trouble followed.
                Rounding the final curve to the windy, open top of the hill, Jenny found both of Linford’s police cars with all their lights going, the ambulance standing by, a large box van emblazoned with “Ryan’s Exotic Wood,” Royce’s glossy Range Rover, Ed McCarthy’s well-worn town works truck, and a clutch of very interested observers. Three burly men lounged against the box van while Royce, a man Jenny didn’t recognize and the two police officers argued vociferously before the doors of the hall.
                Jenny parked beside the road, nodded to several onlookers she recognized as she passed them, and made her way across the rocky expanse that served as lawn for the hall. She stopped a few feet from the knot of angry men.
                “Oh, and now the goddam press shows up,” Royce sneered. “Get her the hell out of here.”       
                Sgt. Mike DeRochers glanced at Jenny, gave her a brief smile, and turned back to Royce. “Freedom of the press, sir. She’s not interfering—”
                “She puts my name in the paper, I’ll sue her ass off—”
                Mike ignored his threat. “Sir, I need to see your authorization for removal of items from this building. If you don’t have authorization, I will have to issue a cease and desist on behalf of the owner of the building--”
                “I am the owner—“
                Officer Kealy disagreed. “Sergeant, the Town of Linford is the owner, and the Historical Society is charged with upkeep—“
                “And I’m the chairman of the Society, so I can do whatever I decide should be done with—”
                The man Jenny didn’t recognize spoke up for the first time. “Officers, this man told me he had authority to sell me the wood from the stage in the hall. I have a buyer for red chestnut, it’s already in the truck. I just need to—”
                Sgt. Mike had had enough. “Mr. Royce, I‘m arresting you on suspicion of attempted theft, transfer of stolen goods, abuse of your power as chair—”
                 Whatever else he tried to say was drowned out by Royce’s shrieks of outrage. Jenny calmly jotted down the highlights, making careful note of the charges and ignoring the profanities. She asked for a statement from Sgt. Mike and gathered the names of witnesses. The exotic wood dealer declined to speak with her, but a nod from one of his crew indicated that he would talk to her. She made a point of walking past him, and he slipped her a business card. “Call me tonight,” he muttered.
                Jenny gave the barest acknowledgement and moved on to talk to Ed McCarthy. “Shelly Currier called me, why I don’t know,” the town road agent said, “and I called the cops. Then I called you.”
                “So Shelly actually saw them in the hall?”
                “Yup. By the time I got here the damage was done and most of the wood was in the truck. I stopped ’em from driving off, though.”
                She glanced at the truck, where Sgt. Mike was in a heated discussion with the dealer. She caught the word “impounded” and watched as the crew slowly unloaded the wood. It made quite a pile. Her heart ached at the thought of the destruction to the historic hall, long on the list of properties to be upgraded and restored in Linford. There was never enough money to do the work, however, and over the years the building had fallen deeper into disrepair.
                “I better go get a bigger truck,” Ed said. “They’ll want me to take that wood down to town hall. Though where we’ll store it I have no idea. Barely room for the cops, let alone evidence.” He shuffled off, waving elaborate hand signals at Sgt. Mike to telegraph his intentions.
As Kealy escorted Royce to his cruiser, they passed close to Jenny. “I’ll kill you,” Royce snarled. “One wrong word and I’ll kill you.”