The Endurance mystery series has had a long and winding road that still seems to be fraught with obstacles. Despite the difficulties, largely caused by the changing nature of publishing, the Endurance series is still winding its way through the hazards of the publishing world and doing some good in the form of charitable options.
Three May Keep a Secret, the first book in the Endurance series, was picked up very quickly by the mystery line of Five Star Publishing, an imprint of Cengage. Launching in the late fall of 2014, it introduced the main characters, starting with Grace Kimball, a widow, mother, and newly retired school teacher. Her good friend and Endurance police detective, TJ Sweeney, is a former student of Grace’s and now a friend. Their small town of Endurance is rocked by two murders in the hot summer of 2011. Adding to the humor of the mystery is Grace’s sister-in-law, Lettie Kimball, a woman who has an opinion about everything and a jungle telegraph that even TJ Sweeney envies. Jeff Maitlin is the new man in town, a mysterious stranger who has come from New York City to be editor of the Endurance Register. But Endurance has myriad secrets, and, as Grace discovers, people she thought she knew are willing to kill to keep those secrets hidden.
This initial book in the series sold well, and has found its way to hundreds of libraries all over the country and even abroad. I spent many months talking to groups, doing book signings, and attending a book conference, Malice Domestic, in Bethesda, Maryland. Five Star quickly bought the second book too, but when it appeared that the books would have a two-year gap in launch dates, I decided to write a novella about my detective, TJ Sweeney.
Meanwhile, Cengage, my publisher, announced that it was dropping its entire mystery line in 2017. This, of course, leaves me and quite a number of other mystery writers in limbo as far as finishing series or even getting them published.
I indie-published TJ’s story, The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney, using Amazon’s Kindle Direct program in April, 2016. In e-book version only, this novella traces TJ’s investigation of a decades-old murder that occurred in Endurance long before DNA was developed as an evidence tool. TJ must identify a victim and figure out the identity of the perpetrator who murdered this young woman. My object in publishing this short novel was to flesh out my detective, add a glimpse into her personal life, and follow her in the investigation of a perplexing crime.
In November, Five Star will publish my second novel in this series, Marry in Haste. Grace and Jeff Maitlin are now dating, and he has bought a huge Victorian mansion in Endurance that he plans to restore to its former glory. While investigating the Lockwood house, Jeff and Grace discover a diary from the late 1890s. After this surprising find, the novel moves back and forth between a murder in the present day and the 1890 events described by young Olivia Havelock Lockwood.
After I wrote this second novel, the local arts center, The Buchanan Center for the Arts, asked if I’d be willing to allow people to bid on character names in the book. The proceeds would fund children’s art programs in the area. This sounded like a winning idea, so we had an auction the night of their fund-raising dinner. We netted $1400 for two character names, and the funds were matched by a grant from the State of Illinois.
After the second book arrives in November, I hope to either have a publisher for the third, Death Takes No Bribes, or I will indie-publish once again with a paperback and e-book edition this time. Publishers are reluctant to pick up a series in the middle, so it is possible that I will publish this third book myself.
I’m currently weighing a couple of plans about Death Takes No Bribes. The local arts center has expressed interest in another auction, and my granddaughter’s foundation, Giggling Gwen, has mentioned a similar interest for their fund-raising event, Cupcakes and Cabernet, in October. (Giggling Gwen is named for my granddaughter, who passed away from a virus at age four. Her foundation helps fund the arts programs at Childsplay, a children’s theatre in the Phoenix area.)
I think this third book can accommodate both requests. It would warm my heart to know that even though my third novel is an orphan, it might still do some great good for arts programs in two different states. So, I think I’ll work on that.
What future lies ahead for Grace and Jeff is still up in the air. I’m currently thinking about leaping ahead a few years and beginning a new series based on their lives—maybe together. I’m also considering a couple more novellas about TJ Sweeney’s cases. Because the publishing world is so unpredictable these days, I, like many authors, am having to come up with creative alternatives.