About JH Authors

As Julia Henry, she writes the Garden Squad series for Kensington. PRUNING THE DEAD debuts the series in February 2019. As J.A. Hennrikus, she writes the Theater Cop series for Midnight Ink. Next up: WITH A KISS I DIE, April 2019. As Julianne Holmes she wrote the Clock Shop Mystery series for Berkley. She tweets her writing life as @JHAuthors, and her other life as @JulieHennrikus. She is on Instagram as @JHAuthors. Her website is jhauthor.com, and she blogs with WickedAuthors.com and KillerCharacters.com.

J. A. Hennrikus Cover Reveal

by Julie, loving summer in Somerville

With a Kiss I DieI am thrilled to share the cover for my next Theater Cop book, With A Kiss I Die. It will be released on April 8, 2019 but is available for pre-order now.

The Theater Cop series features Sully Sullivan, an ex-cop who runs a theater company on the North Shore of Massachusetts. The Cliffside is a summer theater, but the work goes on all year long. This book takes place in February. Dimitri Traietti has been hired to step in and direct Romeo and Juliet in Boston, and Sully goes down to give him a sounding board as he deals with a cast in revolt, an all white set, and an absentee managing director. Sully also sets up a meeting with Mimi and Jerry Cunningham. They run the Century Foundation, and Sully is applying to them for a grant. When Mimi is found dead, Sully tries not to get involved with the investigation, especially when she realizes her former partner is on the case. But then her ex-husband Gus disappears. . .

The Theater Cop series is more of a traditional series. It crosses the two worlds I love–mysteries and theater.

How great is this cover? I love the layers of information included on it–a lot but not too much. So glad I’m able to share it with you today!

A Wicked Excellent Retreat

by Julie, still basking in the glow of hard work, good food, and wonderful friends

A WICKED EXCELLENT RETREATSix years ago Jessie, Barb, Edith and Liz had newly minted contracts, and decided to get together for a weekend to figure out what that meant. The next year Sherry had a contract, and she and I were invited to join the weekend retreat. That weekend the Wickeds were born. We got the blog up a few weeks later, in time for Liz’s release, followed shortly by Edith and Barb.

My contract came through shortly thereafter, and the six of us have been gathering for this 48 hour retreat ever since. Some years have been mostly about writing. This year the focus was on the business of being a Wicked. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t laughter, great food, lots of wine, and fabulous conversations. There was all of that, and more. But five years into this community that we all cherish, we had conversations about how to continue to build, celebrate our successes, support one another through deadlines, and navigate the twists of turns of life.

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We are six very different women, with different points of view. We don’t always agree, but we do always listen to one another. Over these six years we’ve become friends, certainly. We’ve also come to respect one another enormously, respect our paths, and offer advice when asked for it.

This year we helped each other plot, met up with Lea Wait (who’s new book Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd comes out tomorrow!), talked about an editorial calendar for the blog, had a conversation about the book business that lasted the better part of a morning, shared new skills with each other, created some new work flow for the blog, and wrote down releases and deadlines through 2019. My mind is whirring, but I’m excited about the conversations, and rejuvenated by spending time with my friends. I know you will all love these new ideas, which we’ll be rolling out this summer.

One personal note–as I mentioned earlier, I did not have a contract when I joined the blog. I will forever be grateful to these women for inviting me on board, lifting me up along my journey, and becoming dear friends. We’ve been figuring out the best way to be Wickeds along the way, and are so grateful to you, dear readers, for coming along with us.

Readers, do you go on retreat with friends? Tell us about it in the comments!

Wickeds, what did I miss in my recap?

Let’s Talk

by Julie, enjoying “spring” in Somerville.

Let's TalkI am preparing classes in arts administration designed to help performing artists learn/develop their administrative skills so they can produce their own work, or better understand the business side of the art. As I prepare the classes, one thing that keeps coming up is the role of the audience and the interaction between artists and audience. The importance of communication, and not assumption.

A couple of weeks ago Sheila and Barb both used the word “talk” in their blog titles. It inspired me to think about “talking” given my arts administrative lens. Let me explain, since these skills apply to authors as well.

In the arts, it is good to talk to your audience. This doesn’t mean that you change your art depending on what they say. What it does mean is that by talking to them you can make your pitch–let them know and understand why your work is worthy of their time and money. By the way, talking also means listening.

Talking to other artists is a gift. No one understands your path better than someone else who has traveled it. Ask for advice. Give it. Share ideas. Offer support. One person’s success does not mean lack for you. The work is too hard to believe that. So go ahead and talk, share, celebrate, laugh.

At some point you’ll have to talk to an agent and/or an editor (or a director or casting agent). Part of this talking may be to make a pitch about your work (or to audition). But you have to develop relationships with the folks you work with, which means you need to talk to them. Relationships matter.

The final person to talk to? Yourself. Give yourself pep talks. Practice your pitch in the mirror. Read your work aloud, especially the dialogue. Talk through plot problems with your cat.

Any other folks we should be talking to? What do you think, dear readers?

Introducing Julia Henry!

By Julie, thrilled to be introducing the latest JH Author!


Pruning The Dead MMI am beyond thrilled to tell you all about the new series I’m writing as Julia Henry for Kensington. The Garden Squad series is set in Goosebush, MA, a fictional town on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Lilly Jayne is a widow in her mid sixties. Her best friend, Tamara O’Connor is a real estate agent in town. Ernie Johnson owns the town home and garden store. Delia Greenway was Lilly’s late husband’s student, and lives with Lilly. They take care of each other. Together these four friends garden together–the kind of gardening that “solves” town problems rather than beautification work. They also solve mysteries.

Here’s the cover blurb for the first book, Pruning the Dead:

Post-retirement aches and pains can’t prevent sixty-five-year-old Lilly Jayne from keeping the most manicured garden in Goosebush, Massachusetts. But as a murder mystery blooms in the sleepy New England town, can a green thumb weed out a killer?

With hundreds flocking to her inaugural garden party, meticulous Lilly Jayne hasn’t left a single petal out of place. But the picture-perfect gathering turns unruly upon the arrival of Merilee Frank, Lily’s ex-husband’s catty third wife. Merilee lives for trouble, so no one is surprised after she drinks too much, shoves a guest into the koi pond, and gets escorted off the property. The real surprise comes days later—when Merilee is found dead in a pile of mulch . . .

Lilly wishes she could stick to pruning roses and forget about Merilee’s murder—until her best friend and ex become suspects in an overgrown homicide case. Now, aided by the Garden Squad, an unlikely group of amateur crime solvers with a knack for planting, Lilly knows she has limited time to identify the true culprit and restore order to Goosebush. Because if the murderer’s plot isn’t nipped in the bud, another victim could be pushing up daisies!

I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying writing this series! Though it won’t be out until January 29, 2019, it is available for pre-order now. You’ll be hearing more about it in the next few months, but today I wanted to share the news, share the cover, and let you all know that the Wickeds are adding another author to the masthead!

Readers, how much do you love this cover? Isn’t it beautiful?

Stepping Toward A Dream

Live Your Dream image with resume, pen, person jumping with joy, four leaf clover, and horseshoeFor three days this week, as part of my day job, I helped oversee over 400 actors who came in to do a monologue or sing for 41 different organizations. The organizations included theater companies, casting agents, tour companies, educational theater companies, and playwrights. As I checked each person in, collected their headshots, directed them to the green room, and answered several dozen questions over and over again, I could not help but cheer them on. They were putting themselves out there, trying to take a step towards living their dream and being hired to act. It also made me think of my time standing in lines to pitch agents and editors, hoping to make a connection to move me forward to living my dream of being a published author. Over the years, I’ve come to realize a few truths that make these journeys easier, so I thought I’d share them here.

Preparation is key. Know your monologue or song. In the case of a writing, know your pitch. Be ready to deliver it. Get there with enough time to get mentally prepared if possible, but know it in your bones.

Do your best, and understand that your best isn’t always great. When I asked folks how they did, if they felt good about their audition, they glowed. If it didn’t land, or they went up on a line, they were unhappy that they blew that moment. But it was just that, a moment, and they needed to let it go. I remember meeting agents, and the conversation went well. Other meetings did not go as well. All you can do it your best, and move on.

Give folks what they ask for, otherwise you may get taken out of the running. If people didn’t staple their headshots correctly, or didn’t have easily accessible contact information, their headshot got returned by a lot of folks. When you are seeing dozens of people, you need ways to sort through the pile, and not following directions is one way to do that. When you are submitting a query, read what folks want, and follow those guidelines. Don’t improvise, or give them what you think they need. Sometimes following directions is the first test.

Know that sometimes it isn’t you, it’s just that it isn’t a good fit. For writers, it could mean that the agent you are pitching doesn’t think they can find a home for your work. Or an editor may not need your genre for their catalog. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer. It means you haven’t found the right fit.

Attitude is everything. For actors who go into an audition, you never know who is checking you in. Those folks will be asked about how you were in the waiting room. For writers, remember that writing is solitary, but getting published is a community effort. Disappointment is part of the business. How you handle that disappointment becomes part of your reputation.

Practice radical gratitude. Being grateful for opportunities makes the artistic journey much easier. If you are only grateful when you get what you want, you are going to have a tough ride. An actor I know (who works a lot) told me that she considered auditioning her job, so she loved it. Getting a gig was her vacation. Being an artist isn’t easy. But how lucky are we to be called to the artistic journey? For that, I am grateful.

Do you know what else I am grateful for, dear readers? Opportunities to meet you in person! I have two coming up in the next few days.

On Sunday, April 15 Barbara Ross, Edith Maxwell, and Leigh Perry/Toni Kelner and I will be doing a talk back after a performance of Miss Holmes at the Greater Boston Stage Company. I’m very excited about my two worlds (theater and writing) colliding at this event, and am also looking forward to seeing the show!

On Wednesday, April 18 I am going to be at the Westwood Library with Hank Phillippi Ryan, Elizabeth Elo, and Stephanie Gayle doing a talk about plotting in different genres. More information is here.

In the comments, let me know what you’ve discovered on your journey so far. Tips that you wish you could give your younger self. . .

Talking to You

By Julie, grateful someone else shovels the snow here in Somerville, because we got a lot on Tuesday

WHICH ONE_Dear Readers,

Do you have any idea how much your support of this blog means to all of us? A lot. That’s the answer. We love that you respond to our posts, we love that when we meet you in person we feel as if we know you already, we love the support you give our guests, and we love that you celebrate each new book with us. This year we will hit the fifty book mark (and go past it) on the blog, so there’s been a lot to celebrate!

Today I’d like to ask your opinion on a few things. There are so many paths to communicate with folks these days, but I wonder which are the most effective? Do you mind if I ask some questions, and you can let me know what you think in the comments?

First of all, do you like newsletters? What kind of content do you enjoy in the newsletter? Most of the other Wickeds do them, but I haven’t done one yet. Thinking I should, so I’d appreciate your thoughts. I’m thinking about a quarterly newsletter, BTW.

How would you feel about the occasional video post rather than a written one? I’ll admit, I had never been a video fan, but lately I’m rethinking that. I’m taking a class online right now, and like the video format. It makes me feel more engaged with the instructor. For my work at StageSource one of our interns has been doing videos for us, and they are getting great responses. Also, I needed to fix something so I did a search on YouTube. What a great resource for walking you through projects. Anyway, it’s made me wonder about doing short videos once in a while for all of you.

For the past few months I’ve been using Instagram more and more, though I’m not great at it. I’ve also started a Instagram for my writing life (@JHAuthors) which is separate from my personal life (@JAHenn). I am not a visual thinker, so it’s been a little tough, but I am trying. I am also on Facebook and Twitter. While I love these platforms for connecting with folks, I wonder if there is a preference for all of you? I am on Pinterest, but unlike some of the other Wickeds I don’t use it well.

Final question for all of you–I wonder if the Wickeds should try to Facebook live sometime we’re all together. Would that be fun to try? We’re all going to be at Malice–maybe we could pull something together there. Again, until recently I didn’t understand how compelling these could be, but now I see how much fun it can be to interact with folks.

Let me end this blog post the way I started. Thank you all for being part of the Wicked Cozy Authors community. I love blogging with the others, and interacting with you.

Thank you for indulging my curiosity. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments!

The Superpower of Fun

By Julie, in disbelief that it is going to be in the 50’s today

 

FunThis time of year is always a bit of a blah for me, and this year is no different. In fact, because of a bout with the flu, I’m feeling more blah than normal. And retrospective. My gratitude list, which is long, wasn’t doing the normal job of getting me out of my slump, so I decided to reboot a bit, and shift my lens.

Last week I went to a presentation on the most recent Culture Track study. Part of the presentation has been sticking with me all week. It was about the prime motivating factors for participating in culture. (The definition of culture is also shifting, which is fascinating.) These are the top five reasons their data pointed to:

5. Learning something new
4. Feeling less stressed
3. Experiencing new things
2. Interest in the content

And the number one reason people indicated motivated them to participate in something cultural?

Having fun.

Earlier this year, I went to the memorial service for a wonderful Boston actor, Tommy Derrah. One of Tommy’s mantra’s was “if it isn’t fun, don’t do it.” Tommy’s ability to find the fun in everyday is part of his legacy, and one of the reasons he will be greatly missed, but not soon forgotten. I’d already been thinking about that phrase, and what it means to me, and then I learned that fun is a prime motivator for a lot of folks.

That doesn’t mean don’t work hard. That doesn’t mean that the work has to be light-hearted all the time. I had fun going to Hamilton, hardly the happiest of stories and a musical that makes me ugly cry at the end every time I listen to it. But the experience of seeing it onstage gave me joy, a complex expression of fun.

I’ve been thinking about my own life. How do I shift from blah to fun? How do I ensure that my legacy will be “she had fun, and helped others have fun”? How do I shift to finding joy even in the tough times? How can I lighten up a bit, and enjoy the ride more?

What about my work? Certainly the cozy genre means that fun is part of the contract we make with our readers. Even when we take a darker turn, satisfaction for the reader is one of our goals. Is satisfaction another expression of fun? I think perhaps it is.

Lately I’ve been noodling a slightly darker suspense story. I’m writing down the ideas as they come to me, while I continue to work on the two novels I have plotted already. I’m wondering–will writing something new be fun? I acknowledge that the process will be challenging, but will I find it fun?

More precisely, if I don’t find it fun, why would I put myself through it?

As a middle-aged, cranky Yankee, I have undervalued fun. I see that now. My mid-February pondering leads me to the question–can I reframe, and find the fun?

I’m going to give it my best shot.

How about you, dear readers. Do you have fun? If you could do something fun right now, what would it be?