JH Authors

2017 trading cardWhen I signed the contract to write the Clock Shop Mystery series, I had to pick a pen name. I chose Julianne Holmes, which is a family name of sorts. I talked about choosing the name here.  Two caveats helped with the name choice. The initials are the same (JH) as my real name, and the first name sounds like Julie. If I chose “Sally” or “Betty” I would never respond to folks when they called my name.

When I got the contract for my Theater Cop series, I went with my own name, J.A. Hennrikus. How thrilled am I that my folks are going to get to hold a book with my name on it?

Then I started to think about branding. I have a Facebook page that has both names. For the Clock Shop series, I got the twitter handle @ClaganClocks, since they use it in the book. But I’ve never hid the @JulieHennrikus twitter handle. I’ve got a number of followers from all parts of my life.

But when I got a second JH contract, and decided all of my pen names will be JH names, I thought about creating a second online persona, one for my writing life. @JHAuthors became that Twitter handle. I need to build up the followers, but follow me there for my writing life.

Do you like the picture of me? I saw a caricature service in a stationary store, but it was expensive to have the drawing done. (Note, artists should be paid for their work, it just wasn’t in my budget.) I have nieces, nephews, and god children who own my heart. One of my nieces just graduated from 8th grade, and is an amazing artist. I asked her to draw a picture of me, and told her what it was for. This is what she created. I love it–more timeless than a headshot, but it looks a lot like me.  She signs her work RAS. Since she is young, I’m not going to share more details than that, but know that I am a very proud aunt.

The card (which some folks got at Malice) is trading card size. For the next three years I will have at least one book out, so I decided I am going to do a new trading card every year. Isn’t that a fun way to get the information out? I’m always open to new ideas on the marketing front, and do like that the JHAuthors brand could help me figure out some fun pieces.

Dear readers, tell me, what sort of marketing swag do you respond to? Do you think that JHAuthors makes sense, or should I keep all my personas separate?

The Juggling Act

By Julie, looking forward to a long weekend writing

Dear Readers, do you like hearing about our writing or publication process? If the answer is no, I am so sorry. You’re not going to love this post. But if the answer is yes, buckle up. I’m appointing you all my accountability partners.

I have two books due this year–one on August 1, one on December 1. I spent January plotting them both.  I set up a schedule. I put my plots in Scrivener, and started on the second book in my Theater Cop series (the one due August 1). I hoped for a pre-Malice finish of the first draft. Missed it by a week, but hit it on Sunday. With A Kiss I Die (working title) is clocking in at 75,000 words so far. I am determined to give both manuscripts time to breath, so I can read them with fresh eyes. Trust me when I say this isn’t my norm, so I am happy I met this first self imposed deadline.

Top binder, A CHRISTMAS PERIL, ready for copy edits final round. Bottom binder, WITH A KISS I DIE, ready for first read before I send it out.

Top binder, A CHRISTMAS PERIL, ready for copy edits final round. Bottom binder, WITH A KISS I DIE, ready for first read before I send it out.

What I neglected to add into the schedule was the arrival of copy edits and proof pages. Both have been done for Chime and Punishment, which will arrive in bookstores on August 1. I got the copy edits for A Christmas Peril, my first Theater Cop book, which will be published September 8. They are due next week, and then the proof pages will come in. According to my schedule, the book that is due December 1 should be started soon so that a draft is done while I am working on With A Kiss I Die (working title) edits.

Then there will be launches of Chime and Peril. Two series, two names, one woman.

How lucky am I that I have the great good fortune of juggling all of this? Very, for sure. Even luckier because Liz (aka Cate Conte), Jessie (aka Jessica and Jessica), Sheila (aka Sheila, but with many series), and Edith (aka Maddie) have been down this path before, and I can learn from them. The imagination part isn’t the difficulty. It is the switching gears to the publication process that makes my head spin.

2017 trading cardThis weekend I will be working on the Theater Cop series, books one and two. Here’s the printed copies. Very soon there will be post its, sheets of paper, and highlighter marks marring both manuscripts.

So, dear readers, this is where I need your help. Would you mind if I keep you up to date on this journey over the summer? Will you help keep me honest? I’ll post updates on Twitter and Instagram, let you see how it is going. Next month I’ll tell you the story of the trading card I created, including the picture of me.

I will send you some updates on Instagram and Twitter, and I’ll check back next month.

Dear readers, should we lay odds? Am I going to keep to my writing schedules? Or am I going to go off the rails and be writing for Thanksgiving?

Am I Blue?

By Julie, happy that we broke the 60 degree mark, even if was only for a couple of days

The winter blahs are tough to shake here in New England. For a while, I am able to feign being a hearty New Englander. My current work in progress is the second in the Theater Cop series, and it takes place in February. So research brain took note of what it feels like to slip on ice, to haul myself over snowbanks, and to be so cold my bones hurt. But I only need to do so much research. This winter lasted a long time. (It may be back in the 30’s today, so it hasn’t really left yet.)

By the end of March I am done. Done with wearing layers of clothes. Done with my winter shoes. Done with tracking sand/salt/blue stuff into the house. Done with the “is it ice or is it water?” shuffle down sidewalks at night when I walk home from the T. Done with thinking I am stepping into an inch of slush, but it is six inches. Done with the lack of fresh air in the apartment. Done with dry skin, static hair, and achy knees. Just done.

And so April brings the revolt. It starts with not wearing a hat, even if I am cold. (Unless I’m going to a Red Sox game. Then I bring several layers, and use them all by the time I start singing “Sweet Caroline”.) I wear pinks and bright greens. (Scarves only, but it is a step.) I do what I can do to not wear boots and live with wet socks when I misjudge the slush. I crack open a window or two, even though the air is brisk. I refuse to wear the coat that looks like a sleeping bag. I clean, fold and store the long underwear.

But sometimes that isn’t enough. We are in the double digits of April. Spring is flirting with us, but it is playing coy. So I needed to step it up a bit. This is what I came up with:

Julie Hennrikus with blue hair

Am I blue? Looks like!

A bold step, don’t you think? It will wear down a bit, but will still be blue for the Wicked New Hampshire events next week. (More information on the noontime event here, and the evening Nashua Barnes & Noble event here.) And for the Bethesda Barnes and Noble event we’re doing on April 27. And, of course, for Malice. After that, who knows? Will I still be blue?

Or maybe pink. . .

Dear readers, have you made a bold move to shake things up? Let us know!

Thinking Thoughts

By Julie, hoping spring will spring soon in Somerville

Crime thoughtsEarlier this year I went to a book event for The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout, a terrific book by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman. In my day job, I run a small in size but large in scope nonprofit, so the topic was (is) of great interest to me. One of the steps I have taken since is to meditate for a few minutes every day, a practice that had been recommended for years. Thanks to the Calm app, it has been a very interesting process. I am much more aware–of my feelings, of the weather, of the taste of food, of whether or not I am hungry, of my thoughts in general.

I am a bit alarmed by how often my mind wanders to crime.

I am working on two books this year, and need to keep characters, settings, and crimes separate. I am committed to the cozy genre, so I am looking for crimes off the page, but that leave an impression. I’ve also subscribed to Acorn TV, and am inspired by  British, Australian, and New Zealand “cozy” characters and mysteries. Midsomer Murders, while fitting the genre, is over the top in the crimes (and the acting). I love the heightened reality of that show, Rosemary and Thyme, Mr. & Mrs. Murder, Agatha Raisin, and The Brokenwood Mysteries and other series in that vein.

The wonderful characters, inventive murders, and close knit community settings are my go to these days. But all of these are set in small villages, and I live in a city. I am very much a city girl. But meditation has cleared some of the muddle of my mind, and helped me look at my city with fresh eyes. It has also, as I mentioned, made me aware of where my mind drifts.  I see the small pockets of village life in Somerville, and my imagination kicks in gear. A block of eclectic shops in Union Square, some of which have been there for years, many of which are undergoing facelifts. What stories will those walls tell?  gather here, a place that encourages knitting, sewing, and other crafts. Crafters, as we all know, are a treasure trove of instruments that can be employed in devious ways,  and strong personalities.  Davis Square, the the movie/concert hall in the center of a bastion of wonderful restaurants. Date night gone wrong? The bike path, a lovely place to walk, run, or ride your bike all the way to Bedford. So many mysterious places to explore.

My imagination has been in overdrive. My mind wanders to crime, no matter who I am with. It does make it a bit dicey when folks don’t know I am a mystery writer, and likely puts some folks off. Granted, meditation probably shouldn’t heighten awareness of mysterious pursuits, but it has been a side effect of my new practice. I’m sure I’m not the only person constantly plotting dastardly deeds.

Am I?

J.A. Hennrikus News!

I have told the story about the Clock Shop series and how I came to write it a number of times. I was and am thrilled that Berkley gave me that opportunity, and can’t wait for all of you to read Chime and Punishment in August.

christmas-perilBut like most of us on this blog, my first published novel was not the first novel I wrote. Not by a long shot. My first novel, never finished, was before I realized I should be writing mysteries. It is a not very good book that will never see the light of day. But it taught me to write a book.

My second and third books morphed into a single entity at some point, changed point of view, went through reading groups, critique groups, and was pitched a few times at Crime Bake. I tweaked, reworked, polished, and tried to find an agent for it. Then I got my contract for the Clock Shop series, and filed it away. But I never lost faith that I would hold it in my hand at some point.

So it is with great joy that I share some really wonderful news with all of you. Midnight Ink has bought that book, and two more in addition. In even better news, it was fast tracked into their fall catalog.

The Theater Cop series is about Edwina “Sully” Sullivan. Sully was forced to retire from the police force, and decides if she can’t wear the badge she isn’t going to do the job and become a PI. So she moves back to her hometown on the north shore of Massachusetts, divorces her philandering husband, and is hired to run a theater company. For a few years she throws herself into her new life. But then, her best friend’s father is killed, and he is on the suspect list.

The theater company is doing a production of A Chrismas Carol, and Sully is trying to keep the TV actor they hired sober while dealing with other production issues. At the same time, she tries to figure out who killed Peter Whitehall. What she doesn’t plan on is her ex-husband being part of her investigation.A Christmas Peril is a traditional/cozy book. I can’t wait for you to read it when it comes out this fall.

P.S. Don’t you LOVE the cover?

Endless Possibilities

by Julie, confused by 50 degree weather in Somerville

chime

The Cover for CHIME AND PUNISHMENT–isn’t it great?

At the beginning of the year I had two packs of 3×5 index cards, wrapped in plastic. Both have been opened, and are spread out on my dining room table. Each pack of cards will be a book by the end of the year. January is my plotting month for both projects.

As we’ve mentioned before, and Hallie discussed on Tuesday, there are different ways to start a book. Some of us are pantsers–write by the seat of your pants. I am a plotter. I plan the entire book, figure out the dramatic structure, add subplots, figure out twists and turns, and then I start writing. (For a great method of plotting, read Paula Munier’s PLOT PERFECT.)

My index cards become my roadmap. After I rough out a plot, I make notes about who is in each scene, where it takes place. I shuffle the cards–should the body be found that early? Should I make him a suspect? How does she get from here to there so quickly–let’s add another scene. How can I add to the drama? Should I have a subplot about the blue shoe? All of these ideas swirl around, and are possibilities. I think, shuffle, add, combine, separate, shuffle again until it all makes sense.

I love the blank card phase of my book. The possibilities are endless, and the plotting is intense. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be changes–but it does mean that I’ve thought it through enough that I’ve worked out the places where I might get stuck later on. This is the way I think, and create. For some it is torture–for me it is bliss. Anything is possible at this phase of the project. I just have to make it all work.

This year will be a busy one for me. January is for plotting, and filling up index cards with ideas. I couldn’t be happier.

Writer friends, how do you plot? Do you love that phase, or dread it? Does the muse visit as you write, or does she front load you with ideas?

New England Crime Bake Time!

By Julie, enjoying fall in Somerville.

thankful-for-our-readers-giveaway-3Today is my day to do a giveaway! Reader’s choice–either Just Killing Time or Clock and Dagger! Comment to enter.

I missed the first New England Crime Bake, but have been to every one since. The first one I went to was the debut of the Level Best Book’s anthology. My friend Regina ran around, getting everyone’s signature on their story. “This is a goal for us,” she said to me. “To be in this book.” Two years later Regina passed away, but I think of her at every Crime Bake, and know thrilled she’d be to collect signatures on the latest Level Best anthology. I thought of her every time I signed my story in the three anthologies I was in. (My story, “Her Wish”, was inspired by Regina.)

This is part of what Crime Bake means to me. Partly a wonderful conference with fellow writers, where I learn and get inspired. But mostly it is a reunion with dear friends. Part inspiration, part therapy session, part gossip fest. The Wickeds are all together physically, which is a rare treat and my favorite part of the weekend.

What else am I looking forward to this year?

  • William Kent Krueger is the Guest of Honor. I’ve seen him on a couple of panels this past year, and know how lucky we are.
  • Learning about branding. We have a Friday night keynote about it, and a Sunday session on using podcasting to create a brand.
  • Celebrating the debut novelists. We started this last year–during “Death and Desserts” everyone with a debut novel gets a ribbon and congratulations.So great to cheer on folks who had their dream come true–I was one of them last year!
  • Spending time with Donna Andrews repping MWA and Diane Vallere repping Sisters in Crime.

We’ll report back on how the weekend went. Follow the hashtag #CrimeBake, and we’ll post this weekend.

Readers: Do you have a favorite annual conference or gathering, small or large, that you attend and look forward to all year? Writers, what’s your favorite meeting of the fans-and-fellow-authors tribe?