Happy Double Launch Day!

By Liz/Cate and Julie/Julianne

Woo hoo! We have lots to celebrate today! It’s launch day for Chime and Punishment, the third in  Julianne Holmes’ Clock Shop Mystery Series, and Cat About Town, the first in Cate Conte’s Cat Cafe Mystery Series!

Picture of Cate Conte's CAT ABOUT TOWN and Julianne Holmes's CHIME AND PUNISHMENT with the caption DOUBLE LAUNCH DAY

To commemorate this huge day, Julie and I are going to discuss a few of our favorite topics: Cats, writing, and maybe even cafes and clocks. So let’s start with the nitty gritty writing stuff – Julie, what was it like to write the third book in this awesome series?

Liz, it was wonderful to revisit Orchard, Massachusetts and talk more about the adventures of Ruth Clagan as she works on getting the clock tower in the Town Hall. It was important to me that folks could read this as a stand-alone, but that folks who have read Just Killing Time and Clock and Dagger could revisit with familiar characters and see what happened on some arcing stories.

Liz, what was it like for you to create a new series? Was it easier or more fun this time around?

You know, I wouldn’t say easy…it’s harder to start from scratch, I think. The Pawsitively books have a cast of characters I’m so familiar with at this point, it’s easier to imagine them in their little town, going about their business. But there’s something to be said for jumping into a whole new world and a new character’s head. I wrote this book in first person instead of third, which was different, and it actually seemed a bit easier, which was surprising to me. But I really did slip right into Maddie James’s head, and found her voice right away. And I loved writing about her cat rescue antics!

So Julie, speaking of cats…what’s your fictional furry friend up to? Does Bezel have a big part in the book?

Bezel always has a role in these books, though Ruth spends most of this book out of the shop, and Bezel is an indoor cat. The importance of Bezel is the love she and Ruth have established. Bezel grounds Ruth. Speaking of cats, tell me about the cat on the cover your new book!

The infamous Junkyard Johnny! The cat on the cover happens to be the fictional version of my real life cat of the same name, JJ for short. In the book, Maddie finds JJ in the cemetery, but she figures he could very well have lived in the junkyard, so it works. In the real JJ’s case, he was living in a junkyard in New Hampshire when he was rescued. An interesting fact about the real JJ – he’s on Prozac because of his hatred for fluffy cats!  Poor Tuffy, who’s the inspiration for Nutty in the Pawsitively series, would get beat up all the time. So JJ had to get some help for his behavior.

And last question for you Julie – you must’ve visited a few clock shops when researching this series. Tell us about your favorite, and why!

The Clockfolk of New England have been my go to clockmakers. Last year, David Roberts took me up to a clock tower to help me really understand how they work, and what it feels like to be in the tower. I have also visited the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol CT. WONDERFUL place to be inspired by clocks.

Your last question Liz, tell us about the business Maddie James runs. We’re all going to be spending a lot of time there–give us the inside scoop! Is it based on a real place?

So, cat cafes are real things, but mine is going to be very different from the ones you’d find on an urban streetcorner, which is where they usually live. The way the cafe comes to life plays out during the first book, so I don’t want to give too much away just yet. But I hope you love it!

Julie, this was so much fun! So happy to be sharing launch day with you. Readers, are you looking forward to these two books? We hope so!!

A Traveling Gal

TN PictureIn January we Wickeds discussed the planners we use in our lives. I had just invested in an Ink and Volt planner, which worked well, for a while. I used in in combination with a Bullet Journal that was less of a planner, more of a journal, a single place to capture notes, thoughts, ideas, and lists.  I love the bullet journal idea–analog in a digital world. I am not a visual artist, so it wasn’t beautifully laid out, but I tried. The “daily recap” habit also didn’t happen. But in January I committed to using a system for this very full year (writing, work, and life), so I had to move to a second bullet journal (actually a Leuchtturm 1917) in March. That’s when it all fell apart. I lost control of my index. I started jotting notes on post its. I had a mid year system breakdown. It wasn’t pretty.

A few weeks ago someone linked to this post by Kara Benz aka BoHo Berry, a bullet journaler I followed in Instagram. She announced she was moving to a Traveler’s Notebook. I read the post, watched the video, and sent a text to my best friend, Tracy. “I think I found the holy grail.”

Traveler’s notebooks are collections of individual notebooks that are all kept in one folder by elastics. Before I bought the folder in the picture (and indulgence that I LOVE), I took the system out for a trail run. I bought four A5 cahiers, some elastics, and used binder clips to hack a old notebook to see if I liked the system. One notebook was for work, one was for writing, one was for my personal life, and one was for a trip I am taking in August. I was sold, so I decided to take the plunge and get a nice notebook.

Julie's Traveler's notebook shown by the side.This system works is organized chaos, which suits me. In my personal notebook, I make lists, copy ideas, write quotes, keep track of my workout and meditation goals. In my writing notebook, I have been plotting, asking questions of my characters, fleshing things out, doing research, noodling ideas, building up steam in preparation for writing. Work is work–I’ve been using the bullet journal techniques to keep track of the dozens of projects we are working on in preparation for next season. And in my trip notebook, I’ve been writing down timelines, confirmation numbers, packing lists, agendas. On the trip I will journal, add ticket stubs and postcards, and have it as a keepsake.

The nice thing is that each notebook stands on its own. Once my trip is done, the notebook is removed. Plotting a new book–it gets its own notebook. I’m teaching a class in the fall–new notebook. I’ve also been exploring inserts. BFF Tracy sent me a link to this insert, a calendar that helps you learn Tarot. I mean, come on!

Now, lest you think I am the only person who bullet journals in a travelers notebook, or thinks about it, there is a Facebook group for us. Etsy enables us in a million different ways. And then, there’s Chic Sparrow

Friends, have you ever tried using a traveler’s notebook? How are you on your planner journey mid year?

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?