Of Clocks and Time

My grandmother's clockI love writing the Clock Shop series. I am in the middle of a blog tour for Chime and Punishment, and I’ve been gathering stories from people about clocks and watches that mean something to them. It is very rare that the meaning is because of monetary value. Usually it is because of connections. I have a clock that my grandmother left to me. It is electric, and from the 50’s. Not worth much money, but worth the world to me.

I’ve also adored the research I’ve done for the books. The research for Chime and Punishment was particularly fun, since it required a field trip to a real clock tower, with a real clockmaker, the ever patient David Roberts of the Clockfolk of New England. I thought I’d share some of those field trip photos here.

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I’m on vacation today, so it will be a couple of days before I get to respond to your comments. But do let me know, is there a clock or watch you love in your life?

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?

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!

Welcome to the family, CLOCK AND DAGGER

Perfect Beach Reads! Instagram post 2 (1)Three years ago this month I was writing proposal after proposal for the Clock Shop Mystery series. It seems like yesterday in some ways, a million years ago in others. Back then, I had a couple of books in drawers, and some short stories that had been published. Several of my friends were well down the path of becoming a published author. Getting that proposal accepted, and a book contract, put me on my own path of publication. It was a dream come true, and for that I will always be grateful.

I love writing this series for so many reasons! Ruth Clagan is a great protagonist–a clockmaker who is always late, a woman who’s had some hard knocks but keeps going, a person who is getting a second chance.

ClockandDaggerOrchard, MA is fictitious, but not. The town is set in the Berkshires, one of my favorite places to visit, especially in the summer. It is based on Williamsburg, MA, which is technically in Western, MA, not the Berkshires, but nonetheless west of Boston. (Boston-centric joke there.) I love thinking about Orchard, and creating more details to the town.

Clocks are fascinating. I love the research. How lucky am I to have David Roberts of The Clockfolk of New England to give me details and insights. He has helped me understand clocks, but to also understand the passion of the clockmaker. Also, what a great resource the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, CT is–a few details in Clock and Dagger came from my wandering around there for hours.

Last but not least–I am a huge fan of mystery novels. I’ve always loved reading them.  Writing them, and being published in the genre? TRULY a dream come true.

Today is the day Clock and Dagger joins Just Killing Time as part of the Clock Shop Mystery series. I’m thrilled to be here on the Wicked Cozys on the day of the launch with all of you! To celebrate the arrival of book #2, I’d like to offer a commenter a copy of Clock and Dagger. I’m going to leave the comments open for a couple of days, and will post the winner later this week. I’m also doing a blog tour, some with giveaways. That schedule is here.

Welcome to the world Clock and Dagger! I can’t wait to hear what you all think!

It’s All In My Head

I am very close (next week close) to the deadline on Chime and Punishment, the third book in my Clock Shop Mystery series. Book two, Clock and Dagger, is coming out next month, so I am starting to think about the launch, and how I am going to promote the book. A friend at work read Just Killing Time on his vacation last week. “Is she going to end up with Ben?” was the first question he asked this morning. I couldn’t answer, though I had answers. Actually, a couple of different answers, depending on which books have been read in the series.


Fred would like to be Bezel if there is ever a movie

Busy times, but also a bit of a lull as I wait for readers to give me feedback on Chime and Punishment and wait for my copies of Clock and Dagger to arrive. (My editor sent me one of her copies. Fred likes the cover.) Time for the characters to take over. Right now, Ruth Clagan and the gang–the Reed family, Ada and Mac Clark, handsome Ben, Chief Paisley, Aunt Flo–they’re all real. Real to me, at least, these days. I eat a cookie and wonder if Moira should serve it at the Sleeping Latte. I see steam punk earrings, and think “Ruth would like these.” In both cases, and the half dozen others that happen every day, I need to remind myself that neither Ruth nor Moira are real.

As a reader, I am used to characters coming off the page, and being part of my psyche while I am immersed in a book. I love reading a new book in a series, revisiting old friends. I’ve often wondered how authors keep characters fresh. I don’t know that I have any answers in that regard, but I do know that characters move into a part of your brain and never really leave.

But I’ve never had this experience before, probably because I’ve never written three books in a series before. The characters have opinions on the edits. They’re all fighting for page time. It is like having a Shakespeare repertory company who do a play a year. Same people, different stories. Best not to forget if you are doing Loves Labor Lost or Hamlet. Best not to talk about the plot of Chime and Punishment while trying to get folks interested in Clock and Dagger.

Friends who write multiple series, I don’t know how you do it without having inadvertent character crossovers (which could actually be sort of fun). Though I will confess, a minor character who had a featured role in one scene has taken up residence in my imagination. She wants her own story. This is a good, albeit complicated, problem to have.

Dear readers, what books or characters have taken over your imagination? Writer friends, do you characters move in?

In the Field: Visiting a Clock Tower


I didn’t know much about clocks before I started writing the Clock Shop Mystery series, so I needed to dive into research. I read, a lot. I googled. I visited the Amercan Clock & Watch Museum in Bristol, Connecticut. The museum gave me a lot to think about regarding styles, craftsmanship, and the history of clocks in New England. (Wonderful place to visit, highly recommended.)

I needed to meet a clockmaker, and mentioned that to my friend Susan Roberts. “My husband is a clockmaker,” she said. Bam.

I wrote to David Roberts a few weeks ago to ask some questions. I’d met him before, on a trip to the store he runs with his brother James, The Clockfolk of New England in Wilmington, MA. That visit helped me learn about the shop. But now I needed to learn about clock towers. “Well, I can give you a tour of one,” he said. We agreed to meet Saturday in Reading. He and his brother alternate weeks winding the clock tower there.


I climbed up two ladders, and got up to the tower. It was perfect. A four-sided clock with huge faces that let light in. Four arms are attached to a central mechanism, which was installed just over one-hundred years ago. With incredible patience, David talked me through how the clock works. He let me help wind it–which is quite a workout. 50 revolutions per day, and it needs to run for a week. The clock weights come in at 450 pounds, but because of counterweights, it took work but I could do it.


The Seth Thomas clock is a marvel of craftsmanship. Not many people will actually see the clock itself, yet it is painted with details, with beautifully crafted pieces. Everything serves a purpose, and it all needs to work together in order to work at all. We timed the visit so I could hear the bell ring, another mechanized activity that was amazing to learn about.


I am not ever going to remember everything David told me. But what I will remember, and what struck me the first time I went to the shop and met he and James, was the passion of the clockmaker. It takes years to learn the craft, and more years to hone it. Like writing, or performing, or any other craft, there has to be joy in the process, otherwise why do it? The Roberts brothers ARE clockfolk, and I am grateful that they share their passion with me.

Now, why did I need to visit a clock tower? You’ll have to wait until next August to find out! But get ready for the next adventure of our intrepid clockmaker Ruth Clagan when Clock and Dagger is released this August.

Crossing the Line

By Julie, hopeful that spring may be here to stay in Somerville

Fred & GingerA few weeks ago I got an email from a friend who is part of a cat rescue network. She was reaching out to folks about some cats who had been rescued from an abandoned house in Hartford. The cats were FIV positive, and they were having trouble finding them homes.

“Do you know anyone who is looking for a cat? Are you ready?”

I’ve had three cats in my adult life, loved them well, and mourned them when they’d gone to the Rainbow Bridge. It had a bit over a year since I’d  been a cat’s person when I got Kim’s email, and I wrote to another friend, asking about the FIV. She assured me that they would be fine for a long time, may have some issues when they were older. She also told me that placing FIV positive cats was almost impossible. I wrote Kim back and said yes, I’d take two of them. I connected with the rescue person who was boarding them, and on a rainy afternoon I picked them up.

I named them Fred and Ginger. They are two or three years old, tops. Fred, a handsome gray tuxedo cat, is a sweetheart. He was already fixed when he was rescued, so he must have been dumped. He loves to be petted, and uses his paw to draw my hand back when I stop. Just this week he started jumping up on my bed in the morning. I suspect that before the end of the summer he will be sleeping on beds and couches. Maybe even laps, which will make writing tough, but I’ll manage. He is giving me some moves for my series cat, Bezel.

Ginger is lovely, a gray longish hair cat. She is also  a hot mess.  I don’t think she’s ever had a home before, and she has some trust issues, mildly put. For the first two weeks I couldn’t touch her. Then she started to talk to me, and about two weeks ago she started winding herself around my legs when I am in the kitchen. Still, I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into with Ginger. Would we ever connect?

ginger the destroyer2

Ginger the Destroyer

I got them each a cat bed, though Ginger still prefers a blanket on the floor. I bought two Feliway diffusers, hoping that cat pheromones would help relax them. (I have a three month supply.) I invested in cat toys and a nice cat litter box table thing that they like. I got them a cat scratcher that Ginger is especially fond of.  I have been using patience, my best cat voice, and lots of petting to make them feel at home.

But this weekend, Ginger pushed me over the line. I became a crazy cat lady.

Sundays are my writing/housekeeping/no makeup days. Book 3 is due in July, so writing was the main event on Sunday, with laundry, taking out the trash, litterbox cleaning, and sheet changing being done in between writing scenes. I live in a 4th floor walk-up, so taking the trash and recycling out is a balancing act of boxes and bags I only like to do once. Now, taking the trash downstairs was the only planned excursion out. My hair was piled on top of my head, Marge Simpson style. I had my PJ top on, with a sweatshirt cover-up. I had yoga pants on, no socks, clogs.

This past Sunday was wicked windy, and my door didn’t latch carefully. I came back upstairs to find my front door blown open. I walked in, and Fred gave me a “hey” meow. I asked him where Ginger was, and he didn’t respond. I looked around, but she wasn’t in the apartment. I went into full panic mode. I ran out of the apartment, down the stairs, calling her name. When I got to the second floor I saw one of my neighbors, and told her my plight. I heard Ginger’s meow from the floor below. I ran down the stairs. She saw me, did a fake run, and darted up the stairs behind me. I closed the fire door, and lumbered behind her. She ran up to the third floor, and ran down the hall. I closed that fire door, and followed her. She ran all the way to the end, and down the stairs back to the second floor. On and on it went until we were closed in on the second floor. She’d dart, I’d call her name, she’d stop, do a double fake, and run the other way.

atrestGinger barely let me pet her, never mind pick her up. Finally, after about twenty minutes of the chase, we were both panting, but she wasn’t giving up. So I took off my sweatshirt, and threw it on top of her. It took me two tries (running around in my PJ top mind you) but I was finally able to scoop her up. She fought me, but I got her by the scruff and got her back into the house.

I live a fairly controlled life, intentionally so. Fred and Ginger have disrupted that. They are different than the other cats I’ve adopted–they needed a good home, and don’t quite trust it yet. They  also don’t trust me yet, though I think Sunday proved something to Ginger. She’s on a kiss a day regimen now–I hold her for ten seconds, kiss her head, and then keep holding her until she’s done.

As a writer, I control my characters, and their lives. Fred and Ginger are teaching me to shake up expectations, and be comfortable with whatever happens. It will be interesting to see what their impact is on Book #3. If nothing else, the Bezel scenes will be a little more fleshed out.