A Christmas Carol by Any Other Name

by Julie, decking the halls in Somerville

In 2010 I spent the month of December discussing versions of A Christmas Carol every day. (You can see the posts here.) As you know, my book A Christmas Peril is about a theater company deep in the weeds of a production of A Christmas Carol. One of my nieces mentioned looking forward to A Christmas Carol binge watching over Christmas break. She then asked me which version was my favorite.

I couldn’t answer her. But I can, sort of, narrow it down a bit. Here is a list of my “will watch in the next ten days” list of Christmas Carols in no particular order:

scroogeScrooge, 1970
I saw this movie on a field trip (maybe with the Girl Scouts), and the hell scene scared the heck out of me. As an adult, it is easily on my top five. It is a musical, Albert Finney is wonderful, and is fairly true to the story. It isn’t Christmas unless my family breaks into a “Thank You Very Much” chorus.

1984 Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol, 1984
George C. Scott was a sublime Scrooge. The scene where he jumps on the bed makes my heart burst. The story is dark, and sad, in many ways, and this version is that.

MuppetThe Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992
This is SUCH a great version. Michael Caine is wonderful. Having Dickens tell the story is great. It stays true to the story, and keeps most of the important parts in the movie. Kermit is a perfect Bob Cratchit,  and Fozzie as Fezziwig? Could there be more perfect casting?

scroogedScrooged, 1988
All right, part of the reason I love this version is that it is such a pop culture time capsule. The TV version of A Christmas Carol they are working on is chock full of 80’s stars that have to be explained to kids, but add another layer of humor to the show. It is also very faithful to the theme of the story, though it does take liberties. Also, Bill Murray chews the scenery, and is so much fun to watch.

PS recordingPatrick Stewart’s VersionsPS filmI love Patrick Stewart, and have been fortunate enough to see him do his one man version of A Christmas Carol twice. It is because of that experience that his filmed version falls a little short for me, though it is very good. The CD of him reading the book is much closer to his stage version, and I can’t recommend it enough.

diva ccA Diva’s Christmas Carol, 2000
Do you remember the “Behind the Music” shows on VH1? In this Christmas Carol, Vanessa Williams plays Ebony Scrooge, a singer who left her girl group in the dust, and is a nightmare to work for. A ton of fun.

magooMister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 1962
This is not at all accurate (the ghosts are out of order), but it has a lot of charm. The songs are terrific–I’m surprised there hasn’t been a stage version of this using the songs. Or maybe there has been?

simA Christmas Carol, 1951
This Alistair Sim version is a favorite of many, so I include it on the list. I like it, but am also fond of the 1938 Reginald Owen version.

There are dozens of other versions, with Scrooge being played by Cicely Tyson, Henry Winkler, Barbie, Fred Flintsone, Mickey Mouse, and others. I discussed those, and others, on my blog 8 years ago. I’m a little surprised I don’t have a more recent version to critique. The story resonates right now in so many ways.

Friends, what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol?

Late Fall Reading

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win a mass market paperback copy of Eggnog Murder by Barbara Ross leave a comment below.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers! We hope you are spending the day exactly as you wish–with family and friends, eating a big meal and perhaps watching the games. If you are busy cooking or traveling, we hope maybe sometime over this long weekend you get a chance to curl up with a good book. Here are some suggestions.

Wickeds, what are you reading now that the days are short and the nights long?

housetreepersonEdith: I just finished our own Jessie (Jessica Ellicot)’s first Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder in an English Village. What a fun read. Now I’m reading Catriona McPherson’s latest standalone suspense novel, House. Tree. Person. Another knock-your-socks-off story from her. Next up is a belated read of Ray Daniel’s latest Tucker mystery, Hacked. The other stories in Snowbound, this year’s Level Best Books anthology (in which I also have a story). A book on Quaker history in New England. And the list goes on.

Liz: I have so many books stacked up in my TBR pile…but I’m going to dig into Fire Up Your Writing Brain by Susan Reynolds, one of my Crime Bake finds. I need to jumpstart my creativity these days!

Barb: I have Jessica Ellicott’s Murder in an English Village tucked into my bag to enjoy during my downtime over this long weekend. I can’t wait. For the novella I’m writing, I’m reading Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons at a New England Fiber Farm. You’ll have to wait to find out why.

Julie: I am in book jail this weekend (book due December 1, yikes!), but I have taken a suggestion from Susan Reynolds’s Crime Bake presentation, and am reading a book to inspire my brain–Walter Isaacson’s  Leonardo da Vinci biography.   At the rate I am going it will take me months to finish it, but there’s a long winter ahead.

Sherry: I just started reading A Christmas Peril by Julie! I read an early version long ago and love what she has done with it! Then after that I too am going to dig into Jessie’s Murder in an English Village. My neighbor just finished it and told me it’s fantastic. After that I can’t wait to read World Enough by Clea Simon. I’m in book heaven!

Jessie: I am currently reading Louisa May by Martha Saxton and also Murder and Mayhem in North London by Geoffrey Howse. Lately I have been in the mood for non-fiction but next up is Alice Hoffman’s latest, The Rules of Magic.

Readers: Tell us what you’re doing this Thanksgiving or what you’re reading this fall–or simply say hello to be entered in the contest.

Murder on the Orient Express Thoughts

by Julie, thinking about pulling out my winter hat in Boston

Friends and family have felt compelled to email and text me this past week. “Saw the movie today! Have you?”

“No,  Crime Bake weekend,” I’ve replied.

“Call me after you see it!”

Crime bake 8 selfie station

Channeling Poirot and his mustache

I am, you see, a bit of an Agatha Christie aficionado, and have strong feelings about Murder on the Orient Express. I wrote a thesis about Agatha Christie’s use of point of view, and Murder on the Orient Express was one of the novels I focused on. For writer friends, I recommend reading it to see how moves from distant third to close third throughout the novel, and uses POV to confuse the reader. She is a master at deception.

I am also a huge fan of the 1974 movie. Albert Finney was a wonderful Poirot, though over the top. That said, it really holds up and is very faithful to the novel. It also brought a resurgence in interest in Agatha Christie’s work, and since it was towards the end of her life, the timing was great in making sure she’s remembered.

David Suchet was the best Poirot ever, but I didn’t like his version of Murder on the Orient Express.  They changed some character motivations that changed some plot points and took away from the strength of the story. (Julie’s Rule of Thumb: don’t mess with Agatha Christie plots. Just don’t.) I won’t discuss it on the blog (spoilers), but am happy to have the conversation in person.

So, I still haven’t seen the new version of the movie, but I will. Will it be as good as the 1974 version? That’s a tough bar. But it has a wonderful cast, most of whom I would watch in anything. I love that Agatha Christie may be finding a new audience, ensuring that her popularity will continue for another generation. One of my nieces is a recent convert, which thrills me beyond measure.

For me, as a writer thinking about a career, the fact that Agatha Christie’s 1934 (!) novel is being made into a movie forty one years after her death blows my mind. Christie is sometimes dismissed as a writer, but never by me. I aspire to write one Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, or And Then There Were None in my career, never mind all three of those plus sixty-three other novels, a dozen or so plays and dozens of short stories.  It has been said that she created characters with broad strokes, but I think that is part of what makes her relevant. Every generation can add their “take” on the characters, and on the story. (Just don’t touch the plot.)

As a writer, do I aspire to be of my moment, or timeless? Did she think about that?

I do wonder if this movie will bring forth a new phase of Agatha Christie films.  The Man in the Brown Suit gets my vote for consideration. Which books would you like to see adapted?

As part of our month long celebration of our readers, I will pick one winner randomly to get a signed copy of any of my Clock Shop mystery series.

The Food Conundrum

Finished Product (1)

The recipe I came up with for Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen–shrubs!

When you write cozies, there is always the food issue. That is, do you include recipes or not?

Now, for some folks, that answer is an easy one. They’re centered around food, so of course! There’s even a great blog called Mystery Lovers Kitchen that is about mysteries and food. It features a huge array of cozy authors. They let me do a guest post in August. I made shrubs, which are discussed in Chime and Punishment. Part of the challenge is taking pictures of the process that look somewhat appetizing.

I like mysteries with food. In fact, Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series is a go to for cookie recipes for me. There’s even a cookbook, which I own and have given as gifts.  Her Highlander Cookie Bar recipe is one of my go-tos when I need to impress. (Shortbread on the bottom, brownies on top. Oh. My.)

Several of the Wickeds have series that include recipes. In my Clock Shop series, there was a natural fit if I featured recipes from the Sleeping Latte. But, then I learned some of the “rules”. The recipe needs to be original. And, since I know I try them on occasion, they need to taste good. I bake, and cook, but I couldn’t take the pressure.

For my Theater Cop series, a food tie in doesn’t really work as well. Though, I did mention cinnamon and sugar french fries with a cream cheese frosting dip that I thought sounded pretty interesting in book 2, which will be out next September. I totally made them up, so the recipe isn’t in the book.

I am writing a new series (stay tuned), and I’m not sure if I’m going to have recipes. But I do find myself mentioning food a lot, just in case. I plan to have the nieces help me develop a couple to see if I can pull it off. We’ll see how it goes.

Today, my question for you dear readers, do you like cozies with recipes? Do you try them? Trust them? Should I try and pull this off? Let me know in the comments!

A CHRISTMAS PERIL Release Day! (and giveaway!)

Cover of A Christmas Peril by J.A. HennrikusDear Readers, you have been on the publication journey for all of us Wicked Cozy Authors, and I hope you know how much your support means to us. We all talk about our books, or new series, but today I want to tell you about what a joy it is for me to hold A Christmas Peril in my hands. You see, this book was the first book I wrote and tried to sell. I got to a point where I never thought it would get published. But now it is. And the timing and publisher couldn’t be more perfect for this series.

Here are some of the bumps along my path to publication for this book.

1999-2001. I wrote the book in third person, and it was boring. I was in the middle of editing it into first person when my house was broken into, and my computer was stolen. I lost several drafts, but rather than despair, I decided to rewrite it the book, keeping the story, changing the point of view. That decision made it a much stronger book, and I finished it the next year. And yes, this has been a book for fifteen years.

The first title was The Power for Good, which was a reference to a line in A Christmas Carol when Marley and Scrooge see all of the ghosts who can’t alleviate suffering, because they lost their power for good. A Christmas Peril is about an ex-cop who is now running a theater company. The company is doing A Christmas Carol. I loved the title, but it wasn’t selling the book. Sherry Harris and I were standing in line at the New England Crime Bake, practicing our pitches to agents and editors. I told her that someone had suggested I change the title, and she came up with A Christmas Peril on the spot.

This book was a labor of love. Like many pre-published authors, I didn’t appreciate the long, slow pace of rewriting and editing without contractual deadlines. But I always knew I loved the world I was writing about. At the time of its inception, I was working at a concert hall, and my theater life was more as an audience member. But I’ve always loved theater (I work in theater now, running a service organization called StageSource), and felt comfortable writing about that world.

I sent this book out to agents and editors, and got lovely rejections. Then I got the opportunity to write the Clock Shop Series as Julianne Holmes, and I jumped at it. What a gift that was–jumping onto the path of being a published author, and learning what that meant. Were A Christmas Peril my first time working with a professional editor, I would have been much more resistant to the process. But, I was able to work with my editor, and tear Just Killing Time apart because it made it a better book.  Going through edits on this book was much easier because I’d been through it three times before. Also, I was able to rework the text because I had a better sense of what needed to be done.

The final part of my path happened last fall. My agent and I were talking about my writing life,  and we decided to send A Christmas Peril to an editor from Midnight Ink. Edith published her Quaker Midwife series with them, and spoke very highly of her experience. At Bouchercon I saw the editor and she said that she was looking forward to reading the proposal. By the New England Crime Bake, I had a contract.  Even more amazingly, they had space in the Fall 2017 publishing schedule, and since A Christmas Peril was done (though it needed editing), it would get moved onto the schedule. Things don’t move that fast in publishing, but they did this time.

Holding a book I wrote in my hands is always a thrill. This time, it’s a dream come true. I hope you all enjoy A Christmas Peril. Know that I am floating on air today.

To celebrate publication day, I am going to send a copy to a commenter of the blog. I’ll pick a winner Sunday at noon.

Wicked Wednesday: A Christmas Carol

Cover of A Christmas Peril by J.A. HennrikusWickeds, today we are celebrating the Friday, September 8 release of A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus. It is the first in a new series about an ex-cop, Sully Sullivan, who runs a theater company in Massachusetts. Friday’s post will be more about the book. and the series.

In A Christmas Peril, the theater company Sully runs is doing A Christmas Carol, and chaos ensues. So today’s question–what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol?

Barb: Wow. I’m tempted to say Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, which is the one I grew up with, or the Muppets, which is the one my kids did. As I was thinking about this answer, I realized how embedded this story is in our lives, from books (I always put a few editions out at Christmas) to movies to TV. I was even in the play as Mrs. Cratchit when I was in high school. Without it we’d never have the expression, “Bah, humbug,” or call someone a Scrooge. Some people think it popularized the saying, “Merry Christmas,” itself. Anyway, Julie, congratulations on becoming a part of this rich canon. I can’t wait to read it!

Liz: Julie, congratulations!! So excited for you and this book. I love A Christmas Carol – for movie versions, the Patrick Stewart is my favorite. I’ve also been lucky enough to see the production twice at The Hartford Stage, and they put on a wonderful version.

Sherry: I’m so excited to read A Christmas Peril and I’m so happy for you, Julie! Like Barb the Mr. Magoo version loomed large in my life as a kid and it scared me! But my favorite version is the 1970 movie Scrooge with Albert Finney. I confess I had to do a search to find it. I knew I’d seen it with my family and remember it being a visual feast along with the wonderful story. I haven’t seen it in years, but now hope I can track it down. I’m amazed how many versions of A Christmas Carol there are!

Edith: Congratulations, dear Julie! I can’t wait to read this book, and am so glad you’ve joined the Midnight Ink family. I haven’t seen A Christmas Carol in so long I have no idea what my favorite version is, but I do love the Muppets, so that one would probably win.

Julie: There is no Mr. Magoo shame in my world–that is my mother’s favorite version. And Sherry, I have Scrooge on DVD. A perfect excuse to get together around the holidays. We can all sing the songs. I do love the Muppet version, and George C. Scott, and . . . I own over twenty different versions on DVD, so lots to chose from. Thank you for your best wishes dear Wickeds! I am so excited about this book seeing the light of day, and will blog more about that on Friday!

Jessie: The Muppet version is my favorite, Barb! I love the way it sticks to the backbone of the story while bringing its own personality and twist. Just as I am sure you will do with your addition to the story! I couldn’t be happier for you, Julie!

Readers, what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

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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?