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!

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?

Recapping 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017

You know, dear readers, we Wickeds haven’t been blogging together all that long. Four years this May, is that right? And though Jessie, Barb and Edith (aka Tace Baker) had published books prior to the Wickeds forming, this blog coincided with the launching of several series. 2016 was a bumper crop for all of us, and 2017 promises to top this year. So we thought today we’d celebrate this past year, and give you some books to look forward to in 2017.

WhispersBeyond_FixJessica Estevao/Jessie Crockett/Jessica Ellicott

2016:
Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao, Book 1 Change of Fortune Mysteries, September, 2016

2017:
Body of Water by Jessie Crockett, Book 2 The Granite State Mysteries, Spring 2017
Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao, Book 2 Change of Fortune Mysteries, September, 2017
Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott, Book 1 The Beryl and Edwina Mysteries, November, 2017

ALL MURDERS FINAL mech.inddSherry Harris

2016:
All Murders Final, Kensington
“The Lighthouse” in Edgar Allan Cozy
“Anna, Belle, and Lee” in Edgar Allan Cozy

2017:
A Good Day To Buy, April

ClockandDaggerJ.A. Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes

2016:
Clock and Dagger by Julianne Holmes

2017:
Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes, August
J.A. Hennrikus will have news soon!

Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day

2016:
Delivering the Truth – April (Quaker Midwife Mystery #1)
Grilled for Murder (as Maddie Day) (Country Store Mystery #2)
Murder Most Fowl – May (Local Foods Mystery #4)
“An Intolerable Intrusion” in Edgar Allan Cozy – January
“The Mayor and the Midwife” in Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016 – September

2017:
When the Grits Hit the Fan (as Maddie Day) March (Country Store Mystery #3)
Called to Justice – April (Quaker Midwife Mystery #2)
“The Tragic Death of Mrs. Edna Fogg” in Malic Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical – April
Mulch Ado About Murder – May (Local Foods Mystery #5)

MurdermostfinickyLiz Mugavero/Cate Conte

2016:
Murder Most Finicky (A Pawsitively Organic Mystery Book 4), January

2017:

Custom Baked Murder, (A Pawsitively Organic Mystery Book 5), December/Jan.
Pawsitively Organic Mystery Book 6, December 2017
Cate Conte’s first, Cat About Town, Aug. 1, 2017

catbouttown

Barbara Ross

2016:
Fogged Inn
, Maine Clambake Mystery #4, February
Eggnog Murder (with Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis), October

2017:

Iced Under, Maine Clambake Mystery #5, January
Stowed Away, Maine Clambake #6, late 2017

Sheila Connolly

2016:
A Turn for the Bad (County Cork Mystery #5), February 2016
Dead End Street (Museum Mystery #7), June 2016
Seeds of Deception (Orchard Mystery #10), October 2016
Search for the Dead (Relatively Dead Mystery #5), October 2016

2017:
Cruel Winter (County Cork Mystery #6), March 2017
A Late Frost (Orchard Mystery #11), October 2017

Susannah Hardy/Sadie Hartwell

A Killer Kebab Cover2016:
Edgar Allan Cozy (Susannah, Barb, Edith, Sherry, Sheila)
A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy

2017:
A Knit Before Dying by Sadie Hartwell, August

Edgar

Readers: What’s on your docket for this year’s reading? And were you able to keep up with all our 2016 publications? (Don’t worry, it’s not quiz!)

Books, Bagels, and Wicked Cozys

By Julie, feeling a bit of holiday spirit in Somerville

wicked-cozy-authorsRay Daniel is a good friend to the Wicked Cozys. This past Sunday he invited us to his temple, Congregation B’nai Torah in Sudbury, MA. It was a Books and Bagels event. When he asked us to participate back in October, he may have expect the more local Wickeds would make it. Instead, we turned it into an event. Sherry flew up for the weekend, Liz drove up from Connecticut, and Jessie drove down from New Hampshire. For the first time EVER, all six Wickeds were on a panel together. To cap the day, we went to the Wayside Inn afterwards. Ray and his wife Karen (an amazing quilter and HUGE cozy fan) came with us, along with Elias (Jessie’s husband) and Bill (Barb’s husband and frequent dead body model for Sherry’s first line photos).

img_8486

Wickeds at the Wayside Inn. Clockwise from bottom left: Barb, Bill, Edith, Julie, Sherry, Jessie, Elias, Karen, Liz. Photo by Ray Daniel.

Each of us sat at a different table for breakfast. Afterwards, we all  did a panel that Ray moderated. Conversation ranged from genre to our protagonists, to new series coming up. None of the Wickeds is shy, and we all have opinions, so the conversation was lively. The audience was also very engaged, so it was a great conversation that lasted over an hour.

Now, I’m going to spill the beans about the Wickeds. We all really like each other. We take the business of writing and selling books seriously, and support one another in that. But we also care about each other as people, and seeing each other is a tonic. Ray Daniel (a wonderful writer in his own right) is a good friend of the Wickeds. He gave us an excuse to spend some time together this past Sunday.

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Perfecting Our Author Presentations

class

Photo by Dale Phillips

A word of advice. If Hank Phillippi Ryan is offering a workshop in your area, run don’t walk to sign up. Readers of this blog know Hank as a wonderful writer of two different series. She launched her career with the Charlotte McNally series. Her Jane Ryland series followed, with the fifth (Say No More) coming out November 1. She is a lovely and generous person. She is also a terrific teacher.

 

One note, Hank is also an Emmy winning investigative reporter. Those of us in New England have watched pound away in interviews, and try to right some wrongs, for a long time. She is fierce. I greatly admire that she is juggling two careers with grace and aplomb.

Last Saturday Hank held a workshop for the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime which was entitled “Perfecting Your Author Presentation”. The first part of the day was about doing an author presentation. The second part of the day was about being interviewed. Today I’m going to talk about the morning session–perfecting your presentation. Hank’s advice for a good reading included preparation, practice, performance, and the pitch. I’ve mashed her information up with my editorial comments, so if she ever offers this workshop again, take it. I’ve left parts out.

Preparation: Think about what you are going to read. Don’t necessarily choose the first chapter of your book. Choose a section that gives listeners a flavor of the novel. Plan on two minutes worth of material, maybe three or four pages.

Create a script out of your reading. Print out pages with large type. Number your pages. Edit out parts that don’t make sense out of context. Get rid of long passages of description. Make it exciting. Add a little bit of context to the beginning–let folks know what the book is about, and a little bit about the characters they are going to meet. Just a little bit.

Practice: Practice your reading. Read your section aloud, time it, adjust it as needed. Then practice it again.

Performance: Like it or not, this is a performance. Charles Dickens used to travel around and do dramatic readings of his work. While no one is expecting this of you, they are hoping to be entertained. For many (most?) of us, this is terror inducing. Yesterday I talked about Hank’s “Be A Puffy Cat” advice. Make yourself big, own the space you are taking up. An actor friend of mine says that fear is excitement without oxygen, so remember to breathe.

hank_julie

Hank and I. Photo by Dale Phillips

 

If you are doing dialogue, turn your body when you read different parts, or add “he saids” or “she saids” to help the audience keep track. Practice it.

 

Slow down, and look up at your audience. See them. They want you to succeed, so looking at them is critical. If you can’t bear that, look just over their heads.

Remember to introduce yourself and mention the name of your book at the beginning of your presentation. This is really important, and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Always have a copy of your book with you. You can use it as a prop, or put it up in front of you.

The Pirch: Before you start your reading, you should introduction yourself, and mention the name of your book. Practice that, and don’t forget to do it.

Also, create a good one or two sentence “pitch” that folks will remember about your book. Make sure you use it.

Hank had us each do a reading (if we wanted to) and then gave us notes. It was a terrific exercise.

Now, back to my script…

Author friends, do you do all these steps? Readers, what do you like best about author readings?