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!

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?

Of Cats and Cafés

Dianne Mossor you are the winner of the books and tote bag! Watch for an email — Julie and Liz will need your contact information!

Today we are wicked happy to continue celebrating the release of Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes, aka Julie Hennrikus and Cat About Town by Cate Conte, aka Liz Mugavero. If you leave a comment you have a chance to Win a copy of Chime and Punishment, Cat About Town, and a cute cat bag!

Chime and Punishment is the third book in the Clock Shop Mystery series. Here’s a little about the book: Years ago, the serenity of picturesque Orchard, Massachusetts, was shattered by a fire that destroyed the town’s beloved clock tower. Ruth inherited the dream of repairing it from her late grandfather. Now that she’s returned home to run his clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, she’s determined to make it happen, despite wrenches that are being thrown into the works by her least favorite person, town manager Kim Gray.

A crowd of residents and visitors are excited to see the progress of the tower at a fund-raiser for the campaign, until Kim is found crushed under the tower’s bell, putting an end to all the fun. The list of suspects is so long it could be read around the clock, and it includes some of Ruth’s nearest and dearest. Time’s a-wastin’ as Ruth tries to solve another murder in her beloved Orchard while keeping the gears clicking on her dream project.

A Cat About Town is the first novel in the Cat Cafe Mystery series. Here’s a little about the debut: Maddie James has arrived in Daybreak Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts, eager to settle down and start her own business—and maybe even fall in love. When a stray orange tabby pounces into her life, she’s inspired to open a cat café. But little does Maddie know that she’s in for something a lot more catastrophic when her new furry companion finds the dead body of the town bully. Now all eyes are on Maddie: Who is this crazy cat-whisperer lady who’s come to town? If pet-hair-maintenance and crime-fighting weren’t keeping her busy enough, Maddie now has not one but two eligible bachelors who think she’s the cat’s pajamas . . . and will do anything to win her heart. But how can she even think about happily-ever-after while a killer remains on the loose—and on her path?

Both series have cafés and cats in them! So Wickeds, do you have a favorite café and/or a favorite cat?

PrestonChristobel

Christabel behind Preston at Christmas. They often array themselves in matching poses.

Edith: I can’t wait to read both these new books! I don’t go to cafés much, but we have two lovely ones here in Amesbury: Ovedia and Market Square Bakehouse, and I’ve met people at both for coffee and conversation. Ovedia has the added attraction of making their own very fine chocolates! As for cats, well, my sweet Birdy shed his earthly shell in June, alas. Now we have two cats, and I couldn’t possibly play favorites between Christabel (the kitchen cat in the Quaker Midwife Mysteries) and Preston (the farm cat in the Local Foods Mysteries).

Barb: One of the things I’m sorry to leave on my last day in Somerville, Massachusetts, (today!) Is the Diesel Cafe. I wrote many of my first drafts there, particularly of my short stories, but also some of the novels. The funniest thing about the Diesel is that at certain times of day, everyone who is there is writing a book. The Diesel is included in the dedications and acknowledgements of many novels. As for cats, I have to admit I am endlessly amused by my son’s cat, Monkey, who has been trying to murder my son’s wife, Sunny, for almost a decade. Monkey does things like spreading shampoo all over the bathroom floor in the middle of the night and then gently nudging Sunny awake. I find it hilarious. I’m not sure Sunny does.

JJLiz: I love Diesel, Barb! I’m still searching for my favorite cafe in my new neighborhood, but in my old one there was a great coffee shop called Grounded. It’s owned by really great younger people and offers high end coffee drinks in a neighborhood that, a couple years ago, would’ve laughed it right off the street. I have great admiration for them. As for cats, it IS like picking a favorite child! The cat in the book, JJ, is based on my real life cat JJ. Isn’t he handsome?

Julie: I need to go to more cafes just to hang and drink coffee. I don’t do that enough, but will start! There are a good number to choose from–including 1369, Cafe Neros all over town, and the Thinking Cup to name a few. As for favorite cats–how can I choose? I’ve had five in my adult life, the most recent of which are Fred and Ginger. They are rescues who finally are settling into life in my condo. I’m not going to let them read Liz’s book–I worry that they’ll want to start walking me through Somerville.

Jessie: I don’t live near enough to any cafes to have a neighborhood favorite although I have enjoyed plenty of them whilst traveling. On a recent trip to Edinburg I had the pleasure of visiting The Elephant Cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter book. It was a magical experience, especially the bathroom where fans have covered the walls with messages to Harry’s creator.

Sherry: My favorite cafe is Helen’s in Concord. They have delicious breakfasts. Oh, now I want to fly up to Massachusetts! I’ve had two cats in my life, Snoopy, a Persian and Lucy, a beautiful gray and white. I would love to hang out in the town of Orchard and on Daybreak Island with their cats and cafes!

Readers: Do you have a favorite cafe or cat? Fictional or real?

 

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?