Saturday, January 16, 2021

It's a Journey, Not a Destination by Julie Hennrikus

LUCY BURDETTE: You all have heard about our crime writers organization, Sisters in Crime, right? It was launched by nine women in the 1980's when they realized male writers were getting the lion's share of reviews. And reviews=sales. The group was formed to support women crime fiction writers and now it has over 3000 members. Both Hank and I have served as president of the national group and we've all been involved at some level.

On New Year's Day, SinC sponsored a write-in hosted by our friend Julie Hennrikus aka Julia Henry. The idea was you can set the tone for your year according to what you do on that first day. So I attended, and then wrote 500 words in half an hour (yay!), and thought Julie did a great job. So I asked her to visit today to explain her thoughts to you....

 JULIE HENNRIKUS: Like so many writers, I wear a lot of hats in my life. I write the Garden Squad series as Julia Henry. I’m a certified life coach. I offer classes for performing artists and writers to learn the mechanics and mindset needed for their creative journey. And I’m an arts administrator.

On January 1, I wore all of the hats at once when I hosted a webinar for Sisters in Crime. As part of a new series for members, the write-in is partly a writing seminar, and partly an opportunity for a group of people to write together online at the same time. 

The talk I have before the write-on was geared toward writers, but the messages can be applied to any creative journey. Here are my five tips to help make 2021 work for you.

Remember your writing journey is ongoing. What I would tell my younger self, and what I tell folks I coach, is this. When we’re on a creative journey that has stops along the way, but the journey doesn’t stop. We’re never done. Did a draft? Great. Now’s time for edits. Got your first book published? Congratulations. Celebrate! I’m a huge fan of celebrating. Then get back to work.

Set an intention for the new year. How do you want to feel about your writing journey, or your life, during 2021? Now, given that, what choices do you need to make? One of my intentions is to have more fun in 2021. Every day I think about that intention and check in. What would be fun? Doing a dance? Working on a new knitting project? Trying a new recipe? Zooming with my nieces? Listening to an audiobook? Intentions should be thought about daily, and not put off until the future.

Set goals that inspire, but are achievable.
Here’s the thing about goals. They need to feel like a reach, but not be impossible. Impossible goals set you up for failure, which means you’ll quit. If you need more time, take it. But keep working toward your goal.

Carve out time mindfully. I do a lot of time management talks, and like to remind people that we all have 168 hours a week to live our complete lives. That includes eating, sleeping, working, playing, writing, exercising, loving and more. In order to support a writing practice, you need to carve out time to write. You aren’t going to find the time if you don’t. I suggest that folks put writing time in their calendar every day. Some days it may be an afternoon, others it may be a half hour. By making the time, you’re telling the muse that you’re showing up. Showing up is when the magic happens.

Progress over perfection is my favorite phrase. I tell my coaching clients that their first draft is going to be terrible. That’s part of the process. But until they get that first draft, they can’t get to the next one, which will be better. Perfectionism is a block, and it’s usually based on fear. Be grateful that your subconscious is protecting you, but then keep going. Embrace progress, don’t look for perfect.

Thank you, Jungle Reds, for inviting me on the blog today to write about writing, one of my favorite topics. Readers, did any of these ideas speak to you?

BIO: Julie Hennrikus writes the Garden Squad Mysteries for Kensington. The most recent in the series, Digging Up the Remains, was released last August. She also writes as J.A. Hennrikus and Julianne Holmes. She just launched a Writing Journey membership that includes monthly coaching calls. That, and other classes are on She blogs with the Wicked Authors, and is the acting executive director of Sisters in Crime. @JHAuthors 

Friday, January 15, 2021

LET’S TALK ABOUT GENRES by Keziah Frost (A.K.A. Sylvie Perry)

 LUCY BURDETTE: Today I'm happy to welcome back Keziah Frost to the blog. She raises a great question about genres--why should authors be pinned to writing one kind of book?

KEZIAH FROST: “Write the book you’d like to find on the shelf!”

That’s the advice that writers hear all the time, and good advice it is. However, it may conflict with the encouragement writers also hear to “brand” themselves, to keep offering more of the same to their readers, only each time, a little better. 

When I think about the book I’d like to find on the shelf, I ask, “Wait. Just one book?”  If you’re like me, your shelves are overflowing with books you want to read. And if you imagine the book you’d like to find, your thoughts go in several directions at once.

Sometimes I want to find a light-hearted and wise, uplifting book. At other times though, I’m in the mood for a gothic suspense story. And there are times I look for fairy tale collections, or time travel stories, or silver sleuth mysteries, or… well, you get the idea. Are you the same?

The book I want to find on the shelf can be almost any genre, but it has to immerse me in another world, and it must tell a good story, and I have to enjoy the writing style as well. Genre doesn’t matter to me, really. And this makes me wonder why authors these days are usually boxed into a single category. 

Think of Shirley Jackson. She’s known for the terrifying short story, “The Lottery,” as well as creepy novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. But she also wrote very funny books about raising her four children: Life among the Savages and Raising Demons. 

Think also of Shakespeare. He wrote comedy, tragedy and history, with the only aim being to entertain his public. But there is tragedy in his history, and comedy in his tragedy. It’s always crossing over, because stories, like life, are multi-dimensional. It makes me wonder sometimes why we have these categories at all. 

I guess they do help us to find our favorite “vibes.”

Each reader has a couple of favorite genres, I think. For me, it’s humor and suspense. I think what they have in common is that little twist of surprise. It’s the little jolt that keeps the reader alert and engaged. But these elements can be worked into any genre.

What brings me to reflect on this topic is that I have a new book coming out, quite different from the first two. In this new novel, I move from “up-lit” (an uplifting story) to gothic psychological suspense. And did I have fun writing it!

The Hawthorne School will be published by Crooked Lane Books in December of 2021. In it, a single mother enrolls her 4-year-old son in a progressive, artistic school, which turns out to have hidden darkness behind its idealistic appearance. 

As this is a change in genre, I was asked to choose a different pseudonym so that readers of my books written under the name Keziah Frost would not be expecting to laugh when my intention is to give them chills. So I came up with yet another identity, complete with Facebook account, Instagram account and website. It was all rather fun and gave me the sensation of engaging in some nefarious activity.

How about you? What are your favorite genres, and why? What are the elements in “the book you want to find on the shelf?”


Sylvie Perry is the pseudonym of a Chicagoland-based psychotherapist. One of her professional focuses is in counseling survivors of narcissistic manipulation. She has a masters in English. The Hawthorne School is her first psychological suspense novel. Her website is: 

Her optimistic twin (a.k.a. alternate pseudonym) is Keziah Frost, author of The Reluctant Fortune-Teller and Getting Rid of Mabel.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

On Birthdays

LUCY BURDETTEI grew up sharing a birthday “season” with my sister Sue, and I don’t remember ever minding that. We each got our own cake, mine on January 14 and hers on the 27th, but we always shared parties. We were less than a year apart – can you imagine? What were my parents thinking?

But I digress…As long as I can remember, the birthday tradition in my family has been choosing the cake of your dreams:). This chocolate lovely is the one most of my family prefers these days.

My father always chose yellow cake with mocha icing. My older sister and I always had angel food cake with whipped cream as the frosting. My mother didn't like cake, so we made her tapioca out of a box.

A couple of years ago, our daughter and her hub were in Key West for our son-in-law's birthday, which falls on New Year’s Eve. He loves carrot cake. Now I am not a big fan of carrot cake--in fact I had never made one. And if faced with a supermarket carrot cake, I will always pass a slice by. However, I do believe that the birthday person should have the homemade cake of his or her dreams. So here was his cake.

As for gifts, the best ones I've ever gotten came in orange stripes. Tigger was an orange tiger cat who joined the family when I was 13. I lobbied hard for him and he was an excellent family member for many years. (This is my mother with Tigger and Schatze the dog.)

Two years ago this week, I decided I’d been pet-less too long (4 months!) and went to the Key West humane society to pick out a kitty. You can read all about T-bone’s gotcha day right here--he's a wonderful guy...

Lately in Key West, I've been sharing a birthday celebration with friend and writer Barbara Ross, who's a week older than I am.

Obviously, we can't have a party this year, but you can imagine us eating this a good social distance on their back porch.

How do you feel about birthdays Reds? Is there cake? Any other special traditions?