It’s always a red letter day when one of our own gets published. Recently Julie Hennrikus had her first book in the Clock Shop Mystery series published (Just Killing Time – Julianne Holmes.)
I love Julie, she smart, funny, and overall just a brilliant woman. I thought that*before* I read her book.
I especially think that now. It’s not easy to write a story, and it’s extremely difficult to write the first story in a series. You have the challenge of introducing your main character, making us like her, providing a backstory, and then wrapping all of that into a current story that must move forward.
Confession – it’s sometimes difficult for me to read books. Oftentimes I’ll stop at a passage that reads “clunky” and I’ll try to figure out what’s wrong with it. Did the character change? Are the actions unbelievable? Does the passage advance the plot?
I found myself stopping several times with Julie’s book, not because the writing didn’t flow, but because Julie put in such incredible real life detail about her main character – Ruth Clagan, that I paused to go over the section to figure out exactly *how* she did that.
Take this example where Julie uses Ruth’s inner dialog:
“Nancy interrupted us, bringing over mugs of coffee and a large plate of wondrous baked goods. A brioche roll. Blueberry muffins. A turnover that I hope was apple. I inhaled the aroma of the coffee and sipped. It tasted even better than it smelled. I picked up the turnover from the plate and took a bite. It was apple. The apples were still crisp, with a wonderful spice mixture that included the traditional cinnamon and nutmeg, and something more. Was that ginger? Yum.”
You can tell from this passage that our girl Ruth is a bit on the ADD side, and while very smart, she’s not the type of person who can turn it off (much like the dog in “Up” – SQUIRREL!!!) Ruth is always on.
In that short passage Julie managed to convey to us that Ruth pays attention to detail. It’s a character trait that co-incidentally you want the detective of a mystery story to have. How much more effective is telling us she care about details by using this method instead of simply mentioning a degree from Detective School that hangs on the wall?
In a classic example of show, don’t tell – Julie tells us more about Ruth’s character with this brilliant passage:
“I woke up early, too early, and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and made some terrible coffee. I decided the coffeemaker was beyond hope. My coffee was never stellar, but this was ridiculous. I was afraid it was going to eat through the mug. Nonetheless, I finished my first cup of coffee and went back for a second. “
That passage had me laughing because of how real it is. I can immediately recognize that character because in part that character is me. Don’t anyone get between me and my coffee – even a bad cup of coffee is a good cup of coffee. Ruth doesn’t let anything get in her way, she knows what she wants. I get it, I like Ruth.
I could go on and on. Just Killing Time is a delightful mystery with a real, smart, funny, feisty main character and a satisfying ending. It’s a wonderful start to what looks like will be an endearing series.
I suggest that you buy and read this book for the marvelous story. And then, when you’re done, go back and reread the story with a highlighter in your hand. You’ll recognize many examples of the techniques I’ve pointed out and in paying attention to how they are worked seamlessly into the book, you will learn a great deal about effective writing.
Well done, Julie. Well done.
Update: Julie has just contacted me and she will be giving away a copy of her book to one lucky reader. Comment below and we use one of those random selection tools to pick a winner on Monday. Good luck!
And the winner of the book is “Barbara” from the comments below. We’ll be getting a copy of the book out to you soon!
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.