The New England Crime Bake

2016 social media squareI have been to all but the very first New England Crime Bake. The first year, I went with my friend Regina, and was totally intimidated. At first. But then the venue ran out of toilet paper, so Kate Flora stood outside the ladies room giving people sheets. After that, and after meeting the really terrific people who ran the New England Crime Bake, I realized I had found my tribe, and I went back every year. For the last four years, I’ve been on the committee, and was co-chair of 2014 and 2015. Registration is open for the 2016 New England Crime Bake, and here’s why I think you crime writers at any stage of publication should come.

  • The New England Crime Bake is intentionally kept small, and geared towards writers. It is put on by Mystery Writers of America, the New England Chapter, and Sisters in Crime New England.
  • The Guest of Honor this year is William Kent Krueger. He writes the Cork O’Connor series, and is also the author of the extraordinary Ordinary Grace. Go to his website and read the story about the follow up to Ordinary Grace. Don’t you want to meet someone with that much passion and principle?
  • There are Master Classes on Friday afternoon on a variety of topics, including marketing, editing, and self publishing. The classes cost extra, but are worth it.
  • The Saturday and Sunday panels are interesting, and well curated to give writers something to chew on as they do their work.
  • You can pitch your project to an agent or editor. Or both.
  • You can get feedback on the first page of your manuscript.
  • You can get a manuscript critique. Again, it costs extra, but you will get feedback on 15 pages of your work in progress from a professional writer.
  • You can learn from experts on different subjects.
  • You can find your people. And have fun while you do it.

The New England Crime Bake is November 11-13 in Dedham MA. We will sell out, and shortly, so don’t wait. I’d love to see you there.

Also, if you have a crime based short story, read the guidelines here and submit it to Level Best BooksLast date for submission is May 31, so get on it!


Julie Hennrikus writes the Clock Shop Mystery series as Julianne Holmes. Clock and Dagger will be released on August 2. She is in book jail this weekend, working on Book #3, tentatively titled Chimes and Punishment.

Ask The Hard Questions

As regular readers know, I write mystery novels. “Whodunnit” is important, but “whydunnit” is as important. The why has to hold up to reader scrutiny. We’ve all read books where the “why” makes you throw it across the room.

As a writer, the “why” is a real challenge, and takes a lot of background work, very little of which will end up in the story. It involves asking some hard questions, some of which will make you uncomfortable. Of course, that discomfort is the signal that you need to keep drilling down, and asking more questions.

There are two areas where you need to ask the hard questions while writing.

Character Development: Characters are motivated to do an action, which is one why. But characters also have quirks that could create interesting backstory, or are good for you as a writer to know about as you build your narrative arc. Sam hates cigarette smoke. Why? The reader may not need to know right away if ever, but as the writer, you need to know if it is because he is allergic, because he is an ex-smoker who misses it, or because he lost someone he loved to a smoking related disease. Each of those paths brings you to a different why, and gives you a different sense of Sam.

Plotting: Stuck on your story? I have two questions I ask when I am stuck. The first is “and then what?”. The second is “why”. Back to Sam and his cigarette smoke issue. Sam goes to a party, and someone is smoking. And then what? Sam punches him out. And then what? The smoker hits his head, and dies. And then what? Sam buries the body in the next door neighbor’s garden. Interesting story. But asking why–why does he hate smoke? Why does he hit the smoker? Why does he bury the body?–adds so much more to the story itself. And then what helps get you out of a plot rut. Asking why makes it interesting.

Writing has a flow, and writing that first draft is about building the bones of the story. Asking “why” adds meat to the bones, and is how you will differentiate yourself as a writer. Don’t let your characters or your story get away with “because”. Keep asking the hard questions.

Happy Writing!


Julie Hennrikus is an arts administrator, J.A. Hennrikus is a short story writer, and Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series for Berkley. They all look alike, and also blog with the Wicked Cozy Authors.


Be My Guest: Oct 11 Event for Mystery Writers and Others

There’s a fun day on tap this coming Saturday, and if you’re somewhat local to Concord, MA and this is of interest, make sure to register today, Monday, October 6.

Fellow NHWN bloggers, Diane and Julie, and I are part of a mystery writers group called Sisters in Crime. We also both belong to the New England chapter. And it’s the chapter that has pulled together a wonderful mystery-focused event this Saturday.

Here are the details:

Sisters in Crime New England Presents

History, Mystery & Murder!

Saturday, October 11, at Concord’s Historic Colonial Inn

11 a.m. Guided Walking Tour (optional)

12:15 p.m. Luncheon & Author Panel

What happened when two Puritan ministers and a fur trader wandered into the wilderness? What was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s shocking and grisly encounter? What’s so memorable about Major Pitcairn’s boo-boo or Tildy Holden and her chickens?

This easy-going, 60-minute walking tour of downtown Concord and Sleepy Hollow covers a bit of what you’ve read in history books and a whole lot that was left out, including tales of witches and shoemakers, drunken barbers, and the almost unbelievable story of Frank Sanborn, “possibly the coolest dude that ever lived in Concord”.

Afterward, enjoy a luncheon at the historic Colonial Inn and a spirited author panel on writing one of the hottest properties in our industry, Historical Mysteries.

Moderator Leslie Wheeler and award-winning authors M.E. Kemp, Ben and Beth Oak, Tempa Pagel, and Sarah Smith discuss how to make the past come alive while spinning an exciting tale for contemporary readers.

SinC/NE is covering most of the cost of this unique chapter event for members and their invited guests.

Register as my guest at these rates:

Tour & Luncheon/Panel: $25

Luncheon/Panel Only: $15

Reserve your tickets now/today (this is the last call for RSVPs) at

It should be a fun time on a beautiful New England fall afternoon… as long as no headless horsemen appear, I’ll be just fine.


LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.