by Julie, springing in Somerville
I loved the covers Midnight Ink created for my Theater Cop series. But when they went out of business, and I got my rights back, I needed to come up with a new cover. After a couple of false starts, I decided to take on the task, create covers, and go “wide”.
First up, for those of you who don’t know this series, which I wrote as J.A. Hennrikus, let me tell you a bit about Sully Sullivan. Sully is a ex-cop who’s life imploded five years ago when she was forced to retire and found out her husband was having an affair. She went home to Trevorton, MA and was brought in to general manage a theater company. She’s settled into her new life, but when her friend is accused of killing his father, she brushes off her investigative skills.
This series is more traditional than cozy, and was a lot of fun to write. The third book was partially finished when MI closed their doors, and I’ve decided to finish that third book. But first I needed to republish the first two.
Thanks to long ago design classes, and Canva, I found images of stages, and ran them through some filters to make them look like paintings. They look related, but not exactly alike. I’m very pleased with the outcome.
I also learned about indie publishing, and put them on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org and other retailers. They are available as ebooks and paperbacks. They are also available world-wide, which is exciting. Indie publishing is a skillset I am still developing, but technology has made it much easier. New covers may not seem like a big deal, but they represent a lot of thinking and planning. What a business.
So what’s next for Sully, Dimitri and the rest of the crew? I’m writing a short story with some of the characters, which is a fun way to catch up with them. I am also going to finish book #3, and will hopefully get that out within the next year. And finally, I’m going to explore audiobooks, and see if that could happen.
Right now I’m celebrating that the books are available again, and that Sully is telling me new stories.
Readers, I do have a question for you. In my cozies, I am avoiding the pandemic. But in this series, considering it takes place in a theater, I think discussing the pandemic may make sense. What do you think?
I think it can be done as I’ve seen it in other cozies to varying degrees. It happened, it affected many, many people and businesses, and as long as it doesn’t drag the storyline into dark corner, it can be very beneficial. I sometimes think about it when reading a cozy, and wonder why it isn’t mentioned at least as an aside without details.
And since it affected, and still affects, theaters I’m thinking it needs to be there.
Julie, I am absolutely THRILLED to see the Theater Cop series revived! I was such a big fan and was so sorry that only two books were published. I’m really looking forward to both the short story and volume #3. And I’m hoping that the success of 3 will lead to 4, 5, and 6 as well!
Regarding including the pandemic, I think you might very successfully set it at the END of the pandemic, perhaps with the cast of an interrupted production coming back together, only to learn that one of their number was murdered. There. I’ve practically written it for you. You can email me my share of the royalties.
But to be serious, setting it at that point in time would avoid the pitfall that Jeanie rightfully cautions against, and allows you to keep things optimistic.
On the other hand, I’m not at all optimistic about having to wait a year. Could you please write faster?
Thank you Lee! I think post pandemic is the time, though I was thinking about a Zoom reading where one of the actors is killed, but he’s alone. Possibilities!
I love the new covers, Julie! And I’m glad you are continuing the series.
What did you use to publish these reissues? D2D or something else?
Pandemic: I slid in a few mild mentions of it being in the past. Characters who still haven’t resumed shaking hands, or Aunt Adele who was the first to jump back into hugging, and so on. But I agree that with a theater story, you’d be fine making your characters deal with the pandemic more explicitly, or at least the aftermath.
What a great way to acknowledge it. I am thinking it would be past, which jumps book time ahead. So many details!
I used Amazon first, then D2D once I got the covers in place.
Congrats on the re-release of this series. Love the new covers.
Just a few mentions of the pandemic’s effect on the theater group would work.
Thanks Dru. I agree, mentions of the past.
How topical has this series been so far? Mentioning the pandemic could tie the story pretty tightly to this point in history, and it will start to feel more like a historical novel instead of contemporary as time passes. If the series is already topical, then no problem.
Great point! Book time v real time. CHRISTMAS PERIL was the first book I wrote and tried to sell, but the fourth book published. In rereleasing it I looked at it again to make it more of today if that makes sense. So the series isn’t tied to dates, though it was.
Avis brings up an excellent point. No one doubts the impact of a pandemic in real time; however, in “book time” where readers continue enjoy a novel for decades, skipping a mention of the event may make more sense.
True. You’re all giving me lots to think about!
Julie, congrats on your new covers as well as the plans to finish book three (as well as a short story).
As for your question about including the pandemic, it kind of depends on what point you are going to set the story in the pandemic. If you set at the beginning or in the middle of it, then you’d be stuck with any possible future books for setting. While that may work for thrillers that are set in the “real” world like with Michael Connelly or Daniel Silva books, the more traditional and/or cozy series could do without it. I like Edith’s plan of setting it afterwards so you can acknowledge it but not be entirely beholden to the pandemic.
That is of course, if you’d rather simply avoid it altogether which I’d be even more on board with.
Great points, and thank you!
Congratulations on the re-release and the fabulous new covers!
Most definitely include them. It’s part of life so why ignore it? Doesn’t mean you have to make it a center point of a story, but effects of the real life thing will affect generations to come. Some of the affects would work in nicely to make the story more realistic it being traditional instead of the cozy type. At least that’s my opinion.
Good luck to your and great anticipation to your readers in the coming installments to Sully and the rest of the gang’s stories.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Thank you Kay!
I’ve heard some readers react very negatively to any mention of the pandemic. I think, for some, it triggers PTSD of sorts. On the other hand, if we, as writers, avoided all PTSD triggers, we’d have very little to write about. And CONGRATULATIONS!
Such a great point. And thank you!
Love the new covers! You did a fabulous job. I’m one of those PTSD people that Annette mentioned. I tried reading a pandemic book last year and couldn’t–maybe by next year, but I’m not sure.
During I was writing a story during but I couldn’t. But maybe I’ll use the pandemic to jump the series ahead in book time.
I love the new covers, Julie.
I think as long as the plot doesn’t dwell on the pandemic, you’re okay. As others have said, set it at the end or slide in mentions.
Thanks! Slide it in mentions is a great way to put it.
I am looking forward to reading this series, Julie, thanks! I find it interesting to read everyone’s opinions about the pandemic. I read a great book “Lucy By the Sea” by Elizabeth Strout, and it was set at the beginning of the pandemic. I was fascinated by the comparison between what was happening on the east coast compared to here in Arizona. It was a terrible time for everyone but I think it helps to read how different areas coped with the shutdown.
A great point. The pandemic also affected the arts in specific ways that are worth highlighting. Thanks for commenting!
Love the covers and congratulations on the re-releases. As for the pandemic? Difficult question. Depending on how you handle it, it could rapidly make the book a historical, on the other hand, passing references would be fine and let the book remain evergreen.
Love the Zoom plot. Maybe as a short to avoid dating the series?
That’s what I’m pondering. I started another short that has turned into a book idea.
Thank you so much for putting so much effort into creating wonderful covers for your exciting mysteries, Julie! The pandemic is a reality that anyone alive today will have inside them until we expire…write freely about it, and don’t be shy…I am sure we read far worse real stories that affected us all. Thank you for writing stories that will keep us entertained for hours with characters that become our friends. luis at ole dot travel
Thank you for keeping that awful pandemic talk away from Julia’s world! With the theater book you’re working on, a small mention wouldn’t bother me, but since it was a super stressful time for everyone, the least mentioning it gets, the better, imho. 🙂
It will be glossed over. I’m not ready to relive it. And happy to keep it away from Goosebush.
Looking forward to this! I loved the books!
How exciting to get the theater series going again. Love the covers – great job, Julie. I wouldn’t mind a reference to the pandemic, just as is done with the flu pandemic of 1918. It’s not integral to the story, but may explain why the actors hadn’t interacted for some time, or they were thought to have died, or any of a number of other “excuses” to mention it that would explain something in the current story. Looking forward to #3!
Wonderful point, thank you Ginny!
I’ve read a couple of pandemic books, but I’m really not looking for that in my fiction. I read to escape reality. Maybe in another 10 or so years I might be more open to it. A reference to it wouldn’t bother me, but something set during that time would be more of a struggle to enjoy. If you can avoid it completely, that would be best, as far as I am concerned.
Excellent points. I can’t imagine writing a book set in 2020/2021 at this point. Book time is so odd anyway…
As I read everyone’s comments, two more things occurred to me that I thought worth mentioning. (And since I haven’t been able to post at The Wickeds in a long time, I’ll use that as an excuse for double-dipping today.)
First, I neglected to mention how beautiful and absolutely RIGHT the covers are. As far as I’m concerned, you’re an artist as well as an author, and I think they serve the series very well.
Some of the posters here were concerned that mentioning the pandemic locks the series in time, as if that were necessarily a bad thing. Remember that two of the longest-running and greatest series from The Golden Age (and long after) set themselves firmly in the moment each book was written.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie’s very first Poirot novel is set at demobilization following WWI and sets the scene for the way Poirot and Hastings first meet.
Even more to the point, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books all are set in the midst of current events of the day. During WWII, Archie Goodwin is an officer working in Military Intelligence and Wolfe decides to embark on a program of diet and physical exercise so that he can be fit enough to “go abroad and kill Germans.” Even Fritz is forced to live under the constraints of rationing. That tight binding to the events of the day continued through virtually every book in the series, and it really doesn’t seem to have limited readers’ ability to enjoy them irrespective of when they’re read.
I’m not arguing that you SHOULD include the pandemic, only that tying a book to the events of the day really doesn’t have to be a limitation or a negative characteristic.
Very best wishes,
Lee, a wonderful point. And for both authors, their characters barely age so they are always “of that time” no matter when the novel was published in a lot of ways.
Ah, except for Curtain.
Lee, I am a huge Christie fan. Huge. But I’ve never read Curtain and doubt I ever will. Just can’t.
I’m with you on this one, Julie. I’ve read all the Agatha Christie stories (many of them many times), but I can’t bring myself to read this. David Suchet said he had to record Curtain last because he felt he couldn’t finish out the series if he did it before any of the others.
I understand, really I do, but I’d rank it right up there with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd for its brilliant plot and solution. I honestly didn’t find it painful to read, and I had the same apprehensions as you do. It truly does represent Christie at her very best.
Personally, I don’t enjoy reading anything about the pandemic in my pleasure reading. The pandemic has caused too much stress for me, and I just want to forget about it and escape into another world.
Lots of folks agree.
Personally, I don’t want to read about the pandemic.i read fiction to escape from reality.
One of the great gifts of reading.
In this case, it would make sense. I am not a fan of reliving the pandemic, but we cannot act like it did not happen either. There were so many people who were out of work because their jobs were put on hold. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.
Thank you! I agree, the theater world was really affected by the pandemic. It would be hard not to recognize that.
Since all of the Broadway theatres were closed for awhile, it makes sense to include it. I like Lee’s suggestion to set it right after the pandemic.
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