Mystery Novelist Janice Hamrick & Death Rides Again

The day Eddy Cranny got himself murdered started bad and went downhill from there . . . especially for Eddy. ~ Janice Hamrick, Death Rides Again

Janice Hamrick
Janice Hamrick

When I reached the second floor of BookPeople for the June 19th launch of Death Rides Again, Janice Hamrick’s latest mystery novel, my day turned around and started uphill at a gallop.

Janice, who lives in Austin, made news in the writing–and reading–communities when the manuscript of her first book, Death on Tour, won the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. Published in 2011, the novel was nominated for the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award.

Scott Montgomery and Janice Hamrick, 2012 Texas Book Festival
Scott Montgomery and Janice Hamrick, 2012 Texas Book Festival

In 2012, Janice followed Death on Tour with Death Makes the Cut. Now she presents the third in the Jocelyn Shore series, Death Rides Again.

Critics have been complimentary. So have readers. From her tour of Egypt, to the high school where she teaches, to a family reunion at her Uncle Kel’s ranch, main character Jocelyn Shore has a talent for solving murders and gathering fans as she goes.

DeathRidesAgainCoverWebAt the book launch, Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator of MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, interviewed Janice before an audience of mystery lovers. This was the second time I’ve seen the two together: at last fall’s Texas Book Festival, Janice appeared on a panel Scott moderated. The subject was using humor in mysteries, something Janice does well. (See quotation from book, above.)

I took copious notes, as I always do on such occasions. The conversation ranged far and wide, however, and my notes comprise two pages of scrawl, on the diagonal, a series of jottings devoid of connective tissue. Turning them into paragraphs would take several hours and considerable energy (for reason, see “Why I Am Not a Journalist”), so I’ll share a few bullets:

  • Janice got the idea for Death on Tour from a trip she made to Egypt (during which no one was murdered). The idea for Death Rides Again came from a setting–her family’s ranch near Brady.
  • Some reviewers class the Jocelyn Shore novels as cozy mysteries; others don’t. Janice is glad the books aren’t easily categorized. She describes them as funny but hopes they have more depth than the typical cozy.
  • Asked what she learned while writing the series, she said that between Death on Tour and Death Makes the Cut, she learned, “I can do it.”
  • She’s working on another book–not a Jocelyn Shore–but she doesn’t talk about that one yet.
  • Janice rises about 5:00 a.m. and writes before going to work. She sets out to write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week. On a bad day, she says, she can produce 300 words and feel okay. On a good day, she can “blast right through” her goal.

DeathMakesTheCut_cover_webNow this is where things get personal. I began this post by saying my day went uphill because I attended the book launch.

Goals have never been my friends. Most people find them energizing. To me, setting goals is stimulus for digging in my heels, heading off at a 45-degree angle from the rest of the group. When my CP, who likes goals and thinks I should like them too, makes me set some for the coming week, I growl, scribble in my notebook–almost, but not quite, singing Nyah nyah nyah to myself–and then ignore them.

But Janice’s description of her 300-word goal–low enough to attain and feel good about, low enough to sometimes blast right through–spoke to me. Her system is so logical, so sensible, so humane. Sitting there in that folding chair, I heard the little light bulb above my head click on, and I said to myself, Well, d’oh.

So, on that basis, I’ve decided to jump into Round 3 of  A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, with the following goal:

  • I will write 1500 words a week: 300 words a day, five days a week;

and this stipulation:

  • I will not rise at 5:00 a.m. to get the job done.

Now back to the book launch:

deathontourcover

The question on the mind of nearly everyone in the audience was, What happens next?

When you’ve spent quality time with a character like Jocelyn, gotten to know her and her family, watched her fall in–and maybe out–of love, deal with matters of life and death, turn shaky post-divorce self-esteem to strong self-confidence–you don’t want the relationship to end. Three books, the number Janice contracted to write, aren’t enough.

So what might influence Janice’s publisher to ask for a fourth Jocelyn Shore novel?

Here’s Janice’s answer: Buy the book! 

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You can follow Janice’s blog at blog.janicehamrick.com.

The Jocelyn Store mysteries are available from booksellers listed on Janice’s website.

On Saturday, July 20, Janice and Hopeton Haye, host of KAZI Book Review, will appear at the Pflugerville Library for an interactive discussion about the Jocelyn Shore series, mysteries, and writing. On Saturday, August 31, she will sign copies of her books at the Round Rock Barnes & Noble.

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For more information about A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) click here.

To read what other ROW80 participants are writing, click here.

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