Whacky Life of a Writer: Judy Penz Sheluk

I’d been freelancing for magazines and newspapers about two years when my friend, Michelle, invited me to be a guest speaker at her Girl Guide troop’s career night. “There’ll be one other speaker,” she assured me, “so you won’t have to fill the entire hour.”

Visions of inspiring a bunch of nine- to –eleven-year-olds danced in my head. After all, I had first wanted to become a writer after reading Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery, and I’d probably been about nine at the time. Even better, I’d recently written a couple of how-to-make-it craft articles for a Canadian parents and kids magazine. I could bring those as a sort of show and tell. I agreed to come and found myself being absurdly excited about it. I could make a difference!

There were about a dozen girls at the Guide’s career night, and they were every bit as chatty and excited as you might expect. Unfortunately, they weren’t all that excited to see me. It seems the other speaker made dolls with interchangeable hair and eyes. Had red hair and blue eyes? No problem. Needed the hair to be brown and curly? Easy peasy.

Michelle did her best. She separated the girls into two groups: one for the doll lady and one for me. And to their credit, the girls did try to feign interest in what I had to say, although their eyes tended to wander over to the other side of the room. A lot.

Did I inspire anyone to become a writer that night? It’s unlikely. But I doubt any of them grew up to be doll makers, either. Sometimes, you just have to keep things in perspective!

Judy’s latest release is Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first in the Marketville Mystery Series:

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Bio

Judy Penz Sheluk has been a freelance writer since 2003. Her debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015 by Barking Rain Press. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016 by Imajin Books.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic HERE!

 

NEW RELEASE: SKELETON'S IN THE ATTIC BY JUDY PENZ SHELUK

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. But there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.  

Callie’s not keen on dredging up the past, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge and encounters numerous skeletons in the attic.

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble 

 

Editorial Reviews:

Skeletons in the Attic is a thought-provoking, haunting tale of decades-old deception. In this first-of-a-new series, Judy Penz Sheluk reveals herself to be a masterful storyteller, weaving a page-turner that hooked me from the start and kept me intrigued until the stunning finale.” —Annette Dashofy, USA Today bestselling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series

“Mystery readers will find Callie a compelling protagonist, the plot a fine, winding investigative piece that redefines the concept of “dirty laundry” and whether or not it should be aired in public or secreted forever, and the story of how family connections, wealth, and truth can take on lives of their own a vivid production that translates to thoroughly engrossing reading right up to a completely unexpected, thought-provoking surprise conclusion.” —Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

About Judy:

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published/will be published in WHEN. Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer, specializing in art, antiques and the residential housing industry; her articles have appeared regularly in dozens of U.S. and Canadian consumer and trade publications. Past editorial responsibilities have included the roles of Senior Editor, Northeast Art & Antiques, and Editor, Antiques and Collectibles Showcase. She is currently the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine, and the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime - Guppies, Sisters in Crime - Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, Inc. and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. She lives in a small town northwest of Toronto, Ontario.

Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Website: http://www.judypenzsheluk.com
Blog: http://www.judypenzsheluk.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JudyPenzSheluk
Facebook: https://business.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8602696.Judy_Penz_Sheluk

Avalanche is HERE!!

Thank you for having me on the Imajin Books blog today. We’re celebrating the launch of my third novel, AVALANCHE.  It’s a pleasure to answer questions about Imajin Books and my writing process.

Kristina - How did you sign with Imajin Books?

I had an agent for a couple of years, but when she retired, I decided to try finding a publisher without an agent. My break came in 2014 when the Crime Writers of Canada shortlistedDESCENT for the Unhanged Arthur award, and the Crime Writers’ Association shortlistedBLAZE was for the Debut Dagger. Both awards are for excellence in crime writing by an unpublished author. Having two novels shortlisted garnered interest from publishers.

One day I read DEVINE INTERVENTION and thought my writing style was similar to the author’s (Cheryl Kaye Tardif) even though the genre was different. I decided to check who published the novel and discovered Imajin Books. I submitted both DESCENT and BLAZE to Imajin Books and was awarded a two-book deal.

I believe being shortlisted for the awards pushed me to the top of the slush pile.

When you conceived of the series, did you map Kalin’s character arc for each book?

Not at the beginning. Because I finished DESCENT, BLAZE and AVALANCHE before signing with Imajin Books, I was able to go back and work on her character arc. In fact, I wrote AVALANCHE first, then DESCENT, then BLAZE. On the advice of my agent, I reordered the novels so DESCENT was first. That meant the character arc had to change quite a bit.

Kristina—Your education is in computer mathematics so how did you evolve from that to writing novels?

As with anything, time and dedication go a long way. I first took an online Writer’s Digest course, then I attended the Humber School for Writers correspondence program. Joan Barfoot, was my mentor. Joan is a Scotia Giller Prize and Trillium Book award shortlisted author. I participated in the Crime Writers of Canada mentorship program with Garry Ryan as my mentor. Garry is the award-winning author of the Detective Lane Mysteries. Having professional authors critique my manuscripts greatly improved my writing. I still reference the material I collected from them. I’ve also read hundreds of how-to-write books. I love to study the craft and believe I’ll always have something new to learn.

Can you describe your writing process?

For me, there are two phases to writing a novel. The creative phase and the analytical phase. During the creative phase, I need to be alone to write. Well almost alone. My dog, Farley, is always with me, and I love to listen to him breath as he’s cuddled beside me. Sometimes he’s so close to me, he interferes with the keyboard. I wrote DESCENT, BLAZE and AVALANCHE while living on my sailboat. My favorite spot was in the cockpit, facing aft with my laptop on my knees.

During the analytical phase, I don’t need to be alone. It takes me a few weeks to a month to review each scene and scene element. I use a spreadsheet to do this and find I can work with distractions.

After the novel is complete and it’s been through editing, I need to work in silence again as I proofread. This takes intense concentration. At this point, only Farley is allowed in the room.

The backstory of characters play a part in the plot. Was it plot first or character first?

Character first. I love to write about characters and then see what they are going to do. For each book, I decided what the crime was. Often, I don't know who committed the crime until I’m two-thirds of the way through the first draft.  I’ve even completed a first draft and then gone back and rewritten it so a different person committed the crime. For the novel I am currently writing, I’m creating an outline first. I’ve be a true panster and thought it was time I tried something new.

A Little About AVALANCHE (Released TODAY!):

 On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name. As threats against her escalate, she moves closer to uncovering the guilty party. Is Kalin’s faith in her brother justified? Or will the truth destroy her?

A Little About Kristina Stanley:

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her first two novels garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE for the Debut Dagger. Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is also the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES.

Before writing her series, Kristina was the director of security, human resources and guest services at a resort in the depths of the British Columbian mountains. The job and lifestyle captured her heart, and she decided to write mysteries about life in an isolated resort. While writing the first four novels, she spent five years living aboard a sailboat in the US and the Bahamas.

 

Find out more about her at www.KristinaStanley.com.

Links to the Stone Mountain Mystery Series:

DESCENT: myBook.to/Descent

BLAZE: myBook.to/BlazebyKristinaStanley

AVALANCHE: myBook.to/Avalanche

QWICKIE RELEASE! Gone Gorilla by Robert W. Walker

An Imajin Qwickies® Horror Novella

Mix the horror of The Relic with the humor of Midnight at the Museum and “Imajin” twists and turns that keep you guessing and questioning the meaning of true honor, duty, courage, and the rules of reality.

When the famous Bushman exhibit of a lowland gorilla goes missing from Chicago’s Museum of Natural History, no self-respecting Chicago police detective wants the case. So the assignment is pawned off on an ‘old fart squad’ of retirees called back into service and led by the classy Aubrey Hamilton. But how does one profile a thief who has stolen a 500 lb. stuffed ape?

At first, Aubrey and her team suspect a hoax or fraternity joke—until bodies turn up inside the museum. Now the elderly sleuths must treat the case as a multiple-homicide investigation. However, the brutal nature of the attacks suggests Aubrey and her team have stumbled upon something…supernatural.

Available at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Createspace

Chapters

Google Play

iTunes

Kobo Books

Smashwords

NEW RELEASE: The Author's Guide to Selling Books in Non-Bookstores!

Imagine walking into a grocery store, gift shop or other non-bookstore and seeing YOUR book for sale. This wonderful experience is within your grasp—if you’re bold enough to pursue it. 

Selling to traditional bookstores and making a profit can be extremely difficult, but there is an alternative. In this step-by-step guide, best-selling author Kristina Stanley will show YOU how to move beyond the bookstores and sell to other retail outlets. Every step is detailed, from formulating a plan to collecting money. 

Stanley speaks from experience. She’s sold more books through non-bookstore retail outlets than through traditional bookstores, and YOU can too. Read on, and turn your dream into reality. Success is within your reach.

 

Available at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Createspace

Chapters

Google Play

iTunes

Kobo Books

Smashwords

NEW RELEASE: Raven Lake by Rosemary McCracken!

A Pat Tierney Mystery - Book 3

Murder, jealousy, fraud, deceit—welcome to cottage country!

Financial planner Pat Tierney’s dream vacation in cottage country turns into a nightmare when the body of an elderly woman is discovered in a storage locker. Pat’s friend, Bruce Stohl, is the murdered woman’s son, and when he is pegged by police as their prime suspect, Pat rallies to find his mother’s killer.

Meanwhile, a con artist has targeted cottages in the area, and vacationers are arriving, only to learn they are victims of a rental scam. When disgruntled renters show up at her door, Pat fears for her family’s safety.

Now she must navigate treacherous waters to protect those who are dear to her.

Available at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Createspace

Chapters

Google Play

iTunes

Kobo Books

Smashwords

The Long and Short of It...

I’ve been writing 70,000 word mysteries for so long that, without even trying, first drafts predictably wind up in that word range. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing full-length novels, but a while back I longed for new challenges.

To create new characters and write a novella required a lot of thinking. How would I create a satisfying whodunit in 30,000 words or less? Regardless of length, all mysteries have a crime, hero, villain, and resolution. Simple enough, right? But as I began outlining Dead Man Floating it became clear that I’d have to pare down and simplify the story to stay within Imajin’s word length requirements.

This meant reducing backstory and ensuring that the piece started in mid-action, something experts also recommend for full-length mysteries. In other words, there wasn’t room for long narrative descriptions. I had to nail down my protagonist’s goal and character traits quickly. With Evan, ambition often clashes with the need to help people. He doesn’t always do the right thing, but he does believe he’s doing it for the right reasons.

Full-length novels often have two or three subplots; not so in novellas. Some writers say that they shouldn’t contain any, but I say go with what works, if you can make it work. Since I wanted readers to know Evan professionally and personally, the subplot was a hot new romance which I wove into his crime-solving adventure.

On average (and there are plenty of exceptions), full-length whodunits have five suspects. Novellas work better with three, possibly four, depending on the story. Suspects and secondary characters need to be identified and easily distinguishable from one another. One point of view works well for me, but it’s possible to use more.

One of the great things about reading novellas is that they offer entertaining escapism where readers won’t struggle to remember characters and the layered intricacies of slowly merging storylines. They’re a natural fit for readers who don’t want to invest time in a 350 page book.

One of the great things about writing novellas is that you can write, edit, and polish the book at a much quicker pace than you can with full-length works. If you’re keen to publish a lot of books, or wish to experiment with different publishing platforms, then working with 70 to 80 pages is easier than 300.

I’ve found that fewer words doesn’t mean fewer drafts, though. A read-through of the first draft still requires an analysis of the big picture to see if the story works. Is the pacing okay? Is it logical? Are there superfluous characters? Are the ones I’m keeping sufficiently fleshed out? Tightening the manuscript and making the most of dialogue is crucial. And there’s always grammar, spelling, and punctuation to correct.

If you’ve been writing and/or reading full-length fiction, give novellas a try. It’s a whole new world just waiting for you to explore, and it’s a great deal of fun.

Debra’s Bio

Author of six full-length mysteries and over fifty short stories, Debra has won numerous awards for her short fiction. Drawing on her experiences as a security guard and communications officer, Debra’s created her ideal coworker in campus guard Evan Dunstan. DEAD MAN FLOATING is her first mystery novella. When she’s not writing, she’s working a day job at Simon Fraser University and substitute facilitating for the Creative Writing program with Port Moody Parks & Recreation. More information about her books and her blog can be found at www.debrapurdykong.com

 

Links to Dead Man Floating:

Amazon.ca https://www.amazon.ca/Dead-Floating-Evan-Dunstan-Mystery-ebook/dp/B014K0UY1A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464547308&sr=1-1&keywords=Dead+Man+Floating

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Floating-Evan-Dunstan-Mystery-ebook/dp/B014K0UY1A

Smashwords  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/573302

Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/dead-man-floating

Google Play https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Debra_Purdy_Kong_Dead_Man_Floating?id=aNF1CgAAQBAJ

Amazon.uk http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Floating-Evan-Dunstan-Mystery-ebook/dp/B014K0UY1A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1443752471&sr=1-1&keywords=Dead+Man+Floating

 

 

Character Interview: Bruce Stohl Reflects on RAVEN LAKE.

Imajin Books: Hey, Bruce! We first met up in Black Water, the second Pat Tierney mystery, where you learned some troubling facts about your family. But you managed to put that behind you, and you seemed to be doing really well at the opening of Raven Lake.

Bruce: I had a few sessions with a psychologist, who helped me to come terms with how I felt about learning—after more than 40 years—that my parents weren’t my biological parents. And, of course, I have my work, which I enjoy.

Imajin: You’re now running a newspaper. How did that come about?

Bruce: My adoptive father’s death left his newspaper, The Highland Times, without a publisher and editor-in-chief, so I stepped into his shoes. I didn’t know what to expect as I don’t have a journalism background, but I like it. I couldn’t have done it, though, without The Times’ great editorial team. With their help, the newspaper has been coming out on schedule.

Imajin: Things were going so well, but then your adoptive mother was murdered in Raven Lake. That must have been a terrible blow.

Bruce: Yes, it was tough. Vi and Ted Stohl weren’t my biological parents, but they’d raised me from infancy. They were the only parents I knew. My mom, Vi, was especially dear to me. She suffered from dementia in recent years, and it was so sad to see her slipping away. At the end, she didn’t know who I was.

Imajin: How was she killed?

Bruce: She was strangled and her body was dumped in a storage locker. Can you believe it? A harmless old lady killed in cold blood.

Imajin: What about suspects?

Bruce: The police seemed to have only had one—me. And when a photographer at The Times was killed, they came calling again. I couldn’t handle much more, so I dropped out of sight for a bit.

Imajin: How awful for you. How did you cope?

Bruce: My friend, Pat Tierney, was worried that my mom’s death and the police zeroing in on me would send me off the rails. She was my lifeline during that time. She made sure I stayed sober and focused on my work at The Times. And she made a pact with me that we’d find Mom’s killer.

Imajin: And did you find your mother’s killer?

Bruce: We did. You’ll have to read Raven Lake to get the details.

Imajin: You’ve been seen with Pat at lot lately. Is there anything romantic between you two?

Bruce: Hmm, I wouldn’t mind if there was because she’s certainly an attractive woman. But Pat sees me as a younger brother, and I’m fine with that. I wouldn’t want do anything that might ruin our friendship.

Imajin: She certainly sounds like a great friend.

Bruce: You’re right. There’s nobody like Pat Tierney.

***

Bio:

Rosemary McCracken has worked on newspapers across Canada as a reporter, arts reviewer, editorial writer and editor. She is now a Toronto-based fiction writer and freelance journalist. Her first Pat Tierney mystery, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger in 2010 and published by Imajin Books in 2012. It was followed by Black Water in 2013. “The Sweetheart Scamster,” a Pat Tierney mystery in the anthology Thirteen, was a finalist for a Derringer Award in 2014. Rosemary’s third Pat Tierney mystery novel, Raven Lake, has just been released.  

Safe Harbor: myBook.to/SafeHarborTierney
Black Water: myBook.to/BlackWaterTierney
Raven Lake: myBook.to/RavenLakeTierney
Thirteen: http://amzn.to/18oY8mF

Raven Lake synopsis:

Murder, jealousy, lies, deceit – welcome to cottage country!

Pat Tierney is more than ready for a summer holiday. But when her teenage daughter announces that she is pregnant, and a friend is pegged by police as their prime suspect in a murder, she realizes the summer is not off to a good start. When victims of a cottage-rental scam start turning up at her door, she knows that her dream summer vacation has turned into a nightmare.

 

Character Interview with DEEPER'S Claire Martin.

Denver Painter Joins Art Festival Lineup

This week we’re profiling Denver landscape painter Claire Martin, 58, one of only five Colorado artists chosen for the annual Denver Art Festival, a world-class juried show held over Labor Day weekend in Civic Center Park. We caught up with Martin recently in her modest Berkeley Park studio.

How did you feel when you found out you’d been picked as one of only 200 exhibitors selected from thousands of applicants across the country?

I jumped up and down and did a little happy dance when I got the email. Of course it felt great to have the jury recognize my art, especially after some of the harsh comments I’ve received from local critics. I’ve worked very hard over the past several years to get to this point in my career. And I’m honored to be representing my home state of Colorado.

How would you describe your style of painting?

Initially, I was inspired by the European Impressionists, Van Gogh in particular. I work mostly in oils and acrylics.  I describe my style as contemporary, very colorful and highly stylized. My work isn’t something that most people walk up to and “get” immediately. You have to look closely before the painting begins to reveal itself.

You’re a rare Colorado native. Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in Denver when it was little more than a cow town. Now it’s a thriving metropolis that still retains some of its Western character and charm, although I hate to see many of the old buildings being torn down in the way of progress.

I went to East High School and CU Boulder where I received my M.F.A. Aside from a couple of years in New Mexico, I’ve lived in Colorado all my life. I spent many years working as a graphic designer for some of Denver’s larger advertising agencies before going out on my own a few years ago.

You started your business in the midst of a severe economic recession.

Yeah. I’m sure several people, including my immediate family, thought I had lost my mind. But I believed I could make it work, and I’ve always been a bit of a risk-taker. 

You’re also a cancer survivor. How has that changed your outlook on life?

It might be more accurate to ask how has it not changed me. In my case, surviving a life-threatening illness put everything into sharp focus. Life is short, and if we don’t have the courage to go after our dreams, who’s going to do it for us?

I have a favorite quote from Goethe: ‘Nothing is worth more than this day.’ It’s become my mantra. I repeated it to myself daily when I was going through chemo and radiation and I still try to live by it. Take each day as a gift and make the most of it. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

What inspires you?

The natural world that surrounds me. I also try to see the beauty in ordinary places and objects. One of my paintings, Snowfield, was purchased last year by the Denver Art Museum.  It’s my version of an aerial view of a snow-covered cow pasture on Colorado’s eastern plains that I saw on a winter flight coming home to Denver. A local art critic complained that it looked like a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream.

And music. I love the soul, rock and folk music of the 1970s, bands like Hall and Oates, Deep Blue, Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs and the great Motown groups. So much good music was being made back then. I know I’m old school but I can’t get into rap and hip hop.

A couple of years ago you were named one of Mile High Magazine’s hottest singles over 50. Any change in your status?

{Laughter} Well, that started out as a joke. My best friend Denise Hrivnak is mildly obsessed with trying to manage my love life. She sent my photo to the magazine and the next thing I know I’m in the article.

I got a lot of Facebook friend requests from it, but at the moment, the only man in my life is my cat, Miles. I’m not sure Mr. Right is out there, and at this point I’m not willing to settle for less.

What can we expect to see next weekend at your festival booth?

I’ve completed a series of ‘rainscapes,’ images of historic buildings and places around Denver that no longer exist. I painted all of them on rainy days. I love how the colors of the landscapes are reflected and distorted by falling water.

Like tears for their demise?

You certainly could say that {smiles}. I guess people will have to come out and decide for themselves. In any case, I’m looking forward to a great weekend surrounded by some fantastic artists.

 

 

 

 

 

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