Posted in Author Spotlight, New Releases

Author Spotlight of Mystery Author Judy Penz Sheluk

I’m pleased to have fellow mystery author Judy Penz Sheluk here to chat about herself and her writing.

Nice to have you here, Judy. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher: Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

My first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery, was originally published in July 2015 by Barking Rain Press (BRP). BRP has also published book 2 in the Glass Dolphin series (A Hole in One) and book 1 in my Marketville Mystery series, Skeletons in the Attic.

In Feb. 2018, I started Superior Shores Press, my own publishing imprint. I have since published The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, a multi-author anthology where I worked as publisher and editor and two more books in the Marketville series: Past & Present (Sept. 2018) and A Fool’s Journey (Aug. 2019).

Very nice. Tell us a little bit about your books — what genre you write, if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

I write amateur sleuth mysteries without the cats, crafts, or cookie recipes. The plots are a bit more complex than a traditional cozy, but they don’t contain bad language, violence or sex. My most recent release is A Fool’s Journey, which releases on Aug. 21.

Interesting. I always thought my mysteries, although they always contain cats, are non-traditional cozies, too. I envisioned the first book of my Cobble Cove mystery series, A Stone’s Throw, as a romantic suspense novel. Readers felt differently, and so began the cozy mystery series.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

I’m currently working on the third (and final) book in the Glass Dolphin series; I love the series, but I know where I want the characters to end up in their lives. Sometimes it’s just time. I plan to continue the Marketville series, and I’m working on a standalone suspense. I hope to publish another anthology next year, if The Best Laid Plans is successful.

I have a few stories in anthologies. I like to write them along with my books. I have 4 books in my series and hope to write at least another one. I also have plans to start a new series. So many ideas, so little time. I know you can relate to that.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Anyone interested in clever cozies and mainstream mysteries, age 14 to 140.

A large audience.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Don’t give up. Rejection is part of every writer’s life. Believe in yourself, and in your story.

Excellent advice.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

The usual, I’m sure. Self-doubt and rejection topped the list. But I knew this is what I was meant to do.

That’s so important.

Have you taken any writing or publishing classes? If so, please provide information about them and if you feel they helped you further your professional skills.

I’ve taken writing workshops, and have a diploma in Fiction Writing from Gotham Writers Workshop and a diploma in Creative Writing from Winghill.

Good for you. I participate in a writer’s workshop at my library. I’ve taken several online courses and am currently taking two Sisters-in-Crime classes. They are very helpful.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I love to golf in the summer, walk my dog (a three and a half-year-old Golden Retriever named Gibbs) year round and try to read at least one book a week. I also love hanging out at our camp on Lake Superior – but only in the summer and fall. Winters in Northern Ontario are brutal!

I also like walking. When I can’t do it outside, I do exercise videos. I can’t walk my cats, but I play with them. I enjoy running after the two young ones. I wish I could read a book a week. With my full-time job at the library and my writing, I find it hard to read a book a month.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I love the writing part best. I also enjoy doing local events, speaking engagements, and going to book clubs (either by an online Zoom meeting or in person). I don’t love shameless self-promotion, but I also understand that it’s part of the job. And to be honest, if I wasn’t an author, I probably wouldn’t have any social media presence.

I relate to that. I find marketing and promotion time-consuming and frustrating, but, like you, I know it’s necessary.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.

Facebook: https://business.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8602696.Judy_Penz_Sheluk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JudyPenzSheluk

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/judypenzsheluk/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/judypenzsheluk/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/judy-penz-sheluk

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Judy-Penz-Sheluk/e/B00O74NX04

Blurb for A Fool’s Journey

In March 2000, twenty-year-old Brandon Colbeck left home to find himself on a self-proclaimed “fool’s journey.” No one—not friends or family—have seen or heard from him since, until a phone call from a man claiming to be Brandon brings the case back to the forefront. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and her team at Past & Present Investigations have been hired to find out what happened to Brandon and where he might be. As Callie follows a trail of buried secrets and decades-old deceptions only one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, there is no such thing as closure.

Excerpt:

Poplar Street was a mixed bag of retail, commercial, and questionable residential. Real estate ads liked to suggest that it was a neighborhood in transition, though which way it was transitioning was uncertain.

Trust Few Tattoo was sandwiched in with Triple P Pizza, Pasta & Panzerotti, and Totally Tempting Thai. The building itself was narrow, with a red brick façade and charcoal board and batten framing a gilt-lettered window and canary yellow door. Food smells from both restaurants wafted out to the street and I knew I’d be getting takeout for dinner.

I opened the door and was greeted with the droning sound of a tattoo machine. My senses were further assaulted with the sickly-sweet smell of industrial strength sanitizer and walls completely covered with framed pages of brightly colored tattoo designs.

The front desk attendant was leaning on a glass display case full of various jewelry items, half of which I wouldn’t know where to put. She glanced up from her smartphone when I walked in. I wasn’t sure if it was the head-to-toe look she gave me, or her heavily tattooed hands and fingers that made me feel slightly out of place. She stood up and favored me with a gap-toothed grin.

“Hey, welcome to Trust Few. I see you’re checking out the flash. What can we do for you?”

The flash? The dazed expression on my face must have given me away, because the shop assistant’s grin broadened.

“The generic drawings,” she said, waving her intricately patterned hands. “They’re called flash. Not as popular as they were once, if I’m being honest. Most of our clients are looking for custom work, unless, of course, they’re underage or impaired. Sam won’t work on either. But flash still makes nice wall art, don’t you think?”

I nodded and then got straight to the point. “I have some questions about a tattoo.” I felt a flush of embarrassment creep up my neck. Why else would I be here, if not about a tattoo? “I was hoping you could help me.”

“Sure.” She pulled a large day planner out from behind the jewelry-filled display case, and her arms opened to reveal a tattoo of a bear trap inside her left elbow. I winced, thinking of the pain.

The assistant caught my look and laughed. “Don’t worry. We never do ditch tattoos on newbies.”

Ditch tattoos? Once again I must have looked clueless, because she elaborated.

“Inside the crook of an elbow is called a ditch tattoo, and yes, it hurts like hell. Not as much as this one did, mind you.” She raised her right arm to reveal a black rose covering her armpit. “Anyway, Sam’s with a client right now, but I can probably slip you in for a consult in a few minutes. When and what were you thinking of getting tattooed?”

I shook my head. There was nothing in this world that I cared enough about to have it permanently inked on any part of my body. “The tattoo isn’t for me.” I reached into my bag for the photocopy I had brought of Brandon’s tattoo. “I have some questions about someone else’s tattoo, and I was wondering if you could help me?”

The shop assistant eyeballed me further, her former grin transformed into something resembling a scowl. “Like, what kind of questions? Is it infected or something? Because we usually recommend the person comes in so we can look at it…”

I placed the photocopy of the tattoo on the counter as the girl trailed off. As she spun the image around to face her, I was able to make out the tattoos on each of her digits—what initially had appeared to be random shapes and lines were actually symbols of the Major Arcana. Thank heavens for Pinterest.

“I like your finger tattoos,” I said, quickly realizing how hokey the words sounded.

“Thanks.” She extended both hands so I could take a closer look. “Sam is big on mystical things. She wanted to practice, so I said she could give me a few finger-bangers.”

Flash. Ditch tattoos. Finger-bangers. I was getting a primer on tattoo talk. I wondered what kind of monopoly you placed on your own skin to let someone randomly practice tattoos on a place as visible as your hands. I also felt my pulse quicken as I realized that I’d made the right choice in selecting Trust Few, though I felt moderate surprise at the fact that Sam was a woman. I’d expected Sam Sanchez to be a big, burly, intimidating biker-type. It served as a reminder to let go of any preconceived notions. That type of thinking could block an investigation. I pulled myself out of my thoughts when the shop assistant spoke.

“What do you want to know about this tat…oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name?”

“Callie,” I said, extending a hand. The assistant shook it, and I was surprised at how soft her hands were, despite their harsh exterior.

“Tash,” she said. “Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise. As for the tattoo, I’m curious about the young man who got it. That is, if he got it here.”

“It looks like it might be Sam’s style, but she’d be the expert on that. C’mon around and we can ask. Like I said before, she’s with a client, but they’ve been at it for quite a while. I’m sure they can both use a break.” Tash waved me around the desk.

I picked up the photocopy and followed her down a narrow hall. More tattoo flash was on the walls, along with a neon Jägermeister sign and a framed poster of The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem final concert in Kingston on August 20, 2016. Three small offices opened into the hallway; the one at the end of the hall had its door slightly ajar and I could hear laughter mixed with rock music and the buzz of the tattoo machine. Tash rapped on the door three times and pushed it open.

“Hey, Sam, sorry to bug you, just wondering if you can help this lady out with a question about a tattoo?”

The buzzing stopped. “Sure.”

Tash moved out of the way and I took it as my cue to step into the doorway. A thirty-something woman wearing combat boots, a sleeveless black Nine Inch Nails T-shirt, and torn jeans with more rips and holes than denim looked up at me and nodded. A tattoo of a woman on a bucking brown horse took up most of her lower right arm. The words “Cowgirls don’t cry” were written above it, with a green heart below circling “We can be heroes.” The image reminded me of the 1950s Calamity Jane movie poster I’d discovered in the attic of Snapdragon Circle, and I wondered if there was an equally personal meaning behind her artwork. There were countless other tattoos on her legs, arms, chest, and I imagined, on body parts I couldn’t see or begin to imagine, but I didn’t want to stare.

“Hi,” I said, holding out my hand.

“Ah, sorry. Sterile environment.” Sam held up two latex-gloved hands. Her current client was lying facedown on a padded table, and turned her head away from the wall to face me. I tried to look at what was being tattooed on her lower back, but couldn’t make it out. Sam put the tattoo machine down on a stainless-steel countertop, the surface covered in industrial grade paper towels, and gave me her full attention. Her cornflower blue eyes were in stark contrast to her long dark hair, which had been shaved on one side. Under the buzz cut I could see “Sanchez” and I found myself wondering how much getting your scalp tattooed would hurt. I figured a lot, maybe as much or more than a ditch tattoo, maybe even more than one under an armpit. I had no plans to get any of them.

“Tash says you have a question about a tattoo?” Sam smiled, showing off a row of perfect white teeth, made whiter by the deep plum lipstick she was wearing. I wondered what made her eyetooth gleam so brightly until I noticed the tiny diamond adhered to it.

I held up the photocopy of the partly finished tattoo. “Do you recognize this?”

Sam cocked her head and peeled off her gloves, throwing them into the trash. She took the photocopy from me, her expression serious as she studied it from every angle.

“This might help to jog your memory,” I said, and offered the newspaper photograph of twenty-year-old Brandon Colbeck. “It was taken a few years back.” I omitted the year. Sam either remembered Brandon and his tattoo, or she didn’t. There was no point planting seeds that might otherwise not be there.

Sam looked up at me, then turned her attention back to the photocopies, her fingers tracing the outline of The Fool tattoo over and over.

“Yeah, I remember this tattoo,” she said, finally. “I never got to finish it, though…”

Now available for pre-order, A Fool’s Journey, book 3 in Judy’s Marketville Mystery series, will be released on August 21 in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, and on Kindle.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Advertisements
Posted in Cats

Appreciating my Black Cat Harry on Black Cat Appreciation Day

Today, August 17, is Black Cat Appreciation Day, and I’m happy to say that I have my own mini panther. Harry turned a year old in August and is the sweetest fur boy you could imagine. Here are some photos of this handsome cat.

 

 

 

 

For those familiar with my books, you know that I like to write about cats. Although the library cat in my Cobble Cove mystery series is Siamese, I have included black cats in some of my writing. In my latest release, Sea Scope, there’s a black cat named Al who lives at the inn in the book.

I also feature a female black cat, Agatha, in my short story, Murder at Lavender Lake Library.

Here are so more photos of Harry. Do you have a handsome or beautiful black cat?

 

 

 

 

Posted in local author event, Sea Scope

You’re Invited to My Author Talk on August 15

If you live in the Long Island area and have some time this Thursday night at 7 p.m., you might want to drop by the Hicksville Public Library where I’ll be talking about my new mystery, Sea Scope. In addition to showing the book trailer and reading some excerpts from the book, I’ll also be hosting a lighthouse contest for prizes and will be giving away a free, autographed copy of my book to a raffle winner. No registration is necessary. Just come on down. I’d love to see you there, and maybe you’ll win a prize or two.

 

Posted in Freebies and Special Offers, Sea Scope

Free Paperback Mystery To Celebrate National Lighthouse Day

In honor of National Lighthouse Day on Wednesday, August 7, I’m sponsoring a contest for a free paperback of my psychological mystery, Sea Scope, featuring a murder by a lighthouse. To enter, you must be a U.S. resident. Comment with the name of your favorite lighthouse, either a place you’ve visited or one you would like to see. All comments must be posted by Saturday night, August 10. The winner, who will be selected randomly from all comments, will be announced on Sunday, August 11. Don’t miss the chance to get a great summer read for free.

The Story Behind National Lighthouse Day

For the bicentennial of the United States Lighthouse Service in 1989, the U. S. Lighthouse Society petitioned Congress to declare National Lighthouse Day on August 7—the date in 1789 that the Ninth Act of the First Congress, establishing federal control of lighthouses, was passed and signed by President George Washington. The measure was signed by President Ronald Reagan as Public Law on November 5, 1988 but only for that day in 1989. A similar declaration was won in 2013, but efforts to add the day to the official national calendar have not succeeded.

UPCOMING LIGHTHOUSE FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Listed below are upcoming lighthouse festivals, events, and meetings that are featured on the website of the United States Lighthouse Society who provided information for some of the facts included in my book.

APOSTLE ISLANDS LIGHTHOUSE CELEBRATION, WI

August 27 – September 14, 2019.  Highlights are cruises to many of the lighthouses of the Apostle Island.  Features landing, tours and hikes on several of the island.  Complete cruise schedule is available at: http://www.lighthousecelebration.com/

MAINE OPEN LIGHTHOUSE DAY

September 14, 2019. This popular event, which is sponsored by the United States Coast Guard, the Maine Office of Tourism and the American Lighthouse Foundation, attracts between 15,000 to 18,000 visitors each year and offers the general public the rare opportunity to climb and learn about over two dozen historic Maine lights. More information available at: http://www.lighthousefoundation.org/maine-open-lighthouse-day/

MUKILTEO LIGHTHOUSE FESTIVAL,WA

September 6 – 8, 2019. This annual three-day festival takes place at Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo, WA. In addition to tours and visits through our working lighthouse built in 1906, the festival features live music, the Mukilteo Marketplace filled with 50+ artists, the Avenue of Food, a large Children’s Area with non-stop activities, a beer garden and two dinners on the lawn at the lighthouse, complete with a spectacular fireworks show both nights. They host a Military and First Responders appreciation dinner on Friday night (all military and first responders welcome, please email exec.director@mukfest.com for an invitation). https://mukfest.com/

EDMUND FITZGERALD MEMORIAL BEACON LIGHTING, SPLIT ROCK LIGHT STATION, MN

November 10, 2019. This annual event, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, commemorates the sinking of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald and the loss of her 29 crew members on November 10, 1975. It is also a time to reflect on the memory of all lives lost in Great Lakes shipwrecks. The lighthouse, fog signal building and visitor center will be open. Costumed guides will greet visitors and provide historic site and shipwreck information. Throughout the afternoon, visitors can view a film about the Edmund Fitzgerald in the visitor center.

At 4:30 pm, the lighthouse will close temporarily while the names of the crew members are read to the tolling of a ship’s bell and the Naval Hymn is played. Following the ceremony, the beacon will be lit, and the tower will be open again to tour. This is the only opportunity each year when visitors can climb the tower after dark and see the lit beacon. More info at http://www.mnhs.org/splitrock/activities/beacon-lighting

MICHIGAN LIGHTHOUSE FESTIVAL

August 2, 3 & 4, 2019. The Michigan Lighthouse Festival begins August 2, 2019 in Port Huron at Fort Gratiot Lighthouse with an “awesome” Buffet Barbecue under a tent and a very “special speaker”! The following lighthouses will be participating, some with a “special event” to be announced at a later date. Huron Lightship, Port Sanilac, Harbor Beach, Point Aux Barques and Port Austin. http://www.michiganlighthousefestival.com/

MICHIGAN LIGHTHOUSE GUIDE

Michigan has an array of festivals that celebrate its deep maritime heritage. Michigan’s port cities roll out the red carpet and provide you with a fun filled collection of memorable experiences with a nautical flare. http://www.michiganlighthouseguide.com/festivals.html

TOLEDO LIGHTHOUSE WATERFRONT FESTIVAL

July 6 & 7, 2019. Enjoy continuous entertainment, a nautical arts & crafts village – featuring over 50 of the area’s finest nautical artists and crafters. As well as children’s activities, a lighthouse story tent, delicious food, silent auction, and more all the beautiful Maumee Bay State Park. http://www.toledolighthousefestival.com/

PORT CLINTON LIGHTHOUSE FESTIVAL AND AMATEUR RADIO ACTIVATION

August 17th & 7, 2019. The Port Clinton Lighthouse Festival is an annual event which coincides with International Lighthouse and Lightship weekend every year near August 7th. The one-day festival features lighthouse tours, nautically themed art and educational programs, arts & crafts vendors, food, music and stunning views of the Lake Erie Islands. The lighthouse will be activated with an amateur radio station during the festival.  If you want to tune in or contact them via amateur radio frequencies, you will need to find a ham radio operator that can operate on the 40 or 20 meter amateur radio frequency bands. For details on the Port Clinton Lighthouse Festival go to http://portclintonlighthouse.org/2019-festival/ and for more info about the amateur radio activation go https://www.qrz.com/db/W8GNM/8.

mybook.to/SeaScope

Sarah Collins needs an escape. Mourning her brother’s death and the impending breakup of her marriage, she accepts an invitation to return to her childhood home in South Carolina, where her family operated an inn.

She hasn’t been back to Sea Scope for twenty years; not since she and her brother Glen discovered a body by the nearby lighthouse. She never understood why her parents left Sea Scope so suddenly, or the reasons behind her father’s suicide.

After Sarah returns to the inn, she faces long-buried memories, text messages and strange clues. Something is not right in Sea Scope.

Reunited with people from her past, she tries to figure out what’s going on in her childhood home. As the past and present collide, she must face truths about her family, and what happened that summer day by the lighthouse. But will she survive to tell the tale?

Posted in Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight of Multi-Genre Author A.J. Griffiths-Jones

I’m pleased to have author AJ Griffiths-Jones here to chat about herself and her writing.

Nice to have you here, AJ. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher: Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

My first book was published in 2015. I currently have seven published books, all with Creativia/Next Chapter Publishing. They are ‘Prisoner 4374’ (true crime) ‘The Villagers’, ‘The Seasiders’, ‘The Congregation’, ‘The Circus’, ‘The Expats’ (all cosy mysteries) and ‘Black Sparrow’ (my first crime thriller).

Excellent. Tell us a little bit about your books — what genre you write, if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

I write across multiple genres, crime, mystery, thriller, children’s, non-fiction, historical. I’m currently working on a series of six detective novels set in France of which I expect to finish book one in the next few weeks.

Wow! That’s terrific. Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

My goals are very simple. I aim to share my stories with my readers in the hope of gaining new followers who can appreciate the tales I have to tell. I’ll just keep writing until the ideas stop.

Sounds like a good plan.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Typically, I’m looking to attract readers that like to try something out of their comfort zone. I’ve managed to surprise quite a few people in the past with my twisted endings and colourful characters, so I think anyone with a passion for a suspenseful read would love my work.

Those are the types of books I write, too, and also enjoy reading, so I must check out some of your titles.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

My motto is ‘There’s a reader out there for everyone.’ Don’t be put off by rejections, every author has to go through that process, but also don’t let yourself be pigeon-holed into writing run-of-the-mill stories.

Good advice.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

The first book that I embarked upon took ten years and a lot of money to research. It was true crime & therefore I had to procure prison files, photographs, letters, and went through a lot of legal red-tape to gain copyright. It also put off a lot of publishers, as I chose to write in the first-person, using the documents as samples of the criminal’s actual words. I don’t think many editors knew how to handle it.

I guess you learned a lot from that experience.

Have you taken any writing or publishing classes? If so, please provide information about them and if you feel they helped you further your professional skills.

I haven’t taken any classes or formal instruction, but I’m a former English Teacher & I worked as a Language Training Manager in Shanghai for ten years, predominantly teaching banking staff to speak and conduct business in professional English. Hence, I’m very particular about grammar and punctuation.

Interesting. What are your hobbies besides writing?

I swim as many days a week as I can, to try to keep in shape. I also have a passion for cooking & created a recipe blog to share my unique recipes. My husband is a classic car enthusiast, so throughout the summer we go to a lot of shows and exhibitions, we also try to travel as much as possible.

Sounds like a nice variety of interests.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I love the idea of being able to create alternative worlds for my reader to escape to, away from life’s daily toil, so I’m happiest when I’m in my study writing. The downside of being an author, for me, is the constant need to advertise, push purchasers to review and sell my wares.

I think most authors feel the same way. I know I do.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.

Facebook: A.j. Griffiths-Jones Author Page & We love AJ’s award-winning books

Twitter: @authoraj66

Instagram: authoraj66

Thanks so much for the interview, and I wish you the best on your forthcoming books.