When I started writing my Glass Dolphin cozy mystery series, I wanted to create a fictional town that readers could believe in, and to do that, it had to be modeled after a town I could relate to. Now, I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I’ve lived within two hours of that city, mostly in small towns, for all of my adult life. Add to the mix that I’ve never been much of a traveler (I don’t count a week in the Bahamas or the occasional writers’ conference as being a “traveler”) and I couldn’t imagine setting my book in a fictional U.S. town. After all, just like the people in them, every small town I’ve lived in has had its own distinct personality.
And so, I set the Glass Dolphin mysteries in Lount’s Landing, a fictionalized version of Holland Landing, where I’d lived for twenty years. Instead of the Holland River, the Landing (yes, Holland Landing folks refer to it as “the Landing”), I’ve got the Dutch River. Instead of neighboring Newmarket, I’ve got Marketville (though I did borrow its Main Street of indie shops and restaurants for Lount’s Landing).
Why Lount’s Landing, you might ask, and the answer is simple. When I first moved to the town in 1990, one of my first stops was the Holland Landing Public Library. Outside, there was a historical plaque commemorating Samuel Lount, who’d been hanged for treason in 1838. Fascinated, I researched Lount’s story. His history, and his hanging, is an integral part of The Hanged Man’s Noose, book 1 in the series.
In book 2, A Hole in One, Glass Dolphin antiques shop owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland decide to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament in hopes of promoting the store. Unfortunately, finding a dead body in the woods has a way of mucking things up, but the golf course, and the third hole where the body is discovered, is based on Silver Lakes Golf Course in…you guessed it…Holland Landing.
Where There’s A Will, book 3, wraps up the series with Emily getting married and house hunting, and Arabella and her ex-husband, Levon, hired to appraise the contents of an estate. Once again, the setting of Lount’s Landing is integral to the story.
One of the best compliments a reader can give me is to say, “I felt as if I were right there,” because that means I’ve been successful in creating a believable fictional town. And today, when most of us aren’t traveling, isn’t it fun to think you can visit a small town in Canada, where most people are good and those who aren’t eventually get their comeuppance.
Where There’s A Will: A Glass Dolphin Mystery by Judy Penz Sheluk
Emily Garland is getting married and looking for the perfect forever home. When the old, and some say haunted, Hadley house comes up for sale, she’s convinced it’s “the one.” The house is also perfect for reality TV star Miles Pemberton and his new series, House Haunters. Emily will fight for her dream home, but Pemberton’s pockets are deeper than Emily’s, and he’ll stretch the rules to get what he wants.
While Pemberton racks up enemies all around Lount’s Landing, Arabella Carpenter, Emily’s partner at the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, has been hired to appraise the contents of the estate, along with her ex-husband, Levon. Could the feuding beneficiaries decide there’s a conflict of interest? Could Pemberton?
Things get even more complicated when Arabella and Levon discover another will hidden inside the house, and with it, a decades-old secret. Can the property stay on the market? And if so, who will make the winning offer: Emily or Miles Pemberton?
About Judy Penz Sheluk
A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including The Best Laid Plans and Heartbreaks & Half-truths, which she also edited. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Chair on the Board of Directors.
Welcome, Judy. Please tell us how long you’ve been published and what titles and/or series you write.
I have two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. My debut novel was THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE, book #1 in the Glass Dolphin series, and it was released July 2015 by Barking Rain Press (BRP), a small, but MWA approved, publisher based out of Vancouver, Washington. The second book in the series, A HOLE IN ONE, was released on March 6, 2018.
Imajin Books originally released the first book in the Marketville Mystery series in August 2016. It was re-released by BRP in December 2018. The sequel should be out Fall 2018. All my BRP titles are available in trade paperback and all eBook formats (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, Google Play).
I have one self-published collection of three short stories, titled LIVE FREE OR TRI, which is available in print and Kindle only.
NOOSE, SKELETONS and LIVE FREE are also available in audiobook on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. I self-published the audiobook versions of those books using ACX, and hired a different narrator for each book. I hope to publish A HOLE IN ONE in audio later this year, but there’s a lot involved, so we’ll see.
Sounds like you have a lot going on. Congratulations on your new release and upcoming titles.
Tell us a little bit about your series.
The Glass Dolphin Mysteries take place in the fictional town of Lount’s Landing, Ontario, which is very loosely based on Holland Landing, where I lived for many years…and I do mean loosely based! The Glass Dolphin is an antiques shop on the town’s historic Main Street. The main characters include Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland (co-owners of the Glass Dolphin) and Levon Larroquette, Arabella’s ex-husband, who is an antiques picker. Let’s just say Arabella and Levon have a complicated relationship. I classify the Glass Dolphin Mysteries as “Amateur Sleuth with an Edge.” There’s the requisite small town, no overt sex, violence or bad language, but there is also no cats, crafts, or cookie recipes, and the plot is a bit more complicated than a traditional cozy. The second book in the series, A HOLE IN ONE, was just released March 2018, and I’m currently writing book three in the series. In my head, it’s always been a three-book series, and I know how and where I want to leave my characters. But things could change!
The Marketville Mysteries take place in Marketville, a fictionalized version of Newmarket, Ontario, the town immediately south of Holland Landing. Again, great liberties were taken. Unlike the Glass Dolphin series, which is told in third person, alternating points of view, the Marketville series is told entirely in first person by the protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC is what I’d consider a slow-burn mystery suspense. The basic premise is Callie inherits a house from her father with the condition she finds out who murdered her mother 30 years before. A house she didn’t know existed, and a mother she thought had up and left when Callie was six for the “mailman or some other male equivalent). The sequel should be released Fall 2018 and I’m just starting to mull over ideas for book three.
They all sound great.
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 recently read a quote by Flannery O’Connor that really resonated with me: “If I quit now I will soon go back to where I started. And when I started, I was desperate to get to where I am now.” Now, I’ve never thought of quitting – writing is in my DNA—but sometimes we forget to celebrate how far we’ve come, instead choosing to focus on where we want to be. I’m not saying I don’t have a long-term vision, but I don’t want that vision to spoil the journey or the celebration. Besides, I’m terribly superstitious. If I tell you, maybe it won’t come true.
Those are very interesting points, and I think important for writers to consider.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
My books don’t contain bad language (there is the occasional hell or bastard, but nothing stronger), sex or violence, so they really can be read by anyone. That said, there isn’t a lot of romance, so if you crave a good romantic yarn, my books probably wouldn’t be for you. Mind you, A HOLE IN ONE does have more romantic elements than my other two books!
Most mystery readers like a bit of romance but nothing that overshadows the mystery.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
I always quote Agatha Christie when I’m asked this question: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
I see you like quotes, and you choose good ones. Great advice from a mystery master.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
Rejection. I mistakenly thought my solid reputation as a journalist (since 2003) and the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal (www.antiquesjournal.com, since 2007) would pave the way to a publishing deal, but neither of those things mattered. I spent a lot of time looking for agents and publishers, and had my heart broken more than once. I wrote about my experience quite honestly on my blog in January 2015. Here’s a link: http://www.judypenzsheluk.com/2015/01/10/my-publishing-journey-the-first-cut-is-the-deepest/
I really identified with your post, as I’m sure other authors will when they read it. I’m in the querying process now for a new cozy mystery; and, although I don’t believe I’ve made any beginner mistakes and have built up a social media presence, I hated writing the synopsis and couldn’t get it down to 1 or 2 pages, but I did the best I could and am hoping for good news soon.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
I belong to writing associations – Sisters in Crime (International, Guppies, Toronto), International Thriller Writers, Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where I serve on the Board of Directors. I’m a big believer in joining associations for the knowledge and networking. But I’ve never belonged to writing group, where I’d meet x times a month or year and read something I’d written. Until I’m ready to go full-ond “Beta-reader” I’m a very private writer.
You belong to two of my groups – Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. I also belong to my local Long Island Authors Group and the Cat Writer’s Association. I participate in a writing group at my library, as well. I agree that associations are important for exactly the benefits you mentioned.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
In the summer, I enjoy golfing and belong to two ladies leagues. I love to walk, and I have a 2 ½ year-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs, who helps me in that pursuit. I used to run marathons (26.2 miles) and half-marathons 13.1 miles), but now I’m more of a three-mile, three times a week kind of runner. And I’m an avid reader. I set my Goodreads reading challenge to 30 books this year, and I’m already three books ahead of schedule.
It’s important for authors to keep up their own reading. I also read because I’m a librarian and order the fiction books for our collection and write a monthly staff picks review. I also enjoy walking, although I don’t have a dog. I’ve never gotten into running, but I’m sure it’s great excercise after sitting hours writing at the computer.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
It’s quite cathartic to take a negative experience and exorcise it. In LIVE FREE OR TRI, for example, there’s a short story called LIVE FREE OR DIE. The experience in that book is directly culled from something that happened to me as a young woman. Let’s just say “Jack” may still be alive somewhere…but not in my story!
Challenges – sometimes the words just don’t flow. Or you spend a week or more writing and one day you realize – “this isn’t going to work.” And it’s DELETE and start over. That’s tough. And marketing and promotion, which is time consuming and often exhausting, because you’re putting yourself “out there.” But it’s all part of being a writer and I feel very blessed to say, “this is what I do for a living.”
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
Cozies are fair in a world that isn’t always fair. That’s comforting to me.
I believe it’s comforting to cozy readers, too, and is part of the attraction of the genre.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
From A HOLE IN ONE
Levon smiled, the full-on one he tended to keep in reserve, and Arabella felt something tug inside of her. She had heard quite enough about Gilly Germaine and how amazing she was. It wasn’t as if she was jealous, exactly, more like she felt Levon slipping away from her little by little. They might not be married any longer, but she never stopping thinking of him as a friend, someone who knew her and loved her, blemishes and all. Since Gilly had arrived on the scene, Levon had become more and more distant. This past month he’d been all but absent. Today was the first time they’d spoken in two weeks.
It didn’t help that she’d recently split up with Aaron Beecham. For a small town cop, he seemed to be on duty more than off.
“I should get going,” Levon said, interrupting her thoughts. “Gilly is relying on me.”
I’m sure she is. “I better get going as well. We’re starting on number two.”
“Just remember not to hit the ball until the shotgun sounds.”
“Gilly’s using an actual shotgun? I thought everyone used sirens or horns these days.”
Levon laughed. “Gilly’s as much of a stickler for research as you are. She thought it would be more authentic if she used a shotgun, too. You of all people should appreciate that, Arabella. After all, isn’t that your motto? Authenticity matters?”
It was, but Arabella didn’t like it that Gilly had adopted the same motto.
She didn’t like it one bit.
Great exerpt. Thanks for sharing.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
If you’re in a book club, I’d be happy to mail bookmarks to your club, and I’m also happy to answer questions from your book club if you select one of my books. Contact me at judy at judypenzsheluk dot com and we can sort it out.
That’s a nice offer.
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