Interview: Shawn McGuire

Welcome Shawn McGuire, author of the Whispering Pines mysteries. 

OriginalSecrets_CVR_SMLDo you listen to music when you write? 

I do listen to music. Plugging the earbuds into my ears is almost like a starter’s pistol. It’s my signal to go, write. The music coming through those buds, however, depends on what I’m writing, because each series I write requires a different kind of music. My Gemi Kittredge novella series is set in Hawaii, so I listened to slack key guitar music for those. My Whispering Pines series is set in a small, quirky village that’s populated with equally quirky residents. I find folk music, the Appalachian style, is best while writing those books. The one thing that is the same is, no lyrics. I can’t listen to people singing while I’ve got characters talking in my head!

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

I love this question. It would be a chocolate-nut-fruit cluster. The chocolate would need to be very dark, to represent the secrets going on in the village. The nuts, probably almonds, would represent the “nutty” characters. I think the fruit would be dried cranberries (sweet and tart) to represent the sweet/tart characters that live there and the sweet romance going on between the main character, Jayne, and Tripp, the man helping her with her bed-and-breakfast.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the writing process?

No question, the first draft. I HATE first drafts. To get through them, I write them really fast. For example, I just finished the first draft of the fourth book in my Whispering Pines series, tentative titled Hidden Secrets. I wrote that draft in fourteen days, averaging 5,000 words per day. By the last chapter, I was writing only dialogue just so I could be done with it. Now is when my real fun starts. I LOVE the revision process. I get to really dig in and add details and setting descriptions and really bring the story to life.

What do you think makes a good story?

I was just having this conversation with someone. To me, a good story is obviously well-written with a good pace and characters that we want to root for. As a writer, it’s a story I can’t wait to get back to writing. As a reader, it’s one that I don’t want to stop reading, but also one that leaves enough wiggle room for me to have my own experience with it. I know that readers don’t experience my stories in the exact way that I do when I write them, and I’m fine with that. I love when someone contacts me with a takeaway that I never even thought of. If they want to believe, for example, that there’s magic going on in Whispering Pines and I didn’t intend for there to be, wonderful. (By the way, I’m not going to tell you what my intent was!!)

Where do you see yourself in five years – this is the time to dream big!

In five years, I see my Whispering Pines series completed and readers still loving to read them, and I’ll be hard at work on at least one more series. I see my husband and I traveling the country in a fifth-wheel trailer. I love the thought of hauling our home somewhere and plunking down to stay for a while. I love to experience new people and places. To be able to “live” in a new community for a while, to really experience it, rather than just pass through while on vacation, sound like a wonderful adventure to me. At the same time, I need a home base as well so there will be a house on a lake … somewhere …


About Original Secrets

The Northwoods village of Whispering Pines used to be a safe haven for outsiders, but after three deaths in two months, it’s become a hotbed of murder.

Exhausted from being the only law enforcement official on duty, while also trying to open a bed-and-breakfast, Jayne O’Shea welcomes the escape she finds in her grandmother’s journals. Each entry gives her a deeper understanding of why her grandparents moved to the secluded spot so long ago. But as questions are answered, deeply hidden secrets are unearthed.

If Jayne can put all the pieces of this puzzle together, she’ll not only learn the truth behind her grandmother’s death, she’ll catch a killer whose been wandering the village for forty years.


headshot 1.1Suspense and fantasy author Shawn McGuire started writing after seeing the first Star Wars movie (that’s episode IV) as a kid. She couldn’t wait for the next installment to come out so wrote her own. Sadly, those notebooks are long lost, but her desire to tell a tale is as strong now as it was then. She grew up in the beautiful Mississippi River town of Winona, Minnesota, called the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin (Go Pack Go!) home for many years, and now lives in Colorado. Shawn is a homebody and loves to read, craft, cook and bake, and spend time in the spectacular Rocky Mountains. You can learn more about Shawn’s work on her website


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Full Irish Breakfast

Every Saint Patrick’s Day, I prepare a full Irish breakfast for the family. It seems only fitting that we gorge ourselves in honor of those who left our ancestral home in search of food. I generally make enough food to feed the entire family and have leftovers for one day because the kitchen will be trashed. It’ll take all weekend to get it clean when I wake up from my nap.

Full IrishStarting at the 12 o’clock position and going around the plate clockwise, this includes:

Black pudding. It’s really a sausage. What’s in it? Don’t ask.

Baked beans. I make them myself in a crockpot using dried beans that I had soaked overnight, then simmered for 40 minutes, then dumped in the crockpot with the other ingredients and added a little extra water, cooked on high for 4 hours. Perfecto.

Rashers. It’s bacon, really. Tastes kind of like Canadian bacon.Irish soda bread

Fried potatoes. Skin on, please. All  the flavor is in the skin.

Scrambled eggs.

Fried tomatoes.

Sautéed mushrooms.

Irish soda bread. I use a gluten-free recipe from Annalise G. Robert’s Gluten Free Baking Classics. The thirteen-year-old grandson deigned that he would eat that for breakfast every day.

JuicesThe scribe, Irish breakfast tea and coffee

If you can’t find black pudding or rashers at your local store, you can order them on-line from Food Ireland: I order from them every year and have always been happy with how quick the food came. And, they have Mars bars!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!





Murder by Moose

I’m very pleased to announce my latest release, Murder by Moose:

Murder by Moose-eBookretailers

For this release, I’ve joined the Seven Sinister Sisters (along with our own Becky Clark) for a blog tour, and last week the 7 visited Mysteristas.  And now it’s official!  The Moose is finally here!

Murder by Moose is the fourth book in the Nell Letterly series.  This book takes Nell up into the mountains for a self-defense retreat during leaf season (which is also hunting season).  Of course she finds a body!  Moose trampled?  Or something much worse…?

When I wrote the first draft of my first Nell book some years ago, I wanted to tell the story of how Nell, a suburban, menopausal single mom of a teenage daughter, comes to teach karate in Boulder, Colorado. I never expected to do a series.  But at the end of that book, I found that there were still a lot of issues I hadn’t addressed–issues that tell the larger story surrounding Nell–and I suddenly found that I was writing a series.

One of the first questions a series has to figure out is how much time should pass overall?  A mystery bookseller once gave me some advice that made me decide to keep this series short–maybe only 6 or 7 books.  I figured that two or three months between each book would be about right for what I wanted to do.

The first book takes place in March, the second in May, and the third in August.  When I started to plan the fourth book, I already knew it was going to have to take place sometime in the fall.  In Colorado that means a high country setting with golden aspen leaves, hunters, and…moose!

I had such a fun time writing this.  But now I have to figure out:  where should I take Nell next?  There will probably be a turkey dinner…and a body…and…?

The Oscar goes to…

1446751375574The 2018 Academy Award for best adapted screenplay went to James Ivory; little, if any attention went to André Aciman, the author of the book “Call Me By Your Name.” A film or a TV series “based on the book by …” generates a lot of publicity, but not much attention is given to the original book itself. Even readers fall into the adapt-for-film-or-TV trap, and one of the questions frequently asked of an author at a book signing, is “When will this be made into a movie?”

Why, why, oh why?

Yes, I know; the deal to adapt a book for film or TV generates a lot of publicity, fame, attention, and MONEY, but I really feel the book is always better than the movie. (I will discuss one exception in a moment.)

Films are short, only about an hour and a half or so long, so by design they limit the scope and the depth of the story. Films do have the advantage of being able to immediately define the sense of place with vivid indoor and outdoor shots. However, time constraints dictate that they leave out many of the rich details and intense characters that make books great.

A TV series has greater flexibility than a film since writers have multiple episodes in which to tell stories, and have the flexibility to pull details from multiple books rather than having to follow book with a linear story line. This makes TV “based on a book by …” much more “appealing” to me, a book reader.

Craig JohnsonUnfortunately, sometimes the TV series is so successful that the original books get lost in the whole process. At a recent book signing, Craig Johnson shared this story about his “Longmire” TV series. He was wearing a cap with the Longmire series logo while having lunch. The waitress commented that she loved the TV show, and asked him how he got the hat. He replied that he writes the books on which the TV show is based. Her astonished reaction was “There are books?”

Earlier I mentioned that there was one film I liked better than the book. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is based on the book by Lionel Shriver. The librarian recommended the book, but since there was a waiting list for it at the library, I found the 2011 movie on Netflix. For those not familiar, it is the anguishing story of Kevin’s mother as she struggles with Kevin throughout his life and “something” that happened, details of which were not revealed until near the end. We agonize along with her, observing her trauma and pain as well as his “lack” of it.  (It is a powerful movie with a VERY current theme, and if you haven’t seen it you should.) The movie was gut-wrenchingly tragic. Now I also loved the book, but in the book, there it was; the event that was hidden for so long in the movie was right on page twelve. The book was still excellent, but for tension, drama, and angst, the film wins.

Now, what do you authors think? Have your books been adapted for film or TV? Did you have input during the process? Is the film as good as your book? What is your favorite film or TV adaptation of a book?

Ask Peggy: the climactic moment

Hello Mysteristas readers! Two weeks ago we rolled out the new “Ask Peggy” feature of the blog, and we already have our first question!

It comes to us from Ellen Byron, who is the author of the fab Cajun Country mysteries. (If you need time to pop on over to your favorite retailer and pick them up, don’t worry. I’ll wait.).

You’re back. Good. So Ellen asks:

I’ve got a question for you, Peggy. I’m breaking the story for my next book and I’m at the penultimate scene where my amateur sleuth protag has figured out who the murderer must be. (“Scene” – can you tell what I usually write?) It’s that chapter where the protag usually ends up in peril, high tension and all that. But I’m tired of doing it that way. I’m looking for an alternate to her being in peril – I already have a scene where her friend is, but with a false suspect. I was thinking this particular killer could end his own life – but why would she, an amateur protag, end up there, with or without the police? And where’s the tension?

Thoughts, Peggy Pixel?

Ellen, you may have had a breakthrough since then, but I’m gonna answer this anyway because a) I can, and b) someone else might wonder the same thing.

I completely agree with you on the need to change things up. Always resorting to “protagonist is in danger and must escape the villain” can start to feel kind of check-boxy. At the same time, this is your climax–or pretty darn close–so it needs to pack a punch.

Here are some thoughts.

An experienced author like yourself knows this to be true: plot has to serve characters, not the other way around. Force your characters to do something not true to who they are and the story won’t work. (Also, if you have stubborn characters, they may fight with you, but that’s a post for another day). Instead of forcing a reason for your protagonist to be on scene during your villain’s suicide attempt without police, is there a location where both characters would logically have a reason to be? Obviously, this also needs to be a location compatible with an attempted suicide (after all, both characters would logically be at a grocery store, but not too many suicides are attempted in the dairy aisle). So one solution is to examine your story for a shared location where both characters would be.

You don’t say why your amateur sleuth protagonist got involved in this case in the first place. But during the course of that investigation, it’s going to become likely that your protagonist goes someplace maybe she wouldn’t normally go because she has to in order to continue her sleuthing. One of those places could become your suicide location (for example, maybe she finds a note, goes to the place to follow up, and the villain is here–just spitballing).

Here’s another idea. You could use a relatively public space, like a park. The sleuth is there and sees the villain preparing to “end it all.” Then she has to act, not only because not only does she feel morally obligated to save the villain’s life, she needs to protect any innocent bystanders.

Or try this. Your protagonist wouldn’t normally go to this place. However, during her investigation she uncovers the identity of the killer. She goes to this location intended to confront him (or her), maybe by calling the police. But when she arrives (ahead of the cops, natch) the villain is preparing to “end it all.” Thus instead of confronting and defeating him, your protagonist has to save him (you know, in addition to solving the murder).

Finally, although the suicide angle offers so interesting possibilities, what if it’s the threat of another death completely? Your protagonist could unearth information where she learns another character is in peril. She rushes to the rescue and in the process confronts the villain (and saves the next victim).

Anyways, those are my thoughts. Whatever you choose, thanks for asking and I can’t wait to read the finished book!


Peggy Pixel

Guest Post: Elizabeth Heiter

Welcome back Elizabeth Heiter, who is visiting today to talk about a fabulous new project!

The Night of the Flood - finalAuthor Collaboration and a Novel in Stories

It started two years ago. A fellow blogger at The Thrill Begins (the International Thriller Writers organization’s blog) suggested that a group of us work on a project together. Perhaps an anthology. But something different, a new way to tie the stories together that would stand out.

After phone calls, a special Facebook group to chat, and a Google Doc where we could collaborate, we had an idea: instead of writing individual short stories tied together through a theme, we’d set up a catastrophe and then give each writer an hour time slot within the next twenty-four hours to set a story in the aftermath. Everything was going to interconnect, and each story would bring the book closer to a big conclusion. But each author was also going to have the freedom to use the characters and situations of their choosing.

At first, it sounded a bit like a pipe dream. A group of writers – it ultimately became 14 of us – working both independently and collectively on a novel made up of stories, while juggling their own book commitments. But the collaboration itself turned out to be surprisingly easy – most of the group already knew each other from writers’ conferences and working on The Thrill Begins, which helped.

We already had the premise: after a woman was put to death for killing her rapists, a group of activists blew up the dam in the city of Everton, PA in retribution. Based off that premise, each author picked a time slot in those following twenty-four hours, wrote a synopsis of their intended story in a shared Google Doc and got to work. Afterward, we read each other’s stories and incorporated small details into our own. Ed Aymar and Sarah Chen volunteered to edit the stories, going through for consistency issues, like how far the flood had traveled during each time frame, where the moon was in the sky, and so on.

My personal story – “The Chase” – features a police officer determined to find her brother in the flooded town – before he kills their father. After I wrote my draft, it was surprisingly easy to go through and add in small details: a bundle of drugs that waded past from Rob Brunet’s story, a random shotgun blast that might have originated from Shannon Kirk’s killer, two shadowy figures skulking toward a home with ill intentions that I imagined to be the brother-sister duo from E.A. Aymar’s story. Working in those details added to the joy of writing “The Chase,” and for readers, I hope those moments will add to the fun of the concept of a novel in stories.

This week, about two years from the time the initial concept was suggested, The Night of the Flood hit shelves! We had such a good time writing it, in fact, that there’s been discussion of another collaboration, another Google doc timeline, and more chaos and crime written in individual stories but merged into a much larger idea…

But that’s a story for another day.


Photo_Nov_LoRes_WebVersionCritically acclaimed and award-winning author ELIZABETH HEITER likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range. Her novels have been published in more than a dozen countries and translated into eight languages; they’ve also been shortlisted for the HOLT Medallion, the Daphne Du Maurier award, the National Readers’ Choice award and the Booksellers’ Best award and won the RT Reviewers’ Choice award. Learn more at

The Night of the Flood will take you to the fictional town of Everton, with stories from criminals, cops, and civilians that explore the thin line between the rich and the poor, the insider and the outsider, the innocent and the guilty. It’s an intricate and intimate examination of the moment when chaos is released—in both society and the human spirit, and features stories by E.A. Aymar, Rob Brunet, Sarah M. Chen, Angel Luis Colón, Hilary Davidson, Mark Edwards, Gwen Florio, Elizabeth Heiter, J.J. Hensley, Jennifer Hillier, Shannon Kirk, Jenny Milchman, Alan Orloff, and Wendy Tyson, and an introduction by Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Special guest, Judy Penz Sheluk

I am delighted to have Judy Penz Sheluk visiting with us today. If you were at Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto, you might have met her. And if you follow her on Facebook, you’ve seen her adorable Golden Retriever Gibbs (which endears her to me, since Jim Duncan’s faithful canine companion is a Golden named Rizzo).

Judy is here to talk about the second in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, Hole in One. Take it away, Judy!

Getting Ready for Golf Season

michelle & judy
With friend, Michelle, at the Fairmont Southampton Golf Course in Bermuda.

If you live somewhere that golfing year round is possible, lucky you. Where I live (about 90 minutes northwest of Toronto, Canada), our season is relatively short—in fact I like to joke we have two seasons: Winter and July.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but best-case scenario, we might get on the links by mid-late April, though if you’re a betting person (or like to golf without wearing dollar store gloves), May is far more likely. From that point on, I find myself craving the heat and humidity of July and August (temps in the 90s aren’t unusual) and not just because I should have been born on the equator: I firmly believe the hotter and stickier the weather, the further the ball travels. And trust me, my game needs all the help it can get.

It was while playing golf one summer day at Silver Lakes Golf & Country Club ( in Holland Landing, Ontario, that I thought of the premise for my latest book, A Hole in One. Readers of The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in my Glass Dolphin Mystery series, may know that my fictional town of Lount’s Landing is loosely based on Holland Landing, where I lived for many years.

Hole 3
Hole 3: The third hole at Silver Lakes, and the early inspiration for A HOLE IN ONE.

Anyway, I digress…there I was on the third hole, a par three surrounded by trees, sand traps and a big old pond, when I hit my tee shot straight into the woods. When I went to hunt for it, using my putter while trying to avoid poison ivy, I thought, “What if I found a corpse here?” Here’s a teaser from the book:

Arabella Carpenter let the others go first. All three managed to clear the pond with their tee shot and land on the green, but not one was anywhere close to getting a hole in one. Arabella breathed a sigh of relief—since they were sponsoring the contest, their foursome might not be eligible to win, but it still freaked her out to think someone else might. She went through her mental prep, took her swing, and watched as her ball went directly into the woods.

“Hey, you made it over the water,” Hudson said, hopping into his cart. “For someone just starting out, that’s not a bad shot.”

Arabella caught Emily’s look and smiled. He really was a nice guy. “Thanks, Hudson. Whether I can find my ball is an entirely different story. Why don’t I look for it while you guys putt in? I’m sure one of you will be able to make the shot.”

They crossed the pond on a wooden bridge just wide enough for their golf carts, parked on the path next to the hole, and grabbed their putters. Luke, Hudson, and Emily went to the green and began debating which ball to hit. Arabella trundled over to the woods, feeling stupid and hoping like hell it wasn’t infested with poison ivy. The woods were thicker than she’d expected. She walked in a couple of feet, using her putter to push the branches aside.

That’s when she started to scream.

If I’ve gotten your attention, you can find A Hole in One at all the usual suspects in trade paperback and all eBook formats. I’ve even included some links to make it easy for you! And if you want to find out more about my books, and me, check out my website,

9781941295731-cov.inddPurchase Links


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About the book:

Hoping to promote the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, co-owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland agree to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament. The publicity turns out to be anything but positive, however, when Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods next to a corpse.

They soon learn that the victim is closely related to Arabella’s ex-husband, who had been acting as the Course Marshal. With means, opportunity and more than enough motive, he soon becomes the police department’s prime suspect, leaving Arabella and Emily determined to clear his name–even if they’re not entirely convinced of his innocence.

Dogged by incriminating online posts from an anonymous blogger, they track down leads from Emily’s ex-fiance (and the woman he left Emily for), an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor with a secret of her own.

All trails lead to a mysterious cult that may have something to do with the murder. Can Arabella and Emily identify the killer before the murderer comes after them?


Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015, and in audiobook in November 2017. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was first published in August 2016, and will be re-released in trade paperback and all e-book formats in December 2017. The audiobook version was released in November 2017.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors representing Toronto/Southern Ontario.

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors, shares “New Release Mondays” and blogs about her writing journey.