Guest Post: Judy Penz Sheluk

Ideas, Imagination & A Whole Lot of What Ifs

As an author, one of the questions I get asked most often is “where do you get your ideas?” and my standard answer is “from my life.” And that’s true—to a point. Everything I see and hear and experience is filed away in my head for possible use in a story. But it’s imagination and a whole lot of what ifs that takes an everyday experience and transforms it into something people will (hopefully) want to read.

Skeletons in the Attic Front CoverThe idea for Skeletons first came to me when I was sitting in the reception area of my lawyer’s office. I was waiting with my husband, Mike, and we were there to update our very outdated wills. Here’s the opening scene from the book:

I’d been sitting in the reception area of Hampton & Associates for the better part of an hour when Leith Hampton finally charged in through the main door, his face flushed, a faint scent of sandalwood cologne wafting into the room. He held an overstuffed black briefcase in each hand and muttered an apology about a tough morning in court before barking out a flurry of instructions to a harried-looking associate. A tail-wagging goldendoodle appeared out of nowhere, and I realized the dog had been sleeping under the receptionist’s desk.

Leith nodded towards his office, a signal for me to go in and take a seat, then followed me, plopping both briefcases on his desk. He leaned down to pat the dog and pulled a biscuit out of his pants pocket. “Atticus,” he said, not looking up. “My personal therapy dog. Some days, he’s the only thing that keeps me sane.”

Like my opening scene, our lawyer had been delayed in court, and judging from all appearances, the case had not gone well. And like my opening scene, his goldendoodle hung out in the office. But unless I wanted to write a legal thriller (I didn’t) I needed more than what I had.

Okay…so what if instead of being there to write a will, I was there for the reading of a will? What if the will had a clause that would change my protagonist’s life forever? Maybe even put her in danger? A few more what ifs, a whole lot of imagination and—

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?


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 in August 2016.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

Judy 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, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic at:






15 thoughts on “Guest Post: Judy Penz Sheluk”

  1. I can’t wait to read this book. As a probate paralegal I’ve seen some pretty strange things and I can tell you that anything is possible with inheritances. The excerpt rings so true to life for me.

    Thanks for visiting!


  2. I love how a kernel of an idea snowballs into a book. That’s how my stories form as well. Thanks for being on Mysteristas!


  3. Thanks for visiting, Judy! I love reading where ideas come from and how scenes take shape. Oh, the power of asking “what if?”!


  4. Well, I’m hooked! And you’re so right about the “what ifs.” Everything around us is potential story. How do you decide which of the what if ideas to write?


  5. Welcome Judy! That’s such a great scene. I am a lawyer, you know, and I’ve seen scenes exactly like that (and probably played them out myself) more times than I can remember. Next dog is going to come with me to the office too. SKELETONS downloaded on my Kindle on your release day and I am very much looking forward to reading!


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