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 (http://www.silverlakesgolf.com/) 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, http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

9781941295731-cov.inddPurchase Links

Amazon: http://authl.it/9f0

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-hole-in-one-judy-penz-sheluk/1127967500?ean=2940158640827

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/a-hole-in-one-3

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Judy_Penz_Sheluk_A_Hole_in_One?id=IERMDwAAQBAJ

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/a-hole-in-one/id1350574649?mt=11

Barking Rain Press: https://barkingrainpress.org/a-hole-in-one/ – 1473022241950-de2dbbf6-9e98

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 http://www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors, shares “New Release Mondays” and blogs about her writing journey.


DNA – The story of you

Seems like DNA testing is all the rage.

I watch the Olympics and I see advertisements for companies that will test your DNA. 23andme is one such company and I believe Ancestry.com offers a testing service. I keep reading stories of people who have jumped on the DNA-testing bandwagon. They are simply curious or they are deliberately tracing their roots.

Part of me is intrigued by this. See, I know almost nothing about where my ancestors came from. My maternal grandfather is from Croatia. That’s about all I know. I know–or more accurately, suspect–the rest is a melange of northern European; English and German, maybe a smattering of other stuff.

My aunt (my sister’s mother) is big on researching the family tree. At least on her mother’s side. She’s compiled lists of people going back over 100 years and even used to ask me to take pictures of gravestones for family members buried in Pittsburgh.

I have no such reference for my father’s family. His father is the only one of his family to escape being an alcoholic and there was very little interaction between my father and his father’s family. He knew one brother (at least) from his mother’s side, but that’s about it. And he’s never shown any interest in knowing.

I’ve spend most of my life being content at seeing myself as your stereotypical American mutt as far as ethnicity. Sure, it caused some consternation during elementary school (for me and my kids) when those days of “bring something from your ethnic background” came around, or when teachers assigned the “family tree” project. But I muddled through.

Now, though, I admit to being intrigued. I could finally find out if my suspicions for the last 40-odd years are right. But then, my writer brain being what it is, I go off on tangents:

  • …what if I find some weird genetic information, like a small percentage of my DNA is from West Africa?
  • …what if, somehow, my biological material (along with countless others) wound up in nefarious hands?
  • …what if DNA was being obtained by a company for secret biological/genetic manipulation purposes?

And so on.

I know that points 2 and 3 above are pretty far-fetched. But all of it is great story fodder. And, well, I don’t think I could help myself going there and I really don’t want to.


Plus, someone recently raised the question of does this DNA testing also tell you if you’re at risk for disease? I wouldn’t want to know that unless I could take some sort of action. For example, my mother died of breast cancer. When my doctor suggested I get tested for the gene, I declined–because the suggested treatment was something I wouldn’t do at the time. I’m not big on “here’s this potential problem, but either there’s nothing you can do except worry OR choose this treatment that is really awful.”

So what about you? Would you choose to do DNA testing?

Books, books and more books!

First, congratulations to Diana Savastano, the winner of our “peeping girl” Kindle giveaway! I am proud to introduce…Peggy Pixel! Doesn’t it sound like Dick Tracy’s girl Friday?

When trying to figure out what content gets the most “clicks” –a way of measuring a page or post’s popularity on the internet–the “experts” often point to those that contain pictures, especially pictures of babies and pets.

Well, I don’t have babies or pets.

But I do have books.

So here are some photos of a portion of the books in my house. Note I say a “portion.” I am not sharing pictures of my toilet, or my bedroom, or my kids’ rooms (aka, disaster areas), or the cobwebby space in the basement where I have one of those giant rubber bins of paperbacks.

(Please. I have standards.)

So here goes This is the one corner of my living room. Most of the books are hardbacks, a composite of history and a few holdovers from my college days. We did designate one shelf to hold our DVDs, mainly boxed sets of special collections.


On the other side of the wood stove is a matching set of shelves. These contain, well, I’m not really sure. My husband’s collection of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fury (the Game of Thrones source material) is there. I slogged my way through Jordan, but I gave up on Martin. Sorry.

Note: The hubby built both sets of shelves. We are book people, after all.


Next, we move into the den/library. This room was a bit of a disaster when we moved in, with indoor/outdoor carpeting that had been glued to the underlying hardwood, and a crackle-painted piano with a mirrored panel (as a pianist, I wanted to cry). Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves also built by The Hubby with help from a guy I used to work with. He wanted me to proof his Master’s thesis and offered to pay me. I asked if he had any experience with building shelves.



The subject matter of these books–again, mostly hardbacks–is…eclectic. Again, we have the obligatory hold-overs from college. Classic fiction. My complete set of Harry Potter and my Jane Austin omnibus set. A whole shelf of theological books (mostly The Hubby’s).

Did I mention we are book people?

And then, there is my shelf, a cheap-o bookcase from <insert name of discount store here>. Top shelf are my favorites. Middle is craft, bottom is “books I’ve been a part of” either because one of my stories is in it, or it’s from a critique partner.


You can kinda see a pile of mass-market paperbacks on the floor.

I am sure I am not the only person whose house looks like this. Books everywhere. Because while you cannot have too many books, you can have too little shelf space, right?

So tell me I’m not crazy; others have book collections like this, right?


A fireside chat with PJ Nunn

First, congrats to Julie Hansen! You won Edith Maxwell’s giveaway from Tuesday. Please email mysteristas AT gmail DOT com to claim your book!

One of the things I do at Mysteristas is schedule our guests. Sometimes authors contact me directly, and sometimes it’s publicists like PJ Nunn. PJ has sent a number of guests our way; I thought it might be interesting to see what she had to say about the world of publicity.

Liz: Welcome, PJ! First, tell us how you got into book publicity.

PJN: One of my sons became ill and needed full time care, so I left my teaching position and began freelance writing so I could stay home and care for him. It didn’t take long to tire of the “feast or famine” of freelancing. A friend had just had her first book released and balked at calling stores to set up events. I offered to help and we found it was much easier to call for someone else than to call for ones self. After I arranged a few events for her, another friend asked for help, then another. I decided to look into the possibilities of making it a business and it just took off from there.

Liz: People have a lot of preconceived notions of what a publicist does. What’s one thing people think you do that you actually DON’T?

PJN: That is a good question. I’ve learned over the last 20 years that expectations are everything and assuming will almost always get you in trouble. The one that comes up most frequently is clients expecting that my actual job is to increase their sales. It’s an easy assumption to make, but not exactly true. While it’s logical that an author hires a publicist in order to increase sales, I don’t think any publicist can guarantee that. There are just too many variables involved. My job is to get information about an author and his/her book into various target markets in order to get more exposure with the idea that the more people who see the information, the more who’ll be likely to buy.

Over the years, there have been some clients who insisted I give back the money they paid because they didn’t see as much of an increase in sales as expected. It always makes me sad when that happens, because despite my explanations, they feel cheated. Part of the problem is that they don’t see the work that I’ve put in on their behalf, or the expenses that accrue from printing promo material, packaging supplies and postage for mailing ARCs.

But does that mean as a publicist I don’t increase sales? Yikes, that sounds bad! Of course, I hope everything I do helps to increase sales. I’m just saying I can’t guarantee how much. Even John Grisham remembers the book signing where only two people came because of the pouring rain. What I do, and can guarantee, is to send press releases, promo material, and ARCs if needed to certain numbers of target markets. I can even agree to arrange a certain number of events or reviews or blogs or media interviews. So when I’ve completed your campaign, a huge number of new potential readers will have seen information about you and your book. And if they like what they see, they’ll buy it.


Liz: Oh, if increasing sales was as easy as hiring someone. What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you as a publicist?

PJN: Hmmm. Maybe it was the author who, because he had a scene in his book that took place in a nudist colony, thought it would be fun if I could arrange an event for him at which he could dress in a sandwich board and nothing else. I said no. Or maybe the author whose idea of a professional head shot involved a Walmart photo studio and a calico chicken. Not sure why.

Liz: A sandwich board and nothing else? A calico chicken? Wow. What do you love most about doing book publicity?

PJN: I love a lot of things about this business. It’s truly not a job to me. I’ve loved reading since I was a child and still do. It’s exciting to me to meet new authors and read their first books and have opportunity to introduce them to the world. I especially love it when I start working with an author on that first or second title, and still work for them years later when they’re on their 5th or 6th books and people are starting to know who they are and wait anxiously for the next book. Several of those I don’t work for anymore because they don’t need me any more but I still keep in touch and consider them friends.

Liz: What are three books we should be on the lookout for in 2018?

PJN: Only three?? Let’s see, Frankie Bailey is re-releasing and continuing her fabulous Lizzie Stuart series, starting with Death’s Favorite Child. Stay tuned!

Katherine Prairie’s Thirst was a big hit last year, so this year watch for the sequel, Blue Fire, coming soon!

If you like realistic police procedure, Mike Witzgall has written a sequel to his first, Sentinel’s Choice. It’s called Sentinel’s Dilemma and will be out in February. Fast action, written by a former Army Ranger and current SWAT instructor. Good stuff!

Liz: Great suggestions! If an author wanted to start working with you, how would she get started?

PJN: Easy, just email me at nunn.pj33@gmail.com and let me know what you’re looking for. We can arrange a time to talk by phone and take it from there.

Liz: Thanks for stopping by! Readers, got a question for PJ? She’ll be stopping back through the day to answer them.


PJIn 1998, PJ Nunn founded BreakThrough Promotions (breakthroughpromotions.net), now a national public relations firm helping authors, mostly of mystery novels, publicize themselves and their work.


Facebook/PJ – https://www.facebook.com/pj.nunn

Facebook/BreakThrough – https://www.facebook.com/breakthroughpromo

Twitter – www.twitter.com/PJNunn

Bookbrowsing – http://bookbrowsing.wordpress.com


A beginning and an end

December is a weird month.

In the Catholic calendar, last Sunday (December 2) was the first Sunday of Advent. The season of Advent marks the beginning of a new calendar year in the church. In a way, this means I’m at a beginning, much like January is the beginning of a new calendar year and September always feels like the start of something new because it’s a new school year.

But December is also The End. Father Time with his long, white beard is getting ready to hand things off to a brand-new Baby New Year (if you’ve seen the old Rudolph special from Rankin & Bass you’ll have a visual to go with those words). Snow covers the ground. Mother Nature is in hibernation. It feels like the perfect time to cuddle up with a book and a blanket, to look back at the year to see what’s been accomplished, what’s left to do, and what might be done better next year.

Hello, dichotomy anyone?

2017 was the year the universe reminded me this writing gig is a long haul. After so much success in 2016, I went 1 for 6 on submissions for the year. Humbling, ain’t it? Yet at the same time, I’d say the stories I wrote this year were better than some I’ve written previously. I have a number of lovely rejections from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine to show for it. I could let those rejections be “the end,” but I choose to view them more of a “not yet.”

The Girl (my 17-year-old daughter) is also feeling this “beginning-end” tug of war. In a couple weeks, she should receive a decision on her application to her college of choice. An acceptance means the beginning of a new phase in her life and education. At the same time, senior year is The End–the end of high school, prom, curfews, and the ability to rely on parents for all your meals and clean laundry.

So where am I?

Well, some things are definitely ending. After searching for an agent for two years, it’s time to consider other paths to publication. That’s an end…and a beginning. It’s time to close the book on some stories (at least for the time begin) and start new ones, something I’ve already done.

Maybe there is no beginning or end. Maybe time is more like the infinity symbol: looping and twisting, sometimes going up and sometimes dragging you down. Maybe this concept of “beginning and end” is just a human conceit.

See? December is a weird month!

But here’s a definite beginning! We’ve got exciting new things coming to Mysteristas in 2018 and we’re kicking off the year with a contest? You’ve seen our “peeping girl” icon (top of the page at the right). We’ve decided she needs a name and who better to name her than our readership? And we’re giving away a Kindle Paperwhite to the winner!

Here’s how to enter: Comment on this blog, or on our Facebook page, with your suggested name and a contact email address. The contest will be open for the entire month of December and over our scheduled holiday break. It will close at midnight on January 6. We will contact the winner and announce upon our return in January 2018.

And stay tuned for more awesome beginnings next year!


A Family Affair

tkwc5Family is a key component in my newest short story, “A Family Affair,” included in the recently-released The Killer Wore Cranberry 5 from Untreed Reads (see, “family” is even in the title).

The story centers around the family of Tom Burns, the deputy coroner in my Laurel Highlands Mysteries series. He’s gone home of Thanksgiving, always a dicey proposition. Because families can make for wonderful holiday memories…and not so wonderful ones, too.

The not-so-wonderful would include your uncle face down in the pan of slightly-dry dressing, dead as a turkey leg.

In the story, Burns (who has a the kind of humor common to all those who work with death on a daily basis), says “Holidays are a time when family members decide to off one another.” His cousin is not amused, to say the least.

My beta readers were divided over this line. In truth, I spent a fair bit of time debating on whether to use it. In the end, I did. As Burns goes on to explain:

“Holidays really do bring out the worst in some people. I know a guy in the State Police who sees this all the time. Last year he was called to a scene where one family member had stabbed another over who got the last turkey drumstick.”

That, dear readers, is a true story – lifted from a newspaper (names removed to protect the innocent AND guilty).

What is it about holidays that can bring out the worst in families…and the best? Little hurts long forgotten are blown into giant injuries. Small acts of kindness can take on a heroic cast of epic proportions. Is it the pressure of the holidays? Or the pressure-cooker nature of daily family interactions, built up over days, months, years?

Whatever it is, family makes for good fiction.

Oh, who killed Burns’s uncle? You’ll just have to pick up a copy of The Killer Wore Cranberry 5 to find out!


Every story has a villain

I’m not having a good time grinding the old brain into gear this week (it’s a post-Bouchercon haze and I didn’t even go to Bouchercon), but I came across this on the Internet. Food for thought.



Every rose has a thorn.

Every story has a villain.

Every beginning has an end.