Judy shoots for A Hole in One

Judy Penz Sheluk returns to Moving Target today. This prolific Canadian author has just launched A Hole in One, her third mystery and the second novel in her Glass Dolphin mystery series. This fall, she’ll see the release of her fourth novel in three years.

A Hole in One plays out against the backdrop of golf—but not to worry if you don’t play the game. This is a great read for all cozy mystery fans. Judy brings back her characters from her popular début novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, along with more murder, mayhem and plot twists.

Judy’s protagonist, Arabella Carpenter, is playing in a charity golf tournament, and her antiques shop, The Glass Dolphin, is sponsoring a hole-in-one contest. When Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods, she stumbles upon a dead man with a gunshot wound in his chest. The novel’s title is clearly a play on words.

Judy is a long-time golfer, but she has never had a hold-in-one. “I wish!” she says. “Birdie’s the best I’ve ever done, and that was on the ninth hole of the Briar Hill course. But this may be my year. The timing would be perfect, don’t you think?”

Moving Target: Judy, you created an enjoyable world for your readers in The Hanged Man’s Noose. What has changed and what remains the same in the sequel?

Judy tees off.

Judy: My three main characters—Arabella Carpenter, Emily Garland and Levon Larroquette (Arabella’s ex-husband)— are all back, although in Noose, Emily was the protagonist and Arabella was the sidekick. They’ve reversed roles in A Hole in One, though the POVs shift between them.

What’s different? Well, Emily has a new man in her life, Luke Surmanski. Arabella and Levon’s relationship gets even more complicated. And Emily’s arch-nemesis from her Toronto days, Kerri St. Amour, has moved to Lount’s Landing.

Moving Target: Did you worry about satisfying established readers’ expectations with Emily and Arabella’s second adventure?

Judy: Of course I did. As an author, my goal is to become a better storyteller with each new book. I sent an advance copy to my friend, Michelle, and worried, What if she doesn’t like it? But she gave me the greatest compliment after she read it and said, “I’d forgotten how much I love these characters.” I hope my other readers feel the same way.

Moving Target: What are the challenges of writing a second novel in a series?

Judy: There are pros and cons. The pros are that you’ve created a setting and you’ve established your main characters. But it’s also important to write the book that can stand alone because not everyone reads a series in the order of its publication. There’s a delicate balance between repeating information from the first book, without giving any spoilers, but also without boring folks who are coming to book two after having reading Noose. But it’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?

Moving Target: Your characters’ backstories and their goals were already established when you started work on A Hole in One. Did that make it easier to write this second novel?

Judy: In some ways, yes. I knew that Arabella is a stickler for authenticity, and loves shortbread and Levon (though she won’t admit it to him). I knew Emily is always punctual, that she enjoys running, and she is a vegetarian. But in real life, people change, based on their experiences and circumstances, and so it was important to have my characters grow and evolve in this book.

Moving Target: Do you expect marketing a second novel in a series to be different from marketing a first novel?

Judy: I know a lot more about marketing than I did in 2015 when Noose was released. Back then, I assumed the book would sell itself (ha ha ha!). I soon learned that if I wanted to sell books, I would have to become more active on social media and develop a better website, and I’ve done both of these. For A Hole in One, I’m writing a number of blog posts, such as this one, over the next two months, instead of just focusing on the days around the release date. I’m also doing a number of local events, bookstores, libraries, town fairs, that sort of thing, from March through August. They may seem “local,” but you never know who you’ll reach. One thing I have learned is that you should never underestimate the power of networking. And, in my experience, events are more about networking than selling books.

Moving Target: The sequel to your second mystery, Skeletons in the Attic, will be released this fall. Would you consider writing a standalone?

Judy: Yes, the sequel to Skeletons, the first in my Marketville Mystery series, should be out this fall. I’m currently working on a standalone novel, but there are miles to go before I can sleep on that one. Still, there is something freeing about knowing that those characters will have a clear beginning, middle and end, with no need to set up book two or three.

Moving Target: Why do you write mysteries, and cozy mysteries at that?

Judy: I like to think my mysteries showcase amateur sleuths with an edge rather than the cats-crafts-recipes type of cozies, but as for the why – I primarily read mainstream mysteries (although not the aforementioned cats-crafts-recipe types). My objective is always to write a book that I’d want to buy and read.

Moving Target: Would you consider writing a mainstream novel?

Judy: My late mother had a saying, “Never throw never far away, for you’ll pick never up some day,” so I won’t say never. I might consider writing a psychological suspense novel, because I love these novels, but I have no immediate plans in place. I’ve been doing research for a non-fiction bookl that has nothing to do with the mystery genre, but it may be a few years down the road before it’s completed. I’m always juggling multiple projects.

Moving Target: On your previous visits to Moving Target, you called yourself a pantster when it comes to plotting. Does that still hold true for you?

Judy: Sadly, yes. I would love to be a plotter, because I am sure that would be easier, but I just can’t seem to do it. When I’m in full book-writing mode, I aim for a chapter a day, and honestly, I never know where that chapter will take me. The non-fiction project I’m researching will require a proper outline, but because it’s non-fiction, it will be about recreating the story versus plotting.

Moving Target: Thank you, Judy. All the very best with A Hole in One!

Judy Penz Sheluk.

Amazon international bestselling author Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE and A HOLE IN ONE) and The Marketville Mysteries (SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC). Her short crime fiction has appeared in several collections, including LIVE FREE OR TRI.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada. She lives in Alliston, Ontario.

Find Judy on her website/blog where she interviews and showcases the works of other authors and blogs about the writing life. For guest appearances, contact Judy at judy@judypenzsheluk.com.

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Sleepless nights on the crime beat

Just as exploring the minds and motivations of dark characters may be disturbing for crime fiction writers, journalists covering cases of violent crime may find listening to court testimony unsettling.

Jeremy Grimaldi

The 10 months he spent covering the Jennifer Pan murder trial for YorkRegion.com and other news outlets, and the subsequent year writing A Daughter’s Deadly Deception: The Jennifer Pan Story (Dundurn Press) were intense and stressful times for Jeremy Grimaldi. “I stopped sleeping well, I stopped doing yoga. It was tough being in this young woman’s world,” Grimaldi told Sisters in Crime Toronto this week.

“But I had to write about it. It was such a crazy, powerful story, and there was no one else to write it.”

In 2015, Pan was convicted of first-degree murder for hiring hit men to kill her parents four years earlier. The attack was intended to look like a home invasion gone wrong. Pan’s father survived.

Grimaldi talked about the pressure to succeed that the children of immigrants are frequently under. Pan went from being a straight-A elementary school student in Markham, Ont., to doctoring marks on her report cards. She dropped out of her final year of high school, and pretended to attend and graduate from university. When her parents discovered her lies, she was confined to their home.

“At what point did she turn from being a dutiful daughter into a sociopath, and why?” Grimaldi asked. “And what role did her parents play in it?”

He said the Jennifer Pan case was the most complex and layered that he has come across. He wonders if Pan, “in her twisted way, thought that by killing her parents she was saving them from further disappointment in her.”

Many women who commit violent crimes have a man behind them, but Grimaldi noted that Pan planned the murders herself. “If her father had died and she had got rid of her cell phone, she might have got away with it.”

Pan is now 31, and is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole until she turns 53 in 2040.

Grimaldi still thinks a lot about the case, and about the possible fallout from covering a crime beat. “Every time I drive down my street I wonder who may be out there. I make sure that nothing online leads to my address.”

Why does he continue? “These are often great stories filled with raw emotion. It’s a chance to shine some light on these people’s lives.”

A Daughter’s Deadly Deception won Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best Nonfiction Crime Book in 2017.


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SAFE HARBOR #4 at Imajin Books

SAFE HARBOR, the first mystery in the Pat Tierney series, ranked #4 on Imajin Books’ bestseller list in December 2017. And I came in as Imajin’s #4 bestselling author.

Not too bad at all!

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2017: So much to be thankful for

Ed reading at Sleuth of Baker Street.

2017 is on its way out, and I have much to be thankful for throughout of it. First of all, for  my wonderful husband Ed Piwowarczyk. His patience (with me) never ceases to astound. He’s the first reader of my writing, and he edits the finished product. We’ve been married for 23 years, although we met many years before that when we worked at Excalibur, the student newspaper at York University. We dated for a few months, but went our separate ways because I was too bull-headed to realize what a treasure he was. God and the Universe gave me a second chance years later.

Linda Cahill at Bouchercon 2017.

I’m also thankful for great friends, too numerous to list here. Several stand out, though: Linda Cahill, who I’ve known since our school days and now a mystery writer herself. And the generous, talented women in the Mesdames of Mayhem, my writers’ network. Kahlil Gibran says in The Prophet, “Your friend is your need answered…For you come to him with your hunger and you seek him for peace.”

The Mesdames went on to more successes in 2017: a booth of its own at Word on the Street in September, a table at Limestone Expo in Kingston in May, and many, many readings at libraries. The highlight for the group, of course, was the publication of 13 Claws, a collection of stories by Carrick Publishing. It had a great launch at Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore in October. And it scored a great review from the Toronto Star‘s Jack Batten, including well-deserved mentions of stories by Madeleine Harris-Callway and Catherine Dunphy. Ed edited the collection, and he and I both had stories in it.

With Passport to Murder at its Bouchercon launch.

My novel-writing students at George Brown College continue to inspire me with their enthusiasm and determination. My 2017 personal highlight was having my story, “The Queen-Size Bed,” included in Passport to Murder, the story collection complied for the Bouchercon 2017 crime writing convention that was held in Toronto in October. It was a thrill to see my writing in the same volume as stories by Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and Michael Bracken, recipient of a 2016 Derringer for a lifetime achievement in short mystery fiction. “The Queen-Size Bed” is set in Cuba, my favourite winter vacation spot.

Ed and I returned to Cuba in February where we took in the Legendarios del Guajirito show with artists from the Buena Vista Social Club and the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Their music had the crowd on its feet.

We spent 10 days in Haliburton (God’s country!) in July, and revisited cherished landmarks such as the Haliburton Sculpture Forest and (the real) Raven Lake. In September/October, we visited Europe, specifically Budapest, Prague and Vienna. Bewitched by the strong Hapsburg women.

As with any year, there were passings to mourn in 2017. Thankfully, no one close to us, but several beloved artist celebrities whose work touched us. These include music legends Gord Downie and Fats Domino, and, only two days ago, mystery writer Sue Grafton.

Goodbye 2017. Much to look forward to next year!




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A Joyous Christmas!

A peaceful, happy Christmas to all of you!

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Novel-writing workshop!

I’ll be giving a three-hour workshop on novel writing Saturday Nov. 18, 1-4 p.m., at Toronto’s Annette Street Library, 145 Annette Street.

The workshop is free, but you’ll need to register by submitting the first page of your novel-in-progress. We’ll be critiquing these pages in the second half of the workshop because first pages are crucial in getting the attention of a publisher or agent. Drop off your page with library staff by Sat. Nov. 11, or call 416-393-7692 to ask about faxing it.

Hope to see you on Nov. 18!

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Scratching beneath the surface of 13 Claws

The Mesdames of Mayhem and their readers turned out at Sleuth of Baker Street yesterday to launch 13 Claws. And a fabulous time was had by all!

Launch party planner Catherine Dunphy (shown above with Ed Piwowarczyk) had issued strict orders for author readings: keep them short! Most of us followed Cathy’s edict, and the result was entertaining and it sold books. Here is an excerpt from Cathy’s “Animal Crackers,” which was pronounced “an especially clever story” by the Toronto Star‘s Jack Batten.

“Refill?” It was the waitress. She lifted the pot of coffee high and poured right onto his hand.

“Fuck!” he barked.

The waitress apologized and blocked his way as she dabbed at his arm with paper napkins.

Ed Piwowarczyk, our sole monsieur, edited the anthology. Here is the opening of his story, “Snakebit.”

Jake Turner studied the blonde as she entered The Hideaway. Her denim shorts highlighted shapely legs, and a white  tank top accented perky breasts (this earned Ed a swat from Cathy Dunphy). A sexy package, he thought.

With my luck, she’s probably trouble with a capital T.

13 Claws is a collection of crime-fiction critter stories. And Ed and Madeleine Harris-Callway, the Mesdames’ founder shown above, both focused on snakes. Here’s Madeleine’s take on the real estate industry in “Snake Oil”:

Wolfbrand’s greatest legend centered on a semi-detached house where an elderly woman had been lying dead for a month. Amelia sold the corpse-free half of the semi after convincing her young buyers that the stink permeating their prospective home would dissipate once they installed a sewer back-up. Hence the 5% discount.  The couple took the bait and with it, Wolfbrand’s homegrown guarantee: You Bought It, You Got It.

Lynne Murphy was in high spirits, celebrating a significant birthday and presiding over a large cake.  Here’s Lynne, speaking in the voice of Simba from “The Lion King.”  Simba is a cat with delusions of grandeur.

I trained her to play the fetch game with a catnip mouse. She learned to throw it for me, and I would pounce on it while it was still in the air and pretend to kill it. Then I would bring it back to her so she could throw it again. She got quite fond of the game, and sometimes I had to hide the mouse to stop her from playing.

Catherine Astolfo was awarded the Arthur Ellis Award in 2012 for best crime short story. Her contribution to 13 Claws, “The Outlier,” may be another winner. Here is how it opens:

If I’d paid attention to Marvin, none o’ this would have happened. For that matter, I should have seen the signs left by the burglar when he cased the joint…

I’m an outlier, a person who comes from away, so I get even less attention from any of the harbor dwellers. Which suits me fine since being out of contact is my goal.

Edgar Award-winner (2004) Sylvia Maultash Warsh read from “The Ranchero’s Daughter,” a story that revolves around a small dog. Here’s what Sylvia’s protagonist has to say about his beloved pet:

I myself was cheered by a tiny dog who adopted me on the street a few years ago. She was too straggly to have an owner, and though hesitant at first–she was not a man’s dog–I took her home. I named her Luz, since was a light in my life. I have a tendency toward melancholy, which she alleviated with a touch of her diminutive paw.

Lisa de Nikolits, shown below, takes on the Mob in “Mad Dog and the Sea Dragon.” In her noir tale, two sisters plot to take down a ruthless crime boss. Here is an excerpt from it:

He paused to take a breath. “The whole Esposito family was hoods. The father had done time, the third brother was in prison, the two sisters were thieves. But the mother was behind the whole thing. Mothers. The root of all evil.”

He fell silent and turned to look at Mad Dog Esposito again. I thought I had lost him, and I struggled to think of something to say. I panicked. Things had seemed to be going really well, but now they had come to a grinding halt. My sister had given me a bunch of lines to use but I couldn’t remember any of them. My mind was a complete blank, and I felt close to tears. I was going to ruin this before it even started.

The Mesdames’ publisher Donna Carrick (Carrick Publishing, shown below with husband Alex) contributed “The Right Choice” to the collection. Here’s how it opens:

There have been times when I regretted my tendency toward impulsive decision-making.

It’s not that I consider myself to be stupid, or rash. I do my best to think things through.

Rather, it’s that my process is a quick one by most standards, and involves a great deal of reliance on gut instinct.

For the most part, my gut has served me well.

Arthur Ellis Award-winning author Rosemary Aubert, shown below, added another cat story to the collection. Her “Kitty Claws Comes to the Rescue” was sparked by memories of a special feline:

I thought at first that it was the cry of a child. Great gasping screams only a few feet from my doorstep sounded through the door itself and echoed down the narrow outer hall, which, though thickly carpeted, seemed to absorb none of the sound.

So, of course, I went to the door, and quickly opened it.

The second that I did so, the wailing stopped and I found, staring up at me, the most beautiful pair of blue-green cat eyes that I had ever seen.

Jane Petersen Burfield, shown reading below, brings a dragon to 13 Claws’ critter mix. Here’s the opening of “There Be Dragons”:

“There be dragons,” Katie read aloud from the illustration. As she squinted at the map in the old book, the creatures that illustrated the manuscript swirled. A soft green glow lit the map from within. Startled, Katie let the book slip from her fingers onto the dusty desktop.

“We’re not supposed to touch that book,” Georgie mumbled. Ever since their mother had died, he’d spoken in whispers.

Melodie Campbell, shown reading below, has two stories in 13 Claws. Here’s an excerpt from Melodie’s flash fiction tale “Dog Trap”:

“Strangled,” the taller officer said. “Neatly and quickly. She didn’t suffer much. We thought you’d want to know.”

Rick nodded and gestured them in. He watched with dull eyes as the two officers crossed to the other side of the kitchen. Carefully, he reached for the chair behind him and tried to compose himself.

“Husband?” he asked quietly.

And here’s the opening of my story, “Homebodies,” about a grouchy old man and his marmalade tabby:

A gentle pressure on my eyelids roused me from my afternoon nap. I opened one eye. Romeo was standing on his hind legs, a paw raised, peering intently at my face.

“Damn cat!” I hoisted myself into a sitting position on the sofa. “Get down!”  

Satisfied that I was still in working order, he sauntered out of the room, his tail waving like a plume.

“He was worried about you, Henry,” Ellie said when I told her about it over dinner.

“Worried where his next meal would come from,” I grumbled. “I’m the one who feeds him.”

The lead-up to 13 Claws included a short-story contest. Jane Burfield had come up with the idea of including a previously unpublished fiction writer in the collection, and a contest was announced. But there were so many well-written entries that it was decided to include three submissions in the anthology instead of just the winner. The winning story was “Night Vision” by Mary Patterson. The two runners-up were “Dana’s Cat” by Rosalind Place, and “That Damn Cat” by Marilyn Kay. These three writers had never previously had a story published in the crime-fiction genre.

Below, Marilyn Kay reads from her story, while Mary Patterson (white sweater) and Rosalind Place (blue sweater) look on.



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