by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a review of Past and Present by Judy Penz Sheluk, along with an interview with Judy. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Past and Present, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Past and Present: A Marketville Mystery By Judy Penz Sheluk
The Past Effects the Present
First published in 2016 with Skeletons in the Attic, Judy Penz Sheluk has penned a delightfully engaging Marketville Mystery series introducing Calamity “Callie” Barnstable whose inheritance has brought her to take up residence in Marketville. After the death of her father, she is told that her inheritance has a hitch: move into the family home, of which she had no recollection, and investigate her mother’s murder. A shock to discover a place, things, and a disturbing theory about her mother’s disappearance, she is set upon a journey that leads her to secrets, disfunction, and answers she never expected. However, she also finds a comfortable small town environment, a BFF with whom to pal around, and a place with which she connects and can’t leave behind.
Past and Present: earns 5/5 Ancestry Mysteries…Clever Journey!
Callie has moved into a Victorian detached more appropriate for a thirty-something’s life style and with room to set up her new business venture, Past and Present Investigations. Her experience researching her own family’s past and working with people who had helpful skill sets have led to the confidence that others may hire her to do the same thing. From common avenues using BFFs Chantelle’s background in research, Arabella’s expertise in antiques and memorabilia, and Shirley’s connection to library references to new age Misty’s tarot card insights and Randi’s psychometry intuition it makes for an eclectic group. Now they need a client…Enter Louisa Frankow!
Louisa Frankow is seeking information about her maternal grandmother who had emigrated from England to Canada in the 1950s, and it was suggested she approach Callie and her team who might be able find some answers. While researching the common online databases and archives, each photo, bit of memorabilia, news article, and more begins to reveal an intriguing picture of love, family secrets, and murder. However, what Callie discovers is much more than she ever anticipated.
This second book in Judy Penz Sheluk’s Marketville Mystery series is an engaging journey into the past rippling into the present with unforeseen consequences. Sheluk’s well-written first-person narrative presents excellent descriptions of the setting, objects, and characters along with informative inner thoughts for readers to track all the answers uncovered and their connections. But, she doesn’t rely just on the narrative style by including clever, often emotional, banter between Callie, her team, interested parties, and family. Readers are also treated to a fascinating look into tarot insights and psychometry that add to the entertainment. Callie’s story continues with more dramatic experiences with her maternal family. These issues started in book one, “Skeletons in the Attic,” and although the references to events have no spoilers and this book can stand by itself, you’ll find you want to see how Callie got here from there and what family secrets she uncovered for herself. Exciting! Clever! Well-developed characters! Top-notch mystery! I highly recommend this book…top ten worthy!
Be a Big Fan!
I am definitely a big fan, and was eager to get my “teacher red pen” out of retirement in my role as a beta reader on this Past and Present project. It was an exciting experience to be part of the process, and gaining a great Facebook friend. But, Judy also penned the Glass Dolphin Mystery with which I also loved being a beta reader on the second book Hole in One. Highly recommended! Check them out!
Facebook — Judy Penz Sheluk, Author
Website — Judy Penz Sheluk
Our Guest…Judy Penz Sheluk
Author of the Marketville Mystery series
KRL: It is great to have with us Judy Penz Sheluk, author of the very entertaining Marketville Mystery series, who celebrating the new release of the second book, Past and Present. Can you give us a mini biography for Judy Penz Sheluk? Who is she and what influenced her to become a writer?
Judy: I’ve been writing stories inside my head for as long as I can remember, certainly as far back as elementary school. I thought everyone did that. It wasn’t until a few years after I was married, and commuting a fair distance to work, that I mentioned a story I’d been working on to my husband. He was like, “You write stories in your head?” And I said, “Yes, don’t you?” He bought me a Creative Writing Workshop for my birthday. That was in 2000. I remember the first time I had to read a story out loud to the class. The theme was “painful teenage memory.” I wrote Cleopatra Slippers (later published in THEMA Literary Journal). When I looked up from reading (nervously and badly), everyone had tears in their eyes, and a couple of people were actually crying. I remember thinking, “Maybe I can do this.” That was 2002.
KRL: Is there a reason you chose to write in the cozy mystery genre? What is it about cozies that interested you?
Judy: I don’t think of my mysteries as cozy-cozy, i.e. not in the style of books with pun-y titles, cats, crafts, cookie recipes etc. but they are certainly amateur sleuth/female sleuth. My Glass Dolphin series is definitely more traditional cozy, vs. Marketville, which are less cozy, and tend to dig into the past. As for why, my go-to genre is always mystery when I read. I want to write books I’d like to read.
KRL: Skeletons in the Attic (2016) was the first book in the Marketville Mystery series following up with this new release, Past and Present (2018). Can you give us some insights into how the series started? Tell us a little about Calamity “Callie” Barnstable. Her name is so delightfully unique. I know the backstory in the book, but is there a real story there or was it just pulled out of a hat?
Judy: Before I can start writing, I need to know the protagonist’s name. I’d read about an early photograph of Calamity Jane selling at auction, and I thought…Calamity would be a great name, Callie for short. The idea for book 1, Skeletons in the Attic, came to me while waiting in my lawyer’s office with my husband. Our lawyer was delayed in court, and we were there to update our wills. I got to thinking: What if I was there to inherit? What if there were strings attached? The opening scenes of that book are directly culled from that day in his office, right down to the golden doodle (though I changed the name of the dog to Atticus – perfect name for a lawyer’s dog, don’t you think?)
KRL: i know how close to your heart this book has become, and that your dedications have been very personal. Can you give readers some information about whom you’ve dedicated this book and also the first book in the Marketville Mystery series?
Judy: Skeletons is dedicated to my father, Anton “Toni” Penz, who passed away in 1970 at the age of 42 from stomach cancer. It was all very quick (he was dead within 3 months from date of diagnosis) and I was quite young. Past & Present is dedicated to my mom, Anneliese Penz, who passed away on September 21, 2016, after a lengthy battle with COPD. The last book my mom read was Skeletons, and so I chose to name the main “past” character Anneliese, and there is also an Anton in the book.
KRL: You focused on the new age with a realistic dose of skepticism by the main character. I was totally fascinated with Misty Rivers’ tarot cards and the impact of her readings on the characters and Randi’s introduction to psychometry. Can you give us some insights into why you chose to include this? Do you have personal experience with tarots and such?
Judy: While I was writing Skeletons, I went into this new-agey sort of store in Newmarket (which is the town Marketville is based on). There were all sorts of beads and crystals and talismans etc. in there (Sun, Moon & Stars, the shop in the books, is based on that store). There were also tarot cards and a book on tarot. I bought both, read lots, and soon realized it would take me years to master tarot. But I also knew that tarot is largely interpretative, and that it would work in Skeletons. When I started writing Past & Present, I wasn’t sure how, or if, I’d fit in tarot, but Misty Rivers just kept calling to me, so I guess she got her way! I’m writing book three now, and tarot, and Misty, are back. As for psychometry, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that objects could hold the history of their owners. I tried to represent it from both the believer and skeptic point of view.
KRL: I enjoyed the focus on researching one’s ancestry. What caused you to choose that as part of the storyline? Have you done any research into your own family history?
Judy: I’ve tried, even did the DNA test, but there weren’t any close matches, which was disappointing. But I also think people are becoming much more interested in their own pasts, and I thought it could resonate with readers.
KRL: The characters you’ve created are so universal. They could be our neighbors, shop owners, family. Do you have a personal connection to any of them? Are you like Callie? Did you write your characters by taking real-life people and “changing the names to…,” you get my drift?
Judy: My characters are entirely fictional, though they might have traits I’ve observed in others, or myself. For example, Callie’s “addiction” to cocoa butter lip balm. I have tubes of it everywhere: my purse, my desk, my bedside table, etc. When The Body Shop discontinued their cocoa butter line, I went online and ordered their entire supply (13) so I should be good for a while!
KRL: Two books down in your Marketville Mystery series. What does the future hold for Calamity? Do have any professional goals to write another series or in another genre?
Judy: I mentioned above I was working on book three. I’m about 50% done with the first draft. I want to finish the Glass Dolphin series (I always thought of that as a three-book series). I have an idea for a standalone suspense, as well as a couple of non-fiction projects (non-crime). Lots of plans/ideas. It’s finding the time to do it all.
KRL: You have been included as one of the contributing authors in the two of the three-books in The Whole She Bang series available on Amazon. Can you give us some background into the compilation and your stories? You also have your own short story book. Can you tell us about your short stories like Live Free and Tri?
Judy: The She-Bang series is published by Sisters in Crime Toronto. There are three books in the series now, and I’ve got one story in She-Bang 2 and two stories in She-Bang 3 (the max allowed). It’s a huge honor, as they do a callout, and the stories are blind-judged. I’m very proud to be associated with both those books. As well, the net proceeds are donated to Children’s Book Bank in Toronto, a program that supports early literacy and changing lives through books.
Live Free or Tri is a collection of three short stories, all based in Ontario. Two have a triathlon theme (hence Tri) and one story is called Live Free or Die, about a guy from New Hampshire guy who isn’t all he claims to be.
KRL: I know the writing process is unique to each writer. Can you give us an idea about the “Judy Sheluk Technique” for writing: writing schedule, specific writing technique or time of day, outlines…are there lots of Post-it notes on the wall?
Judy: I don’t have a strict schedule, though I do try to write every day, including weekends and holidays. I have a notebook where I’ll jot down notes as I’m writing, basically character names, timelines, things that need to be researched. When I’m really in the zone, I aim for a chapter a day. It helps that I write short chapters.
KRL: How did you go about getting published? Do you have any anecdotes to share about getting your work published?
Judy: I’ve written about this in depth on my website. Here’s a link to one of my earliest posts, talking about rejection (I’ve had my fair share): Judy Penz Sheluk (2015/01/10) My Publishing Journey: The First Cut is the Deepest. Past & Present is the first book under my Superior Shores Press imprint, which I formed in February 2018.
KRL: We know you write, but do you get a chance to read? Is there another author who inspires you or one you might consider a professional or personal hero?
Judy: Yes, I love to read, newspapers, magazines, books… I always do the Goodreads Reading Challenge. So far this year I’ve read 28 books, with a goal of 36 (I suspect I’ll end up at around 40). My favorite book this year was Woman in the Window by AJ Finn, though I also loved The Child by Fiona Barton.
KRL: So many authors speak of connecting with their fans. Do you have any online events, bookstores, or conventions coming up?
Judy: I’m attending Left Coast Crime in Vancouver, B.C., March 2019. I’ve never been to Western Canada or LCC so I’m looking forward to it. This past summer, I did a couple of local events, which were good fun. I get a lot of local support. I’ve also taught a couple of Creative Writing Workshops. I’m considering Bouchercon Dallas in 2019, as well. It depends on finances.
KRL: So many authors say writing is all encompassing, and I know you enjoy a round of golf, but do you have any favorite hobbies you enjoy?
Judy: Yes, love my golf, but it’s a short season here in Canada, mid-May to mid-October. I used to run marathons and half marathons, but these days I tend to be more of a walker. I have a three-year-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs, who keeps me walking. I typically get 20-25,000 steps in a day, no matter what the weather.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Judy: Hmm…I write to talk radio? That I seldom cry but love country music and tear up every time I hear “She’s in Love with the Boy” by Trisha Yearwood? I also tear up watching movies that aren’t supposed to be sad. Most recently, watching Book Club, when Craig T. Nelson rides his motorcycle into the auditorium where is wife, Mary Steenburgen, is tap dancing on her own. That’s a very funny movie, but there are so many poignant scenes in it. And it goes to show that a movie can be successful with older actors and no superheroes. I find that refreshing.
KRL: Ok, here’s something fun, Judy…Rapid Fire!
Ready! Set! Go!
Coffee or Tea? — herbal tea
Dog or Cat? — dog
Carnivore or Herbivore? — herbivore
Pie or Cake? — cookies (okay, carrot cake)
Picnic or 5-star Restaurant? — picnic
Print/eBook or Audio version? — print
Theater or Wait for the DVD? — DVD
Favorite Actor? — Matt Damon (I’m reaching here, don’t really have a favorite)
Favorite Actress? — Lauren Graham
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? — white wine (Okay, Pina Colada)
Beachfront Property or Cabin in the Woods? beachfront
Active or Cuddling in a Comfy Chair? — active
Finish these sentences:
If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be – Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. He’s on record as saying he writes as “slow as mud” but every minor detail means something. He’s brilliant. Of course, I’d probably be too nervous to say anything.
If I had just one wish, it would be — to sit down with my father, as an adult.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be — no one. My life isn’t perfect, and I’ve had plenty of lows to go with the highs, but it’s mine.
KRL: This has been great connecting with you. We’ve covered so many topics and had some fun, too. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Judy: I’d just like to thank both you and Lorie/KRL for your ongoing encouragement and support of me, and my fellow authors. So few magazines cover books any longer. It’s truly appreciated.
Thank you, Judy, for joining us and sharing a little about yourself and your books.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Past and Present, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “present,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 29, 2018. If entering via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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