Nov 20, 2016

Interview with Judy Penz Sheluk

Posted by AJ Blythe at Sunday, November 20, 2016 15 comments

An Amazon International bestselling author, I “met” Judy Penz Sheluk through Sisters in Crime – Guppy Branch, an anagram of sorts for “the great unpublished,” although after many years in existence, several members are now published authors who have elected to stay in the Guppy fold to mentor and/or share their publishing experience with others. Judy is one of this group; a member since 2013, her debut novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic was published in August 2015. Her short crime fiction is included in several anthologies, most recently, The Whole She-Bang 3, a blind-judged collection published by the Toronto branch of Sisters in Crime.Judy lives in Alliston, Ontario, a small town about 90 minutes northwest of Toronto, Canada, with her husband, Mike, and their 1-year-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs.

I hope you enjoy my interview with her:

Me: Where do you get your ideas?

Judy: Life! The basic premise behind The Hanged Man’s Noose is this: a greedy real estate developer comes to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store on the town’s historic Main Street, thereby threatening the livelihoods of the independent shop owners. The town I was living in at the time I wrote it was going through similar development, to much outrage. I merely took that premise and thought, “What if someone was willing to kill to stop it?” 

The basic premise behind Skeletons in the Attic is this: a thirty-six year old woman, Callie Barnstable, inherits a house from her father, who died in an “unfortunate occupational accident.” Not only was Callie unaware of the house, she was completely unprepared for the condition of inheritance: move into the house and find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. That idea came to me while I was waiting in my lawyer’s office to revise my will. He’d been delayed in court, and I got to wondering, “What if I was here to inherit? What if…”

My husband likes to joke that he sleeps with his eyes open.

Me: Why do you write mysteries?

Judy: I’ve loved the mystery genre since my first Nancy Drew book. In my teens, I discovered (and devoured) every Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh book. By my mid-twenties, I’d read every Dick Francis, Ed McBain and John D. MacDonald. Today, I’m a huge fan of Wendy James, Tana French, Sue Grafton, Louise Penny, John Sandford, Sara J. Henry, and Michael Connelly. People often ask me if reading in the genre I write can cause problems for me. The reverse is true. Reading is the best teacher. Before I started writing short stories, for example, I read several crime fiction anthologies.

Me: How difficult was it to find a publisher?

Judy: I naively thought it would be easy. I’d been a freelance writer and editor since 2003, and had developed a decent reputation. I also understood the business. But it took about two years to find a publisher for Noose. For Skeletons, it took about two days…once you’ve had some success, it does get easier. I purposely have two publishers (with a sequel due to each for 2017) because they are two different series, and I didn’t want to put all my books in one publisher’s basket. There have been so many changes in the publishing world, and they continue to come. If readers are interested, my website,, has a series titled “My Publishing Journey.” Start with the first post (select from the Archives), “The First Cut is the Deepest,” and go from there. I’m very honest about my journey, the highs, the lows, and everything in between.

Me: Do your books have helpful hints (recipes, book club notes) at the back?

Judy: No recipes. I like to say my books are amateur sleuth with an edge. There’s the requisite small town and amateur sleuth, but there’s no cats, crafts, or cookie recipes. That said, on the cover of Noose, there’s a “Treasontini,” which is signature drink of The Hanged Man’s Noose (a pub on Main Street). Here’s the recipe:
Gibbs at our cottage on Lake Superior (northern Ontario)

How to Make a Treasontini

2 oz. Blueberry Vodka
2 oz. Triple Sec
2 oz. Blueberry Juice
1 dash Club Soda
Fresh or Frozen Blueberries
Ice Cubes

Preparation: Combine blueberry vodka, triple sec and blueberry juice in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with club soda, garnish with blueberries, and serve.

Me: Thank you, Judy. I’ll see you in the Guppy “pond.”

Find Judy on, where she blogs about the writing life and interviews other authors. You can also find her on FacebookPinterest , Goodreads, Twitter and Amazon.

Judy is giving away a signed paperback copy of Skeletons in the Attic on Goodreads to readers in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia here. Enter before December 1st for a chance to win.

Aug 7, 2016


Posted by AJ Blythe at Sunday, August 07, 2016 0 comments
Image result for olympic ringsIt's time for Rio to shine with the 2016 Olympic Games. Sadly it does look like it might limp to the finish line with reports of water pollution, broken rooms for athletes and safety issues (particularly muggings).

But yesterday morning (Aussie time) it started and I thought they did a marvelous job with their small budget. Heckle and Jeckle watched it and enjoyed the special effects and the story of Brazil's history. They even got the atlas out to look up Brazil (they wondered if the shape of the performance area was the shape of the country).

I love watching the Olympics and am looking forward to what's to come. Do you watch the Olympics?

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oi, Oi, Oi.

Jul 18, 2016

Police with a Sense of Humour

Posted by AJ Blythe at Monday, July 18, 2016 5 comments
Image result for pokemon go
I'm sure everyone has heard of the latest craze to sweep the world... playing the phone app Pokemon Go. Heckle and Jeckle are mad keen on Pokemon so begged The Hub to load it on his phone. He finally relented yesterday and they set off to hunt Pokemon, returning with 9, much to the delight of the kids.

But it seems the release of Pokemon into the world has caused some problems. Last week Mount Isa police took Charmander into custody after he was found trespassing on the grounds of a local primary school.

This isn't the first time the Mount Isa police have demonstrated their sense of humour.

The first 30 minutes of the 1989 movie Back to the Future - Part II was set in the future... 21 October 2015 to be exact. Last year on that date Mount Isa police released this image and media statement:

This morning police officers from the Mount Isa Hoverboard Unit were called to attend a traffic crash on Rodeo Drive.
A silver sedan had crashed into a power pole near the cinema.
When questioned what speed he was doing, the driver stated that he was doing 88 miles per hour.
A 17-year-old man was charged and was in possession of a licence which expired over 30 years ago.
Investigations into the vehicle and what a flux capacitor is, are ongoing.
The Mount Isa Cinema received a loss of power to the building.
Owner Jodi Saunders said the driver got out of the car and asked for a Pepsi.
“He also wanted to know when we would be playing Jaws 19,” Jodi Saunders said.
The damage to the power pole caused a power outage to the area.
Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady advised that the power outage caused damage to the town clock, which has stopped working.
“We have repairs underway to save the clock tower,” Mayor McGrady said.

[As an aside, last year an excited 19-year old at work told me hoverboards were a real thing and showed me this article]

The police have a tough, serious job, and are often subject to bad press. It's great to see them poke fun at themselves.

Jul 12, 2016

Dami Im in Concert

Posted by AJ Blythe at Tuesday, July 12, 2016 0 comments
This weekend I'm going to see Dami Im live in concert as part of her "Yesterday Once More: Classic Carpenter" tour. I used to go to quite often to music concerts but it's been a long time since I've been to one (I think the last was Bryan Adams!).

I love the music of The Carpenters, think Rainy Days and Mondays and Close to You, and I know Dami Im has a lovely voice, so it should be a great concert.

However, the only Dami Im song I know is Sounds of Silence which she performed at Eurovision (something I watch every year and will do a post on in the near future). I look forward to hearing what she has to offer from her own collection.

May 6, 2016

Review: The Education of Dixie Dupree

Posted by AJ Blythe at Friday, May 06, 2016 3 comments

I read Donna Everhart's debut "The Education of Dixie Dupree" on Sunday. I won an ARC, but Donna didn't ask me to comment - it was just so good I have to share.

I couldn't put it down. My family were left to fend for themselves while I read! From page 1 Donna sucked me in. Donna's writing flowed beautifully and 11 year old Dixie was an easy character to like/sympathise with. I don't usually read books on such heavy topics (hence why I write cozies *grin*), but through Donna's great storytelling she managed to address a range of issues (including depression and abuse) in a way that was organic to the story, not thrust upon the reader, and deal with them in a forthright way. I didn't find the topics overwhelming which is why I usually avoid them (I don't go near Jodi Picoult for example).

Alabama is completely foreign to me being Down Under and all, but Donna brought it to life. I'm not sure whether it is the southern setting, or the young protag, or the heavy subject matter but when I was reading this it reminded me of "To Kill a Mockingbird". Ironically, a few pages after I thought of TKAM her main character reads it.

For everyone who has pre-ordered, you aren't going to be disappointed.


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