A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of Finding Your Path to Publication: A Step-by-Step Guide, as well as two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and Marketville Mysteries, both of which have been published in multiple languages. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited.
Judy is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served on the Board of Directors for five years, the final two as Chair. She lives in Northern Ontario with her husband, Mike, and their Golden Retriever, Gibbs. Find her at www.judypenzsheluk.com.
Tell us about Finding Your Path to Publication. The road to publishing is paved with good intentions—and horror stories of authors who had to learn the hard way. For the emerging author, the publishing world can be overwhelming. You’ve written the book and are ready to share it with the world but don’t know where to start. Traditional, independent press, hybrid, self-publishing, and online social platforms are valid publishing paths. The question is, which one is right for you?
Finding Your Path to Publication is an introduction to an industry that remains a mystery to those on the outside. Learn how each publishing option works, what to expect from the process from start to finish, how to identify red flags, and avoid common pitfalls. With statistics, examples, and helpful resources compiled by an industry insider who’s been down a few of these paths, this is your roadmap to decide which path you’d like to explore and where to begin your author journey. Find it at your favorite bookseller: https://books2read.com/FindingYourPathtoPublication
Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline, or are you a pantser? For my mystery novels, I’m a total panster. But for the step-by-step guides, I followed an outline based on PowerPoint presentations I’d developed for my then-local library. Of course, outlines are just that. Once you get writing, things change and evolve. Finding Your Path to Publication, for example, required a lot of research and getting permission from various sources for surveys and the like.
When writing my mystery novels, I aim for a chapter a day—no more and no less—and I try seven days a week. I tend to write short chapters, though the odd one will be longer. I also try to leave each chapter with a hook or a question to be answered. I figure if I’m surprised, the reader will be too. And not knowing (since I’m a complete pantser) makes me want to come back the next day. I love the way ideas can percolate while I’m walking my dog, golfing, or in the middle of the night. I even have a lighted LED pen and notebook on my bedside table to jot down notes should inspiration strike while I’m in bed. Trust me, you will not remember those great ideas in the morning, and turning on a lamp will wake you completely.
What are you currently working on? Finding Your Path to Publication, which covers five publishing paths (Big 5 traditional, independent/small press, self-publishing, hybrid/assisted, and social), has been really well received. Still, I’ve heard from several authors who would really like to know more about the self-publishing process. I’m now in the editing stage of Self-publishing: The Ins & Outs of Going Indie. I’ve covered what an author must do to get their book ready for retail, how to upload to various retailers (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.), advertising and promotions, conferences, business basics, social media, and more. Basically, it’s a handbook to self-publishing for the clueless! The publication date is tentatively scheduled for November 1st.
How do you come up with character names? I always watch the end credits of movies and TV shows; lots of interesting names to riff off. For example, in Yellowstone, there is a character named Colby, played by Denim Richards. I loved the name Denim, so in Before There Were Skeletons (book 4 Marketville), I named a new character Denim Hopkins (the Hopkins a nod to a friend who passed away from cancer a few years ago). My Denim is female, and she has a brother named Levy.
In the same series, the protagonist is Calamity (Callie) Barnestable. When I started writing Skeletons in the Attic (book 1), I was the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal. I’d been sent a press release about a cabinet card depicting Calamity Jane. I thought, Calamity – perfect – and Callie for short. I initially thought of Barnes (remembering Cliff Barnes nd Pamela Barnes Ewing from Dallas) but wanted something longer. Adding a “stable” seemed to fit.
In my Glass Dolphin series, the protagonists are Arabella Carpenter (I just loved the name Arabella), and heard The Carpenters on the radio when trying to come up with a last name. The other protagonist is Emily Garland. Emily for Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery – the book that made me want to grow up to be a writer – and Garland because I was named after Judy Garland.
I could cite lots of other examples, but you get the idea!
What kind of research do you do? I’m a meticulous researcher and a stickler for details – that probably comes from being a journalist for about 15 years (2003 to 2018). For A Hole in One (book 2 in my Glass Dolphin cozy series set in Ontario, Canada), I needed a gun that would make sense for an antique picker to own – but one that could also be a murder weapon. I know absolutely nothing about guns, so I called my local police station and explained who I was and what I was trying to accomplish. The officer on duty referred me to a gun shop in Ottawa, Canada, that specialized in antique firearms. The owner was great, walking me through options and suggesting a gun that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would have used in the early 20th century, then sent me pictures of it. I spent the better part of two days on that gun research, and the reference didn’t amount to more than a couple of paragraphs in the book. But I knew if I had that wrong, it would ruin the book for someone who did know about guns. I’ve often been told that people learn from my books, and that makes me happy. Just because a book is a light read doesn’t mean it can’t teach us a thing or two.
How do our readers contact you? https://www.judypenzsheluk.com/contact/