Friday, August 26, 2016

Guest Blogger Judy Penz Sheluk: Ruts, Shoes and Imagination

Today, I'm excited to bring you a guest blog from my Canadian friend, Judy Penz Sheluk, whose new book, Skeletons in the Attic, was just released.  See you in September.....Debra
Ruts, Shoes and Imagination by Judy Penz Sheluk

I used to teach an online creative writing course. While a large part of the 20-part course curriculum was structured, there was also the opportunity to create personalized assignments. One of my favorite assignments was meant to spark the imagination of the less-than-imaginative student. Here it is:

1.      Read one book you wouldn’t normally read.

2.      Go to one movie you would never go to see.

3.      Watch one popular TV show that you’ve never watched because you didn’t think you’d enjoy it.

4.      Read one magazine you’ve never read before.

5.      Go into one store you’ve always avoided (too expensive, too cheap, whatever) and buy something.

6.      Try to make (or bake) one new recipe you’ve never made and always wanted to try.

7.      Go to somewhere different (a different park, a different shopping mall, a different coffee shop…it doesn’t have to be exotic).

8.      Try one new activity.

9.      Sit down and really listen to the conversations around you (at a family function, at a coffee shop, wherever). Take notes.

10.  Strike up a conversation with a stranger in a grocery store (without coming across like a stalker).

The students who embraced the assignment inevitably found plenty of inspiration to include in future
writings. But until very recently, I’d never actually done the assignment myself. That changed when Debra H. Goldstein invited me to guest on The Stiletto Gang. “You can write about shoes if you want,” she said, and I knew I was in trouble. Stilettos? Haven’t worn them since my twenties…and that’s a long way behind me in the rearview mirror (although I fondly remember a pair of two-tone pink and mauve stilettos with a slight platform, and dancing in them to John Mellencamp’s Authority Song).

Today, however, my favorite shoes are my Asics runners. They start life as a running shoe, and at the 300-mile mark, they become my walking shoes. Even my protagonists (Emily Garland in The Hanged Man’s Noose, and Callie Barnstable in Skeletons in the Attic) are runners, and they both dress for comfort vs. style.

Of course, I do have other shoes, though they tend to be low-heeled and sensible: a pair of black patent leather ballerina-style flats is about as fancy as I get these days. As for sandals, my pretty white ones with the bling-y rhinestones tend to get overlooked for my much more comfy Birkenstocks. Simply put, I was in a shoe-rut.

But was I also in another rut? I thought about the books I’d been reading, the movies I’d been watching, and determined that maybe I was. I haven’t done all ten parts of the assignment yet (well, I always do #9, so I’ll take a pass on that one) but I’ve added The Book Thief to my to-read pile, and just the other day I watched an episode of America’s Got Talent—and found myself enjoying it. Who knew?

Does this mean I’ll be wearing stilettos any time soon? Doubtful. But you can bet your bottom dollar that one of my characters will be. They’ll probably be two-tone pink and mauve with a bit of a platform…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Skeletons in the Attic

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

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

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Clicking Our Heels - Our Summer Reading and What We Read Again and Again

The Stiletto Gang are all writers, but we also enjoy a good read. In fact, we have summer reads and books we simply enjoy reading again and again. We thought you might be interested in both our summer and comfort reading.

Marilyn Meredith: I love to read anything by William Kent Krueger any time of the year – but there are so many others, especially female mystery authors. I’ve read Gone With the Wind several times – though I must admit I skipped over some of the parts about the Civil War. At my age, I can reread about anything and it seems new.

Paffi Flood: Stephen King. It’s great to read horror stories late into the night, because the sun is out J. I was amazed how timeless Salem’s Lot by Stephen King was. Although it was originally released in 1975, when I re-read it in 2014, the cadence, the language seemed so contemporary. Of course, there were the references to 8-track tapes and car carburetors, and some things from the ‘70s.

Jennae M. Phillippe: I find favorites so hard to pick! I have more reading time in summer and usually catch up on the recommendations my friends have sent me over the year. Recent ones that stand out are Gail Carriger (Steampunk fantasy action romance), Anne Mendel (humorous post-apocalyptic), and James S.A. Corey (Science fiction). If you have recommendations, send them my way! I love to revisit my old favorites, particularly the ones from my childhood, like the entire The Song of the Lioness series from Tamora Pierce, or the Anne of Green Gables books from L.M. Montgomery. There is something about reading books from your childhood that makes you feel like a kid again.

Dru Ann Love: I don’t have seasonal authors. I read all year round and whoever I’m reading at the time becomes a favorite, especially if their book is part of a series. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb is the only book that I have re-read multiple times and each time I discover something I missed the first go-round and fall in love with Eve and Roark all over again.

Sparkle Abbey: Some of our favorite summer reads are Laura Levine, Carolyn Hart, and when we’re looking for something a little darker, Lisa Gardner. We’ve both re-read Laura Levine books occasionally simply because they’re such great escapes. And sometimes you need to escape! LOL.

Linda Rodriguez: I re-read many books. I’ve read Shakespeare, the King James Bible, most of Dickens, Austen, Trollope, and Virginia Woolf many times. I re-read many favorite poets again and again. I’ve re-read everything Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers (at least, her mysteries) so many times I couldn’t begin to count.

Bethany Maines: I usually try and read something fluffy in the summer. I’ll re-read a Terry Pratchett (British humor) or pick up an L.J. Wilson (sexy romance). The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery – I loved it as a teenager and even more as an adult. The idea of casting aside inhibitions to pursue the life you want is a message that is always good to hear.

Juliana Aragon Fatula: Manuel Ramos, Mario Acevado, and High Times Marijuana for Everybody by Elise McDonough, Denise Chavez. The first time I read Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie, I tore through it with vigor because I wanted to know who did it. The second time I went through, took notes, marked pages to review, and savored the writing. It was once for pleasure and twice for writing style. I re-read it because I switched genres from poetry to mystery.

Kay Kendall: There is no seasonal difference in my reading habits. For me it is mysteries, every day, all the time. Or whatever the broadest term is that includes suspense, spy novels, and the occasional thriller. I am not fond of police procedurals or books featuring serial killers. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It has everything. Historic sweep, feisty heroine, suspense, a touch of Gothic horror, and Mr. Rochester. Each time I have reread Jane Eyre, I marvel at its depth. It holds up very well. I first read it as a young teen so of course I understand some of its underpinnings better now.

Debra H. Goldstein: Summers are meant for catching up on light mysteries, biographies, and literature. This summer’s books ranged from The Nightingale to Sisters in Law (Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor) to the new Harry Potter. I’m not a big re-reader but there are a few I often refer to for style or concept like Edna Ferber’s Giant, Agatha Christie’s books, or anything I think might incorporate a style or an idea I’m thinking about.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Market Research

By Bethany Maines

As we have been exploring the question “Who are you like?” this month on the Stiletto Gang, I’ve been exploring what other books in my genres look like.  This is sometimes gratifying on the base level of my fonts are so much better than yours and also sometimes mystifying on the level of why are there so many bared midriffs in contemporary fantasy?  On the topic of midriffs, and purely for example’s sake, I’ll put the cover of Shifting Jock in Love here.  The cover is obviously… uh… fully functional, because I can’t stop staring at the uh… weight lifting bar.  Now that we’ve covered that topic (no, we haven’t covered anything?), let me move on to my point.

Market research, which is what I call shopping and (gently) making fun of book covers over a glass of wine, is important.  It’s hard to review my own book cover submissions if I don’t know what the trends are.  Not that trends should inform every decision, but I like to know how far out of the current I’m swimming. In addition to finding the occasional good idea that I could be copying, I also find really interesting authors.  Research shows that most people buy books based on word of mouth, but in this online age, that can’t ALWAYS be true.  From Facebook to google ads, to the wonders of Amazon, we get a lot of recommendations about authors and books online.  And without a person to ask, readers are stuck trying to answer “so who are they like” question based on the marketing surrounding the book.  But as we all learned in grade school, you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover.

One great resource I’ve found in my wading around the internet is a great website -  Simply type in an author you like and it will produce of an animated cloud of similar authors aka a handy new To Be Read list.  And you can click on the question mark in the corner if you want to add authors to the database to improve results.  And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go enjoy a little more market research and a Riesling.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Wild Waters, Tales from the City of Destiny and An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Celebrating Kay Kendall at Killer Nashville

Our very own Kay Kendall's work was honored this weekend at Killer Nashville. Her Rainy Day Women won two Silver Falchion awards: (1) best mystery/crime novel, presented by Anne Perry, and (2) best book by an attending author, presented by the conference's founder and organizer, Clay Stafford. Congratulations, Kay, for two well-deserved recognitions to a beautiful person and exquisite author. Let's continue the party with some more cyber-champagne!