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:


  1. Enjoyed your post here, Judy--and also enjoyed those tips for trying new things and breaking out of old routines (ruts). Congratulations on Skeletons in the Attic!

    1. Art, thanks for your for more from Judy on August 26.

    2. Thank you, Art. I must confess, since writing this I have read several more mysteries but The Book Thief remains unread on my shelf...and I'm still wearing those Birks!

  2. Judy,
    Loved your blog today. I'll have to read your books.

  3. Thank you so much, Pam, that means a lot to me. I hope you enjoy them. I also blog a lot about the writing life and interview other authors, and have New Release Mondays (to introduce my readers to new authors). I'd love you to check it out at

    1. Pam...Judy makes the rest of us look like we are resting. Definitely check out her website.

  4. Thanks Debra, and thank you for hosting me on the Stiletto Gang. I'm totally looking for those pink and mauve shoes...

  5. Hi Judy, I liked all your suggestions for getting out of ruts. All doable. I'm almost finished reading Skeletons...loving it!

    1. Thanks Joanne on all counts. I hope you try the exercise!

  6. Fun exercise. :) There's a recipe in Mrs. Beeton's (Victorian era) cookbook for asparagus pudding. I want to try it because it sounds so awful! One of these days...

    1. Hi Barbara, it is a fun exercise, isn't it? One of my jobs is Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal. For many years, we ran a column by Frank Daniels called Recipes from the Past. Some of them were wild. Squirrel soup comes to mind...NO plans to try it!