Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Returning to Marketville: A Fool's Journey - Guest post by Judy Penz Sheluk

Judy Penz Sheluk:
Returning to Marketville: A Fool’s Journey

It was spring 2015. I was sitting in the lobby of my lawyer’s office with my husband, Mike, waiting to update our wills. As the minutes ticked by into an hour—our lawyer had been delayed in court—I got to thinking, “what if I was here to inherit, and what if that inheritance came with strings attached, and what if…” I grabbed my pen and notebook from my purse and began writing the first chapter of Skeletons in the Attic while Mike flipped through back issues of Bicycling magazine. In fact, the opening scenes of the book are directly culled from my experience that afternoon. What I didn’t know then was that it would also be the beginning of my bestselling Marketville Mystery series. All I knew was that I had a 36-year-old protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and that she’d inherited a house in Marketville from her late father under the proviso that she move into the house to find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. Because I’m a complete pantser, I let Callie, and her investigation, tell the story. It wasn’t until I got to The End that I knew I had to write book two.

Knowing I had to write book two and actually writing it turned out to be two different things. As I toyed with various plots and premises, my mother, Anneliese Penz, became progressively ill. I found myself mostly staring at a blank screen or driving to see her in Niagara Falls, a two-plus hour drive from my house. And then, on Sept. 21, 2016, a month after the release of Skeletons in the Attic, she passed away peacefully in her sleep. I take comfort in knowing it was the last book she was able to read, but more than that, she’d left behind a train case filled with until-then never seen by me “secrets.” In that case were, among other things, her immigration papers from England into Canada, a copy of her ticket on the TSS Canberra from Southampton, England to Quebec City, Que., in July 1952, and her passport.

Within days I began writing about Callie’s latest adventure: opening Past & Present Investigations to utilize the skills she’d acquired in Skeletons in the Attic. Her first client? A woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in Toronto in 1956.

The premise for book 3 in the series was inspired by an article in my community newspaper, about a 23-year-old man who had left home fifteen years before to “find himself.” No one had seen or heard from him since. I couldn’t begin to imagine what the family might be going through. I began researching missing persons, including searching the Ontario Missing Adults website, Shocked and saddened by the statistics (in 2017, 78,000+ adults were reported to the RCMP as missing in Canada. And while the majority of cases were solved within a few days, far too many remained unsolved), I knew I had to have Callie search for a missing adult, and while a fictional case, I also know the research had to be spot on so as not to disrespect anyone who had been in a situation such as this. Thankfully, the founder/owner of Ontario’s Missing Adults, Lusia Dion, went above and beyond to help me, even going so far as to be a beta reader for A Fool’s Journey.

Will there be a book 4 Marketville? I’m still waiting for the next “sign,” but if past experience is any indicator, I’ll be ready when it comes. In the meantime, here’s a bit about A Fool’s Journey:

In March 2000, twenty-year old Brandon Colbeck left home to find himself on a self-proclaimed “fool’s journey.” No one—not friends or family—have seen or heard from him since, until a phone call from a man claiming to be Brandon brings everything back to the forefront. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and her team at Past & Present Investigations have been hired to find out what happened to Brandon, and, if still alive, where he might be. As Callie follows a trail of buried secrets and decades-old deceptions only one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, there is no such thing as closure.  

A Fool’s Journey, book 3 in Judy’s Marketville Mystery series, was released on August 21 in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, and on Kindle. Amazon Barnes & Noble 

Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series. Her short stories can be found in several collections, including The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, which she also edited. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find at


Upcoming Literary Salon in Berkeley, CA

When: Sunday, August 25, 3:00 p.m.

Who: Naomi Hirahara

Where: RSVP for venue address (Berkeley, CA)

This is a free event, but YOU MUST RSVP to attend.
Space is limited. Venue address sent with acceptance.
Please make a comment below with your email address.

Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara writes about the lives of the Nisei and Kibei (Americans of Japanese descent), many of whom lived through the catastrophe of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or were detained in interment camps in the United States during World War II. Stories of the Nisei (Japanese Americans born in the United States) and Kibei (Japanese Americans born in the United States who later removed to Japan) incorporate members of Hirahara's own family: her "father, Isamu … [was] born in California, but was taken to Hiroshima, Japan, as an infant. He was only miles away from the epicenter of the atomic-bombing in 1945, yet survived." Naomi's mother, Mayumi, or 'May,' was born in Hiroshima and lost her father in the blast."

Hirahara is known to a broader audience through her mystery fiction: novels featuring a septuagenarian Nisei gardener named Mas Arai. As in her nonfiction, Hirahara uses elements drawn from both her personal his

tory and her research. "Mas is inspired by my father," she told Hartlaub, "who also happens to be a gardener and an atomic-bomb survivor." Arai has become popular among readers and critics alike, and the author has featured him as an unlikely sleuth in a series of stories that, as with her nonfiction, help reveal the inner workings of Japanese-American society to readers. She also writes the Officer Ellie Rush series.

Iced in Paradise: a Leilani Santiago Hawai'i Mystery is her latest mystery: Leilani Santiago is back in her birthplace, the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i, to help keep afloat the family business, a shave ice shack. When she goes to work one morning, she stumbles across a dead body, a young pro surfer who was being coached by her estranged father. As her father soon becomes the No. 1 murder suspect, Leilani must find the real killer and somehow safeguard her ill mother, little sisters, and grandmother while also preserving a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend in Seattle. (Prospect Park Books)

To RSVP,  make a comment below with email address or send DM.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

How to Write a Four-Footed Sidekick (and other Trade Secrets): Guest post by David Handler


I decided to end my Edgar Award-winning crime series about the novelist turned celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, in 1997 after eight books. When I did it I was absolutely, totally certain I would never return to them again. As it turns out, I was absolutely, totally wrong. In 2017, Hoagy and Lulu came roaring back into print after a brief 20-year hiatus in THE GIRL WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES, returned last year with THE MAN WHO COULDN’T MISS (which has just been named a finalist for the Nero Award), and are now back again with their newest adventure, THE MAN IN THE WHITE LINEN SUIT, which takes place in the high stakes, cut-throat world of New York publishing. It’s a world that I know a bit about. More than I care to, actually. I hate to disillusion you but it can be quite deadly.

I had ended the Hoagy series back in 1997 because I felt that the arrival of the Internet and 24-hour cable news had rendered Hoagy’s specialty -- celebrity memoirs chock full of closely guarded, long suppressed secrets -- utterly obsolete. I can still vividly remember the famous 1985 press conference when a gaunt, haggard Rock Hudson announced to the world that he was dying of AIDs. Rock Hudson had been a major, major Hollywood star for 30 years and yet NO ONE in America knew he was gay. Everyone in Hollywood knew. Everyone in the Hollywood press corps knew. But the film-going public didn’t. They kept secrets in those days. There were gatekeepers. With the arrival of the Internet, the gates were flung open.

And so, I decided, Hoagy and Lulu were history.

And if you’re wondering how I’ve gotten around the arrival of the Internet in these newest books the solution was shockingly simple. I can’t take credit for it because it was my editor’s idea, not mine: They’re period novels. THE MAN IN THE WHITE LINEN SUIT takes place just after Labor Day weekend in 1993.

I wasn’t exactly idle while Hoagy and Lulu were on hiatus. I wrote eleven novels in my Berger-Mitry series, which is set in the small, historic New England coastal village of Dorset that bears a striking resemblance to my own small, historic New England coastal village of Old Lyme. I wrote two novels about Benji Golden, the pint-sized 26-year-old New York City private eye who specializes in finding runaway teens.

I also answered hundreds of e-mails from devoted Hoagy fans who were desperate to know when I was bringing Hoagy back.

Okay, I just lied.

Almost none of those devoted fans wanted to know when I was bringing Hoagy back. They wanted to know when I was bringing Lulu back. Hoagy’s name was almost never mentioned. Practically every e-mail began with the sentence: “I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss Lulu.”

Not Hoagy, the first major new literary voice of the 1980s, with his dapper wardrobe, razor-sharp wit and keen observations. Nope. It was breath-challenged Lulu whom they missed. Lulu, she who dines on 9Lives mackerel for cats. Lulu, whose favorite snack is anchovies, which she prefers straight out of the refrigerator because the oil clings to them better when they’re cold.

I’d always been aware that Lulu was an important element of the Hoagy series. In fact, my first editor, Kate Miciak of Bantam Books, told me flat out back in 1988 that she would never have made me an offer if it hadn’t been for Lulu. Yet I was still genuinely shocked that it wasn’t my handsome, gifted, brilliant hero whom my fans missed most. It was his basset hound, who has a gazillion allergies, snores, hogs the bed, is incredibly stubborn and can really be quite impossible to live with. But after a few years of feeling quite grumpy about the whole thing I decided to embrace it as a compliment. After all, I did create Lulu. And if she connected with readers so strongly then this meant that I’d managed to stumble upon something truly significant about the secret to writing an animal sidekick.

I don’t share this secret very often. So, to you aspiring authors out there, I suggest you get out your notebooks because here it is:

I don’t write Lulu as if she’s a dog.

In fact, I don’t think of her as if she’s a dog at all. I think of her as a full-fledged person who doesn’t talk but happens to possess special powers that Hoagy doesn’t. Her sense of smell, for one. Did you know that basset hounds are the second highest-ranked scent hounds in the dog world? Only bloodhounds have keener noses. That makes her a very useful partner to have around, especially because she’s allergic to a number of perfumes such as Calvin Klein’s Obsession. So if a murder took place in a hotel room last night and Lulu walks in and immediately starts sneezing that means someone who was wearing Obsession was in that room last night. She also has a scent hound’s unerring sense of direction. Never gets lost, which I can’t say is true of Hoagy. She can hear things that Hoagy can’t hear. Plus she possesses that special instinct that all dogs possess. If she likes someone then that means they’re okay. If she takes an instant aversion to someone then that means they’re not.

Hoagy knows well enough to respect her instincts. And he knows well enough to treat her she’s like a person, not a dog. That’s something he and I learned together. He is, after all, an extension of me. And, deep down inside, I’m pleased that fans are fonder of Lulu than they are of Hoagy. I take it as a real compliment to my skills as a writer.

Okay, I just lied again. I’m not pleased at all. I’m jealous as hell. Just don’t tell anyone, okay? They’ll think I’m small-minded.

David Handler has written eleven novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including the Edgar- and American Mystery Award-winning The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald. His other series include the Berger/Mitry franchise and two novels featuring private eye Benji Golden. David was a member of the original writing staff that created the Emmy Award-winning sitcom Kate and Allie, and has continued to write extensively for television and films on both coasts. He lives in a 200-year-old carriage house in Old Lyme, Connecticut. His latest novel is The Man in the White Linen Suit.