CYBER CAFE: Meet the Amazing Judy Sheluk

Judy Penz Sheluk

Welcome back to Cyber Café, Judy! So much has happened since we last got together here. You now have two mystery series, The Marketville and Glass Dolphin series. You’ve published three anthologies and broken into audiobooks!

Judy: Thanks so much for having me back!

 

Tell us about your new book, Before There Were Skeletons. How is it different from the earlier books in the Marketville series ?

Callie’s back investigating cold cases, but I would say that Before There Were Skeletons is my most ambitious work to date. It’s a complicated plot – five missing women in all, two from 1978 and three from 1995. Weaving all the threads together took some doing! As well, Callie is finally ready to take a deeper dive into her mother’s past…before her mother became a mother. Before there were skeletons.

Readers take note: Before There Were Skeletons, is available in e-book, trade paperback, and large print at all the usual suspects. https://books2read.com/BeforeSkeletons

Judy’s Marketville Mystery Books 1-3, Box Set, reg. $9.99, is available for just $ .99 on Kindle, Kobo, and Apple until the end of November in Canada, UK, NZ, and Australia.

What are the differences between your Marketville and Glass Dolphin series?

My Glass Dolphin series has a much cozier vibe, albeit without the cats, crafts, and cookie recipes. It’s also told in third person, alternating POVs. The Marketville series is first person, all Callie. But none of my books have overt violence, sex, or bad language. That said, they may be PG but they’re not boring!

You are comfortable writing both novels and short stories. Which do you secretly prefer creating?

Definitely novels though I love reading short crime fiction and I’m proud of the handful of stories I’ve written. But for a pantser like me, it’s far easier to write long and do the dipsy doodling that short stories don’t allow. Who knows though. Maybe one day I’ll be invited to become a Madame of Mayhem and then I’ll be forced to write at least one short story every so often!

In the meantime, I have edited and published three multi-author anthologies of mystery and suspense and was delighted to include your story ‘The Moon God of Broadmoor’ in Moonlight & Misadventure. I hope to do a fourth anthology, but they take tremendous energy and time, so we’ll see.

I really envy your amazing energy. You are now in audiobooks. Do tell us about your journey and should crime fiction authors venture here?

If you have the money to hire a narrator, you can use a company like Findaway Voices which distributes widely to every possible retailer as well as to libraries. But good narrators are costly (at least $2,000) and there’s certainly no guarantee of earning back your investment.

I personally used Royalty Share with the ACX route. ACX is owned by Amazon and Royalty Share is Audible, Amazon and iTunes only.  Sadly, libraries don’t use those to purchase audio. As well, ACX takes 60% of the royalties and the balance of 40% is split 50/50 narrator/author. Contract runs seven years so lots to consider.

For the narrator, it’s a risk. For the author, there’s no financial risk, but your market share is far more limited and who knows what might happen in seven years? At the end of the day, I recommend that every author do their own due diligence then decide. For me, ACX Royalty Share was the only viable option.

You recently moved to your home on Lake Superior. How has this helped your writing? Do you ever feel isolated from other authors being so far away?

We’ve had our camp (Northern term for waterfront properties) since July 2015. When Covid hit, I began spending 6 months of the year here, May-October, never once going back to our house in Southern Ontario. Last fall, my husband and I decided to move here fulltime. There were a lot of factors in our decision, not the least of which was the 8-hour drive back and forth and feeling as if we never really belonged anywhere.

I’ve now made a few friends here (it helps that I joined two golf leagues!). This summer I introduced myself to the powers-that-be at the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library. They now have all my books or are in the process of cataloguing them. In October I was invited to be part of their multi-author “Author Palooza” event, which was great fun.

I’ve met other authors there, and one of them, Sault Ste. Marie author, Katherine Walker, was shortlisted for Best First Novel in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence for her debut novel, All is Well. I’m immediate Past Chair of CWC, so, small world, right?

There’s great support in the north for the arts. I also have my books in an amazing downtown shop in the Soo called The Artesian. (@ssmartesian on Instagram) and I was just recently interviewed in the local paper as well as on The Book Cover, a local radio program.

I think if you put yourself “out there” it doesn’t matter where you live. That said, you have to make things happen. If you sit around and wait for your ship to come in, chances are you’ll be at the airport. My mother always told me, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” It’s my mantra.

What’s next for you, Judy?

I’m working on a new project and super excited about it, but I’m very superstitious about sharing details while it’s still a work-in-process. I also have an idea for a true crime novel, which I hope to begin researching in earnest in the new year. And I’m hoping to take a course on playwriting in 2023. Never a dull moment!

Find Judy at www.judypenzsheluk.com 

 

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS!

Really looking forward to the Zoom launch of In the Spirit of 13, the Mesdames and Messieurs of Mayhem’s 5th anthology in celebration of our 10th anniversary. Entry is free but guests must pre-register with the publisher   carrickpublishing@rogers.com

 

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS! My story is the cover story on Mystery Magazine

Greetings Readers!

Sometimes wonderful events cluster. The Mesdames of Mayhem had a full page article in the Toronto Star by Briony James. A huge thank you to my friend, Sylvia Warsh, who landed us this terrific publicity. Here’s the link:

Still from the wonderful Cat Mills documentary, The Mesdames of Mayhem

 

On Sunday, October 30th we launched In the Spirit of 13, our fifth anthology in celebration of our 10th anniversary at our favorite bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street. It was a smash success! Despite worries about resurging COVID, Sleuth was packed with our fans, friends and family.

And then I woke up this morning to the amazing news that my story, Last Island, is the cover story on Mystery Magazine this month! Wow!

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS! Real World Launch of In the Spirit of 13!

I’m really excited about our upcoming launch at Sleuth of Baker Street Bookstore, this Sunday, October 30th at 2 pm. It’s the Mesdames and Messieurs of Mayhem’s first public appearance since the beginning of COVID!

A warm review from Jack Batten of the Toronto Star who said: “There’s more than enough to light up and surprise readers for many nights of pleasure, some of it in easygoing whimsy.” Read the full review here: https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/reviews/2022/10/21/round-up-four-new-crime-fiction-to-keep-you-entertained-on-long-winter-nights.html

And here’s our blurb: Ghosts and demons and booze, oh my! 

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we Mesdames and Messieurs of Mayhem have let our imaginations run wild to bring you our fifth anthology, In the Spirit of 13. Does “spirit’ mean ghost or demon – or debunking of same? Or simply the evil in twisted human hearts? Or could it be alcohol? You must read these 23 tales to find out!

The Mesdames and Messieurs of Mayhem are established award-winning authors as well as talented new writers. We aimed to keep our stories light-hearted to counter the world’s troubled times, but some of them have strayed into the dark. We are crime writers after all!

Laugh, shed a tear and prepare to be deliciously frightened.

 

 

 

 

EAT THIS BOOK: Five Moves of Doom by A. J. Devlin

Great news, Readers!

I just finished Five Moves of Doom, the third book in the PI “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead series – and it’s terrific! Set in gritty East Vancouver, protagonist Jed has an unusual occupation: he’s a retired professional wrestler.

What makes for a gripping story, as in Fellini’s classic film La Strada and even hit Canadian comedy series, Trailer Park Boys, is the classic trio of characters representing brains, brawn and heart. Hammerhead Jed embodies all three in one person– and author A.J. Devlin pulls this off brilliantly. Jed is first and foremost a physical person. That, sometimes to his detriment, is his self-identity. But clients and bad guys tend to underestimate his intelligence – and that is always to their detriment.

In Five Moves of Doom, Jed is hired by former UFC fighter, Elijah Lennox, to find Elijah’s million dollar, diamond-encrusted championship belt. Trustingly, Elijah had it on display at his martial arts studio, but now it’s gone missing. Jed recovers the belt thanks to his smarts and underworld contacts, though finding it seems too easy. Then Elijah ends up dead and Jed’s heart drives him to find the murderer and bring them to justice.

Jed’s quest draws him into the murky realm of illegal fighting.  Devlin has created an ogre of a villain in Cassian, the ringleader, who wears the dog tags of his victims round his neck as trophies. (To me they’re more like the shrunken heads worn by a cannibal king!) Taking on Cassian draws Jed into some very dark places, many within himself. It takes a skilled writer to draw the reader along to explore Jed’s troubled path and Devlin pulls it off.

There are two aspects of the Hammerhead series that I especially enjoy. The first is the sheer physicality and choreography of the fighting scenes. Too often, fights in crime fiction are a bit predictable resulting in an urge to flip the page. Not so here.  Devlin knows fighting and that shines through in every scene. (Learn more about AJ’s fighting background on Cyber Café here.)

I also love Devlin’s secondary characters like Jed’s cousin, Declan, Irish barkeep and former IRA commando, who always has his family’s back. The chapter written from Declan’s POV is a tour de force of writing. My personal favorite is Sykes, Jed’s shady entrepreneur and informant, who in the previous book was bookmaking on dachshund racing.  This time out, Sykes has taken up goat yoga. That’s right goat yoga.  Both are comedy gold and even better, Readers, both weird activities are real.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

FIVE STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

MOST IMPORTANT: WHERE TO BUY THE HAMMERHEAD JED SERIES!

Five Moves of Doom, as well as Cobra Clutch and Rolling Thunder, are available for purchase on Amazon, Indigo, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and anywhere paperbacks and eBooks are sold.

In addition, Cobra Clutch is now available as an audiobook on Audible and wherever audiobooks can be found.

Order the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedy series through bookshop.newestpress.com, which features a Find Your Local Bookstore link to support indie bookstores and shop local.

Finally, AJ is proud to have partnered up with his friends at the terrific Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam, where copies of all three “Hammerhead” Jed books with personalized inscriptions can be requested and purchased online exclusively through their website WesternSkyBooks.com.

CYBER CAFE: Meet Fab Thriller Writer A. J. Devlin

A. J. Devlin

I’m delighted to welcome A. J. Devlin to Cyber Cafe!

We met at Left Coast Crime in Vancouver and bonded immediately over the movie business.  My daughter is a VFX producer in Montreal and AJ spent many years in Hollywood working as a screenwriter. 

AJ grew up in Greater Vancouver and moved to Southern California to earn two degrees in screenwriting. Luckily for Canadian crime fiction, he moved back home to Port Moody, BC, where he now lives with his wife and two children and writes full-time.

Cobra Clutch, AJ’s first book in the “Hammerhead” Jed professional wrestling mystery-comedy series, was released in spring 2018. It was nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery and won the 2019 Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence for Best First Novel. 

The sequel, Rolling Thunder, was released in spring 2020 and was featured in the Vancouver Sun, The Province, The Globe and Mail, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal Reviews, as well as on The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio.

The third book in the series, Five Moves of Doom, was published by NeWest Press on September 15th, 2022.  Look for my review here on Eat This Book, Monday, October 3rd. (Spoiler alert – it’s terrific!)

 

 

 

Welcome to Cyber Cafe, AJ. You worked many years as a screenwriter. How did you turn to crime…fiction?

I grew up loving films like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and The Last Boy Scout and remember vividly reading The Silence of the Lambs (at probably too young of an age), so crime stories always captivated me.

When I was living in Southern California earning my BFA and MFA in Screenwriting from Chapman University and the American Film Institute Conservatory, I studied closely under my mentor and friend, Academy-Award nominated screenwriter and novelist Leonard Schrader. He also shared the same passions and planted the seed that crafting crime fiction wasn’t that dissimilar from structuring screenplays, but it wasn’t until I moved home, got married, and became a father that I finally took a break from writing scripts and tried my hand at a mystery novel.

Why set your thrillers in the world of wrestling? How did your hero, Hammerhead Jed, appear in your imagination?

As I immersed myself in crime fiction, especially during my college years, I began exploring sub-genres, and one of my favorites was the athlete-detective since I grew up very much into sports. My father was a star basketball player for Simon Fraser University and later the Canadian Men’s National team, having competed in the 76 Olympics. So, it’s safe to say athletics factored heavily into my childhood.

I also spent my youth as a rabid fan of professional wrestling, enjoying the over-the-top feats of strength and agility combined with the in-ring panache of the squared circle. After reading about boxer-detectives, basketball-player sleuths, and surfer PIs, it occurred to me that, to the best of my knowledge, no one had cooked up a grappling gumshoe.  I saw that as an opportunity to draw upon my knowledge and experience while hopefully providing a series character who was a little unique.

You write terrific fight scenes. How do you research the moves?

Thank you! I definitely prioritize the choreography of such scenes.  I figure it’s likely that a guy with the moniker of “Hammerhead” Jed could handle himself in a scrap, and like me he has trained in freestyle wrestling and Judo. I definitely researched a lot about combat and beefed up his skill set by giving Jed experience with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I also wanted him to have a formidable striking ability; hence his proficiency in Krav Maga and other such martial arts. But at his core Jed is definitely a “grappler,” and his identity as a fighter is examined in Five Moves of Doom.

I especially love your colorful minor characters like Jed’s informant, Sykes, the bookie. Now Sykes is into goat yoga? Why goat yoga??

I love the juxtaposition of a dapper, well-manicured, and upscale gentleman like Sykes having a vested interest in unusual or atypical business ventures. He was originally conceived as a one-and-done character for Rolling Thunder, but my editor encouraged me to bring him back for Five Moves of Doom.

This now seems like a no-brainer, especially given what a breath of fresh air I find Sykes to be when he appears. It’s also been fun to explore the evolution of Sykes’ affinity for “Hammerhead” Jed and how despite being so different, these two men have become unlikely allies with great respect for one another.

My mom (who I dedicated this threequel to alongside my wife) was the person who started keeping an eye out for quirky and offbeat sports and activities as my series progressed.  She suggested goat yoga could be something fun to use in my future books. Coincidentally at the time, I had started exploring hybrid-yoga myself through the DDP Yoga Program (created by professional wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer, Diamond Dallas Page) as a way to increase my own functional strength in an effort to keep up with my kids. Both ideas dove-tailed for Five Moves of Doom.

In Rolling Thunder, Sykes is into dachshund racing. Is that real, too?

100%! Every year at the Hastings Racecourse there are the Annual Wiener Dog Racing Championships, sponsored by the venue itself and Schneiders Premium Meats. I may have taken a few creative liberties in Rolling Thunder, but make no mistake, competitive dachshund racing is the real deal and serious stuff with prize money at stake.

Your books are a terrific blend of comedy and violence. Sometimes you take us to very dark places, too. What advice do you give emerging writers on keeping the balance right?

That’s high praise and I’m much obliged! And I think you pose an excellent question. For me personally, particularly for this series, I use sports entertainment itself as a kind of North Star. Pro-wrestling can be so goofy and light-hearted at times, but many of the behind-the-scenes stories are the opposite, rife with tales of addiction, tragedy, and even murder. I also believe that humor can be an essential coping mechanism in times of great grief or adversity.  I like to think Jed’s wisecracking nature helps balance out the trouble his cases bring not only for himself but also the reader. 

What’s next for Hammerhead Jed?

More adventures are definitely the plan! Hammerhead Jed was always conceived as a series protagonist uniquely suited for unusual investigations. I’m looking forward to perhaps taking him away from athletic-centric mysteries and having him delve into more unique subcultures in future stories, something that is touched upon in a subplot in Rolling Thunder.

And in addition to more “Hammerhead” Jed shenanigans, I’m also flirting with ideas for spinoffs and standalone stories, which could be a nice change of pace. But I certainly won’t be forgetting about my Piledriving PI anytime soon as he’s just too much fun to write and has been awfully good to me.

More importantly, what’s next for AJ Devlin? Do tell us about your upcoming podcasts and author appearances.

I’m excited to be back promoting the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedies in person for sure, and have numerous author events, wrestling and MMA shows, and Fan Expos where I will be appearing. You can follow what I’m up to both in person and online at my website https://ajdevlin.com and / or on my social media under the same handle @ajdevlinauthor.

Catch AJ at upcoming events here:

 

MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: WHERE TO BUY THE HAMMERHEAD JED SERIES!

Five Moves of Doom, as well as Cobra Clutch and Rolling Thunder, are available for purchase on Amazon, Indigo, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and anywhere paperbacks and eBooks are sold.

In addition, Cobra Clutch is now available as an audiobook on Audible and wherever audiobooks can be found.

Order the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedy series through bookshop.newestpress.com, which features a Find Your Local Bookstore link to support indie bookstores and shop local.

Finally, AJ is proud to have partnered up with his friends at the terrific Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam, where copies of all three “Hammerhead” Jed books with personalized inscriptions can be requested and purchased online exclusively through their website WesternSkyBooks.com.

 

Thirteen is My Lucky Number!

A lovely surprise today, September 13th, from my friend and publisher, Donna Carrick: the first-run copies of The Mesdames and Messieurs of Mayhem’s 5th anthology, In the Spirit of 13! For the first time, we have a hard cover in addition to our standard paperback – it’s intended mainly for libraries.

 

 

Note goth background in keeping with the supernatural themes of our crime story collection. You can pre-order both versions on Amazon here.

But best of all on Friday, September 13, 1985 at 5 pm our daughter was born. My parents were horrified that I went into labor on such an inauspicious day – in their opinion. But our daughter was arriving no matter what: the best present we ever had. Thirteen has proved to be our lucky number.

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS! In the Spirit of 13 Available for Pre-Order

 

MY 15TH RIDE TO CONQUER CANCER!

First ride 2008!
And now! I’m an avatar in the digital age!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings Readers!

Time and its winged chariot and all that…hard to believe that this year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer was my 15th straight ride. And it’s thanks to your support, dear friends, that I’ve been able to maintain this streak!

According to stats provided by the organizers, there are 90 riders in the 15 year group, less that 1% of the estimated 40,000 participants. Certainly the Ride treated us very well, beginning with a free “diamond” helmet.

Because of COVID, the Ride’s past two years went virtual, which meant I’d been taking it easy, doing 200 km in four 50 km segments in the week before our designated weekend. Back in the Real World though The Ride was 100+ km each day over the weekend of June 11/12. I had work to do to get back in shape!

First the good news:  I had a great training buddy, Peg, an old running friend who wanted to cross The Ride off her bucket list.  Now for the bad news: she’s a machine. Not only is she a super-fast runner, she’s a veteran of quadrathons where you run, swim, bike and kayak. ARGH! Needless to say, trying to keep up was agony, if not impossible, but it got me back on track!

June so far had offered up perfect training weather but predictions for June 11/12 looked dire. Two days of rain back-to-back? Mind you, I have done The Ride in the rain though it was only one day. And I did get drenched despite my then rain jacket.  Wisely, as it turned out, I bought a new, truly impermeable jacket.

Day 1 of The Ride dawned…stormy. All the 15-year vets gathered on the steps of Princess Margaret for a group photo.

Ready to roll
A loud cheer for Princess Margaret Hospital

 

 

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We then rode in a peloton down to the starting line at Exhibition park. That added 7 km to the 103 km distance to Hamilton, but so what? Totally worth it to be part of such a wonderful group of people.

Day 1 went smoothly. The rain held off except for a few sprinkles though the skies did look unsettled for the whole journey. The route has improved a lot since 2008: fewer hills, excellent signage alerting you to hazards, traffic police stationed at busy intersections. But The Ride still owes a lot to its intrepid volunteers who man the rest stations and who sweep the route in cars or on motorbikes to fix broken-down bikes, get riders medical help and even to pick up the exhausted ones and their bikes.

Arriving at McMaster

The route ended with a fab 5 km downhill zoom into McMaster University where the 15 yr vets had another treat waiting: champagne and nibbles reception at the PMH / KPMG tent. Ed, my faithful road crew every single year,  I indulged! Great to connect with fellow riders. I especially love this guy’s shirt BTW.

 

Champers reward
Love the shirt, love the message

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating with fellow 15-yr vets

Day One was the easy one, Day Two was…not! At 6:30 am, I retrieved my bike from safekeeping and hit the road for Niagara Falls.  There’s a long climb up onto the escarpment, a low gradient bike trail 7 kilometres straight up. It’s a doable grind with a spectacular view at the top.  I could see across the lake all the way to Toronto – and the storm clouds gathering overhead.

Wet and c-c-c-cold

The rain started – with determination. I’d stopped by the side of the road to pull on my new rain jacket when a fellow rider hailed me. She’d taken shelter under the eaves of an old barn. The  weather app on her phone showed a rapidly approaching thunderstorm.

As I made my way over, the heavens opened. In the ensuing downpour, our shelter was rapidly filled up by storm-tossed riders. Crowded in like the Tokyo subway, we waited for the thunderstorm to pass.

 

As the rain eased up, I set out, having ridden in wet conditions before. Soon I discovered that the helpful vents in the side of my jacket didn’t keep out serious rain. Oh, well. Ed brought me hot Starbucks coffee at the next rest stop. He got several cash offers for it from other riders!

But the rain hid something wonderful. As I passed through Jordan, I spotted our friends, Bill and Lynda, standing by the road. Turns out that this year, the route  passed right by their house! They’d braved the storm and gotten soaked to cheer me on – I couldn’t believe it! We hugged and cheered – and then I was back on the road.

The rain continued sporadically as I rode through the farms and vineyards of Niagara. Though flat, this point in the journey can feel endless. I marked off the Thorold drawbridge, the town of Pelham and at long last the Niagara River.  Amazingly, people have docks and boats that close to The Falls!

Brave…or not?

During the last stretch to the finish line, I chatted to another 15 yr rider who, due to back issues, has done the distance every year on a recumbent bike. And I thought my 120 km were hard work. Great to cross the finish line.

Number 15 is done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More great surprises: I ran into my yoga buddy, Della and her riding partner, also veteran riders!

Della, me and Della’s friend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So how did my training buddy, Peg, make out? Well, I saw her at the start of the ride on Day One and then didn’t see her again. We kept missing each other because she was leagues ahead of me. We celebrated our successful Rides a few days later at The Granite Brewery – out of the rain!

Best of all, this year 3700 riders raised $16 million for cancer research at the Princess Margaret Hospital. In 15 years, The Ride has raised $250 million to fight cancer, the most successful charity fund raiser in Canada’s history!

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS!

Greetings Readers!

Lots happening this beautiful summer to share with you. First of all, I’m delighted to reveal the striking cover of Red Dog Publishing’s GONE anthology. I’m honored to have my story, “Must Love Dogs – or You’re Gone”, in this collection. GONE will be available for pre-order August 1st.

And I had a wonderful opportunity to be part of the Dead to Writes podcast where fab  designer, Sara Carrick, reveals her secrets behind the cover for In the Spirit of 13, the Mesdames of Mayhem’s 10th anniversary anthology. In discussion with publisher, Donna Carrick and the story wrangler (me).

S5 E103: The Mesdames of Mayhem, In the Spirit of 13, Sara Carrick & M.H. Callway on cover design

And last but far from least, I’m honored to be a guest blogger on Writers Write. Here’s my take on Why I Write Short Fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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