When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?
I’m definitely a daytime writer. I try to unplug from the world by six p.m.; night for me is reserved for chilling out, reading and watching TV.
I start every morning by checking my emails (I have several email accounts), and since I’m an editor for two magazines in my day jobs (New England Antiques Journal and Home BUILDER Canada), those messages take precedence. Then I check my Author emails, Newsletter emails, and finally, my Personal emails. Once that’s done, I prioritize my day, including how much time I can spend on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.). Some days, my editing jobs take up a lot of time, and so I don’t have a lot of time to work on my fiction. Other days, I’ll have a few hours, so I’ll work on my fiction for as long as I can keep the ideas flowing. In the beginning, I used to set a daily word goal, but I’ve found that doesn’t work for me. For a while, I didn’t set any word count goals, and that didn’t work either: as a freelance writer/editor since 2003, I’m used to having deadlines, and without them, I tend to fritter away my time. So, now I set a weekly goal of 5,000 words per week for my current novel-in-progress. That gives me an 80,000-word first draft in four months. In between, I try to work on short crime fiction as well.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
I’m a complete pantser, but I always start with a premise, i.e. in The Hanged Man’s Noose, the premise was: Greedy real estate developer comes to small town with plans to build a mega-box store on the town’s historic Main Street. Journalist with a hidden agenda takes on the assignment to cover that story.
Because I have a premise, the beginning is usually fun and relatively easy. It’s at about the midway point where I find it the most difficult, because as a pantser, I have no idea where the story is going, or how it will end, and by the middle, you have to know that. So at that point I’m doing a lot of “what if” plotting. Once I get that sorted out, I’ll write the last chapter, then I’ll go back to the middle. My beginnings and middles might change in subsequent drafts, but the end is pretty much set.
What are your favorite TV shows?
I tend to gravitate towards series with good storytelling, characters that develop and change over time, and plotlines that continue, even in a small way, from show to show. My current crime fiction favorites are American Crime (Season One was spectacular, and I’m currently following Season Two and loving it), Blue Bloods, and NCIS. In fact, I like NCIS so much that I named my Golden Retriever, Gibbs. If I think about past TV shows with a mystery theme, Columbo and Murder She Wrote rank as my top two. My favorite series that have nothing to do with crime (past and present) are: NYPD Blue, Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy, Empire, The Good Wife, The Sopranos, and Breaking Bad. I’ve probably forgotten one or two.
What is your favorite meal?
Cheese pizza, no other toppings, and a side salad with balsamic dressing. There’s a pizzeria in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, called Coccelli’s. I love their pizza slices, so whenever I’m in the area, which isn’t all that often, I stop by. But any cheese take-out pizza with a thin or regular crust works for me. It’s the ultimate comfort food, though my homemade macaroni and cheese comes a close second, and I make a mean veggie lasagna. Do you sense a cheese theme happening here?
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I read every day. I try to read at least one book a week, mostly mysteries, but I do read other novels. If I’m on vacation, I’ll read three or four books in a week. In the summer, I love to golf and belong to two ladies golf leagues, and also will golf with friends who aren’t part of the leagues, at different golf courses. I’m a runner (actually a plodder). I’ve run four marathons, several half-marathons, and a few 10Ks. I’m not currently training for anything, so I’ll run 3 to 5 miles three or four times a week. I walk every day. Having a dog helps with that. And I enjoy watching TV and movies. If I’m really stressed, I’ll find a favorite old movie and watch that. First Wives Club is one movie I’ve seen a dozen times. It always makes me laugh.
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?
1) The writing muscle is like any other muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
2) Don’t wait for the muse to come to you: write every day. Some days the muse will show up, and some days it won’t, but at least you’ll be ready in case she comes to visit.
3) There is no wrong or right way to write your story, and there is no magic software solution. Even diehard Scrivener users (I’m not a fan, but I know plenty of writers who use it) have to get the story down, one word at a time.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Hanged Man's Noose:
A Glass Dolphin Mystery
by Judy Penz Sheluk
Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in a tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.
Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.
But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.
Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme—before the murderer strikes again.
Emily Garland considered the offer on the table and nodded. It certainly sounded as though Urban-Huntzberger had everything covered. She wondered whether she should study the contract, contact a lawyer. Take a moment to decide whether this was the opportunity of a lifetime or an act of insanity. “How long do I have?”
“We need an answer ASAP. You’d move in by the end of the month, sooner if possible. The rental house has been recently renovated and is currently available.”
Michelle stood up. “Emily, you’ve been in this business long enough to know this kind of assignment doesn’t come along every day. Work with us. Get rich with us. And help us to expose Garrett Stonehaven for the lying, cheating, bastard we both know he is.”
Definitely more to this scenario than meets the eye. Emily pulled a gold-plated pen out of her handbag, a graduation gift from her mother a dozen years ago. She twirled it between her fingers, remembering how proud her mom had been, her daughter the first one in the family to go beyond high school. Remembered the way her mother had looked the last time Emily saw her, shell-shocked and shattered.
“Where do I sign?”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery was released in July 2015 through Barking Rain Press. Her short crime fiction appears in The Whole She-Bang 2, World Enough and Crime, and Flash and Bang. In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy is the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal and the Editor for Home BUILDER Magazine. 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 www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she blogs about the writing life and interviews other authors.
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Judy Penz Sheluk will be awarding $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and the opportunity to guest on Judy Penz Sheluk's blog to a randomly drawn host.