Sunday, August 21, 2016

Judy Penz Sheluk: Skeletons in the Attic

Please welcome guest blogger Judy Penz Sheluk with her new book, Skeletons in the Attic.

Judging a book by its cover

In an ideal world, we would never judge anyone by their appearance, and yet most of us do. The impression may change if we get to know the person (and in fact, often does), but if we don’t get to know the person, that first impression, good or bad, will stay with us.

The same is true of book covers. See a book cover with at white picket fence and a cat, and it’s a fair bet that it’s a cozy. Now if you enjoy cozy mysteries, you’ll probably read the back cover blurb. If that grabs you, you’ll probably by the book.

As you can imagine, a lot of thought goes into designing a book cover, from the background color to the font and imagery used, and that process is left up to graphic artists, albeit with input from the author.

When it came to the cover design for Skeletons in the Attic, here’s how it went:
Publisher: What kinds of images do you imagine on your book cover? What elements from your novel would be important to represent?
Me: I think a skeleton would be too obvious, and the Skeletons in the Attic also refers to all the things Callie finds in the attic that lead her to learn more about her mother’s life. One major find was a locket from a man named Reid. I’ll send a jpeg of the locket that inspired the one described in the book. Callie also found six tarot cards: III: The Empress; IV: The Emperor; VI: The Lovers; The Three of Swords; XIII: Death, which are important to the story. The neighborhood itself might also provide inspiration; a typical 1970s subdivision in a suburb, where all the streets are named after wildflowers. Callie’s house is at 16 Snapdragon Circle.
The locket.
Armed with that information, artist Ryan Thomas Doan designed my cover. Notice how he’s used the attic as the backdrop (can’t you just imagine the secrets buried in there?), but he’s also included the tarot cards, and the locket.

Making the title pop is every bit as important as the rest of the artwork. You want folks to be able to read it from a distance, and there’s lots of experimenting with the size and color before making a final decision.

Next up: the cover endorsements by other authors. I was so fortunate to have several authors read my ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) and provide reviews. Selecting what goes where (front cover, back cover, inside the book) is debated between author and publisher.

Last but not least is the back of the book blurb. In the case of Skeletons in the Attic, there were nine revisions before we were satisfied. And here it is:

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 www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic: http://www.imajinbooks.com/skeletons-in-the-attic

Find Judy on Facebook (www.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk), Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk), Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/judypenzsheluk) and Amazon (amazon.com/author/judypenzsheluk).

Monday, August 15, 2016

An Author Confesses



One of the problems with being a published author is that people start asking you how you managed it. There are certain general expectations, like taking writing and/or literature courses, and some specific ones, like having a past career related to what you write. (Being a former teacher or journalist is acceptable across all genres.)

Well, here's the truth about me...

I hated English class. The only good thing about high school English studying the requisite Shakespearean play. The only English course I took that that didn’t involve Shakespeare, was Science Fiction. The only reason I took it was because it had a writing component.That was the only writing course I ever took.

I’m not dissing writing courses. Had I the time and the money, I probably would have taken them. Unfortunately, student debts put the kibosh on that. When I had time, I had no money. When I had money, I had no time.  And then there were those periods when I had neither time nor money.

Everything I learned about writing I learned by reading, listening and doing.

Long before the blog, authors were using their introductions and author’s after words to share their process. Some even wrote books on the topic. Even if they didn’t, everything you need to know about authors can be divined by reading their books. 

Although I had road blocks to taking formal courses, I took every opportunity I could to listen to authors I respected talking about their craft. This might be at a conference or author appearance or while sitting around drinking coffee with friends (who happen to be authors and one even teaches writing). I only hope listening to me has been as beneficial to them.

Actually writing stuff is key, of course. Almost anything will do for a start. I started writing fan fiction before I knew what it was. In my early teens, I'd write myself into adventures with the crew of the USS Enterprise. My sister would read these stories aloud, exactly as written, which really brings home your mistakes.

At university I'd write mash-ups, bringing two or more fictional worlds together. The most elaborate was the epic tale I co-wrote with my roomie that brought together all our favourite TV action heroes with our own creations and, of course, the crew of the Enterprise. I still have most of those stories, all handwritten, many with class notes written in the margins. Some of the storytelling was good and most was entertaining. A lot was embarrassing. But all of it was good practice.

Ever since I realized that I wasn't going to be an overnight success as a novelist (after the first few publisher rejections for my first original stories) I knew I'd have to get a day job. I planned to become a teacher, but I picked the worst time to graduate for that. Instead, I learned layout and copy writing as part of various jobs I took during and just after university. I taught myself web design back when it was brand new and learned graphic design by necessity. When I was between jobs, I started to work freelance. Not an illustrious career, but a useful one.

Meanwhile, I kept reading, listening and above all, writing.