Mystery Mondays: Judy Penz Sheluk – In Praise of Book Clubs

This week on Mystery Mondays, it is my pleasure to have author Judy Penz Sheluk as a returning guest. I’m a big fan and have read every one of her books!

Today she’s sharing some interesting insights into book clubs and at the end of this post, you’ll find a recipe that might make you happy 🙂

Judy’s latest release, Past & Present, is coming soon! Congratulations. Let’s cheer her on in the comments.

In Praise of Book Clubs

by Judy Penz Sheluk

BOOK CLUBS!

One of the things I enjoy doing as an author is visiting local book clubs, should they select one of my novels for their monthly read. Not all of those picks translate into sales—my town’s library has book club sets of The Hanged Man’s Noose and Skeletons in the Attic—but now and again someone will download an e-book copy or purchase another one of my books. I’ve also received paid speaking engagements as a result, most recently to a PROBUS group, where I was paid a speaker’s fee of $150 and sold about 20 books. Not a bad deal for an hour’s work.

But visiting book clubs isn’t about the money or getting speaking gigs. It’s about connecting with readers, getting their honest feedback, answering questions, and for a short time, playing the role of “Author Judy” before heading back to the solitude of my office.

Not all book clubs are created equal, however. Some offer tea and homemade cookies. Some really go all out, making book-themed related food and drink, like the Treasontini from the Hanged Man’s Noose (recipe attached). And one didn’t offer me so much as a glass of water (I’ve learned to bring my own). There’s also the occasional book club whose members heavily favor “literary” and “don’t really read or ‘get’ mysteries.” I’ve learned to take it all in stride.

pnp3My upcoming release is Past & Present, book 2 in my bestselling Marketville Mystery series. I’m already putting feelers out there for book clubs and I’ve decided to expand my horizons. If your book club is interested in reading it, or any of my other titles, I’ll find a way to connect with your group online. If you’re interested, you can email me at judy at judypenzsheluk dot com and we can sort out the details.

In the meantime, here’s some Shameless Self Promotion for Past & Present, including a blurb about the book. It’s on pre-order for $2.99 US / CAD (no nasty U.S. exchange) on Kindle (regular $5.99) and will also be available in paperback (if your bookstore or library doesn’t have it, they can order it from Ingram Spark). Release date is September 21, 2018. So without further ado:

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their 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 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

IMG_4117 copyAbout the author:An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, was published in July 2015, and is also available in audiobook. The sequel, A Hole In One, was published March 2018, with audiobook to follow Fall 2018.

Skeletons in the Attic, Judy’s second novel, and the first in her Marketville Mystery series, was first published in August 2016 and re-released in December 2017. It is also available in audiobook format. The sequel, Past & Present, will be released September 2018. Judy’s short crime and literary fiction appears in several collections.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors as a representative for Toronto/Southwestern Ontario.

Find out more about Judy at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

The promised Treasontini Recipe…

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Farley’s Friday: Beach Time For Dogs

Farley here.

Woof Woof. Wag Wag. It’s fall and that means the beaches on Vancouver Island start to open to dogs.

Yup, that means swimming! That means running off leash.

Farley on beach

And it means getting full of sand and shaking it off in the back of the car. Kristina loves that part. Maybe love is a stretch, but she takes me to the beach anyway.

I love fall!

Woof Woof

Farley’s Friday: Dogs Go Hiking

Farley here,

Somehow I don’t look excited here, but I am!

Farley & Finn

I’m with my pal Finn, and we spent a week hiking all over Vancouver Island. The thing to know about the island is it’s super dog friendly.

Off leash parks, hikes, beaches, etc abound. We’re even allowed in some of the outdoor restaurants.

If you’re a dog and need a vacation, tell your peeps to take you to Vancouver Island!

Woof Woof!

Who Will Read Your First Draft And How Do You Help Them #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

This month, I’m going to focus on what I’ve learnt from working with beta readers.

When I finished the first draft of my first novel, Descent, I was exhilarated and terrified. Exhilarated because I’d accomplished my dream of writing a novel, and terrified because I now had to share it with someone.

But who?

My lucky husband got to be my first beta reader. He understood how important my story was to me. He’d be kind yet helpful. So I took a deep breath and hit the print button.

I couldn’t be in the same room with him as he read. That was just too stressful.

Once he finished, he gave me one of the most useful pieces of advice that I still use today. It came in the form of a question.

“Do you know you start every scene in a doorway?”

I hadn’t noticed that. His question made me do a full rewrite of every scene, looking at the opening. This is when I discovered the term in medias res — start in the middle of the action.

Now, before I share my story with anyone, I check the beginning of each scene and choose the opening carefully. I try to open with a hook for each scene.

As the years have gone by, I’ve had many beta readers and received a lot of valuable advice, comments, and questions. I couldn’t write the way I do without these precious people.


What’s a Beta Reader?

A beta reader is a person who reads your manuscript before it’s published and provides you with feedback on your story. The feedback is usually on characters, plot, and settings. (Although you may get comments on copyediting and proofreading, too.)

A helpful beta reader gives you honest feedback, positive or negative, that you use to improve your story.

An ineffective beta reader says, “That’s a nice story. I liked it.” While that feels good, it doesn’t help you write a better story.


Tips for Getting Useful Feedback

Convincing friends to give you honest feedback is difficult. People who care about you usually don’t want to hurt your feelings and may be worried about beta reading.

Questions like “What if I don’t like the story?” or “How will I tell you if I find something I don’t like?” may swirl around their heads while they’re thinking of a way to say no.

Make sure your readers understand you won’t be hurt or offended by negative feedback. Feedback on what’s not working is the only way for you to tell a better story.

To make it easy for your beta readers to know what you want, provide a list of specific questions or instructions. This will help your reader know what you want from them.

I ask beta readers to do or answer the following:

  1. Mark anywhere you skim. This is an easy way to know that the writing is boring.
  2. Did you get confused on who a character was? Maybe you need more clues or dialogue tags.
  3. Did you lose track of who was speaking? I like to write with minimal dialogue tags, so this is critical.
  4. Note anytime you suspect a character of being the villain or know the ending. This helps to determine if you’ve done enough to too much foreshadowing.
  5. Mark each passage where you stopped reading. Get your beta readers to mark this each time, even it was to have dinner, go to work, etc. If all your beta readers put the book down at the same passage, there may be a problem with the story.
  6. Did you notice any story inconsistencies? To help your beta reader, give them an example of what you mean. I read a story where a dog was left at home in one scene, and in the next scene, the dog was still with the owner. The author had forgotten where the dog was.
  7. Avoid asking for copy editing or proofreading from beta readers. It’s ok if your readers notice errors and point them out, but what you want at this stage is input on your story, not on the grammar or typos.

Make Your Beta Reader Feel Special

Image Source: Pixabay

Once you’ve put a lot of time into finding helpful beta readers, you want to keep them for your next book.

The first time a beta reader gives you negative feedback, thank them. If you make the suggested change, let them know. A beta reader will put a lot of effort into reading your story and seeing that their comments resulted in changes can be very satisfying.

When you ask someone to beta read, make it easy for the author by asking what format he/she would like to receive the manuscript in. I offer a PDF file first, but some prefer a printed copy and others mobi. Some like to receive manuscripts in .docx format as it’s easy to convert and read on a Kindle. I try to send the manuscript in the format the beta reader prefers. I believe it’s a sign of respect for the person.

In the acknowledgment section of your published book, thank your beta readers. Mine all love to see their names in the book.

Make your beta reader feel really special and send them a signed copy of your book once it’s published.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for working with beta readers. We’d love to hear from you!


Perform a Story Edit Before Sharing with Beta Readers

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you evaluate your story on a scene-by-scene basis. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly. Then your beta readers will be impressed!

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories? We don’t ask for a credit card until you’re ready to pay, so there’s no risk.

Thanks for reading!

Who Will Read Your First Draft And How Do You Help Them?

When I finished the first draft of my first novel, Descent, I was exhilarated and terrified. Exhilarated because I’d accomplished my dream of writing a novel, and terrified because I now had to share it with someone.

But who?

My lucky husband got to be my first beta reader. He understood how important my story was to me. He’d be kind yet helpful. So I took a deep breath and hit the print button.

I couldn’t be in the same room with him as he read. That was just too stressful.

Once he finished, he gave me one of the most useful pieces of advice that I still use today. It came in the form of a question.

“Do you know you start every scene in a doorway?”

I hadn’t noticed that. His question made me do a full rewrite of every scene, looking at the opening. This is when I discovered the term in medias res — start in the middle of the action.

Now, before I share my story with anyone, I check the beginning of each scene and choose the opening carefully. I try to open with a hook for each scene.

As the years have gone by, I’ve had many beta readers and received a lot of valuable advice, comments, and questions. I couldn’t write the way I do without these precious people.


What’s a Beta Reader?

A beta reader is a person who reads your manuscript before it’s published and provides you with feedback on your story. The feedback is usually on characters, plot, and settings. (Although you may get comments on copyediting and proofreading, too.)

A helpful beta reader gives you honest feedback, positive or negative, that you use to improve your story.

An ineffective beta reader says, “That’s a nice story. I liked it.” While that feels good, it doesn’t help you write a better story.


Tips for Getting Useful Feedback

Convincing friends to give you honest feedback is difficult. People who care about you usually don’t want to hurt your feelings and may be worried about beta reading.

Questions like “What if I don’t like the story?” or “How will I tell you if I find something I don’t like?” may swirl around their heads while they’re thinking of a way to say no.

Make sure your readers understand you won’t be hurt or offended by negative feedback. Feedback on what’s not working is the only way for you to tell a better story.

To make it easy for your beta readers to know what you want, provide a list of specific questions or instructions. This will help your reader know what you want from them.

I ask beta readers to do or answer the following:

  1. Mark anywhere you skim. This is an easy way to know that the writing is boring.
  2. Did you get confused on who a character was? Maybe you need more clues or dialogue tags.
  3. Did you lose track of who was speaking? I like to write with minimal dialogue tags, so this is critical.
  4. Note anytime you suspect a character of being the villain or know the ending. This helps to determine if you’ve done enough to too much foreshadowing.
  5. Mark each passage where you stopped reading. Get your beta readers to mark this each time, even it was to have dinner, go to work, etc. If all your beta readers put the book down at the same passage, there may be a problem with the story.
  6. Did you notice any story inconsistencies? To help your beta reader, give them an example of what you mean. I read a story where a dog was left at home in one scene, and in the next scene, the dog was still with the owner. The author had forgotten where the dog was.
  7. Avoid asking for copy editing or proofreading from beta readers. It’s ok if your readers notice errors and point them out, but what you want at this stage is input on your story, not on the grammar or typos.

Make Your Beta Reader Feel Special

Image Source: Pixabay

Once you’ve put a lot of time into finding helpful beta readers, you want to keep them for your next book.

The first time a beta reader gives you negative feedback, thank them. If you make the suggested change, let them know. A beta reader will put a lot of effort into reading your story and seeing that their comments resulted in changes can be very satisfying.

When you ask someone to beta read, make it easy for the author by asking what format he/she would like to receive the manuscript in. I offer a PDF file first, but some prefer a printed copy and others mobi. Some like to receive manuscripts in .docx format as it’s easy to convert and read on a Kindle. I try to send the manuscript in the format the beta reader prefers. I believe it’s a sign of respect for the person.

In the acknowledgment section of your published book, thank your beta readers. Mine all love to see their names in the book.

Make your beta reader feel really special and send them a signed copy of your book once it’s published.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for working with beta readers. We’d love to hear from you!


Perform a Story Edit Before Sharing with Beta Readers

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you evaluate your story on a scene-by-scene basis. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly. Then your beta readers will be impressed!

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories? We don’t ask for a credit card until you’re ready to pay, so there’s no risk.

Thanks for reading!

Farley’s Friday: Can a dog ride a bike?

Farley here,

My lifelong gal pal loves to ride a bike. How does she do that you ask?

Well, she gets in the basket.

Piper Cycling

Did you notice the wind in her hair – like she’s a glamour queen. I asked Kristina if I could ride a bike too, and she said I was too big for the basket.

I don’t get that. I’ve done a lot of kayaking, so why not biking, too?

Farley in Kayak

Woof Woof