Mystery Mondays: Judy Penz Sheluk – Amateur Sleuth with an Edge. 

Today on Mystery Monday’s we welcome Judy Penz Sheluk. Judy will talk to us about defining a sub-genre, her book and herself.

Defining Sub-Genre

By Judy Penz Sheluk

Hanged Man's NooseDefining your sub-genre. It’s the sort of thing newbie authors don’t really think about when they start writing a book. Oh, we know we’re writing a mystery or romance or sci-fi, but beyond that, it’s more about getting the words down than anything else. And then, one day, after months of hard work, editing, revision and more revision, that book is finally ready to send out into the cold, cruel world. That means writing a compelling query letter pitching the book to agents and publishers in the hopes they might be interested. This process is not for the faint of heart; consider that Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was rejected 61 times before someone finally took a chance on her (read the interview here). The key then, is to make your query stand out. It also means that the author has to define not just the genre (i.e. romance) but the sub-genre (paranormal romance).

When I started pitching The Hanged Man’s Noose to publishers, I defined it as “Amateur Sleuth,” which is often referred to as a “Cozy Mystery.” After all, I had an amateur sleuth (my protagonist, Emily Garland, is a freelance journalist), I had a sidekick (Emily’s friend, Arabella Carpenter, owns an antiques shop), I had a small town (Lount’s Landing, a fictional town about ninety minutes north of Toronto), and the murders take place off screen (meaning no overt violence). It wasn’t until I sent the manuscript to a publisher of traditional cozy mysteries that I discovered I hadn’t quite nailed it.

“We love The Hanged Man’s Noose, and you made it to the final round,” the rejection letter stated, “but we only publish traditional cozies. Your book has too much of an edge. Our recommendation is that you find a publisher that looks for edgier mysteries.”

I searched the publisher’s catalogue and saw what they meant. Every cover had a cat or a dog, an idyllic town with white picket fences. Many of the books included a recipe or instructions on how to make some sort of craft. My book didn’t have any of those things.

I took the publisher’s advice and discovered Barking Rain Press shortly thereafter. I redefined The Hanged Man’s Noose as “Amateur Sleuth with an Edge,” followed their submission guidelines, and signed a contract in July 2014, for publication in July 2015. I’ve been pinching myself ever since.

Handed Man’s Noose Description

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 an 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.

The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery is available in print and eBook at all the usual suspects.

Judy’s Bio

Photo by Jenn Short
Photo by Jenn Short

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in print and eBook in July 2015 through Barking Rain Press. Her short fiction has appeared in literary publications and anthologies, including The Whole She-Bang 2 and World Enough and Crime. She also contributed to Bake, Love Write, a dessert cookbook featuring recipes from 105 authors.

In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer, specializing in art, antiques and the residential housing industry. She is currently the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine, and the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.

Judy lives in a small town northwest of Toronto. She is currently finalizing Skeletons in the Closet (A Marketville Mystery) and starting book two in The Glass Dolphin Mystery series.


Next week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Brenda Chapman, award winning author of the Stonechild and Rouleau Mysteries.

Thanks for reading…

Thanks for reading…

If you’re interested, you can buy or download a sample of DESCENT at:


13 thoughts on “Mystery Mondays: Judy Penz Sheluk – Amateur Sleuth with an Edge. 

  1. I found it really interesting how you came to describe your sub-genre. It really is an edgy cozy mystery. I hope that you’re following Kristina’s journey in that you’ll soon have book two out. Big fan of both your blogs and novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Carol. I am not at the pace of Kristina. I have just finished a second book (not part of the Glass Dolphin Series) and will be submitting for publishing consideration shortly. I have just started book 2 in the Glass Dolphin series. I balance writing with working full time as a writer/editor. I like to say that it might be easier if I was a plumber — I write all day, and then I write some more! Some days, I just don’t have any words left in me!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. A belated comment here, but this was really interesting Judy. I also write what I thought of as amateur sleuth mysteries, but cats and dogs and teapots on the covers just wouldn’t work. I need to rethink how I tag and describe my work. Thanks for giving me something to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

Thank you for commenting! Your email address will be stored but not shared.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.