Halloween vs. Valentine’s Day

By Judy Penz Sheluk

This post is scheduled for Halloween, which amuses me, because I’ve never been much of a Halloween person. Even as a kid, I dreaded the thought of dressing up and knocking on neighbor’s doors asking for candy, then coming home and watching while my dad inspected every piece for signs of tampering before a single morsel could cross my lips.

As a teenager, I transitioned from door-to-door canvassing to at-home Halloween parties. I recall one party where I went with my boyfriend of the day, he the farmer, me the wife. My costume consisted of painting some freckles on my face and putting my hair in braids. There may have been a plaid shirt and blue jeans involved. Possibly a tuft or two of hay. Imagination, not so much.

Later, as a homeowner, I found myself on the giving end of the tradition. This caused me no end of stress. If I bought things I liked (chocolate), I lacked the willpower not to eat it before the big night arrived. If I bought things I didn’t care for (licorice or potato chips), I would be stuck with them if I couldn’t give it all away.

First world problems, I know, but my dislike of Halloween in general is the main reason that none of my books are centered around it. Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, has played a significant role in two of my books: Skeletons in the Attic, book 1 in my Marketville Mystery series, and the just released Before There Were Skeletons.

In Skeletons in the Attic, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, my protagonist, 36 at the time, inherits a house in Marketville from her father, who has died in an “unfortunate” occupational accident. The catch? She must move into the house, a house she didn’t know existed, and find out the truth about her mother, Abigail Osgoode Barnstable, who disappeared on Valentine’s Day 1980, when Callie was six.

In Before There Were Skeletons, Callie, now on the cusp of turning 43, has been hired to find out the whereabouts of an eighteen-year-old single mother who disappeared on Valentine’s Day 1995. Her client? The infant left behind, now twenty-eight.

So why Valentine’s Day, you might be asking. After all, isn’t that a day for love and romance? Maybe for some. For me, not so much. My first boyfriend (not the farmer) dumped me by phone (by phone!) on Valentine’s Day, and this after I’d been expecting a ring, having spent hours looking for the perfect card for him (two porcupines kissing with the message, “I love you so much it hurts.” – who says fate isn’t ironic?). Decades later, I was able to use that memory for a scene in Skeletons in the Attic, and it was wonderfully cathartic.

But back to Before There Were Skeletons, which is a story not only of the missing mother, but of Callie’s attempts to come to terms with her unresolved issues surrounding her own mother. And so, Valentine’s Day just seemed like the right place to start. Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter 2, told from Callie’s point of view:

Rule number one. Don’t ask a question if you don’t want an honest answer.
I asked Ben anyway. “I take it we’re still fighting?”
“We’d have to be in a relationship to be fighting.”
And there you had it. Ben Benedetti was the man I thought I might have a future with, at least until now. It would appear the Barnstable Valentine’s Day curse was alive and well.
At least he didn’t kiss me on the forehead on his way out.
I hated when men did that.

About the book: The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons. Universal Book Link: https://books2read.com/u/mqXVze.

About the Author
A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. She lives in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Find her at judypenzsheluk.com.

16 thoughts on “Halloween vs. Valentine’s Day”

  1. Hi, I enjoyed reading this, your books sound like great reads. Your book cover looks very intriguing ! Have a Happy Halloween.

    1. Thanks Marilyn, and it wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d done it in person. But on the phone. Anyway, at least I was able to use the scene in a book so all was not lost. You know us writers, long memories!

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