Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Halloween Spook-tacular - Cats in Horror!

5th Annual Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

October 15th to 31st

October’s the perfect time for Horror movies – so I decided to combine my two favorite subjects – horror movies and CATS – and come up with a list of scary movies starring – you guessed it – fabulous felines.  Thanks to IMDB for the synopses!

Cat’s Eye – 1985 – written by Stephen King – starring Drew Barrymore
Three horror-thriller tales revolve around a mysterious stray cat which is attempting to find a little girl in trouble. In "Quitters, Inc.": the cat is picked up by a shady New York "doctor" who uses experimental techniques to get people to quit smoking. His latest client is a man named Morrison, who learns he'll suffer some terrible consequences if he tries to cheat. In "The Ledge": the cat is picked up by Cressner, a shady Atlantic City millionaire who forces tennis pro Norris (his wife's lover), to walk a narrow ledge around his high-rise penthouse apartment. In "The General": the cat arrives in Wilmington, North Carolina, where it is found by Amanda, the young girl it has been sent to protect. What she needs protection from is a tiny, evil troll who lives behind the skirting board in her bedroom.  Do not watch with lights out!


The Black Cat – 1934 – Bela Lugosi –Boris Karloff - Based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe

Honeymooning in Hungary, Joan and Peter Allison share their train compartment with Dr. Vitus Verdegast, a courtly but tragic man who is returning to the remains of the town he defended before becoming a prisoner of war for fifteen years. When their hotel-bound bus crashes in a mountain storm and Joan is injured, the travellers seek refuge in the home, built fortress-like upon the site of a bloody battlefield, of famed architect Hjalmar Poelzig. There, cat-phobic Verdegast learns his wife's fate, grieves for his lost daughter, and must play a game of chess for Allison's life.  A good Lugosi-Karloff pairing.

Cat People – 1942 –Simone Simon (remade in 1981)

Irena Dubrovna, a beautiful and mysterious Serbian-born fashion artist living in New York City, falls in love with and marries average-Joe American Oliver Reed. Their marriage suffers though, as Irena believes that she suffers from an ancient curse- whenever emotionally aroused, she will turn into a panther and kill. Oliver thinks that is absurd and childish, so he sends her to psychiatrist Dr. Judd to cure her. Easier said than done... Remade in 1982 with a slight plot change A young woman's sexual awakening brings horror when she discovers her urges transform her into a monstrous black leopard. Pick one – they’re both scary.

 But by far the winner....Pet Sematary!!!!!!!


Written by Stephen King, Based on the book by Stephen King

Stars Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne

·        Movie sticks pretty much to the plot of the book: After moving into their new home the Creed family's cat is killed after wondering onto the highway. Jud an elderly neighbor shows Louis, the father, to an isolated hill behind the local Pet Cemetery and instructs him to bury the deceased feline there. Not long after the cat reappears at the Creed home, only he is not the same. The docile cat is now vicious and destructive. When their youngest son meets with a fatal accident, the distraught Louis buries him in the same location hoping to revive him. Unfortunately he unleashes far more than he had bargained for.

I had my eyes closed for most of the last half of this movie – THAT’s how scary it is.  And what a perfect touch, having Fred Gwynne portray the neighbor Jud Crandall (he played Herman on the Munsters).  This wins the award for scariest cat horror movie….EVER!

Do you  have any favorite horror movies featuring cats? Or just any movies featuring cats?  Leave a comment below, and we’ll select one winner at random to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card PLUS an autographed ARC of my cozy mystery, MEOW IF ITS MURDER starring Nick, the tuxedo cat!  Contest closes midnight, October 31 – open to US residents only.

Visit other great "spooktacular" hop members here: Blog Hop Link


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rocco's Guest...Barb Goffman!



Barb Goffman likes her crime short and sweet. Well, maybe not that sweet. She’s the author of DON’T GET MAD, GET EVEN, a short-story collection published last year by Wildside Press that recently won the Silver Falchion Award for best single-author mystery collection published in 2013. Barb also won the Macavity Award last fall for best short story of 2012, and she’s been nominated multiple times for the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards for her short fiction. To support her short-story habit, Barb runs a freelance editing service, specializing in crime fiction. She also serves as secretary of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Learn more at www.barbgoffman.com and www.goffmanediting.com



R: Welcome! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing!


Hi. Thank you so much for inviting me here. I’m a short-story writer by night and a freelance fiction editor by day (and night). I’m also a co-editor of the award-winning Chesapeake Crimes anthology series. I work from home, which allows me to spend a lot of time with my dog, Jingle, who is probably a beagle/dachshund mix. He’s small, but his bark is big.


How I became interested in writing? Well, I’ve always been an avid reader. I remember one day in the mid 1990s reading a book by Barbara Parker and thinking, “I could do this.” Of course, I didn’t actually know how to do it. But eventually I took a class on mystery writing, and that started me on my way. (And I actually got to meet Barbara Parker a couple of years later. What a thrill.)


R:  Tell us about your mystery short stories.


I’ve been writing short stories for about ten years. They range from cozy to dark, from amateur sleuth to police procedural. A lot of them have involved revenge. I find readers enjoy it when a horrible person gets what he (or she) has coming, and those stories are fun to write. Several of my stories center around teenage girls. Because their judgment isn’t fully formed, they can get into trouble that wouldn’t be believable for adult characters. And a bunch of my stories are set in the South. While I grew up in the Northeast, I sometimes will hear characters’ voices in my head, and they often have a bit of a drawl.


R: You do crime fiction editing.  Which do you prefer, writing or editing?


I can’t pick. When I’m writing, I love it. I get in the zone and hours pass without  notice. But editing is just as enjoyable. I love helping writers achieve their dreams, and I actually love the work. I do developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing. Last year, after my dog Scout died, I found that copy editing really helped distract me. I couldn’t get anything else done for a while, but I could do that.


R: You’ve been nominated twice for an Agatha Award. What was that like?


I’ve actually been nominated seven times for the Agatha Award and twice each for the Anthony Award and the Macavity Award. Last year I won the Macavity for my story “The Lord Is My Shamus.” This past August, I won the Silver Falchion Award for best collection of mystery short stories put out by an author in 2013.


Being nominated the first time (the Agatha Award in 2005) was thrilling. “Murder at Sleuthfest” was the first short story I’d had published, and I knew very few people in the mystery community at that time, so when I heard I was nominated, it was proof that people I didn’t know had read and liked the story. That was truly a wow moment.


Each nomination after that was just as wonderful, and winning the Macavity Award last year was a highlight of my life. My dad died a couple of months after that. He’d always been such a big supporter of my writing, so I’m especially glad I had the chance to share that honor with him.


R: Tell us about your latest release!


“The Shadow Knows” appears in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays. This anthology was published October 7th by Wildside Press. It has mysteries set on holidays throughout the year, including Halloween, Christmas, and Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrr. My Groundhog Day caper story is set in a small Vermont town with its own official groundhog, Moe, who every single year predicts a long winter. Town resident Gus is sick and tired of it, and he realizes that if he’s ever going to enjoy an early spring, he has to get rid of that groundhog.


I have a second story coming out in just a few days. “It’s A Trap!” will appear in The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fourth Meal of Mayhem (Untreed Reads Publishing).This anthology has ten funny Thanksgiving crime stories. In my story, two estranged sisters try to make peace on Thanksgiving. But as you may imagine, things don’t go quite as planned.


R:  Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share?  How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?


I don’t have an agent. My writing focus has been on short stories, and I don’t need an agent to sell them. But I do have a book published—a collection of my stories called Don’t Get Mad, Get Even. It came out last year from Wildside Press. I had been at the closing tea of the Malice Domestic mystery convention in 2012 when editor Carla Coupe from Wildside approached me and said she’d like to talk. I was the convention’s program chair at that time, was exhausted, and thought she wanted to discuss Malice, so I begged off, asking if we could talk later in the week. Imagine my surprise when Carla and I finally touched base and she said that Wildside wanted to publish a collection of my stories. Talk about delayed gratification. I was over the moon.


R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?


I don’t have any specific thing. Sometimes music helps; sometimes I need silence. I went through a period where I listened to the Ally McBeal soundtrack over and over while I wrote. It helped get me in the zone. If I get stuck I sometimes clean my desk. A clean desk helps me feel more organized and in control and somehow helps me think more clearly. Or at least I tell myself that. 


R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?


I would go back to 1937, when my great-grandparents (my mother’s, father’s parents) and several other relatives went on a vacation from their home in Poland across Europe. (I only found out about this trip earlier this year, when my family was contacted by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which had come into possession of a copy of home movies taken during the trip. I’d never even seen photos of my great-grandparents before, so to see them on video was amazing.) My relatives traveled throughout Western Europe on this trip, and if I had the chance, I would tell them to keep going west. To come to America. To not return to Poland. Because every single one of them died in the next few years during the Holocaust. My maternal grandfather, who lived here in the United States, used to talk about how he would get letters from his family back in Poland, and then during the Second World War, those letters stopped coming. None of those people was ever heard from again. If I could change that, I would.


R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?


This was a hard question to answer, so I turned to my friend author Sherry Harris, whom I’ve known about two years, and I asked her what she’d been surprised to learn about me. Her answer: that I’m an introvert. I’m comfortable with public speaking. And I can come across as very outgoing and chatty at times, particularly on Facebook and with certain people, including Sherry. But with many people, I find small talk quite difficult. I love spending time alone, and if there’s a snowstorm that keeps me stuck inside for a week, I’m okay with it (as long as I had enough time to stock up on Chinese food).


R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 


A couple of years ago, my job as an attorney for a Fortune 500 company was eliminated. Instead of looking for a new position in the legal field, I decided to open my own freelance editing business, offering developmental, line, and copy editing services, specializing in crime fiction. Business is good. I’ve been busy. But whether this decision will ultimately turn out to be one of the greatest or craziest things I’ve ever done remains to be seen.


R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

I hope they’ll have a smile or a sigh or a dropped jaw.

Many of my stories are funny, such as the stories I’ve had in each of the four The Killer Wore Cranberry anthologies put out by Untreed Reads Publishing. (How often do you read a crime story involving a food fight? Or a murder at a nude Thanksgiving?)

With other stories, my goal is that they resonate with readers. For instance, I when I wrote my story for an anthology called Nightfalls: Notes from the End of the World (Dark Valentine Press), I knew the editor wanted stories set on the night before the world was going to end. I write crime fiction, so coming up with a plot took some thought. If the world is ending, money won’t matter anymore, so all financial-related crimes were out. Ultimately, I realized that in the end, all a person has is love and self-respect. And revenge, of course. There’s always revenge. I wrapped all three things together and created my story “Bon Appetit,” which I’ve been told by a close friend is one of her two favorite stories of mine.  

The dropped jaw comes in when I create a story with a good twist at the end. “The Worst Noel,” “Ulterior Motives,” and “Dead and Buried Treasure” are just three of my stories in which I try to really surprise the reader at the end.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?

The next story I plan to write will reprise the sheriff and deputy from my story “Suffer the Little Children.” “Suffer” is the only police procedural I’ve written because I’ve always been worried about getting the details right. But I’ve come up with a new idea for a murder that my sheriff, Ellen, can solve using old-fashioned detection, without having to rely on forensics and autopsy results and things of that nature. So that’s what I plan to write next. Fingers crossed the story works and the publisher I send it to buys it.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a plantser. I’m a plotter but at a high level so parts of the story come at the seat of my pants. Before I start writing I need to know who my main characters are and what the gist of the plot is and how it’s going to end. But I don’t need to know every detail of the story. I liken it to a car trip where I know the starting point, the destination, and some of the stops along the way, but I don’t know the entire route before I begin driving.

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?


Three things: First, read, read, read. Read in the genre you want to write. If you want to write a mystery but never read any, you won’t have any idea of the basic rules of the genre. Every genre has them.


Second, write, write, write. Get your butt in your chair and write. It doesn’t matter if your first draft is horrible. Or your second. If you get your story onto paper, you’ll have something to edit. You’ll have something to learn from. You’ll have something tangible, which is so much more than people who merely talk about writing have.


Third: Find a class or a mentor or a critique group or an editor—someone who is not a beginner like you, who can give you helpful, honest criticism about your story, enabling you to understand what works and what doesn’t and to learn how to make it better. Then keep reading, keep writing, keep editing, and persevere!


Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Sorry, but I have to say dog. My dogs Jingle and Scout (who died last year) are my everything.

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?   Steak

Favorite Drink?  Coke

Favorite Book?   Bearing Witness by Michael Kahn.

Favorite TV Series?  Big Bang Theory or Project Runway.

Favorite Movie?  Very hard to choose. Today I’ll go with Music and Lyrics.

Favorite Actor: Sorry, can’t pick one.

Favorite Actress: Ditto.

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Coke. I rarely drink alcohol. I’d rather get my calories elsewhere.

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be my fathers’ parents. They’ve always sounded wonderful.

If I had just one wish, it would be to have unlimited money so I wouldn’t have to worry about things anymore and could hire people to do the things I don’t want to do.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Heidi Klum, but only for a day. I’d like to know what it’s like to be hot. And tall.



Thanks for a great interview!  Here’s all the places you can find Barb!

Facebook – Please send a message along with a friend request letting me know you read this blog. I’m careful with acceptances, trying to avoid scammers.


Barb will give away one copy of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays. US residents only, please. To enter leave a comment below. Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Contest closes October 16 at midnight.

For extra entries you can:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/

* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)


Friday, October 10, 2014

ROCCO's weekend guest....LEIGH PERRY!

Meow! My guest today is author Leigh Perry!

 Leigh Perry is Toni L.P. Kelner in disguise, or maybe vice versa. As Leigh, she writes the Family Skeleton mysteries, including the recently released The Skeleton Takes a Bow. As Toni, she’s the co-editor of New York Times best-selling anthologies with Charlaine Harris. Their most recent is Games Creatures Play. She’s also the author of the “Where Are They Now?” mysteries and the Laura Fleming series (all available as e-books and audiobooks), and an Agatha Award winner for short fiction. Leigh/Toni lives just north of Boston with her husband and fellow author Stephen P. Kelner, Jr., their two daughters, and two guinea pigs.

R: Welcome, Leigh! Tell us a little about your background

L: I’m pretty boring, really. I grew up in northern Florida and North Carolina. I’m the youngest of four daughters. My degree is in English, and I worked as a technical writer for about a decade before quitting to be a fulltime mystery writer and fulltime stay-at-home mother. (Yes, that’s two fulltime jobs. Aren’t all parents in the same boat?)

As for my writing background, I’m kind of a split personality. Though The Skeleton Takes a Bow is only my second novel as Leigh Perry, I’ve been publishing mysteries as Toni L.P. Kelner since 1993. As Toni, I wrote eleven novels in two series plus a couple of dozen short stories, and co-edited seven anthologies with Charlaine Harris.

So I’m both a newbie and a old timer.

R: Tell us about the “Family Skeleton” series! It’s a hoot! Where did that idea come from?

L: Well, I was toying with the idea of a paranormal mystery series about ten years ago. Vampires were pretty much covered by my pal Charlaine and her Sookie Stackhouse books, and my pal Dana Cameron was doing a great job with werewolves in her Fangborn series. So I was trying to think of a supernatural denizen who wasn’t already being done well by somebody else. Others had done witches, genies, ghosts, angels, demons, druids, wizards… All that was left was skeletons.

R: What’s the plot of the latest “Skeleton’ novel?

L: First off, in case you haven’t read the first book or the back of this one, I should warn you that Sid the Family Skeleton is an actual walking, talking skeleton. He lives with his best friend Georgia, an adjunct English professor and single mother, and Georgia’s daughter Madison.

In The Skeleton Takes a Bow, he’s playing the role of Yorkick in Madison’s high school production of Hamlet, and when he’s accidentally left backstage overnight, witnesses a murder. He can’t exactly go to the police, and there’s no body found anyway, so he and Georgia have to find the killer themselves.

That’s the bare bones of the story, anyway. (See what I did there? Har!)

R: I get the idea Halloween might be a favorite holiday of yours.  What is and why?

L: I do love Halloween, though it has become a perilous time for me since I started writing Sid books. I cannot be allowed in a store alone in September or October, or I come home with more skeleton stuff. Last week I went to Target and bought a motion-activated wisecracking skeleton-in-a-coffin, Bone Appetite dish towels, a plastic cat skeleton, and a M&M fan thing I can’t even describe but which has a clear skeletal theme. Grocery store? Cheeto’s Bag of Bones and Halloween Oreos because one Oreo in five has a skull on it. Even the pet store has bone-themed items!

R: How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

L: Normally I kind of assemble pieces in my head until I know enough about the character that I can hear him or her in my head. (Ironic, since my actual hearing is dreadful.) Sometimes I have to start over, most often when the character isn’t interesting to me. I don’t do well with earnest people, for instance. I’m better with wiseacres.

Now, Sid broke that pattern. As soon as I got the idea for him, the voice and character were there, ready to go. Well, he is still a wiseacre.

R: How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

L: Definitely a pantser. I have outlined, but when I do, I get really bored with the actual writing and feel constrained. Now I just zoom off in wild directions. Not all plot directions work, but that’s what the editing process is for, to make it seem as if I always knew exactly what I was doing.

R: Which do you consider more important, plot or character?

L: Character, without a doubt. Think of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Do you remember the majority of the plots of their stories? Do you even remember the solutions to the crimes? Nope, what we love and come back to are the characters.

R: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

L: Having my first series end was sad, but I was really ready to move on just at the time the publisher was ready to no longer publish those books. So I started working on a new series, and that’s where I really had a hard time. It took forever to sell. The motivating part was knowing that I enjoyed writing better than anything else I’d ever done, and having a great support system of friends and husband.

The second challenge was having the second series cancelled? That hurt. A lot. I’d thought I was selling decently, but the numbers enough for the publisher to keep it going. But the payoff for that was my editor still believing in me. She bought the Sid books, and I’m having so much fun.

I figure if I made it through those two bad spells, I can make it through more.

R: What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

L: I’ve got one more Family Skeleton book under contract, and I’m working on it, but don’t want to say too much about it yet. And I’m hoping I’ll get a contract for more after that.

Otherwise, I’ve got a story coming out in a horror anthology, which was a first for me. I don’t know the publication date, but the book is Seize the Night, edited by Christopher Golden.

R: What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

L:That’s actually hard to answer. I’m always at the computer, either working or playing or doing email or researching. I don’t set hourly goals, but word count goals. When I’m working on a first draft, I try for 1,000 to 2,000 words a day—fewer at first as I’m getting going on a project, more as I get things moving and my deadline looms.

R: If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?

L: The Lord of the Rings, which is three books in one. The Annotated Sandman, because it’s huge and so heavy that I haven’t finished it yet. Pride and Prejudice, so I can imagine Mr. Darcy coming out of the surf.

R: What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

L: Read! Read in your genre, read other genres, read good stuff, read bad stuff, read fun stuff. The more words you absorb, the more sentence structure and plotting you internalize, the more you’ll be able to concentrate on the things that you bring to the table.

R: What question do you wish interviewers (like moi)  would ask? (And what’s the answer?)

L: What’s your bucket list of career goals?

I would love to be nominated for an Edgar—wining would be great, but just a nomination would be a joy to my heart. I want to be a GoH at Malice Domestic some day, and Bouchercon, too. Because I’m just that greedy. I want to hit the New York Times bestseller list with a novel. (I hit it with an anthology, but remember the greed part?) I would love to have a piece made into a movie or TV show that would involve me going to a red carpet opening.

But most important: to keep on being published. Awards, movies, bestsellers lists—all are gravy, and there will always be other authors who win more, become more famous, sell more books. That’s not winning the game. Winning the game is being able to keep on writing and keep on being published. 

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?
Night! I’m definitely a night owl.

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)
Both. I have a skeletal dog named Femur and my new skeletal cat, Patty (short for Patella). In terms of live animals, I have joint responsibility for two guinea pigs: Spot and Clara.

Beach or Pool?
Both, if at all possible. But if I had to choose, the magic at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. It’s got this magic sand that doesn’t creep into your bathing suit, and is close to a great ice cream place. Best of both worlds!

Steak or salad?

Favorite Drink? 

If you’re talking booze, frozen strawberry daiquiri. But for every day, Diet Dr. Pepper.

Favorite Book? 

As if I could pick just one! Um… Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers.

Favorite TV Series? 

Another toughie. Classic? Buffy the Vampire Slayer Current? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan.

Favorite Movie?

Argh! You’re killing me! Dirty Dancing and The Avengers.

Favorite Actor:

Benedict Cumberbatch

Favorite Actress:

Catherine Tate

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?

I’ve never had either, but I am partial to drinks one can put umbrellas in, so I’ll go with the Pina Colada.

Hawaii or Alaska?

I’ve seen Alaska, which is glorious, so I’ll pick Hawaii so I can compare.

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be ___________________

Joss Whedon!

If I had just one wish, it would be_________________________________________

That I could find a method of weight loss/exercise that I actually enjoy.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be _______

Nobody, actually. I’m very content.

Thanks for a great interview, Leigh!

Folks, here’s where you can find Leigh/Toni:

Facebook: Leigh Perry Author and Toni L.P. Kelner Author

Twitter: ToniLPKelner and Family_Skeleton.

And now for the giveaway!

One lucky commenter will get to pick either a paperback of A Skeleton in the Family or The Skeleton Takes a Bow, or an Audible Audio download of either. You might get a skeletal item, too, because I have too many around the house.

Leave your name and email address in the comments section below.  For extra entries, you can:

Friend Toni or the Human on FB

Follow moi on Twitter @RoccoBlogger

Tweet or post on FB about this contest!

Winner will be chosen by random.org!