Sunday, November 11, 2018

Guest Poster - Sharon Farrow!

Lights . . . Camera . . . Action:
Casting the Berry Basket Mysteries
Sharon Farrow

Although I always describe the physical appearances of my characters in the Berry Basket books, readers still ask for more details about Marlee, her baker Theo, or the imperious Piper. To give a better insight into how I view the inhabitants of my fictional village, I’ve decided to play casting director and hire the appropriate actors for an imaginary TV series based upon the mysteries.

Of course the star of the show is Marlee Jacob, the 30-year-old owner of The Berry Basket shop in Oriole Point, Michigan. I always describe her as a pretty brunette, but in KILLED ON BLUEBERRY HILL I expand on that. Marlee’s aunt claims her niece looks just like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality– but after her beauty makeover. Aunt Vicki adds that Marlee also resembles England’s future Queen Mum, Kate Middleton. Especially since both Kate and Marlee have beautiful manes of dark hair. Sandra and the Duchess of Cambridge serve as apt models for Marlee, who is attractive, but not dripping with red carpet glamour.

The Berry Basket character who does glam best is Marlee’s friend, Natasha. The former Russian beauty queen oozes enough glamour to qualify as a Hollywood pin-up girl. Or a Kardashian. With her killer figure, mass of wavy brown hair, and form fitting wardrobe, Natasha is the spitting image of Brazilian super-model Adriana Lima. She even speaks with an accent, albeit a Russian one.

Two men vie for Marlee’s romantic interest: her fiancĂ© Ryan Zellar and a detective for the sheriff’s department called Atticus ‘Kit’ Holt. Since I’m a huge fan of Pitch Perfect, I see Kit as a slightly older version of the actor Skylar Astin, who played Anna Kendrick’s love interest in the film. Kit has his warm brown eyes, wide smile, and thick dark hair. Ryan was even easier to cast. When he first appears in the debut book, Marlee mentions how ironic  that Ryan not only resembles  Ryan Gosling, but also has the same first name. Ryan Zellar is lanky, sandy haired, blue eyed and irresistible to women. In fact, he may be a little too irresistible.

Marlee’s best friend Tess Nakamura sports a short, asymmetrical haircut and a level leaded demeanor. Although Tess is Japanese American, I envision her as the Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, who first came to fame in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And the spiked blond hair and blue eyes of her longtime romantic partner, David Reese, bring to mind a less edgy, younger Billy Idol.

As for the employees of The Berry Basket, Gillian Kaminski’s long blonde hair and earnest expression reminds me of an adult Alice in Wonderland; the only difference is that Gillian wears wire-rim glasses. I always think of actress Mia Wasikowska whenever I write a scene featuring Gillian. The Berry Basket baker, Theo Foster, has boyish looks that make him appear younger than his thirty-seven years. And his wide-eyed probing gaze, cropped hair, and serious – sometimes quizzical – expression, can only belong to the star of Mr. Robot, Rami Malek.

Andrew and Dean, the irrepressible Cabot brothers, are tall, auburn haired, and handsome. One of the reasons I named the younger Cabot brother ‘Andrew’ is due to his resemblance to Andrew Garfield. Although I suspect my Andrew is far more fashion obsessed and gossipy than the actor.
Dean, the elder brother, resembles Justin Timberlake. Only he doesn’t sing or dance anywhere near as well as Justin does.

I mustn’t forget about Oriole Point’s power couple, Mayor Lionel Pierce and his wife Piper Lyall-Pierce, who were easy to cast. Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson served as my model for Lionel, with his deep rumbling voice, imposing presence, and quiet authority.
Elegant, blond, blue-eyed Piper could only be played by Cate Blanchett, particularly in one of her haughtier roles.

Some Berry Basket characters are based on people in my own life. Old Man Bowman was inspired by a resident in my lakeshore village. As far as I know, this older gentleman doesn’t hunt Bigfoot, but his white hair pulled back in a skinny braid and daily wardrobe of cargo shorts and sandals make him a mirror image of my character. The eponymous owner of Coffee by Crystal looks like one of my closest friends. Several less appealing murder suspects have also been based on people I know. But I keep their real identities a secret. Some of them are relatives and I see no reason to spark a family feud. Not with the holidays on the horizon.

So if Hollywood ever decides to adapt my Berry Basket series, I am ready with recommendations for all the roles. Along with suggestions for wardrobe, sets, and music. And with a little cajoling, I might even be willing to direct.

Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award winning author Sharon Pisacreta. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Sharon has been a freelance writer since her twenties, with her first novel released in 1998. Published in mystery, fantasy, and romance, Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries.


To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

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Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only please!  Contest ends midnight, November 15. Good luck!

Monday, November 5, 2018



Today I am interviewing Brandon and Ophelia, the real stars of Diane A.S. Stuckart's new series, The Tarot Cats!

Welcome Brandon and Ophelia! Tell us a bit about yourselves.

               Hi ROCCO. We are brother and sister felines almost two years old. We’re the coolest kind of cats because we’re all black (well, okay, we have a couple of white furs on our stomachs). We used to live in a place called Palm Beach but when our first human mom went to the People’s Bridge, her bad son abandoned us on the street. But a very fine human name Ruby found us and became our new mom.

How do you adjust to living with a pit bull? What do  you like/dislike about the breed?
               It was pretty scary for me, Ophelia, because the first time I saw Zuki she had her face stuck in that box I was lying in when Ruby found me. She has such a big mouth I thought she was going to eat me! But once I got to know her, I found out she’s almost as clever as a cat, and very nice, too. Though she can be tough if she needs to be. She’s not afraid of street dogs at all!

Tell us about your owner, Ruby.  How did that relationship come about?
               Ruby found me, Ophelia, in that awful box and brought me to the shelter place. But she didn’t leave me…she came back and took me home with her when the shelter people said it was okay. I think she needed someone to help her with reading Tarot because she’s not that good at it. You’ll have to read the book to find out how Brandon met her, Meow Out Loud!

What do you like best about Ruby? Least?
               This is Brandon. I think Ruby is really nice for a human. She gives us treats when we ask and even lets us sleep on her bed. I can’t think of anything bad to say about her. Except maybe she should give us more treats.

Ophelia, tell us a bit about your expertise with Tarot Cards. How did you discover you had the gift?
               Well, unless you’re human, it’s not like you have to be particularly clever to read the cards. They’re just a lot of pictures of people and animals doing things. I watch Ruby when she tells people about the cards she puts on the table, and I listen to what she says the cards mean. Ruby keeps forgetting that sometimes you need to pull extra cards if the ones on the table don’t have good pictures. So that’s what I do for her when she’s not looking. She doesn’t mind because it makes her look smart in front of her clients.

Tell us about your latest adventure, Fool’s Moon!
               That was a very exciting story! It’s set in the Botanica – you humans might call it a New Age store – where people come in all day long to buy statues and incense and herbs and crystals. And get their Tarot cards read, too! In this book, we had to solve many mysteries – what really happened to our first human mom who died, where Brandon disappeared to when he escaped the box, and what happened to our other human friend who had something bad happen. And we met some new humans, too…especially this one man named Luis. He and Ruby don’t like each other a whole lot, but we’re not sure why.
But about solving mysteries…we can’t tell you all the details, but Zuki was a very big help. She showed us how to sneak out of the yard and go searching for clues, and how to escape bad street dogs who want to fight. Oh, and we didn’t mention Philomena. She is a koi – a VERY big and old fish, though she lives in a very small pond in our courtyard. We think the pond goes all the way underground to the ocean, but we’re not sure. She knows how to tell the future. That would be useful, except she does dumb fish stuff like talking in rhyme all the time, so we’re never sure what she means. But she always turns out to be right! Ruby helped a little, too, even though humans aren’t really good at solving puzzles.

What do you think of Diane A.S. Stuckart’s portrayal of you?  Is she accurate?
               We think she is a clever writer, and the people who review books agree. But I (Ophelia) will tell you a secret. The real life Brandon is much brattier than Brandon in the book. And I’m the only one who helps with the writing. Brandon is usually lounging on his cat tower while Diane and I are at the computer. She would never finish a book if I weren’t there to supervise.

What would you like to say to our readers?
               We really hope you like our book so that Diane can write more of them. And if you read her previous stories about Hamlet the cat who starred in the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries, we think you’ll like our story. Hamlet hangs out with us on our Facebook page: and he taught us how to be good cat detectives.


DIANE A.S. STUCKART is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series (written as Ali Brandon). She’s also the author of the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries, as well as several historical romances and numerous mystery, fantasy, and romance short stories. The first book in her new Tarot Cats cozy mystery series is FOOL’S MOON, on the shelves from Midnight Ink in early November 2018.

Diane is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served as the 2018 Chapter President of the MWA Florida chapter. In addition to her mystery writing affiliations, she’s a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and belongs to the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association. She’s a native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, but has been living in the West Palm Beach FL area for the past dozen or so years. She shares her “almost in the Everglades” home with her husband, dogs, cats, and a few beehives.
Photo credit James Eisele


Diane, Brandon and Ophelia will give away a signed copy of FOOL'S MOON to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only please. Contest ends midnight, November 10.  Good luck!