Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Welcome Ann Cerino and Carmella the Cat!

Ann Cerino is the author and self-publisher of the Carmella The Cat book series. A lifelong lover of animals, Ann always had cats in her life, even as a young child when her grandfather, who worked on the railroad would bring stray kittens home for her to take care of. Even then, Ann knew that taking care of animals was a big responsibility and that there were so many homeless animals, young and old, who needed forever homes. As an adult, she adopted as many as she could over the years, and she wanted to do more but she didn’t know what, until one day….

Ann had recently put one of her own cats to sleep due to an illness when her vet had let her hold a homeless, orange and white kitten that had come into the office. This little kitten had been found a few days earlier in a drainage ditch and was the only survivor of her siblings. She was sick and afraid, and Ann was looking to fill a space in her heart that was left so open and hurt, that when her vet put this tiny kitten in Ann’s arms, Ann immediately knew it was meant to be. Ann brought Carmella home where a bond was born, and a book series was being written!

Prior to writing the Carmella The Cat books, Ann spent 42 years in retail management. She began her career as a Manager at the junior clothing store Foxmoor and recently retired as the Assistant Manager from David’s Bridal in Allentown, PA.

Through her work helping brides create their perfect wedding days by telling their personal stories through picking out their gowns, bridesmaid dresses, and accessories, Ann feels that a similar technique has helped her creative writing process as well, to help her tell Carmella’s stories.

As a storyteller, especially to children, Ann believes that “you can learn while you have fun”. While she may have been a “numbers” person in high school and in her previous career, she finds that writing relaxes her and helps her break down concepts to talk about them to different audiences, including children.

Ann’s hobbies include gardening, painting and stenciling, cooking (especially Italian food!), and reading, including the supernatural. She also loves to travel and has been to England, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France.

Ann graduated Allentown Business College for Retail Merchandising and Buying in Allentown, PA. In addition, she took several creative writing classes through Lehigh County Community College in preparation to write the Carmella The Cat series. Ann continues to live in Allentown, PA with Carmella and a few other frisky kitties.

 Carmella The Cat, the first book in the series, was launched in December 2013. Carmella The Cat Goes Fishing was launched in May 2015. Additional books in the series will be launched in 2016 and beyond. The books can be found on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and CarmellaTheCat.com for $12.95.
And now I interview Ann and Carmella!

How did you arrive at the concept for your book?

The "Carmella Concept" was born at my family reunion. My cousin and I
were bantering back and forth about the name of my new kitten. She said,
"Carmella the Cat"? And I remarked back, "Yes! A good name for a children's
book, right"? On my way home I gave it more thought and decided to run with it!
Did you hit any hurdles on your road to publication?

The publication actually went very smoothly. I self published through Outskirts
Press. We had an hour phone orientation and they walked us through every step.
They were very helpful and great to work with.
Do you do any volunteer work at shelters?

  I do not volunteer at any specific shelters. I donate through my vet and do rescue
and placement on my own as needed.

If you want to adopt a cat, and I do recommend adoption over buying, first spend
some time with friends that have them. I also suggest adopting an older cat that is
done with it's crazy kitten stage! And always adopt in pairs so they have company!

 Hello, Carmella!
How do you like your Mom, and do you feel she portrayed your story accurately?

 I love my Mom even when she drives me crazy with all her kisses. We have a special bond.
She adores me and I am fine with that.

Mom did a great job portraying my story. Because it is a children's book, she changed the
very beginning and didn't include the fact that all my litter mates drowned and that I
was near death and resuscitated by The Cat Doctor. She described me as a half drowned
wet noodle.
What's the best thing about living with your Mom?

  The best thing about living here is I am the Queen and in charge of my fursisters and
furbrothers. My nickname is Gorgeous Girl and I get lots of attention.
What's the worst thing?
 The worst thing is when Mom tries to comb me. I hate that and I growl.
Describe a typical day in your life.

  My typical day is getting petted first thing in the morning. Then we head downstairs
for breakfast. Mom always keeps a little extra on the side for when I need a snack
later. Then I do some grooming and lay on my Cat's Meow toy. I usually hang out with
Mom for a while and then nap. After supper we play with the laser and my peacock feather.
Then more naps. We also get Party Mix treats before bed.
Thanks Girls. Do you have any parting words for our readers?

To all cats waiting for their forever homes: Keep purring and you will find a great Mom, too!


Ann and Carmella

Visit www.carmellathecat.com to learn more about them!

Ann and Carmella have donated copies of both books to be given to one lucky reader!  Just leave a comment below with your email address!  the winner will be chosen via random.org. Contest ends midnight, July 31!   

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ma-Row! Welcome Author Heather Blake!

Meow! Today my guest is author Heather Blake (aka Webber)

Heather Blake (who also writes as Heather Webber) is the author of more than twenty novels and has been twice nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel. She's a total homebody who loves being close to her family, reading, watching cooking competition TV shows, drinking too much coffee, crocheting, and baking. Heather grew up in a suburb of Boston, but currently she lives in the Cincinnati area.

  • Welcome Heather! Tell us a little about your background

I grew up wanting to be a medical examiner like the character on one of my favorite TV shows, Quincy M.E. That didn’t quite pan out, so I transferred my love of mysteries to writing. My first book was published in 2002 (writing as Heather Webber), and I’ve been writing ever since. My 24th book will be out in October. I’m married to my high school sweetheart, and we have three kids, a daughter-in-law, and a new grandbaby, who melts my heart.

  • Tell us about your latest release, SOME LIKE IT WITCHY.

In Some Like It Witchy, witch Darcy Merriweather finds that her ability to grant wishes isn’t helping all that much in figuring out who killed a local real estate agent. The idea for the story came to me as my husband and I house-hunted a couple of years ago. You just never know what you’ll find when poking around other people’s houses.

  • You also write the “Magic Potion” series. Tell us how that came about.

What’s better than one witchy series? Two! Seriously, though, more than a decade ago I came across a Native American natural medicine book at a roadside attraction in Georgia. It “spoke” to me, and I bought it, knowing someday I’d use the subject of herbal remedies in a book. Fast forward to 2011. I’d just turned in book two of the Wish series (a series that hadn’t even debuted at that point), and was having a typical writer panic moment of what if the Wish series fails? So, I decided to come up with a back-up proposal and happened across that book I’d bought so long ago. The idea for a healing witch took shape and wouldn’t let go. Fortunately my editor believed enough in me to take on the series as well.

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

I truly don’t have a good answer to this one. I somehow just know who they are, but occasionally I do borrow characteristics from people around me.

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

I do a bit of both. I use a story arc graphic to plot the main story and subplots, then wing the writing for the first half of the book. Once I reach the middle of the story, I outline chapters to the end.

  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?


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

Change is difficult for me, and having been with five publishers during my career has definitely been challenging—but never dull. The readers are definitely who keep me inspired and motivated.

  • Do you have a “How I got my agent” story you want to share?

I’ve been with my agency for more than twelve years now, but getting there wasn’t easy. I have a whole file folder of rejection letters that can attest to that. I’ll occasionally leaf through the old letters (it was only snail mail queries back in those days) and am amazed that I didn’t give up. And that’s what this business is all about. Not giving up.

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

I just finished the third book in the Potion series, and am working on the sixth Wish book. After this, I’m not sure…maybe a vacation.

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

I’m not a very structured writer. I tend to write when the mood strikes. Or when a deadline is looming. I almost always write in the morning and early afternoon. Writing is definitely a full-time job. Two, really, if one counts promotion time (and I do!).

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

Definitely a thesaurus, a dictionary, and probably a Janet Evanovich or Lisa Lutz book (don’t make me choose!).

  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

Two bits of advice: Do not give up & study the craft of writing.

  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

This is a very open-ended question, isn’t it? J In terms of writing…believing I could write a book without any kind of formal training.

  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

Being a writer of witches, everyone thinks I love Halloween. It’s actually my least favorite holiday. Shocking, I know. I am, however, fascinated by Samhain.

  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)

Q: Who most influenced me to become a writer? A: My husband planted the seed and he has been with my every step of the way helping my dream grow.

  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?

My websites are the best places. www.heatherblakebooks.com and  www.heatherwebber.com

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?  Salad

Favorite Drink?  Tossup between coffee and Dr Pepper

Favorite Book?  Oh, tough one. I just can’t choose.

Favorite TV Series?  Gilmore Girls

Favorite Movie?  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Favorite Actor: Don’t have one

Favorite Actress: Don’t have one of these either

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? I don’t drink alcohol, but I’d say pina colada because I love coconut

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be  Hmm. I’ll go with Jane Austen.

If I had just one wish, it would be for my kids to always be happy and healthy

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be no one. I love my life.

List all the places readers can find you

On Facebook:

On Twitter:

Heather’s giveaway!

Pepe, the mouse familiar in the Wishcraft series, is a master tailor who wholeheartedly approves of his likeness (he has a bit of an ego) on this sewing kit. The kit is up for grabs 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 random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck!

Friday, July 17, 2015

It's Auction Time...Support Kids Need to Read!

It's Auction Time...Support Kids Need To Read!
ROCCO here!

It's that time of year again, when the Human and I hold our auction to raise funds for a very worthwhile charity:  KIDS NEED TO READ.

Kids Need to Read was co-founded by Denise Gary, PJ Haarsma and Nathan Fillion as a way of getting books into kids in underfunded areas who might not otherwise have a chance to get books to read.  The program promotes literacy, and since the Human is an author, this is a cause she's 100% behind!

You can find out more about the charity HERE:
This year, we are auctioning off a beautiful CASTLE canvas tote bag jam packed with cozy  mysteries, many of them autographed by your favorite authors (even the HUMAN!!!)
Here's a listing of the goodies:
For Auction:
 A CASTLE tote bag filled to the brim with graphic novels from televison’s favorite writer/detective, Richard Castle, plus a selection of cozy mysteries, many autographed by your favorite authors!  The proceeds from this auction benefit the charity co-founded by Nathan Fillion, KIDS NEED TO READ, one hundred percent!  Your donation is also tax-deductible!  The winner will receive:
Bag’s contents:
Graphic Novels by Richard Castle
A Calm before the Storm
Storm Season
Deadly Storm
Hardcover Books:
Ghost Wanted by Carolyn Hart – autographed
Sense of Deception – Victoria Laurie – NOT autographed
Autographed Paperbacks:
The Diva Frosts a Cupcake – Krista Davis
Icing on the Corpse – Liz Mugavero
Death at the Door – Carolyn Hart
Ghost Gone Wild – Carolyn Hart
Literally Murder – Ali Brandon (with swag items!)
Meow if it’s Murder – T. C. Lotempio
Nightmares can be Murder – Mary Kennedy
Plus:  An AUDIO edition of MEOW IF IT’S MURDER AND…A $50 Amazon Gift Card!
Total retail value of prize:  $300.00
We will pay all shipping costs in the contiguous United States; however, if the winner is located in Hawaii, Alaska, Canada or abroad, the winner will be responsible for the shipping charges.  In that instance we will notify you of how much to send.  No returns or refunds.  Thank you in advance for bidding and helping this great charity!
View the auction at this Link: http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/131559104838?
The auction runs through July 27. Please come out and show your support for this great charity, Merow!

Next week we welcome author Heather Blake to the blog!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

We welcome author Edith Maxwell!

My guest this weekend….Edith Maxwell!


As a former organic farmer Edith knows the language and tensions of someone like Cam Flaherty, the farmer in the Local Foods mysteries. Edith lived in southern Indiana for five years and loved the slow pace and language of its natives, so it made sense to set the Country Store Mysteries there. She taught independent childbirth classes and worked as a doula for some years, giving her insight into the life of an historical midwife as portrayed in the Quaker Midwife Mysteries.

Currently residing in Amesbury, Massachusetts, she is originally a fourth-generation Californian. She has two grown sons, and lives in an antique house with her beau, their three cats, and several fine specimens of garden statuary


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


First, thanks so much for having me over, and for these great interview questions. I’m a fourth-generation Californian transplanted to Massachusetts. I’m the mom of two fabulous adult sons, the partner of a very nice man who doesn’t read fiction, and the human to three great felines. I had quite a few careers behind me (and another couple in front of me) when I decided that I loved to read cozy mysteries so much, I might as well write one. It took 17 more years to have my first book published, but I kept writing and learning in the meantime.


R: Tell us about your Local Foods mystery series and  how that came about. Are you a fan of organic foods?

I used to be an organic farmer (see one of the questions below) and I wrote an unfinished draft of the first book in the series, A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE, long ago. So it was a natural to come back to it and make it into a series. I think growing organically is the only way to go for the health of both the earth and the creatures who live on it – including us.


R: Tell us about your latest release, FARMED AND DANGEROUS.

Snow is piling up in Westbury, Massachusetts. Unfortunately murder seems to be the crop in season. Supplying fresh ingredients for a dinner at an assisted living facility seems like the least of farmer Cam Flaherty’s worries—until one of the elderly residents dies after eating some of her produce. As the suspects gather, a blizzard buries the scene of the crime under a blanket of snow, leaving Cam stranded in the dark with a killer who gives new meaning to the phrase “dead of winter.”


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?

My agent came to our local Sisters in Crime chapter looking for authors to work on cozy mystery proposals with. I wrote him a query letter, he called me, we developed the Local Foods proposal, and it sold to Kensington within a week. I was ecstatic!


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

If I’m at all stuck, I go for a long “plotting” walk with my phone in my back pocket. I start asking myself questions, and the way forward always becomes more clear. I pull up a notes app and dictate my ideas in to my phone, and by the time I get home I’ve not only had my exercise, I know the next few scenes in the book.


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

Since the Quaker Midwife Mysteries are set in 1888 in my town, I would love to go back there and really absorb how people talked and acted. The Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier lived a few blocks away from my house (where my midwife protagonist and her family live) and he’s a secondary character in the series. I’d love to have met him in person, too.



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

I hold a long-dusty black belt in karate!


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

Oh, dear, do we really want to go there? When I was a child walking home from school, one day I lay down in the road, figuring that a car’s wheels would just pass on either side of me. Luckily it was a quiet street and I got bored waiting!


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

I hope readers will find themselves taken out of their world and be plopped in that of my characters. The story will be compelling enough they won’t want to put the book down. And when they finish the book they will feel justice has been served and all is right with the fictional world again.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I very much write into the headlights. I usually know my end destination, but do not have a map for how to get there.

R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

No party tricks! I mostly garden, drink wine, and read cozy mysteries. I sew on occasion.

R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

My web site, www.edithmaxwell.com, has information about all my series and my short fiction, too. In addition to the Local Foods Mysteries and the Quaker Midwife mysteries, I write the Country Store Mysteries as  Maddie Day, and the Lauren Rousseau mysteries as Lauren Rousseau, as well as short crime fiction. One of my stories, “Just Desserts for Johnny,” was nominated for an Agatha Award this year!

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?


Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. You can’t polish what you haven’t written. Just keep writing – the story will emerge.


R: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?


Before I became a full-time fiction writer two years ago, I had careers as:

ñ Technical writer

ñ Organic farmer

ñ Childbirth educator

ñ Free-lance editor

ñ Speech recognition researcher

ñ College teacher

ñ English teacher in Japan

ñ Auto mechanic

Pick one!

Below: Ediths muses, her cats, Birdy and Preston!


Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day, specifially morning

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat times three!

Beach or Pool?   Beach whenever possible

Steak or salad?  Salad, local homegrown organic by preference

Favorite Drink?  Red wine

Favorite Book?  Oh, no...

Favorite TV Series?  Call the Midwife

Favorite Movie?  Dr. Zhivago

Favorite Actor: Paul Newman (yeah, I know I’m dating myself...)

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Martini with olives. I don’t know what dirty means, but you can pretty much just pass the Vermouth cap over the glass.

Hawaii or Alaska? Wow. I’ve never been to Alaska, but would love to bask in Hawaii for a while.

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Michelle Obama. I admire that woman very much for so many reasons. I sent her one of my Local Foods mysteries, but I doubt she read it.

If I had just one wish, it would befor my sons to stay healthy, have long lives, and get cracking giving me some grandkids.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be ...me! I’m so blessed and lucky, I really don’t want to be anybody else.
Thank you for a great interview, Edith! Follks, you can find her at:


http://www.killercharacters.com/ on the third of each month

Pinterest and occasionally Instagram, too.


Edith will give away a copy of Farmed and Dangerous 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: 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)


Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, July 12!