Friday, November 30, 2018

ROCCO's guest....Laura Childs!

A Guest Blog with Laura Childs, New York Times
bestselling cozy writer and author of EGGS ON ICE,
a Cackleberry Club Mystery.

Thank you so much, ROCCO, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. Though there are no cats with starring roles in Eggs on Ice, I do have a couple of dogs. (I think you’re okay with that, because Baxter and Scruff are rather sweet canines.) And then there’s Mocha Gent the horse and Grommet the mule.

While these critters aren’t exactly crime-fighters, they do reflect greatly on my main character Suzanne’s true nature. A rescue dog like Scruff speaks volumes to Suzanne’s kindness and compassion. An older dog like Baxter, who’s been with Suzanne all his life, shows her loyalty and understanding.

Whenever Suzanne and her Cackleberry Club friends are in trouble, these creatures are there to provide a soft, furry coat to cry on or offer up a brave understanding of their struggles. Baxter and Scruff’s actions sometimes even mirror Suzanne’s turmoil and their companionable silence often results in Suzanne reaching a conclusion and taking decisive action.

In this regard, Baxter and Scruff are extremely helpful when the Kindred Players hold their first dress rehearsal for A Christmas Carol. A strange ghost wafts onstage and murders the star of the show. Shocked from her perch in the wings, Suzanne chases this spooky specter through the shadowy backstage of the theatre, but loses him when he escapes into a snowstorm. Feeling angry and threatened, Suzanne returns home to where her dogs lend their silent comfort and she ultimately decides to run her own shadow investigation. From there she attempts to juggle a multitude of suspects that include the mayor of small town Kindred, a strange visiting minister, a former female employee of the victim, and the play’s director.

When things go from bad to worse, Suzanne pays a visit to Mocha and Grommet where she does some quiet reflection in the solitude and safety of their old red barn. Feeling renewed, Suzanne goes on to deal with holiday tea parties, a second murder, a devastating fire, and a terrifying car crash.

Besides sympathetic animal characters, Eggs on Ice also offers plenty of outrageous humor, cozy moments, and recipes that include Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Pork, Elvis French Toast, Pumpkin Breakfast Casserole, and Church Basement Funeral Bars.

Eggs on Ice is one of the most exciting, heartwarming, and personally enthralling books that I’ve ever written. And I’m equally delighted that every single chapter features a scary, shivery scene, outrageous humor, and delicious food descriptions. Best of all, there’s no filler, it’s all thriller, and a delightful pre-Holiday read!



Church Basement Funeral Bars,
a bonus recipe from Eggs on Ice

1/3 cup melted butter
1 ½ cups graham crackers, crushed
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup dates, cut up
1 cup candied cherries, cut up
1 cup candied pineapple, cut up
1 cup pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In bowl, combine melted butter with the graham cracker crumbs. Pat crumb mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan. Then press each ingredient, in a single layer, on top of the crumbs, starting with the coconut flakes. Then press on the dates, then cherries, then pineapple, then pecans. Cover the entire dessert with the sweetened condensed milk. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Yields 15 to 18 bars.


Laura Childs is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of the Scrapbooking Mysteries, Tea Shop Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Recently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.


Laura will give away an autographed copy of EGGS ON ICE 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)
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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, December 6. Good luck!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Murder he Wrote.....a look at the new face of Jessica Fletcher, courtesy of Jon Land


Any dyed in the wool cozy fan is most likely a devotee of the old television series, MURDER SHE WROTE, starring Angela Lansbury as America's favorite English teacher turned sleuth, Jessica Fletcher, and the HUMAN and I are no exception!  Below is our take on the latest in this tried and true cozy series, MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, and then as a special surprise, we have the new co-author, Jon Land, give us his take on reinventing Jessica for the 21st century.

Penguin/Random House
Jessica Fletcher/Jon Land

Jon Land, taking over the co-author mantle from Donald Bain, has managed to take Jessica into the 21st century with his fresh take on this tried and true series!

This time out, Jessica gets involved in espionage when her publisher is found dead under what she considers suspicious circumstances.  Land ratchets up the suspense factor in this tried and true cozy series, elevating it to the level of "thrillzie". Part thriller, part cozy.

Dedicated fans will love this new, more daring Jessica - I know I do!!!!  Five Paws!!!!!!!  Actually, it's more like ten, meow!

And now I'm pleased to introduce the new co-author of the MURDER SHE WROTE series, Jon Land, who will give us his take on reinventing Jessica for her legions of fans!

Thank you, ROCCO!

Jon Land

Jessica Fletcher became part of my life back in May of 2017 when my agent called to ask whether I’d be interested in working with Don Bain on the MURDER, SHE WROTE series. Don’s health was failing and needed a writing partner who’d eventually succeed him. Well, having never written a straight mystery, a cozy, or from the first person POV, I immediately said I would. Because that’s the thing about this business: When given an opportunity, the answer is yes—what was the question?

            Sadly, the health of Don Bain, who’d written all 46 books in the series, failed faster than expected and I was left on my own early in the process; well, not quite alone. You see, Don’s talented grandson Zach had been working with him prior to my involvement and he became a vital resource and sounding board for me. Indeed, my first responsibility was to be true to the traditions of the series and Don Bain’s legacy following his passing.


            When was the moment the series became mine? That’s easy: From the moment I found Jessica’s voice banging around my head, louder and louder every time I sat down behind the keyboard. The process wasn’t as nearly as hard as it should because I let Jessica do the hard work, the heavy lifting. I wasn’t very familiar with the books at all, but did recall the great TV episodes from back in the 80s and 90s. So I was channeling Angela Lansbury the whole way, picturing her as Jessica in every scene and moment, to the point where I found myself much more reliant on the mythology from the television series than the books. In MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, for example, Artie Gelber (played by Herb Edelman for about a dozen episodes) plays a big role, even though he never appears in the books.

What made all this work was listening to Jessica, following her lead instead of asking her to follow mine. The problem is she’s speaking to me, not Don Bain anymore, and that means the books, and Jessica herself, are going to be different than what some readers are accustomed to or prefer. But I could never take over this or any other series without putting my own stamp on it and making it my own.


The thing is above all else I need to be true to both Jessica and myself. Writing and/or storytelling have to be organic. It has to come from the inside out, rather than the outside in which is what writing to a formula implies. Cozies have established formulas that were very difficult for me to emulate because it’s not my genre of choice. So I think what I created was something we can call the “cozy thriller” in that I’m striving to preserve what readers love most about MURDER, SHE WROTE, while adding the kind of pacing, suspense and plotting they may have seen before. Based on some of the comments on Amazon, that transition wasn’t entirely seamless. In a perfect world, every established fan of MSW will love my approach even as legions of new readers discover or rediscover the series. But this isn’t a perfect world and I know diverting from some of the established templates of the cozy culture is going to upset some readers. At that same time, I believe far more are going to feel that I’ve kept plenty of the cozy structure intact while injecting elements to keep the series fresh.
I had kind of inherited my first effort, A DATE WITH MURDER, from Don about 60 pages in, so MANUSCRIPT was my first tale I developed on my own, the first that was truly my own. That said, this is a process and I’m continuing to learn from criticism both constructive and negative. My next effort coming May, MURDER IN RED, is much more of a mystery in which Jessica’s incredibly keen powers of observation are displayed in much the same manner fans will recall from the TV series. But Sheriff Mort Metzger now calls her “Jessica” instead of “Mrs. Fletcher,” and she has more of an edge about her, appearing more determined and relentless in pursuit of justice.


You see, I’ve made a conscious decision to write this series the way it would be if it had been originated today, instead of trying to replicate the 1980s absent cell phones, UBER, the instantaneous information age and 24/7 news cycle. Instead of portraying Jessica in a vacuum, I’ve chosen to portray her as a creature of her environment instead of in spite of it. Cabot Cove is still Cabot Cove, but I portray the once bucolic village as a kind of mini-Hamptons of the North during the summer months, much to the chagrin of Jessica and the other series regulars. She will always be the same Jessica but the world around her isn’t going to remain frozen in time. So, too, we will see the return of more and more popular characters like romantic interest George Sutherland from the books (MURDER IN RED) and Jessica’s nephew Grady from the TV show.

August, by the way, will see the publication of the 50th book in the MSW book series, A TIME FOR MURDER. And to commemorate that, for the first time ever, in books or TV, the audience is going to meet Jessica for the first time as a younger woman still married to her husband Frank and serving as a substitute English teacher before her writing career had begun. A murder back then will be directly connected to a murder in the present back in Cabot Cove and Jessica will narrate them both, even as she uncovers the connections.

The series, after all, may now belong to me, but Jessica belongs to the world and the legions of fans who’ve followed her for more than 30 years. I should know, because I’m one of them.

Thank you, Jon for your insights! I know I can't wait to read those instalments!



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 24!  So take some time out from gobbling turkey and Black Friday shopping and enter!

Good luck!

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 fiancé 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:

* 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 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!