Friday, April 30, 2021

ROCCO spotlights Jeff Chapman and The Merliss Tales


Jeff Chapman explores fantasy worlds through fiction and is the author of The Merliss Tales fantasy series, The Huckster Tales weird western series, and The Comic Cat Tales series. Trained in history and computer science, Jeff writes software by day and explores the fantastic when he should be sleeping. His fiction ranges from fairy tales to fantasy to ghost stories. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines. He's not ashamed to say he's addicted to dark hot chocolate and he loves cats. Jeff lives with his wife, children, and cats in a house with more books than bookshelf space.


The Merliss Tales are a series of fantasy stories and novels that follow the adventures of a human spirit banished to the body of a cat. The magic that put her spirit in the cat has given Merliss an unusually long life. The series tells dark fantasy stories from a cat’s eye view. The protagonist may have been a girl once, but after centuries inside a cat’s mind and body, she’s almost as much cat as human. It’s a struggle for Merliss to hold on to her humanity. At the best of times, cat and human work together.

The idea for Merliss, who first appeared in my short story “The Water Wight,” came from a real cat.

In the fall of 2015, I pulled into my driveway to find a small gray cat sitting in front of the garage. I had seen this cat before but never had a good look at it. I had usually glimpsed it at night or twilight and a gray cat in the dark appears to be little more than a shadow. I had assumed it belonged to someone in the neighborhood. I was so wrong. It was starving. I could see every bone in its ribs. Pus was visible beneath one eye. The cat meowed at me. My wife came out the breezeway door at that moment. The cat trotted toward her and tried to enter our house.

We gave the cat some food and water. It ate like it had never seen food before. My daughters surrounded the cat so it wouldn’t run away, but I believe at this point the cat had decided it was going to live with us. We coaxed it into a carrier and took it to an emergency vet. The cat, which we named Smokey, was not sick with any life-threatening disease. She was dehydrated, malnourished (only 5.5 pounds), suffering from an upper respiratory infection and an eye infection, and had a million fleas.

Several hours and several hundred dollars later, we returned home with two antibiotics and a sick cat. We quarantined her in the breezeway. Our other cats spent a lot of time sniffing at the back door.

Smokey responded well to the medicines and our TLC. She gained weight and proved to be incredibly well-tempered. She wasn’t the cutest kitty on the block but certainly the sweetest. We soon discovered that she was deaf and missing an upper and lower canine. We had no idea of her age but Smokey appeared to have been up and down the alley a few times. When her quarantine period ended, Smokey moved into the house.

We speculated a lot about Smokey’s past. What stories would she tell if she could talk? The speculation got me thinking about characters based on an old cat. Somehow, I made the leap of pairing a human spirit with a cat’s body. In the fantasy world I was developing, this pairing would grant the animal’s body unusually long life. Merliss was born.

Unfortunately, Smokey passed away in April 2018. Her health had been declining for several months and then x-rays revealed painful bone tumors in her sternum. Taking her to that final vet appointment and staying with her until the end is one of the roughest tasks I’ve experienced. I still miss her every morning when she’s not waiting in the kitchen demanding breakfast.

Smokey’s memory lives on in the character of Merliss. The cat silhouettes in the map and at the beginning of each chapter were made from pictures of Smokey.

At this time the series includes two novels--The Great Contagion and Cat Sidhe--and a short story, “The Water Wight.” More novels and stories are in the works.

If you want to sample The Merliss Tales, you can download “The Water Wight” for free from StoryOrigin at

Friday, April 23, 2021


Meow! Today my guest is bestselling author Julie Anne Lindsey!


Julie Anne Lindsey is an award-winning and bestselling author of mystery and romantic suspense. She’s published more than forty novels since her debut in 2013 and currently writes series as herself, as well as under multiple pen names for various publishers, including Kensington, Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Crooked Lane Books. When she's not writing the stories that keep her up at night, Julie stays busy in Kent, Ohio with her husband and three amazing kids. Today she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world. Learn more about Julie at


  1. Tell us a little about your background My name is Julie Anne Lindsey. I’m a full time author mom with three teenage children in Kent, Ohio. I got into writing after watching the movie Twilight and reading the books. Stephenie Myers’ stories gave me an escape when I needed one most, and when I finished the books, I knew I wanted to do that for someone else. So, I opened Google and typed, “How to write a book.” I’ve been working on that ever since. Today, I write cozy mysteries and romantic suspense for Harlequin, Kensington, Sourcebooks and Crooked Lane Books. I write as myself, as well as under the pen names Bree Baker, Jacqueline Frost and Julie Chase.

 Tell us a bit about your latest book: My latest cozy mystery is CLOSELY HARBORED SECRETS, book 5 in my Seaside Café Mysteries series, written as Bree Baker.

About the book:

It's almost Halloween, and the small island of Charm, North Carolina is decked out for the festivities. When Everly Swan agrees to close her iced tea shop early to help her aunts host their annual haunted historic walking tour, she expects some good-natured spooks. But the night turns grave when one of the ghostly actors is found dead. To complicate matters, the victim scratched Everly's name into the ground before she died, making her a key suspect.

The murder mystery heats up when Everly's potential boo, Detective Grady, takes the case—and he definitely doesn't want her getting involved. Will their seaside romance be threatened by all the ghostly drama? But when a phantom sailor straight out of local legend starts leaving Everly threatening messages, she has to get involved... With a local election under way, ghosts on the loose, and a search for long-lost buried treasure, Everly can't help but stir the pot!

  1. How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books? I get to know my characters by writing them and spending time with them. Also, by considering the things I know before I begin, and how those things might’ve impacted them. For example, where they grew up and where they live now, what they do for a living and who raised them. All these things tell me about who they are and a re good predictions of how they might react to various people and circumstances. From there, I just write. I hang out with them and let their personalities unfold with the stories.
  2. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”? I’m a dedicated outliner and spend a few days to a week outlining before every new project. I give an entire workshop on how outlining saves authors time, eliminates redundancy and plot holes while helping deliver a richer, deeper story. I LOVE my outlines.
  3.  What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated? For me, the biggest challenge has been staying positive and moving forward when nothing seems to be going my way. Harsh reviews and contract rejections can be a lot to manage when I’ve put my heart and soul into every project. There’s a lot of joy in this business, but there’s also a lot of distress. Keeping my chin up, come what may, is hard, but I love what I do, so I keep going. And thankfully the incredible days far outweigh the bad.
  4. Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share? I do! I’m represented by Jill Marsal of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, and I’d been watching Jill for a while. She’s smart, and I dig smart. Her clients are a who’s who list of successful authors, and I wanted desperately to get her attention. It’s not uncommon for authors to send queries to dozens of agents, even 100 before finding one to represent their work. For me, Jill was the deal. So, I polished up my first traditional cozy mystery, now titled CAT GOT YOUR DIAMONDS, had a big glass of wine for bravery and sent the query on a Friday night. Agents’ websites usually say to expect an up to 12 week wait for a response. But Jill responded Saturday morning. She wanted to read my manuscript! I spent the weekend rereading it, trying to think of a way to improve it, but it was the best of my abilities, so on Sunday night, I hit SEND. – It’s not uncommon to wait months at this point for an agent to get to your manuscript and read the whole thing, then respond. So, I put the kids on the school bus Monday morning and poured a cup of coffee. Then, my phone rang. Jill said she was up all night reading and was prepared to offer representation. It was 9 am. – It was 6 am her time! She already had a list of publishers she wanted to send it to, and we hit the ground running. In the four years we have since been together, we’ve signed contracts for nearly 40 books with 4 publishers. It’s been a wild ride, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!
  5. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans? Right now, I’m laying out plans for a new cozy mystery series I’m launching this fall. BURDEN OF POOF is book one in the Bonnie & Clyde mysteries, wherein my heroine, Bonnie, and her black cat, Clyde, run a second chance shop in small town Georgia. With names like theirs, what could possibly go wrong? 😉 There will be 8 books in the series, releasing monthly through next spring, and a spin off series is already in the works! I’m a planner!
  6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing? I work about 14 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. (It’s not easy being 4 people! LOL) And there’s a lot more to writing than writing 😊. There’s editing, outlining, polishing, sprinting, reading for my critique partner when she sends pages to me for feedback, writing newsletters, creating graphics, writing daily social media posts, plus reader-group content, designing games and responding to emails. I also take staged book photos for Instagram, create and execute giveaways, make post office runs and read industry news to stay on top of things as often as possible.
  7. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? I walked the plank on the Jolly Roger in Barbados
  8. Where can we learn more about you and your books? At my newly revamped website!


Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat  (ROCCO approves, meow)

Beach or Pool?   Beach

Steak or salad?  Salad

Favorite Drink?  Red wine

Favorite Book?  Wuthering Heights

Favorite TV Series?  Vampire Diaries

Favorite Movie?  Twilight

Favorite Actor: Timothy Olyphant

Favorite Actress: Amy Adams

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be. _ Janet Evanovich or Stephen King_

Thank you, Julie!

Folks you can find out more about Julie and her books at:






Giveaway time:                                        


Julie will give away a digital ARC copy of PARTNERS IN LIME, book 6 in her upcoming Seaside Café Mysteries, written as Bree Baker, for a giveaway. PARTNERS IN LIME releases August 29th!  To enter, leave your name and e-mail address comments section below, and good luck! Contest ends midnight, April 30th!


Friday, April 16, 2021

Annette Dashofy does ROCCO's Fast Five

 Meow, my guest today is USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy!

About Annette Dashofy


USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy has spent her entire life in rural Pennsylvania surrounded by cattle and horses. When she wasn't roaming the family's farm or playing in the barn, she could be found reading or writing. After high school, she spent five years as an EMT on the local ambulance service, dealing with everything from drunks passing out on the sidewalk to mangled bodies in car accidents. These days, she, her husband, and their spoiled cat, Kensi, live on property that was once part of her grandfather's dairy.

Her Zoe Chambers mystery series includes five Agatha Award nominees including CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, BRIDGES BURNED, NO WAY HOME, CRY WOLF, and FAIR GAME, UNDER THE RADAR, and TIL DEATH.


E-Book; Release Date May 11, 2021

Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Veterinarian Jessie Cameron agrees to fill in for her mentor, Doc Lewis, at Riverview Racetrack so he can take a long-overdue vacation. When he’s tragically killed by one of his equine patients the night before he’s supposed to leave, Jessie quickly suspects the death is anything but accidental. Her search for the truth is thwarted by everyone from well-meaning friends to the police, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Undaunted, she discovers layers of illegal activities and deceit being perpetrated by the man she thought of as a father figure, creating a growing list of suspects with reason to want Doc dead. Too late, she realizes that her dogged quest for the truth has put her in the crosshairs of a devious killer desperate to silence her. Permanently.


Annette has written a taut, suspenseful tale that avid mystery readers will surely enjoy.  Veterinarian Jessie Cameron finds herself drawn into a murder inviestigation when she answers a call to check on a horse and finds her friend and mentor dead instead, stomped to death by the horse.  Jessie is convinced the death is far from an accident and sets out to prove it, much to the chagrin of the police and her ex. Jessie's quest for the truth puts her in danger, and Annette Dashofy has woven a skillful plot with plenty of twists and turns.  A must for mystery lovers! Four and a half paws!   


What is your favorite part of the day?

I'm definitely a morning person

Favorite song to sing in the shower?

None. I'm a horrible singer. Even my cat complains.

Favorite Movie?

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I mean, seriously. Robert Redford and Paul Newman? It doesn't get better than that.

What do you  like to do on a rainy day?

Read, of course!

 If you weren't a writer, what profession would you be in? 

I've already worked so many different jobs, this is hard. A friend once told me I should have been a veterinarian and I've often thought she might be right.

Thanks Annette!

Annette will give away a copy of DEATH BY EQUINE to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave your name and email address in our comments section.  Comments without email will be disqualified. Winner chosen at random.  Contest ends midnight, April 26.


Friday, April 9, 2021

ROCCO's April Cozy Reviews

Meow!  Here are my cozy reviews for April!






Librarian Minnie Hamilton and her clever cat Eddie solve a purr-fect murder, in the newest installment of the delightful Bookmobile Cat Mystery series.

Minnie and her rescue cat Eddie can often be found out and about in their bookmobile near Chilson, Michigan, delivering great reads to grateful patrons all over the county. But they always brake for trouble, and when Minnie sees a car speeding away down the road, and soon comes upon a dead bicyclist, she assumes she just missed seeing a hit-and-run.
Minnie is determined to discover who was behind the wheel, but it soon turns out that things are far more complicated than they seem and there's more to this case than meets the eye.  Luckily, this librarian is ready to read the killer his rights.

We always enjoy solving the crimes along with Minnie and Eddie the Bookmobile cat!  Laurie Cass does not disappoint with another excellent cozy!






  A pet detective on the hunt for a prominent pooch is found dead, and inn owner Holly Miller has to sort through her guest list for suspects in this all new Paws & Claws mystery in the New York Times bestselling series.

The ladies of the Wagtail Animal Guardians, WAG for short, are in town for a pet adoption charity ball, and Holly is making sure to roll out the red carpet for her special guests. She and her furry best friend Trixie are busy keeping the WAG ladies happy and preparing for the ball when they learn that a retired judge has lost his prized pup. 

The venerable citizen has hired a pet detective who has some personal ties to Holly’s new guests. His presence ruffles some feathers, and when the PI is found DOA not long before the ball, Holly wonders if one of the WAG ladies had a motive for murder. To make matters worse, some pet-loving guests of the ball nearly suffer the same deadly fate. Holly and Trixie will have to sniff out the clues and leash a callous killer before they strike again....

We are big fans of this series of Krista Davis's as well as her Diva series.  Holly and her furry friends have thier work cut out for them this time around!  Fans will enjoy sniffing out the clues along with Holly.....four and a half paws!


Avery Morgan has been hired to breathe new life into the Portage Path Women's Club, but first she'll have to deal with a dead body and a meddling ghost.

When a local theater troupe puts on a new play at the club, manager Avery Morgan is excited. This is just the sort of event that's destined to bring in potential new members. Okay, millionaire banker Bob Hanover has more bucks than talent and has used his position to grab the lead role, but that seems like a small price to pay...until Bob is found dead backstage.

Bob rubbed many people the wrong way, but would anyone want him dead? The short answer to that is: Who wouldn't want him dead? His long-suffereing wife had to put up with years of womanizing. The show's playwright has been tricked out of his one great idea by Bob, who claimed it as his own work. And Bob bankrupted one of the town's small businessmen. The choices are many and the time to find the killer is running short.

Avery is working overtime to keep the club open and find the killer. Fortunately, she has help with the latter task. Clemmie Bow was once a singer in the speakeasy in the club's basement. Now she's a ghost who's also a top-notch detective. Together Clemmie and Avery will find the killer—even if it kills one of them.

I'm a big fan whenever supernatural and mysteries are combined.  If that's your cup of tea, then you will definitely enjoy this offering!  4 paws!


Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.

It's October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe's diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before. 

In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect--a young seaman named John Williams--was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more. 

A good thriller for a Saturday afternoon!  Four paws!


Midwife Sarah Brandt Malloy and her detective husband, Frank, must discover who killed a prominent—but despised—society banker before an innocent family is destroyed in Murder on Wall Street, an all-new Gaslight Mystery in the USA Today bestselling series.

Reformed gangster Jack Robinson is working hard to bolster his image in Gilded Age New York City society as he prepares to become a new father. But when Hayden Norcross, the man who nearly ruined his wife, is shot in cold blood, Jack knows the police will soon come knocking on his door. Frank Malloy has to agree—things don’t look good for Jack. But surely a man as unlikeable as Hayden had more than a few enemies. And it’s soon clear that plenty of the upper echelon as well as the denizens of the most squalid areas of the city seem to have hated him.

Sarah and Frank have their work cut out for them. As the daughter of the elite Decker family, Sarah has access to the social circles Hayden frequented, and the more she learns about his horrific treatment of women, the more disturbed she becomes. And as Frank investigates, he finds that Hayden had a host of unsavory habits that may have hastened his demise. But who finally killed him? Sarah and Frank must put the pieces together quickly before time runs out and Jack’s hard-won new life and family are ripped apart.

This series always delivers!  Four paws

Want to win one of ROCCO's review copies? Leave your name and email address in our comments section.  One winner will be chosen at random.  US entries only, please.  Contest ends midnight, April 15th.

Monday, April 5, 2021

ROCCO'S favorite Sleuthing Couples from Film and TV!

 Meow.....what the world needs now are not depressing movies and tv shows, but fun couples who dabble in detection!  Similar to the human's beloved Nick and Nora (albeit Nick's a feline, but...when you got it, you got it!)  Below are my choices for five couples who fill the bill not only as superior sleuths, but fun couples!



Who could forget the 80's series introduced by the couples majordomo, Max:

This is my boss – Jonathan Hart, a self-made millionaire. He's quite a guy.

This is Mrs. H – she's gorgeous. She's one lady who knows how to take care of herself.
By the way, my name is Max. I take care of both of them – which ain’t easy; ‘cause when they met, it was murder.

Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner) is the CEO of Hart Industries, a global conglomerate based in Los Angeles. His wife Jennifer (Stefanie Powers) is a freelance journalist. Living the jetset lifestyle, the Harts often find themselves involved in cases of smuggling, theft, corporate and international espionage and, most commonly, murder. At their opulent Bel Air estate, they are assisted by Max (Lionel Stander), their shared mansion's loyal, gravel-voiced majordomo, who also helps with their cases. The Harts's beloved pet dog is a Löwchen called Freeway, so named because he was a stray that they found wandering on the freeway.  They're all so darn charming, we'll forgive them for not having a cat.



Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner delighted us for four seasons with the adventures of Amanda King, a housewife who finds herself embroiled in espionage after Agent Lee Stetson accidentally gives her a package meant for another spy.  For me, this series ended way too soon, although many believe having the couple marry in Season Four caused the show to "jump the shark", citing that the romantic tenstion between the two main characters fizzled.



The series revolved around cases investigated by the Blue Moon Detective Agency and its two partners, Madelyn "Maddie" Hayes (Shepherd) and David Addison Jr. (Willis). The show, with a mix of mystery, sharp dialogue, and sexual tension between its leads, introduced Willis to the world and brought Shepherd back into the spotlight after a nearly decade-long absence. The characters were introduced in a two-hour pilot episode.

The show's storyline begins with the reversal of fortune of Maddie Hayes, a former model who finds herself bankrupt after her accountant embezzles all her liquid assets. She is left saddled with several failing businesses formerly maintained as tax writeoffs, one of which is the City of Angels Detective Agency, helmed by the carefree David Addison. Between the pilot and the first one-hour episode, David persuades Maddie to keep the business and run it as a partnership. The agency is renamed Blue Moon Investigations because Maddie was most famous for being the spokesmodel for the Blue Moon Shampoo Company. In many episodes, she was recognized as "the Blue Moon shampoo girl," if not by name.



He's a poplular thriller writer who's full of himself. She's a hard-boiled NYC cop  who's not.  It was a marriage made in heaven right from the get-go, even if neither one of them realized it at first.

Castle, bored and suffering from writer's block, he kills off Derrick Storm, the main character in his successful book series. He is brought in by the New York Police Department for questioning regarding a copycat murder based on one of his novels, where he meets and becomes intrigued by Kate Beckett (Katic), the detective assigned to the case. Castle is inspired to take Beckett as his muse for Nikki Heat, the main character of his next book series and uses his friendship with the mayor to force the police to let him shadow Beckett. Castle's exuberant man child personality clashes with Beckett's more reserved and professional demeanor. However, as Beckett begins to appreciate Castle's assistance in helping her catch killers, the two eventually become friends and then lovers. The cases often dealt with murders occurring within various unusual subcultures or milieus, including reality TV shows, vampire enthusiasts, a science fiction convention, and a man who claims to be a time traveler. A recurring plot line deals with the unsolved murder of Beckett's mother years before.




We all know theres no sleuthing couple than the original Nick and Nora Charles.  Tough PI marries madcap heiress and they end up solving mysteries with the aid of their trusty terrier, Asta.  there were two tv series based on the book, but none compared to the original movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy!  No one can deliver a one-liner like these two!!!!!!