Category: JJ’s Blog

Characters and Music

Characters and Music

I was in a restaurant a few weeks ago, and as in many restaurants, they had the radio playing.  And a song came on that I’d heard before, but for whatever reason I had never really paid close attention to the lyrics.  Listening to them, it struck me how they applied perfectly to one of my characters – Sara, the heroine of the Dream Doctor Mysteries.  Which got me to thinking about “theme songs” for my other characters.  Not necessarily songs the characters themselves would listen to, but songs that define them, songs that might be part of the soundtrack of a hypothetical movie of their books.

For Sara, that song was “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen:

Why?  Well, for these lines:

Hey, I just met you and this is crazy
But here’s my number, so call me maybe
It’s hard to look right at you baby
But here’s my number, so call me maybe

That’s pretty much Sara’s exact reaction when she first meets Brian, in chapter two of Dream Student.  Sara herself would be horrified at this choice of songs for her, but she wouldn’t argue about how she felt, or how things ultimately worked out for her.

For Jane Barnaby, heroine of the Jane Barnaby Adventures, there’s a really obvious choice, and Jane would totally agree with it.  Especially because it’s an 80’s song and Jane would have listened to it as a teenager (the books take place in the early 1990’s, when Jane’s in her 20’s).  It’s “Jane’s Getting Serious” by Jon Astley:

Besides the song being about a Jane, and besides the crazy 80’s hair (which Jane also would be very familiar with), the lyrics definitely suggest someone who finds herself in some touchy situations, and drags her friends along with her:

So I’m pretending I’m not
Caught in between
The devil and the deep blue sea
And I cannot believe
That I would ever admit
That I could take Jane seriously

I haven’t figured out what the theme songs are for the cast of Mr. Smith and the Roach, except for Hilary Jackson, Mr. Smith’s longtime friend, owner of his favorite bar, and a retired Mafia hitwoman.  This one’s kind of obvious, especially since her mob days took place thirty years ago, in the 1980’s.  “Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring:

She can definitely relate to this:

Well the night weighs heavy on his guilty mind
This far from the borderline
When the hitman comes
He knows damn well he has been cheated

I’ll follow this up with more character theme songs as I discover what they are…




Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Mr. Smith and the Roach – the TV Show!

Mr. Smith and the Roach – the TV Show!

Last Monday, I introduced you to the actors who I envision as the “cast” for Mr. Smith and the Roach, since it began life as a joke about a fake TV show on a friend’s podcast.  I also mentioned that my fake online guide to the fake show disappeared when my website crashed a few years back.  Well, a couple of pages survived, courtesy of the World Wide Web Archive.  In particular, one of the episode pages is still viewable, and I present it to you below, so you can see (1) how much of a total geek I am, and (2) how much of that fake TV show made it into the book, once you’ve got the book to compare it to, in two weeks.  So without further ado, with some notes for context and comparison to the novel:

“The Courtship of Jeannie’s Uncle”


Abigail returns, this time to play matchmaker. First, she sets up her brother with a journalist friend; then she arranges a date for Jeannie with a former worker on their farm who now lives in New York. Meanwhile, Big Eddie Sluntkin makes advances towards Jeannie, Hilary Jackson shows jealousy over Mr. Smith, the Roach has a long talk with Big Eddie, and Dr. Brooks has a crisis of confidence.

(J.J.’s note – the episode title was too good to pass up, and it appears as a chapter title in the novel.  And the plot of Abigail setting up Mr. Smith on a date with a journalist friend survived into the book as well)

Guest Characters/Cast

Hilary Jackson (Kathleen Turner)

Edward “Big Eddie” Sluntkin (Danny DeVito)

Abigail Jeanne Marie Smith Frankenhurst Blakesley Morissey (Deidre Hall)

Sara Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) – An English investigative reporter who Abigail tries to set up with Mr. Smith

(J.J.’s note – Sadly, Elizabeth Sladen passed away in 2011.  So in the book, Sara Smith becomes Alexandra Smith, and she’s now “played” by actress Danielle Nicolet)  

David Clair (Peter Krause) – A former worker on the Smith family farm in Iowa, now working for an ad agency in Manhattan; Abigail tries to set him up with Jeannie.

Detailed Plot

(J.J.’s note – I never got around to writing this up.  Sorry!)

Production Notes and Trivia

Peter Krause and Lauren Ambrose played brother and sister on HBO’s “Six Feet Under”

(J.J.’s note – Lauren Ambrose was my choice to play Jeannie back in 2007)

Elizabeth Sladen appeared on “Doctor Who” for several years as investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith; the episode leaves it unclear whether Sara Smith is intended to be the same character or not.

The scene in which Mr. Smith and Jeannie sing “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” (from “Fiddler on the Roof”) was ad-libbed; during a break from filming, Lauren Ambrose began singing, Michael Ironside joined in, and the producers liked it so much that a new scene was quickly improvised and shot.

Unanswered Questions/Unresolved Plots

Who did Dr. Brooks call after his breakdown?

(J.J.’s note – this didn’t make it into the novel.  Dr. Brooks has a smaller role than he did in my vision of the TV show, but he’ll have more to do in the second book of the series)

Was Sara Smith actually interested in Mr. Smith, or was she just pursuing the pension fund story? Was the pension fund explanation just a cover for her pursuit of another story entirely?

What was the Roach looking for in the building’s recycling bins? What is in the protected file on his laptop?

Memorable Quotes

Jeannie: My mom’s coming.

Mr. Smith: Is she bringing War, Famine and Death with her this time, or did she leave them at home?

(J.J.’s note – this quote and several others made it into the book)


Abigail: Sara Smith. You’ll like her. And she wouldn’t even need to change her name if you marry her.

Mr. Smith: Yes, that’s a wonderful basis for a long-term relationship.


Big Eddie: One date! What do you have to lose?

Jeannie: My dignity, my sanity, probably my wallet.


Sara: Your sister is very interesting.

Mr. Smith: So is nuclear war, but you wouldn’t want to be around when that happens, either.


David: That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever felt. It was just like…

Jeannie: If you say “kissing your sister,” I swear to God I’ll kill you.


Dr. Brooks: I don’t think I can deal with this.

Hilary: Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’d recommend the Sonoma Hills Sauvignon Blanc ’03. It’s a great “drink until you forget your own name” sort of wine. Third bottle’s on the house, if you’re still conscious by then.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
A Reel Christmas in Romance – the audiobook is out!

A Reel Christmas in Romance – the audiobook is out!









The audiobook for A REEL CHRISTMAS IN ROMANCE is up for sale!

It’s narrated, just like the other book in this series, FINDING DORI, by the wonderful Caitlin Willis.  You can hear a sample right here:


You can buy it right now, today, this minute…

On Audible

On Amazon

and in a day or two on iTunes (Apple’s a little slower sometimes…)

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Meet the Cast of Mr. Smith and the Roach

Meet the Cast of Mr. Smith and the Roach

My latest novel, Mr. Smith and the Roach, will be released three weeks from today (but you can pre-order it now!), and each week leading up to the release, I’ll be back to talk a little more about the book.

This morning, I want to tell you about who would play the characters if the book ever made it to the big (or small) screen.  This is actually a pretty easy exercise, because the story originally came from a joke on a friend’s podcast back in 2007, with one of the hosts throwing out titles for absurd possible shows.  “Mr. Smith and the Roach” was one of those titles, and me, being the geek I am, came up with a premise, characters and even an online episode guide for this totally fake show (sadly, that guide is gone thanks to a website crash back in 2010).  I cast every character in the show, and they’ve lived on in my mind since then.  So when I started writing the story as a real novel earlier this year, I already had mental pictures of everyone in the “cast.”

Mr. Smith is a retired New York City homicide detective.  He’s 61 years old, and the obvious choice to play him 10+ years ago was Michael Ironside. My opinion hasn’t changed since then.


The voice of the Roach was always Anthony Steward Head.  His voice was always British, from the very beginning.

Mr. Smith’s friend, the owner of his favorite bar In Vino Veritas, Hilary Jackson, was originally meant to be played by Kathleen Turner.  But I’m not sure she’s the right choice in 2018.  It’s a completely different look for the character, but I think that Rena Sofer (currently starring on The Bold and the Beautiful) would do a fantastic job as Hilary.

Lauren Ambrose, of Six Feet Under fame, was my choice in 2007 to play Mr. Smith’s niece Jeannie.  At the time, she was 29, so playing a 22-23 year old wasn’t unreasonable.  Today, it might not work quite as well, but I think she’s got the right look and personality for the character, so we’ll stick with her.

Jeannie’s mother (and Mr. Smith’s sister) Abigail Jeanne Marie Smith Kane Jensen Morrissey Frankenhurst Blakesley, has to be played by a soap opera diva, and what better choice than Deidre Hall of Days of Our Lives.

To play Jeannie’s roommate, Melissa Barnaby, I picked another soap actress, Camryn Grimes (currently on The Young and the Restless).  She’d be a good choice for Jeannie if I had to pick someone closer to the character’s age, as well.

Mr. Smith’s neighbor, creepy entomologist Dr. Greg Brooks, is totally Fisher Stevens (I still think of him as Ethan Hawke’s scuzzy older brother in “Mystery Date”).

The super of Mr. Smith’s building, “Big Eddie” Sluntkin, was always Danny DeVito.  Who else could it be?

One of the villains of the story is a crooked Wall Street banker, Peter Franks.  I like soap star Thorsten Kaye (currently on The Bold and the Beautiful).  Doesn’t he just look like somebody who could scam retired police out of their pensions?

He doesn’t actually show up in person in this book, but mobster Charlie Peaches is mentioned several times in the book, and the sequel is titled THE RETURN OF CHARLIE PEACHES, so it’s pretty clear he will have a big role there!  And in the fake-TV version of this story, he was played by Val Kilmer.  That hasn’t changed.

Hilary’s friend, opera singer Felicia Bonaventure, doesn’t show up in this book, either, but she was a regular “guest” on the fake TV show, and I expect her to show up in the sequel.  And she’s played by British singer Kate Bush.

Felicia has a bitter rival, Callie Marbella, who’s friends with another of Mr. Smith’s neighbors in the apartment building.  One of my favorite quotes from the fake episode guide (yes, I came up with memorable quotes for each “episode”) was applied to Callie.  She’s referred to as a “tone-deaf, role-stealing, attention-seeking whore.”  So, who else to play her but an actual opera diva, Renee Fleming?  She’ll also appear in the sequel.

Callie’s friend is Caitlin Walker, who has a history with Hilary Jackson (as Mr. Smith explains to the Roach, Hilary “may have killed her husband back in the 1980’s”).  She’s played by Genie Francis.

Dr. Brooks’ scummy brother Carter could only ever be Kevin Smith, from “Clerks” (and too much else to mention here!)

Investigative reporter Alexandra Smith (no relation to Mr. Smith!) is played by Danielle Nicolet, currently on “The Flash” as Cecille West.

For imprisoned Mafia boss Jimmy Hagen, who else but James Caan?

And, last but not least, in the original fake TV show, I had the idea that real-life actress Susan Lucci was a neighbor of Mr. Smith’s.  Since I’m actually publishing this book, I can’t really do that, but in her place is former soap opera star Lucie Susans (Mr. Smith can never remember which show she actually starred on), played, obviously, by Susan Lucci.


And there you have it – the full cast of Mr. Smith and the Roach!


Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
A Reel Christmas in Romance

A Reel Christmas in Romance

Good morning, and welcome to the release day for A REEL CHRISTMAS IN ROMANCE!

Owner of the lone movie theater in Romance, Marianne Carter loves the old movies she shows on the big screen. She’s just struck up an email friendship with a newcomer to town. Unaware of his identity but feeling loyal to him, she fights her attraction to a handsome man she keeps bumping into around town.

Under a false identity, Jack Nelson comes to Romance to investigate the historic movie theater and decide if it should receive the status of a historical landmark. Little does he know the woman sending him charming emails is the same one who owns the theater.

While Marianne’s theater plays the old classic film The Shop Around the Corner, Marianne and Jack unknowingly play out the same story in real life. Will they figure it out in time to write their own happy ending?




I really enjoyed writing this book.  I owe most of it to my wife, who’s brought me around to becoming a big classic movie fan – the story is inspired by The Shop Around the Corner, and the heroine owns the only movie theater in town, so you can see how that would work.

One quirk of our heroine, Marianne Carter, is that she’s also a huge classic movie fan, and she sometimes dresses up like the heroines of the movies she’s showing at her theater.  As you can see in this illustration:

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Christmas in Romance!

Christmas in Romance!

Merry Christmas!

Yes, I know it’s only November 1st.  But today is the launch for the first of six books in the Christmas in Romance collection.  They’re all novellas, set in the town of Romance, Oregon (just as my story last fall, FINDING DORI, was…and that book is on sale for $0.99, by the way!)

For the next six days, one book a day will be released, starting today with Sleigh Bells Ring in Romance by the wonderful Shanna Hatfield.








We’ve got a Facebook launch party tonight at 6 PM (Eastern time) – please come by for fun, prizes and great people!









Finally, here’s a fun illustration showing the heroines of all six books in the collection!  Can you match up each person in the picture with her correct book?  If so, come to the party tonight and you could win a prize!

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
A Reel Christmas – pre-order now!

A Reel Christmas – pre-order now!


























My new Christmas romance, part of the Christmas in Romance collection, is up for pre-order now!

Owner of the lone movie theater in Romance, Marianne Carter loves the old movies she shows on the big screen. She’s just struck up an email friendship with a newcomer to town.
Unaware of his identity but feeling loyal to him, she fights her attraction to a handsome man she keeps bumping into around town.

Under a false identity, Jack Nelson comes to Romance to investigate the historic movie theater and decide if it should receive the status of a historical landmark. Little does he know the woman sending him charming emails is the same one who owns the theater.

While Marianne’s theater plays the old classic film The Shop Around the Corner, Marianne and Jack unknowingly play out the same story in real life. Will they figure it out in time to write their own happy ending?

This book is one of six novella that will all be released the first week of November…












Sleigh Bells Ring in Romance by Shanna Hatfield – A determined widow and a persistent rancher need a nudge toward love.  Release date November 1st!

A Merry Miracle in Romance by Melanie D. Snitker – It’ll take a Christmas miracle to turn a grudging friendship into true love.  Release date November 2nd!

Holding Onto Love in Romance by Liwen Y. Ho – A small town inn owner and a big time pop star need a reason to keep holding onto love. Release date November 3rd!

A Christmas Carol in Romance by Franky A. Brown – A bitter-on-love radio DJ and his girlfriend of romance past need a second chance. Release date November 5th!

Santa’s Visit in Romance by Jessica L. Elliott – Santa’s got his work cut out for him to help a reluctant couple find love during the holidays. Release date November 6th!


Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Audiobook Madness!

Audiobook Madness!

Audible is running all kinds of specials this week, so I figured it’s a good time to remind y’all about my own audiobooks, since with all the cool stuff Audible’s doing, there won’t be a better time to get them…

The best deal I’ve got is my box sets.  You can get three – yes, THREE – audiobooks all together for the price of one.  Either the first three Dream Doctor Mysteries, or all three of the Jane Barnaby Adventures to date, collected in one Audible box set!

On the other hand, if you want to listen to something shorter, I’ve got you covered there, too!   You can get Betty & Howard’s Excellent Adventure, a short story set during the Dream Doctor Mysteries, and narrated by Doctor Who star Nicole Bryant, or the romance novella Finding Dori, which I think you’ll love, too!

You can also get the rest of the Dream Doctor Mysteries – each and every book is on Audible!
Dream Family
Waking Dream
Dream Reunion
Dream Home
Dream Vacation
Fever Dream
Dream Wedding

And remember, you can follow me all over the Interwebs…

My website
Amazon Author page page
YouTube video book trailers
Audiobook samples

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Welcome to the Dream Doctor Mysteries!

Welcome to the Dream Doctor Mysteries!











Welcome to the brand-new Dream Doctor Mysteries!  I’ve re-launched all my books, and I’m thrilled by how they’ve turned out.  I hope you will be, too!


The series now begins with Dream Doctor.   Sara’s about to be married, and ready to start her first year of medical school…but her supernatural dreams are starting up again, too.  Everyone around her seems to be dreaming about the same thing – killing one of her teachers.  Now, Sara has to figure out who’s just dreaming of a harmless revenge fantasy, and who’s really trying to kill him.  Which would be a lot easier if Sara didn’t hate him, too…

Dream Doctor is on sale for just $0.99, and it’s also available (as are all the other books in the series) in paperback, and as a professionally-narrated Audible audiobook!





If you want to see how it all began, the FREE prequel novel Dream Student is for you!  We meet Sara back in college, before she met her fiance, and before she had any idea that her supernatural dreams actually were supernatural.

I’m staring at my clock radio.  According to the big green digital numbers, it’s exactly 3:14 AM.  I think it might be off by a minute or two, but that’s not really the point.  The point is that I’m awake to know it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:14 AM.

This is not by choice.  Actually, it sort of is, I guess.  I’m awake because I don’t want to fall asleep.  And why I don’t want to fall asleep?  It’s a fair question I’d ask if it were someone else.

The answer sounds stupid, even to me.   If I’m honest, I have to admit I’m just being a baby about this.  I don’t want to fall asleep because of the dreams I’ve been having.  “Nightmares” is a better word.  I don’t think even that really gets the point across, though.  Is there a word for dreams that are worse than nightmares?  There should be…









You can hear free samples from the audiobook editions of all the books on Soundcloud.  And you can watch the video book trailers for the Dream Doctor Mysteries on YouTube!

If you want to see how much Sara changes over the series (the books cover 25 years of her life!), take a look at this fantastic illustration I had commissioned…















And if you want to know more about me, well, I’m a marketing professional by day (you’d think that would help me selling these books, wouldn’t you?), a lifelong New York Giants fanatic, anopera devotee, a huge sci-fi and fantasy nerd, and my wife and I are in the process of being trained by our cat, Danny.













You can follow me at my website, on Facebook, on Twitter, at my Amazon author page, and on Goodreads!


Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather