Category: JJ’s Blog

Mr. Smith and the Roach – on audio!

Mr. Smith and the Roach – on audio!

The audiobook for MR. SMITH AND THE ROACH is in the final stages of completion!  We’re just doing editing now, and then it’ll be off to Audible for quality control and then release for sale!

In the meantime, you can listen to a short sample right here…












Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
The Day of the Roach Has Arrived!

The Day of the Roach Has Arrived!

Yes, it’s true!  MR. SMITH AND THE ROACH is officially out today!

John Smith has a problem. He’s a retired cop whose pension just got wiped out, and he doesn’t know why or how. Now he needs to find a roommate to help pay the bills.

Sam has a problem. He’s a six-foot-tall talking cockroach and he doesn’t know who created him, or why, or how. Now he needs a place to live.

Thrown together as roommates and amateur detectives, Mr. Smith and the Roach realize their problems might be related.

But those problems are far more complicated than they imagined, and before all is said and done, they’ll run afoul of a Russian gangster, an imprisoned Mafia don, a crooked Wall Street banker, a mad scientist and, maybe worst of all, Mr. Smith’s baby sister.

Can they get to the bottom of an unbelievable plot before someone exterminates the Roach – and Mr. Smith – for good?


It’s even on sale to celebrate the launch (and of course because it’s Cyber Monday).  Click on the link above, or on the cover image, to find it at the ebook retailer of your choice.

It’s available in paperback, too!

There’s even an audiobook on the way – I’ll have more news about that, and a sample for you to listen to, in a week or two!

Want to know more?  Here’s a little taste of the book…

John was at a loss.  There was something very off about Sam, but he couldn’t pin down what it might be.  While he chatted with the man on the drive back into Manhattan, his subconscious mind worked the problem; he’d always been able to multitask like that in his days on the force.  But no revelations were forthcoming, and all he could do in the end was chalk it up to unease at the idea of having to share his apartment at all.

That changed when Sam found a parking space on 88th St., just a block and a half from his – their – building.  He switched off the ignition and turned to John.  “Before we go any further, there’s something I need to tell you.  I hope it won’t change anything, but what I’m about to say – some people can get past it, but unfortunately not everyone takes it very well.”

So that was it.  John couldn’t see why Sam was so worried.  This was 2018, and it was New York City.  “You don’t need to say anything more.  I don’t care.  Not a bit.  So what if you’re gay?”

Sam stared at him, with those weird eyes.  The pupils, what there was of them, were almost red, now that he really looked at them.  And then the man laughed.  “You think – oh, that is good!  You really have no idea, do you?”  John didn’t.  He just sat in the passenger seat, staring at eyes that he’d almost call inhuman, and a mouth that didn’t really seem to have anything in the way of teeth.  And then Sam took off his hat.




Up until five minutes ago, John had never, not once in his life, fainted.  Not even on his very first case as a rookie, twenty-three years old and fresh out of the Academy, when he’d walked into the aftermath of a “business dispute” between the Gambino and Bonanno families.

“John?  Are you all right?”

No.  He was not all right.  He was obviously suffering from some sort of psychotic break, because there was a giant insect sitting in the driver’s seat of this car, offering him a bottle of water, and that couldn’t possibly be real.  Or, he could have been drugged, although his head seemed clear, and he didn’t seem to be experiencing any of the other effects he’d expect to feel from any of the most common illegal drugs.

“What did you give me?”

The insect looked at him with what John would have sworn was concern, except insects couldn’t feel anything like that.  “Nothing, John.  I just took off my hat and you – you passed out for a moment.  So I went to the hot dog cart around the corner and bought some water for you.  It seemed the best thing to do.”

The insect was talking.  They couldn’t do that, either.  They also didn’t wear clothes, and even the biggest insects he’d ever read about – the weird bugs that lived in rainforests, or wherever – didn’t get bigger than a few inches long.  This one was around six feet tall.  “What did you do with Sam?”

The insect laughed.  Something else they didn’t do.  “I am Sam.  This,” he gestured to himself with an ungloved hand, which wasn’t a hand at all, now John saw it properly, “is what I was going to tell you about.  Everything I told you today is true.  I do need an apartment, and I am working on a book, and I would very much like to help you find out what really happened to your old partner and help out his wife.  I just left out one thing.  As you can see, I’m not a human being.”

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
In Vino Veritas – Everyone’s Favorite Wine Bar!

In Vino Veritas – Everyone’s Favorite Wine Bar!

Every Monday leading up to the release of MR. SMITH AND THE ROACH, I’ve been posting about this upcoming book.

Today, I’ll tell you a little about one of the major settings of the novel.  It’s a wine bar on Manhattan’s Upper West Side – specifically W. 87th St and Columbus Avenue, right next to the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine, and a block or so away from the Westview Apartments, home of Mr. Smith.

Outside, you can recognize the bar by the gold neon wineglass on the sign outside, which is topped by a neon parrot scavenged from the dumpster of the bird hospital next door after they threw it away.  It’s owned by Hilary Jackson, who you’ll meet in the book:










Hilary has had rather a colorful life, as we discover in the course of the story.  She wasn’t always a bartender – once upon a time she worked for the mob.  But when she sought out a more peaceful life, she ended up in possession of In Vino Veritas.







There’s what the logos on the napkins look like.  Classy, no?  It’s exactly the sort of place you might come to with your giant cockroach roommate to plan out your next move…

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
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