Saturday, December 24, 2016

ROCCO's guest CLOVER from BETTER OFF THREAD by Amanda Lee

Hoppin’ Around the Christmas Tree


Hi, ROCCO! Do you like Christmas trees? I do. They’re so pretty and sparkly. I love looking at all the ornaments. And the lights! The lights are wonderful. Veronica—she’s my person—only put lights three-fourths of the way down the tree because she was afraid I’d chew on the wire. She’s got a point. I do have a tendency to chew anything I can get in my mouth. Are you a chewer, ROCCO? It’s a necessity for rabbits, you know. It keeps our teeth from getting too long. Veronica keeps willow sticks around for me to chew on, and that makes things like tree lights less appetizing.
We’ve had company over the holidays. I typically don’t mind company, but there’s a toddler here, and Veronica is afraid he’ll be too rough with me or that I’ll accidentally scratch him. So I’ve been confined to Veronica’s bedroom much of the time that he’s here. He—his name is Jackson—and I have had a few supervised visits in front of the tree. But I’m having to spend far too much time in solitary confinement.

I get regular visits from Veronica, of course. And Marcy comes to see me. Marcy is Veronica’s son’s girlfriend. And, in fact, it was Marcy who introduced me to Veronica. Marcy is busy right now with her shop, the Seven-Year Stitch, and with being an elf at a hospital. She and her friend Captain Moe are there entertaining children. I think that’s nice. My friend Angus—he’s a dog—got to with Marcy, but nobody invited me. They probably thought I wouldn’t like it. Veronica seems to think I’m awfully delicate, but I’m tougher than she realizes. I have to admit, I like it when she pampers me though.
Uh-oh. I hear Ted in the living room telling Veronica that Marcy’s friend Captain Moe is suspected of killer the administrator at the hospital! Ted is a detective. I hope he can help prove Captain Moe’s innocence…if he IS innocent. But he HAS to be, right? Marcy wouldn’t be friends with a killer. Wow, ROCCO, this sounds bad. Could you maybe get your friends Nick and Nora on the case if we need some help?

 Amanda Lee (aka Gayle Trent & Gayle Leeson) Lee writes the Embroidery Mystery Series which features the owner of an embroidery shop in Oregon. As Trent, she writes the Daphne Martin Cozy Mystery Series which features a cake decorator. Trent also writes the Myrtle Crumb Mystery Series. Myrtle is a senior sleuth who lives in Virginia. As Gayle Leeson, she writes the Down South Café.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

ROCCO's guest...Elizabeth J. Duncan!

My guest this week is Crooked Lane author Elizabeth J. Duncan!

Elizabeth J. Duncan is the author of the award-winning and well-established Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales and a brand new series, Shakespeare in the Catskills.
After graduating from Carleton University, Ottawa, with a BA in English, Elizabeth worked as a writer and editor for some of Canada’s largest newspapers, including the Ottawa Citizen and Hamilton Spectator. She lived and worked in London, England for five years as a freelance writer and broadcaster. 
Elizabeth’s first novel, The Cold Light of Mourning,  won the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic 2006 Grant for Unpublished Writers and the 2008 St. Martin’s/Malice Domestic Award for best first traditional mystery and was nominated for an Arthur Ellis award in Canada and an Agatha Award in the United States.Her fourth novel, A Small Hill to Die On won the 2013 Bloody Words best light mystery (Bony Blithe) and the fifth book in the series, Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By, was nominated for the same award in 2014.

R: Welcome Elizabeth! What writers in your genre have had the greatest influence on your writing?

Thank you ROCCO.  Reading the works of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie many years ago introduced me to the joy of mysteries. Since then, I’ve discovered many wonderful writers. Favourites today include Simon Brett, Jeanne M. Dams, P.D. James, Peter James and Peter Robinson, all writers of elegant, engaging stories that entertain and inspire me.

R: Tell us about your new release, Ill Met by Murder.

It’s the second in the Shakespeare in the Catskills series, featuring costume designer Charlotte Fairfax. Here’s what it’s all about:

It’s the most important night of the year for the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company--the annual fund raising performance at the country estate of the wealthy widow Paula Van Dusen. This year, the company will give a moonlight performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of the wedding celebrations for Paula's daughter, Belinda, and her fiancé, Adrian. But then Hugh Hedley, family friend of the Van Dusens and Adrian's rival in the cutthroat world of high-end Manhattan real estate, is found murdered, along with a stolen prop from the play.

Paula, desperate to keep her daughter’s name of out of the paper, enlists Charlotte's help, despite the fact that Charlotte's already got her hands full amidst her costume design responsibilities and finding a home for the company's new theater school. But Charlotte nevertheless throws herself into an investigation of shady business deals, and long buried family secrets because "though she be but little, she is fierce!"

R: Which of your characters’ adventures was the most fun for you to write? Were any of them the least amount of fun?

Don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so let me just say the answer to both questions involves a missing dog.  (R:  no surprise there, eh??? Merow!)

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

I like to get tasks and distractions, like emails and errands, out of the way before I start to write. Or is that just procrastination?

Exercise is really helpful with the creative thinking process. My best ideas come when I’m walking or swimming.

And there’s nothing like a looming deadline to make me get my skates on.

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

I’d attend a performance of a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre in London. It would be wonderful to see how the play was received in its own time but unfortunately, because of the changes in language and pronunciation over the past four centuries, I wouldn’t be able to understand much of it. Still, it would be great fun to be part of the audience.

Oh, I’ve just checked my ticket. It’s for June 29, 1613. This is going to be so exciting!

R:  If a movie were to be made of one of your books, which one would you want it to be and who would you pick for the lead roles?

Untimely Death, first in the Shakespeare in the Catskills series, would make a nice opening episode for a television series. I wouldn’t worry too much about the human casting, but I would certainly want to be at the auditions for the pivotal part of Rupert the corgi!

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

I’m on level 1969 of Candy Crush and have used only 10 boosters to complete all those games.

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

Hours of reading pleasure.

R: have you considered writing in other genres? If so, which one(s)
No. I write two mystery books a year, and that’s enough for me, thanks!

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

Searching for that big chunk of my life that went missing.

R: What book is on your TBR shelf you can’t wait to get to?

I’ve got more than 200 books on my TBR shelf. At one time, each was the book I couldn’t wait to read. So I guess the best answer is to tell you the title of the last book I placed a hold on at the library. And that book is: The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher.

Thank  you Elizabeth!
Now it's giveaway time!

One lucky reader will receive a copy of Ill Met by Murder, courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. To enter, leave a comment with your email address in our comments section.  Sorry, USA only. 
For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
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* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Contest ends midnight, December 20.  Good luck!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A conversation with....Geraldine Brooks

The below courtesy of Penguin/Random House

A conversation with Geraldine Brooks, author of
What interests you most about King David? How did you decide to write a novel about him?
When my son was about nine years old, he made the unusual decision to learn to play the harp.  (I’d been braced for drums, so I didn’t actually resist the choice.)  Watching him, dwarfed by his teacher’s gorgeous concert instrument, I began to think about that other long ago boy harpist, the shepherd who became a king. He’s ubiquitous, after all: a cliché in our language (how many contests are David and Goliath battles?); gorgeously depicted throughout the history of Western art; the psalms attributed to him sung in churches and synagogues across millennia. But who was this warrior-poet-musician, this lover and killer, who experiences every human joy and every human heartbreak?  I went back to the bible to look for him, and found that the best stories from his life are the least told ones.

How did you research and prepare to write THE SECRET CHORD?
I started with the period itself, the Second Iron Age, to discover as much as I could about the context for a leader like David.  How did tribal power work? What did people eat? How did they fight?  What would they have known about the wider world?  Archaeology and ancient history answered many of these questions.  Others had to be answered experientially.   What was it like to herd sheep on a hot afternoon in the Judean hills?  My younger son and I went and did it. We also visited sites associated with David, going to places like the Valley of Elah where he clashed with Goliath, Ein Gedi where he hid out from Shaul and exploring the tunnels under Jerusalem where excavations are uncovering buildings of the Davidian period. I talked with Israeli military experts about some of the strategic issues David faced.  I consulted experts on early Hebrew music, trying to get a feel for the sound of what David might have played. 

As a journalist, you covered the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal.  Did your experience with the location and its history enhance your ability to write THE SECRET CHORD?
My first impulse is to say no, because in three thousand years, too much has changed.  The flora and fauna are entirely different. The land is dense with millions of people rather than the scattered thousands who lived there in that era. And yet on reflection, a number of experiences did shape my thinking. Covering modern desert warfare, interviewing contemporary despots and seeing how absolute power is wielded, living among people whose lives are entirely shaped, and sometimes deformed, by absolute religious conviction—all these things fed my imagination in some way.

David is a complicated character—at once a warrior and despot, a lover and adulterer, a poet and composer, a coarse yet refined man of fierce will and great appetites who is also capable of baseness and treachery. In your opinion, what are David’s biggest flaws? What are his greatest strengths?
Well, he’s a murderer, which is pretty hard to get past. He abuses power.  He’s also a criminally indulgent parent.  But he is paid out heavily for these crimes and flaws.  Unlike many of our modern leaders, when he makes a mistake, he admits it. He listens to criticism.  I’m drawn to his ardency, his huge capacity for love.

David has been widely depicted in art, literature, and film. Did you consult other portrayals while writing THE SECRET CHORD? Is there anything you feel previous depictions get wrong about him?   
I read everything I could find.  I watched some truly execrable movies.  I revisited favorite art works and discovered masterpieces that were new to me. The Australian painter Arthur Boyd, for example, has a poignant depiction of David and Shaul that taps into the artist’s own pain as the son of a mentally unstable father.  Many of the scholarly works (Robert Pinksy and David Wolpe’s books being two notable exceptions) tend to be either/or, black/white, twisting data to condemn or exonerate him. To me it was more interesting to accept the contradictions in his nature, the multi-faceted complexity of it.

How did you decide which stories and characters from David’s life to include in the novel, and which to leave out?
I didn’t leave much out.  Perhaps I tended to dwell less on the military campaigns and more on the domestic entanglements. I found myself most drawn to the women in the narrative, the love stories—and, yes, hate stories—of his many relationships.  

Which character did you find easiest to write? Which was the most challenging?
I loved reimagining the story of Mikhal.  Her love for David, the huge risk she takes to save him from her father, the terrible retribution the king then exacts for that betrayal, and all that follows—this powerful story is told in a handful of lines in the Bible.  Marvelous lines, to be sure, but very few.  Putting in the missing passion, the rage, the bitterness—that was very satisfying. I think David himself is always going to be the most challenging because he embodies so many contradictions. My struggle was to bring balance to all his contrasting traits, all the lights and shadows of his nature.

The novel is primarily told through the eyes of Natan, the mysterious prophet who becomes David’s direct connection to the divine, his lifelong companion and advisor, and the moral conscience of the novel. Where did your inspiration for Natan come from?
The inspiration was two references in the bible that I have used here as epigraphs, each of which refers to the lost “book of Natan.” The bible says Natan has given a full account of the lives of David and Solomon, all their acts, “from first to last.”  What would such a man have seen?  What would he have known?   How would his portrayal differ from the accounts that we do have, in the two books of Samuel, in Kings and in Chronicles? It’s tantalizing, and it took hold of my imagination. I’ve always loved the Hebrew prophets, in any case.  These are men of huge moral force, pain-in–the-ass truth tellers who had the guts to castigate their society and its rulers, often in the most exquisitely crafted language.  You can feel their fierceness, their penetrating intelligence, their bravery. 

You’ve written many historical novels, but none set so far back in time as THE SECRET CHORD. Was it challenging to capture the voice of the period?
I don’t think it’s possible to recapture the voice of a period so distant from our own.  What I tried to avoid were the familiar flowery cadences of King James Bible English, striving instead for something that evoked the bluntness and the austere beauty of the biblical Hebrew.

Humanity’s relationship with God is a major theme in your books. How would you describe your own faith, and how does it drive your work? 
I’m interested in believers, and in what faith does for us, and to us.  As a foreign correspondent in the Mideast, I witnessed first-hand the excesses born out of fanatical belief, and I draw on those experiences to imagine the past, where faith was often the defining essence of day-to-day existence.  I’m drawn to the human quest for meaning. I like asking the questions.  I haven’t found the answers.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the writing of this novel?
David shimmers somewhere in the half-light between history and myth. My challenge was to approach an emotional truth that seemed real and recognizable without losing the sense of the supernatural, the slightly magical aura that surrounds a man we’re told lived his life in the hand of the divine.

What can David’s story teach readers today? Why is his legacy still important?

There are myriad facets of his life that reward contemplation.  He experiences everything: triumph, celebrity, exile, repudiation. Love and hatred. Children who tear apart his family and try to steal his position; a child who grows up to become a byword for wisdom and good governance. He is famous for his art, he is renowned as a fighter, he is celebrated as a nation-builder.   He’s a descendant of the most important Biblical figures and the antecedent of Jesus.  I think the question is, What do you want to learn?  If it involves the experience of being human, you’ll find insight in the life of David.

Monday, December 5, 2016

ROCCO interviews....Nick Charles!

Merow, my guest today is that handsome, dashing literary feline who, of course, is patterned after myself...none other than Nick Charles from the Human's Nick and Nora mystery series!  I caught up with Nick and managed to ask him a few questions!

ROCCO:  Meow, welcome Nick!

Nick:  Merow, thanks for having me ROCCO

ROCCO:  So, tell me - how does a handsome feline like yourself get involved in solving msyteries?

Nick:  Well, to be honest Nora is the one who gets involved. I just use my superior sleuthing skills, taught to me by my former human, Nick Atkins, to help her!

ROCCO:  You've saved Nora's hide more than once. Like playing the knight in shining armor?

Nick:  Well, let's put it this way. No Nora, no food.

ROCCO:  You're also a model for pet collars. What's that like?

Nick:  Chantal means well, but collars aren't really my thing.  Im an independent, macho cat, y'know? Anyway, it makes her happy - and my photo does look good up in the store, so I figured why not?  Plus, she always has some sort of treat for me after we're done!

ROCCO:  In your last adventure we met Nora's old flame, Leroy Samms. How prominently does he figure in your new adventure, if at all?

Nick: Oh, Samms is there.  And he's a VERY prominent figure.  As a matter of fact, I'd say he'll be around for quite a while.

ROCCO:  Who do you prefer for your human? FBI agent Daniel Corleone or Detective Leroy Samms?

Nick:  To be quite honest, I hadn't thought that much about it. They both have their pros and cons.  I don't think Nora knows which one she prefers either, Merow.

ROCCO:  What would people be surprised to find out about you?

Nick:  That I'm really that  much into mice.  I mean, they're tasty and all, but I wouldn't go out of my way for one.

ROCCO:  Can you tell us a little bit about your latest adventure, CRIME AND CATNIP?

Nick:  Certainly.  While catering a gala for the Cruz Museum, Nora agrees to look into the disappearance of museum director Violet Crenshaw's niece.  She soon finds out that it's a case undertaken by my former owner, Nick Atkins, a PI whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

As we pull  at the string of clues, we begin to unravel a twisted tale of coded messages, false identities, theft, murder and international espionage!

ROCCO:  It sounds exciting!  Dare we hope that there is a resolution to the "whatever happened to Nick Atkins" mystery?

Nick:  (gives sly wink) Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out won't you? It debuts tomorrow, December 6.

ROCCO:  Sounds great, Nick. So what does the future hold for Nick and Nora? Can you give us any hints?

Nick:  More adventures, I sincerely hope.  the story of Nick and Nora is far from over, that much I can tell you.

ROCCO:  Thank you for spending time with us today, Nick! Folks, the third Nick and Nora adventure, CRIME AND CATNIP is out tomorrow! 

The Human will give away a signed copy of CRIME AND CATNIP to one lucky commenter!  Leave your name and email address iin our comments section to enter! For extra entries, you can:

Friend the Human on Facebook
Follow moi on twitter at @RoccoBlogger
Tweet about this contest
Mention this contest on Facebook
Mention this contest on your blog or other social media
Follow this blog, catsbooksmorecats!

You get one extra entry for each action! Contest closes midnight, December 9! US entries only please.

Good luck!

Friday, December 2, 2016

A big announcement from ROSIE GENOVA!

Author Rosie Genova has big news!  Presenting: The Seven Course Christmas Killer by Rosie Genova

Rosie Genova, author of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, serves up a new dish this week with the release of her e-book holiday novella, The Seven Course Christmas Killer: A Holiday Novella from the Italian Kitchen. Priced at .99, the e-book will be available on Amazon and most other retailers.

The story takes place on Christmas Eve, as Vic and the gang prepare the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes for their annual holiday party. But before you can say “shrimp scampi,” Mayor Anne McCrae takes a nasty fall that may not be an accident. Add a nosy reporter, guests with grudges, and a missing kitchen knife—and Vic suddenly has all the ingredients for murder!

  On Christmas Eve, someone might be sleeping with the fishes. . .

It’s December at the Casa Lido, which means only one thing: the Rienzi family’s traditional Christmas Eve celebration, including wine, song, and seven Italian seafood courses. As Victoria and Tim prep scungilli and calamari, Nonna directs the cooking until all is in readiness for the big night.

But the holiday cheer is interrupted by the attempted murder of Mayor Anne McCrae, who asks Vic to investigate. Trouble is, there are as many suspects as there are fishes on the Christmas Eve menu . . .

A Jersey girl born and bred, national bestselling author Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for her cozy series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries. Her debut, Murder and Marinara, was voted a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was a finalist for a 2014 Daphne Award. Her books have been described as blending “mystery with comedy, romance, family drama, a vivid and affectionate portrayal of the Jersey shore and…oh yes, cooking.”

The proud mama of three grown sons, Rosie still lives in her home state with her husband and a charming mutt named Lucy. She also writes women's fiction as Rosemary DiBattista.

Note from ROCCO: for those of you who are not familiar with Rosie's Italian Kitchen series, they are fabulous!  Rosie has consented to give away either one of the first three Italian Kitchen mysteries  or an e-copy of Seven Course Christmas Killer to one lucky commenter! To enter, just leave your email address and comment below!  for extra entries, you can:
Friend the Human on Facebook
Follow moi on Twitter @RoccoBlogger
Tweet about this contest
Post about this contest on Facebook
Mention this contest on your blog or other social media.
You get one extra entry for each action!  Contest closes midnight, December 5!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

ROCCO welcomes author Delia James!

Meow, my guest is author Delia James!

ROCCO interviews author Delia James

  • Welcome Delia! Tell us a little about your background.
     I started writing early.  I knew by the time I was thirteen it was what I wanted to do.  In fact, I got my first professional rejection in high school.  I went through college on an eccentric program I more or less made up myself, trying to get as much practicle experience as I could and came out with a communications degree, and spent the time after that writing and submitting.  I sold my first novel in 1994 and since then have written in about every genre; starting with science fiction and fantasy and moving through romance, young adult and mysteries.
  • Tell us a bit about your Witch’s Cat series.
     The witch's cat mysteries follow the investigations of Anna Britton, who is in order, a freelance artist, a new resident of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and a witch.  Her partner in solving crime is her magical familiar, a large, highly intelligent cat named Alistair.  It's sometimes tough to tell who has more attitude, but between them they manage to get in and out of a whole lot of trouble.
  • You’ve written other series under other names. Can you tell us about those?
     Well, as I said, I've written in just about every genre.  Using different names helps the stores know where to put the books.  You don't necessarily want the romance mixed up with the Young Adult.  As Sarah Zettel, I've written science fiction and fantasy, a fantasy series for young adults calle The American Fairy trilogy, and most recently a set of historical mysteries called Palace of Spies.  Under the name Darcie Wilde I write regency romances and the Rosalind Thorne mysteries which are also set in Regency England.
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
     I take a lot of notes and a lot of long walks.  Mostly, I start a book with a particular scene in my head.  It might be from any point in the plot, even the end.  Then, I'll work my way back; who the heck are these people and how did they get here?  The details usually fill themselves in fairly randomly once I start asking the questions.
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
     A little of both.  I sort of sketch.  I'll write some chapters in details, and rough out others.  When I'm writing a mystery, I need to work out a pretty detailed plan for the ending, so I know where I'm going while I'm working.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
     That's like asking which is more important; breathing in or breathing out?  You cannot separate them and still have a good, complete story.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
     Starting over.  As a writer you're doing it constantly and usually on more than one level and in all kinds of circumstances.  It can get extremely frustrating at times, and staring at the blank page can feel like the worst thing in the world.
  • Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
     Let's see if I can do the short version.  I'd actually written and submitted a (very bad) romance novel, and to my shock I got an offer on it.  A friend of mine had just signed with a prominent agenct and I asked him to ask her if she could recommend someone who represented romance.  He did and she did -- herself.  We started emailing and she thought she could get me a better offer for the romance.  I mentioned I also had some science fiction projects.  The romance (thankfully) never sold (nothing against romance but this was really bad), but the sci-fi sold in three months and we were off to the races.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
     Right now I'm working on a piece of suspense and a young adult fantasy series.  After that...your guess is as good as mine.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
     I am lucky enough to be able to write full time.  I keep office hours, usually 8 to 4 weekdays, and I write at a co-working space, which is great because it gives me a chance to be away from the house and in a work-focused environment where I'm not worried about all the laundry that's not folded. 
  • If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
     Oh, help.  What day is it?  Okay.  Watership Down by Richard Adams.  The October Country by Ray Bradbury.  Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier and as much Georgette Heyer as I can sneak in the bottom of my suitcase.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
     Learn to finish what you start.  Everything else is secondary.  If you can't finish, you can't submit, and if you can't submit, you can't sell.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
     Become a writer.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
     I'm a good baker and a lousy gardener.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
I honestly have no answer for this one.  I've been asked such a wide variety across the years, and the genres.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
You can find out everything about Delia James and the Witch's Cat mysteries at  To learn more about Darcie Wilde and the Rosalind Thorne mysteries, go to  All other inquiries should go to

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  .Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  I plead the Fifth.
Beach or Pool?   Beach.
Steak or salad?  What are you kidding me?  Steak.
Favorite Drink?  Again, are you kidding me?  Coffee.
Favorite Book?  Jeeze, making me choose again.  It's a toss up between Watership Down and Rebecca.
Favorite TV Series?  Doctor Who.
Favorite Movie?  The Prestige, if it isn't The Heiress with Olivia deHavallind, if it isn't The Big Sleep with Humphery Bogart and Lauren Bacall, if it isn't The Barretts of Wimpole Street with Norma Shearer..
Favorite Actor:  Oh, lordy.  Pass. 
Favorite Actress: Yeesh.  I'm a movie buff and you want me to pick just one?  I'd need to narrow it down to an era.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?  Coffee.  I don't drink...alchohal.
Hawaii or Alaska?  Maine.
Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Charlotte Bronte
If I had just one wish, it would be to know how best to use my wishes.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be : I've just spent five minutes thinking about this, and you know what?  I wouldn't trade.  I'd have to stop being myself, and I like me.

Penguin has donated a copy of BY FAMILIAR MEANS to give to one lucky commenter! To enter, leave a comment with your email addy in our comments section!  Contest ends midnight, December 2!

Monday, November 21, 2016

ROCCO'S guest - Ling Ling from the Mrs. Odboddy series.

My guest: Ling-Ling from the Mrs. Odboddy series.

Ling-Ling is a charming cat featured prominently in the Mrs. Odboddy series written by Elaine Faber. 

Elaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inspire Christian Writers, and Cat Writers Association. She has published four novels. Her short stories are published in multiple anthologies. Elaine lives in Northern California with her husband and three housecats, the inspiration for the Black Cat Mysteries. She volunteers at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop.
Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot
Black Cat’s Legacy
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer
Black Cat and the Accidental Angel

R: for all our interested readers out there – particularly the feline ones – describe a typical day in your life.
LL:With the victory garden to fertilize, keeping free-loading birds out of the apple tree, and garage rodent patrol, there’s little time left for an afternoon nap in a sun puddle.

R: Tell us about your owner, Mrs. Odboddy? What’s the deal with the Nazi spies? LL:Unlike many elderly human’ minions’, Mrs. Odboddy has severe flights of fancy. But, seeing conspiracies under every cabbage bush and obsessing about Newbury newcomers as Nazi spies? Really!

R: Tell us about some of Mrs. Odboddy’s adventures? What’s her latest caper? LL:Most recently, she discovered a supposed ration book conspiracy and had to bring the culprits to justice. So, she hid in the dark and climbed into the back of a pickup truck that was… but you’ll have to read for yourself what happened next.
Then, there was the time she put six chickens in the bathroom. Now, what self-respecting moggy could ignore such temptation? So, I carried out a Black-Ops mission. Chickens? Birds? What’s the difference? I don’t know why she was so mad.

R: What do you love most about her? Dislike most?
LL: I’ll be forever grateful that Mrs. Odboddy rescued me when my former ‘minion,’ Lilly, was sentenced to a Japanese internment camp. Oh, the injustice of it! I guess Mr. Roosevelt had his reasons, being there’s a war on and all, but I think if I was President of the USA, I would have figured out a better way to deal with Japanese-American citizens. Dislike? Probably when Mrs. Odboddy is making the bed and tosses me to the floor. Now, that’s a real injustice!!!!

R: What’s the story behind your name?
LL: My previous owner, Lilly Jengyu, named me Ling-Ling after a relative who lived in Japan fifty years ago. Lilly has never been out of the USA.

R: If you could change one thing about your human what would it be?
LL: Mrs. Odboddy thinks no one knows about the henna rinse on her hair. She should be delighted to have grey hair with some tinges of dark around the edges. I mean, that’s what my fur looks like, right?  Mostly grey with dark edges around my feet and face? Aren’t I beautiful? You bet your extra dew-claw I am! 

R: Do you have a boyfriend?
LL: The orange tabby across the street likes to come courting, but I believe relationships should be based on similar religious beliefs, political affiliation and ancestry. I am an Episcopal Democrat Siamese…and that striped cat across the street is a Baptist Republican that favored Wendell Wilkey in the last election. How would that work out? What would be talk about?  

R: Would you be open to the idea of a handsome tuxedo courting you from afar? LL:Depends…What is your favored religion, political views and ancestry? I don’t believe in mixed marriages. But, I’m always open to purr-suasion...

R:  Just for fun…
Catnip or scratching post? Definitely, scratching posts. As a Democrat Episcopal Siamese, catnip is against my religion, as it alters one’s ability to resist temptation.
Tabbies or Tuxedos? We’ve already discussed this issue above.
Fish or Steak? I’m a Friskie-atarian. I don’t eat anything that had eyeballs.
Shakespeare or Stephen King? Shakespeare is boring and Stephen King keeps me awake at night. A girl needs her beauty sleep.  I only read cozy cat mysteries.

Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot is a hysterical mythical romp through small town America during WWII. Available at Amazon for just $3.99. You’ll laugh at Mrs. Odboddy’s fancies and foibles as she deals with her life full of conspiracies and spies during this exciting and challenging time in American history.

Elaine (and Ling-Ling) will give away two e- books (reader's choice) to one person who leaves a favorable comment on this blog!  Please don't forget to leave your email address so we can contact you!  Contest ends midnight, November 26..

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Say Hello to author KELLY OLIVER

Merow, my guest today is author Kelly Oliver!

  • Welcome Kelly! Tell us a little about your background
·        I grew up in the Northwest, Montana, Idaho, and Washington states.  My maternal grandfather was a forest ranger committed to saving the trees, and my paternal grandfather was a logger hell bent on cutting them down.  On both sides, my ancestors were some of the first settlers in Northern Idaho.  I went from eating a steady diet of wild game shot by my dad to becoming a vegetarian while studying philosophy and pondering animal minds when getting my PhD in philosophy at Northwestern University.  Competing with peers who’d come from private schools and posh families “back East,” my working class backwoods grit served me well.  And much to my parent’s surprise, I’ve managed to feed and cloth herself as a professional philosopher. 
·        When I’m not writing Jessica James mystery novels, I’m Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, and the author of thirteen nonfiction books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles, including work on campus rape, reproductive technologies, women and the media. I’ve been published in The New York Times, interviewed on ABC television news, the Canadian Broadcasting Network, and various radio programs

  • Tell us a bit about your Jessica James series. What was the inspiration?
  • The inspiration for my first novel WOLF was my own experience in graduate school. I plead the fifth on what parts of WOLF are true. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you! But, my protagonist, Jessica James, is a lot bolder than I ever was. With more wit than grace, the philosophy graduate student and former barrel racing champion, stumbles into murder mysteries, human trafficking, rape drugs, art scams, and corporate corruption

  • Tell us about your latest release
My latest novel is COYOTE. After her first disastrous year in graduate school, Jessica James returns home from the big city to the backwaters of Montana for a summer job at an historic railroad lodge in spectacular Glacier Park.  After her cousin dies in a gruesome accident at the lumber mill, Jessica is pulled into a fight against the corruption and greed ignited by the oil frenzy on the Montana plains. Her roommate, Kimi RedFox is determined to stop powerful Knight Industries, headed by Cheneyesque billionaire Richard Knight, from drilling oil on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation.  “Kimi” means “secret” in Blackfoot, and the reticent Kimi keeps hers until it’s almost too late.  Kimi’s not about to accept help from Jessica or anyone else, but she’s resolved to find her missing sisters, even if it kills her. Corrupt Richard Knight has assigned his younger brother David to oversee fracking operations in on the Blackfeet reservation.  Trying to overcome his reputation as a spoiled slacker, David wants to impress his brother and earn Jessica’s respect.  But is the handsome young businessman his brother’s henchman or his dupe?  And, will Jessica and Kimi quit sparring long enough to team up and expose sex trafficking, prostitution rings, and murder schemes involving some of the biggest FRACKERS in the country?  Or, will they become the murder’s next victims?
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
  • That’s a great question. I have a sense of them when I start, but they develop as I write and eventually take on lives of their own. At that point, I have a pretty clear sense of what they would and wouldn’t do.  And just in case I don’t, I have a great copy editor who occasionally warns me that Jessica would never do that!

  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
  • I start with a couple of main plot points, and then think of what characters I need to tell the story.  I guess I’m more of a pantser.  My “outlines” are sometimes just a couple of lines.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
  • I think they have to go together.  My novels are character driven page-turners. But in order to get the action and plot moving, you need the right characters.  And in order to get readers to invest in the action and plot you definitely need well developed characters!
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
For years, I’ve written nonfiction and learned how to navigate that publishing world.  Writing and publishing fiction is a lot different. Writing fiction is so satisfying and enjoyable (except for the back pain from sitting so long at the computer!). But publishing fiction is very tricky and difficult. It’s hard not to obsess about the marketing and publicity and your amazon rankings and just get back to the writing, which is what I love.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’ve just started the third Jessica James mystery. It takes Jessica back to Northwestern and Chicago where she gets involved with some pretty creepy stuff going on at the Medical school!
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
  • I like to start writing in the morning after breakfast. If I start first thing, I usually get a lot more done than if I put it off.  If I do anything else first, it is hard to get back to writing. I try to write just about every day. But I also have my “day job” as a professor and that keeps me busy, too.  Luckily, I write pretty fast, and I’m a workaholic. My best days are when I have time to write all day (unless, of course, I’m x-country skiing!).

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Just write, and keep writing until the end. And get a really good editor!

  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
  • Hmmmm…I’ll have to plead the fifth on that one…but read WOLF for some clues!

  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I hadn’t written a word of fiction until I started WOLF.  I wrote the first draft in 7 weeks and then revised it over the next year.
  • Where can we learn more about you and your books?

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  DAY
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)   CAT, obviously!
Beach or Pool?   POOL
Steak or salad?  DON’T DARE ANSWER.
Favorite Drink?  Huckleberry Milkshake.
Favorite Book?  Too many….but my mother-in-law, Rosario Ferré wrote some whoppers; her House on the Lagoon is great. And I loved Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I like a lot of Ian McEwan, especially The Beach. For mysteries, I’m a big Elizabeth Peter’s fan. I especially love to listen to her books on audiobooks when read by Barbara Rosenblatt.
Favorite TV Series?  Star Trek….okay, I know, I admit it.  I’m a total Trekkie!
Favorite Movie?  Depends on when you ask. Kurosawa’s Kagamusha is pretty great. I love most of Hitchcock, especially Marnie, and Rear Window. And film noir, of course. Fritz Lang’s The Secret Behind the Door is pretty great.
Favorite Actor: Gregory Peck, Johnny Depp, Theo James.
Favorite Actress: Grace Kelly, Scarlett Johanson, Jennifer Lawrence.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? How about Jack and Coke?
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska for sure. I can’t take the heat.

Thanks Kelly.  You can find her at:

Twitter: #ProfKellyOliver

Look for Kelly's giveaways on GOODREADS.  Follow her there for more info.