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!