Saturday, October 14, 2017

ROCCO welcomes Rhys Bowen!

Meow, my guest today is author Rhys Bowen!

Rhys Bowen is the New York TimesBestselling Author of the Royal Spyness Series, Molly Murphy Mysteries, and Constable Evans. She has won the Agatha Best Novel Award and has been nominated for the Edgar Best Novel. Rhys’s titles have received rave reviews around the globe.

  • Welcome, Rhys! Tell us a little about your background
Thank you ROCCO. I was born and raised in England, educated at London University and worked for the BBC, but now live in California and Arizona (I like sunshine). I’m married with 4 children and now 5 grandchildren. I have been a published writer for most of my life. I have been writing mysteries for 20 years now and have made the New York Times and USA today bestseller lists as well as being #1 on Kindle. My books have won 14 awards to date, out of 28 nominations and my fortieth mystery comes out next March..
  • Tell us a bit about your “Royal Spyness” series. How did that idea come about?
It came about when my publisher said they couldn’t really break me out unless I wrote a big dark stand-alone novel. I thought about this and decided I didn’t want to spend six months in such a dark setting. So I realized I wanted to have fun when I wrote. I wondered what would be the most unlikely sleuth I could come up with. How about if she was royal? But penniless? And the 1930s—such a fascinating time to set any book.
  • Tell us about your other series, Molly Murphy and Evan Evans.  Do you prefer one over the other?
It’s like saying which child do you like best! Evan was my first sleuth. I started writing those books because I had read Tony Hillerman and was so impressed with his sense of place. Since I had spent a lot of time in Wales during my childhood I wanted to give that same sense of place to my books. So the books take place in a small village in Snowdonia. And Molly—she came about after I visited Ellis Island. I was emotionally overcome with what I felt there and knew I had to set a book there. I also wanted to write a first person female protagonist, one who is brave and feisty with a strong sense of justice but not always wise (a little like me, I’m afraid). The first book, Murphy’s Law, won the Agatha Award for best novel that year and the series has gone on to win many more awards. Book 17 comes out in November!
And I’d also like to mention this year’s big stand-alone novel In Farleigh Field. It takes place in Britain in WWII and was such a joy to write. An equal joy that it has done so brilliantly: selling over 100,000 copies during the first month!
  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I get to know them first through their speech. Both Molly and Georgie are first person narrators and once they started speaking they literally took over. Apart from that they reveal a little more about themselves with each book. I’ve never been able to create a character. They just introduce themselves and there they are!
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Definitely a pantzer! I start by knowing the environment in which the story will take place. Sometimes I know the crime that will happen, sometimes who will be killed and why. Sometimes very little. I write the first half of every book in panic mode. But if I outlined and knew what was going to happen I’d be bored. I like being surprised as much as my readers do!
However, when I wrote In Farleigh Field there were multiple points of view, several different stories so it had to be plotted out more carefully.
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Oh character, definitely. Plots can be clever but readers fall in love with a character. No reader has ever said to me “I love your books because of their clever plots.” They say, “I love Georgie. Or I love Molly.”
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My biggest challenge has been to try to fit in as many books as my publishers want me to write. Twice now I’ve done 3 books a year and that has been brutal. But it’s hard to say no.
What inspires me is that I love spending time with my characters. I love chuckling when one of my Royal Spyness characters says or does something silly. I also love the historical research. AND I love going on tour and meeting my readers.  I realize how lucky I have been to have become more successful every year for twenty years.
  • Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I had a previous agent and things were not going well. She had moved to Singapore and thought she could take care of my career from there. So I was at Malice Domestic and on a panel with Dorothy Cannel. Afterward her agent said, “Who was that British lady next to you? She was really funny.”  And Dorothy, bless her heart, said, “She’s looking for a new agent.” And the rest is history.
  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am halfway through next year’s Royal Spyness novel. It’s called Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding. Lots of fun.
But before that I completed my second by stand-alone novel for Lake Union. This one is called The Tuscan Child and takes place in WWII and in the 1970s. it’s the first book I’ve written in two time periods. Quite a challenge.
  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I write every day. Up early and do my social media then settle in by about 9 a.m. I write until I’ve done about 5 pages. Some days that’s easy, some it’s hard. But if you know you can’t quit until you’ve done the required amount it makes you keep the behind to the chair! It takes me about 3 months to do the first draft, then I polish, give to other readers, re-polish and off it goes.
  • 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?
That’s hard. The first one is cheating: The Lord of the Rings. It has been a favorite all my life. Something meaty that I wouldn’t otherwise read because it involved too much time and effort: maybe George Eliot’s Middlemarch or a Dickens novel. And something to make me laugh. An old favorite: Our Hearts were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner.
  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Read. Read. Read.
And then write, write, write. I can’t tell you how many would-be writers I have met who tell me they plan to write a book some day. I ask what they are writing now and they say they don’t have time right now. I tell them if they were going to give a concert at Carnegie Hall one day but didn’t practice the piano at all now it would never happen. You only get better when you learn to manipulate the words on the page.
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Taking a chance on marrying my husband, leaving Australia with him and moving to California was pretty crazy. Also I hitchhiked around Greece for 3 months with a friend when I was a student.
  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I used to sing in London folk clubs with Al Stewart, and Simon and Garfunkel.
  • What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What’s the most exciting thing that you are looking forward to next year?
And my answer: I’ve been invited back to be writer-in-residence in Tuscany. It’s a fabulous hotel in the vineyards and we work hard but also eat fabulous meals, go to wine tastings, excursions and generally have a good time. The details are on my website.
  •  Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Twitter @rhysbowen
Thank you. Great questions


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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Happy October! ROCCO interviews SID THE SKELETON!

Sid the Skeleton considers himself the protagonist of Leigh Perry’s mysteries because, as he points out, “It’s the Family Skeleton Series, right?” Georgia Thackery, his BFF and partner-in-crime-solving might disagree with this, but since she’s not around, we’ll accept Sid’s pronouncement. Sid has appeared in four mysteries so far. The Skeleton Paints a Picture, the fourth, was just released by Diversion Books this week. When not solving murders, Sid enjoys computer gaming, watching movies with his pal Georgia and Georgia’s daughter Madison, taking online courses of all kinds, and avoiding the family dog, Byron.  Georgia loves the beach, mysterious happenings, and all things good-naturedly paranormal. The family home is in Pennycross, Mass., but in the new book, Sid—and Georgia—have gone further afield to Falstone, Mass. (Don’t bother looking up either on a map. The towns, like Sid himself, are fictional.) (Portrait of Sid by Maggie Kelner)



R: Welcome Sid! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in crime solving.

 S: Thanks ROCCO! Well, I’m a skeleton. A robust, male skeleton, if anybody wants personal details. And I got interested in murder when I realized I, myself, had been murdered.



R: You seem very lively for a skeleton. How did the “Family Skeleton” series come about?


S: I met this person Leigh Perry—online of course, since I don’t leave the house that often. Anyway, I told Leigh about some of my adventures, and she brought it up to her agent, and naturally they were intrigued. Leigh might not be the most elegant of prose stylists, but she’s done a pretty fair job of laying out my skills as a detective.



R: Don’t you have a partner?

S: You must mean Georgia Thackery, my housemate and BFF. I’ve known her since she was six, and I had just woken up in my current gleaming white form. Georgia is an adjunct English professor, which means moving often and not getting a lot of pay. She’s also a single mother of a teenaged daughter, Madison. They share my house now, along with Georgia’s parents, who also academics.

R: It’s your house?

 S: More or less. Anyway, Georgia is a big help in solving my cases. Kind of a Dr. Watson to my Sherlock Bones. Get it? Sherlock bones?


 R: Very amusing. So if you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?

 S: I think I’d like to go back to the time when I was still alive—traditionally alive. I don’t have any memories of that time, but it would be interesting to see what I looked like with skin and flesh and hair and all that.


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

S: I think it would have to be animation, so all I have to cast is my voice. I’m thinking Patton Oswald would be an excellent choice. He has the acting chops, a great voice, and the intelligence and wit that reflects my charm.


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

 S: I think just knowing that I exist would be a big surprise, don’t you?


R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 

S: I posed for a painting class. Nude. Not a stitch on me. That’s in the new book, by the way. Hot stuff—keep it away from the kiddies.


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

 S: That family is who you love, and not who—or what—you are.


 R: What is Leigh Perry working on at the moment?

 S: It’s a great story of the time an online gaming compaion came looking for me in a summer cabin, hoping I’d help her find a missing person. We’re aren’t sure if it will be called The Skeleton Makes a Friend or The Skeleton Plays a Game.


R: Is Leigh a plotter or a pantser?

 S: It’s funny, she says she’s a pantser, starting with notes and scenes and things she wants to shoehorn into the book, and kind of glues it together. But since I dictate my stories, I don’t see what she means by that.


R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

S: Leigh has a web page ( and a Facebook page ( I’m on Twitter @family_skeleton.


R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers? Or crime solvers?

 S: I’ve got the same advice for both: read, read, read. There’s no better way to get a feel for how language works or for how people think and react.



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

 S: I haven’t finished going through Monte Beauchamp’s art book Popular Skullture: the Skull Motif in Pulps, Paperbacks, and Comics.


 Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Night. That’s when the family is home.

Dog or Cat? Cats! Dogs and skeletons are not a good mix.

Beach or Pool? Kind of hard for me to go to either—people are so judgmental of Osteo-Americans. But on a recent stay in a cabin in the woods, I got a chance to go into a lake. It was terrific! I can hold my breath forever. Well, I don’t breathe.

Steak or salad? Not an eater.

Favorite Drink? Not a drinker, either.

Favorite Book? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I loved the way Rowling tied it all up for her fans.

Favorite TV Series? Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Favorite Movie? The Toy Story series, The Book of Life, and The Nightmare Before Christmas

Favorite Actor: Danny Elfman, for his portrayal of Jack Skellington

Favorite Actress: Kate del Castillo, for her portrayal of La Muerte in The Book of Life

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Nope

Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska. It’s easier to hide, and I’ve recently discovered how much fun snow blowing is.

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be: John Lasseter, both to thank him for those wonderful Pixar movies and to see if he can help get a job for Leigh Perry’s animator daughter.

If I had just one wish, it would be: For adjunct faculty to be paid what they’re worth.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: honestly? Not a living soul. I am one happy skeleton!


 Thanks Sid!

You can find Sid on Twitter @Family_Skeleton, and you can find Leigh Perry on Facebook at leighperry and online at


Giveaway time!

Leigh Perry will send a signed copy of The Skeleton Paints a Picture, the brand-new Family Skeleton mystery. US addresses only, please.


To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


Tweet about this contest or post on your FB page

Follow moi on Twitter @RoccoBlogger

Follow the Human on Facebook


Contest closes midnight, October 15th! Good Luck!








Sunday, October 1, 2017


Meow, ROCCO here!
Here are my cozy mystery reviews for the month of October, starting with my top pick!


Fixing to Die: A Southern Ladies Mystery
Miranda James
October 3, 2017
It’s autumn down south, and An'gel and Dickce Ducote are in Natchez, Mississippi, at the request of Mary Turner Catlin, the granddaughter of an old friend. Mary and her husband, Henry Howard, live in Cliffwood, one of the beautiful antebellum homes for which Natchez is famous.

Odd things have been happening in the house for years, and the French Room in particular has become the focal point for spooky sensations. The Ducotes suspect the ghostly goings-on are caused by the living, but when a relative of the Catlins is found dead in the room, An'gel and Dickce must sift through a haunted family history to catch a killer.

Sez ROCCO:  Miranda James Southern Lady mysteries are just as charming as the Cat in the Stacks series, one of my personal favorites.  It's always enjoyable to watch the sisters ferret out clues. This one, with a hint of the supernatural, just might be the best one yet!  if  you haven't sampled this series yet we encourage you to do so!  Rating:  four and a half paws!!!!!!

ROCCO's October Reviews:
Check out these cozies from Penguin!

Crepe Factor: A Scrapbooking Mystery
Laura Childs/Terrie Farley Moran
October 3, 2017

The holidays are a busy time for scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand—but not so hectic that she doesn’t have time to enjoy browsing the booths at the Winter Market with her best friend, Ava. The last thing the ladies expect to see is a lurching man stabbed by a serving fork, dying in front of them.

The victim is loathed restaurant critic Martin Lash, who posted his scathing reviews on the Glutton for Punishment website. And the prime suspect is New Orleans restaurateur Quigg Brevard—who was seen giving the critic a tongue-lashing minutes before someone stuck a fork in him. An old flame of Carmela’s, Quigg asks for her help, which does not please her current beau, Detective Edgar Babcock, to say the least.

Before her relationship is the next victim, Carmela needs to find a murderer who had no reservations about punishing the culinary curmudgeon…

ROCCO sez:  I'm always a big fan of anything Laura Childs writes, and this series is no exception.  The characters, settings and plots are always lively and well thought out.  I especially enjoyed seeing Edgar squirm when CArmela helps out her ex-beau Quigg.  One must pray that Penguin has the good sense to keep this series going!  Rating: four and a half paws!!!!!!!!

Ghost Times Two
Carolyn Hart
October 3, 2017

Bailey Ruth Raeburn’s latest mission is to guide the spirit of a deceased young man named Jimmy to the next life. But Jimmy is determined to watch over his still-living girlfriend, Megan. As if being haunted by her late boyfriend wasn’t enough, Megan is dealing with an arrogant, manipulative senior partner who threatens to fire Megan’s vulnerable secretary if Megan accepts a partnership at another law firm.

Since Jimmy refuses to move on while Megan is being blackmailed, Bailey Ruth agrees to help him. But after the partner turns up dead and Megan is found at the crime scene, Bailey Ruth and Jimmy must uncover a killer before the love of Jimmy’s life is ordered to spend a lifetime behind bars…

This series is a lot of fun and should appeal especially to those who love a touch of the paranormal mixed in with their  mysteries!  Carolyn Hart has done it again!  This series is a win win!  ROCCO's rating:  Four paws! 

A Brewing Trouble Mystery
Joyce Tremel
October 3, 2017

Disaster is on tap in this all-new mystery from the author of Tangled Up in Brew.

It's Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh, and brewpub owner Maxine "Max" O'Hara is prepping for a busy month at the Allegheny Brew House. To create the perfect atmosphere for the boozy celebration, Max hires an oompah band. But when one of the members from the band turns up dead, it's up to Max to solve the murder before the festivities are ruined. 

Adding to the brewing trouble, Candy, Max's friend, is acting suspicious... Secrets from her past are fermenting under the surface, and Max must uncover the truth to prove her friend's innocence. To make matters worse, Jake's snooty ex-fiancée shows up in town for an art gallery opening, and she'll be nothing but a barrel of trouble for Max.

Sez ROCCO:  The Human loves beer and I myself do not  mind the occasional sip. This series is like catnip to me!  The characters are likeable and the plots interesting!  I enjoyed seeing Max going all out to prove her friend Candy's innocence, and of course, there is a dash of romance included!  Grab yourself a Corona (or your brew of choice) and enjoy!  Rocco's rating:  Four and a half paws! 

Familiar Motives: A Witch's Cat mystery
Delia James
October 3, 2017

After learning that she comes from a family of witches—and adopting a familiar named Alistair—artist Annabelle Britton has made beautiful Portsmouth, New Hampshire, her home. Together with her coven, this good witch is trying to put a stop to magic and murder most foul. 

When Anna takes Alistair to see local veterinarian Ramona Forsythe, they meet the most famous cat in town: Ruby the Attitude Cat, spokes-feline for a pet food brand. But then Ramona turns up dead, and Ruby goes missing. It seems like the murderer used magical means, so it’s up to Anna and Alistair to catch a killer and cat-napper as only a canny cat can.

Sez ROCCO:  Oh, come on! Who wouldn't like a series about a witch's cat??????  The plot in this one is especially well thought out and we always love it when cats play a major role in the mystery solving.  This series is a delight, even if the supernatural isn't your cup of tea!  ROCCO's rating:  Four paws!

Enter to win a copy of GHOST TIMES TWO!

Leave your name and email address in the comments section!  Winner will be chosen at random!  US entries only please! Contest closes midnight October 8!