Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What scares you?

It's Halloween today and I can imagine that many people across the US certainly don't want or need anything else to scare them. Real life is scary enough as it is. And then I'm thinking of all the poor little kids who have the costume and the Trick and Treat pail and nowhere to go. Mother Nature can certainly disrupt our frail human plans, can't it?

But because it is Halloween I'm thinking about what I'm scared of. Mostly it's silly things, primeval things like the dark and spiders. I don't know why I'm scared of the dark but I still have to sleep with my door open a crack and light coming in from the hall. When I'm in a hotel room I have to open the drapes enough to see around the room.

 And spiders...i know they are good and helpful and I shouldn't be scared, but I am. Of course there were a couple of times when I should have been scared like the time I carried out a big spider in a glass with just a sheet of paper between me and it and discovered from the photo we took that it was a brown recluse. And once in Australia I went to the bathroom at a national park, closed the door and a huge, large, very, very big Huntsman spider, about 4 inches across and hairy, crawled and sat on top of the door. I had visions of it dropping onto my hand if I tried to open the door but didn't want to spend the rest of my life in a restroom. My heart was certainly beating fast as I pulled that door open, inch by inch, then ran for my life, convinced that the spider was sitting on my shoulder laughing....

A writer's imagination is sometimes dangerous. It is prone to embellishing reality and presenting a worst-case scenario.  Oh, and I'm scared of moths. But not snakes or sharks. I have swum with baracudas. I have stood on narrow mountain ledges. Makes no sense. How about you. What scares you most?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Darcy and Sandy snippets

For those of you who are wondering whether Darcy will show up in this book....can you imagine a fun Christmas without misletoe and the right man?

Sending out protective vibes to all my friends and readers on the East Coast of the US. Stay safe and dry!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sneak Preview of The Twelve Clues of Christmas, part 3

I hope you enjoyed sneak peeks one and two.
Did I mention that the book includes a compendium of Christmas recipes, games, traditions?
English villages are definitely strange and have plenty of weird customs. This village is among the stranger ones...

Here is sneak peek number  three... Enjoy.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas. Sneak Preview 3.

  As we came out of the gates and into the village we noticed several groups of villagers, standing in tight knots, talking animatedly. A cluster of men outside the pub glanced furtively in our direction, then went back to their chatter. There was something unnerving about this, a tension in the air as if something was being plotted. Bunty didn’t seem to notice there was anything odd in their behavior.
            “So here’s the sum total of Tiddleton-Under-Lovey,” she said. “One pub, two shops, one school, one church on the green and a few cottages.”
            “What about that nicer house beside the school? I asked. “Is that where the schoolmaster lives?”
            “Oh no, he has a cottage on the Widdecombe road. That house belongs to the Missess ffrench-Finch. Three elderly sisters who have lived there all their lives. Their father left them quite well off and they never married. We used to call them the Three Weird Sisters and spy on them when we were growing up. You’ll meet them over Christmas, I’m sure. Mummy always invites them to Christmas lunch.”
            “And what about the pub?” I asked, looking at the sign swinging in the chill morning breeze. “The Hag and Hounds? What’s that about?”
            “Local history.” Bunty grinned. “We had a local witch you know. Back in the seventeen hundreds. They wanted to catch her and bring her to trial, but she escaped onto the moor. They chased her to the top of Lovey Tor with a pack of hounds and then burned her at the stake. We have a festival to celebrate it every New Year’s Eve. You’ll be able to see just how primitive we are down here in Devon.  This way.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sneak Preview, part deux!

I hope you enjoyed the first sneak preview of my upcoming novel THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS. Here is a second sneak peek. It will be in stores and on Amazon etc on November 6 (election day) so if you find the election as hopelessly annoying as I do, you may want to escape to an old English Christmas.


The Twelve Clues of Christmas, Sneak Preview 2.

Lady Hawse-Gorzley motioned me to sit in one of the arm chairs then went over to a table in the corner and picked up a decanter. “Sherry all right for you? Or would you prefer something stronger? A brandy maybe after your travels?”
“No, sherry would be lovely, thank you.”
“Always have one myself before dinner. I suppose the sun has to be over the yard arm, wouldn’t you say? What time is it, by the way? Damned grandfather clock has given up the ghost again. It’s been in the family since seventeen hundred so I suppose one can allow it the odd temper tantrum, but dashed awkward time to do it.”
“It’s about five thirty,” I said, consulting my wrist watch.
“Is it, by George. A little early for sherry, but in the circumstances, I suppose we can bend the rules, what?” She poured two generous glasses and handed me one. “God, how the time has flown today. I don’t know how we’re going to get everything ready for the guests in time. Those damned police tramping around all day.” She perched on the arm of a nearby chair and knocked back her sherry in one gulp. “Like another?” she asked and looked in surprise that I hadn’t yet started mine. “Come on. Drink up. Do you good.”
I knew that good breeding did not allow one to ask too many questions, but I was dying of curiosity. “Lady Hawse-Gorzley, you mentioned that the police had been here all day. What exactly have they been doing?”
“Tramping all over the place and upsetting my servants, that’s what. Damned impertinence. All because our stupid neighbor had to go and kill himself in our orchard. Of all the inconsiderate things to do, especially when he knew I had people coming. Still that was par for the course with him. Didn’t care a hoot about anybody but himself.”
I tried to digest this while she knocked back a second sherry. “Your neighbor killed himself? Committed suicide, you mean?”
“I hardly think so. If you wanted to kill yourself you probably wouldn’t bother to climb a tree first, would you? Not unless you wanted to fall and break your neck and our fruit trees aren’t that big. No, the police think it was an accident. Carrying a loaded rook rifle with him, somehow slipped or knocked the gun and it went off in his face.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sneak Preview of Twelve Clues!

Here it is: the first promised sneak preview of my upcoming book, The Twelve Clues of Christmas.

And don't forget that I'll be running a contest through the month of November. Two copies of the book will be given away to the best comments made on this site. So share your thoughts!


As we set off through the country lanes the sun was sinking in a red ball behind the hills. Rooks were cawing as they flew home to their trees. On a great sweep of upland moor I saw a line of Dartmoor ponies silhouetted against the sunset.
We came around a bend and there it was, Tiddleton-Under-Lovey, nestled under a snow capped tor. Was that rocky crag the Lovey, I wondered. It didn’t look very loving to me. Or was it perhaps the noisy little stream that passed under the humpback bridge as we approached the first houses? On one side of the village street was a small row of shops and a pub called the Hag and Hounds—complete with swinging pub sign depicting a witch on a broomstick with baying dogs below her. On the other side was a pond on which glided several graceful swans, and a village green. Behind this were some thatched cottages and the square tower of a church. Smoke curled up from chimneys and hung in the cold air. A farmer passed, riding a huge carthorse, the clip clop of its hooves echoing crisply in the evening air.
            “Stone me, miss, it looks just like a ruddy picture postcard, don’t it?” Queenie said, summing up my thoughts.
            I wondered which of the cottages was to be occupied by my mother and Noel Coward. I wondered if my grandfather had consented to come and my heart leaped with hope. Christmas at an elegant house party and my loved ones nearby. What more could I want. Darkness fell abruptly as we drove between a pair of tall gateposts, topped with stone lions, and up a gravel drive, Lights shone out of a solid unadorned gray stone house, its severe fa├žade half covered in ivy. This then was Gorzley Hall. It didn’t exactly look like the site of an elegant house party—more Bennett residence than Pemberley, but who was I to judge by appearances?
            We drew up at the front entrance and he chauffeur came around to open the door for me.
            “My maid will help you with the bags,” I said, indicating to Queenie that she should stay, even though she was looking apprehensive, then I went up to the front door. It was a massive studded affair obviously designed to keep out past invaders. I rapped on the knocker and the door swung open. I waited for someone to come then stepped gingerly into a slate floored hallway.
“Hello?” I called.
On one side a staircase ascended to a gallery and I spied a pair of legs in old trousers up on a ladder. He was a stocky chap with shaggy gray hair, wearing a fisherman’s jersey and old flannels and he was wrestling with a long garland of holly and ivy.
            “Excuse me,” I called out.
            He spun around in surprise and I saw that it wasn’t a man at all but a big boned woman with cropped hair. “Who are you?” she demanded, peering down at me.
            My arrival wasn’t exactly going as I had expected. “I’m Georgiana Rannoch,” I said. “If you could please go and tell Lady Hawse-Gorzley that I have arrived. She is expecting me.”
            “I am Lady Hawse-Gorzley,” she said. “Been so dashed busy that I completely forgot you were coming today. Come up and grab the other end of this, will you? Damned thing won’t stay put. It looked so simple in Country Life.”
            I put down my train case and did as she requested. Together we secured the garland and she came down the ladder. “Sorry about that,” she said, wiping her hands on her old slacks. “I don’t want you to think we’re always this disorganized. Had a hell of a day here. Police tramping all over the place, not letting the servants get on with their work. That’s why we’re so behind. Must have the decorations up, y’know. First guests arriving day after tomorrow. ”

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Countdown to Christmas? Surely not yet...

I don't know about you but I am seriously miffed when I see Christmas items appearing in the stores at the end of August (the moment the back to school sale is over). Isn't this overkill? How can Christmas have any magic at all if we're bombarded with Silent Night and leaping reindeer all through the fall? I remember my childhood Christmases as magic because they just appeared in the middle of dreary winter. Suddenly there were toys and crackers in the stores, turkeys at the butcher shop, children singing carols on street corners. We bought the Christmas tree on Christmas eve and took it home to decorate that evening. Dark evenings suddenly twinkled with lights. There were good smells in the kitchens. A wonderful sense of hope and anticipation grew inside me. It couldn't be long now! This makes me sound as if I'm a contemporary of Dickens but this was really how it was in an Engish village until recently.

However, now I find I'm joining the enemy and talking about Christmas in October. Actually I'm talking about a book, called THE TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS, by a fabulous, outstandingly marvelous author called Rhys Bowen (known to be modest as well as a great writer :) and it will be in stores on November 6. Not that anybody will notice because November 6 is election day!
I hope on November 7 that people will feel like celebrating with a good book or licking their wounds by curling up with a good book and will then rush out to buy it.

So I thought I'd start my own little countdown to the launch of the book by posting some sneak previews from the book. The first one is tomorrow. Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Good Day, Bay Day

Thursday was a day of highs and lows for me. I got great news from my publisher that my upcoming book, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, has received a starred review from Library Journal. This joins a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, a top pick from RT Reviews and a glowing reviews from Kirkus. All great news.
But my joy yesterday was tempered because it was also the day of a friend's funeral. So I've been in reflective mood. Among other things it made me realize how casually I and fellow mystery writers write about death. For us death is usually clever ways to kill, evil murderers to be outsmarted. And wedon't really take into account what a devastating thing death is for a family.

There have been times when I have been aware in my books of the effect death has on families. In my Constable Evans novel, Evan's Gate,(that was my one and only Edgar nomination) the whole story revolves around the loss of a little girl years ago and the disintegration of the family as they live with guilt. That was one of the stories of which I'm most proud. But even in my Royal Spyness novels, that are essentially comedies, I try not to trivialize the actual murder. My victim is often an evil person who deserves what he gets. That way I don't feel so bad about bumping him off.

But I have read plenty of books in which someone falls over dead in the punch bowl at a wedding and the sleuth gleefully says "Oh goody. A murder. Let's solve it." This always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I realize our books are written to entertain. Readers love the puzzle, the suspense, the danger. And they also love that we can bring evil-doers to justice and make everything all right in the end. It's not often that this happens in real life, is it?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Desperately seeking something.

We have a guest visiting from England and she was enthralled that people here put up lights for Halloween, decorate their front yards with tombstones and ghosts and generally get into the spirit long before the event.

"You should see Christmas," I told her. If you don't have lights all over the house, Santa leaping on the roof-top and animated snowmen in the front yard you are dubbed a grinch. So why do we go overboard about holidays here? We must be desperately seeking for something--my guess is that we lack the pomp and traditions of older nations--we don't have a week of New Year madness like they do in China, we don't have Carnival like Rio or like much of Europe. Former religious holidays have lost much of their meaning and power,  so we need to make the most of what we have.

I think humans have an inborn desire for feasts, celebrations, especially celebrating the passing of the seasons of the year. So we're just imitating those old Celts. Our spring festival is Easter with eggs and the Easter bunny, our summer festival is Fourth of July and red white and blue parades, our fall festival is Halloween and our winter solstice is Christmas and/or Hannukah.

So do you think we go overboard here? Are we desperately seeking something we no longer have?

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's that Time of Year Again!

I've just enjoyed a great week on Rhys's Pieces, with almost 700 visitors on the best day. So I've been checking past stats and interestingly enough the post with the most views was last year's Halloween blog about why people like to be scared.

Halloween is, of course, a Celtic festival. It was the time when the veil between our world and Otherworld was lifted, when spirits, ghouls, and all manner of horrid things passed into our world for one night. Thus the wearing of scary masks and dressing up as ghosts and monsters was to make the creatures from beyond think that we were one of them and thus not try to grab us and take us back with them.

So I wonder if Halloween is part of our collective psyche, like being attracted to the smell of wood smoke and the fear of the dark (and spiders in my case). Some part of us remembers sitting around a camp fire generations ago, feeling safe and protected while one of the group told a scary story.  My children and grandchildren certainly have enjoyed transforming themselves into frightening things. Sweet little Mary Clare, aged 6, apparently told the other kids in her class that she was really a vampire, making them all terrified of her. The teacher complained to my daughter who made her promise not to do it again. "So promise mommy you won't tell anyone you're a vampire again," my daughter said. Mary Clare gave her a sweet smile. "Okay, mommy," she said. Then she went to school the next day and told them that she wasn't a vampire.... she was really a werewolf!

I have to admit that it's fun dressing up and being someone else for a while, but my costumes usually are of the harmless variety. Last year I was my character Lady Georgiana and John was an aging seducer from the Thirties. And this year I've written a special Halloween story featuring Lady Georgie. It's called Masked Ball at Broxley Manor--an extravaganza involving royalty and at least one gate-crasher. You can find it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble to put you in the Halloween spirit.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bouchercon--Rhys tells all

After a horrible flight via Chicago that took forever I'm back from Cleveland with a bag full of books and terrific memories of the Bouchercon world mystery convention. You'd think that people who kill for a living would be mean and anti social but one look at the bar at the convention hotel would prove that we really love hanging out together (and drinking). Many of the big names of our profession were there--mingling with us lesser mortals--Mary Higgins Clark, Lee Child, Elizabeth George, Robin Cook, Michael Connelly, Sara Paretzky, Charlaine Harris--who delivered my favorite line of the convention. She said her husband used to look upon her writing as a little hobby he had to subsidize. Then she paused and smiled. "He doesn't say that any more," she added..

My Cleveland experience started with an interview for NPR, after which they asked me to do an i and mpromptu plug for public radio for an upcoming fund drive. I love public radio but wish that I'd had some time to prepare something witty!
Then the convention kicked off with opening ceremonies at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As you approach the building you are greeted by row after row of giant guitars. Inside it's glass and steel, lots of neon lights--and loud with several hundred people crammed into it. John Connelly, the toastmaster, introduced guests of honor and the MacAvity and Barry awards were presented (I didn't win this year). Then I had to rush back to the hotel to rehearse for the famous Jungle Red Writers Family Feud. The rehearsal was a disaster and my Jungle Red sister Hank Phillippi Ryan suggested it might be a career-ending move.

However on the day it was a huge success. The ballroom was crammed to overflowing. The audience laughed and called out answers and got prizes. I was on a team with Red Julia Spencer-Fleming's adorable husband Ross, who kept calling out really weird answers--resulting in my wrestling the buzzer away from him (which the audience loved!).

The panels at these conventions are usually earnest and sober affairs so the chance to laugh was good for everybody. The next day I moderated one of these in depth panels when I hosted "Across the Pond" with British superstars Val McDermid, Stuart Neville and Peter James. We discussed the roots and differences between crime and crime writing in Britain and the US, and my favorite line was Vals. She described Scotland as having Iraqi weather: "Occasionally sunny but mostly Shiite."

There were receptions hosted by publishers, a chance to meet the Canadian writers and an Anthony awards ceremony that was preceded by the longest raffle in the history of mankind. Next year's crew please note--DO NOT REPEAT.

So I had a great time meeting old friends, making new ones and putting names to faces of fans who have written to me. And now I'm back to reality and laundry waiting to be done. Cinderella has left the ball.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Big Week for Bowen

I'm sorry if I've been silent on the blogging front for a week. I had a double deadline to complete by October 1 and I'm delighted to say that I sent off both items this weekend. One was the new Lady Georgie novel, called HEIRS AND GRACES. The other was a Molly Murphy e-story to come out next February ahead of the new Molly book. And that story is called THE FACE IN THE MIRROR. It was rather scary to see it already listed on Amazon when I hadn't even written it. But now it's done and I'm pleased with it.

So I'm already to enjoy my big week ahead. First tomorrow, October 2nd sees the launch of a new Lady Georgie e-story on Amazon, and everywhere e-books are sold. It's a prequel to her career as Her Royal Spyness and it takes place at a Halloween masked ball at a stately home with all the elements we love about the Georgie books--a repulsive prince, a masked stranger, danger, political intrigue and a very naive young woman. Please be warned that it is not a whole novel. It's a fun story.

Then on Wednesday I set off for Ann Arbor, MI to be part of the 20th anniversary celebration of one of my favorite bookstores AUNT AGATHA'S. I've been welcomed at that store for all 15 years of my writing career and I'm so thrilled they are still flourishing when so many others have gone under. I'll be interviewing the owner on my other blog ( on Wednesday. And by the way, I'll be hosting Jungle Reds all this week so do come on over and see what fun things we're discussing--like whether we can kill in real life, and whether we believe in love at first sight.

On Thursday I go on to Cleveland where the world mystery convention, called Bouchercon, is being held. Again I'll be joining my Jungle Red sisters for a fun mystery version of Family Feud, then moderating a panel called ACROSS THE POND with such stellar Brits as Val MacDermid and Stuart Neville.

I'll try to take pix and keep you updated on the inside scoop of mysterydom. All the dirty details! So stay tuned.