Author Toni LoTempio, writing as T.C. LoTempio is here with me today on Ruff Drafts to talk about her writing and new cozy mystery. Toni hairs from Phoenix, Arizona.
Welcome, Toni. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.
I’ve been traditionally published since December 2014 with the first Nick and Nora mystery. Before that I self published several paranormal suspense books under Toni LoTempio.
With Penguin/Random House, the Nick and Nora Mysteries, first three: Meow if it’s Murder, Claws for Alarm, Crime and Catnip. With Beyond the Page: Hiss H for Homicide
With Crooked Lane: Cat Rescue mysteries: Purr M for Murder, Death by a Whisker
With Midnight Ink: Pet Shop Mystery #1, Meow is the Time for Murder; with Beyond the Page, Pet Shop Mystery #2, Killers of a Feather (due out late 2021)
That’s quite a writing history.
Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.
The Nick and Nora mysteries are about Nora Charles, an ex-investigative reporter, and her tuxedo cat, Nick, who stumble into and solve mysteries kind of like the original Nick and Nora Charles, only without the martinis and Asta LOL. The latest release in this series is Hiss H for Homicide, where Nick and Nora try to clear her mother’s friend, a romance writer, of the murder of her ex-partner. Book 5, Murder Faux Paws, will be out in 2022.
The Pet Shop Mysteries feature Crishell “Shell” McMillan as an ex-actress turned pet shop owner. She also solves mysteries with the aid of her cats, Purrday, a one-eyed Persian and Kahlua, a Siamese, and her ex-costar, Gary Presser. Book two, Killers of a Feather, out later this year, deals with Shell trying to clear her friend Rita of the murder of a man who supposedly swindled her and her husband years ago.
Those all sound interesting. Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
My primary goal as a writer is to entertain, which I hope my books do. In the next few years I would like to reach my goal of twelve Nick and Nora mysteries. Good sales will help me accomplish that goal.
I hope you luck with that. What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
Anyone who enjoys a good cozy mystery, along the lines of Murder She Wrote, and who loves animals, especially cats, would probably enjoy my books!
I’m sure I would like them, as I also write a cozy mystery, the Cobble Cove Mysteries, featuring Sneaky the Library Cat.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
Keep trying, don’t give up. Make rejection your friend and learn from it, because in the beginning you’ll hear that word a lot!
Great advice. What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
I actually started out writing horror, but switched to mysteries when I was told that unless you were Stephen King there was no market for horror. I had ten years of rejections from publishers and agents before I finally got my agent and my first traditional publishing contract. In the meantime, I did self-publish paranormal suspense.
How inspiring. I’ve been writing and publishing with Indie publishers for 5 years now and am still seeking an agent.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
Are there any other hobbies and interests LOL. I would say I enjoy reading and I’m also a big Gray’s Anatomy fan.
Reading is always a good hobby for a writer to have as well as watching a popular TV show.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
I like having the freedom to create characters and worlds, and hopefully people enjoy them. Toughest challenge: Selling something in today’s market.
I think most writers feel the same way.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
I like the small town flavor, the fact that the blood and gore is kept off-page. Sometimes I feel too much is a turn off for the reader.
I definitely agree with that. Besides not being excessively gory, cozy mysteries also don’t feature explicit sex scenes or bad language.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
I could hear the chimes echo eerily through the house, but no one came to the door. Nick suddenly let out a sharp meow. Next thing I knew, he’d hopped down from the railing and started to trot around the house. I hesitated only briefly and then hurried after him. Around the side of the house was a wall comprised of glass doors. Nick paused before it, his tail sticking straight out in back of him. I walked over to the doors and saw that one was slightly ajar. Nick turned and looked at me expectantly.
“Oh, no.” I shook my head. “That’s breaking and entering, buddy. We can’t just barge in here.”
Nick turned his back on me, and before I could do more than blink, he’d miraculously managed to squeeze his plump body through the opening.
“Great,” I muttered. Well, I couldn’t just abandon him. I walked over to the door and gave it a tentative push. It swung back, and I stepped inside.
The house was deceptive. It was definitely larger than it appeared, which might have been part of its charm and could account for Marlene’s decision to acquire the rental. As I moved cautiously around, poking my head into rooms filled with antique trappings and silk-covered sofas definitely too fragile to sit on, I realized why most people had been loath to rent it. Who wanted to live in a museum? I kept on meandering, calling out Marlene’s name, but only a thick silence answered me.
Nick was sitting in front of the circular staircase, tail wrapped around his paws. “Come on,” I said. “She’s not here. We’ll come back another time.”
With that, he uncurled his tail and scooted up the staircase. At the top landing he paused and looked back at me as if to say: What’s keeping you, human?
“I should leave you here,” I muttered, but my niggling sense of curiosity won out over my better judgment and I climbed the staircase, the sound of my heels muffled by the expensive carpeting that covered the stairs. A wide hallway extended itself on either side of me, and no sign of my tubby tuxedo. “Nick,” I hissed. “Where are you, you devil?”
No response, so I moved over toward the right side and opened the first door, which appeared to be a bedroom, and a holy mess. The bedclothes had been stripped from the massive canopied king-sized bed and thrown in a ball in its center. Drawers were pulled out of the cherrywood highboy and dresser and hung limply, their contents strewn helter-skelter around the room. A high-backed chair was overturned in the middle of the floor, and the closet door was half open. I could see dresses hanging half off hangers, and a half-open suitcase was propped up against the interior.
“Oh my God,” I cried. It certainly looked as if someone had been searching for something. A thief, perhaps? A chill ran down my spine at my next thought: Could he still be here? Had Marlene possibly caught him in the act? I stepped back into the hallway, uncertain what my next move should be.
The cry came from the left, so I moved in that direction. I saw Nick, squatting before a door at the end of the hallway; he looked up, saw me, and ducked inside. I hurried down the hall and peered into the darkened room. It was set up as an office, boasting a small cherrywood desk, file cabinet, and a laptop square in the desk’s center. “Nick,” I hissed. “Where are you?”
“I hear you, Nick, but I can’t see you. This room is too dark to spot a cat that’s mostly black.”
I felt along the wall and finally my fingers touched a light switch. I flicked it on, illuminating a table lamp that cast a rosy glow through the room—and highlighted the colorless face of the woman slumped on the floor just to the left of the desk. I sucked in my breath.
Even though I’d never met her in person, I’d seen enough pictures on the inside covers of her books to know the woman framed in the circle of dim light was Marlene McCambridge—and she looked to be stone-cold dead.
Great excerpt. Thanks for sharing.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
The Return of Nick and Nora has been a long time coming…I hope fans will agree it was worth the wait.
It took me two years to write the 5th Cobble Cove mystery because I was writing standalones in between, but I also wrote some Cobble Cove short ebooks in between. I think fans like authors to write books in the series as fast as possible, but they understand that isn’t always possible. It also may bring you new fans for the first in the series.
Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. and include some book cover graphics and author photos if possible.
Thanks so much, Toni. I’m featuring your blog tour and giveaway below. Best wishes on your new release.
Hiss H for Homicide (A Nick and Nora Mystery)
by T. C. LoTempio
About Hiss H For Homicide
Hiss H for Homicide (A Nick and Nora Mystery)
4th in Series – 1st with this publisher
Publisher: Beyond the Page Publishing (February 9, 2021)
Paperback: 224 pages
Digital ASIN: B08QW7Z25S
Nick and Nora are back in a tantalizing new mystery that’s far more dangerous than a game of cat and mouse . . .
Never one to turn away from a challenge—even when it goes against her better judgment—Nora Charles can hardly say no when an old friend of her mother’s comes to town seeking her help. The author of steamy romances has learned that her writing partner is severing their relationship and threatening to reveal dark and dirty secrets in a tell-all, and she pleads with Nora to intervene. Reluctantly agreeing to help, Nora pays a visit to the writing partner, ready to make her case—right up until the moment she discovers the woman’s lifeless body.
With the police convinced that Nora’s friend is the culprit, she and Nick begin delving into the dead woman’s past and her provocative tell-all. It soon becomes apparent that the woman had a knack for digging up dirt and wasn’t shy about exposing skeletons in closets, and before long Nora has a seemingly endless list of suspects who were at risk of having their darkest secrets revealed. With a police force intent on throwing the book at Nora’s friend and time running out, she and Nick must outwit a dangerous killer before they take their own secrets to the grave . . .
About T. C. LoTempio
While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She and her cat pen the Nick and Nora mystery series originally from Berkley Prime Crime and now with Beyond the Page Publishing. They also write the Cat Rescue series from Crooked Lane and the Pet Shop series, originally published by Midnight Ink and continued in 2021 with book two, KILLERS OF A FEATHER, from Beyond the Page. Catch up with them at ROCCO’s blog, catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com or her website, www.tclotempio.net
ROCCO’s blog: www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com
February 8 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
February 9 – Ruff Drafts – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
February 9 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT
February 10 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – CHARACTER GUEST POST
February 10 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
February 11 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – GUEST POST. INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY
February 12 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT
February 12 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW
February 13 – FUONLYKNEW -SPOTLIGHT
February 14 – Cozy Up WIth Kathy – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
February 15 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
February 16 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
February 16 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY
February 17 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
February 18 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
February 19 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT
February 20 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
February 21 – Diane Reviews Books – GUEST POST, INDIVIDUAL GIVEAWAY
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