Friday, August 9, 2019

T.C. Lotempio's The Time for MURDER is Meow Blog Tour with a Spotlight, Excerpt and Giveaway

I am so excited to have a T.C. Lotempio at Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews with a Spotlight, Excerpt and Giveaway.

Thanks T.C. and Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for allowing me to join The Time for MURDER is Meow Blog Tour!

Please take it away, T.C.!


F or a second I just stared, and then I raised my arm, took some skin between my thumb and forefinger, and pinched myself hard.

“Ow!” I cried. Well, that settled that. I wasn’t dreaming, or hallucinating. He was really here, along with a large black suitcase propped up against my front door.

Gary tripped down my porch steps and ran over to stand in front of me. “There you are,” he said, waggling his finger. “For a second there, I thought that guy at the gas station gave me directions to the wrong house.”

I fisted a hand on my hip and shot him a stony stare. “Gary, what are you doing here?”

His lips drooped down almost immediately into a hangdog expression. “Gee, thanks a lot. I fly cross-country and drive all this way and that’s the greeting I get? I told you I was coming, remember?” When I didn’t answer, he persisted, “I kept asking you what was wrong, and you kept avoiding the issue, so I said I’d come on out and see for myself.”

I pushed the heel of my hand through my hair. “You did say that, but I didn’t think you really meant it.”

His arms enveloped me in a gigantic bear hug. “Oh, come on, Shell. What sort of co-star would I be if I deserted you in your time of need?” He pulled back a bit to study me. “This is your time of need, right? I mean, something’s up. I could hear it in your voice.”

“I’m fine, Gary. You didn’t have to uproot your life and come all the way out here to check on me.”

He spread his arms wide. “Hey, you decided to uproot your life and change careers. I guess that dark store in town with the re-opening sign on it is yours?”

“You guess right. I’d hoped to be getting the store and its stock ready for a grand re-opening, but instead …”

“Yeah, I know.” He reached out and give my hand a squeeze. “That’s why you could use my help. After all, right now I’ve got nothing else to do, other than sign up for unemployment.”

The note of disappointment in his tone was unmistakable. “What happened? They didn’t go for the reboot?”

“To quote the producers exactly, ‘That show just isn’t worth spit without Shell Marlowe.’ Or similar words to that effect.”

I remembered Max’s words and a pang of guilt arrowed through me. “That’s not true and you know it.”

“Yeah, well, it seems they were gearing the show more toward the male audience, and not the action end of it, if you get my meaning.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Then I’m glad I turned it down, although I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. You’ll get something else, Gary, but only if you go back to L.A. and start auditioning.”

“I’m not so sure.” He plopped down on my bottom step and cupped his chin in one hand. “I had a lot of time to think on the plane ride out here. Series tv is getting to be a rat race, and I’m not as young as I used to be. Maybe I should try something different, maybe Broadway, or Off Broadway.”

I laughed. “You’re considering a play? I thought you always said theater was for people who couldn’t make it in Hollywood.”

He grinned sheepishly. “I did say that, didn’t I? Well, maybe I’ve had a change of heart. Look, I didn’t come all the way out here to talk about me. What’s going on with you, Shell?”

I looked down at the ground. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Oh, yes, you do.” He leaned over so that his nose was only about an inch away from mine. “I could hear it in your voice when we spoke on the phone. You sounded just like you did when Pat left you.”

I raised my gaze to his and thrust my jaw out. “I most certainly did not. And I left Patrick, no matter what he told you.”

“Whatever.” Gary folded his arms over his chest and stood, one foot tapping impatiently on the concrete. “Are you going to tell me what’s up with you, or not?”

I folded my own arms over my chest. “Not.”

“Okay, then, I suppose I’ll have to guess.” He put a finger to his lips, closed his eyes, and then popped them wide open. “Aha, I have it.” He pointed his finger dramatically in the air. “You must be the actress they suspect of murdering the local termagant.”

“Wow, is that a fifty-dollar word or what? I’m impressed. And just where did you hear this juicy bit of news?”

He grinned. “It’s the main topic of conversation at the gas station out on the highway. It’s a veritable hotbed of local gossip.” His expression sobered and he reached out and gripped my hand. “Is it true?”

“Is what true? That I murdered the local termagant or that I’m suspected of doing so?”

“Very funny.”

He looked so upset that I sighed. “Yes, it’s true. That I’m on the suspect list, not that I did the deed — although I had a public argument with the woman the day before her death.”

Gary let out a low whistle. “Sounds like you could use a friend.” I glanced over at his suitcase, and he added, “If it’s inconvenient, I can always find a hotel near here. I’m not leaving, Shell.”

My expression softened. “I know you’re not, and it’s not inconvenient. Come on, grab your suitcase. I’ll make you a cup of java and fill you in.”

I showed Gary to one of the guest bedrooms and left him to unpack and freshen up. I went into the kitchen and put on a fresh pot of coffee, then pulled out the wheels of cheddar and Brie I’d purchased at the General Store along with some crackers, arranged them on a tray, and set it on the table. I’d just poured us each a steaming mug when Gary reappeared. His hair was damp from a quick shower, and he’d changed into comfortable sweatpants. He eased himself into one of the chairs and sniffed the air.

“Um, what’s that, Kahlua-flavored coffee? You wouldn’t happen to have the real thing to add to it, would you? I didn’t drink on the plane, and I’m overdue.”

Gary had an aversion to air travel, so the mere fact he’d stepped on a plane to come to my aid was quite something, indeed. I opened one of the bottom cabinets and pulled out a bottle of Kahlua. I added a generous amount to both our mugs and then sat down across from him, my hands wrapped around my mug. We sat for a few minutes, sipping in silence, and then Gary set down his mug.

“Care to fill me in on what’s going down here now? What was that public argument about that’s got you on the suspect list?”

I explained all about the museum board vote and the supposed feud between Amelia and my aunt that I believed to be behind Amelia’s crusade. I also recounted my meetings with the other three board members and Garrett Knute. Gary listened intently and when I’d finished, ran his finger around the rim of his cup.

“Sounds to me like you might have painted a target on yourself,” he said grimly.

I bit down on my lower lip. “Funny. Josh hinted at pretty much the same thing.”

Gary’s eyes widened a bit. “Josh?”

Heat seared my cheeks and I ducked my head. “Detective Bloodgood. He’s investigating the murder.”

“I see. And are you often on a first-name basis with detectives investigating you for murder?”

“We’d met briefly before all this mess. His sister’s dog ran into me in the park. I had no idea he was a detective.”

“Of course not.” He let out a low chuckle. “And what does this Detective Bloodgood look like? I’m betting he’s not paunchy with gray hair, like most of the detectives on tv.”

I narrowed my eyes. “No, he’s not.”

“So?” Gary persisted as I remained silent. “Is he as good-looking as me?”

I made a face at him. “No one’s as good-looking as you, Gary, except maybe Hugh Jackman. I’ve already had to assure some of the local women that marvelous head of hair is all yours.”

He reached up to give his hair a swift pat and laughed. “Nice try at a diversion, but I’m still interested in a description of your Detective Bloodgood.”

“He’s not my Detective Bloodgood,” I protested. “Besides, I have a new man in my life.”

Gary almost dropped his mug. “You do?”

“Absolutely. I was worried he and Kahlua might not get along, but they seem to have effected a truce.”

Gary’s brows drew together. “Kahlua? Your cat? Why wouldn’t he get along with your cat? Is he allergic?”

“No, far from it.”

I lapsed into silence, and Gary’s frown deepened. “So, details Shell. What does this fellow look like?”

I put my finger to my lips. “He’s very hairy,” I said at last.

Gary gave me a puzzled stare. “He’s hairy? You hate facial hair … or was that just so I’d shave the beard I grew for season six?”

“You look better clean shaven anyway. I did you and all your female fans a favor.” I inclined my head toward the doorway. “Here he is now. Come here, Purrday, and say hello to Gary. He’s going to be staying with us awhile.”

Purrday glided into the kitchen and hopped up on the vacant chair next to Gary. He cocked his head to one side and blinked at him. “Merow.”

Gary stared at Purrday and then burst into laughter. “Oho, another cat, eh?”

“He belonged to Aunt Tillie. I couldn’t turn him away.”

Gary bounced both eyebrows at me. “Just be careful this doesn’t start a trend, Shell. I’d hate to see you become the neighborhood crazy cat lady.” He reached out his hand. Purrday sniffed at the tips of his fingers, then his pink tongue darted out and gave them a quick lick. “Friendly fellow. Lots friendlier than Kahlua. She usually hisses at me.”

“She doesn’t like your cologne. You’ve got Purrday’s stamp of approval, at least.”

Gary selected a piece of cheddar and started to put it on a cracker when the cheese slid from his fingers and landed—plop!—on the floor. Purrday eyed the cheese, then cocked his head at Gary.

“Okay if I let him have it? It fell on the floor.”

“Go ahead, but you’d better practice your whoops, I knocked it on the floor routine. For such a good actor, that was beneath you.”

Gary’s eyes widened. “Shell! I’m shocked! You think I did that on purpose?”

I laughed right at him. “I know you did. You would never drop a piece of anything edible on the floor.”

He raised both hands. “Okay, I’m guilty. But Purrday appreciates it, don’t you, boy?”

Purrday didn’t answer. He’d already snatched the bit of cheddar in his paws and was nibbling happily at it.

Gary turned back to me. “Well, now that I’ve met the main man in your life, let’s get back to number two. Your detective.”

“Let’s not and say we did.” I rose and walked over to the cabinet and pulled out the bottle of Kahlua. “Refill?”

He held out his mug. “Sure. And don’t bother with the coffee this time.”

Once I’d refilled both mugs with Kahlua we adjourned to the parlor, leaving Purrday happily noshing on his cheese. Feline Kahlua was stretched out across the top of the loveseat. She lifted her head, took one look at Gary, let out a loud hiss, and promptly vanished up the stairs.

“Great to see you again too,” Gary called after her retreating form. He looked over his shoulder at me. “Some things never change.” He plopped down on the brocaded sofa and I sat on the loveseat across from him. “Let’s think of this logically,” he said. “You said most of the people in Fox Hollow hated this woman, Amelia?”

“So I’ve heard.”

“Okay.” He leaned back against the sofa cushions, his eyes slitted in thought. “First things first. Who might have hated her enough to do her in?”

“Well, there are the aforementioned board members: Larry Peabody, Andy McHardy, and Ginnifer Rubin. And Garrett Knute is hiding something as well. I heard him say, ‘over my dead body.’ And Amelia was determined he shouldn’t get his hands on that envelope.”

“Hm.” Gary laced his hands behind his neck. “That definitely piques my interest. Anyone else?”

“I saw Amelia arguing with a woman in the park. Olivia thinks it might have been Londra Lewis, who works at the museum as the administrator. Amelia disliked her because of her loyalty to the museum director, Mazie Madison.” I tapped the edge of my mug. “Olivia said that Mazie was no angel when it came to Amelia either. Then there’s the mayor.”

“Oho, the mayor, eh?” Gary bounced his eyebrows. “You just can’t trust those public officials.”

“It might be nothing, but Amelia might have something on one or both of the mayor’s kids, I’m not sure. And Garrett Knute mentioned this guy, Melvin Feller, but so far I haven’t been able to make a concrete connection between him and Amelia. And Garrett said half the town hated the woman, so who knows who else might have a motive.” I paused. “Then there’s the editor of the town paper, Quentin Watson. He’s a smarmy little weasel who’s already printed two less-than-flattering snippets about me in his paper because I wouldn’t give him an interview. Lord knows what his relationship with Amelia was.”

“Well, there doesn’t appear to be a dearth of suspects,” Gary said wryly. “And the reason you’re at the top is …?”

“I’m not even sure I’m at the top. Josh — I mean, Detective Bloodgood — told me I was a person of interest, primarily because I argued with the deceased in public.”

Gary gave a short laugh. “Well, person of interest is better than suspect, if you ask me. Now, what we have to do is systematically go through all of those people and determine which of them had the best motive for wanting Amelia dead.”

“No doubt J — the detective is doing that already.”

Gary shrugged. “Maybe. Or maybe not. In any case, our considering it can’t hurt, right? I mean, after all, the sooner this gets cleared up, the sooner you can open up your little store.”

Purrday ambled into the parlor just then, batting the button between his paws. I reached down to retrieve it.

“It looks like one of Aunt Matilda’s buttons. Where he got it from is a mystery.”

“It probably just fell off something. You know cats. They can be real scavengers. Remember when Kahlua had a stash of all your rhinestone pins?”

I started to reply when the doorbell rang. I excused myself and went to answer it, and my eyes widened in surprise when I saw Josh on my front stoop. His lips were slashed into a straight line, and he had his cop face on.

“Mind if I come in?” he asked. “Something’s turned up, and I need to speak to you about it.”

I pushed the door wide and motioned for him to enter. As he stepped into the foyer, Gary emerged from the parlor. The two men started then stood and stared at each other.

I cleared my throat. “Detective Josh Bloodgood, may I introduce my former co-star —”

Josh waved his hand. “I know who he is.” He turned back to Gary. “Gary Presser, right? Or should I say Douglas Doolittle?”

Gary beamed and held out his hand. “Ah, you’ve watched our show?”

“When my schedule permitted.”

Josh took Gary’s hand and Gary pumped it up and down. “Always happy to meet a fan. I take it you’re Josh the detective?”

“That would be me.” He released Gary’s hand and shoved his deep into the pockets of the light khaki jacket he wore. “It might be best,” he said, with a meaningful look at me, “if we discussed my news in private.”

“Not necessary,” Gary said breezily. He stepped right up to me and slipped one arm around my shoulders in a protective gesture. “I came out here to Fox Hollow to help Shell, so …” He paused and looked expectantly at me.

I sighed and turned to Josh. “Anything you have to say you can say in front of Gary. It won’t go any further.”

Josh frowned. “Okay, then,” he said at last. He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small plastic bag, in which rested a slip of paper. “My men did a thorough sweep of the murder scene, and we found this under the desk near the body.”

He held the baggie out to me. I took it. Inside was a note printed in block letters:


I read the note twice and then looked at Josh, puzzled. “I’m sorry. I don’t get it.”

His gaze bored into mine. “Did you write that?”

I took a couple of deep breaths before I answered. “Absolutely not. For one thing, I don’t print that neatly, and I’ve never seen this before in my life.”

He turned the bag over in his hand. “Then you weren’t planning to expose Amelia? The purpose of that meeting wasn’t blackmail?”

I stared at him, shocked, and drew myself up to my full height. “Definitely not,” I snapped. “I would never blackmail anyone in my life. Besides, I don’t know anything I could have blackmailed her with.”

“That’s true,” Gary interjected. “Shell is one of the most honest people I know.”

I gestured toward the note. “Evidently someone wanted you to think otherwise.”

Josh scratched absently at his jaw. “We dusted it for prints, and the only ones we found were Amelia’s. Obviously, whoever wrote it must have worn gloves.”

“What in the world could I have been going to expose about her?” I asked. “I didn’t know the woman.”

“Well, you were going around asking people if they were being blackmailed by her,” put in Josh. “And you accused Garrett Knute of having a secret.”

“That’s true, but they’re legitimate concerns,” I declared.

“Well, it seems pretty obvious to me,” said Gary. Josh and I both turned toward him.

“What does?” asked Josh.

Gary spread his hands. “This murder was no accident. Someone planned it out carefully, and decided to use Shell as a scapegoat. Think about it. The photograph Shell gave her was clutched in her cold, dead hand plus this note, conveniently signed by “S”?” He jabbed his finger at Josh’s face. “And your job, my friend, is to find out who would do such a thing.”

“I agree,” Josh said grimly. He turned to me. “For what it’s worth, Shell, I don’t think you killed Amelia. But it sure does look as if someone wants us to think you might have.”

I shuddered. The thought that someone might deliberately have set me up as a murderer was not an appealing one. “If I could take back speaking to those people, I would, in a heartbeat. But I can’t. What happens now?”

“What happens is you keep your mouth shut and keep a low profile while I work on finding out just who did kill Amelia,” Josh said softly. He looked as if he wanted to say more, but instead just nodded curtly to both Gary and me and then turned and exited out my front door.

I set my lips. Now I was more determined than ever to do some digging on my own. Someone had used me to get Amelia alone at the museum and kill her. Someone had planned it with malice aforethought, and I was betting it was someone I’d met, someone I’d spoken with.

I wouldn’t feel safe until I found out who.

The Time for Murder is Meow (A Purr N Bark Pet Shop Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Midnight Ink (August 8, 2019
Paperback: 312 pages
ISBN-10: 0738760366
ISBN-13: 978-0738760360
Digital ASIN: B07HL4F1Z6

Shell and her two furry sidekicks must cat-ch a killer to save their pet shop

Crishell “Shell” McMillan sees the cancellation of her TV series as a blessing in disguise. The former actress can now take over her late aunt’s pet shop, the Purr N’ Bark, and do something she loves.

While getting the shop ready for re-opening, Shell is asked to loan her aunt’s Cary Grant posters to the local museum for an exhibit. She finds the prospect exciting — until a museum board member, who had a long-standing feud with Shell’s aunt, votes against it. When she discovers the board member dead in the museum, Shell becomes suspect number one. Can she, her Siamese cat Kahlua, and her new sidekick — her aunt’s Persian Purrday — find the real culprit, or will her latest career go up in kitty litter?

About the Author

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 from Berkley Prime Crime and the Cat Rescue series from Crooked Lane. Her latest, the Pet Shop Mysteries, makes its debut August 8 with The Time for Murder is Meow.

You can cat-ch up with them at ROCCO’s blog, or her website,

Where to find them

ROCCO’s blog:


Purchase Links: Amazon B and N IndieBound 

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