Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"The Time for Murder is Meow" by T. C. LoTempio

The Time for Murder is Meow
(A Purr N Bark Pet Shop Mystery Book 1)
by T. C. LoTempio

The Time for Murder is Meow (A Purr N Bark Pet Shop Mystery Book 1) by T. C. LoTempio

The Time for Murder is Meow by T. C. LoTempio is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

More books by this author: Meow If It's Murder (read my blog post), Claws for Alarm (read my blog post), Crime and Catnip (read my blog post), Purr M for Murder (read my blog post), and Death by a Whisker (read my blog post).

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?

“Excuse me. Do you have any Tomkins Hairball Remedy?”
I glanced up from the pile of catnip balls I’d been sorting and smiled at the short, gray-haired woman who stood uncertainly at my counter. She reminded me of my late aunt—iron gray hair done into a severe bun at the nape of her neck, a smooth, unlined face, and sharp blue eyes that peered at me over the rims of her tortoiseshell glasses.
I smiled at her. “I’m sorry, we’re not open for business yet.”
Her penciled brows drew together and the corners of her lips drooped down. “Oh? I saw the lights on, and the door wasn’t locked.”
“My bad. I forgot to lock it after me, I’m afraid.” I pushed a stray curl out of my eyes. “I am planning on reopening the store, but I only came into town a few days ago. As for your question, I really don’t know what we have. I was just taking an inventory, trying to determine what stock I need to order.”
“Oh.” She adjusted her glasses on her nose and peered at me more closely. “You’re Tillie’s niece.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes.” I wiped my hand on the sides of my jeans and extended it to her. “Crishell McMillan.”
“Grace Poole.” She took my hand, shook it briefly, then released it and leaned against the counter. Her head cocked to one side. “You’re the actress.” Once again, not a question. Although the way Grace said it, it sounded more like a death sentence.
“Right again,” I said, “although I guess you could say I’m an ex-actress. I’ve retired.”
Grace stared at me. “Retired? But you’re so young! You can’t be more than twenty-five!”
“You’re very kind. I’m thirty-eight,” I amended. Unlike most actresses, I’d never been shy about revealing my real age. “Still young, true, only trust me, not by Hollywood standards.”
Up until two months ago I was better known as Shell Marlowe, one of the stars of a popular cable tv show, Spy Anyone. My character, Hermione DuVal, had been a large part of my life for ten years, yet that role seemed a lifetime ago. I’d gotten word the series had been cancelled two days before receiving a message from my mother informing me of my Aunt Tillie’s passing. Out of the two events, my aunt’s passing was the more traumatic to me. When I’d found out she’d left me not only her Victorian mansion in Fox Hollow, Connecticut, with all its contents but also a healthy assortment of stocks and bonds and the Purr N Bark Pet Shop, I’d felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I’d grown sick and tired of the phony Hollywood scene. I jumped at the chance to make a fresh start three thousand miles away.
Besides, I’d always harbored a secret desire to be a veterinarian. Managing a pet store seemed like the next best thing.
The woman looked so forlorn that I held up one finger. “Just a minute, Ms. Poole. I thought I saw something here before …” I ran my finger along the boxes that graced the shelf in back of me, grabbed one, and held it out to her. “It’s not the Tomkins brand, but I have used this on my own cat. It’s pretty good.”
Grace’s eyes brightened as she snatched the box from my outstretched hand. “Jordan’s. I’ve heard of it. This’ll do.” She started to reach inside her purse. “How much?”
I waved my hand. “Consider it a free sample. And I do hope you’ll come back and visit once we’re officially open for business.”
“Oh, you can bet on that.” Grace stuffed the box into the voluminous floral tote slung over one arm. “We’ve been hoping and praying that the business would continue. Fox Hollow needs their pet store. The others on the highway are so … impersonal.” She paused. “Not to mention a pain-in-the-you-know-where to get to. Do you have an opening date in mind?”
“There’s a lot of straightening up I need to do first, but I’m hoping by the end of the month.”
“Wonderful. I’ll tell my friends. They were all worried too.” She turned, paused, and looked at me over her shoulder. “Nice to meet you, Crishell.”
“Call me Shell.”
Grace tossed me a wave and bustled out the door. I uncrossed my legs and stood up with a groan. “Boy, this not going to the gym every day sure takes a toll on your muscles,” I observed.
I glanced down and saw a sleek brown form wriggle out from underneath the counter.  My coffee-colored Seal Point Siamese had been a birthday gift from my mother two years ago after I’d hinted at adopting a shelter cat. “No daughter of mine is going to have a mutt animal,” she’d hissed as she’d pressed the basket into my arms.   Actually, the name on the cat’s papers is Her Royal Highness Tao T’Sung, but there was no way I was going to call a cat Your Royal Highness, so instead I’d started searching the Internet for suitable names.   The problem was solved the next morning when I found her curled up in my liquor cabinet, her paws wrapped around a bottle of Kahlua, my favorite liqueur. Problem solved.
I reached down and gave Kahlua a scratch behind her ear.  She jumped up on the counter and licked my hand with her rough tongue.  I picked her up and cuddled her against my chest. “What do you think, Kahlua?” I whispered. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I can just visualize the finished product.  We’ll make Aunt Tillie proud yet.”
Kahlua’s head butted my chin. “Merow.”
I chuckled. “I’m glad you agree.”
My pants pocket started to vibrate. I set Kahlua back on the floor and fished out my I-Phone.  I took a look at the Caller ID and stifled a groan.  I was so tempted to let it go to voicemail, but he’d only keep calling.  This was his fiftieth call in two days.  I squared my shoulders and hit the answer button. “Yes, Max?”
“Oh my God. Did I finally get you and not a recording?  I thought you’d have come to your senses by now. What’s gotten into you? Why have you thrown away a promising career to tend to the needs of cats and dogs?  Why? Tell me why!”
My agent Max Molenaro’s nasally whine reminded me just why I’d been avoiding taking his calls.  I’d started to forget just how pitchy his voice could get when he didn’t get his way.  “I guess it all depends on your definition of a promising career,” I said.
 “Your aunt didn’t say you had to run that business personally, did she?” Max snapped. “I’m sure you could find someone capable to run it, and you could fly in once or twice a month to check up on things.  I know you, Shell. You’re used to bustle and bright lights. Small town living isn’t for you.”
I exhaled a long breath.  “This has nothing to do with small town living, as you put it, does it Max?  This is about the Spy Anyone cable reboot, isn’t it?”
The silence stretched on for so long that I thought we’d somehow gotten disconnected (which wouldn’t have bothered me in the least, by the way) and then Max spoke up.  “The cable reboot could be your door, Shell, not that pet store.  Aw, Shell, you weren’t cut out to sell dog food and kitty litter. You were born to act.”
I stifled a laugh. “I think you have me confused with my mother.”  My mother, Clarissa McMillan, was a classically trained actress who’d enjoyed a long career on the Broadway stage.  She’d always had something to say about my career, and had never approved of my role choices.  She’d always had something derogatory to say about the cable show, calling it ‘a cheap James Bond ripoff’.   I had no doubt she’d be even less thrilled about my selling dog food and kitty litter, which was one reason why I hadn’t told her about my decision yet.  “No doubt she would agree with you, but my answer is still the same. No.”
A few more seconds of silence and then Max blurted out, “Tell me the truth, Shell.  Is Gary the reason you don’t want to do the new series?  Because if it is, we…we can do something about him.”
I switched the phone to my other ear. “Do something about him? That sounds ominous.” Not that I hadn’t been tempted to do away with Gary many times myself.  He could be a sweetheart, but he could also be a royal pain in the you know where. “Relax. My decision has nothing to do with Gary, Max. I just want to do something different with my life.  I want to be my own boss for a change.”
“I can understand that. But does it have to be running a pet store?”
 “The people of Fox Hollow have always been big animal lovers.  They cherish their pets, and my aunt knew that.  Max, you should see this place!  It’s got every type of pet need one could ever imagine!” As I spoke, my eyes roamed over the store’s vast shelves, stocked to the brim with toys for cats and dogs, beds, litter pails, and the like.  My aunt hadn’t catered solely to cats or dogs, either:  There was a section for live parakeets and parrots, some fish tanks, and cages where hamsters, guinea pigs and even rats had been kept. They were all empty right now, but I was hopeful to have them refilled within the next few weeks. I’d also planned to contact several local shelters to see if we could arrange to hold ‘Adopt A Pet’ Saturdays once a month.  “You know I’ve always loved animals.  Besides becoming a veterinarian, this is the next best thing.”  I snapped my fingers. “Which reminds me-I have to put an ad in the paper for an assistant.  Know anyone who’d be interested in giving dogs a bath and clipping cat’s claws?”
“Not off the top of my head,” he said dryly.  He hesitated briefly and then said, “Would this life altering decision of yours have anything to do with Patrick?”
My throat constricted and my heart skipped a beat at the mention of my former director slash fiancĂ©e.  I swallowed over the lump and replied, “I won’t deny that putting distance between me and Patrick held a certain amount of appeal, but it wasn’t the only deciding factor.”
I could hear him snicker, although he tried to hide it.  “I’ll bet you my next commission you’ll be on the next plane to LA in a month.”
I laughed.  “I hate to take your money, Max. You work so hard for it.”
 “So your mind is made up? There’s nothing I can do to change it?”
Another long sigh. “Well, then, I wish you luck, Shell, although…I’ve got to warn you, though – Gary probably won’t be thrilled by this news.”
My nose wrinkled.  I could well imagine my former co-star’s reaction, which was one of the reasons I hadn’t told him I was moving either. “Gary will be fine. He’s like a cat. He always lands on his feet.  Trust me, he’ll be thrilled.  Now he can convince the new producers to hire a young chippie as his new sidekick.”
“It’s not that easy.” He hesitated and then said, “I might as well tell you the truth.  You were the one the producers really wanted.  Without you, I doubt there’ll be much interest in the new series.  But that’s not your problem. Take care, Shell – oh, wait! Are guest roles totally off the table?”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Lighthearted, fun, and entertaining. This series is off to an excellent start!” ~ Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book
“I felt the cats, Kahlua and Purrday, stole the show. I could have read about them all day ... I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well crafted cozy mystery.” ~ MJB Reviewers
“What an adorable start to a new cozy series! ... Great blend of wonderful new characters, setting up the town, and a well-written mystery.” ~ Books a Plenty Book Reviews
The Time for Murder is Meow is a lighthearted cozy mystery with movie memorabilia, a wicked victim, bewitching brew, a gregarious co-star, playful Purrday, and one anxious actress.” ~ The Avid Reader
“The story is very well written, fluid and flowing, there are many clues and some twists and even a little romance. Great debut for this new series ...” ~ LibriAmoriMiei

Guest Post by the Author
Inquiring Writers Want to Know –
what are agents and editors looking for?
Five years ago my fondest dream was realized: my cozy mystery, Meow If It's Murder, was accepted for publication by Penguin. Since that happy day, however, the world of publishing has changed big time. Publishers are being undercut by e-books, self-published authors, and hundreds of newly minted small presses. Understandably, that’s meant a considerable amount of belt-tightening. Today’s editors no longer edit but are tasked with finding new authors with new material. Which means what, exactly?
The answer is they’re on the hunt for the next big thing. That usually means a great story with memorable, dynamic characters, breakout books that are cutting edge and different. So, what can an author do to increase their chances of getting their “baby” accepted for publication? Here are some tips:
#1: Look at the Categories
The mystery, thriller, and romance categories are holding strong. And a new sub-category – what publishers call “the domestic thriller”, is doing very well. If you’ve written a vampire or zombie book it’s going to be a tough sell (although I hear vampires are on the rise!!!), but editors are still looking for good Young Adult books and Children’s picture books. 
#2: Good Representation
Finding an agent – and a reputable one – has oft been compared to finding a needle in a haystack, but it isn’t impossible! The best thing to do is home in on three or four reputable agents that represent work in your category. Then you’ve got to submit a whiz-bang query letter that immediately nips at their interest. You can find good samples online.
The search for an agent can be daunting, as well. There are several reputable sites where you can check them out. I recommend Absolute Write!  They have postings on practically every agent, and people can relate their experiences. You can also read comments from folks who are represented by said agents. Do a Google search on finding an agent and you’ll be amazed at the number of sites that come up. Here’s a good one:
Things to remember when looking for an agent:
1.   Look for someone who represents what you write.  If he or she represents non-fiction, and you’ve written a thriller, then they aren’t for you!  Most agents are always on the lookout for new authors to represent. ...
2.   Once you’ve selected the ones you think would fit with what you’ve written, send them a personalized query letter.  Most will want to see a sample of your work, usually the first fifty pages.
3.   Always follow up if you don't hear anything. ...
4.   Don't just say yes to the first agent!
#3: Submit a Finished Product
The days of winning a book contract on just a few chapters or an outline are gonzo, unless you’re a well-established author. Today’s tougher, leaner market means authors must write and submit a Finished Manuscript. Also, you should look at how your story relates to what’s already out there in the marketplace. For example, if there are already forty-nine knitting mystery series and you're pitching the fiftieth, it could be a tough sell. You also need to make sure your novel’s plot, pacing, turning points, character development, dialogue, and suspense is spot-on.
#4: Hook your Reader!
In today’s on-demand climate, it’s critical to establish an opening story hook immediately. Agents and editors don’t want pages and pages of build-up, they want you to toss your reader directly into the action.
Of course, there is no tried and true formula and all of the above should be sprinkled with a dash of good luck!

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

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card or one of six ebook (international) or print copies (US only) of The Time for Murder is Meow by T. C. LoTempio.


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