Guest Blogger- T. C. LoTempio


Jessie: Enjoying the pleasure of the holidays in the wilds of New Hampshire

image003Today the Wickeds are delighted to welcome T.C. LoTempio to the blog. Toni has a brand new series, The Nick and Nora Mysteries. The first one, Meow if it’s Murder, released last week. Here she is with a few thoughts on the series, writing and cats.

Jessie: I noticed your sleuth’s name is Nora Charles. Were you inspired by the fictional character of the same name in The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett? Are you a fan of the Nick and Nora films?

T.C.: Absolutely! I loved the Thin Man movies and I have every one of them on DVD! While my Nick Charles is a furry black and white tuxedo, I like to think that he’s every bit as dashing – in his own way – as the fictional human one.

Story about that: I’d been writing paranormals and getting nowhere. My former supervisor told me I should write a story about my cat. I went home, turned on the tv, and The Thin Man was on Turner Classic. Then I started thinking…and the Nick and Nora mysteries were born!

Jessie: You write mysteries featuring a cat that helps to solve crimes. Is it safe to assume you are a cat lover?

T.C.: OMG very safe. I’ve had seven cats over the years, all of them rescues or adopted from shelters. ROCCO, the model for Nick, was adopted from the Clifton Animal Shelter six years ago. I got him as a companion for my gold tabby Maxx, who was a rescue from South Jersey. From the minute ROCCO stepped out of the box and lifted his paw, he was the boss! (or at least he thinks he is)

Jessie: You set Meow if it’s Murder in California. Is that a region close to your heart?

T.C.: Yes, even though I was born in New York and grew up in Jersey, I’ve always loved California – the weather especially. A good friend of mine lives in Pebble Beach/Monterey/Carmel area and I’ve visited there many times – I love it! Especially San Francisco! So it just seemed sort of natural to me to set the series in Northern California.

image004Jessie: The book description for Meow if it’s Murder mentions spooky coincidences and a cat that spells out words for your sleuth using Scrabble tiles. Does this series touch on the paranormal?

T.C.: This version doesn’t – but the original version did. In the first draft, Nick the cat was actually the reincarnation of Nick Atkins, a PI who was killed investigating the murder of a presumed drowned socialite. Nora found she could actually talk to the cat – but when it was submitted to the publisher, they loved everything about the book EXCEPT the talking cat, so I had to find another way for the cat to communicate with Nora – hence the Scrabble tiles. As to whether or not this version of Nick the cat has paranormal capabilities, well, cats ARE supposed to be psychic to some extent….

Jessie: I love to hear about other writers’ working habits. Would you share your writing process with us?

T.C.: Well, first I write an outline that I end up pretty much changing, and then I try to write at least 1-2 hours at least three days during the week and four hours each day on the weekend. I have a full time job so that’s how I have to work it for now. I have to have ROCCO next to my feet, chewing on the cable wires, and plenty of music on the CD player – Phantom of the Opera is a favorite!

 Jessie: Mysteries are my first love but other genres also have appeal. Do you write any other sorts of work?

T.C.: I actually started out writing horror stories and some of them were published by Whiskey Creek Press (they’ve since gone out of print) then I switched to paranormal romantic suspense and self published three: No Rest for the Wicca, Raven’s Quest and Raven’s Kiss that were pretty well received, but I think the cozy mystery niche is my favorite!

Jessie: Are there any cozy mysteries written by others you’d like to recommend to our readers?

T.C.: Gee, where do I start! I’ve met so many writers from their appearances on ROCCO’s blog, where we generally have interviews and giveaways at least every other week ( Some of my favorites are, Midnight Louie, of course, by Carole Nelson Douglas, the Cat in the Stacks mysteries by Miranda James, the Diva mysteries by Krista Davis, The Magical Cat mysteries by Sofie Kelly, Second Chance Mysteries by Sofie Ryan, Italian Kitchen Mysteries by Rosie Genova, Psychic Eye Mysteries by Victoria Laurie, the Haunted Guesthouse series by EJ Copperman, Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown…gosh I must have at least fifty more! Too many to list here LOL. If you check out our blog you’ll find lots of great writers and books! Rocco also reviews books for Night Owl online magazine, mainly cozies, so if anyone has a book they’d like him to review, please contact me!

Jessie:What can readers expect next from you?

T.C.: Well, I’ve just finished up another cozy series my agent will be shopping around, and then there is the next Nick and Nora mystery, due out next December! Nora’s sister Lacey finds herself in a spot of trouble… Visit my website, or ROCCO’s blog for current information on new releases!

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 lists among her favorite mystery/suspense writers Erle Stanley Gardner, Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson, as well as EJ Copperman, Steve Hockensmith, Victoria Laurie, Ali Brandon, Rita Mae Brown, Miranda James and Sofie Kelly to name only a few! Toni is also passionate about her love for animals, as demonstrated with her four cats: Trixie, Princess, Maxx and, of course, ROCCO, who not only provided the inspiration for the character of Nick the cat in the Nick and Nora mystery series, but who also writes his own blog and does charity work for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read!   Toni’s also devoted to miniseries like The Thorn Birds, Dancing with the Stars, reruns of Murder She Wrote and Castle (of course!). She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, debuts Dec. 2, 2014. She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York.

Where to find them:

ROCCO’s blog:







Wicked Wednesday: Signs of Spring

This winter has been a rough one weather-wise for just about everyone.  As an antidote, today, we’re talking about signs of spring. Maybe some of you have spring actually popping up in your neighborhood that you’d like to share. Others, like me, might have to mention what they are still longing to see. Readers, how do you know spring is in the air near you?

Liz: I saw the slightest hint of the tulips peeking out this weekend! I am LONGING for a more blatant hint of spring to hit me over the head – perhaps weather above 10 degrees for more than a day would do it. I feel like I’m starring in the movie “Frozen.”

IMG_3386Edith: For me it’s the longer days. I (and Sherry!) just returned from California with its mild temperatures and lovely fragrant air. But here in the northeast we finished dinner last night at seven PM and it was still light out. The light returns and ultimately the regrowth of spring. The snow banks haven’t melted enough yet to find the budding bulbs, but they will. If we don’t get another foot of snow today…

IMG_4264IMG_4307Sherry: Liz you made me laugh — Frozen indeed! I want to sing “Let it Go” to winter. I saw crocus last week before I left for Monterey. They are now covered in snow. After yesterday’s snow and today’s cool forties we are supposed to be in the mid to upper 60s at last. I have to post a picture of my beloved Monterey. The ice plant is beginning to bloom, a sign of spring there. I want to move back.

Jessie: I’ve seen a few neighbors walking to the post office or the library. This may not seem like much but considering the complete emptiness of the sidewalks for months now it feels that way to me. Before long I expect children on bicycles and parents with strollers to roll past my window.

Julie: Signs of spring? Opening day is April 4. I have tickets for April 8. Of course, I will be wearing layers, and layers of clothes. And hope the snow doesn’t cover the pitching mound. Yeesh.

Unbearable Lightness of San Francisco

john-nardizzi-book-cover-640x1024Today we welcome author and private investigator John Nardizzi to Wicked Cozy Authors. We met John at Crime Bake last fall.  Telegraph Hill is John’s first crime novel.

Crime novels are sold in neatly sliced sub genres: Hard-boiled, Cozy, Historical, Nordic noir.  These artificial boundaries are a construct of the book business to help sell books.  But many writers blur those lines–or at least mash up a few of them.  Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley is considered a classic of crime fiction.  Highsmith set the book in the Italian fishing town of Mongibello, in the city of Venice, and other locales.  The detectives looking for Ripley are professional policemen, but the story (told in the third person) is from an amateur perspective–Ripley himself.  Ripley might be said to be a detective in reverse: an amateur sleuth obscuring his crimes with the frenetic energy of a first-timer.  There is little gore, no sex, yet Ripley’s convoluted sexual identity colors the book with repressed tension.  Highsmith’s book rumbles across the artificial boundaries of the crime genre.

I worked in San Francisco as a private investigator in the 1990s.  After I returned several times on cases in 2002, it was clear that the San Francisco I had known was rapidly changing.  I had written poems and short pieces about the city but felt a powerful need to explore it again in a crime novel.  The book features my San Francisco, not the one others might remember—a city colored with my images, biases, and memories from cases that I had worked on as law student and PI.

telegrphHill500Among the famous hills of San Francisco is Telegraph Hill, a gorgeous section of San Francisco where small cottages dot the hillside alongside Spanish-style homes.  A flock of wild parrots twitter in trees overhead as the neighborhood denizens make their way downhill for a coffee in the North Beach caffes.  I walked countless times from Telegraph Hill to Nob Hill, where cable cars stopped at the famous Mark Hopkins Hotel as fog rolled down California Street to ice the night.

Scan10003But the underworld of San Francisco was never far away.  Standing on the tip of Nob Hill at California Street, you could look down Jones Street to a different section called the Tenderloin–one of greatest mixes of wealth and poverty in the U.S., separated by just a few blocks.  The Tenderloin took its name from a section of old New York City.  In the late 19th century, a New York cop was promoted to midtown, where gambling & prostitution were rampant  He told a reporter that he had been “eating rump steak down in the Fourth precinct, but now I have a chance to eat some of the tenderloin.” People took this as a reference to taking bribes to look the other way, and the name came to be used as a pejorative for the city’s red light district.  To this day, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district has struggled to match the rest of the city’s growth.  In the 1990s, Turk Street glittered in the sunlight from dozens of shattered bottles.  Drug dealing went on openly in Boedekker Park and prostitutes worked the streets at all times of the day and night.  It was a far cry from the top of Nob Hill, which was just a few blocks away.

Scan10004All these San Francisco neighborhoods were populated with fantastic characters.  As I walked, I picked up the vibrant dialogue on the streets.  There was a homeless man named Billy, who rose out of his cardboard boxes each Friday night to read poetry at the Yakety Yak Cafe.  A pool hall down the street, Hollywood Billiards, where you could shoot some stick with unemployed hit men.  Within minutes of walking past bars like The Driftwood or the Coral Sea, I would stride by wealthy homes on California Street, then into the North Beach neighborhood near the base of Telegraph Hill, where the guys at Florence Ravioli Factory fired carom shots off the customers in an all-day comedy fest.

telegraph_hill_picAll of this was crammed in tight confines.  Japanese tourists who stayed downtown at Hotel Nikko would sometimes ignore the doorman’s warning and turn left out the door into the prostitutes, drug dealers and rough trade.  They looked dazed—how could a cozy $500 per night room be so close to . . . this?  I suggested to them some contrasting sections of San Francisco—Nob Hill and Telegraph Hill were just a short walk of street poetry away.

So the city of San Francisco was unique– or was it?  Cozy on Telegraph Hill, noir down in the Tenderloin.  You can find inspiration just a few blocks away in any place if you look hard enough.  Great settings always offer a contrast between heaviness and lightness, and the authors we come of love present us with a bit of each.  In my novel, the detective reflects on the mixed blessings of the city, the poverty that exists in plain sight of opulent wealth.  While troubled by the contrast, he knows that he is in love: “Even when you see her grimy face and wasted ways, you love her like a woman—the endless promise of California.”

What is your own private California?

johnnauthJohn Nardizzi is an investigator, lawyer, and writer. His writings have appeared in numerous professional and literary journals, including San Diego Writers Monthly, Oxygen, Liberty Hill Poetry Review, Lawyers Weekly USA, and PI Magazine. His fictional detective, Ray Infantino, first appeared in print in the spring 2007 edition of Austin Layman’s Crimestalker Casebook. Telegraph Hill is the first crime novel featuring Infantino.

In May 2003, John founded Nardizzi & Associates, Inc., an investigations firm that has garnered a national reputation for excellence in investigating business fraud and trial work. His investigations on behalf of people wrongfully convicted of crimes led to several million dollar settlements for clients like Dennis Maher, Scott Hornoff and Kenneth Waters, whose story was featured in the 2010 film Conviction.

The Air Force Made Me Do It

Sherry Harris
from Northern Virginia

Being an Air Force spouse had a lot to do with how I ended up writing. Having a regular career is difficult when you are moving all of the time. Climbing a corporate ladder is next to impossible.

080508-F-0672W-005We were stationed in Dayton, Ohio at Wright-Patterson AFB when I spotted a short story contest in the local newspaper. I thought why not and started writing.  I realized right away the story was bigger than the parameters of the contest. And I set off on my writing journey moving it with me from Dayton, to Monterey, to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Northern Virginia, Bedford, Massachusetts and back to Northern Virginia.

During that time I worked on the craft of writing by attending conferences. At one I met fellow Air Force wife and author Sara Rosett, whose protagonist is a military spouse. I  joined critique groups and wrote and wrote and revised. It eventually led to my current series. Tagged for Death features Sarah Winston, a former Air Force spouse, and is set in the fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts and the very real Hanscom Air Force Base. I’m excited to use a part of my life that I loved so much in my novels.

I decided to ask two other military spouses how the military influenced their writing careers. I met Kim Stokely when our kids were in the same first grade class while we were stationed at Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. I met Gwen Hernandez recently. She taught a class on Scrivener offered through the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I read her bio and found out she was an Air Force wife and also lived near me in Northern Virginia.

KimstokelyKim: Newly married to a naval officer, I found myself alone 275 days of our first year stationed in Virginia Beach, VA. I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in dramatic communication as a way to keep my sanity. My advisor warned me at my graduation that I needed to find ways to be creative even as I moved around and started a family. He suggested I try writing as an outlet. I got the idea for Woman of Flames, soon to be released on, from a play woman-of-flames7cI performed while working toward my degree. I jotted down notes for the story for over a decade before I finally had the time to research my subject and time period. It took another year to write the first draft. Our various duty stations gave me ample opportunity to see the country and I’ve used several of our homes as settings for my novels including Monterey, CA; Saratoga Springs, NY and Omaha, NE. Although I’m working on a fantasy trilogy now, I’m still using my different memories to inspire my settings.

scrivenerfdcoverGwen: I didn’t start writing because my husband is in the military—though his income stability didn’t hurt—but it’s the perfect job for someone who’s always on the move. Assuming you can actually get paid for your writing, there’s no more worrying about lack of career advancement or finding employment in each new city. I can take my work anywhere in the world and set my own hours. Definitely a plus when it comes to reducing the stresses of relocating and caring for my family.

gwenhernandezAnd since I write romantic suspense—often featuring military, or former military, heroes and heroines—it’s nice to have a built-in resource at home. If my husband doesn’t know something, one of the many friends we’ve made over the years probably does, or can help me find an expert. Plus, having lived in and visited so many parts of the world, I don’t always have to set my books where I currently live to be able to write credibly about an area.

It’s not easy earning a living as a writer, but if it’s something you love to do, I can’t imagine a better career for a military spouse.

How has your life influenced your career choice?