Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Sins for Old Scores ... Launch!

May 27, 2017—Launch …. New Sins for Old Scores!

At last, my fourth published novel. This one coming to you from Black Opal Books and my strange, wild imagination. It’s a murder mystery with a paranormal twist! (Go figure, right?) And yes, this is a cheap self-promotion blog.
 
Summary:

Murder, like history, often repeats itself. And when it does, it's the worst kind of murder.
 
Detective Richard Jax was never good at history. After years as a cop, he was about to get the lesson of his life.
 
As Jax lay dying after being gunned down at an old inn while on surveillance, he's saved by Captain Patrick "Trick" McCall—the ghost of a World War II OSS agent—who has been waiting since 1944 for a chance to solve his own murder. Soon, Jax is a suspect in a string of murders—murders linked to smuggling refugees out of the Middle East—a plot similar to the World War II “Operation Paperclip,” an OSS operation that brought scientists out of war-torn Europe. With the aid of a beautiful and intelligent historian, Dr. Alex Vouros, Jax and Trick unravel a seventy year-old plot that began with Trick's murder in 1944. Could the World War II mastermind, code named Harriet, be alive and up to old games? Is history repeating itself?
 
Together, they hunt for the link between their pasts, confronted by some of Washington's elite and one provocative, alluring French Underground agent, Abrielle Chanoux. Somewhere in Trick's memories is a traitor. That traitor killed him. That traitor is killing again.
 
Who framed Jax and who wants Trick's secret to remain secret? The answer may be, who doesn't?
 
End cheap, self-promotion (for now). Look for New Sins for Old Scores!
 
We’ll talk again next month.  

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS
BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of New Sins for Old Scores, coming in May 2017 from Black Opal Books, and Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell. He recently finished his new thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect and his amazing agent, Kimberley Cameron is finding it a new home. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:
 
Web Site:  www.tjoconnor.com

 

 



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

New Sins and Late Nights

by Tj O'Connor

Nighttime belongs to mystery and intrigue—evil, too. I could say it belongs to love, but I write mysteries and thrillers, not romance novels. For me, I do my best thinking around midnight. I also do my best panicking and second-guessing. Don't we all? It’s not unusual for me to be lying there (or sitting at my computer writing), plotting out a scene or another book and wham—God, in the 7th Grade, I insulted that sweet redhead, Becky. What was I thinking! Then back to my murder plot and … crap! I’ll never retire, I’ll have to work until I die and … now, where did I leave that last body in Chapter 12... dammit, why isn't Pluto a real planet anymore? As the hours tick by, so does my split personality between story plots and lifelong regrets.

Raise your hand if you are with me on this–and don’t lie.

But something else happens after midnight, too—creativity. An unknown author once said, “3 AM is the hour of writers, painters, poets, musicians, silence seekers, overthinkers, and creative people…” I am clearly in the writers and overthinker columns. Of course, perhaps the best quote to describe me was by the hiphop group, the Initials, who wrote, “The Night Belongs to The Poet and The Madman.” Hmmmm, I’m no poet so … yup, madman. Nailed it.

Most of my novels were all given birth after midnight. New Sins for Old Scores was no exception.

I was lying awake one night a few years ago when I began writing New Sins for Old Scores, my latest paranormal mystery coming out in a couple months from Black Opal Books. A line came to me that sort of sums up the opening of the story and my permanent state of insomnia and creativity—of the lead character, Richard Jax, I wrote, “… history taught him a very important lesson—an axiom of parents with teenagers—that nothing good ever happens after midnight. Jax wasn’t married and had no children. But it was after midnight and he was alone.” Then, bam! A body—his body—blood, bullets, and bang-bang. The story unfolds.

The story follows the traditional mystery path to “the End” with a murder, finger-pointing, a few more bodies, deep dark secrets, twists and turns, the spirit of a long-dead OSS operative, and the capture of the bad guys. Well, perhaps the spirit of a long-dead OSS operative isn’t the traditional mystery path, but it can be  with me. At least for this book it was. Most of this story was written between the hours of 9 pm and 4 am. In fact, most of my nine novels were written during those hours.

And yes, alas, most of my life-long regrets and mistakes haunt me then, too.

A lot of good can happen after midnight for me. I’ve learned a ton about writing over the past five years or so—patience, the ability to take a gut-punch (think critics, publishers, and barroom friendships), and perseverance. Mostly, though, I’ve learned a lot about myself and many of those lessons came in the late hours when I can forget about my real life and focus on my imaginary one—killing people and stopping international crisis. Okay, okay, so over the years my real life and imaginary life gets a little blurry, but you get what I mean. Late at night I love to take in the night air and let my brain go crazy. It’s a battle to ignore the forgotten appointments, lists of to-do things, and life’s worries (although I still accumulate a Picasso of yellow sticky notes by 5 am each morning). Still, I’ve learned that my inner demons thrive after lights-out, so I always have my cellphone handy and my note-application ready for an endless list of characters, plot twists, and action sequences I want to write. The dread of it all is that I must—like most of you—work for a living. Alas, I have to wait until the next night before I can put fingers to keyboard and craft those ideas into my stories. It’s painful sometimes, but like a vampire, daylight isn't fun—work, bills, cooking, chasing the dogs, responsibilities …

Somehow, before the sun comes up each day, I catch 3-4 hours of sleep. That’s when I dream about my stories. Do you think I’m obsessed?  

The moral to all this is know thy self—learn about your strengths and weaknesses and what works best for you. Don’t read blogs and go to seminars and panels and try to mimic what other authors do and say. There is no secret code to success (lord don't I know)! Don’t fall into the trap of trying to fit yourself into a mold. Trust me, you’ll get stuck and have to fight your way out—or worse, you’ll be captive to seeking that infamous secret formula. No. I believe in using your love of the pen to learn about yourself—learn when the demons come out and when the voices in your head begin to make sense. Even if that’s after midnight.

Oh, and forget the tossing and turning about those bills and long lost friends and what-ifs. Those voices are just your ex-spouse or the IRS trying to make you crazy! Listen for the little whisper that starts after the lights go out and tells your characters what to do and say and where the story is going. And for God’s sake, pay attention!

We’ll talk again next month.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of New Sins for Old Scores, coming in Spring 2017 from Black Opal Books, and Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell. He recently finished his new thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect,and his amazing agent, Kimberley Cameron, is finding it a home. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site:  www.tjoconnor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjoconnor.author
Blog: http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7148441.T_J_O_Connor

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

New Sins and Old Dogs.

by Tj O'Connor
 
Cancer should be spelled with an F. That’s the way I spell it—F---ing Cancer.

Cancer took my girl. Fast. Painfully. Heartlessly.

First it took her by surprise. Then it took her leg. Then it took her dignity. Then, it forced me to … f---ing cancer.
 
I have faced death all my life. We all have in one form or another. But these past couple years has been one heartache after another. Still, nothing prepared me for the loss of my girl, Maggie Mae. Nothing. In 2015, I lost both my mentor, Wally, and my companion, Mosby. One as much as the other—a Lab and a brilliant but crusty old spy—devastated me nearly the same. I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Wally was 92 and had lived his amazing life. Up until the very end—the hour—we shared laughs and talked and made sure there was peace and understanding between us. But with Mosby, it was hard to share anything but the loss. I wanted him to understand there was no choice. To understand that there was no greater love than to let go and save him from pain and despair. No greater sacrifice than accepting responsibility for the strange, heart-breaking kindness that is sometimes death. I hoped—prayed—he understand that I was not betraying him. Not merely moving on. I was saving him from the worst fate.

I try to tell myself that every day. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it kills me all over again. Pain doesn’t go away, it just simmers in the background waiting for an opportunity to burn you a little more.

Maggie is different. Painfully different. I can’t explain why—perhaps because she was my girl or perhaps it was because it was such a shock. Perhaps it was something else—she was forever in bandages for something. Always on meds for this or that. A twelve year struggle to cure the next thing. But she lived without complaint. Without demand. Always happy and loving. Until December when she came up lame in one leg. The vet told me she had arthritis, maybe a damaged ligament. No worries. Pain meds, therapy… maybe a little surgery if it didn’t heal quickly. All would be fine.

Wrong. Dead wrong.

Three weeks later, I knew something was very, very wrong and sought out a specialist. My girl wasn’t going to limp anymore or down pain pills any longer. Whatever the reason. Whatever the cost. She was going to be healed—and fast.

Oh dear God … twenty minutes after arriving, the end lay in my lap, panting and begging me for a chance—a few more weeks. A few more months ...  Osteosarcoma. F---ing cancer. Deep in her bone. So deep it was killing me, too.

The doc, an amazingly lady with class, skill, and compassion, operated that day and took her leg to save her life. Chemo was scheduled. More pain meds. But hope was in my grasp. Within three days she was hobbling around, playing a little, loving a lot—the smile back in her eyes after two months in hiding. Even after her first chemo treatment, she was on her feet and fighting back. Fighting for us. Fighting for life. She loved on Toby, or black Lab and the love of her life. She played with my granddaughter, walked and slept with me, and ate everything she could find. After all, dying be damned—she was a Lab.

Until the second week. Paralysis consumed her. It was back. She couldn’t walk, couldn’t sit, couldn’t have the dignity of controlling herself … her face exuded embarrassment when I carried her for days into the yard just to keep her from soiling herself. I didn’t know what was killing her faster—f---ing cancer or shame.

Humans should have such dignity.

I can barely write these words. The next ones especially. Pain rains and fingers tremble—the thoughts of those last moments. For those who don’t share my emotions over pets, you shouldn’t have them. For those that do, I can only image you’re sharing a little of my grief right now. You know the rest of the story. I couldn’t allow her any more pain, anymore shame, anymore cancer. And in my arms, both of us shaking … I let her go.

Damn me for what I had to do. Damn me. I only pray that if there is a heaven—and for souls like hers and my boy, Mosby, there has to be—that she and he are together and happy. They deserve it like no human I’ve ever known. Loyal. Loving. Compassionate.

This is not the fun, lighthearted post I wanted to write. But it is the post I had to write. It hasn’t healed me yet—I am struggling still. But it helps. Because sadly, I’m not always the adventurous, tough Harley guy people think of me too often—I’m an UFO (ugly fat old guy) who cries over lost dogs and isn’t ashamed to post that pain for the world to read.

But, the loss of one has one good fortune with the pain—room for another. Toby needs a companion—he morns for Mags every day. This house needs a girl—I do to. Not to replace you, Mags, but because you left such an emptiness behind.

So, to end this with a little hope … welcome Annie Rose. You’ve got big paws and a huge heart to fill. Be gentle with Toby and me—we’re still grieving. But he, like me, is coming around.

We’ll talk again next month.
 

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of New Sins for Old Scores, coming in Spring 2017 from Black Opal Books, and Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell. He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous works. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site:  www.tjoconnor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjoconnor.author
Blog: http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7148441.T_J_O_Connor

 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It's Time for My New Sins ...

by Tj O'Connor

Temporary Cover Art
My sins are surfacing. They’re on the horizon, inching ever closer, and it’s time I dealt with them head-on. Like many a wild and crazy-guy, my sins come with scores to settle, too. There’s nothing better than a good battle of new sins and old scores. Nothing.

For the past two years or so, I’ve blogged about my characters, plots, and process surrounding my previous series, The Gumshore Ghost (a dreaded series name). Oliver Tucker and his pals hunted murderers, thieves, and gangsters. Tuck was a dead detective helping solve first his own, and then other murders along the way. Each of those stories had a historical subplot and a paranormal twist. And so does New Sins for Old Scores.

The difference in the story lines are unique—Tuck was written in the first person, and New Sins in the third. Tuck’s stories were very light-hearted mysteries whereas New Sins takes a little more serious storyline, still with good humor, but it’s closer to a traditional mystery. Lastly, and perhaps more noteable at least to me, it takes on a serious subplot—human trafficking—and overlays a historical real-life event to connect the past with the present. I truly believe history repeats itself. I also believe we are slow to learn its lessons.

New Sins for Old Scores makes us wonder if we’ve learned life’s most important lessons about the past, trust, and honor.

 In February 2016,  I had a brief discussion about my new novel. I’ll try not to rehash it here. It suffices to say that these new stories will also have murder with a paranormal twist, but in this case, the paranormal side will be the secondary character—Trick McCall, the spirit of a long dead, disgraced WWII Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative. Trick is the sidekick in these stories, not the primary hero as in Oliver Tucker’s Ghost Gumshoe series. And this series is a little more traditional—albeit with the paranormal twist—and not quite as light-hearted as Tuck’s stories, either—though Trick does tend to have a little fun at the expense of the bad guys.

 The novel is based on some real events—or more accurately, real historical events—which I took license with and molded into a modern murder mystery. The story follows a disgraced detective, Richard Jax, who must prove his own innocence in a multiple homicide and stop an international plot of human traffickers and murders.

The story begins …

Murder, like history, often repeats itself.

When it does, that kind of murder isn’t the byproduct of some psychotic break or an unintended emotional frenzy. That kind of murder is conscious and considered. It is deliberate.

History is full of that kind of murder.

Richard Jax was never a good student of history—but he knew murder well. He was more pragmatic than philosophical, and except for watching the History Channel and old movies, the past occupied little of his time. His time was reserved for murder and violence. Yet, history taught him a very important lesson—an axiom of parents with teenagers—that nothing good ever happens after midnight.

Jax wasn’t married and had no children. But it was after midnight and he was alone.

Later on, Richard Jax is ambushed while on a stakeout and lay bleeding out, alone and without backup. As his assailant approaches him for the final kill shot, he meets Trick McCall …

A voice exploded in his head. “Get up. Fight back. It’s not over. It can’t be—fight.”

Jax looked across the driveway. Someone lay on the gravel a dozen feet away. The figure stared wide-eyed back at him. Then, in strange, freeze-frame movements, the man stood. He looked around and brushed himself off. He gave Jax a nod and then picked something up off the ground and placed it on his head.

“Come on, Mac, fight. Don’t quit. You can’t.”

Jax tried to focus but knew he was already done.

“Come on, Ricky. You have to do this yourself. Until you do, I can’t help.”

Jax watched the man across the parking lot as the warmth pooled beneath his cheek. His vision blurred and he wasn’t sure what he saw was right—a cone of light engulfed the man—just him. Everything around the light was black and murky. The man was tall and lanky. He wore a hat—a fedora—and a dark, double-breasted suit. Behind him was a 1940s Plymouth with wide, squared fenders, and a dark green, four-door body.

Was he dead and heaven playing a film noir festival for his arrival?

“Shoot ‘em, Ricky. Shoot or he’ll kill you.”

Jax looked up at the silhouette standing over him. The warmth that flowed from him minutes ago now left him cold and spent.

The silhouette raised his gun for the final shot.

“No,” Jax grunted. “No…”

A deafening crack and a flash of light.

Silence.

“Miles Archer, Ricky,” the fedora-man said leaning over him. “Bogart’s partner was Miles Archer, ya know, in The Maltese Falcon. I saw it open at the Capitol Theatre in D.C. in ’42. You did good, Ricky—real good.”

Darkness.

Jax and Trick McCall have two things in common. They are both disgraced—Trick believed to be a murderous traitor who killed his own men for profit, and Jax a crooked cop who killed his partner and fiancĂ© from jealousy. Together they have to set the records straight —even if those records began in 1942.

As with my previous novels, I intertwine history and the present, proving the opening line, Murder, like history, often repeats itself.  The paranormal twist allows me to move between past and present and explore the events that led to Trick’s death and his disgrace. It also allows me to link events from the ‘40s with modern day skullduggery. The outcome brings out all the character’s New Sins and helps them settle Old Scores.

I’m anxious to get on the road to talk about this story. It was fun writing and I think it’ll be fun talking about the plot and characters to fans. But mostly, I love just talking books with readers. This one opens up a new chapter in my own writing, another potential series that mixes my favorite topics—murder and history. In these stories, I get to play with my own sins and conjure up some old scores to settle, too.

We’ll talk again next month.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of New Sins for Old Scores, coming in March 2017 from Black Opal Books, and Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell. He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous works. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site:  www.tjoconnor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjoconnor.author
Blog: http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7148441.T_J_O_Connor

 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dying To Kill My Darlings ... kill 'em all.

Kill ’em! Kill ’em all! Die my darlings, die!

Phew, now that I got that out. Let me explain.

William Faulkner—you know, that slouch author—is famed for many things like his 1949 Nobel for Literature and The Sound and the Fury not least among them. He is also noted for giving perhaps the most sage advice authors can get—“In writing, you must all kill your darlings.” A truer statement has never been made. Oh, Bill, what a guy ... if only I'd listened to you sooner.
 
Lesson for new authors and writers—be careful loving your own characters and story too much. When you do, three things happen: first, you can’t see your own story flaws; second, your agent and editor will see them and it hurts to hear; and third—the most painful one—you must kill them. Kill the characters you don’t need. Kill the subplot that gets in the way. Kill the clever chapters and cool action scenes that were dynamite to write and fun to read but truly don’t matter to the story.

Yes. You must kill. Coldly, with extreme prejudice.

Can you tell I’m a mystery and thriller writer? Just talking about killing my characters and subplots makes me tingle all over. (Not really, but it’s fun to say.)

This past summer, I failed to take my own advice. Yes siree, I totally let my own perceptions and love of the characters get in the way of a better story—almost. If not for my agent, the lovely and magnanimous Kimberley Cameron, I would have blown it. She saw my flaws for what they were—and the knives came out!

Let me explain.

I recently completed my new thriller, Double Effect. I’d written the original version a couple years ago with my mentor, Wally. It was written as a murder mystery with a terrorism subplot. I loved the original story and so did Wally. Unfortunately, sitting for a couple years while writing my mystery series, the Gumshoe Ghost, ended up dating the story too far back and I had to rewrite it. As I did, my mentor suddenly passed away. It was crushing to me and literally on his deathbed, he gave his last counsel on my writing—finish Double Effect as a thriller and get the damn thing done!

Off I went and there was where the trouble began. Double Effect was originally the story of a Latino street gang caught up with a cell of terrorists plotting to attack the US. The gang and the cell were at cross purposes and it caused hell to pay. Oh, there were other facets—a vixen FBI agent stumbling around, a corrupt cop, a wayward gang leader with a blood lust, and even a cell of foreign government operatives with their own agenda. All of them were in conflict with the hero, a long forgotten government operative who returned home to witness his brother’s murder. Confused yet? You should be. My agent was. My editor was. Regrettably, and the reason for this blog … I wasn’t.

I think authors suffer from the same illness sometimes. We know our stories too well and even after edits on edits, we have the story so fixed in our heads that we forget the edits changed things. So, after two full edits and rewrites of my story, all the subplots were twisted together and I totally failed to see it. I knew the underlying story and it was clear to me. I knew the characters and how they thought and moved through the story. I got it. It was great!

Ah, no. It wasn’t. It had potential, but only after a good bloodletting.

When my agent told me that she liked the underlying story but couldn’t get connected to the subplots, I was taken aback—aghast! What? Kill my characters? Lessen the subplots? How could you even think such a thing? I tried to explain… and I found myself tied in knots. Gulp. I’d created Frankenstein the subplot! So many moving pieces and part mystery, part thriller, and 100 proof too dense. It was two novels, not one. I just hadn’t seen it. My brain knew the story and the characters too well. I was hostage to my own novel. Those characters held me. Controlled me. Refused to allow me to let them go.

Alas, there was only one thing to do. I found a new story-line editor—enter the amazing and gifted Terri—and within a couple weeks, she untangled my story and gave me my marching orders. Cut. Kill. Rewrite. Focus …

It was painful reading her ideas and changes. There would be blood. Lots of blood. An entire subplot would require surgical extraction—a beheading of grammatical proportions! It was going to be a long few weeks and sleepless nights. Crying and teeth gnashing. Oh the horrors! Of all the humanities!

Then, one night about three a.m. (I sleep very little when I’m working on a book), it struck me like a bullet … they were right. It was time to kill them … kill them all. Those little darlings of mine who had corrupted me and forced me to protect them.  By six that morning, I’d gone through my outline and hacked away at what I needed to do. I compared my slaughter to what my new editor wanted and it was damn close. Then, through the tears and whimperings of those characters I’d given life to, it began.

Now, for the past two weeks—weekends and late night hours until I am ready to drop—I’ve cut and slashed and killed off a chunk of Double Effect. As I continued, an amazing thing began to take place—clarity. I no longer had to justify this character or that one. I didn’t have to find a way to connect one subplot into the ending. It was painful. Bloody painful. It felt like I’d killed my best friends and had to disavow parts of my own life. But as the rewrite continues, I’m having fun with it … challenging myself at every chapter to see if something should go. I fear what I’ve become … a serial killer?

So, here’s the moral to the story for anyone who listens. Kill ’em. Kill ’em all. Step back from your own work for a few weeks before you read it again. Ask three questions for each character: does it matter if they aren’t there? What do they contribute to the ending and plot? What if I just got rid of them, what would happen? If you find yourself searching for the answers, kill ’em. And for those subplots you love so much, three more questions: How does this strengthen the ending? Does it move the story faster or slower? And of course, what if I just pulled it out—would the story notice? Again, if your heart isn’t palpitating on the answers … kill ’em.

So, for you finishing your book, sit the story down for a while. Come back in a few weeks and bring your courage. Kill ’em … kill ’em cold and fast. Kill those little darlings before they kill you.

We’ll talk again next month.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell—and New Sins for Old Scores, a new paranormal mystery coming in 2017! He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous series. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:
 
Web Site:  www.tjoconnor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjoconnor.author
Blog: http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7148441.T_J_O_Connor

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dying Is A Con ...


Taking Tuck and my books on the road is many things for me. It’s book signings, speaking gigs, being Master of Ceremonies for book events and charities … fairs, author panels … highways, hotels, airports … And of all things, it’s also one big con.

Conventions, not a scam, rip-off, or ex-resident of your local prison.

Having never discovered the magic formula hidden on the internet for building a fan base of huge proportions, I have taken the road far, far less travelled by. I don’t limit my book selling travels to writer conventions, book store signings, libraries, or other reader-magnet events. No, that would be simple and easy. Not me.  Oh, no. I do those things, of course, but I also tiptoe on the wild side. I found the fork in the road where the other authors turn right and head for the bookstores and I made a hard-left.

See, I don’t follow the leader very often. Well, hardly at all. In fact, I tend to not only march to my own drum but I don’t bring a drum. I don’t play well in other’s wake.

No, no really. It’s true. Stop laughing …

Three years ago when Dying to Know first launched, I took to the road in a dozen different paths. It was the quintessential tossing ideas against the wall to see what sticked … stuck … stayed there? And each year since, it’s been different. Each year, I experiment with new ideas. Some of them work. Others do not work. All of them have been fun to try.

One of the theories I had was to be places most other authors were not going to be.

Like, Monster-Mania.

You heard me. Monster-Mania Con, Hunt Valley, Maryland.

This cult-following convention has been around for decades. Its platform is as it sounds—the monster, ghoul, and slasher genre—an annual convention for the ghouls, dead-enders, goths, and horror-esque in all of us. There are film-makers; comic book aficionados; and artisans of gadgets, toys, memorabilia, macabre jewelry, and anything for those who want to live in Halloween-land year-round. And of all the fun are the hard-core fans who love cosplay—dressing in the costume of their favorite slasher, basher, killer, and chiller stars.


Many aren’t really in costume. But don’t tell them I said so.

Monster-Mania Con has been interesting to say the least. Over the past couple events here, I’ve met celebrities like Robert Englund of Freddie fame in Nightmare on Elm Street, Scott Wilson (Hershel) of the Walking Dead, Shannon Elizabeth, Kristy Swanson, and a list of others. Some, I couldn’t name a film or pick out of a lineup, but many, like Englund and Wilson, are powerhouse draws for this circuit and well worth the bucks to get in and get a photo with. I, not being a fanboy, buy them a drink or shake a hand and move on. Celebrity-sycophant is not on my resume.

I am sort of the odd-man out in the sea of ghouls and killers and roving vampires and werewolves. I’m the unknown-author of mysteries and thrillers. This year, the only novelist in the entire convention selling Ghost Gumshoe series (God I hate the moniker) about a dead detective solving murders with a paranormal twist. I also began promoting my newest paranormal mystery, New Sins for Old Scores, hitting the shelves in early 2017 from Black Opal Books. Not the best fit for a horror convention, but at least my protagonist is dead. And, trust me, this crowd is all about dead!

After three years, I’m one of the crew here. And oddly enough, it has worked. This year, I had several returning fans come to find me and buy my latest book with promises to sign on for the New Sins series. And I’ve found a few new fans and caught up with some old pals who haunt this place (pun intended) each year.

Truth be told, I don’t sell a ton of books—but I do sell many. I also get my bookmarks and business cards out there. I talk to tons of people and even make a few fans along the way, have some laughs, and shake my head a lot as I snap photos of the cosplayers.

The road less travelled has brought me to a lot of strange places—Monster-Mania among the oddest.

There’s my old pal, Capt. Mango … the radon-inspection contractor who is really a pirate and small-
budget film star as a killer-maniac. There’s Mike and Jenna, a talented two-some—Mike creates hand-made artisan toys and horror memorabilia and Jenna is a gifted photographer of cult-style photos. Mic and Mike, Donna, Terri, and Steve ... and Matt. There’s the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Father Evil, the killers from A Clockwork Orange, Freddie Krueger, ax-wielding maniacs, and cute kids dressed as stalker clowns and dragons. And others like Anna, Maggie, Kellie, Chris & Mary Ann, Katherine from Kingston with Justin—a few new friends of the hundreds I’ve made here.

Monster-Mania may not be on my slate next year as I juggle my travels and try to find new venues to seek fans and fame. But the experience and folks I’ve met has made it one of the memorable places Tuck and I have explored these past three years. It will also be one of my first favorites and the first place Tuck found returning fans seeking his adventures.

For me, finding the places few authors have discovered is part of my own path. My favorite places are at those where I speak or am on a panel—if I can speak and take stage, I can sell them my books. Except here at Monster-Mania—to truly connect, I have to wear Goth-garb, paint my eyes black, wear zombie contact lenses and elevator–shoes, and carry an ax. Oh, and a few chains and scalps hanging from my belt wouldn’t hurt either.

We’ll talk again next month.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell—and New Sins for Old Scores, a new paranormal mystery coming in 2017! He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous series. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site:  www.tjoconnor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjoconnor.author
Blog: http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7148441.T_J_O_Connor

 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dying for the Affair

My hands are shaking. My breath tightens in my chest. My thoughts are swirling with images of the time we spent together. Now she’s gone—out of my reach and nothing but silence remains. The emptiness is back. Yet, deep down, I know it has never left. Not since early July. Not since I did it. Now, I have to live with the consequences of my actions.  Those last words haunt me—a clichĂ© ending to months of love and affection that kept me up late into the night and demanded every ounce of my attention.

And with those words, those damnable words, it was over. Two words that ended my sneaking into the night, hiding from my family, seeking my lover’s embrace. A lover that made me smile and got my heart pounding and my blood sizzling through my veins. Two words and the entire affair was over.

Two words—The End.

I’m talking about writing my latest novel, of course. What the hell did you think I was talking about?

I won’t speak for other authors, but I think many of us suffer from this affliction—the pain and sorrow of ending a novel we’ve loved and toiled over that we gave our soul to for months. The affair starts with an idea. Perhaps our imagination wanders after a beautiful woman smiles or sends a heart-stopping text or funny cartoon. Could it be possible? Could she be the one? Can I kill her in the first chapter and make my readers feel my pain and loss for 400 pages? What if she were not a tantalizing vixen but a spy or master terrorist stalking me before ending the world in a vile, evil plan? Could it be? Do I have another novel here?

Ohhhhhh, I get warm and fuzzy all over just thinking about how these liaisons begin.

And so it begins—the first few flirts and stolen kisses. A page here, a chapter there. And before anyone knows it—not my kids or dogs for sure—it’s a raging torrent of keyboard and screen, characters and plots, guys and dames … all heading toward the inevitable, painful, ending—The End. We start it all so innocently. No expectations. No promises. But before we’ve reached page 50, it’s late nights and cold showers—stolen glances at the screen, whispers in the night and secret liaisons whenever we can steal away and be alone. We crave her attention. We need her connection. It’s all about her—the story—and until we reach the climax at the end, we cannot stop ourselves. It’s a drive. A journey. A destination.

And then, it ends. Nothing left but a good cry and memories. Oh, and edits. Hell yes, edits and edits and edits.

For me, every book has been my passion. Sometimes, I stray during the affair and begin to dabble with another—yes, it’s true. I two-story now and then. It’s an affliction. Yet, when I’m being honest with myself, I know it won’t ever work. I have to finish one before I can even get serious with another. I’m getting old, after all. It’s just how things are.

And therein lies the problem—finishing a book that has been a lover for months, perhaps even years of notes and daydreams and ideas. That makes it all the harder to let go. To end it. To say, “The End.”

This past summer, I ended my latest liaison with Double Effect—my first thriller I’ve finished in nearly six years after writing five mysteries. It was a bittersweet story that touched home in so many ways that I even blogged about it in June at http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/2016/06/dying-for-thrill.html. Little did I know then that ending this long-running love would bring on a new emotion—despair.

A warning to all wannabe authors like me—good enough is never good enough. Just when you end it all, kiss her goodbye, and hit “send,” the emptiness and despair can often grab you like a lover clinging to a second chance. It’s terrifying.  

As I discussed in my June blog, Double Effect is the story of Jonathan Hunter, a swashbuckling security consultant summoned home after decades overseas by his estranged brother. On his arrival, he witnesses his brother’s murder. That killing unleashes a series of events from small town prejudice to Hunter’s personal demons haunting him as he chases a killer and finds a terrorist plot to devastate an American city. It combines a murder mystery, a rogue Latino street gang, a Middle Eastern terror cell, and current-event international dangers all coming to roost in small town Winchester, Virginia.

 Unfortunately, Double Effect also consumed me because it was the last work my mentor, Wally F. and I worked on together. It was dear to both of us because it stole pieces of our past lives and allowed us to work together on an adventure that would never have been possible in real life.  Double Effect brought back memories of our own true, old adventures—sure, the story is much more daring and dangerous than my previous life—but we spent hours reminiscing. It also forced me to relive my loss when Wally died last year. Double Effect took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and remembrances that cost me more sleep than any book in years.

Emotions and life experiences are powerful tools of a writer.

I’d written draft one of Double Effect several years ago, but, because I received a contract for Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell, I had to shelve it until there was time to reacquaint myself with the love of my life. And let me tell you, that rendezvous was everything I’d hoped. But then, as my passion for Double Effect was rekindled, I was befallen by my worst affliction—self-doubt. Was it good enough?

For months, I’d toiled lovingly over new plot twists, subplots, and character changes. Yet each time I finished a draft, my heart ached and my mind wandered for one last tryst—another edit, more changes, new characters. I was obsessed. You see, my problem was not the story. It wasn’t the characters, either. It was me. I was stuck in it-will-never-be-good-enough mode. Each time I thought I was done, I’d read it and say, “Wait, I can make this better. I can do this and that. I can …” Delay. More rewrites.  I lay awake nights replotting and second-guessing myself into oblivion. My demand for “one more change” all but guaranteed I’d never truly finish the book.

But, like ice cream sundaes and passion, it all came to an end in early July. I forced myself to finish one final edit, typed “The End,” and sent Double Effect to my agent—the amazing and lovely Kimberley Cameron.

It was one day before the loss hit me. Before the angst and torment began. She was gone. She’d left me. Double Effect was away and it would be too long before I would have her again. Had I been good to her? Had I taken the time and given her my best? Was she satisfied? Should I have spent just a little more time? Was I … Good enough?

Doubt. Second guessing … regret.

Now I wait each night by my computer—alone and hopeful that any day I’ll hear the ding of my email and she would return for more of me. Kimberley’s round of edits and redrafting—her own thoughts and suggestions to make this affair one to remember. And she—Double Effect—would be in my embrace once again. I would go to work caressing her plots and stroking her characters until, when the time was right, we would reach the end together—my novel and me. Just the two of us. Well, at least until I was ready to share her with all of you.

After all, this love of mine—this affair that steals me and controls my every waking hour—is but just another notch on my bookshelf. And sadly it is true, in time, Double Effect will be a past fling—a summer thing—and I’ll move on to yet another.

We’ll talk again next month.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell—and New Sins for Old Scores, a new paranormal mystery coming in 2017! He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous series. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site:  www.tjoconnor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjoconnor.author
Blog: http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7148441.T_J_O_Connor