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 cliché 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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dying for A Little Sanity ...


Oh, Dear God … when will it end? When will my television return to zombies and murder mysteries and documentaries about ancient astronauts and how the Martians built the pyramids? Sure, sure, all those things could still describe politics today—the zombies in Congress, the murder mysteries of the latest political attack ads, and the ancient astronauts who are pulling the strings of our so-called leadership. But I want to get away from all that. Facebook oozes with hate and contempt—all the political posting and bashing and in some cases, threats. Really? You’ll pull off my what with dull tweezers and electricity because I voted for who?

Come on, people, lighten up!

Even television news drives me insane with its macabre “journalists” telling me want to think about this candidate or that issue. The country is in a tailspin of anger and dissent and I want the noise to stop. Please, oh please, give us the silence that is normalcy. And if that’s impossible, hit me with an asteroid!

Now, in full disclosure, I love politics—I used to anyway. But these days, I’m neither Democrat nor Republican. I am in that strange, rare third-party—no, not the Independents—I’m in the Sane Party. I’ll support what is good for the country and what makes sense—no matter which side of the aisle it comes from. For sure, both sides think they have all the answers but instead of telling us those answers—or better yet, showing us—they spend all their time attacking each other. Unfortuntely, this rancor has caught up so many people that it drips from every other post on Facebook and the news.  

God, is there any sanity anywhere?

To answer that question, I went to the media for answers. I know, I know, that’s like asking Rocky if he has any brain damage “I don’t see none.” I did a random search of recent news events to see just how sane our world is today. Here’s what I found:
 

Story 1: Luke Aikins, an experienced skydiver with more than 18,000 jumps, leapt from an airplane without a parachute at 25,000 feet. It took slightly more than two minutes (I know, I watched this crazy guy) and he successfully landed in a huge net … and walked away! Holy crap on a peanut butter sandwich! First, what an insane thing to do. Second, what a stupid thing to do. And third, oh hell, there is no third.  

Story 2: Pokemon-Go —this knucklehead was chasing Polemon in that goofy cellphone game through the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, the other night. He chased some imaginary cartoon monster right into the side of a Baltimore police cruiser. The stunned cops were standing on the sidewalk watching it go down. Their body cameras picked up the event. Holy stupidity! Will the cellphone craze be renamed Pokemon Go to jail?


Story 3: Police Strippers. In Germany, a loud, raucus 50th birthday party full of ladies got out of hand, the police arrived to quiet things down. The ladies, a bit tipsy, thought the coppers were male strippers and things really got interesting. They begged and pleaded for photos and music for their disrobing… right. Luckily, the cops didn’t bring any of them to jail for the big pole dance finally.

Story 4: There’s no place like home: the 59-year-old lady in Wyoming who robbed a bank so she would get sent back to prison. She had just been released and hated being homeless, so she stuck up a bank, threw the money into the air outside it, and sat down waiting for the cops. No fuss. No muss. She will get her wish.

Story 5: My favorite. Asteroid 101955 Bennu will buzz BETWEEN the earth and moon in 2135. Because of its proximation in the gravity fields, it’s orbit may be altered just enough to have it slam into the earth later in the century. It’s only travelling at 63,000 miles per hour and is about a third of a mile in diameter—so it’s a bullet heading for us. Scientists say if it hits, it will cause “immense suffering and death.” Wow. I wonder if the election that year will be as entertaining as this year’s? What the national debt will be by then? Will Pokemon still have critters roaming the streets of Baltimore?

Guys without parachutes, Pokemon-Go-To Jail, stripper cops, jail-sick cons, and a killer asteroid. Maybe politics isn’t so crazy. Maybe all the ranker and stupidity is the new normal.

Oh, God, say it isn’t so!

We’ll talk again soon … if the asteroid isn’t early and if Pokemon doesn’t send me to jail.


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 on the shelves and internet now. 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 work. 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

Friday, July 1, 2016

Dying ... Life Is Too Short

Today, just now, I sat down to write my monthly blogs—something I procrastinate on and then feverishly bang them out impromptu (it keeps me agile). I was panicked for a topic and tired from travelling around begging looking for fans. I was grasping for a blog idea. A good friend of mine suggested I write about just that—weekend travels for my books and the ups and downs along the way—how tiring and rewarding it is. So I plopped down at my keyboard—iced tea at my right, cat on my left, three dogs beneath my feet—and stared at the keyboard.

And then the news came in.

A heartbreaking story touched me of a local man killed in a tragic automobile accident not far from our home. Shag was a hard-working retail worker at our local Costco that everyone—and I mean everyone—adored for his good nature and kind words. Oddly, I only knew his first name—his nickname was Shag—and I’d just seen him yesterday evening on my way out. His last words to me were, “Be safe, now. Have a nice day.” Yes, sir. Right back at you.

Sadness didn’t have to fill me too far. I was still reeling from last Friday, June 24th, —my friend and mentor’s birthday. Wally F. would have been 93. He was one of the last OSS—Office of Strategic Services—men from World War II (http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/2015/08/dying-is-not-farewell.html). He was the retired Deputy Director of Communications at CIA. He was the Vice President and General Manager of a former consulting firm where we met. Is, was, will be forever, my best friend. I lost him August 16 of last year. But on Friday, I visited Arlington National Cemetery and had a few words with him. Afterwards, there was lunch at our favorite Greek Taverna where I tipped Retsina in his absence. For days before, and still today, his loss remains ever present. And hearing about Shag—whom I barely knew—strangely stilled me. It reminded me of the brevity of life and the looming mystery none of us can solve—when is it too late?

Life is just too short. Are we living it or waiting and watching it go by?

So, I cannot blog about life on the road or the toils and joys of being an author. I cannot complain about exhaustion and friendships and heartbreak and angst. I cannot blog about life as a writer where I get to do and say and write whatever I wish in the name of my stories. I cannot suggest that my dream coming true is in anyway a misgiving or burden. Even the down days—the terrible days—I cannot.

Searching my computer for the tragedy of Shag’s passing, the headlines turned my other cheek—Istanbul. Terrorists hit again and massacred dozens of innocents. Weeks ago it was Florida. Before that, Paris, California ... others—more and more and more. Unfortunately, I understand those headlines. I get that world. It has been part of my profession my entire life. Bad guys. Victims. Terrorism. Loss.

But vehicle accidents, heart attacks, and age? The end result is the same. None of us is getting out of here alive.

This blog isn’t about my horrible, crazy life as an author—I say that sarcastically with a touch of embarrassment that I would even consider blogging that today, even in jest, about this life I love so much. Not now.  

Life is just too short. We know where we’ve been—what brought us to this day—but we don’t know if tomorrow is there or not. Do we know where we’re going? Why we’re headed there? And with that uncertainty comes the biggest questions we should be asking every day we open our eyes—am I doing what I want? Am I who I want to be? Do I dare reach for what’s missing?

What if

Some thirty-seven years ago I ran like hell from a small town in Upstate New York seeking adventure and life away from a small farming community where the streets rolled up before dark. I chased life pretty hard and escaped many an adventure unscathed. My dream was to write and travel and swashbuckle. But for the better part of thirty years I skipped my writing dreams and focused on family and career—until a series of events changed my life. First, the company I was COO of was sold out from under me and left me standing alone and scared. The same year, my brother in law, Randy—a dear, close friend—unexpectantly died. In his wake I found myself teetering on the edge of my own medical crisis and wondered if I were next.

And then the questions starting colliding—No, I wasn’t who I wanted to be. No, I had things I damn well wanted to do. Tomorrow would wait. Today was infront of me—in my hand. Now.

I sat and wrote my second novel in fifteen years, and when it was done, wrote two more. My fourth, Dying to Know, was my first published book some 902 days ago and poof, I was an author. Since, I’ve published two more, have another coming out in 2017, and just finished my ninth novel of my career. All of that—every ounce of energy and drive and every word I wrote—came because of the one simple epiphany—life is too short. None of us is getting out of here alive. For me though, they’re going to have to carry me out, because I’m going to be worn out! I realized that I had to reach out and take what I’d chased all my life. There is no “later” or “maybe” or “hope.” There is only now. Only action. Only the realization that I didn’t want to get to the end of life—especially if it sneaked up and bit me in the …—with more regrets than smiles.

So, for friendly, gracious Shag whose life was so tragically stilled, and for Wally and Randy and all the others who have touched my life, I owe it to you all to not blog about poor me the tired, travelling author. I owe it to you to say, “My turn. I’m going to write more books. I’m going to find what’s missing and seize it. I’m going live now. I’m going to make sure that when I die—tonight or fifty years from now—I’m so worn out and ragged that hell won’t have any use for me. I will be answering for my life with “Been there, done that.” Regrets—Ummm, nope, sorry. But boy, do I have stories…

I may never write the great American novel or even a New York Times Best Seller. But I’m going to write a ton of books about life and adventure and fun. I’m going to chase my losses until they’re gains. I’ll ride my Harley until the wheels, or I, fall off from age and decay. I’ll find lost friends and rekindle the kinship, and for new ones, they will know me and I them. Most of all, I won’t take the safe route. I won’t be sheepish and polite and withdraw and let others blaze the trail. I won’t settle for second or third choice because it’s the “correct” or “nice” thing to do. I’m going to live life and suck it dry—ride, write, love, and adventure on. I’m going down in flames. When I die and the devil takes a look at what’s left, he’ll say, “Jesus, what was wrong with you?” And he’ll pass because along my way, I will have made others happy and glad to have known me. They’ll miss me and miss my good work and books and charity and above all, miss my lust for life. And they—and the devil—will envy my choices in life. Maybe somewhere along the way, someone will say, “I’m with him.”

But most of all, I’m going often to Arlington and brag to Wally about my latest adventure and try to one-up his life’s work—I never will of course. Somewhere, he’ll be laughing and shaking his finger and cautioning me about my limits. Even then, neither of us will know what they are.

So for all of you I say again—Life is too short. Dammit, go do something about it!

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 work. 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, June 1, 2016

Dying for a Thrill

Voilá. Poof. Presto Chango … I’m not a mystery writer—I’m a thriller writer. Well, I’m both really. The difference is a combination of nuance and delivery—at least to me it is—and after three edits and rewrites, I hope I delivered the right set of genre pieces-parts—now, if only my beta-readers agree my thriller is truly a thriller and not a twisted mystery, I’m half-way there. The second half will be my agent. And let me tell you, she’s the real judge … jury and executioner, too.

When I typed “The End” on my new novel, it was the nineth time. Of my nine novels, only four of them have been thrillers—and none of these have been published yet. Of the remaining five, all are mysteries and four are published (the fifth, New Sins for Old Scores, will be out in early 2017 from Black Opal Books). So, the last time I wrote a thriller was nearly seven years ago and the thought of rekindling this genre under my fingers was intimidating.

My decision to write this thriller after publishing four mysteries was not simple. Four years ago, when Dying to Know was first contracted with Midnight Ink for a series, I had penned two other novels I loved. One was a tradional, hardboiled mystery and the other a thriller. After completing three more mysteries after Dying to Know, I decided it was time for a change. About eighteen months ago, I sat at my favorite Greek taverna in McLean, Virginia—oddly enough called, The Greek Taverna, with my mentor, Wally F., and debated the path forward—the hardboiled mystery or my thriller. Both would require wholesale rewrites and essentially new plotlines because they were rooted in current events at that time. The battle raged between Wally and me for three weeks. That’s six lunches, three dinners, and countless telephone skirmishes. In that time, we’d agreed on a course, changed tact, argued, and re-agreed on which novel to write. Actually, we did that two or three times. His favorite was the thriller. Mine was the mystery—afterall, I’d just written four in a row and felt more comfortable with the genre. To write the thriller would require adjusting my mindset and recalibrating my brain. If I could. Yikes.

The stalemate continued. During the next six months, I worked on both at the same time. One week was the thriller, the next was the mystery. I felt bipolar and dyslexic all at the same time. Enough. It was time for a command decision. I would write what I wanted! There … take that …

And then the unthinkable. I lost Wally to age and a bad heart at 92. During an all-nighter in the hospital—he knew he wouldn’t last another day—and with high spirits, he confided many things in me. Most of which will never be repeated. He also left me with a last request—write the damn thriller!

Yes, sir. Just what I was thinking…

And so it began. The hardest part of writing this novel was un-writing the original draft. I loved the storyline and characters. But it was outdated and I’d learned so much about writing in the several years since I’d finished draft one. So I sat down and in about four months had totally rewritten the book. Then I read it. A very large problem jumped out at me. I had taken a pretty good thriller and turned it into a mediocre murder mystery.

Oops.

Seems that after writing four mysteries, my thought process and plot development cells were focused on just that—crafting another whodunit. Except I needed a whatsabouttohappen.

Right about now, you’re probably saying, “Huh?” Just like I did when I reached the ending—unless you’re a writer yourself. The difference between a thriller and a mystery is often a moving target, a shimmering line between genres that you cross carefully and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way home.

You see, in essence, a mystery is cerebral … it’s an event—a murder in my case—in the beginning and a mind game of events on the reader’s chase to the suspect. You must use wit and reason to solve the crime. You already know the “what happened.” The story plays out for the reader to find out who and why, and bag the killer. It’s clues and characters and subliminal hits and red herrings. In the end, it’s “Gotcha.” A thriller is more suspense, action, and outcome. The reader often knows what the big-bang is at the end—or the possibilities of the big event—and often knows the good guys and the bad guys, too. Or most of them. In a thriller, it’s about the journey to that event—ups, downs, twists, turns, thrills, and spills until WHAM! The big finale … Oh sure, many thrillers are about murders or at least have murders involved. But its not in the whodunit, but more in the whydunit and whatsabouttohappen or not happen. (Can I copywrite those phrases?)

So in draft one of my “thriller,” I clearly abandoned my original plot and returned to whodunit. It was slow and methodical. There were clues and evidence and crime scenes and all manner of facts to fluster the reader. But there was no thriller. No suspense. Oh, a few shoot-em-ups and spills, but it lacked the thrust of the genre—whatsabouttohappen.

Hence, draft two and then three. Finally… more pizazz, less whodunits, and more whatsabouttohappen. The outcome—the pass/fail—will be decided this coming Sunday when my beta-reader group comes together over a fancy meal and lots of wine. They’ve all read my mysteries. Now—gulp—I’m waiting on their score. It’ll be a no-holds-barred critique of my novel where the only thing I’m guaranteed is the dinner tab.

So far, I’ve received a couple snippets from two of my betas. One said, “Do you know you write like Dashiell Hammett? And another said, “This is your best mystery …er… novel. I love who did it!” Based on these preambles, I may be doing draft four this summer.

So charge. Onto the rewrites. Bring on the critique. Let the dissection begin.

And yes, Wally F. I wrote the damn thriller. I promised … and yes, you’re in it—again.

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, Dying to Tell—and New Sins for Old Scores, a new paranormal mystery coming in 2017 from Black Opal Books! He is currently working on a new thriller. 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, May 4, 2016

Dying for the Little Things

Every author is driven by different things. Each of us shares one or two common ones—love of books and creating stories. A few are driven by money and reward—good luck with that. Me, I’m driven by something inside that haunts me in my sleep and near every waking moment. I’m not quite sure what it is sometimes. Maybe it’s the solitude of writing and creating. Maybe it’s that my characters are my best friends. Maybe it’s brain damage from my earlier days chasing adventures.

But for me, writing began when I was a very young child—the fifth grade—and the biggest encouragement came from my grandparents, Oscar and Irene. They bought me books, coaxed me to read and write more and more, and were some of my biggest cheerleaders on simple things like being the high school newspaper editor and writing short stories for class. When I disappeared for years into the military to chase adventures, my grandmother remained steadfastly in my corner and always reminded me of my first love—to be an author. It took years for me to settle down and begin that journey with deliberation and not as some fanciful pipedream.  But all the way, I could hear my grandparents pushing me on until the years—and they—had gone by before I knew it.

Age has taken its toll on me one day at a time—and oh hell, I ain’t that old! My swashbuckling days are in the past with great memories and lost friends. No more hot surveillance through the streets of Athens and Istanbul. No homicide interrogations or drug deals. I can’t go days without sleep on operations looking for Abu Nidal or 17 November. No more protecting world leaders or celebrities. Crime scenes have been replaced by desk tops and keyboards. My steadfast partner replaced by two Labradors and a Mastiff. Fast cars and cool guns are replaced by, well, fast motorcycles and cool guns—okay some things never change.

I miss those days being an adventurer and pseudo-tough guy (that definition is very loose, mind you). In my earlier days, it took a lot to control me or keep me in line. I’ve always kept my emotions and weaknesses protected. It took a lot to break through the outer shell and get inside. I always kept my feelings and real persona hidden because of a business most only read about in books or see on the six o’clock news.

Not anymore. Age and green eyes felled me. 

Rail waiting for Papa to finish writing...
 My youngest grandchild—oops, sorry Jack, you just joined us—second youngest grandchild—Rail, is not deterred by my gruff exterior or locked doors of solitude. She demands one thing and one thing only—my utmost attention. To fail to deliver places me in peril—a stolen keyboard or mouse, missing car keys, books removed from my shelves and less-than-neatly piled in the middle of my floor. This tiny little child sitting in the middle of my desk blocking my monitor and saying, “Papa, you and me, Papa. You and me.”

How could the toughest of men not melt to that?

Since moving in with us—her mom and dad are building a new house—Rail has installed herself as my constant companion, editor, supervisor, and chief-assistant. My other five kids—all adults and most married with kids of their own—cannot believe that this hardcore, workaholic, blustering rock has been felled by a three year old.

Neither can I.

Now mind you, I’ve chased terrorists and criminals, spent sleepless days-on-end running operations in foreign countries during wartime, and had my share of nail-biting moments and terrifying misadventures (bad guys and divorce lawyers included). But never in my days have I ever felt so helpless and not in control as when I hear the words, “Papa, you and me, let’s … play ball, watch Doc, make breakfast, play hide and seek, watch Doc, watch Ponies, play Barbies, make popcorn, watch Doc, hide from mommy, watch Doc, read another story …”

Teaching Papa to cook...
When did I become a little girl’s teddy bear? When did this metamorphosis occur and what happened to the real me—you know, the gruff, solitary, biker-dude? Is there a peapod growing in my basement? An unreported alien abduction?

Nope. Just green eyes. And every time I think of it, I remember Oscar and Irene.

When my kids were young, I spent most of my time on the road—often times, not even in the same country. Later on, in their teenage years, I worked a billion hours a week and travelled constantly. Stress, exhaustion, and career were bad combinations and I dare say I missed some of the best years of my life. Thankfully, they’ve grown into very successful people on their own. Now, they are experiencing those same things and it makes it hard to have family close all the time. Understand, I have six wonderful grandchildren spread from Virginia to Japan. They all have a different, but personal bond with me. Jack, of course, joined the family last week and I've yet to introduce myself. No worries, Jack, you're part of the crew. With all six, the one bond I value the most is that bond that binds all of them together - regardless of me - as cousins. I know, I know, I'm too young for all this. Tell me about it!


Despite her rank as second to youngest, young Rail moreso benefits from location. She’s with me every day and night and never far away. If Papa is working, he must stop. If Papa is writing, he must move over and let her sit on the desk and instruct him on prose and grammar and Doc McStuffins. If Papa is cooking dinner, move her stool up and let her show me how to stir and spill and drop eggs and create a mushroom cloud of flour.

Why is it, Papa, that you can’t work, write, cook, and clean and still have time for hide and seek and Doc? Hmmmm? What the hell, Papa? What’s wrong? Are you tired?

Never too tired. Yes, Oscar and Irene, I hear you whispering in my ear.

And she loves books too—something from me in her DNA that couldn’t have come from my blood. We read everywhere and she loves to sit on my desk while I write—normally in the middle of my desk, on front of the monitor, holding my keyboard. And she knows my novels on the bookshelf and likes to look at them often. Once, she carried one around for an hour and kept telling me, “Papa you did this.” Yes, sweetie, I did. Maybe you will one day, too.

I have no doubts. Do you hear me Irene?

One only has to look at the young biker chick to know who wears the leathers in this household. Last year, my Harley scared her to death. A month ago, she began asking for a ride, but there’s no way I can do that yet. Instead, I told her she had to be old enough to take the noise, had to be able to sit on the bike safely, and had to be able to wear the gear. 

Last night, she had enough of my solemn mood and writing. I didn’t have time for hide and seek and wasn’t up for another episode of Doc. Instead, she grabbed my hand, dragged me to the garage, and insisted I begin her training as my biker chick and backseat companion. Sure, the leather jacket weighs more than she does. The gloves are elbow length and the glasses can’t find a hold. But the helmet ... that has possibilities! 
 
So this once toughguy and world traveler extraordinaire has been tamed. It took youth and green eyes to laugh in this old guy’s face and command my obedience, playtime, stories, and of course, Doc. Soon, it’ll be, “Papa, take me on the Harley.” Yes, ma’am—get your helmet, kid, let’s ride.

My grandparents were my biggest fans even before I’d published a book. They knew it would happen. In being there for me, I learned a lot about how to be one—a writer and a grandparent—even in my very, very young Papa-age. If I can do nothing else for these youngs ones—all of them—I’ll show them that whatever they want in life, whatever dreams they have, they can have them.

I did.

Now, other dreams—those new ones I hope I’m not too old to chase (naw)—better look out. I’m ready to go—adventure, new novels, life’s missing pieces, and yup, many Harley travels.

Someday—soon I hope—my rear Harley seat will have a passenger for those new stories. It’s empty now and just waiting for those green eyes. Until then, I’ll just write my adventures and wait …

Thank you Irene and Oscar for showing me the way. I’ll pass it all along.

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 is currently working on a new thriller. 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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dying To Be A Character


What a month. Holy crap on a peanut butter sandwich what a month. I’ve had more ups and downs and twists and turns than in my novels. But when you write those twists and turns, you can control them, right? Well, no, my characters control all that. But they let me have a say. Sometimes. In real life, you’re at the mercy of life itself. At times I thought my world was on fire—new book almost finished, a new book deal, I didn’t crash my Harley into that tractor-trailer … and, well, other things words can’t explain. But then there were the lows—lost contracts in the mail, speaking when I shouldn’t (big surprise, right?), dreadful communications … misunderstandings. And more … too much work and not enough hours. Loss. Lost chances. Days without focus. Nights without sleep.

What’s next, an IRS audit? Identity theft? Will I lose a billion dollar lotto ticket?

Gulp. Okay, I’ll suck it up. I was not careful what I wished for and I’m getting some of it. The books, the edits, the travel, sleeplessness, the toils of contracts, editors, and predators! Bring it on! I’m tough. I can handle it … and for the most part, I love it! And for those challenges I cannot overcome, no fear … I have a solution.

I’m going to become my characters. Yep, I’m stepping into the pages of my books and assuming a new identity.

Why not? They live a more exciting life than me—at least, these days. They’re immune to the realities of life. They swashbuckle and chase bad guys. They’re witty and smooth and adventurous. They survive the pitfalls in life and go on to a bigger, better sequel.Damn, I’d like a little of that!

Truth be told, I’ve been a lucky guy most of my life. I’ve done most of what my characters have. Perhaps not as smooth or as cool, but been there, done that. Now, I’m just a UFO (old, fat, ugly guy) banging away on the keyboard chasing my life’s dreams and wishing for some years and memories back. So, eh, I shouldn’t complain, right?

But what if we could actually become our characters? What if we could write our own life, our own stories, and our own ending? How cool would that be? I was thinking about that all night when I should have been sleeping. Instead, I was jotting email notes to myself about my new thriller and pining for do-overs on my recent screw-ups. I took a good look at my recent characters and came up with some thoughts …

Oliver “Tuck” Tucker (The Gumshoe Ghost Mystery series)—Tuck is a homicide detective extraordinaire—he’s a sarcastic, fun-loving cop who chases bad guys with a history of crime. Tuck’s favorite things are: Angel, his wife; Hercule, his Black Lab; and Bear Braddock, his curmudgeon former partner. His weaknesses are his sarcasm, and, oh yeah, he’s dead. Tuck is already so much of me and I don’t want to be a dead detective, so I guess I’m stuck with writing about him and not stealing any more of his life, er, death. Eh, could be worse.

Richard Jax or Patrick “Trick” McCall (New Sins for Old Scores)—Jax is a lucky-to-be-alive BCI agent trying to clear his name after his partner and ex-fiancé are murdered. He’s a little onery at times, down-on-his-luck, and grousing about the spirit of a World War II OSS man, Captain Trick McCall, haunting his case. Now, Trick is my kinda guy—sarcastic, fun-loving, a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants adventurer, and all around smooth operator. He chases bad guys, his lost life, adventure, and dames … all at once. And not necessarily in that order. Yup, my kinda guy!

Jonathan Hunter (Double Effect – my soon to be completed thriller)—Hunter is a border-line wreckless CIA consultant with too many one-liners and a complicated sense of right and wrong. He’s called home after 20-years by his estranged brother and arrives in time to witness his murder. He’s on the trail of Salvadorian gangsters and a Middle East terror cell plotting the demise of the US! Hunter is tormented by many things, not the least is a dead brother—his only family, his recently lost career, lost loves, and a lost future. He is confronted by a beautiful and alluring widow, a hateful and jealous deputy sheriff who would kill Hunter for the widow, and a team of FBI agents all with their own agendas; especially the sultry lead Fed—Victoria Bacarro—who can’t get enough of him—in or out of handcuffs (insert snicker here). So Hunter’s a good candidate for me to daydream about. Except he gets the crap kicked out of him a lot. And shot. Hopefully you’ll read about him in the next year, but life for him is complicated and dangerous and painful. Still, he’s my number one character to become for a lot of reasons. The biggest is his sidekick, Oscar LaRue, who is based on my mentor, Wally F. I lost Wally last summer at age 92 (you can read about him in one of my earlier blogs). The relationship and dynamic of these two characters is soooooo the two of us over the years. Writing these parts brought back great memories. I think I’ll keep them around for a couple books—even if they don’t sell.

In the end, my books are really about me reliving life lost to age and reason. My characters and I share more than just the keyboard and pages—we share life. They are me and I am them. Some of them like the adventurous, risk-taking, cool characters. The sniveling, cowardly, killers and weirdos, not so much me. Sure, sure, some of you will disagree (thanks a lot, Greg).

Earlier I said … what if we could actually become our characters … write our own life, our own stories, … our own endings? How cool would that be? The truth is, we can do that. I do it all the time. Anyone can and you don’t have to be a writer or a spy or a federal agent or even a dead detective. You only have to do it. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I wanted to be a detective, a government agent, and swashbuckler and have adventures. I did all that. I’m still doing it. Sure, sure, I have bad days and weeks and even years. But life is something I can control … most of the time.

And yes, there are those things I wish I could just jump off my world onto another and have something I truly, deeply want. That’s not always possible. It’s not always right or fair. Mostly, it’s not always simple. So, in those cases—and there aren’t many—I simply write about them. I live through my stories, my characters, and my plots. I live those lost wishes vicariously through them. It ain’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing. And I don’t get beat up, shot, or dead—win win.

So the next time you sit back and wish—be careful what you wish for. And if you can’t be careful—just do it.

We’ll again chat 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, will be out in late 2016-early 2017! He is currently working on a new thriller. 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