Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dying for Halloween

By Tj O’Connor, author of Dying to Know & Dying for the Past

Fall. October. Halloween. Three of the four things I live for every year at this time. The season is magical to me. It’s comfy and mysterious—warm days growing shorter with each tick of the calendar ... chilly evenings with the musky-scent of falling leaves and fireplace logs. Every August, I start counting the days until October and now it’s here. So haul out the Halloween decorations—skeletons, witches, and hay bales—and warm up the cider. It’s here. Yet, there is a downside of this season. It tends to be short in Virginia, not the long, more colorful weeks in Upstate New York where I grew up. But having lived overseas where the difference in seasons was the tone of the sand, dirt, and olive trees all around, I’ll take it!  
    But wait … what? Me sappy and romantic for the changing leaves and children scurrying around dressed like Bill Clinton and Batman?
    Sorry. No.
    Halloween has a special place in my heart, but it’s not born of sappy memories or trick or treat (it is but I’ll never tell). I grew up in the country in Upstate New York and spent a good amount of time in the outdoors. Yes, I love the changing fall colors and the scents and sounds of the season. Yes, it conjures up some great memories—and some pretty horrible ones, too. But, none of these is why October makes me giggle and swoon like my wife at a shoe sale.
    It’s about the killing and the mayhem. It’s about the dark, maniacal gathering—the food, the spirits … murdering the entire family one at a time ... and slowly. Oh yeah, baby, it’s here. Bring on the hors d'oeuvres, the expensive wines, and the spread of gourmet delights. Sharpen that cleaver and load up the pistols. It’s time for a killing. Or two. Maybe three or four—“The wine is delightful and the mussels marinara divine—bang, you’re dead!
    Uh, perhaps a little explanation is in order. I think I heard a siren coming up the road.
    Each year for the past many years (and each summer years ago when my kids were younger and less a pain in the …), I sponsor an annual Halloween murder mystery dinner party. No, not one of those “out of the box” dinner parties with lame scripts and phony dialogue (I tried one and it was horrible.) No, I’m talking a homegrown, authored by moi, props galore, murder-in-abundance dinner party for my family and friends.  As my two passions are cooking and writing, I put on a spread of tons of good food, write the storyline, and perform as the master of killer-monies (read that ceremonies for you slow folk). What a blast! The storyline and party include prizes for best costume, prize for who solves the murder, prizes for who solves any murders that take place during the evening, and prizes for who ends up with the most money (fake of course) at the end of the party. Party Note: The money is a story prop used as bribery, graft, payoffs, extortion, and general mayhem. While I try to control this mayhem, I am rarely successful. Like before I let anyone into my home, they must undergo a body search for unauthorized weapons, cheats, their own fake money, and other props used to steal the show. Each year, I lose this battle miserably—like the year the meek, mild victim who should have died in Act II ended up killing more party guests and surviving the evening more than anyone. Damn, I didn’t see that one coming.

    If you want to see a bunch of friends and family turn on each other for three hours, throw one of these gigs. Spouses kill spouses. Children kill parents. Friends kill everyone. And in the end, nothing—no one—is sacred! Even my yellow Lab was assassinated three times in one evening—give that boy a shrimp and a cookie and he becomes a ham!
    Last year—2013—the costume theme was favorite monster movie characters. The storyline was about a family patriarch who was about to sell his new book The Killing of Tyler Quinn, but the family all had a piece of it and wanted their cut. (Yes, it does sound familiar to me, too.) So the patriarch, his agent, publisher, and editor were all killed out of vengeance and greed (sorry Midnight Ink, Melanie, Kimberley…honest, there were stand-ins!). It took about thirty minutes and one round of drinks before the partygoers were killing each other off and trying to win the game—and not on script, either.

    Over the years, I’ve thrown murder parties surrounding 1930 gangsters trying to take over my turf in Winchester (if you know Winchester, that wouldn’t take long). There have been superhero parties where it was open season on plotting the murders of your spouse and best friend. And even pirate treasure themes and on and on.
    The funniest part of these events is that I spend weeks writing the plot and putting together crime scene clues, evidence, and all the characters—only to have my guests run away with the show and start improvising as they go! No one has any lines. Each player has a character to play and gets a card during three rounds of the evening (appetizers, dinner, dessert rounds) which tell them what they must accomplish and do. Last year, the players had to solve a series of clues, puzzles, and hidden secrets to find all the evidence—after examining a crime scene. They were stealing each other’s clues, locking others in the bathroom, moving evidence to hide it from the others, and even stealing my artwork on the walls “just in case it meant something.” It was so exhausting even my three Labs found a corner to hide out in. It took three days to straighten my house afterwards!


Publication Note: No animals or stuffed animals were injured during these productions. My artwork and memorabilia is another matter. And my liquor cabinet takes weeks to recover. As does my refrigerator. And nerves. And checkbook.

    But alas, the laughs and the food and fun lasted long after the party was over.  

    This year, the theme is “Shaken Not Stirred” and the costumes are their favorite sci-fi (not syfy) movie characters. The storyline is about spies and counter-spies trying to find each other’s secrets and kill off the enemy agents. I’m sure I won’t have to write too many details—the imaginations of the partygoers—most on their 7th or 8thevent—will write it themselves. The question will be—will I survive for another October-kill next year?
    Stay tuned. Listen to your police radios. Watch the night sky.
    Maybe I’ll use up another blog in November to report on the mayhem and pass around a few photos. If you don’t hear from me though, they got me again. Hopefully, none of my family or friends will use my annual gala as a means to my real end.

Tj O’Connor lives in Virginia with his wife and three Labs. Dying to Know is the fourth of his eight novels and is currently available in bookstores and online. Dying for the Past, the first of two sequels to Dying to Know, will be released in January, 2015—available now for pre-orders! Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism and investigations. Learn about his world at www.tjoconnor.com and Facebook at www.facebook.com/TjOConnor.Author.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Q&A with Nina Milton

This week, Midnight Ink sat down with Nina Milton, author of Unraveled Visions, A Shaman Mystery #2.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Nina Milton: When I was five, my infant school teacher Mrs. Marsden read a story to the class. It might have been the fable "The Mouse and the Lion", but I can't really remember. Then she asked the class to write a story. I was dumbfounded. For the first time I realized that the books I loved were written by real human beings. Before that, I believed they must have fallen from some sort of story heaven. It was a revelation—from then on I was scribbling down stories all the time.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
NM: My early influence was Iris Murdoch; I l devoured all her books in my twenties and thirties alongside Woolf, Dickens and Harvey. But having babies scrambled my brain for years and I discovered crime fiction—anything from PD James to Patricia Cornwell. I also loved John le Carré’s novels from my first read.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
NM: I trained to be a nurse, but I don’t have the brain for all that technical stuff. Drug rounds scared me stiff in case I fell into dreaming up the next story. I worked in palliative care for ten years, but I’ve now given up the day job to write full time. Not that nursing is precisely a ‘day job’!

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
NM: A better question is, if you’re not writing, what are you doing, which is almost always . . . gardening!

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
NM: When I’m not gardening I love reading, cooking, watching movies, seeing friends. Note that a glass of red [wine] goes well with all the above activities.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
NM: I particularly like Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie, and Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins. But for real class, you can’t beat Sherlock Holmes, who’s planet-sized brain holds every fact and can see round every twisted corner.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
NM: I love complex plots, slightly ironic and uber-cool sleuths and elegant writing. So that accolade has to go the The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Apparently the plot was always secondary to Chandler . . . this is hard to believe, as the story is so more raveled than the wool in my knitting basket.

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
NM: The idea for my Shaman Mysteries came to me when Sabbie walked right into my head and  spoke directly to me—sort of —‘“Hi, Nina, I’m Sabbie. I’m 28 and I’m a shaman and a complimentary therapist. I love my job, but sometimes some very strange people come into my therapy room . . .”

At around that time, I went on a walk with my son on the Somerset Levels, a moorland in the west of England. As we hiked along, the day became gloomy and we were almost lost because each field on the levels is surrounded by water; rivers,dykes, rhynes, ditches and canals. We came upon the areas where they extract peat industrially; huge chunks like empty back swimming pools are cut from the earth and they slowly fill with water becoming reed beds and marshes. My first thought? “That would be a great place to bury a body!”

MI: Tell us about Sabbie Dare.
NM: Sabbie Dare is the force majeure of the Shaman Mystery series. She lives a self-sufficient life in the sleepy town of Bridgwater, England, but still struggles with the memories of her difficult start in life, gaining the strength to get through each day from her shamanism and her pagan beliefs She has an open heart, and is adept at inviting trouble into her life.
Sabbie walks between worlds. She is able to tap into the spirit world through her shamanic trances, and that dimension helps her clients solve their problems. Trouble is, her client’s problems sometimes lead to terror and peril.
When a detective called Reynard walks into her life, she’s suspicious of him at first. Rey is the archetypal humourless, maverick policeman, and their relationship begins like an upmarket cocktail—bitter and full of ice, with a sparkler fizzing at the edge. But in the second of the series their relationship takes a new direction . . . 

MI: How do the Shaman Mysteries compare to your past works?
NM: Before Sabbie started her adventures, I wrote for children. My books for confident readers of 8 or 9 plus are not about crime, but they usually have some sort of mystery at their center.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
NM: We love cats and dogs in our family but we haven’t yet replaced Honey the cat, who died aged 18, and Jessie, our Border Collie who died of leukemia aged 14. We’re still thinking about it! However, we do have hens, which include growing babies and two combative cocks; they’re like part of the family and bring a chuckle every day.

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
NM: I love standard poodles—can someone please convince my husband that they’re perfectly butch when they’re not clipped in daft ways?

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
NM: I was about to righteously say ‘any vegetable’ when I realized that would be a fib. It’s actually buttered toast. Sometimes, when everyone’s out and I’m writing all day long, I practically do live off it.

MI:Do you have a favorite recipe?
NM: Utterly rich and tomatoey pasta dishes.

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
NM: I think Midnight Ink supports its writers so well, and the other writers are friendly with each other—friendly and helpful. I’ve experienced massive, conglomerate publishing houses and really tiny indies, and Midnight Ink is my best experience yet.

Unraveled Visions, the second Shaman Mystery, is available online and in bookstores now!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Midnight Ink Monthly: September Edition

Midnight Ink Monthly's September Edition featured an essay from author Nina Milton. Check it out below.

Can a Shaman Find a Serial Killer?

Sabbie Dare walked into my life one day, as if she was already a fully-formed person.  That doesn't happen to me as a writer very often, and I grabbed the chance to write about this spunky twenty-eight-year-old.  She helped me create the Shaman Mystery series.

I'd been practicing shamanic techniques for a few years, and knew quite a few shaman who had set up a therapy business rather like Sabbie's.  They loved their work, despite the irregular hours and the terrible pay, but I could see that they never knew who would walk into their therapy rooms next. People who visit a shaman have all sorts of troubles . . . and can be hiding desperate secrets.  

In the first of the series, In the Moors, a man called Cliff Houghton starts seeing Sabbie Dare about his depression . . . and his terrible obsession with a series of child killings.  In the second, Unraveled Visions, Sabbie is approached by Mirela Brouviche, a young Romany from Bulgaria, who's frightend and alone after the disappearance of her sister.  

Each situation throws Sabbie into jeopardy, but she uses her shamanic visions—and her sound common sense—to help her get to the root of a mystery.  What I love the most about her is that once she has a whiff of the answers, she does not let go, however menacing things get.  
Learn more about Sabbie in Unraveled Visions by Nina Milton, available  now!

To subscribe to Midnight Ink's monthly publicity newsletters, please email publicity (at) midnightinkbooks (dot) com.

Can Yoga Really Be Murder?

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Brown
How do you reconcile writing both about yoga (which advocates nonviolence) and murder?

I was recently asked this question when talking about the second book in my Downward Dog Mystery series, A Killer Retreat.
This is such an interesting question, and one that I’ve only been asked a handful of times. First, I’ll say my genre, cozy mysteries, helps.  By convention, gore and on-the-page violence are minimized. There are definitely some tense and challenging scenes, however. I try to balance them with humor.

But even if I wrote horror, I could still combine murder and yoga in the same work. The yoga teachings never promise that yogis will live in a world without violence. In fact, they say that suffering is inevitable. What they do promise is that people who practice yoga—which is so much more than doing poses—will be able to survive life’s traumas with less emotional suffering.  They also ask that yogis personally practice compassion, honesty, and nonviolence in actions, words, and thoughts.

Yoga practitioners, like everyone else, live in the real world. We are exposed to the same triggers and conflicts and traumas. Yoga doesn’t stop what happens around us; it simply gives us choices in how we react to it. So it’s not a big stretch (so to speak) to have violence, tension and other challenges in the world of a yoga teacher. In an ideal world, she would simply be better prepared to deal with them.

But the truth is Kate—my yoga sleuth—doesn’t live in an ideal world, and she doesn’t always react like the perfect yogi. She has a terrible temper, and she often acts impulsively, only to regret it later. When Kate’s at her best, she responds to the tension and heartache in her world with self-deprecating humor and compassion. When she’s at her worst, she lashes out in sometimes embarrassing ways.

Overall, Kate tries to be compassionate and generous. She helps others when it would be much easier not to.  When she screws up, which is often, she tries to learn from her mistakes and to do better in the future.

To me, that is yoga.
What do you think?  Can a book contain both yoga and murder while still being loyal to both the mystery and the teachings?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

About Tracy:

My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries. I'm a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.  My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I’m not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

For more information, visit me online at http://tracyweberauthor.com/ and http://wholelifeyoga.com/

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Q&A with Colin Campbell

This week, Midnight Ink sat down with Colin Campbell, author of the Resurrection Man Novels. His latest, Adobe Flats, was released earlier this month.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Colin Campbell: I had to think about this because I feel like it’s not been that long but when I look back it’s been quite a while. Darkwater Towers was published in 2000 (Blackie & Co.) and it was the fourth book I’d written. Assume a book a year but 12 months to get it published, then add on the years of practicing with short stories, I reckon about 1994. So, shit. 20 years.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
CC: We’re all readers first, so the main influence is they made me love reading. A good story told well.  Words forming rhythms that painted pictures in my head. Then the pictures started moving so it was like watching a film with added emotion. That’s what they did for me. Then I wanted to do that myself, tell stories.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
CC: That’s a hard one. Past or present? And who counts as a mystery sleuth? I grew up reading James Bond and Philip Marlowe. Never really got into Sherlock Holmes, although I liked the old black and white films. Nowadays? On TV I watch Raylan Givens in Justified. I read the Ace Atkins Quinn Colson books. Harry Bosch. But I really like Jack Reacher. Somebody taller than me who doesn’t mince his words. How can you not look up to that?

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
CC: The seed was my agent, Donna Bagdasarian, suggesting I write something set in America. My early books were UK-based crime. I couldn’t see myself faking an American character as well as Lee Child did so my initial answer was no. Then I remembered being sent across the Pennines to Blackpool when I was in plain clothes. To interview a prisoner then eliminate him from the enquiry. That seemed like a good way to get an English cop to America. Just further than Blackpool that’s all.

MI: Tell us about Jim Grant.
CC: Jim Grant is an ex-West Yorkshire Police officer sent to America as described above. He was in the army but doesn’t like talking about it, claiming he was only a typist. He hates guns and prefers to talk his way out of trouble rather than fight. A dry sense of humor helps diffuse situations, but of course that doesn’t always work. In fact it hardly ever does. He believes in doing what’s right and not necessarily what’s legal. He likes the ladies but isn’t a womanizer. He is employed primarily by the Boston PD but by a higher power that can utilize him across America because they can disown him if the shit hits the fan. It often does but so far they haven’t sacked him.

MI: How do the Resurrection Man Novels compare to your past works?
CC: My UK crime novels were very much my tributes to the boys in blue. They dealt with uniform cops on the frontline of British policing. A lot of the stories were based on fact or thinly veiled incidents that I’d dealt with. Jim Grant is more into thriller territory. The stories are bigger and the stakes higher but hopefully with enough authenticity from a police point of view. Less about procedures and more about attitude. What a cop feels about the things he’s dealing with. And more sex than I remember from my uniform days.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
CC: Well, I was a cop for 30 years so I guess I’ve already done what I would have done if I weren’t a writer. Retired from that and now living my hobby. I also coach tennis part time so I suppose if I weren’t writing I’d do more hours on court.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
CC: Not sure I’d call any of them a favorite. The first one I photographed when I was in SOCO (CSI in America) was an old lady who’d been raped and violated before she was killed. That one’s stuck with me. After that I can live without murders in books. It’s the cops I like reading about. If you press me on it, maybe Oddjob being sucked out of the airplane window in Goldfinger. The book. They switched it in the film.

MI: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing or working?
CC: I’m getting stuck in a rut here aren’t I? I love playing tennis. And watching movies. Either at the cinema or in my home cinema on blu-ray.
MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
CC: I can’t cook for toffee. (English expression. Google it.)

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
CC: There is a sense of being part of a community of writers. We spend so much time locked away in a room typing that it’s nice to meet up at conventions and chew the fat. We all have the same doubts. We’ve all struggled to get published. It’s nice to share that. And pat each other on the back.

Adobe Flats, the third Resurrection Man Novel, is available online and in bookstores now!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Q&A with Joni Folger

This week, Midnight Ink sat down with Joni Folger, author of Of Merlot and Murder (Tangled Vines Mystery #2).

Midnight Ink: When did you start writing?
Joni Folger: [I] started writing romance in the mid-1980s with a category romance that will never see the light of day! But that was followed by what eventually became Hidden Treasures, a romantic suspense that was published in 2012 (Story Vault).

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
JF: Huge. I have very eclectic tastes. I read everything from horror to historical romance. Biggest influence for my writing: Stephen King & Nora Roberts! Both have motivated me in different ways.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
JF: [I] love Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, love Sherlock (in any form) and Martha Grime’s Richard Jury (and all his sleuthing friends). [I] also love BBC’s cozy mystery series Rosemary & Thyme and the Midsomer Murder mysteries by Caroline Graham. [And I'm a] huge fan of J.D. Robb’s In Death series—love the characters of Eve and Roarke.

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
JF: It’s set in an area of the Texas Hill Country where I lived for several years. The town of Bastrop was my inspiration (and the quirky characters that live there). I made up the town of Delphine, but in my head...it’s Bastrop.

MI: Tell us about Elise Beckett.
JF: Elise is headstrong, perky and inquisitive, with a huge heart and boundless affection for her family and extended family. She is kind and compassionate, but will defend those closest to her with the aggression of a mama bear defending her cubs, should the need arise. She’s funny, intelligent, and a romantic at heart.

MI: How does the Tangled Vines series compare to your other works?
JF: This was my first foray into the world of cozy mysteries. I usually write romantic suspense or paranormal romance (my first love). I’m all about the romance!

MI: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing or working?
JF: I LOVE working in my local theater, both on stage and directing. I also enjoy gardening and crafts.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
JF: Actor

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
JF: Accounting Clerk for Dept of Community Development in Tillamook County, Oregon

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
JF: Taco Bell! Also, if you put me in a vat of lobster, I would eat my way out...

MI: Do you have a pet? 
JF: Until recently, I had three little girls—cats. Unfortunately, I lost my oldest baby girl to cancer in July. Brindle had been with me for eleven years, and her loss is still very fresh with me. But I have two little goobers left: Spritie-Marie (really beautiful middle child and very naughty), and Isabeau (Momma’s little gray bear—sweet as honey).

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
JF: 1. The other authors that I’ve met. 2. Terri is awesome. 3. But mostly, MY BOOK COVERS!! I’m in LOVE with them.

 Of Merlot and Murder is available online and in bookstores now!

Monday, September 8, 2014

September 2014 Books Available Now!


Don't miss Midnight Ink's latest releases!

"A stylish noir voice."

Kirkus Reviews on Adobe Flats

"Readers will cheer for this avenging less-than-angel as she goes after some very bad people.
Publishers Weekly on Beauty with a Bomb

"Lively and entertaining . . . [a] well wrought whodunit." 
Publishers Weekly on Of Merlot and Murder

"[A] thrilling tale."
RT Book Reviews on Unraveled Visions

Now available from Midnight Ink, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and your local bookseller!

Poke Me With a Fork...

I'm done.

by Shannon Baker

When introverts spend a long weekend at a writers conference, talking, listening, learning and loving being with other writers, it can mean a retreat to the cave big time. It can also mean no energy left to write a blog.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Confernce took place Sept 5-7 in Denver, which means, I'm totally played out. So instead of words, you get picutres:

Midnight Ink Aquiring Editor Terri Bischoff flanked by authors Shannon Baker and Linda Hull
This was the first day of the conference, well before late nights.

What happens when a well meaning and talented author (Mark Stevens) asks very nicely for an extension on his deadline from the Evil Editor.

Speaking of evil, the welcome speech on Friday night wasn't really meant to scare anyone. 

The same Editor being not so evil, hanging out in the Colorado sunshine and deciding on a sage margarita after a harrowing day of taking author pitches.

Send off speaker, extrodinary writer, all around great guy, William Kent Krueger. He taught several workshops, gave one on one critiques and inspired us all with his speech at the farewell luncheon.

Even though my brain is mush, it was all in a good cause. I would give you more details about the conference and urge you all to put it on your calendars for next year, but I'm toast tonight. (No, I did not mean toasted.) For more details, pop on over to RMFW.org. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dying for History - A Key Element In My Novels

By Tj O’Connor, author of Dying to Know & Dying for the Past

Every good book I’ve ever read intrigued me not just because of the main story, but because it had subplots and vignettes that kept the main story buoyed with a touch of complexity and diversion. One of my favorite subplot techniques is the interweaving of real history into the storyline. There are many facets of using historical events as a subplot in my stories that I enjoy. Among them, performing research and finding twists and turns from real-life events are my favorites. The old adage, “History Repeats Itself” has become a mainstay subplot of my novels.

Let me give you a few examples.

Dying to Know—In my debut novel, dead-detective Oliver “Tuck” Tucker is faced with solving his own murder and dealing with a series of grisly others. Some of the murders go back over forty years. The historical subplot revolves around the American Civil War—a significant era in the history of real-life city Winchester, Virginia. The story, and resulting murders, begin when the discovery of unmarked Civil War remains threatens to halt a multi-million dollar development project. The battle between history and development is a fact in Winchester. For years, the county has considered building a highway bypass around parts of the city. But in its path is at least one Civil War battlefield. More angst and skirmishes have resulted over this conflict than perhaps in some of the many battles Winchester actually fought in the war. If you know anything about historical sites, you might know that the protection of historical lands often trump new construction, development, and even some modern zoning laws across our country. And trust me, getting in the way of development is a sure fire way of creating a crisis in your community. Land barons are often in battle over future development with societies sworn to protect historical sites. In Dying to Know, the land dispute and Civil War connections to Tuck’s murder are rooted in real Winchester History and drive the story from several viewpoints.

Dying for the Past—Tuck and his pals are back in Book II and encounter the death of a mysterious philanthropist who seems to have a wad of Grover Clevelands in his pocket—1930’s Gold Certificate one-thousand dollar bills. Notwithstanding a plethora of sketchy characters, Dying for the Past’s historical subplot focuses on 1930’s mobsters and their pre-World War II collaboration with our own FBI. This theme follows Tuck and others chasing “The Book”—an old mobster’s journal detailing Nazi and Russian spy rings around Washington D.C. and New York City. This subplot is based on true events in our history. In the late 1930s and 1940s, the U.S. Government sought the help of folks who knew our ports, rail yards, transportation hubs, and the gritty underbelly of American cities where spies and saboteurs might hang out. Who did they turn to? The second largest intelligence network in the country—organized crime. During those days, the U.S. was concerned about Nazi, Japanese, Russian, and even Italian efforts to conduct wartime sabotage and subversion operations against us here at home. Organized crime families had deep inroads into some of the biggest targets in the country—New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Detroit, and many other port cities. Well-known gangsters such as Lucky Luciano were reputed to have assisted American authorities in the war effort. In Luciano’s case, his organization reportedly helped gather intelligence for the invasion of Sicily and in the protection of New York’s ports against saboteurs and spies. Borrowing from these historical vignettes, I transposed some of the mob connections to Winchester and molded the plot around just such a storyline—1930’s mobsters helping track World War II spy rings. The result, with some colorful characters involved in the present day murders, set the foundation for a murder plot that lasted for more than seventy-five years.

New Sins for Old Scores—In an unrelated mystery series that my brilliant agent, Kimberley Cameron, is offering to the market as we speak, I use a real World War II OSS operation—Office of Strategic Services—and superimpose it into present-day Northern Virginia. The story surrounds Richard Jax, a Virginia State Police investigator under suspicion for the murder of his partner. Jax is thrust into the story when he is almost killed after stumbling onto a strange human-trafficking operation out of an old World War II Inn. Unbeknownst to him, he connects with Captain Trick McCall—a murdered OSS Operative from World War II—who was believed a double agent who betrayed his country. Together, they pursue their two cases—separated by seventy years—and learn that history is repeating itself. The story surrounds real-life Operation Paperclip, the American OSS operation to spirit scientists and industrialists out of war-torn Europe before the Nazi or Russians could further exploit them. Operation Paperclip was responsible for the U.S. making significant scientific gains, especially nuclear and jet propulsion technology, being explored by the Germans. In New Sins for Old Scores, I superimposed this human-capitol operation into modern-day Middle Eastern theaters of combat, and added in a rogue element of prior World War II operatives and modern-day mercenaries who move Middle Easterners out of Afghanistan and Iraq to the U.S.—for profit and exploitation. This spin on Operation Paperclip helped me create a viable plot that was worth murder to keep secret, and linked the modern human traffickers to real-world World War II spy exploits. It also raises the question—could it really be happening? So once again, I took a historical episode and superimposed it into a modern-day murder mystery to create the environment and plot necessary for my characters to be plunged into crisis and murder—and link their cases to crimes of the past.

History appeals to me in many ways as a reader, but it motivates me as an author. In a time that every plot and every character-type seems to have been written over and over as often as redos of Superman, historical events give me a foundation of facts for which I can create new plots and characters, and hopefully offer a new spin on intrigue.

I have two other novels—Dying to Tell and The Killing of Tyler Quinn—that have a historical subplot woven into modern-day mysteries. But I’ll save those discussions for another time.

Tj O’Connor lives in Virginia with his wife and three Labs. Dying to Know is the fourth of his eight novels and is currently available in bookstores and online. Dying for the Past is the first of two sequels to Dying to Know and will be released January 8, 2015—available now for pre-orders! Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism and investigations.

Learn about his world at www.tjoconnor.com and Facebook at www.facebook.com/TjOConnor.Author.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Number One

--by Linda O. Johnston

Today is the first day of September, as well as Labor Day.  It's also the first Monday of the month, which is when I'm scheduled to post on InkSpot, so here I am.

Plus, it's the first day of the month before my first Midnight Ink book will be published, which will happen in October.  LOST UNDER A LADDER is additionally my first Superstition Mystery.


I'd say that today is Number One.

Because of my new mystery series, I've been doing a lot of research into superstitions.  There are quite a few of them involving numbers and how they relate to luck.   Some of the most well known involve the numbers three, seven and thirteen.  But that's not all of them.  There are superstitions regarding the number one as well.

What are they?  The number one is generally considered to be lucky except in China, since apparently the Chinese word for "one" sounds somewhat like the word for "loneliness." 

The number one is indivisible and the basis for all other numbers.  Number one is associated with new beginnings, new projects, new ideas, inspiration and confidence.

It's good luck to live in a house with the street number of one. Children born on the first day of the month are considered to be lucky. 

Hooray for number one! 

What will I be doing on this special day of One?  Writing, of course.  Right now, I'm working on the second Superstition Mystery.  Looks like I'd better learn whether there are any superstitions involved with the number Two!

Do you have any lucky numbers?