Thursday, January 29, 2015

Q&A with Gigi Pandian

This week, we sat down with Gigi Pandian, author of The Accidental Alchemist, a series debut released earlier this month.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Gigi Pandian: I’ve been writing since I was a kid (I wrote my first “novel” in elementary school and wrote plays and scripts in high school) but it wasn’t until 2007 that I began to take my writing seriously. That’s when my first novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, a writer’s grant for unpublished traditional mystery writers. That was the first time I realized people outside my family and friends saw promise in my work, and that writing could be more than a hobby.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
GP: Elizabeth Peters has always been my favorite mystery novelist. Reading her Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody mysteries as a teenager inspired me to become a mystery novelist. Her books cleverly combine puzzling mysteries with romance, history, humor, and adventure. When I set out to write a novel, I knew that’s the kind of story I wanted to tell, but with my own unique spin.

I love writing short stories in addition to novels, and I generally write locked-room “impossible crime” short stories. My biggest inspiration for those stories was John Dickson Carr, who wrote during the Golden Age of detective fiction during the middle of the previous century.

There’s a wonderful book called Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon that argues that anyone starting out in a creative field should emulate their favorite creators, because that’s how we grow into our own voice.   

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
GP: Sleeping in :)

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
GP: I’m the Creative Strategist at a non-profit organization. I studied both public policy and graphic design, so I work on visual messaging that tells complex stories in visually compelling ways. Yup, I’m lucky that I get to be creative all day!   

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
GP: Cooking, reading, traveling, and photography.

I cook most of my meals from scratch (which inspired one of the main themes in The Accidental Alchemist), give myself plenty of time to read each night before bed (how else would I have time for all the great mysteries out there?!), am always planning my next trip abroad (I caught the travel bug the first time I accompanied my anthropologist mom on a research trip to Scotland when I was 10), and I post my gargoyle photography and other mysterious photographs at

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
GP: Vicky Bliss, Elizabeth Peters’ historian heroine. She is brilliant, independent, and has fun-filled adventures traipsing across the globe surrounded by a wonderful set of friends.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
GP: I have so many favorites, so I’ll go with one of my recent favorites. Marisha Pessl’s Night Film. It’s difficult to characterize the book, but one of the big reasons I find Pessl’s atmospheric books so satisfying is that her endings are both completely resolved and also open to interpretation. They stick with you.

MI: What was your inspiration for the Accidental Alchemist mystery series?
GP: A combination of three things inspired the series:
1)      I’ve always loved gargoyles. I love mysteries, and gargoyles are so mysterious, lurking high above us on beautiful buildings.  
2)      A cancer diagnosis at 36 threw my life upside down. I wrote a draft of this book while undergoing chemotherapy, when the Elixir of Life was an especially intriguing idea.
3)      Learning how to cook from scratch inspired the culinary alchemy of the series. My particular cancer markers gave me some food restrictions, so I taught myself to cook. I loved teaching myself to cook. Transforming healthy foods into amazingly decadent meals by using a few simple techniques is culinary alchemy in my own kitchen.
MI: Tell us about Zoe Faust (and Dorian!).
GP: Zoe Faust is a centuries-old alchemist who accidentally discovered the Elixir of Life over 300 years ago. She can never stay in one place for too long, so for decades she’s been living out of a silver Airstream trailer as she criss-crosses the U.S., until she falls in love with Portland, Oregon, and decides to stay a while. She has a way with plants, and she grows healing herbs and vegetables. Even though she doesn’t age, she’s far from immortal, so she’s adopted a vegan diet to feel healthy as she lives on.

Dorian Robert-Houdin is a three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle who was once stone, but was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician (“Father of Modern Magic” Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin) who didn’t realize the alchemy book he was reading contained real magic. Dorian is a food snob and secret chef, so when he leaves France to seek out Zoe for help, one of his biggest challenges is learning to cook decadent French cuisine with vegan ingredients. Spoiler alert: he succeeds in this culinary challenge!

MI: How does this series compare to your past works?
GP: All of my books are traditional puzzle mysteries that feature history, humor, and a touch of romance.

My first mystery series is the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand) featuring an Indian-American historian who solves present-day crimes linked to historic treasures related to India’s colonial past. Each of those books takes the characters from a home-base of San Francisco to a different foreign destination – so far Scotland, India, and France.

The Accidental Alchemist mysteries are set in Portland, Oregon, a city I fell in love with several years ago. The settings of the different series are at the heart of the stories, which is one of the things that gives each series a distinct voice.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
GP: I don’t currently have a pet, but my favorite pets from my childhood were two huge lop-eared rabbits named Snug and Bug. Bug used to chase neighborhood cats out of our backyard.

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
GP: Does gargoyle count?

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
GP: If coffee doesn’t count, I’ll go with oatmeal. You can’t go wrong with a comfort food that’s good for you, too.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
GP: I cook most of my meals from scratch, so I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with my own recipes. At the back of The Accidental Alchemist there are three of my vegan recipes: Kid-Friendly Green Smoothie, Roasted Butternut Squash with Lemon Tahini Sauce, and Cherry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies.

I’ve also begun to post additional recipes on my website: .

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
GP: All the great people I’ve met! From the support of the Midnight Ink staff to the friendships I’ve formed with other authors, it’s been an amazing experience. 

Get your copy of The Accidental Alchemist online or in bookstores now!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Liftoff Success!

I had a fabulous launch month, in a large part due to the many people who supported me. In today’s blog, I’d like to acknowledge my fabulous street team, Team Tracy. I’ve actually never met most of these people in person, yet they encourage me, help keep me motivated, and share news about my series. In other words, they help me, almost every day.

I always thought that writing would be a lonely, solitary activity, but man was I ever mistaken. Writing the Downward Dog Mystery Series has introduced me to a world of new friends that I would never have otherwise known. I don’t have space to share all of their photographs in this article, but trust me: My street team is filled with gorgeous, fun, kind people.

Let me introduce you to a few of them.

Who says cat's don't appreciate dog-related mysteries?
 Betty Davenport and Kato

Fellow author Sheri Levy, with Mulligan and Slater

Fellow mystery author Amber Polo chatting up a  gorgeous greyhound

James Haviland chilaxin with his dog Misty

Kim Tutt painting the town red with her beautiful smile

Margie Smith

Missi Svoboda borrowed a neighbor's dog, Bridget, to re-enact the cover. 
Note that the dog brought his own tennis ball to the occasion.

Nancy Perkins.  The brightest spot in the parade.

Shelley Giusti, book blogger extraordinaire!

Tracy MacDonald and German Shepherd Fiona.

This is only a small subset of the wonderful people I've met through writing this series.  I wish I could showcase them all. To each of you on my street team, and everyone else that has supported my work in some way, thank you.  I appreciate you more than you can ever know.

Namaste (The light in me honors the light in you.)

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 and

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Q&A with Tracy Weber!

This week, we sat down with Tracy Weber, author of the Downward Dog mysteries. Her latest, A Killer Retreat, came out earlier this month.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Tracy Weber: I started my yoga blog in 2011, but I didn’t start writing fiction until 2012. I’ve been super lucky to have my first two books published.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
TW: I walk in the paw prints of several other fabulous dog mystery writers, including Laurien Berenson, Susan Conant, Waverly Curtis, and Sheila Boneham. Each brings a unique voice and outlook to their mysteries, and each incorporates dogs in their mysteries in a different way—from dog shows, to animal photography, to talking Chihuahuas.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
TW: Teaching more yoga! I’ve had to give up most of my group classes and all of my private clients to find enough time to write. I don’t regret it though. I still get my yoga fix managing the studio and leading my yoga teacher trainings.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
TW: I own and teach at my Seattle yoga studio, Whole Life Yoga. The biggest parts of my non-writing work are managing the business aspects of the studio, providing the studio’s customer interface, and designing and teaching yoga teacher training programs. Like most people, I have a very full life.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
TW: Taking long walks with my German shepherd, Tasha. She introduces me to the neighbors and reminds me to find joy in life’s simple experiences, like visiting with crows, scarfing up dropped cookies, and tugging on fallen sticks. Lest he feel neglected, I should probably also mention that I love hanging out with my husband, Marc.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
TW: Susan Conant’s Holly Winter. Holly is a dog writer and dog trainer, and each of her stories explores a different facet of the dog world. I’ve read every one of Susan’s books at least once, and I hope there will be another someday soon.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
TW: Yes. I’m really fond of the murder case in my third book, tentatively titled Karma’s a Killer, which will be released by Midnight Ink in 2016. This case is truly personal for Kate. The more she learns about the murder suspects, the more she remembers from her past, which she forgot for good reason. By the time Kate solves the crime, she is truly transformed.

MI:What was your inspiration for the Downward Dog mysteries?
TW: The idea came to me on a rainy evening about three years ago, while in the middle of a brutal workout at my favorite health club. I was pedaling away, reading a Susan Conant novel to distract myself from the evil exercise bike, when a quote from Black Ribbon about crazy dog people made me burst out loud laughing. I knew I’d found my author soul mate. Someone who truly got me.

I went home, looked her up on the web, and stumbled across a site about cozy mysteries. As I read about hundreds of other wonderful cozy series, I began to wonder: What would happen if a yoga teacher with a crazy dog like mine got mixed up in murder? Kate Davidson and Bella popped into my head a few days later. The rest is history.

MI: Tell us about Kate Davidson (and Bella!)
TW: Kate is a study in contrasts. She’s a yoga teacher, but like many women, she’s “average” in weight, not super flexible, and not all that pleased with her body. Kate wants to live according to the yoga teachings, but she often acts impulsively, only to later regret it.

Kate has difficulty controlling her temper, but she is also a caring, committed person who protects those around her, even if doing so is not in her best interests. Kate will continue to grow and develop throughout the series. My first book, Murder Strikes a Pose, was the story of how she bonded with and commited to Bella; the second, A Killer Retreat, explores her relationship with Michael; the third, coming in 2016, introduces a third character from Kate’s past that will challenge her in unexpected ways. That character will force Kate to learn how to forgive.

Bella is . . . amazing. But since she’s based on my own German shepherd, Tasha, how could I believe anything else? Like Kate, Bella is a deeply flawed being. She suffers from an autoimmune disease called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, and she doesn’t like other dogs or some men. Yet she’s loyal, smarter than most humans I know, and willing to sacrifice herself for Kate or anyone else in her pack. We should all be lucky enough to experience the devotion of a soul like Bella.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
TW: I have two furred pets and about a dozen finned ones. Tasha, who I mentioned above, is my one hundred pound, ten-year-old German Shepherd. Maggie is my fourteen-year-old gray tabby cat. They are both a little quirky and they intensely dislike each other, so we’ve had to come up with a family compromise. Each of them owns one-third of the house. Maggie gets two bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper floor, Tasha gets my office, the bathroom, and the garage on the bottom. The kitchen and living room are a neutral zone that hubby Marc and I have claimed for our own.

"the suckie fish" and Darth
I also have a seventy-five gallon aquarium with a dozen fish. “Darth” and one of the “tiger fish” are in the photo. Darth, the striped fish, and a spotted plecostomus we call “the suckie fish” have been with us over thirteen years now. We moved them each in a separate 5-gallon bucket when we purchased our house eight years ago. So I guess I should really say that the second floor of our house belongs to the fish.

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
TW: Even though I have pets, I have to answer this question. I love all animals. I have a dream of one day moving to the country and adding goats, chickens, and a pig or two to the menagerie!

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
TW: Black bean pita burgers with three pepper salsa—a specialty at my local ale house. I already eat it three times a week, so expanding it to the rest of my life isn’t much of a stretch.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
TW: Does tossing a few pomegranate seeds into a glass of champagne count? I can’t cook. I’m not even allowed to use the stove alone anymore, since I consistently forget to turn it off and leave the gas flame burning for hours at a time. I survive on smoothies, microwave dinners, and lots and lots of meals out.

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
TW: Getting to know my fellow Midnight Ink authors, of course. The Midnight Ink crowd is friendly, kind, funny, supportive, and . . . Well you get the picture. I feel like I’ve developed a network of friends with my other Inkers.

A Killer Retreat, the second Downward Dog mystery, is available online and in bookstores now!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Writer's Guilt

By: Maegan Beaumont

Well, it's that time of year again. Time to start another novel.

I start getting the itch around November. Ideas start to niggle. Characters start to whisper. By December they are no longer niggling and whispering. They are pulling and yelling. I have to shove them aside while I'm basting the Thanksgiving turkey. I have to mentally shout back, I can't play with you right now--my kids are opening Christmas presents.

January, I promise them. I'll start in January.

January is the right month to start, right? In with the new and all that... right? The people in my life will get it. That this is not only my passion but also my job. That it's important to me. That I have to do this on about a hundred different levels.

They love me and want me to be happy. They get that if I don't write I'll end up like Jack Nicholson in The Shining and that's never a good look on anyone.  

They'll be understanding and supportive... right? 

I've come to realize that it just doesn't matter. No matter when I decide to start my novel, I still run into trouble. Kids still want dinner (EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!!). Husbands still want clean socks (my kingdom for a maid... honestly, I'd settle for a chimpanzee I can train to fold towels and match socks). Friends still get weird when you don't pay attention to them. 

I try to juggle it all but I'll never make it in the circus. I suck at juggling. Something's gotta give--historically, it's my novel... which explains why I haven't made a deadline since I started this whole crazy business. It's not that the people in my life don't want to understand. It's that they can't understand. 

They just can't. Not unless they understand what it's like to have an entire universe full of people shoved into their brain, talking all at once. They don't what dinner. They don't want clean socks or attention. They want to exist. They are literally fighting for their imaginary lives. A space, out here in the world, where people can see and hear them.

And sometimes, that's pretty hard to ignore. So, yeah. Something's gotta give.

I guess what I'm saying is that I still-- 4. books. later.--haven't figured out how to balance it all. I struggle. I forget to start dinner. I stumble. Socks get recycled and my husband pretends not to notice the dead fish smell emanating from his shoes. I drop balls. Friends feel ignored and I feel like crap... and my novel still suffers. I give in to guilt and start to put writing off. 

I'll write tomorrow becomes my mantra.

But every January, without fail, I make myself a promise: This year, I will put writing first. Well... maybe not first but definitely in the top 3. Top 5? Ahead of the laundry, for sure.

As I'm writing this, I realize that this isn't about putting my novel first--it's about putting myself first. Something I've never been able to do. Something I'm not even sure I know how to do and yet something I've encouraged others to do time and time again.

Put yourself first. It's okay. You deserve it. If they love you, they'll understand.

This year is different. This year, I'm bound and determined to take my own advice. Kids, husbands, friends--I hope you understand, but there's something I've got to do...

Maegan Beaumont is the author of  the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series. A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Celebrate Good Times

by Shannon Baker

It’s January. The whew of the holidays. I love the whole holiday season with the planning and partying, over-eating and drinking. I spend almost a month of putting off real work while I make time for fun. Then comes January with a sense of relief and bursting energy to get back to the productive life.

My January began with a gasp at 3 A.M. I have a book launching in two months! How did it swing around so quickly when it seemed like it would never get here? I scurried to my computer and pulled up the very organized marketing plan I wrote out in October. I only have a plan because I’d just returned from a conference and a friend shamed me into getting that done.

I’m on track, more or less. I didn’t attend to the December tasks as I should have but I’m not too far behind. Here’s my confession (not that you’ve asked but it’s good for my soul): I did practically nothing for last year’s book launch. Chances are I was at a low ebb in my real life (lower than I’d admitted to myself) but I allowed the negativity to rule.

What that means is that I listened too intently to those who said, “Blog tours are a waste of time.” “You don’t sell enough books at a signing to make it worth your while.” “Don’t send postcards or bookmarks to bookstores; they only throw them away.” Basically, the message I internalized was that nothing works, so don’t bother.

While all of that might be true, there is more to consider. I felt defeated before the book even slid off the presses. The Why Bother germ infested my attitude. I probably sent a vibe out to the Universe that said, “You really shouldn’t read this book. There are so many others out there that are better. You won’t like this.”

I didn’t celebrate that book and whether it made any difference in sales, it made gigantic impact on me. I felt like the Eeyore of authors.

I’m not going to let that happen this time. It doesn’t matter if my efforts don’t show up in sales. I’m going to blog bounce and set up book signings. Hit up a few book clubs, send out scores of press releases. I’m going to stick to my plan. Because I believe.

I believe that putting positive energy into this venture will yield results. I’m already feeling good about the launch, proud about the new book and ready to show it to the world. It’s a good story and I liked it when I told it to myself so why shouldn’t other people like it, too?  

The real reason I’m putting an effort into the launch is for myself. I want to celebrate the accomplishment. Somewhere along the last year, my perspective changed. I’m not marketing as a Sisyphusian chore that I’m supposed to do, toiling in the gray gloom of uselessness. I’m having a party and I get to tell people about something I find interesting.

So guys, guess what? I’ve got a book coming out in two months! It’s going to be great!

What are you celebrating?

Friday, January 9, 2015

January Releases!

By: Maegan Beaumont

It's a new year and Midnight Ink is kicking it off with some FANTASTIC new releases!

A Killer Retreat
By: Tracy Weber 

A Downward Dog Mystery #2 

Cozy readers will enjoy the twist-filled plot.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Dying for the Past
By: TJ O'Connor 
A Gumshoe Ghost Mystery #2

"The twisty plot is well delivered . . . Anyone who loves a strong ghost yarn will savor this tale."—LIBRARY JOURNAL

The Accidental Alchemist
By: Gigi Pandian 
An Accidental Alchemist Mystery #1

“This reviewer is eagerly anticipating more from this series, and a return of a cast more fun than an episode of Portlandia.”—RT BOOK REVIEWS 1/2

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January 2015 Books Available Now!

Don't miss Midnight Ink's latest releases!

“Cozy readers will enjoy the twist-filled plot.”—Publishers Weekly on A Killer Retreat

“This reviewer is eagerly anticipating more from this series, and a return of a cast more fun than an episode of Portlandia.”—RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars) on The Accidental Alchemist

“[T]he twisty plot is well delivered . . . Anyone who loves a strong ghost yarn will savor this tale.”—Library Journal on Dying for the Past

Now available from Midnight InkBarnes & NobleAmazonIndiebound, and your local bookseller!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dying For the Past – The Roots of This Sequel – Part II

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

It’s here. Hold the presses. Ready the fireworks. Make ready the launch … Dying for the Past hits the shelves tomorrow!Detective Oliver Tuck” Tucker is back in Book II of his Gumshoe Ghostseries, and he’s ready to solve another case. This one, as explained in Part I of this two-part blog “Dying for the Past—The Roots of this Sequel” centers around the murder of a wealthy and mysterious philanthropist with connections to a 1930s mobster’s journal containing the secrets of Washington D.C.’s powerbrokers, gangsters, and spies.    

Everyone wants the book. And they’ll do anything—especially kill—to get it.
In Part I of this blog, I explained that Tuck is up against Vincent Calaprese, the spirit of a 1930’s gangster, the Russian Mob, and several conniving suspects. Someone killed Stephanos Grecco—a wealthy philanthropist—in front of a hundred charity gala guests dancing the night away. The story surrounds the search for Vincent’s journal—the book—in which he kept tabs on spy rings, mob bosses, and corrupt Washington D.C. elite. Vincent used his journal to persuade the FBI from shutting down his operations and keep his mob competition at arm’s length. Over the years, the book became a shield against the growing Russian mob and corrupt government officials. To mess with Vincent’s family meant risking the book telling its stories.
This subplot is based on true events.  
During the run-up to WWII, some mob leaders helped our government thwart, and in some cases, directly combat our enemies. Known mob kingpins are believed to have kept track of Axis spies operating in the country and reporting activities to the authorities, in particular, with ports and rail yards where sabotage was a threat. During those years (and perhaps still today), the mob had special access to ports, rail, and coastal cities —they had their own networks controlling the docks and cargo throughout the country; they also had enormous power over the labor unions working those areas. I suppose that while they were mobsters and racketeers, they were still Americans and, in a world war where nationalism was the battle cry, even the bad guys waved the flag.
One story has it that Meyer Lansky, along with a key mob boss and pal, Salvatore C. Luciano, a.k.a. Lucky Luciano, played key roles in keeping union dockworkers from striking during the war and aiding in the successful invasion of Sicily by American forces. Further, Lansky helped our government recruit fellow mobsters, Bugsey Siegel and Lepke Buchalter. The three gangsters were reportedly merciless at intimidating potential German-American Nazi sympathizers to keep them from gaining any foothold in the country. These men also played other roles while working for the government. Lucky Luciano also reportedly played a vital role in aiding the U.S. invasion of Sicily. Luciano was a notorious Italian boss with power in both the U.S. and in Sicily. According to historical accounts, Luciano traded his freedom from prison for his assistance in helping secure intelligence and cooperation from Sicilian mob assets.
There’s a long list of other mob aficionados who aided our government in fighting the Axis powers here and abroad. Few of them our government owned up to after the war. One story even suggests Luciano parachuted into Sicily behind enemy lines to make contact with mobsters—a significant power in Sicily—and organize them to aid the Allied invasion.
With history like this, how could I resist? So, while creating Vincent Calaprese and his delectable girlfriend, Sassy, I penned Vincent as a hot-cold, good-mobster, bad-mobster kinda guy. His connection to pre-WWII espionage and corruption is the backstory of Dying for the Past—and what better vehicle to connect the past with the present than a dangerous journal that named names and could blaze a trail to modern day espionage and corruption in 2015? And of course, the book and its stories were worth killing for.
The next ingredient in my story is Tuck’s family background and what secrets his unknown past might reveal. For those of you who have read Dying to Know, you know that Tuck was an orphan raised in foster care. He never knew anyone or anything about his family. In Dying to Know, we learn that Doc, his cantankerous spirit guide, is family. In Dying for the Past, we’ll begin to learn that being a ghost is hereditary and Tuck’s roots may well include mobsters, spies, cops and robbers, and a host of wayward spirits—pun intended. Ultimately, as Tuck’s stories continue, all the books will be connected through Tuck’s family past. There is a method to my madness and an intricate web of spirited lineage that will tie the cases—and the characters—all together. It suffices to say that Tuck’s murder was not an accident—and neither was Doc’s or the rest of Tuck’s family. In fact, they were all dying to get together. Wow, is that another book title?
Why am I so connected to the past myself? I have no choice—my own family tree has some interesting stories, too.
As a young boy, my grandfather, Oscar, told a few tales of his life in the 30s and 40s. As a very young man, he took to life as a hobo and rode the rails around the east coast looking for adventure—and work—during the Great Depression. In WWII, he was one of the oldest draftees and his exploits included working for a Military Intelligence Officer in the Pacific Theatre. My great uncle, John, was a drummer for the likes of the Dorsey Brothers, Gene Kruppa, and Glenn Miller. While I don’t think anyone ever heard of him, my grandparents were his biggest fans and instilled a love of Big Band and Swing music in me. In Dying for the Past, that music plays a unique role in Vincent Calaprese’s chapters and help me keep his era alive throughout the story. And last, but perhaps most significant is my mentor for the past 24 years, Wally, who is one of the last remaining OSS operatives (Office of Strategic Service—the forerunner to the CIA) still alive today. After the war, Wally joined the CIA and became one of its senior executives through the cold war and into the 80s. He fought the Germans in Northern Africa and Europe, fought the communists in Greece, the Russians throughout the world, and all enemies in between (and I dare say a bunch of Washington bureaucrats, too) until his retirement. His exploits and his life story are a constant source of material for my books. It is no secret that Wally is thinly disguised as Doc—Tuck’s omnipotent, brassy spirit mentor—in all of Tuck’s stories.
As you can see, history is a big part of my life and is a constant theme throughout my books. In my upcoming Dying to Tell, Book III in Tuck’s series, the OSS and a WWII operation in the Middle East play a significant role in a series of murders. Dying to Tell releases in January 2016.
For you history and mystery aficionados, I hope you’ll give Dying for the Past and Dying to Know a read. When you do, drop me a line at and let me know what you think.
For the New Year, stay safe and well!

TJ O’CONNOR IS THE AUTHOR OF DYING FOR THE PAST and DYING TO KNOW, available in books stores and e-books from Midnight Ink. His third paranormal mystery, DYING TO TELL, will be released January 2016. 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 for the Past and Dying To Know are the first of eight novels to be published.  Learn more about Tj’s world at and on Facebook at




Monday, January 5, 2015

Facing a New Year

--by Linda O. Johnston

The year 2015 has begun!  In fact, we're five days into it.  Did you make any resolutions?  I didn't, but being more superstitious than I used to be, thanks to writing my Superstition Mysteries being published by Midnight Ink, I looked around and wondered whether things that were happening were an indication of how my new year would go.

So far things haven't been great and inspiring, but neither have they been horrible.  My poor husband had unexpected tooth surgery, though, and was in pain but fortunately that has improved.  The toaster at my nearby Panera where I breakfast often on weekends remains broken. I have a February 1 writing deadline for one of my shapeshifter stories for Harlequin Nocturne, but at the moment I don't think I'll have trouble meeting it--although if you hear a noise right now that's because I'm knocking on wood.  I also have to revise an existing proposal for another Harlequin story but I already finished part of it so it, too, should be okay.

Next deadline?  My second Barkery and Biscuits story for MI.  The first one, BITE THE BISCUIT, will be published in May, and I'm delighted about it, too, although some of the editorial process is still before me. 

Yes, I'm writing four different series at the same time.  Am I nuts?  Maybe, especially since I have lots of family stuff coming up, including some long-anticipated visits this week.  I just ordered a T-shirt that says "I am a writer.  That means I live in a crazy fantasy world with unrealistic expectations.  Thank you for understanding."  It's the kind of shirt I'm not likely to wear when I'm out doing errands or anything else, but I'll definitely wear it around my house!

Whatever you do, whatever inspires you, I hope it all works beautifully in 2015.  Happy New Year!