Monday, April 27, 2015

Making the Most of Your Minute

As a newer author, I’m lucky in many ways. I’m an extrovert, and I started competitive public speaking at the age of 14. I love nothing more than getting up in front of a crowded room to talk about my work and publicly share my neuroses. Many writers I know—especially those new to the writing scene—aren’t nearly so comfortable. It’s not surprising, really. Authors are programmed to express their ideas at a keyboard, not in front of a microphone. The idea of speaking in front of a group can be terrifying. For many, the fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death.

Here’s my free and unsolicited advice: Get over it. ;-)
A writer has to express herself verbally in many situations, including conferences like Malice Domestic and the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference. Pitching your book to agents and editors, participating on author panels, speaking at new author forums where you have sixty seconds to wow readers with the brilliance of your work. All are great opportunities, if you can stay composed enough to take advantage of them.

There are at least a gazillion blog articles, books, classes, and videos that teach presentation skills and discuss conference etiquette. Most of them, however, miss a critical point. The best way to wow an audience is to show them the true you. Not the you that would rather huddle under the table. Definitely not the you that yells desperately, “Buy my book!” The you that shines when you feel the most confident. The you that bubbles with enthusiasm when you share your passions with friends. The you that often gets left behind as soon as you step up to the microphone.
Once you feel confident when speaking in front of an audience, you will automatically escape most of the public speaking traps that all of those blog articles warn you about. But how do you build that confidence? The general advice (and it’s true!) is to practice. Give presentations over and over and over again. Advice that is exquisitely unhelpful for newbie, terrified authors. If you can’t gain a skill until you practice, but practicing makes you want to upchuck your orange juice, what can you do?

Practice mentally.
It’s a well-proven fact that your brain doesn’t know the difference between actually doing an activity and visualizing it. Want to improve your golf score? Visualize the perfect hole-in-one. Want to get through dinner with your mother-in-law without sparking the next family feud? Visualize listening to her rather than talking at her. Want to build self-assurance when public speaking? Mentally rehearse speaking confidently in front of a group. By visualizing confidence, you stimulate the areas of your brain that build self assurance while simultaneously decreasing the drip, drip, drip of adrenaline that promotes stress. Believe me, it works.

Not a visual learner? No problem! Effective visualizations aren’t all about seeing. They use all of your senses. Sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.
I’ve used the visualization below to help me prepare for job interviews, speeches, and frightening medical procedures. It’s been a true gift to me and I hope it helps you.

Visualization for Presentation Success

1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable and your spine is in “neutral.
2. Allow your eyes to close and your focus to go internal.
3. Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Feel the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils. Allow your mind to focus on and pay attention to this feeling of the breath. This will be your anchor. Whenever your attention wanders, you’ll invite it back to your breath.
4. Remember a situation in the past in which you felt confident and completely at ease. Try to re-experience that moment with all of your senses
·        What sensations did you feel in your muscles?
·        Was your mouth dry or moist? Your jaw tense or relaxed?
·        What was the rhythm of your breath?
·        What expression did you wear on your face?
·        Were your hands, toes, and jaw relaxed?
·        What sensations did you feel internally in your throat, your stomach, your chest?
·        What was your “inner dialogue” like?
The above questions are just guidelines. The specific sensations and sounds that you notice aren’t important. All that matters is that you try to relive this positive situation as vividly as you can while utilizing the senses you’re most drawn to.
5. When you’re ready, try to hold that confident experience in your body as you mentally step up to a microphone.
·        What sensations do you feel in your muscles?
·        Is your mouth dry or moist? Your jaw tense or relaxed?
·        What is the rhythm of your breath?
·        What expression are you wearing on your face?
·        Are your hands, toes, and jaw relaxed?
·        What sensations do you feel internally in your throat, your stomach, your chest?
·        What is your “inner dialogue” like?
As in Step 4, the above questions are just guidelines. The specific sensations and sounds that you notice aren’t important. All that matters is that you try to feel confidence in this new setting as vividly as you can while utilizing the senses you’re most drawn to.
6. When your mind wanders—and it will!—notice how your body responds. If your muscles start tensing, your breath shortens, or your gremlin mind starts giving you grief, take a deep breath and go back to Step 3. Feel the breath inside your nostrils, refocus your mind then begin the visualization in Step 4 and/or Step 5 again.

7. Continue this visualization for 5 minutes or longer if you’d like.
Your body already knows how to have fun—if only your trickster mind will allow it. Mentally rehearsing confidence in situations of stress is no different than practicing your golf swing. Pattern your mental muscles to find fun instead of fear. Like most life skills, visualization is more effective the more often it’s practiced. Try doing it several times a day the week before an event. You might be astounded at the difference!
Those of you who will be at Malice next month, know that I will be there cheering you on, hoping for your complete and utter success. I’m happy to give you in-person pointers. Public speaking is easy for me. Mingling with strangers is tougher. Please stop me and say hi! I promise, you’ll make my day!

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

About Tracy:
Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate Davidson and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Tracy loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. Her first book, Murder Strikes a Pose won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and is a 2015 Agatha award nominee for Best First Novel. The second book in her series, A Killer Retreat, was released January, 2015 by Midnight Ink.
Tracy and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 
Visit her at, friend her on Facebook at, or e-mail her at


Monday, April 13, 2015

New Arrivals

by Shannon Baker

This is book launch time and I’ve been all over the place talking about Tattered Legacy. I think it’s a great book and you’ll love it. I mean, it’s full of Hopi Indian legends, polygamists, aliens, super-wealthy and politically powerful Mormons and more iconic scenery than you can stuff into 350 pages—so what’s not to love?

But I’m sort of ADD and I wrote that book a while back so, for me, that was then. What is now, though, what has me wiggling in my seat with anticipation, is the NEXT thing in our lives. The Puppy Stork is winging her way to our house, bringing us a bouncing baby bundle of puppy love. We’re scheduled to pick up our 8-week old Weimeraner girl in mid-May.

We lost our last Boxer in 2011 and we’ve been a lonely, sad, dogless couple since then. We ached for a new dog but knew we were destined for a nomadic and pretty chaotic life until we pulled the plug on gainful day jobs and both became stay-at-homes. We made the choice to wait and it’s been a long, desolate trudge, both to the end of the paycheck producing situation and through the puppy drought.

I cringe to compare puppies and babies. When I had my daughters, I lived in rural Nebraska and the references to me and heifers didn’t make me grin. Dogs aren’t people so I’m not a dog mom. But dogs are a specialness all to themselves. At the same time better but not quite on par with people and the love for pets is deep and real. So, yeah, this has some of the same heart-tugs as bringing a baby home.

And as with having babies, I suppose I’ve blocked some of the less desirable details. After all, I did have more than one baby, so I’m obviously pretty good at selective memory.

I’m remembering the good parts of puppies. I can’t wait to cuddle and laugh at puppy antics. I am anticipating bonding and having that loyal, loving companion. I’m not focused so much on the housetraining. The books make it sound so easy. They sleep, they wake up, you run them outside to their spot, they go, you praise them, play with them, there are no accidents, they go back to sleep, you repeat the cycle. In two weeks, they’re reliably trained.

It’s a vague memory from my last puppy, but I think I followed the books. I don’t remember it being that easy.

Then there’s the crate training. Again, the book says it will be a lark. Puppies like their crates. It’s safe and quiet and homey. They will sleep in them all night. No problem. But I think I remember nighttime crying. Shoe loss, furniture damage, holes in the yard, barking. All of these issues are dispatched with positive and preventative training. I find it easy to believe the promises of the puppy book and truly believe our puppy will be nothing but pure joy and will grow into a well-trained, neurosis-free, perfect companion.

But then, I write fiction.

Speaking of which—Tattered Legacy, the third book in the Nora Abbott Mystery Series is available now at your favorite book venue. There are no puppies in it, but there is an aging golden retriever. And lots of mystery and murder and Hopi, polygamists, aliens, rich Mormons and Moab’s amazing landscapes.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Check out these fantastic new releases!

“A great mystery and a romp into the fantasy world 
that is dark, frightening, and a whole lot of fun.”

“Crackerjack entertainment: taut, gritty 
and full of devilish twists.”—KIRKUS REVIEWS

"A compelling mystery full of near-misses
 and scientific wisecracks."—LIBRARY JOURNAL

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dying for Charity

by Tj O'Connor, Author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and the upcoming, Dying to Tell
Since I’ve made the transition from being a writer to an author—the difference is an imaginary line between being unpublished and published (or so I’m told)—I’ve been fortunate to have experiences and meet people I never would have before. As a consultant, life revolves around problem solving. I generally meet very interesting people under the worst of circumstances—they have a problem and they need help … now. In ninety-five percent of the cases it’s a pure business arrangement, with no opportunity for friendship or camaraderie. But as an author, I’ve had the privilege of meeting the most extraordinary people without a cry for help. Most often it’s simply because we share a vocation and love of books—a small, friendly club of authors. How novel. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
Still, I’m an unknown, and except the few who recognize an email or Facebook post here and there, no one has heard of me. In my prior government life, that was how I wanted it—anonymity meant I was below the radar. As an author, anonymity can be fatal.
Yet despite this veil of “who are you again?” I received an invitation from an amazing charity to be one of five authors to speak at a fundraiser this month—The Children’s Specialized Hospital Friends, in Summit, New Jersey.
Who, me? Are you sure you have the right Tj O’Connor? To my amazement, they did.
And so, on April 30th from 11 am to 3 pm, I will share the spotlight with four talented authors to help The Children’s Specialized Hospital Friends. I’ll be speaking along with Marta McDowell, author of Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life; Jerry Parr and Carolyn Parr who wrote, Inside the Secret Service; and Jennifer Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. And all of us will be serving up “A Literary Luncheon” at the Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, New Jersey, to help raise funds for this charity.
Here’s a little taste of what this hospital and charity are all about (from the hospital’s website):
Children’s Specialized Hospital is a non-profit rehabilitation hospital that serves over 20,000 children annually in 12 sites throughout New Jersey. The hospital serves children affected by traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, complications from premature birth, autism, developmental delays and life changing illnesses. The hospital’s patients come from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and of course New Jersey. Renowned therapeutic programs include physical, speech, and occupational therapy; psychology services; neurodevelopmental physician services; recreational therapy and child life, and a full complement of support services. Read more about the Children’s Specialized Hospital at
So, if you are in the New Jersey area, or have friends or colleagues in the area, ask them to check out this event and consider joining us. If they can’t make the luncheon, perhaps they will consider a small donation or consider passing this blog and flier along to others who might wish to support us.



Invite you to
Thursday, April 30, 2015
11:00am to 3:00pm
Canoe Brook Country Club
Summit, New Jersey
Guest Authors
Marta McDowell Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life
TJ O’Connor Dying to Know
Jerry Parr with Carolyn Parr Inside the Secret Service
Jennifer Smith The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Ticket price for luncheon and program is $50.00
For more information or to purchase tickets please contact Marilyn Zocca
All proceeds to benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital’s “Friday Night Fever”

And here’s a bonus … for the first twenty people who donate at least $50 to the Children’s Specialized Hospital charity because of this blog, I’ll send them a signed copy of Dying to Know or Dying for the Past (their choice) as a thank you from me. If they have read the books and have a favorite charity, I’ll donate the books in their name to the charity. All they have to do is email me with confirmation of the donation and reference this blog and the catch phrase, “Dying Is Overrated. Giving To Charity Is Not” and the book will be in the mail.
So come on, all my author and writer pals, pass the word along. We get a lot from writing, and I’m not talking about royalties (at least I can’t talk about royalties …) Let’s share a little of the jazz we all get from belonging to this small club of authors and book lovers.
End Note:  In full disclosure, this invitation did not come from any sudden fame or notoriety. Two dear friends, Tom and Gail S., who joined me for my book launch party last year, arranged my invitation. Tom is a great writer in his own right seeking publication. Gail, his wife, is a mover-and-shaker and the Fund Raising Chair for the Children’s Specialized Hospital Friends. Thanks to both of you for this opportunity and for your continued support and friendship.
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. He is currently working on a traditional mystery and 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 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, April 6, 2015

The Wait

--by Linda O. Johnston

It's early April now.  My next new series begins in May--the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, starting with BITE THE BISCUIT.  And so I'm waiting.

Not that I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs.  In fact, that would be quite difficult considering how much I use my computer.

First, I'm busily writing the second book in the series, since the manuscript is due soon.

Plus, I'm here on the Internet a lot, blogging here and elsewhere and using social media to get out there and promote not only the new series but my Superstition Mysteries, also with Midnight Ink, as well as other things I write.  I'll be doing a blog tour for BITE THE BISCUIT as well.

I'm also trying to learn more about promoting.  Even though I've been at this for a long time, I know there's a lot more I could be doing.  I even recently joined Twitter, then sat in on presentations about how to use it at the recent California Dreamin' Conference presented by the four Southern California chapters of the Romance Writers of America.  I did some traveling between then and now, though, so I haven't yet been able to attempt the stuff I learned.  So far, I'm mostly observing the Twitter feeds.

I'm active on Facebook, and like the way things are presented there.  Plus, I like to get out there in person and promote my writing that way.  For example, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books occurs later this month, and I'll be there signing my mysteries and representing various groups I belong to, such as the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Then there's Malice Domestic, which I'm attending at the end of April and beginning of May.  If I don't get a blog posted here on time, on the first Monday of the month, you'll hopefully understand why!

In any event, BITE THE BISCUIT is on its way.  And I'm really looking forward to its launch.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Finding Clarity

“Ignorance is bliss. Until it isn’t.”—Kate Davidson in A Killer Retreat.


Although the primary intention of my mystery series is to entertain, I’ve been known to weave in the occasional yoga teaching. One of the themes in my second book, A Killer Retreat, is overcoming fear. Kate, my yoga teacher protagonist, believes she will soon have to make a decision: marry her boyfriend, Michael, or end their relationship. She’s terrified of both options, so she tries to avoid the issue, hoping that if she hides from the problem, it will eventually solve itself.

Good luck with that, Kate.
The Yoga Sutras say that one of the primary goals of yoga is to learn how to see clearly. But how do you know when you’re clear? For me, clarity comes with a calm certainty. When I’m clear, I know that my decision is right, whether I want it to be or not. Lack of clarity, on the other hand, carries with it an often-uncomfortable energy. That energy can feel like a jittery high or an immobilizing fear. The Yoga Sutras refer to this psycho-emotional suffering as Dukha, a “hole in the cavity of the heart.” For me, it usually feels more like a hole in the lining of my stomach. Some people feel this sensation in their chests, others in their throats, still others as jitteriness and irrepressible activity in their limbs.

In my last teacher training, a student told me that she wanted a crystal ball to guide her decisions. I’ve wished for that same crystal ball many, many times: when I was trying to figure out if I should leave Microsoft; when I considered writing my first book; when I first thought about opening a yoga studio. In each of those cases, I kept reflecting, gathering data, and tapping into my intuition. One day, I knew. And once I know, I never look back.
There are many right choices in life. In fact, the Sutras assert that the exact paths of our lives are largely irrelevant. All that matters is how we relate to them. If I could give Kate—or any of my readers—one piece of advice, it would be this: find a calm place of knowing, choose the path that feels right, and walk it with grateful acceptance. Hopefully Kate will come to a similar conclusion. You’ll have to read the book to find out!  ;-)

May you all have paths filled with light, joy, and an abundance of beauty.

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. 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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rolling a Snowball Uphill: My Theory on Book Marketing

by Shannon Baker

Happy Book Birthday to Tattered Legacy whose official release date was yesterday. This is the third book in the Nora Abbott series and my fourth published book. AND I KNOW NOTHING. (Raise your hand if you added, “Jon Snow.”)

I am a marketing novice, fumbling around, making mistakes, missing opportunities. But here’s the thing, I knew less than nothing before I started out. By the time my first book came out in 2010, I’d been an active member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for so long I think they called me Granny Shanny behind my back. I was published with a nano press, the puppy mill of presses, and knew I was on my own.
I’d heard about promotion and had taken notes in a zillion (give or take a few) workshops. So I sent out press releases and pleas for reviews. I think the only reviewer that bit was the famed Harriot Klausner (is she still around?) and man, she reviewed everyone.

When the first of the Nora books hit the shelves, I was smack in the middle of a new job. Midnight Ink got it reviewed with the big guys and they had distribution, so I sent out some emails, did one book launch signing, and signed up for a few conferences. I couldn’t see that my efforts made any great difference in sales. But I had a whale of a great time at conferences meeting other writers, hearing what they were up to, both in the writing and marketing side.

One marketing expert told me not to waste my money on conferences. They don’t sell books. But for me, conferences are fuel. I love writers and getting to hang out with them for several days in a row is heaven. I never counted conferences as a marketing tool, that was “me” time for which I must carry around the attendant guilt.

But over and over I was getting the defeating message that all efforts were futile. Blog tours didn’t work. Book signings were a waste of time. I knew from personal experience that press releases were like blowing dandelion seeds into the wind. In the meantime, life threw me for a slight loop-de-loop and when Broken Trust came out last March, I let the defeatists win me over.

Why bother? I didn’t set up one single launch event. I can’t remember if I visited any blogs. I think I probably posted on Facebook a time or two. I threw up my hands and cried uncle. I still went to the conferences, not believing they were doing much for my career, but because they were so much fun.
I’m not sure exactly what happened to smack me upside the head and pull me out of that sad, dark place. It could have been that a bestselling writer, one I’d met at these “fun” conferences, offered to read a the first few chapters and synopsis of a new book I was working on and praised it. Or maybe because my editor loved the book I’d just turned in and said it was the best so far. It could be a nomination for an affirming award or maybe it was that winter finally pulled down the curtain and spring bloomed bright and warm (no small consideration). Whatever the cause, the effect was me emerging from my stupor to start paying attention to marketing.

A friend prodded me with Guerrilla Marketing’s tip to do five things every day, even if they’re small. I got a few bits of SWAG, I drew up a marketing plan for Tattered Legacy, broke it down by month, put specific tasks with completion dates…just like a real business.

I had no expectations for this launch. My goal was to do some things that might help but that I would enjoy. I wanted it to be a celebration of publishing this story that I am proud to have written.

Fellow Inkers Cricket McRae and Mark Stevens and me signing at B&N Loveland March 7 

Here’s what surprised me: I decided to plan a blog tour and thought of the most popular sites I knew. It turns out, these conferences I’d felt guilty about spending money on, had presented an opportunity to get to know lots of people. And some of them had popular blogs and readily agreed to host me.

I set up some book signings, again, just for fun. The first one out of the chute, The Bull Bash in Valentine, Nebraska on Valentine’s Day (MI did me the great favor of printing early enough to have books) was a bigger success than I could have imagined. I’ve done a half dozen of the blog stops and they’ve been fun. I sent out a boat-load of press releases and, gasp, gotten about a 30% response rate.

I can’t tell you if any of this will net sales. But I can tell you this, even though it’s a ton more work than not doing anything, it’s way more fun than doing nothing. I am determined to figure out Twitter. So far, I am half-assed with it because I just don’t get how it works. I’m building my email list and even sent out my first newsletter (which isn’t going to be a newsletter but sort of an announcement thing every now and then).

I’m a total marketing novice but I’m starting to see that hardly anyone starts out on top. It’s a growth  process. Some writers take to it naturally and they shoot up. Some of us are slow starters with inching progress, but everyone grows with one reader at a time. Since I normally spend the bulk of my self-esteem energy looking at what I haven’t accomplished or comparing myself to super stars and falling short, it surprised me one day to realize I have made progress. I don’t have fans sending me daily emails, but some people I don’t know have read my books and bought more.

I’m going to end with advice I’ve heard over and over and am only now believing. You can’t do it all so pick a few things you enjoy. Do those. You might not see a big impact but keep doing it. I am convinced that marketing is like rolling a snowball uphill. It’s work and you have to keep pushing but eventually your results will grow exponentially. I’m at the base of the hill so those of you at the top who can let it roll down the other side without effort, do not put a blow torch to my theory.

Today, in celebration of Tattered Legacy hitting the shelves, I’m guest blogging at Dru’s Book Musings and Get Lost in a Story, both with giveaways. And if you don’t win there, pop over to Goodreads and sign up for a giveaway there, too. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dying For A Little Class

By Tj O’Connor, author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past & Dying to Tell
Dying is overrated. Having a little class is not.

Stop scratching your head. If you’re a struggling author like me, this will all make sense. If you’re a successful author like we all hope to be, pay attention and remember that catchphrase.

When I was a young boy, I had a tough upbringing at times. I read everything I could get my hands on to hide and maintain a little peace of mind. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. I’ve said this many times, but my early favorites were the works Franklin W. Dixon and his Hardy Boys, Gordon Shirreffs’ The Mystery of the Haunted Mine, and Barbee Carleton’s Mystery of the Witches Bridge. They were huge stories to me and set me on the path to writing. There was a bigger influence, too, and that book came full-circle from my childhood to grab my attention this past week.

That book was Six Days of the Condor by James Grady.

Sometime in the early 70s, my older brother gave me a well-worn paperback copy of Six Days of the Condor. We didn’t have a lot in common back in those days; he was already escaping life in that small town and I was pining for my chance. James Grady’s first novel was my first “mature” novel that took me from the Hardy Boys mysteries into the world of the CIA, murder, intrigue, and thrillers. Six Days was at the beginning of a career that took Mr. Grady into journalism, politics, government, and Hollywood and continues to span decades of success. His is a story well worth catching up on.

For weeks while by brother was home visiting, we spent evenings on the front porch reliving the book and talking about politics, spies, and all that. I was, for the most part, totally lost. But, when you’re a young adventurer like I was, you keep up. This was the first time I’d connected with my brother in years, and my grandfather—who soon passed far too young for my liking—joined the discussions and spun his own tales of World War II in the pacific. That summer was one of my best memories as a kid.

To say that Six Days of the Condor affected me is an understatement.  

My young world exploded. The Hardy Boys—sorry pals—went into a box. I spent hours in the library trying to learn all I could about this new thing called the CIA and everything I could read about our government, politics, and espionage. My research—hold on youngsters, there was no internet or computers—took me days in the library to learn that the best authors were in my new love of thrillers and intrigue. I found them—Alistair MacLean, John le CarrĂ©, Mickey Spillane, Robert Ludlum, Raymond Chandler …

Holy crap! Frank and Joe Hardy never packed heat or had the hot babes! They never infiltrated Nazi strongholds or shot it out with rogue spies in Washington either. Where had I been? Grade school, of course. But, boy, was I catching up.

Six Days of the Condor opened my world to great fiction and put the icing on the cake for my future. I was going to be an author. I was going to join the CIA. I was going to fight bad guys and have real life adventure. Me. This poor, barely-passing-English-kid from an unheard-of tiny town in upstate New York. Yes, me.

We all have our heroes and reasons we are who we are. Surprisingly, so many of us get them from great books. Oh, I won’t go as far as to say that James Grady made me who I am or was the single driving force behind my past thirty-six years. No, but it’s in the top three reasons and, without question, was the turning point in my young life from that constant, nagging question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to a dream for chasing.

Why do I belabor this point? Because I’ve been a very lucky guy these past years and I don’t ever want to forget that. I was reminded of that this past Wednesday.

I never joined the CIA. But, for more than a decade, I was an agent with the OSI and ran investigations and anti-terrorism operations all over places most people only read about in books. I chased murderers, spies, and terrorists with some of the finest, most dedicated people I have ever known. Then, during the next few years in the private sector, I have had the fortune to have a mentor—Wally—who is one of the last surviving OSS—World War II’s Office of Strategic Services—operatives in the world and a former senior spook at the CIA. Through the years, I’ve met big shots all over—senior government (of many nations) leaders, politicians, movie stars, rock stars, et cetera, et cetera. I’ve even had the great fortune to know some amazing authors, too, many of whom have become my friends—like bestselling author, Stephen Frey, who has become a friend and influence on my books. And, all along the way, I sort of just took it in stride, never thought of what it meant or what it might come to.

Until last Wednesday.

Last Wednesday morning, I sat down to do some bill-paying work, and a note popped up on my computer from … James Grady. Holy crap on a peanut butter sandwich! Mr. Grady had—for some odd reason—found my mention of him in a blog about how I got started writing and doing my life’s work. He sat down and sent me a Facebook note to say hello. By coincidence, he is currently promoting his latest book, The End of the Condor, the next long-awaited sequel to Six Days of the Condor. In his note, he said something very important—and it is the reason for this blog—One day it would be humbling to have someone comment about me and that I should remember his words. We exchanged a couple more notes and the Ethernet returned to normal.

I heard you loud and clear, Mr. Grady. And thank you again.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan boy. I’ve worked around—and even protected—celebrities and power-brokers in my life. It sort of becomes “just business.” Yet, there is something about one’s childhood heroes that breaks down the dulled senses and makes you feel like you’re thirteen years old again.

And yes, it was humbling—for me, too.

Mr. Grady took his valuable time to drop me a note and give me a little recognition. Of the tons of important and famous folks I’ve met, I can count on my fingers and toes those who ever did that. As an author, the simple fact that he thought enough about our craft and my work to acknowledge my start-up writing career was enough. But his message was ever more important.

So, what does a non-fan boy like me do when a childhood hero reaches out? Gush? Run around giggling like a school girl? (Maybe a little.) No, I grabbed my box of Midnight Ink Dying for the Past promo books (the second in my paranormal series that just released). I signed a copy with a nice note to Conan—a young aspiring writer from upstate New York—and express mailed it out. You see, Conan sent me a short story last year called The Great Pirate Adventure, which I commented on my Facebook page. He was, apparently, thrilled by that little bit of recognition. I’m not sure how old Conan is, but I hope he’s young enough to still be thrilled by a wanna-be author like me just saying hello.

Dying for the Past should be in Conan’s hands by the time this blog posts. I hope it meant as much to him as my note from James Grady. And, one day, I hope Conan writes his own novel or pursues whatever his dreams are. And, I hope he remembers my note to him and passes along that little class that Mr. Grady began this past Wednesday. 

So, as Oliver Tucker said in Dying to Know, Dying is overrated—and from me, having a little class is not.

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. He is currently working on a traditional mystery and 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 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