Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dying for New Sins for Old Scores

There are few things more satisfying as an author than completing a book. Typing “The End” is both a thrill and a moment of, well, sadness. You’ve exhausted yourself on your hero’s latest caper, spent sleepless nights second-guessing your plot, and worn yourself out with hours and hours of edits, proofs, discussions, and all manner of craziness trying to get it just right. Then, “The End” hits the the last page and you sit back, contemplate the story, and wonder what you’ll do with your characters next. And for me, there’s that moment of panic—I’ve got a dozen outlines in my folder for new books, five or six with my current series and characters, and not enough hours in my life to write them all. ARGGGGGG! What to do? (Oh, God, what to do???)

Then, the dark clouds part. The light shines. The music plays. I know just what to do. It’s simple, really. Very, very, simple.

I start a new blank page, copy and paste the template of my title page, set up the footers and headers, and start with CHAPTER ONE of a new novel … and I’m off. Another adventure awaits. Someone has to die. A hero has to catch a killer or track down a spy. There is no choice. No one can stop it. Murder and chaos must reign once again.

Oh, wait. I better close my last book and save it into the back-up before I start this one. Oops.

For those of you wondering, there are three more Tuck mysteries planned and I’m going to start one of those this coming summer. For now, I’m finishing up my ninth novel, a thriller about domestic terrorism, and I’m reviewing New Sins for Old Scores, the first of a murder mystery series I wrote a couple years ago (my agent is shopping this around as we speak).

New Sins was originally completed about three years ago after my agent, the amazing Kimberley Cameron, signed me for Dying to Know. She wanted a second series with a historical subplot and a paranormal storyline.  It took me four months to craft New Sins for Old Scores, the story of Richard Jax, a Virginia BCI detective saved by the spirit of a disgraced OSS operative, Trick McCall, who was killed in 1944 on the very spot Jax was ambushed. My website summarizes New Sins the best:

Murder, like history, often repeats itself. And when it does, it's the worst kind of murder.

Detective Richard Jax was never good at history. But after years as a cop, he was about to get the history lesson of his life.

After Jax is gunned down and lay dying at an old inn while on a case, he's saved by Captain Patrick "Trick" McCall—the ghost of a World War II OSS agent—who’s been waiting since 1944 for the chance to solve his own murder. Soon, Jax is a suspect in a string of murders—murders linked to smuggling refugees out of the Middle East—a plot similar to the World War II OSS operation “Operation Paper Clip” that brought scientists out of war-torn Europe. With the aid of a beautiful and brilliant historian, Dr. Alex Vouros, Jax and Trick unravel a seventy year-old plot that began with Trick's murder in 1944. Could the World War II mastermind (code named Harriet) be alive and up to new sins and old scores? Is history repeating itself?
Together, Jax and Trick McCall hunt for the link between their pasts that will lead them to Washington's elite and to one provocative, alluring French Underground agent, Abrielle Chanoux. Somewhere in Trick's memories is a traitor. That traitor killed him. That traitor is killing again.

Who framed Richard Jax and who wants Trick's secret to remain secret? The answer may be, who doesn't?

As I began re-reading New Sins looking for opportunities to refine and improve it, it struck me that my evil mind had recreated the foundation of Tuck Tucker’s Gumshoe Ghost series—a traditional murder mystery surrounding a historical subplot that culminates into a grand, surprising ending. Oh, but in Tuck’s stories, he’s a dead detective telling the story in the first-person, er, first-spirit, and in New Sins, the story is delivered in third-person and shares both Richard Jax’s and Trick McCall’s point of view throughout the story. Similarly, there are scenes with a historic subplot that follow Trick’s 1944 OSS operation that lead to his death and disgrace. Those chapters form the connection between past and present and lay the foundation for several characters involved in the modern murder plot for which Jax is the prime suspect. In the end, it’s the settling of the past’s old scores that sets the stage for present-day new sins.

I’m looking forward to digging back into New Sins for Old Scores and updating the storyline. I began reading it late one evening last week and found that I still love this story and characters. I’m looking forward to finding a home for it on bookshelves.

Strangely, while I’ve written eight novels and four of them are mysteries with a paranormal twist, I never set out to be a mystery writer. With my life and background in anti-terrorism and security consulting, I see myself as more of a thriller writer. I’m finishing a new thriller now and penned three before Dying to Know, the book that was accidentally written for my daughter, and that also became my first published work. Just yesterday at a book signing for my latest release, Dying to Tell, I responded to a question about my work saying, “No, I’m really a thriller writer …” then I felt silly and added, “Except I’ve written four of these mysteries all with a paranormal subplot. So, I guess I am a mystery writer. Yeah, that’s me, a mystery writer.” Nothing proves that more than my return to New Sins for Old Scores in the middle of working on my thriller. And while New Sins has both the mystery and thriller touch and feel, it’s certainly more mystery.

How twisted is my mind when I’m working a thriller and a mystery at the same time? Don’t answer that. I already have my own diagnosis.

So as winter progresses into spring, I hope time does not get in the way of finishing both new projects in a  timely manner. I’m anxious to get them out into the light of readers and fans. New Sins is chomping at the bit for an audience.

As you can see, I have more projects than time. If only I hit the lotto or found the lost Templar treasure I could write full time and make my life complete. But alas, I don’t play the lotto and have no clue where the treasure might be. (I know for certain it isn’t under my back deck.) So for the forseeable future, I’ll be consulting by day and writing novels by night.

Hopefully, New Sins for Old Scores will be out there for you to read this year or next. In the interim, I’ll finish my thriller and launch into one of the other dozen novels I’ve planned.

What choice do I have?

We’ll again chat next month …

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE 2015 GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell, available in bookstores and e-books from Midnight Ink. 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 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 Labrador companions in Virginia where they’ve raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

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