Thursday, June 11, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Skee Ball

I loved carnivals and fairs as a kid (still do!).  My favorite stop was always skee ball on the carnival midway.  You could roll a ball down the narrow lane into one of the waiting rings.  You would get tickets based on how many points you made, and you could trade them in for a prize (usually a stuffed animal).  Seeing this image reminds me of so many fun trips to the carnival, especially in summer time.  Carnivals like this were always found by the beach on vacations.

Do you remember skee ball?  When was the last time you played?  I would love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Author Interview and Giveaway: Dying for the Past by TJ O'Connor

Dying for the Past
(A Gumshoe Ghost Mystery)

2nd in Series
Paperback: 408 pages
Publisher: Midnight Ink (January 8, 2015)
ISBN-13: 978-0738742069


Dying is not for the faint of heart . . .
. . . Neither is the murder of a mysterious philanthropist with ties to the Russian mob and 1939 gangsters.

At an A-list charity ball organized by his wife, Angela, former detective Oliver “Tuck” Tucker is doing his best to prove that ghosts know how to have a good time—until a man is murdered in cold blood on the dance floor.

Never one to let a mystery go unsolved, Tuck is on the case with help from Angela and his former police-detective partners. Together, they must be the first to read “the book”—deceased gangster Vincent Calabrese’s journal that names names and reveals the dirty secrets of several modern-day spies.

As Tuck learns the book’s secrets, he begins to unravel his own family’s wayward past, leading to the question—is being a ghost hereditary? Even while chasing a killer, the biggest challenge Tuck must conquer is how to be back amongst the living . . . but not one of them.

View from the Birdhouse Interviews TJ O'Connor: 
Birdhouse: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? 
TJ:  In the fifth grade believe it or not. I had a tough childhood at times and began reading in the fifth grade as a diversion and safe place to hide. After reading my first mystery, the Mystery of the Witches’ Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton, I became a ferocious reader. Then, after Mystery of the Haunted Mine by Gordon D. Shirreffs, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I began writing silly plays and short stories for my friends and with some encouragement from my grade school teachers, knew I could do it one day. I began writing a novel in high school that obviously was the worst drivel I’d ever read. My first complete novel I wrote while in Greece as an anti-terrorism agent with the military. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible. I kept it up for years trying different topics but never had the time to focus on being published. It wasn’t until about 2004 that I got serious and began truly crafting a novel with the intent on being published. It took me three tries before I found an agent—the amazing Kimberley Cameron—and got my first publishing contract with Midnight Ink. 
Birdhouse: What was your favorite book as a child?

TJ: Just one? Without question there were three that drove me to writing and my current profession—the two I just mentioned and, later, in Junior High School, Six Days of the Condor by James Grady—a novel about a CIA agent who escapes an attack on his Washington DC research office and forces him to try and stay alive long enough to figure out who and why he’s being hunted.
James Grady’s book did two things for me. First, it sealed the deal for me pursuing writing. And second, I knew I wanted to work in intelligence and investigations. Six Days of the Condor was a blockbuster book and movie that catapulted him into success. It catapulted me into becoming a counter-intelligence agent and anti-terrorism consultant throughout my life.
Interestingly, a few weeks ago, out of the blue, James Grady dropped me an email to say hello and congratulate me on being published. I’d never met him—he’s a big-time author—but he came across my mention of his influence on me in a blog I wrote a few months back. He was kind enough—and classy enough—to drop me a note. So you can see why a guy like him both influenced my writing and proved to be worthy of the hero-worship. It made such an impact on me, that I instantly wrote a nice note and sent a signed book to a young boy in upstate New York who had told me last year he wanted to be a writer like me and is sort of a fan. Mr. Grady’s kindness to me created a path all the way to another generation of authors and put a huge smile on the young boy’s face!
I understand now that he and his mom will travel over an hour to meet me at an upcoming book festival where I’m speaking and signing books in Millbrook, New York, on May 30th.
Birdhouse: What is your writing day like?  Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
TJ:  My writing day is often different each time but with a couple constants. First, since I work more than a full-time profession, I write as often as I can but still try to get a couple hours sleep a night. I normally try to get a few hours in during the business week—very early mornings, lunch, and perhaps after work. My main effort is on the weekends. I work in my home office surrounded by a large library with career memorabilia, my Labrador companions at my feet, two visiting dogs—a 165 pound Mastiff and a smaller kennel rescue—close by, and often some 1940’s swing music in the background. The music isn’t for mood, mind you, it’s to drown out the moaning and chatter of the four dogs constantly trying to give me plot ideas and demands on ball playing. Ah, and there is often an old cat perched between my computer monitor and me observing my mouse—disaster looms at every “enter” keystroke.
Not quite a quirk, but I like to dictate and run ideas aloud when I travel into my client office in Washington D.C.—it’s a 2-hour trek so I have lots of time to talk to myself, narrate chapter ideas, and even begin new plots for future novels. I have a terrible singing voice so it’s nicer to talk to myself over books than serenade fellow commuters. 
When I really need a break during the day, I’ll jump on my Harley Davidson and cruise the county, talking to myself and working out plots and chapters, too. It’s a little harder to dictate so I just wing it for an hour or so. Oh, and folks look at me strange cruising by on this big Harley and laughing and talking to myself. To all of you—don’t judge!
Birdhouse:  What was the most surprising thing you learned while creating this book?
TJ:  Wow, most surprising? Hmmmmmm … how difficult it is to write a sequel. Dying for the Past is Book II in my series, the Gumshoe Ghost. Book I—Dying to Tell—starts the story of Oliver “Tuck” Tucker. He’s a dead detective who solves crimes that all have a historical twist to them. Writing a sequel is tough—you have to figure out if you’re going to talk about the previous story or not, and, you have to figure out how to make your characters grow and have new conflicts and still surprise the reader. Remember, you’ve put your heart and soul into the last book and you tried to really get your readers drawn into the characters. Doing that for a second and third time is tough! How do you create new themes and character traits and flaws that will make sense and carry the story? How do you create more characters and not have too many when you bring some of them from the last story forward into a sequel? If you’re not careful, you have way too many characters—and the readers already know that many of them are good-guys—so you can’t create too much suspicion on them (it’s a mystery remember and I like a lot of suspects!)
So, what I chose to do was make a subplot of the entire series the history of Tuck’s family. He never knew them—Book I explained he was raised in foster care—so with each sequel, more about his family comes out and the reader gets to meet family from his unknown past. The family helps create the conflict and raises doubts about everything the reader thought they knew about Tuck and everyone else.
Book IIIDying to Tell—was a little easier. Since I already knew I wanted to continue bringing Tuck’s family into the subplot, it allowed me to build a sequel much easier. Each of my books has three elements—the current murder that begins the story and a historical subplot that surrounds Tuck’s family, then both of those culminate into a grand plot that combines the historical murder with the new one. So bringing Tuck’s long-unknown family into each story and connecting them to historical events in the town’s history helped me continue the sequels and make each one fresh.
Birdhouse: Who are your favorite authors?
TJ:  Sooooo many … James Grady, Stephen W. Frey, Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, Alistair MacLean, … and too many to list here!
Birdhouse:  What is your next writing project?
TJ: Which one? Kimberley, my agent, is presently trying to market New Sins for Old Scores—another murder mystery with a historical, paranormal twist. For me, I’m working on two traditional murder mysteries, both with a thriller-feel to them. They are:
The Consultant: Double Effect—the story of a terrorism consultant, Jon Hunter, who returns home from the Middle East to find his estranged brother, a police detective, murdered. He is the prime suspect. While he searches for the real murderer, he stumbles onto a domestic terrorism plot and a conspiracy between a Middle Eastern terror cell and a deadly Latin American street gang. Hunter must find his brother’s killer and come to grips with the reality that he never knew his brother, and the life he lived may not be what it seems.
The Killing of Tyler Quinn—Quinn, an embedded journalist in Afghanistan reappears after five years missing and presumed killed by the Taliban. He returns home to a small Virginia town where his newspaper partner, Ben Colter, is murdered. Quinn realizes the murder may be connected to his own disappearance when he was working on a story of a serial killer stalking victims in war-torn Kabul. Now, all the suspects from five years ago are back and each is connected to Ben’s death.

I have a computer file full of summaries and concepts for a couple dozen more books. If only I had the time to write them all!

About This Author
Tj O’CONNOR IS THE 2015 GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS FOR MYSTERIES and the author of Dying to Know and Dying for the Past, 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 to Know is also a Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award finalist.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

Web Site:

Purchase Links
Barnes and Noble
Books A Million:
Midnight Ink:
Two Giveaways
The prize is a Kindle Fire preloaded with TJ's books.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
1 copy of either Dying for the Past or Dying To Know. (Print or e-Book format).
a Rafflecopter giveaway