Welcome!! Thanks for this Q&A! I’m so pleased to take part in your book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions!
Has someone helped or mentored you in your writing career?
Dan Pollock, author of Orinoco and The Running Boy, just to name a few of his books, has been of great assistance to me. He chided me on Twitter for not self-promoting and got me to realize that I needed to take a more active role in developing my writing career. He has reviewed some of my work and interviewed me on his blog. He’s a great guy and an excellent writer.
Who is your favorite author?
Without a doubt, my favorite author is the late Elmore Leonard. He truly inspired me to try and write the way people actually talk. His Rules for Writing (https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/tips-masters/elmore-leonard-10-rules-for-good-writing) are very funny but true. His work translates well to film, and his dialog is some of the best I’ve ever read.
What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?
My wife, Suzanne, is very supportive of my work. My extended family is less supportive, or they choose not to mention my work. I’m partially to blame for the latter as I rushed through writing my first book and self-published it when it was still not ready for prime time. (It has since been reedited). My mother was initially very proud and bought a copy for all the relatives, and I think they found the editing to be lacking. I learned a couple of valuable lessons from that experience. Never share your work unless you know that it’s ready for serious scrutiny and even if your work is laudable, don’t expect accolades from family and friends as some of them have a hard time wrapping their minds around what you do. I’m expecting to get some credit from them when my book arrives on the NYT’s Best Seller List, so I’m not holding my breathe.
Does your significant other read your stuff?
Yes, my wife Suzanne is actually a beta reader and editor of all my books, and she loves my work. She can cite favorite passages, and I often solicit her opinion about how to develop specific scenes. She is my biggest fan and occasionally my harshest critic.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
It’s mostly hard work, with some mindless drudgery thrown in and very little glamor. It’s not an easy way to fame or fortune.
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?
If you have it for you—get it out. But realize that if you want to do it right, there are no shortcuts. Editing is part and parcel of the craft, and if you neglect that, you’ll never get anywhere. There are no shortcuts. I review a lot of books, and there are some budding authors out there that think the whole steam of consciousness thing is worthy of publication, and it may be, but most of what I’ve read thus far is not. That’s where developmental editing comes in. The other piece of advice is to do the research and don’t try and fake it. I reviewed a book, and I think the author was trying to do a slightly different version of Jack Reacher, but with a Marine instead of an Army MP as the protagonist. Well, I’m a former Marine, and I retired from the Army MP Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel, so I offered a very strong critique of the verisimilitude of the characters. The author was not happy, but that’s not my problem. If you don’t want a stinging critique, do the research. I acted as a beta reader for another author, and he had several military characters in his novel, and you could tell he had done the research, and his characters were about 99% correctly drawn. I helped him close that gap a little further. Finally, there are a lot of grifters in this field who claim to have the magic beans you need to succeed. Don’t believe them. They take the form of editors who do little, agents who don’t represent and vanity publishers who will cheat you. Still, at the end of the day, it’s cool telling people that your books are available on Amazon and it’s even cooler getting a royalty check.
What songs are most played on your Ipod?
I’m a big country music fan, and I know what you’re thinking, but I came to love country music late in life, and I was mostly into rock in my earlier years. There is a country album I recently bought that doesn’t have a bad cut on it. It’s Chris Stapleton’s debut album, Traveler, which has gone gold. My wife and I often sit out on the patio and listen to it while we enjoy the evening.
How do you describe your writing style?
I’m very dialog oriented. I want the characters to say realistic shit and act accordingly. I try to do lots of showing and very little telling. I also like my characters to say humorous things. Even under stress people say funny things. I’m often disappointed when everyone in an action movie talks like they’re having a prostate exam or hearing the reading of a will. When I’m writing a novel, my wife will edit my work at night. It’s part beta reading, part developmental and copy editing—hey, we operate on a shoestring. If I can hear her laugh at something, I’m ecstatic. There was a scene in my second book, Starfish Prime when Char, one of the lead characters, is trying to hire two ne'er-do-wells to pilot his yacht up the Orinoco because he’s exhausted and needs to sleep. These two guys are cooking fish on a camp stove as he negotiates with them. I thought the scene would naturally be humorous and wrote it that way. My wife loved it, and it always brings a smile to my face when I reread it. They say there is a danger in making a scene in an action novel too funny, but I call that nonsense. Some of the funniest people I’ve met are in the military—especially the Marine Corps—they’re naturally funny because they have to “embrace the suck.” Hell, I’ve even heard them wish something could suck more.
What do you think makes a good story?
Real life makes a good story or can be the source of a good story. Add a little embellishment to an actual incident, and you have yourself a story.
What was the scariest moment of your life?
I got to stand in the door for my first night and equipment jump during Airborne School at Fort Benning. ‘Standing in the door’ means you are the first jumper in a stick or file, and you stand the open exit door of an aircraft, in this case, a C-130, as it hurtles through the air. You stand there until the green light comes on and then exit the aircraft. Your weight attached to a static line hopefully opens the deployment bag containing your parachute and allows it to inflate and you float to the ground. On this jump, the pilot missed the drop zone, so they had to ‘do a racetrack’—
meaning that aircraft had to go around again and realign with the drop zone. I stood in the door the entire time—or at least I remember it that way. That may not have been the scariest moment, but it is certainly one I will remember for the rest of my days.
What books have most influenced your life?
I’ll tell you one of my favorite books is Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance. The movie is actually very close to the book as I believe Mailer wrote the script. The plot is full of depraved characters doing heinous things to each other, but it actually has a happy ending. Mailer writing a novel like that is like Tom Brady playing against the Texans. You know he’s going to be living in the end zone.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Mexican Hat Trick
by T.S. O’Neil
GENRE: Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Mexican Hat Trick reunites Retired Sheriff’s Department Detective turned Private Investigator, Eidetic Eddie Doyle with Former Force Recon Marine, Michael Blackfox, in a rollicking tale of murder, counterfeiting and kidnapping south of the border. A rogue’s gallery of new villains, including a pathological ex-French Foreign Legionnaire, a bloodthirsty drug kingpin, and a conniving corporate attorney, conspire to corner the counterfeit apparel market. Mexican Hat Trick is Florida Glare—south of the border.
Michael saw the small panel truck approaching in the distance, trailing a cloud of dust many times its size. He heard the faint sound of the helicopter again, but this time, it seemed closer. He looked back at the mountain and could see it now—a bulbous-nosed blue dot transversing the mountainside as if looking for something. Not good, he thought, not fucking good at all. He watched as the small, nimble craft changed direction, now advancing towards the box truck. Michael estimated the truck was slightly less than a mile away. He held his thumb up and measured the size of the aircraft against it—he estimated the helicopter to be about forty feet long. At a distance, Michael could cover the helicopter with his thumbnail—he estimated the bird to be about 10 miles away. It was now rapidly closing the distance and decreasing its altitude—as if preparing for a strafing run.
Their weapons were down by the lagoon, leaning on the rocks that lined its edge. He ran for the lagoon. There was an AK-47 that had the required range and oomph to take down the aircraft, and he needed it. Clive, Eddie, and Beth stood at the edge of the water watching as he ran towards them. “Weapons,”said Michael, yelling as loud as his overworked lungs would allow. The two men scrambled to pick them up and then ran toward Michael. The effort saved Michael about twenty feet or just a few seconds, but every second counted in a time bound game. He grabbed the AK from Eddie turned and accelerated back up the sandy incline. Michael bolted up the road, leaving the two other men—quite literally in his dust. He reached the desert floor, and took aim at the chopper, but lowered his rifle. Eddie caught up to him and doubled over to catch his breath. “Why aren’t you firing?”
“We’re out of range,” said Michael. “And we don’t know what they want.”
As if in answer, the helicopter turned it’s cargo door toward the path of the vehicle and a loud whoosh followed by a streak of propelled fire launched toward’s the truck. The warhead exploded a few feet behind the truck’s cargo compartment—apparently, the shooter did not account for the truck’s forward motion. “Holy shit,” said Clive. “He’s got a freaking RPG!”
Michael couldn’t believe what he was seeing—some madman had fired an RPG at the vehicle from inside the helicopter’s passenger compartment. He was pretty sure he knew who that was. The copter went around for another pass—perhaps to allow the shooter to reload. “Come on, let’s go,” said Michael. He broke into a run towards the truck, as the helicopter slowly circled. Michael felt he was in range and fired at the helicopter. Tracers spaced every third round outlined the arc of fire that fell well short of the hovering aircraft. He witnessed the ineffectual results and began running again, hoping to close the distance on the helicopter before the shooter could fire the RPG again.
The copter moved to take up a hover on the dirt road, directly in the truck’s path. That maneuver brought the aircraft closer to Michael, but still not within his rifle’s range. He aimed it and elevated the barrel above the target—hoping to lob in an arc of bullets. The rounds fell short, and he elevated the barrel hoping to walk them onto the target when he ran out of bullets. He had no additional magazines. Eddie ran forward with the MP5 and handed it to Michael. He tried the same with the MP5, but given the weapons shorter range, he might as well have been spitting at them. Michael handed the empty weapon back to Eddie and looked with alarm at the hovering helicopter—the shooter had finished reloading and was aiming the rocket launcher towards the oncoming truck
Michael reached down and picked up several large rocks from the ground. “Help me,” he said. Eddie looked puzzled. “Help me pick up some rocks.” Eddie nodded in understanding, reached down and began collecting some large rocks. Michael ran to close the distance with the helicopter as if hovered perpentidular to the road, just a few feet from the ground.
Michael had two large rocks—one in each hand. He got within thirty feet of the aircraft and launched a rock at the open passenger compartment. It flew over the helicopter. Michael ran forward again and let fly the other projectile. The rock flew through the air, arced into the open compartment and into the shoulder of the firer. The force of the impact turned him to the right just as he was squeezing the trigger.
The primary motor of the rocket fired and launched the projectile into the cockpit as the secondary motor fired and drove the warhead into the aircraft’s control console. The exhaust from the chemical-fueled motor burned the pilot’s face and blinded him. He reflectively pulled on the controls and drove the helicopter into the hard-packed dirt road. The craft turned over on its side, and the blades of the motor rotated into the hard packed desert earth and collapsed with the thunderous and calamitous sound of wrenching metal. The aircraft’s fuel tank ruptured and bled aviation gas onto the already blossoming fire.
They all stood mesmerized by the conflagration. A figure engulfed in flames struggled to escape the fire. He crawled from the inferno and rolled in the dirt as he screamed in pain and fear. Clive held up his pistol and aimed it at the man. Micheal suspected the burning figure was most likely the heartless son of a bitch who killed Jimmy, the DEA agent, in cold blood. He put his hand on Clive’s arm and forcefully pushed it down, so the pistol was aimed at the ground. “Let the bastard burn.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
TS O’Neil graduated with Honors from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts with a Degree in Criminal Justice and graduated with High honors from the University of Phoenix with a Master’s in Business Administration in Technology Management. He served as a Rifleman with the Marine Corps Reserve, an Officer in the Military Police Corps of the United States Army, and retired from the Army of the United States (AUS) as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2012. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. TS is currently employed as a Senior Security Consultant, specializing in Information Security. He lives in Seminole, FL with his beautiful wife, Suzanne. He has written four books, Tampa Star, Starfish Prime, Mudd’s Luck and Mexican Hat Trick.
All are available on Amazon.com
The author will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour
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