The Writers’ Circle at the Fairfield Library.

Writer's CircleA couple of weeks ago, I met the nicest group of writers in Fairfield.

The Fairfield Library Writer’s Circle is a group that meets at the library on Fridays to talk about writing. Sometimes, they invite an author to sit down with them, and two weeks ago, that was me!

The group was facilitated that afternoon by Alex McNab of the Fairfield Writer’s blog, and attended by five writers, many of whom are already published. I had a wonderful couple of hours with them, and I totally recommend joining this group if you’re a writer in Fairfield with a free Friday afternoon here and there.

That was a busy weekend. I also had that appearance at Books & Boos the same weekend. Unfortunately, there were a few county fairs happening at the same time and no one showed, which was a little sad. No worries, if they have me back, I will do my damndest to bring in a crowd.

I should have posted all this a couple weeks ago, I know, but things have been nuts lately with school being back in.

It’s hard to rock a trench in a heatwave, but I’m doing it for fiction!

photo credit: i k o via photopin cc

photo credit: i k o via photopin cc

First, an apology to anyone who follows me on Twitter. I’m sorry for clogging your feed with #trenchcoatparty hashtags. I’m just irrationally excited for tonight’s event at Made in Bridgeport. Thanks to Robin Gilmore, owner of MIB, it’s the first book event I’ve ever had that wasn’t more or less just a reading and a signing.

It’s a 1940s noir-themed costume party, first and foremost (I know my book isn’t set in the ’40s, but hey, it’s noir.) I’m a sucker for costume parties. I’ve been torn between wearing a ’40s dress and hat and my trenchcoat/pseudo-fedora tonight. I still haven’t decided. It’s going to be tough to rock a trench on the hottest day of a heatwave, but I never was blessed with an abundance of good sense. And also, that’s why the good lord made air conditioning.

Anyhow, there’s also a mystery that needs solving (I have no idea what it is, but you have to look for clues in the MIB store window) and a game to be played, which involves different stereotypes from noir films (you know, like the dirty cop and the stool pigeon) and a cocktail party (I’ve got the wine downstairs, ready to go.)

This is at a store in the Bridgeport Arcade Mall, which is gorgeous, although finding it for the first time is like solving a mystery in itself. From the front you see a continuation of city block, but go through the right set of doors and you end up in this Victorian confection of a two story building with a beautiful glass dome on the top.

While we’re doing that, a concert’s going to be happening down the block at McLevy Green, part of Bridgeport’s Downtown Thursdays program. Tonight a band called Amy Lynn & The Gun Show is playing, which makes me sort of want to sneak out for a few minutes to see what they’re all about.

Here are the details if you want to come: 5-8 p.m. at Made in Bridgeport in the Arcade Mall. Wear a 1940s noir costume or a trenchcoat, and there will probably have to be a reading, but I will make it short. Promise. We’ve got mysteries to solve.

Book: launched.

Eagle and the Arrow, book, author

I did a little reading in a big room.

Last night was the launch party for The Eagle & The Arrow at Fairfield University in Connecticut. It was incredible. In fact, I’m still recovering.

Fairfield University let me throw the party in the lobby of the Kelley Center, and 50 people from so many areas of my life came to celebrate. People actually came in from out of state for this, including the wonderful reviewer Ally of Word Vagabond, who drove seven hours to join us, half the staff of Geek Eccentric and my amazing editor N. Apythia Morges, who not only drove for hours, but helped us set up, break down, introduced my reading, urged people to rate my books online, and took all my photos.

Speaking of which, I have many, many photos to share. Check this album on my Facebook page to see them all. If you were there, feel free to tag yourself!

If you missed the party and wanted to come, no worries. I have an awesome event coming up: A Trench Coat Party.

That will be happening on Thursday July 18 at Made in Bridgeport in – you guessed it – Bridgeport, CT.

I will be writing more about that soon.

I interviewed a LOT of people for The Hour. And now The Hour has interviewed me.

This is just a quick post, because I’m very excited about this article.

My old newspaper, the one that employed me for almost a decade, wrote an article about me and my book. How cool is that?

Maybe I shouldn’t be this excited. But for a long time, being an Hour reporter was a big part of my identity. I sent (what seems like) millions of emails to potential sources, starting with “Hi, my name is A.J., I’m a reporter for The Hour and I’m wondering if you are available for an interview…” Sometimes I wondered what it would be like to be interviewed myself. So, to get one of those interview inquiry emails from the paper I worked for, and from the person who actually took my position when I left, was kind of amazing.

Anyways, check out the article, by Leslie Lake of The Hour Newspapers. It made my day.

Do you know of a great book reviewer? I want to know.

Eagle & The ArrowThis is a crowd-sourcing kind of post. I want you guys to tell me where to send my book.

Yesterday I started sending review copies of The Eagle & The Arrow to a few fantastic book reviewers with whom I have relationships, and also to an elite group of super-readers. (I like to call them The Resistance. Because why not.)

But now it’s time to open things up and start sending review e-copies of my book to reviewers I don’t know. So I thought I’d open this up here: Do you know of, or really like a book review site to which I should be sending The Eagle & The Arrow? Or are you a book reviewer (for this effort, I’m looking for people who write reviews for either book review sites, blogs or publications)? 

Let me know. Leave a comment with the name of the site or shoot me an email or tweet me or Facebook message me and tell me where you think I should send my review copies. Or fill out this form (I’m all about options):

You send me a recommendation and I will send an e-book galley to that site. I will write them a note and mention you by name and tell them that you loved them so much that you recommended them to me.

So tell me, who should I be emailing? I want to know.

First look at the cover of my new book.

The cover art for The Eagle & The Arrow is here!

The Eagle & The Arrow, book, A.J. O'Connell, Vagabondage, Battered Suitcase, Beware the Hawk

It’s here!

What I love about this cover is that although it’s visually similar to the cover of Beware the Hawk, I think it communicates the atmosphere of the second book beautifully. The Eagle & The Arrow continues the story started in Beware the Hawk, but features a new protagonist, a fresh set of dangers and a much different setting. As you can probably tell from the cover, these characters aren’t living in safehouses and fighting in bars. If the characters in the last book were pawns, these new characters are the chessmasters.

I’m very excited; this cover art represents a lot of work on the part of Vagabondage Press‘s art director, Maggie Ward,  and on the part of my editor, N. Apythia Morges.  I think Maggie put something like eight or nine possible covers, (including one we all loved, which couldn’t be used because the art we wanted was suddenly unavailable.)

I was very lucky to be allowed input into my cover. From what I understand, authors often don’t get a say; the cover is the responsibility of the the publishing house’s graphic arts department. I’m thrilled that I was allowed to make requests; I really, really loved the cover of Beware The Hawk, so much so, that I wanted the cover of the sequel to look consistent. Maggie obliged and here we are.

If you want a closer look at the cover, or to comment on it, visit my Facebook page. There is a photo album there for my book covers.

I do hope you like the cover as much as I do; you’ll be seeing a lot of it in the coming months as I start to ramp up promotion of the book, which comes out in June. I can’t wait, myself.

(Even more) Blood and seashells

So the other day I posted about how I spent my Monday night up to my elbows in fake blood in our bathtub for the sake of my career.

I took several photos for the cover of my e-short story about a killer sea god. Now the fake blood stains are finally fading from my palms, but I have another problem: I don’t know which photo to choose for the cover.

So because you all rock and probably have exquisite taste, I want your help. I’ve put four of these photos up on Facebook.*  Head over there and tell me which one you like best.  I trust your input.

And while you’re there, please like me. When you have strange hobbies like I do, it’s good to know that you’re liked.

*It’s currently an untitled album because Facebook is freaking out and won’t let me edit the album, but bear with me.

February: 2013 goals

It’s February 1, and that means that for me, it’s time for a little accountability as I look back on my first month of progress on my goals for 2013. I’m going to be honest; although I made some progress, I’m not all that happy about the things I haven’t done.

Don’t care about my goals?
Here’s your other option: Meet Kid President, the adorable star of a highly-produced video that probably has a hidden agenda but is still uplifting and really cute:

On to the goals.

My novel: This year I’m resolving to spend the first hour of every weekday working on my novel until it’s done, no matter what other projects come along.
As it turns out, the first hour of my day is not actually the most productive hour of my day. All I’m good for in that hour is catching up on email and basic chores. So that “first hour of the day thing” isn’t happening. I did – until two weeks ago – write my novel for an hour daily. Now I’m working off weekly goals. I’m hoping to get back to hourly goals next week.

Marketing: My goal is to spend an hour of each weekday working on marketing projects, including the upkeep of this blog, my social networks, reading up on marketing and emails to bookstores and libraries and reviewers.
I did a good job of this up until last week when I became slammed with deadlines and projects. I have been keeping up my writing-related social networks and the blog, however.

Making a marketing plan for my new book: I have not put together a marketing plan yet.

Publishing: My goal is to publish three things that aren’t my upcoming book this year.
I’ve sent out two essays in the last month. I am optimistic that they will be published since they were solicited, but you never know.

Reading: My goal is to read 33 books in 2013, including one by Jane Austin and one by Charles Dickens.
I’ve read five so far, including Pride and Prejudice. Let the reading binge continue!

Conferences: Attend at least one new conference or retreat.
I’m going to AWP in March. I’m all signed up. But it’s not exactly the new conference I was looking for, since I’ve been there before. I’ve also joined both Sisters in Crime and the New England Horror Writers this January, so maybe they will be at a conference I can attend.

Grants: Apply for at least three fellowships or grants.
I’ve begun the process of applying for an NEA grant.

Weight: I feel most comfortable when I weigh within a certain five-pound range, and I am always two pounds away from that five pound range. For 2013, I would like to get within that range and stay there.
For the first time in a couple of years, I’m within my goal! I dropped into my range last week. The challenge will be to remain within the five pound range for 12 months rather than slacking off or getting over-enthused about losing weight, which is what I tend to do.

Punctuality: I’ve been a late for everything since childhood. In an effort to put a stop to this, I’ve decided to put a dollar into a mason jar whenever I’m late for anything, and donate it to charity in a year.
I’m doing okay. Ish. I made it to my New Haven writing group on time this past month (I’m almost always late whenever I go to New Haven, so that’s progress), but I haven’t been perfect. So far, I owe $3 to a worthy cause. Better start reviewing charities so I can choose a recipient for my funds.

My big-picture goal: I’ve planned to look into all political issues I can, and make up my mind about how I really feel about them.
Yeah. I haven’t done anything on this in the last month.

Taking a shot at relentless optimism.

By Arthur Waley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

I like positivity as much as the next person, and I try to stay positive on social media, because, well, it’s social media. If you have a Facebook account you’ve seen the virtual train wreck that happens when people go negative: grown-ups posting anonymous, passive aggressive messages as statuses, private grievances aired out before 500 of one’s closest friends, obscenity-laden messages to people you’ve never met who blast loud music or cut you off in traffic.

But you know what’s equally horrifying? The cult of relentless optimism. You know who I’m talking about: the people who profess to never say anything negative, for whom affirmations are a way of life and who repress their negative thoughts until, presumably, they go around grinning grotesquely, like victims of The Joker in the 1989 Batman movie.

Why bash positive thinking? Well, I’ve tried it. I self-helped for years. In that time, I self-affirmed and envisioned and made vision boards and sent good, warm, rose-colored energy out into the universe.  I’ve self-hypnotized. I’ve tried to banish the word “should” from my vocabulary. And, as someone who is despite my best efforts, still on Tony Robbins’ mailing list, I can tell you that not only does relentless positivity not work, it’s also annoying.

Enter a breath of fresh air.

NPR’s All Things Considered ran this interview on Tuesday, making my evening. The gist? Author Oliver Burkeman has written a book that states the opposite of what most self-help books tell us: that relentless optimism actually makes people more miserable.

The book is called The Antidote and the message is refreshing, even if it seems like common sense.

Here’s a quote from Burkeman’s interview with NPR’s  Audie Cornish:

I think that what is counterproductive about all these efforts that involve struggling very, very hard to achieve a specific emotional state is that by doing that, you often achieve the opposite.

I’m someone who is irritable a lot, and I kind of enjoy being irritable. Being ecstatic 24/7 is not my natural state. So I agree that denying ourselves the full range of our emotions by concentrating only on the positive would be like trying to exist by eating only carbohydrates.

You might love carbs, but your body can’t exist without fats or proteins, and still remain healthy. Speaking for myself, I cannot live on happiness alone. I need rage, nerves and a side of the blues to be mentally healthy, and I doubt I’m alone in this.

Check out the NPR link above for more info. Burkeman’s put the crosshairs on both self-help and the cult of optimism, and that, ironically, makes me happy.