Books & Boos is a really cool independent bookstore

indie bookstore, books and boos, colchester, ct

Books and Boos in winter.

If you live in New London County in Connecticut, you might be aware of a really cool little bookstore in your backyard. Or, you might not, in which case, you should definitely look into Books & Boos, a store in Colchester owned by two of the founding members of the New England Horror Association.

The shop is a treasure trove of used books, local crafts and books from local authors.

I love used book stores. I can spend hours in them. But I really love this bookstore, because even though it’s far from Bridgeport and I can’t browse there regularly, the owners have been kind to me. They’ve agreed to carry both my books. They had me at the shop for a reading one weekend, and despite the fact that I didn’t bring in hordes of fans, alá Stephen King, they’ve agreed to have me back on Sept. 8 anyhow.

 I’d like to return that favor by flooding the store with people on Sunday, Sept. 8. I want people to see what the store is like and get to know the owners. I want people to see the crochet Cthulus (yes, these exist) and the Edgar Allen Poe paintings and the handcrafted bookmarks and the piles and piles of books.

If you’re in New London County or Middletown and haven’t yet been to Books & Boos, come down at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8 and get to know the store and the owners. Used bookstores are becoming rare. Awesome used bookstores are even more so.

LAST MINUTE UPDATE: Books & Boos is looking for help! They want to move to a better location in downtown Colchester – and they’ve started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise the money they’ll need for that move. (Click on the link to get a tour of the store.)

Interview over at The Write Connexion

A quick note: Gabi Coatsworth, the author behind our locally-based writing blog, The Write Connexion, did an interview with me last week and it’s live right now. I had a great time answering her questions  — Gabi knows how to write a good question — so head over to the Write Connexion and check it out.

While you’re over there, poke around. Gabi collects information that is useful for both readers and writers. If you live in my area of the world (Connecticut), the blog can be quite a resource.

Also, I’m kind of geeking out because the creator of Authorgraph (the service that allows authors to autograph e-books) left a comment, and mentioned a new Authorgraph app, which would be very helpful for me during book signings when someone buys a book through his or her phone or reader. Oh Authorgraph, I love that service. I’d I could sign more books through it (hint hint people with my e-book.

When everyone decided to read aloud.

trenchcoat party. Just a quick note: I had so much fun at the trench coat party at Made in Bridgeport last night. (Want more photos? Check my author page on Facebook.)

Despite the heat, people did actually arrive in trench coats (and my mother showed up, dressed like this photo of Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote. QUALITY.)

There was even a party game in which a noir stereotype was taped to everyone’s back and people had to figure out who they were by asking each other yes or no questions.

I came up with the list of stereotypes, with the help of the folks on my Twitter feed, so I take full responsibility for this:

harlot

Sorry about this.

My favorite part of the evening came during the reading. It was a small crowd (thanks, heatwave!) so someone suggested that instead of me doing the reading, we should all take turns reading a paragraph from The Eagle & The Arrow.

Now, when I read, I get self-conscious. All sorts of things go through my head: Did I just skip a word? Does it work better with the skipped word than it does on the page? Did I mean to use the passive voice there? I wonder if I’m boring them. I wonder if my publisher would let me re-write that bit. Maybe I’ll just skip it. I can’t wait to get away from this stool/table/podium. I’m thirsty; I need water. No. I need wine. NO. I need whiskey. Is it ten minutes yet? Did my voice just crack?

Because I know I will do this, I choose short readings. But as a group? We went through the whole first chapter, (some of us using funny voices.) It might have been the first time I’ve ever heard someone else (10 other someones, actually) reading my work aloud, and it was amazing. I could hear my own story, being read to me. Suddenly, I was no longer self conscious, and, actually, a little emotional.

Anyways, it was a great event. I have a couple more scheduled this summer (one tomorrow in Mystic, CT and one I’m confirming for next month.) But none of them will match this one, unless the whole audience decides to pick up a copy of the book and read aloud with me.

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.

Trench Coat Party: It’s more than a reading/signing

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

Like lots of authors, I’ve done a lot of readings and signings. Most events are pretty much the same, agenda-wise: People arrive, hobnob, the author reads, there’s a book sale/signing, and people leave.  It’s not a bad thing, but most are the same.

Well., bust out your fedora and magnifying glass, because thanks to a local shop owner, the next event I’m doing is going to shake up this format.

It’s a Trench Coat Party. To celebrate The Eagle & The Arrow, Made in Bridgeport, a local store, is throwing a party with costumes, a prize for best costume, a mystery to be solved and of course refreshments. This is on Thursday, July 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. The Facebook invite is here.

This party is the idea of Robin Gilmore, who owns Made in Bridgeport. Here’s her release:

From press release:

Help me kick off author A.J. O’Connell’s newest book, “The Eagle & the Arrow”, her second book. The author will do a reading and signing of this mystery, thriller here at Made In Bridgeport. Also pick up A.J’s first book, “Beware the Hawk” celebrate her work and bring some Q & A for the author about her stories, her roots and her writing experiences.
To add intrigue and suspense to the evening, create a vintage trench coat, gumshoe, spy, private dick look and if you are picked as most convincing P.I. (Private Investigator) you will win a gift certificate for $25 toward Made In Bridgeport Designed Jewelry. So join us in a cool setting with snacks, libations and party faire! Find your fedora, your fem fatale feathered boa, and definitely wear your tenacious trench for this event of vintage fun and fashionable flair.
In the meantime keep your eye out for Made In Bridgeport’s New Window Design ( Coming Soon) to showcase “A Month of Authors”. Pay attention to symbols and clues in the window and be the first to solve the “Mystery at the Arcade”.

I know that during a heat wave like the one we’re living through now, it’s hard to think about being in costume, especially a costume designed to keep people warm and dry, BUT keep an open mind, because you can also dress as a femme fatale, or any other classic noir stock character. Be creative!

Also, know that the party will take place during Bridgeport’s Downtown Thursdays, which also include live music on the McLevy Green and other activities. A lot will be going on that evening. Please join us; I’m so excited about this.

The Eagle & The Arrow comes out next Tuesday (this year’s launch is waaay different than last year’s.)

Deep breaths. I’m gearing up for The Eagle & The Arrow‘s release next Tuesday.

The build-up to The Eagle & The Arrow’s release date has been so different from last year’s release of Beware the Hawk. I guess that makes sense. I had some time to prepare this year. I knew what worked well last time and what didn’t work so well.

Last year I promoted intensely on this blog and within my MFA community. I emailed a lot of reviewers who didn’t respond to me. I concentrated on a blog tour. There are worse things than doing a book tour in one’s pajamas, but I got the feeling that I was playing it too safe with Beware the Hawk.

This year, I decided to get out of my comfort zone a little. I tried some things I didn’t do last year. In some cases it’s meant reaching out to people and asking them for something. In some cases it’s meant putting money into promo. And in some it’s meant opening myself up for what could be a metric buttload of criticism. At this stage in the game, it’s hard to know what’s working and what’s not, but I am pretty certain that these items are going onto A.J.’s Standard Book Promotion Plan from now on:

  • I reached out on Goodreads by giving away copies of Beware the Hawk. That turned out to be incredible because bonus: a lot of people added my book. I’ve gotten pretty good at international postage in the past three weeks. I’ve sent copies to Serbia, Canada and Bulgaria. Next week, I plan to give away some copies of the Eagle & The Arrow.
  • I asked two authors I know and respect for blurbs for this book. I don’t like bugging people for blurbs but these blurbs helped a lot – I can use them on my promo materials and it’s always awesome when someone you respect writes something nice about your book, especially during a point in the publication process when I tend to doubt myself.
  • I’ve planned a book release party for the end of June, and sent invites to all the people I think might be interested, or who were supportive of the last book. (Ahem – if you’re interested send me a note or comment and I will send you details.) I also sent it out to local media. (Not the media I used to work for – other media that does not know me.) Can’t hurt.
  • I sent out books to reviewers I’ve worked with before and then asked for new reviewers who might be interested in doing reviews to contact me. I got a few answers and met one really cool new reviewer.
  • Lastly, I sent advance reader copies of my e-book to a small group of readers who were supportive of Beware the Hawk. These people were really good to me and my first book, so I figured it was only fair for them to get the first look at the sequel.

This book promo plan is obviously still in process. I want to try some new things. I’ve gotten a couple of interesting suggestions from friends. I belong to two author groups (Sisters in Crime & The New England Horror Writers) and I want to get more active with them. I want to go to Thrillerfest. I want to book some readings at places I have not read before. (I’m also open to any crazy suggestions anyone has for me.)

Mostly, I just want to meet readers. I had some success with that last year and it’s like a drug to meet someone who is excited about your work.

We have a winner! My protagnist has been named!

In a week, The Eagle & The Arrow will be released.  With review copies out already and with Amazon’s uncertain release dates, I cannot keep this secret any longer: the year-long naming contest has been ended and the nameless protagonist in Beware the Hawk has been named!

Who won? What’s the name already? Hold your horses, kids. First, let me dish out a little background:

About a year ago, when I first began to gather and organize my notes to write a sequel to Beware the Hawk, I realized that I had a story-telling problem. As I wrote on this blog at the time:

My book, Beware the Hawk, features an unnamed protagonist, because I really love not naming first-person narrators. Which works well sometimes but not always.  It worked well for the original novella, but what if the character were to appear in other stories? She won’t be able to get through another storyline unnamed. I’ve been calling her Pink in private, but that’s not a real name. You know, like Jane, or Bob, or Ponyboy.

I needed to start work on what would turn out to be but Pink was simply not going to get through a new story without a name. And so I called upon my readers last summer to give her one. The winner would get to name Pink and get a signed, free copy of the next installment of her book.

There were many very special entries (including Devon Sharktopus) but these were the three finalists, chosen by me because I liked all three:

Vanessa Pye, submitted by Daisy Abreu
Hendrikke Penelope Brackensfeld, submitted by Beth Callahan
Harleigh McManus, submitted by Karen Morrissey Covey

Then I asked readers to vote for their favorite names. And like Zarathusra, they spake thus:

The winner is…

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