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.

I’ll be at Books & Boos on Saturday, and I’m only reading the scary parts.

Reading, books and boos, beware the hawk

The Books and Boos ghost.

If you live in Connecticut and love to be frightened, you should probably take a drive up to Books & Boos in Colchester, a brand new bookstore, located in an old yellow house at a crossroads. The house is old enough to look as if it could be haunted, which would be appropriate, because the bookstore’s logo is a ghost and its stock-in-trade is horror.

I’m going to be there, reading the scariest parts of my book at 12 p.m. this Saturday.

Not that I write horror, but lucky for me and other local authors, Books & Boos supports and showcases the work of authors from across New England. A display in the front of the store is packed with local authors.  When I was there I saw a book about building outhouses, a children’s book, graphic novels and Bad Apple, a book by fellow VBP author Kristi Petersen Schoonover.

Also, something that tickled my geek streak? When I toured Books and Boos with co-owner Stacey Longo last month, I walked past a glass case containing pillows shaped like blood spatters and old-school Scully and Mulder X-Files action figures.

Beware the Hawk and I are in bloody good company. Come visit in Colchester. The fun starts at 12 p.m. I’ll make it as scary as possible.beware the hawk banner

January appearance in Colchester, Conn. and other bookish news.

Hello folks. Just a brief post to make a couple of announcements:

First off, I will be appearing in January at Books and Boos, a brand spanking new bookstore in Colchester, Conn. I will be talking more about the appearance as it approaches, but here are the basics – I will be reading on Saturday, Jan. 19 from 12 to 2 p.m. They will also be carrying Beware the Hawk, in case you happen to be in the area when I’m not there.

I will be the second VBP author to be reading there; on Saturday, Dec. 8, Kristi Petersen Schoonover will be there to read from her book, Bad Apple.

In other news, I’ve finished the very first draft of the sequel to Beware the Hawk! This is only the first step in a chain of drafts. I still have a lot of work to do before I can even hand it to my editor, and I can’t guarantee that she will accept it, but if she does, you can bet that the story will go through a lot of changes before it makes it out into the world.

So the big news here is that the draft exists, which is huge for me, because one of my writing fears is that I will fail to imagine a full plot. Now that the plot is in place, I’m free to go back into the story and refine what I have.

That’s it. I hope you’ve all been enjoying the long holiday weekend.

Come see me tonight in Stamford, CT!

Hey kid, got a case of the Mondays?

Let me see if I can help with that. Come down to Stamford, CT tonight. Why? I will be reading from Beware the Hawk at Barnes & Noble at the Stamford Town Center as part of the store’s monthly poetry night. The event begins at 8 p.m.

There will be other folks reading as well. Hey… there’s an idea. You could sign up to read too.

So come read with me tonight at 8 p.m. in Stamford. Together, we will read your Monday blues away.

Pics from last week’s reading at the Watertown Library

The official photographer* has sent me photos from my e-book talk and reading of Beware the Hawk at the Watertown Library last week. I’m only going to share a few shots with you here because there are something like 20 very high-res photos and, also, I know all of the people in the photos, so reading the captions for all of them would read like a trip down memory lane.  But here are a few shots. Let me know if you can find the hawk circling outside the window. I’m told it was there, but I can’t find one in the photo.

Deborah Weinberger, president of the Watertown Library Association, speaks about the library's new collection of e-books and provides the introduction. Note the "e-book" balloons to the right and left.

I speak about e-books, clutching my index cards as if I could absorb all the information written on them through the skin of my fingers.

Me with one of my parents' neighbors during the book signing. I used to get in all sorts of trouble in her yard. I fell out of one of her trees, I accidentally injured her daughter's bunny, I contributed to the decay of shrubs on her property by building a fort in the hedge... In fact, now that I think about it, it's a wonder she came out to the reading.

This is Mr. Fava, formerly of Watertown High School. I was assigned to his study hall as a freshman. I did no homework in this study hall. Instead I wrote novels. I am proud to say that you will never, ever see any of those novels.

And that's my grandmother.

UPDATE & CONFESSION:  I misused an apostrophe in the original title of this post; the one that went out to Twitter and Facebook as a status update. I wrote “weeks’” instead of “week’s.” I know. Not a big deal. Still, I’ve posted about apostrophe abuse so often that I feel I must own up to all apostrophe crimes. Feel free to report me to Strunk & White.

* My dad.

Last night’s author event at the Watertown Library.

Photo taken by my husband during a smoke break.

Wow. I’m still a little overwhelmed by last night’s reading at the Watertown Library. Going into the event, I was having nightmares that I’d walk in to see hundreds of folding chairs and that only a few would be filled by my family and by the folks who work at the library.

In reality I walked into a room decorated with balloons bearing the world “e-book.” There were just barely enough seats for the people who came out to hear the lecture and reading. And those people included my friends’ parents and siblings, my neighbors when I was growing up, the people who employed me when I was a teenager, a high school teacher and his wife, and of course my family.*

I was kind of nervous, even with all the familiar faces. I’ve done readings before – but always as part of a group. This was just me, and part of the event was a lecture about e-books. I’ve been doing a lot of research about e-books lately and I had note cards and everything, but there was this one dreadful moment when everything I knew just disappeared and I accidentally entered that blank-slate state of mind that I’ve been trying – and failing – to cultivate during meditation. Holy horrible timing, Batman. But then the moment passed, and everything from that point on went smoothly.

One of the most thrilling things about last night: there were people I don’t know in the audience, including a 13-year-old writer who wants to have his own book published someday. I used to be the 13-year-old going to readings with my parents. I don’t think he could possibly know how much it meant to me to sign his copy of Beware the Hawk (even though I told him to wait a few years before reading it.) It’s the circle of life, people.

Speaking of circling, I read with my back to a huge window, and I’m told that a hawk was flying around on the other side of the glass during the reading. As I posted on my Facebook author page last night, I want to try to duplicate this experience by naming future titles after animals that might appear outside of a library window. I’ll name the next one Beware the Squirrel. Or something. There is an interesting discussion about possible common-animal book titles going on over there right now.

Thank you so much, Watertown Library, Friends of the Watertown Library, and people of Oakville and Watertown. You’ve made me so happy.

*My father took scads of photos last night. I will post them when I get them.

 

 

I’m reading at the Watertown Library! (And not silent reading like when I used to do my homework there.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that I will be doing my very first reading in just a little less than two weeks at the Watertown Library in Watertown, Connecticut.

This reading, which will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday March 28, will be very special because Watertown is kind of my hometown.* Also special? My mother worked for the library when I was growing up. She worked at the Oakville branch of the library and did all the story hours there for years. So I spent most of my time there during grade school and middle school. I shelved books and did my homework and occasionally had to be told off for being too rowdy.

And that may be what happens again, because I’m hoping to draw a big crowd to the Watertown Library’s main branch on the evening of March 28.

Here’s the deal: Watertown Library included e-books in their collection on the first of March. Because my book is an e-book, I’m going to give a talk about my experience publishing an e-book and then do some reading. And then? We party. Responsibly, and in a literary fashion, of course. I have no idea where people go to party on a Wednesday night in Watertown these days. If I’m honest, I didn’t even know where to party in Watertown when I was living there. But no worries, we’ll figure something out.

Warning: Parents of young children, my book has language in it. Not language, but language. Also, it has situations in it, which cannot be bleeped out the way language can. I will do my best to read responsibly, but my book contains adult material and I don’t recommend bringing the kids to hear me read.

Hope to see you all there!

*Actually I’m from Oakville, which is a big neighborhood/”census-designated place” in Watertown, but to people who aren’t from there, it’s basically the same thing as being from Watertown.