Chapter 1 of DinoLand debuts today!

Chapter 1 of DinoLand is live over at Geek Eccentric right now. DinoLand, Ch. 1I’ve just run around the house yelling “Ahhhhh, it’s alive” and now that I’m settled down, I’m posting here while I can sit still.

If you like dinosaurs, sci-fi, or thrillers head over to Geek Eccentric and check out Chapter 1. If you really like it, return on the first Sunday of each month for a new chapter.

(FYI: I’m going to be changing this page today so that you’ll be able to access the latest DinoLand chapters right from the menu at the top.)

I really, really, hope you enjoy this. Rawr.

 

One of my novels is being published as serial fiction! (And there are dinosaurs.)

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

I have some pretty awesome publishing news. Are you ready? Get ready.

Geek Eccentric, a site I’ve been working with for a year now, will be serializing a novel of mine, DinoLand, starting on Sunday, March 2, and running the first Sunday of each month.

I’ve been working with an artist, the fabulous Max Farinato, on this project, and I am excited to be able to finally share this news with you all.

DinoLand is a book I started working on several years ago, as a National Novel Writing Month project. I’d planned it as a novel, but after Margaret Atwood’s success with the webserial Positron, I’ve been interested in trying that route myself.

What’s DinoLand about?
DinoLand is set in a sprawling, Disney World-like amusement park which has introduced live dinosaurs as an attraction. The park saved a dying mill town and its leader is revered as a genius and a hero for his work. However, a new attraction is being planned, one that may not be as beloved as the herd of Brachiosaurs.

We need to talk about Jurassic Park.
Let’s address the pink Tricerotops in the room. This theme park hasn’t got much to do with Michael Crichton’s Costa Rican Island, or even with Velociraptors. The park in this book is very different from the one in Jurassic Park. Let me put it this way: the real monsters in this book aren’t the big lizards.

Rawr.
Have I mentioned that I’m excited about this? Because I am. So. Excited. I’m a little nervous about starting a webserial around the same time that I have a baby, but this is a project I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I hope you’ll be interested too. So stay tuned for more announcements, links and posts. Let’s get prehistoric!

My galley proof is here, and I have a lot of feelings about it.

The proof of my new book, The Eagle and the Arrow, arrived on Monday, causing me so much agitation I couldn’t write for the rest of the day, so I took a bunch of photos that looked like this and posted them on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo 34

Shamelessness: Just one of the reasons you should follow me on social media.

Here’s the thing, though; excited as I am when a galley (a proof, galley or galley proof is a preliminary version of a book) arrives on my doorstep, I’m also filled with dread. Why? Because when the galley proof arrives, that means I have to sit down and read the whole thing.

I know that probably sounds weird. But now, a month before the book itself is released is the absolute worst time for me to sit down and read it, because at this point in the process, I am always convinced that whatever it is I’m publishing – in this case, my book – is the most horrendous thing I’ve ever written.

 I ride a roller coaster of self-consiousness when I’m writing and publishing. it goes a little something like this:

  1. When I first write something, minutes after my fingers have lifted from the keyboard, I’m convinced that I’m a genius.
  2. When I look at it again, I regain my sanity and revise.
  3. When I revise again, after my writers’ group has seen it, I’m once again convinced that I’m brilliant.
  4. Then I submit it somewhere, and am certain that it’s the worst thing I, or anyone else, has ever written.
  5. If it’s accepted, I believe I’m a genius again.
  6. If it’s rejected, I also believe I’m a genius, but that no one appreciates me and that somehow makes me more awesome and when I die an old hermit, someone will discover my manuscripts under hundreds of tins of cat food and realize I was a genius and then people will teach graduate courses about my work.
  7. When the publisher and I start work on rewrites, I regain my sanity for a while.
  8. But when the rewrites are done, the copy editors have done their thing, and it’s time for me to read the galley proof before it’s finalized and sent out to reviewers, I hit my biggest low since Step 4 and I believe that this book is the crappiest crap to ever have been written in English or any other language.
  9. I also go through a mini version of this whenever I stand up to read from my work to a group of people.
The Eagle & The Arrow, book, A.J. O'Connell, Vagabondage, Battered Suitcase, Beware the Hawk

It’s here!

Why do I do this? I don’t know. At this point in the process, several sets of eyes have been over it and the book is certainly better than it was back when I thought I was a genius.

Maybe it’s because the reviewers will be the next people who read this and OH MY GOD THEY MIGHT HATE IT. Maybe it’s because after the reviewers read it, everyone else will be able to read it and OH MY GOD THEY MIGHT HATE IT.

Although the insanity doesn’t last long; last year, when my first book came out, a couple of weeks after the release, after I forced myself to look at my reviews on Amazon, and then I was fine. I’m hoping that’s what happens this time, too.

And so my first reaction, after the galley arrives is to be very excited about it and then to carry it around in my purse but not read it for a day or so. And then when I try to read it that thing happens where I read the same page three times but no words actually get from the page to my brain.

Luckily I have my husband, who reads the whole galley first, points out errors, and then, somehow it’s easier for me to read it.

The thing that makes me feel extra divaish about all this is that I’ve only published short stories and novellas. I can sit down and read my books in a few hours. I can’t imagine what it would be like to publish a full-length novel and have to sit down and read through the whole proof by the end of the week.

Someday, though, I intend to find out.

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.

Tamela Ritter’s ‘From These Ashes’ is released today!

Tamela J. Ritter, From These Ashes, Battered SuitcaseI am so excited. My friend Tamela Ritter’s novel, “From These Ashes” was released today!

I will be writing about this more in the future, but I asked her for a quote about her first release so I could post about it, and here’s what she said:

“Having a hard time wrapping my mind around it, but if Amazon says it, it must be true: Today is the day this story and its characters FINALLY live in the world, not just my mind!”

Those characters live in my mind too, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. I first read the novel 10 years ago, when it was differently titled and we were in a writers’ group together.

I loved the novel; it’s a coming of age story, told in flashback from the point of view of a Native American teenager who is living in a cult recovery center. She and her brother had been traveling the U.S. in search of a home, and then… something happens.

I cannot wait to read it again. If you love Sherman Alexie, Native American tales, the American West (her writing always reads to me like a love letter to the land), or if you just love a good story, check it out.

I’ll post more about it later. Just as soon as I’ve got my copy.

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.

The sequel! (Because guess what? There’s going to be a sequel.)

Beware The Hawk novella

I am so excited to announce that there will be a sequel to Beware the Hawk!

I signed the contract with my publisher, Vagabondage Press, on Sunday and have been working this week on the first round of edits and revisions. I’m super-excited to share this news, and plan to be posting this spring about the process of getting ready for a release.

I’ve been hanging onto this news for a few days. In fact I announced it on my Facebook Page on Sunday, but for various reasons, I didn’t feel like I could post it here until now.

The fact that I found out Sunday morning doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been bubbling over with this news all week. I still can’t quite believe that I published one book. To be on the brink of publishing a second book is beyond my hopes.*

What can I tell you about this new book? Well, not much. The working title is The Eagle and the Arrow. The release date is looking like June. I’ve been working on the first draft of this piece since last March or February, but although it seems like I’ve spent an age on it, it’s still novella-length.

At the moment that’s all I can say, but as I continue to work with my editor over the next few months, I will be able to release more tidbits.

Also, I haven’t forgotten the winner of the naming contest. The protagonist of the last book now has a name, of course. The namer will find out who he/she is when the book is released this summer, and will get a copy of the new book as a prize.

Stay tuned for more. I am so excited to share this journey with you all.

*Literally. My ambition as a kid was always to write a book. I really never thought beyond that first publication. So maybe announcing it on the date of the supposed end of time is appropriate.

Spry is Live! (some favorites from the first issue of a new online journal.)

SpryA few months ago, I published an interview here with Erin Corriveau and Linsey Jayne, founders of Spry, a new literary journal that revels in the short form.

Well, my friends, Spry* is live.

Because Spry is about short powerful pieces, let me recommend three small pieces that pack a big punch: The Wake by Allie Marini Batts, a short piece which related personal disaster to natural disaster,  Genesis by Elizabeth Cooley, which imagines Western Civilization’s God as a creative child, and Reflections on my Parents’ Past, a surreal short story by Kate Alexander-Kirk, which furs the line between family member and beast.

These aren’t the only awesome pieces, of course, but they are some of my favorites. Please go to Sprylit.com and pick out your own faves.

*I’m proud to say that my MFA program is well represented in this issue. Erin and Linsey are as I’ve mentioned fellow Fairfield University MFA alums, but there are others involved. Classmate Cisco Covino is responsible for the ‘zine’s graphic design. Elizabeth Hilts and Barbara Wannamaker submitted essays which were accepted (and Spry only accepts blind submissions), and former faculty member and author Porochista Khakpour was featured in an interview.

The short form: An interview with the editors of ‘Spry,’ a new literary journal

Linsey Jayne and Erin Corriveau, founders of Spry Literary Magazine.
(Photo by James McCready.)

On Monday, I had the pleasure of g-chatting with Erin Corriveau and Linsey Jayne, the founders of Spry, a brand new literary journal.

I know both Erin and Linsey from our MFA program, and I was intrigued by their mentions on Facebook and Twitter of a new literary magazine dedicated to brief literature.

As someone who naturally writes short, I really wanted to find out more, and so I asked them for an interview. After g-chatting with them for an hour, I’m excited about their project, which will showcase short, powerful pieces of writing, and I hope all the writers who read this blog will be as well.

Below is the interview, which is divided into three parts with page breaks. Click through, and enjoy!

Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted over the internet and has been edited. Lols have been removed, g-chat typos have been corrected, and for the sake of clarity, some  sections of the interview have been moved around.

(Also, the ladies make reference to a “Third Semester Project.” That’s an academic project that Fairfield University makes its MFA students do in order to obtain their degree.)

What is Spry?

ASpryJ: So tell me about Spry. What distinguishes Spry from the other journals out there? What’s your vision for this publication?

Erin: Well, Linsey and I both studied “short” or “brief” literature during our third semester projects and we also really respect how well words are used when the space is limited. I’d say that what distinguishes Spry from other journals is the dedication we have to concise yet well-done writing.

AJ: So all the pieces in Spry are going to be super-brief?

Linsey: Yeah, we want to reward the bravery and power and experimentation that exists in shorter forms.

Erin: Ditto to LJ, that being said though….We’ve seen a lot of poetry that is concise to a fault (even though I wouldn’t really want to put it that way) I think we have a lot of poets sending us work that is quite sparse… While we don’t want epic poems, we also aren’t only searching for haikus.

AJ: That’s pretty cool. For short-form work, I’ve seen a lot of flash fiction journals, but not so many cross-genre journals dedicated to the short form. You’re accepting a few different genres, right?

Linsey: We sure are! We’re accepting submissions in creative nonfiction, short fiction, flash fiction and poetry.
Sorry. Flash anything, not just fiction.

Erin: Yes, and…. flash creative nonfiction too.

On Brevity:

AJ: This might seem like a silly question, but what’s the difference between flash and short fiction or non-fiction? Is there a word count cutoff? How does it work?

Erin: We had many discussions about this.

Technically Linsey is the expert here. I can say, though, that for our journal, fiction and creative nonfiction must be under 2500 words for the “normal genre” and then for the Flash category, all fiction and creative nonfiction must be under 750 words.
I don’t know if Linsey wants to speak more to how we came up with those numbers or anything, but I can say there was a lot of discussion…. and also a lot of forgetting what number we chose.

Linsey: I can if you’d like – in my Third Semester Project, I studied the superfine lines that exist between prose poetry and flash fiction (and flash fiction / short fiction), and while more often than not this is something that is dictated by the presentation of content, most publications seem to consider flash fiction as being around 750 words. Sometimes it’s a bit longer, no longer than 1,000 usually. So since our passions were driven by the shorter, more agile work of the economy of words, we stuck to the shorter end of that spectrum. And when I say flash fiction, again, I just mean flash prose.

Next section: Submitting to Spry, Issue One and Naming Spry