I signed books this weekend in the college bookstore where I once bought a lot of books.

Trinity book signing

Alumni and faculty book signing at Trinity College.

And now from the department of Hey, Guess What I Forgot to Announce:
I was part of a book signing at Trinity College’s Reunion Weekend on Saturday. I loved it, but not gonna lie: it was also very strange. (I never thought I’d be signing books in the store I spent so much money in as an undergrad.)

I’m just posting one photo here, but the rest are over on my Facebook page.

I was there with A.J. Kohlhepp, Todd Coopee, Peter Swanson, Jennifer Prescott, Paul Sullivan, Paul Assaiante, and Lucy Ferriss, Trinity’s writer-in-residence. It was a good mix of veteran writers, new writers, fiction, nonfiction, YA, adult, New York Times best-sellers, self-published and indie writers. You should obviously check them all out.

A room of my own.

Virginia Woolf is famous for saying that a woman needs money and a room of her own if she’s going to write fiction. This week, I finally have a room of my own again.

It’s been almost a whole year since I packed my office up.

My son was no longer a newborn and needed to move out of our room and into his own space. So I packed up my writing books, my notes, 80,000 drafts of my novel, my office supplies, my Gandalf and Obi Wan Kenobi action figures and everything else I’ve managed to accumulate over the last 15 years of my career and moved my desk to a corner of our bedroom.

Then we moved, and I had my own room again, but since we moved during the holidays, all the boxes we didn’t want people to see got hidden in my office. Then my son’s playpen got moved in. And while it was a room, and mine, it was filled with crap, and I could find nothing in it.

Oh, you need to use the printer? YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

Oh, you need to use the printer?
YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

After a few months of working in this disaster, I took some time this week to find all the boxes that contained my office. I still don’t know where about 20 percent of my things are, but I found and unpacked most of them. (Including Gandalf. I losy Obi-Wan, but I like to think there’s a little blue action-figure Force ghost floating around in here.)

My office is back. I can find my notes. I can find my stapler and the extra ink for the printer. And most importantly, I have a room of my own again. It’s not perfect. The walls in here still need to be plastered and painted, which means I will have to move everything again. (I refuse to think of that right now.)

Now I just need some money.

A Writing Day. (Or, a Writing Couple Of Hours. Same thing, really.)

Today is a writing day for me!

A good ol’ fiction-writing extravaganza day. Today, I do my favorite thing in the world: make stuff up.

w00t for a writing day!

Well. Actually, it’s not really a writing day. It’ s really a writing couple of hours. I’ve set the day aside, and my mother has agreed to watch the baby, but between feedings, packing the computer and the manuscript and the child in the car, travel time, catching up with my mother and lunch, it’s a writing couple of hours, not a writing day.

But that’s fine, because these couple of hours make it possible for me to have several stay-at-home-mom days and freelance writing days without losing my mind. Just knowing that these couple of hours are going to happen at least once a week enables me to spend days vacuuming, and washing diapers without feeling guilt about my work. Guilt is the worst.*

I’m planning to publish a lengthier post about writing with a baby and how I’m trying to make it work. (I’ve been drafting it, during naptimes, for something like three or four weeks. I’m not even kidding.)

But for now, I’m going to work on my fiction. Because I have the time.

*And my mother is the best.

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.

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.

Not wind, nor rain, nor very loud music can stop vendors at street festivals.

bridgeport arts festDespite a downpour and gusts of wind that nearly lifted our tent off the street, The Bridgeport Arts Fest was a lot of fun. I worked at Made in Bridgeport’s table, saw some friends, met some new people, and handed out a lot of fliers for this Thursday’s Trench Coat party (5-8 p.m. on Thursday, July 18 at Made in Bridgeport).

For more (and better pictures) check out my Facebook author page. Some are mine, some were taken by me on my phone, and most were contributed by people who are better photographers than I am.

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.

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.

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.