Beware the Hawk 3, or, my collection of crappy first pages.

It’s probably time for an update on my Beware The Hawk series.

It’s an update I’ve put off, because I am having some trouble with the last book.

It’s not that I’m not writing it. I am. I started writing months ago.

The problem is, I haven’t gotten very far, because for about six months, all I could write was the first page. I’m not even kidding: Every time I sat down to write, I looked at Page One, hated it, and wrote a new beginning.

I now have a collection of crappy first pages. They’re everywhere: in my journals, on my old laptop, on my new laptop, on my phone. I think I even dictated one to myself in the car. If the public were hungry for an anthology of bad first pages, I’d be booking readings right now.

Please allow me to share my very favorite crappy sentence from my very favorite crappy first page:

“I’m going to find that thing. I don’t know what it was. I don’t know what happened to it.”

That thing. Is it the plot? The narrative voice? The author’s train of thought? We may never know, because I have no memory of writing this line. It’s like that time I sleep-wrote half a page during NaNoWriMO.

Anyway, I am happy to report that, in the last two months, I finally managed to move beyond the collection of bad first pages, and am now creating something that looks like a story. It is slow going, because despite the fact that I write 100-page thrillers, I have some loose ends to tie up and some mysteries to solve and I want to do it well. (I can’t imagine what this same task must be like for George R. R. Martin, who writes 1,000-page monsters and juggles 31 point-of-view characters.)

I can tell you a few things about it so far:
– My working title for this project is Songbird.
– There is a new point-of-view character.
– I am trying for 500 words a day on this bad boy.

I cannot promise they will be good words, but I can promise that words will be written. And for those of you who have been asking, I can also promise semi-regular updates here.

Got questions about Songbird? Get at me.

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Author Tamela J. Ritter gives me my very own g-chat interview.

I’ve been doing g-chat interviews for slightly more than a year now. Thus far, I’ve interviewed lit mag editors, bloggers and other authors. I like using g-chat as a chat format. It takes a little longer than a phone conversation, but it’s easier to reproduce as a document online. Also, it’s pretty hard to misquote someone in a g-chat script.

Well, last week one of the authors I interviewed a few months ago  – my friend Tamela J. Ritter – turned the tables on me by giving me my very own g-chat interview. It was a lot of fun to be on the recieving end of the questions this time.

She’s posted the completed interview here, on her blog. Check it out.

The first review of The Eagle & The Arrow has been posted!

The book itself won’t be released until June 11, but the first review for The Eagle & The Arrow has been posted, and I am thrilled.

Please check out So, I Read This Book Today and give the review a read.

So, I Read This Book Today is a brand new book review site run by Leiah Cooper, a lover of books and a fellow knitter. (She also makes quilts. She’s a woman of many talents.)

Her review of The Eagle & The Arrow made my day. Here’s one part of the review that made me squeal and do a happy dance in my office:

If your interests are the smart, the funny, the snide and the thoughtful, don’t miss this little book. It is a true gem of Modern Americana with a twisted mindset that has me looking forward to going back and reading the first book, as well as look forward to anything Ms. O’Connell writes next.

I cannot convey you how happy this makes me.

This is the part of the blog where I admit to being a gigantic coward when it comes to reading my reviews. I’m always nervous when I send out the review copies, but I’m much more nervous when a reviewer emails a link to me and tells me that his or her review is live. The first time I read any review of my work, I look at it through my fingers, while holding my breath, like a kid at a horror movie.

This is why I set my five bad reviews goal this summer. That way, when I get a bad review, I won’t be quite so disappointed, because yes, I will be getting a bad review, but I will also be achieving a goal.

Thankfully, I’m not on my way to that goal quite yet. This review was so good, and so thoughtful that it made my day. You can check it out the whole review here.

If you want to see more from Leiah, check out the sidebar. I am adding her site to my Links section.

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.

A sequel update, and blogging for Geek Eccentric

It’s Superbowl Sunday and I have some fattening snacks to make, so I will keep this brief.

I got an email from my editor last night and the revisions to my Beware the Hawk sequel, The Eagle and the Arrow, are complete. The manuscript is headed to the copy editors now. This is exciting, because it means all the plot/character/setting/structure work is done and now all that remains is for people to correct my grammar.

Geek eccentric, geek girl

From the same photo session as the GE photo. I don’t know what the problem is. I think I look charming. It’s the communicator pin that makes me so. (See what I did there?)

Next, I am thrilled to announce that I am now also blogging over at Geek Eccentric, a site devoted to all things geekish. I joined the team there last week. My first post, which takes aim at the myth of the Fake Geek Girl and features an apparently horrendous photo of me (but how can a photo with Gandalf and a communicator badge even be horrendous? I don’t get it.) went up on Friday. Check it out.

I will be blogging about  – what else – geekiness and feminism. But no worries. I will still write about the plight of lady dwarves in Middle-Earth here, and indeed, I’m several weeks late in writing a post about dwarf women in The Hobbit. I’ll get on that. Promise.

So that’s it. I’m off to figure out what team I’m rooting for today, and to take a look at my Football for Dummies book so that I can remember what a down is. May the best team win.