I have a new book coming out!


I’ve been posting a lot about “my new project” lately. What is it? I have a book coming out next year with Woodhall Press!

You know how in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge does private parties instead of taking her comedy out into the world? That’s kind of what I’ve been doing on Facebook. I post a lot of short pieces about my life, and  lot of jokes, and even some poems, online.


My manuscript, A Perfect Facebook Life, is like the content you’d read on my social media: short comedy, poems, plays, and micro-memoir. (AND a love poem to my town’s trashfire FB group.)

My mom says it’s like Erma Bombeck, but if she had Facebook.
People who are not my mom say “oh. That’s …interesting.”

It’s an experimental format and I’m very excited about it!  I’ll post more updates, details, covers, (and hopefully an updated author photo – my current photo is 11 years old) as I get them.

I have news. Like, actual writing news!


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

On Monday, I learned that my manuscript, “A Perfect Facebook Life,”  was chosen by Woodhall Press as one of six finalists for the Fairfield Book Prize.

And then I spent a few days processing that information because IT. IS. BONKERS.

First of all, the other finalists are amazingly talented and I am honored to be named with him. I can’t believe my strange little book has been named alongside their work.

Second, I didn’t intend to write the book. I usually write fiction and this is a weird little experimental book of poetry, humor, micro-memoir and …plays, I guess? (I’m not sure. It’s experimental.) I had no plans to write or submit, but a former grad school colleague who thinks I’m funny on Facebook suggested I do it. I wasn’t writing anything else — having a business and a preschooler has been cutting into my ability to write coherent long-form fiction — so I decided to try it.

Third, I legitimately expected a thank u, next response when I submitted this manuscript. You get used to rejection in publishing. I’m almost always prepared for a no thank you. I’m pretty much never prepared for a yes.

So yes, this is thing that is happening, and it’s happening this summer — the winning manuscript will be judged by National Book Award winning author Phil Klay and the winner will be announced in July.

Do You Live in CT? Do You Want to Ask 3 Indie Authors Anything?

Of course you do.

Join me, Cindy Eastman and Joe McGee at the Watertown Library (that’s in Watertown CT, not that imposter Watertown in Massachusetts, pssssht) on Saturday, October 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 pm for Indie Author Day 2017.

What is Indie Author Day? Guys, I am so glad you asked. Indie Author Day is a love letter from libraries to indie authors;  those of us who aren’t traditionally published by big publishing houses. On this day, libraries in the US and Canada host events featuring their local indie authors. Watertown is my hometown library (I was pretty much raised in its Oakville branch because my mom worked there) so I’m one of the three authors who will be featured there.

Who else will be there?
Humorist Cindy Eastman, the author of Flip-Flops After 50.
Joseph McGee, the author of Leadership Lessons Inspired by a 6 Year Old.

You’ll get to meet us, hang out with us, eat some food with us (I am told there will be refreshments!), and then you will get to watch as Robin Osborn, former head of the English Department at Taft School and leader of the library’s reading groups, grills us in a panel discussion. Come! Watch!

Need a Facebook reminder to help you remember when it is? I got you – here’s a link to the event page.

In Which I Am a Woman in the Sci-Fi Section at the Library’s Annual Used Book Sale

This really is the only place it’s socially acceptable to carry around a giant Sutter Home wine box in this town.

Okay, what are the sections this year? Let’s see: General Fiction, Gardening, Mystery, Nonfiction About War with Lots of Maps, a whole table of Pilcher, a whole table of Binchy, a whole table of Atwood… oh, I liked that book. I should get more of it.

Do I bother to find the three square feet they’ve allotted for sci-fi and fantasy and risk the opinion of whatever dude is over there?

Oh, look! It’s the sci-fi section, and hallelujah, it’s empty.

Nope. Here’s a man, because of course. He must have smelled a female getting close to the Sword of Shannara or something.

Someone really should make a nature special about this phenomenon.

(to be read in a BBC voice) The female sees an opening in the sci-fi and fantasy section, her preferred diet, and begins to graze. She is not aware that nearby, in the Music & Film section, a male has been lying in wait. Seeing a lone female enter his territory, he gives her a moment to settle into her hunt. The male moves in and begins his display.  First, to assert dominance over the sci-fi section, he muscles close, making an attempt to move her from her spot so he can graze in the choicest section.

My dude, I am 170 pounds and carrying a Sutter Home box filled with books. Physics is on my side here.

Then he attempts to gain her attention with a series of mating cries.

Thank you for recommending that I read The Silmarillion if I *really* want to understand the Lord of the Rings movies.

Why yes, I do know who Kurt Vonnegut is.

I am not now and will never be comfortable saying the words “Dirk Gently” to you.

The female, uninterested in mating, has two choices. She can stand her ground, or she can move on to less preferred hunting grounds in General Fiction. Suddenly she remembers: determined foragers can often find caches of undisturbed treasure in boxes on the floor. She just has to get to the other side of the table, away from the male, before she can drop to the floor and check. She leaves his territory, cutting through Romance, where she knows he will not follow, and rounds the table. On the other side, just between Romance and Science Fiction, she kneels down, and victory! A fresh trove of paperbacks, overlooked by her fellow grazers.

Oh my god! An uncorrected advance reader’s copy of Sorcerer to the Crown!

But the male, unfinished with his dance, has followed her and in his final bid, aggressively displays the full extent of his virility in the most plausibly fashion deniable fashion possible.

Did this asshole really follow me over here so he could stand here with his crotch in my face? Nice Dockers, jackass. I know you didn’t come over here just so you could look at all the upside-down Jim Butcher spines up there.

Another female approaches, and addresses the male. It is clear from her familiarity with him that they are a breeding pair.

-Bob. Are you in the Romance section?
-No! This is Science Fiction and Fantasy, Diane.

The breeding pair move off, leaving the solitary female to gather up all the Star Trek: Next Generation novelizations she can find, undisturbed. Meanwhile, in Biographies About White Men, a male is lying in wait.



Chalkboard Punishments for My Demographic

I will check with my neighbors to see if the NYT on my driveway is theirs before I read it.
I will check with my neighbors to see if the NYT on my driveway is theirs before I read it.
I will check with my neighbors to see if the NYT on my driveway is theirs before I read it.

I will not react to the audible fart in yoga class.
I will not react to the audible fart in yoga class.
I will not react to the audible fart in yoga class.

I will read the article before commenting.
I will read the article before commenting.
I will read the article before commenting.

There is no medal for being the Least Fancy Mom.
There is no medal for being the Least Fancy Mom.
There is no medal for being the Least Fancy Mom.

I will not describe myself as “woke.”
I will not describe myself as “woke.”
I will not describe myself as “woke.”

I will not post on Facebook about being “too busy to even shower today.”
I will not post on Facebook about being “too busy to even shower today.”
I will not post on Facebook about being “too busy to even shower today.”

Other people are not muggles.
Other people are not muggles.
Other people are not muggles.

Of course I can adult today. I am an adult.
Of course I can adult today. I am an adult.
Of course I can adult today. I am an adult.


Shutting it down. Kind of.


Guys, I’m shutting down The Garrett.  (That’s what this blog used to be called.) Or, at least, I’m changing it.

When I put this blog together in 2009, back when people were still naming their blogs, it was an appropriate piece of my online platform. Seven years ago blogs were something writers  – especially unpublished writers – were expected to have. It was a way of building an audience, publishing essays, clearing my head before writing fiction and writing online diary entries. And I loved it. I blogged regularly.

That’s no longer true, for the Internet in general, or for me personally. Social media has taken over a lot of the territory once occupied by blogs, and as a freelance writer, I’m less willing to self-publish the essays I could be pitching elsewhere. (Also, now that I have a family and have seen lots of female writers get shouted or threatened off the web, I’m not as willing to write personal diary entries for the world to see. I’m getting old, kids.)

So what happens to the old posts?

What’s going to happen to this space? Well, I’ve already disentangled this blog from my domain name, ajoconnell dot com.

That said, my current plan is to keep the old content, so if you feel the need to discuss Harry Willson Watrous’s painting The Drop Sinister (many visitors do, amazingly) or if you too were a Catholic child plagued by fears of Immaculate Conception, you should still be able to read those posts.

My current plan is to keep all my old content and incorporate it into a new site as a sort of “What I’m Doing Right Now” section. That section probably won’t be the front page, as it is on this site, but it will be an area I can update.

In the meantime, while I’m building, everything should remain as it was and then, one day, when you least expect it: hey presto! New site!

Yeah, but…

“But A.J.,” you may be saying. “That means everything will be pretty much the same, right? Why are you getting so maudlin about it?”

Well, invisible reader in Internetland, let me tell you. Things ARE changing. When this site is reborn — sticky and squalling — as part of a bigger professional writing site, it will lose some of the personal flavor it’s had since 2009. For me, an era will end. A good era.

This blog has been my only website for seven years, and it’s been a part of a community, and although I haven’t blogged regularly in a while, I’ve come to enjoy my interactions with my readers and the informal blogging style I could use here.

So, hey, guys. I don’t know if any of my original readers will see this, but you made The Garrett what it was. Thank you.


Which one of you has been submitting my short stories to lit mags?

This morning, a prominent literary journal rejected a short story of mine.
This should be a bummer, but it’s not, because I have absolutely NO memory of ever submitting it to them. None. So one of you is probably sending my stuff out, right? (If so, thank you.)
Just kidding — not sleeping for a couple of years has done a number on my memory. That story probably sat in their slush pile for a loooong time.
Anyhow, strangely, the rejection was a pleasant surprise:
“Oh, I sent something out? Go me! Oh, it was literary fiction? I’m fancy!”
And actually there’s an unexpected bonus here: I have a finished short story to submit to a journal today. If I look deep enough into my email’s sent folder, I might even have a pre-written cover letter to go with it.

What I’m doing now: a month of revisions

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but better late than never: Hey readers! At the end of November, I finally finished the first draft of the final book in the Resistance trilogy.

First draft of third book, Star Wars crawl edition.

A photo posted by A.J. O'Connell (@annjoc) on

It’s been a long time coming. The second book, The Eagle & The Arrow, was released just around the time I found out I was pregnant with my son. After that, I slowed down in the creativity department.

(I’d always assumed that pregnancy would be a time of quiet reflection and creativity for me. Yeah, no. It turns out that I, personally, cannot gestate a baby and a novel at the same time.)

Anyhow, now that the baby is no longer a baby, but a toddler, my third book is nearly finished. But it’s a draft, and my editor asked to see it by the end of this month. (Which is something I remembered at the end of last month.) So my big job this month is to revise that sucker, a set number of pages a time, through the month of February. I started this project February 2, and am more than halfway through with the revision. I’ve been doing it after work, and during nap times, and although sometimes it’s the very last thing I want to be doing after dinner, I’m amazed at how quickly this revision is moving along.

This is only the first step, though. I still need to read through the first and second books to make sure this book — written more than 10 years after Beware the Hawk was written and four years after the second one was written — makes sense. I’m dreading that part because I like reading my writing as much as most people like listening to recordings of their own voices.


This scene is terrible, and I’m not writing it.

fantasy shopping

Wizard shopping. Yaaaaay.

There’s a scene I have to write, but I’ve been dreading it.

It’s the kind of scene I hate reading, but it’s also seemed like the sort of scene I needed to write in order to connect important plot points.
Here’s the breakdown of what needs to happen: It’s a fantasy novel. A character needs warm clothes to go on to his next plot point. So he has to go shopping, but shopping would be a big deal for this particular character, so I have to address this. I can’t just skip it and say “he went shopping.”
But I do not want to write it. I’ve danced around writing it. I’ve brainstormed it. I’ve made little diagrams for it. When I wrote out the story beats for it, I wrote “make this scene FUN!” next to its bullet, as if writing an exclamation point on my outline would make this scene any more interesting. But no, it’s still a stupid scene. Just thinking of writing it makes me tired.

It’s not that I hate shopping. I like shopping. I like it a lot. I went shopping today, in fact. But shopping in fantasy settings? Eh. Those scenes have always seemed stilted and dull to me (yes, even the ones that take place in Diagon Alley).
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because reading shopping and actually shopping are two very different experiences. Or maybe it’s because in a fantasy world, shopping often looks nothing like shopping in real life, so the author flounders around, trying to make up something plausible; A character walks into a tailor shop (is that even a thing?) and orders robes or is measured for clothes or whatever, and there’s a lot of stilted olde-timey fantasy talk, and if nothing happens to move the plot along, you can skim right over it.
Anyhow, If I’m bored by the very idea of writing this scene, why bother? Won’t the reader be bored by it as well?
So I decided something.

I’m just not going to write it.

My character doesn’t want to go shopping. I don’t want him to go shopping. So he’s not going. He can either freeze for a few chapters or he can steal something to wear and we can all move on with our lives.
It’s fine. He’s fictional. If he freezes, no one will actually get hurt. And even better, no one will be bored.



photo credit: Cauldrons, All Sizes via photopin (license)

Writing about wanting to be Han Solo at The Mary Sue

Last week The Mary Sue published an essay that my friend and fellow VBP author Tamela Ritter wrote about our feelings for Han Solo. Neither one of us had a crush on him, exactly: I wanted to be him. Tammy wanted to be his best friend.

And the response has been amazing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 12.27.46 PM.png

Our feelings about Han were a little confusing when we were kids, because we both grew up at a time when “oh, girls just like Star Wars because they think Han/Luke/Lando is hot” because you know, girls are only supposed to like girl things and when we were growing up, Star Wars was considered a boy thing.

Anyhow, this was a piece we wrote together for an anthology, Golden Fleece Press’s The Fandom Universe… A Galaxy Far, Far, Away

Tammy emailed me in May to tell me submissions were due at the end of October, and I said, hey, that’s cool. We have six months to work on this. And then we forgot all about it until the end of October. (We ended up writing our essay in a weekend. It was the weekend of my brother’s birthday, in fact. I was making edits on my phone while my husband drove us to my brother’s house for a family party.)

Despite the rush, I was thrilled with the end product. I love writing with Tammy; she has a very poetic style, and when we work together, my prose becomes 20 percent more literary. The essay was accepted by Golden Fleece, but I really wanted to get it out there for as many people — women especially — to see as possible.

The Mary Sue had published one of my essays before, so I thought what the hell. Why not pitch it? The response has been incredible.

There have been so many shares, and so many comments from other women who wanted to be Han, or from women who wanted to be Luke, from guys who wanted to be Leia. There have been comments from kids of all genders who grew up with a crush on Han, or on Mon Mothma, or on Yoda, even. I’ve seen people in my own Facebook timeline sharing the article, not knowing that I was one of the writers. It’s been a little weird, seeing my own words quoted at me in my timeline – especially since wanting to be Han Solo (even if I didn’t really know that’s what I wanted at the time) was a central part of my childhood. Not a lot of people knew that I pretended to be a pilot in my childhood bedroom as a kid, and it’s odd to think that so many people have read that about me now.

But it’s also kind of amazing. If this is the only thing I’ve written that ever goes even a little bit viral, I’ll be happy with that.

Will I see the new movie? Probably not for a while. (It’s the holidays and I’d have to get a babysitter and being an adult is occasionally no fun when it comes to midnight film releases.) But I might watch all my VHS tapes of the old ones.