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 Seven years ago blogs were something writers  – especially unpublished writers – were expected to have.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.

 

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.

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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.

Living from one deadline to the next, and why it’s time for me to start blogging again

A lot’s been going on lately and when I say “a lot,” I mean woah, I’ve had a lot of deadlines lately.

I’ve been quiet over here, mostly because I’ve been writing my words elsewhere. I used to write about pop culture here — now I pitch those ideas to The Mary Sue, The Establishment and whomever else will have me. I used to write about books here  — now I contribute to Book Riot.  I used to write my thoughts here, but now I don’t have as much time as I used to because I’m working a freelance copywriter.

Doing client work on a dank day.

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That’s a pretty interesting gig. I work from home and write for a living, about all sorts of things and for several different companies. In some ways, it’s a lot like being a reporter. In others, it’s very very different. That’s probably worth a blog post, because it took me a long time to develop the language I needed to describe the work I was doing.

The upshot of all of this is that my business has been growing, which has been excellent, but I’ve also had less time to write my own fiction, and even less time to blog here, so of course, it’s the blog that’s losing out.

Recently, though, my brain’s been feeling kind of full. Not full of essay material, or fiction, or anything useful. It’s just… full. And I think this might be because I haven’t had time to sit and think, or to journal, about the work I’m doing. I’ve been working, and researching, and writing and momming (that’s another story) but I haven’t taken any time to organize those thoughts. I’ve just been living from one deadline to the next.

I also heard in a podcast (I’ve been listening to lots of these lately) that many authors are turning their blogs into Now sections, or rather sections detailing what those writers are doing right now. Which sounds like journaling to me. And which also brings blogging back to its roots. The earliest blogs were journals.

I’m going to try that here. Journaling and talking about work always helps me to focus. I can’t always be driving myself to work, and sometimes I need to stop and sit and think in order to be productive, but I’m always forgetting that.

So hello again, blog. Let’s do this.

 

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.

Seven things about my writing that readers might want to know.

So, there’s this status going around writing circles right now on social media: “Seven things about my writing that readers might want to know.” I was tagged by a friend this morning, so I thought I’d do this here, on my blog, instead of Facebook.*

I’m not tagging anyone, but if you want to share your seven things after reading this, please do. Feel free to comment with a link to them, so I can read them. I’m curious.

Here are mine:

  1. It is difficult for me to complete any piece of writing. In fact, I have this irrational belief that it’s impossible for me to finish anything. I think that was one of the reasons I went into a newspaper job where I had to complete at least two stories a day.
  2. I resisted outlining for years, until recently, when I had no choice because I couldn’t afford to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike.
  3. I used to write 500 words of fiction a day. Now I schedule the days I will dedicate to fiction and which I will dedicate to journalism in advance.
  4. I can’t write fiction and non-fiction on the same day. My brain won’t do it without a fight.
  5. you-should-be-writing

    Shut UP.

    I hate it when other artists think they can tell you how to create. If someone tells you “writers write” or “you have to write every single day” or “you should be writing”  they’re probably well-intentionedly repeating their own mantras to you. They probably beat themselves over the head with those mantras, but that doesn’t mean they get to beat YOU over the head. Don’t listen to these people. No one can tell you how to make art.

  6. My fiction is always the richest when nothing exciting is happening in my own life.
  7. My son will probably be hearing the words “Just wait until Mommy finishes her chapter” for the rest of his life.

What are your seven things? Share them in the comments.

*I have strict rules for myself about chain letters and memes. I don’t usually participate and for 20 years, I’ve been guilt-free about ignoring them. Why? Because in my sophomore year of college, someone sent me the anti-chain letter and now, just by virtue of having read it, I am absolved for life of all guilt for not forwarding emails, not scrolling to the bottom of messages, not reposting statuses, not tagging people and not nominating people for online awards just because I was nominated.