What’s up Wednesday Rides Again: Anxiety, Defeat, And the Long Road Home

First off, I’ll spare you all the usual groveling and the possibly false promises to do better this time. For the record, I really am trying to establish a regular blogging schedule. To be perfectly honest, I’ve come to miss my weekly confessional. I think it really does help to do a weekly purge of some of the thoughts running around my head. Let’s just call this my own little digital pensieve. Yes, I’m a nerd. You should know this by now.


As for where I’ve been, I’ll cover that in the meat of the post, along with a bunch of other stuff. Speaking of which…

Where I’ve Been

You may have already guessed this, but my latest unplanned hiatus had everything to do with my old nemesis, Crippling Anxiety. Now for what brought it about this time.

As you may already know, I’d planned to go to this year’s Thrillerfest & Pitchfest in NYC. I was really excited to go. Partly because one of my literary heroes is going to be there, George R. R. Martin. Mister Game Of Thrones himself. I was really hoping to get a chance to talk to him and pick his brain.

More importantly, I was looking forward to showing up to pitchfest with a dynamite manuscript and having all the agents fighting over me, putting me on the path to becoming someone else’s literary hero. (Shut up. It’s my fantasy and I’ll dream it how I want.)

Unfortunately, finances being what they are, I was going to have to do my trip on a shoestring. That’s when I came up with an oh so brilliant plan. Rather than pay a fortune for a hotel and airfare, I would take the van my mom had given me and turn it into a camper which I would then drive to New York, park it somewhere away from Manhattan (probably Brooklyn), and use it in lieu of a hotel room.

And that’s where the trouble started.

The Van. I was thinking of calling it The Writer Wagon

You see, I’ve only ever been to New York twice. The first time was a school trip when I was in middle school, and the second was a couple of years ago and I never left Manhattan. I’d planned to park in one of the other boroughs and take the train into the city. the problem was, not having actually been there, I could find out where I was allowed to park, but I couldn’t figure out where I should park.

I had no idea what was a bad neighborhood and what was a good one. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Harlem is actually somewhat high class now. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time trying to plan my trip. The more I tried to come up with a plan, the more anxious I became. Add to this the fact that I was going to be on an extremely tight time schedule. I was going to have to leave as soon as I got off work two days before and figured I would arrive well after dark. Then I would need to find a branch of my gym, take a shower, then find a decent place to park so I could be up bright and early the next morning to pitch my book. Needless to say, that’s where mean ol’ Mr. Anxiety crept back in.

the more anxious I became about planning the trip, the more I began to neglect the whole reason I was going in the first place. I wasn’t writing. The more I failed to write, the more anxious I began to feel. The more anxious I got, the more I couldn’t write. And so on, and so on.

Still, once the snow melted, I decided it was time to start work on the van. The first thing I did was remove all the back seats to make room for my bed. Next, I took it for a little spin to see how it felt to drive it. I figured I’d take it to the grocery store and back. nothing major. Besides, you can fit a lot of groceries in an empty van. Everything was going fine until I got about three blocks away from my house and the van stalled. If I were still in my twenties, I would have pushed it the rest of the way, but sadly, I’m twice that and I’m just not the strong young bull I used to be. I ended up paying sixty dollars to have it towed three blocks, but there was a blizzard coming in and I needed to get it home. At least the tow truck driver gave me some insight as to the problem. it appears to be a problem with the fuel pump.

By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted and questioning everything. I thought I might be able to afford a plane ticket and a hotel and did some research. With the money I had and perhaps a small loan, I discovered I would still be able to make the trip.

That’s when I did the other math.

When I’m writing regularly, I can average about a thousand words a day. I have had two or even three thousand word days, but those are a rarity. Still, I figured on a thousand a day as my goal. Then I counted up how many days I had left until my deadline. My heart sank. If I managed to meet my goal of a thousand words a day, I figured I could probably just reach my word count goal for the book just in time by the skin of my teeth. This would leave me with a very rough first draft to show agents. Unacceptable. Add to this the fact that lately I’ve been lucky to eke out five hundred words a day and I was completely sunk.

For a brief moment I considered going anyway just for the experience, but quickly threw that idea out the window. It would be silly and a waste to spend all that money just to show up empty handed. So, as much as it pained me to admit defeat, I made the wiser choice to save my money for next year when I plan to have multiple manuscripts to shop around.

Once I’d made my decision, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. While I’m still a bit disappointed I won’t be going this year, i’m already looking forward to next year and having all those agents fighting over me.

I gave myself two weeks to relax and not worry about writing, but that time is up. It’s still going to be a long road back to where I once was as a writer, but I’m ready to start the trek home five hundred words at a time.

And that’s where I should end this week’s update. I still have a lot to tell you, but I suppose I should save some for later. I’ll see you next week. Until then…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

Also, Amazon apparently now considers me an influencer, which means that they basically gave me my own Amazon store where I can recommend products. I do get a cut of anything you buy when you click my link. Unless you’d rather all your money go to a faceless corporation.  🙂 You can find my influencer page here. https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

 

Explaining My Absence

Just a video I posted on my YouTube channel explaining where I’ve been for the last couple of months.

As always, don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

What’s Up Wednesday: I Want It All, And I Want It Now!!!

I’m back for real this time. At least I think I am unless I have another setback. But I really feel that I’m not just able, but eager to get back to work. There are even times when I don’t feel any discomfort in my back at all. It’s probably time to give yoga a serious try.

Anyway, now to the regularly scheduled post.

Based on the title, you might be assuming that I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen lately. Particularly this song.

While Queen is one of my favorite bands of all time, that just isn’t the case. Actually, I’ve been on an 80’s glam/hair rock kick for pretty much the past month. Although I guess you could technically put Queen in that group, (if you’re a dick,) but I’m talking about bands more like Poison and Motley Crue.

Anyway, the point is, I haven’t been listening to Queen lately. In fact, I hadn’t heard “I Want It All” in months. That just happens to be the song that plays on an endless loop in my head whenever my brain is trying to tell me it’s time to really grind. I’m finally feeling good enough that all I want to do is sit down in my office and put some serious words on the page.

It’s a good thing I’m feeling this way, because as of yesterday we are ten months away from Thrillerfest 2018, and more importantly, Pitchfest. I have every intention of actually having something finished by then. Hopefully multiple somethings. I am going to have a manuscript that, when an agent says yes, I can send off right away instead of having to make excuses as to why it isn’t ready like I did in 2016. We’ll call that one a trial run. Practice.

Now before you get too excited, keep in mind that this blog post is the first bit of actual writing I’ve done all week. I know it’s still a form of procrastination, but I just had to get my office back in order. Most of the last month has been spent flat on my back on the couch in there bingeing Supernatural. Needless to say, it was a disaster. I’m proud to say that, as of yesterday, I’ve gotten it back in ship shape and I’m ready to get to work. Now I just have to talk myself into spending my time at the hotel as productive as I plan to be while at home.

I have to. Especially since I’m considering adding yet another project to my inbox. I’ve never tried to write a murder mystery, but I’ve read plenty and I have a great main character in mind. Any murder/mystery/police-procedural fans out there?

Now for a bit of bad news. As much as I know you guys seem to like them, I can’t promise to put out a Flash Fiction Friday every week. (Not that I really made good on that promise anyway.) Don’t get me wrong. I will try to write them as often as possible, but I have to really focus on getting my novels and longer shorts done so I can submit them.

I think I’m going to give journaling a go yet again. I’ve tried it several times over the years, but I’ve never been able to stick with it. I’m considering making it part of my writing time each day. Jut a little warm up while I drink my “morning” coffee to get the brain working. I have an awesome leather-bound journal that’s just going to waste. I might as well use it.

I’ll probably put my daily word count in it just to keep me honest.

I know it’s probably too early in my career to even think about this. I’m not sure I even have “fans”. But I’m considering tarting a Patreon page. Would anyone be interested in supporting me? If so, what kind of rewards would you like to see? I’m thinking maybe exclusive access to short stories months before they’re seen anywhere else. Maybe a free signed copy of my book when it comes out, but I’m open to suggestions. I hate to seem like a greedy bastard, but the money sure would help and it would give me more time to write. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Anyway, I think that’s about all I’ve got for you this week. I’m probably forgetting loads of stuff, but there’s always next week.

I will try to put something up on Friday. Just don’t hate me if I don’t get around to it.

I realize that even though I may want it now, it’s going to take some time. Still, wanting it now means that I need to do my damnedest to get it done as soon as possible.

Remember to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

What’s Up Wednesday: Boosting Productivity

Hey guys, Happy What’s Up Wednesday. First off, you probably noticed that I didn’t post on Monday. That’s mainly due to the fact that while I made some progress, I’m still working on the same two books. Again, it’s not because I’m not enjoying them, but I’m still trying to get my schedule organized to fit in regular reading time.

As for writing, Daughters of the Flame is coming along, albeit slowly. I’ve really got to learn to outline so I don’t hit a wall on a daily basis so I’m not sure where to go next. I’ve been looking at different outline styles, but have yet to find one that works for me. My biggest problem is, unless I have every single plot detail planned out ahead of time, I’m still going to hit those walls where my character refuses to do what I tell him to do. When this happens, it’s because what I’ve planned is totally out of character and I didn’t even realize it until I got to that point. Okay, I’m rambling. Here’s an example.

Without giving too much detail, in the current book, Reymir and Terek find themselves in an already sketchy situation when they are asked to give up their weapons. For various reasons, Reymir is agreeable. I had planned for Terek to follow suit, but when I got to that point, I realized he would never let himself be disarmed when he’s already suspicious.

Anyway, I’m still trying to boost my productivity by learning to outline, but in the meantime, I have an idea that’s a bit unorthodox. Unorthodox? Me? Never.

I’ve always been one of those strange types who can read multiple books at once. I typically have one in the bathroom, on by the bed, etc. With the advent of e-readers, it’s gotten worse. It’s not uncommon for me to have a book on my phone, one on my tablet, one on my kindle… You get the idea. I don’t have a problem with mixing up the stories. I can go for weeks without reading one and pick up where I left off without a problem.

So my harebrained idea is this. If I can read multiple books without a problem, why not try writing multiple books at the same time? That way, when I hit that inevitable wall with one, I can start working on the next one, and then the next one, etc… I’ll probably write in different genres just to make sure I don’t have an issue with mixing them up. Although, it might be interesting to do a crossover book at some point.

So have any of my fellow writers out there tried this approach? How did it go? I’d really like to know.

The other thing I wanted to mention really quick is, I’ve been doing the math, and if you average my monthly paycheck over thirty days, is ridiculous how little I make a day. I’m not going to talk actual numbers, but by my figuring, it can’t be hard to squeeze that much out of the internet. So I’m going to really start pursuing online entrepreneurship. I know it won’t be easy, but I’ve got to do something to get out of this soul-sucking job I’m stuck with right now.

Anyway, sorry for the short post this week, I’m about to get off and I don’t want to stay here one moment more than I have to.

I would love to answer any questions you might have for me about writing. Hit me up either here or on my socials.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And YouTube I still need two more subscribers. I’m almost there. Please help.

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

What’s Up Wednesday:

I don’t normally put a lot of stock in astrology, but this month has been enough to make a believer out of me. Apparently, since April 7th, Mercury has been in retrograde. Supposedly, this means bad juju. I don’t know about everyone else, but this past month has been extremely hectic. For most of the month, I’ve just felt off my game. I just haven’t felt well in general, but I couldn’t actually tell you how or why. I could never pin it down to one specific thing, I’ve just felt off.

I know part of it is that I’ve been trying to get used to regular blogging and vlogging in addition to getting my regular writing done. Flash Fiction Friday is particularly hard because I have to come up with an original story idea every week. (Don’t worry, that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.) Even though I’ve missed a post here and there, I’ve still done better than I imagined I would. Unfortunately, I’ve been so focused on those things, I’m afraid writing every day has fallen to the wayside, which is silly since that’s the point of doing everything else.

What my real problem boils down to is this, time management. I have plenty of time to do everything I need to be doing. Hell, I could do it all during my normal working hours if I weren’t just being lazy. The problem is, I’ve been lazy most of my life. Breaking that habit is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. Well, except maybe giving up sugar, but that’s a failure for another day.

That being said, I’m working on a couple of strategies to help me not be so lazy and to keep me from feeling so overwhelmed.

First, I’m trying to get used to a regular writing schedule. This is not only for my fiction writing, but for my blogs and vlogs as well. I have an alarm set for three P.M. (Remember, I work nights.) When it goes off, I have exactly an hour to wake up and get ready to write. If there’s something I need to do, it has to wait until my writing time is over. The hour between getting up and getting to work is for having a bit to eat, taking a shower, and drinking my morning coffee. This brings me to my second strategy…

COFFEE!!! Don’t get me wrong, I already drink my fair share of the stuff, but it’s not on a regular basis. I reserve it for when I really need it. Truth be told, I never wanted to be one of those grownups who has to have their coffee to function, but it’s time to face facts. I need it in the morning. The days I have it, I’m infinitely more productive than I am on days when I don’t. If I don’t have my coffee, I tend to sit around the house like a zombie, unless I decide to go back to bed entirely.

Now that the scheduling thing is handled, it’s time for the third and hardest strategy for being more productive. I’ve got to learn to outline. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m what’s known in the trade as a pantser. This means I just sit down and start writing without knowing exactly what I’m writing. Flying by the seat of my pants as it were. I don’t even separate my stories into chapters until it’s all said and done. Pantsing is like getting in your car and just going, throwing the map out the window, whereas plotting is like having a strict route to follow with all the bathroom and gas stops figured out. Pantsing, like getting in the car and just going, can be really fun and exciting; until you get lost or end up somewhere you really don’t want to be. Plotting can be almost as fun, (he said, trying to convince himself). I’ve recently come to realize that if I want writing to be a career instead of just a hobby, I’ve got to treat it like a job. Sure, it’s a job I enjoy immensely, but if you’re going to go to work, you’re probably going to want to know how to get there. And this is where I’ll stop as the metaphor is on the verge of falling apart.

Next is one that’s going to be almost as hard as learning how to outline. I love my phone. I would have killed to have had a device like it when I was a kid growing up. I would have never been bored. Which is exactly why I’m glad I didn’t. Aside from the fact that all the stupid things I did in my youth would have been documented, I would have missed out on being bored. I spent a lot of my time as a kid being bored. I had to find ways to entertain myself. Guess how I did it. That’s right, I made up stories. Now it’s not that I don’t have the occasional great story idea these days, but they don’t come nearly as often as they used to. Why? Because every time I feel myself getting bored, I reach for my phone and either play a game, watch a movie or YouTube video, or just surf the internet. I’ve got to learn to be bored again.

In the same vein, I really need to replace T.V. time with reading. I read as much as possible, but I’d get through a lot more books and stimulate my mind more, if instead of picking up the remote, I would pick up a book.

I guess that’s it. Sorry for the rambling nature of my post today. I was really just making it up as I go. This post was more for me. Call it thinking on the page. That’s how I do some of my best thinking.

Anyway, I’ll see you on Friday, providing I can come up with a good idea. It’s time to start staring off into space again. At least Mercury goes back to normal today.

Don’t be afraid to stalk me online

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And YouTube I still need just a few more subscribers. Please don’t make me beg.

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

 

What I’ve Been Up To Since Returning From Pitchfest/Thrillerfest In NYC

So I bet you thought we were done with story time. You thought wrong. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring you up to present with this post, but buckle in. It’s going to be a long one.

First, I need to explain our living situation prior to my trip. Shannon and I were living in the basement apartment of a house my mom owned. Yes, I was living in my mom’s basement. She rented out the upper part of the house to people coming to the area on vacation. Now, before you start asking why people would come here on vacation, I’ll list a few nearby attractions. Mount Rushmore of course, Deadwood, The Black Hills, Custer State Park, Badlands National Park, and the big money maker, Sturgis. I helped manage the property and the grounds.

Now that you know the backstory, I’ll tell you what happened upon my return to South Dakota. Prior to my leaving, the stars aligned for us to buy the house we were living in. My mom wanted to get out of the vacation rental business so she could concentrate on her actual bed and breakfast and making gourmet breakfasts for her guests.

Please check out her website if you’re ever planning to make a trip to Rapid City or the surrounding area. https://www.amiestjeanbedandbreakfast.com/ It’s a wonderful little place for a couples retreat and it’s within walking distance to restaurants and nightlife.

Unfortunately, Shannon and I could never have afforded the house on our own. Then a friend of ours told us that her lease on the apartment she was renting was coming up, and she had been told her rent would be going up. We quickly hatched a plan. We would move out of our basement apartment into the upstairs and move our friend into the basement. Money would be tight, but with the rent we got from her, we would just be able to make it.

So the moment I returned from my trip, we frantically started packing. Unfortunately, she had renters through the Sturgis motorcycle rally, so we couldn’t start moving upstairs just yet. We had to content ourselves with getting as much packed up as we could so we would be ready as soon as the last renters left. Boxes quickly filled our living room. I dragged my feet when it came to packing up my office in hopes I would get a little time behind the keyboard. No such luck. We couldn’t believe how much stuff we had accumulated in the years we had lived down there. I wish I could say we threw a lot of it out, but we were in such a hurry, we just packed everything in hopes of sorting through it when we unpacked. More on that later.

The rest of June flew by and the rumble of motorcycle engines told us the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally had begun. I took a weekend off from packing to enjoy a couple of days at the rally.

sturgis

I had a great time, but by Monday it was back to the grind. Luckily, (not so much for my mom) my mom’s renters decided the pretty little house with hardwood floors and a huge bathroom with a shower and whirlpool bath wasn’t up to their standards and left early.

Now it was time to start the actual move. It would have been nice to unpack as we moved, but no such luck. Our friend had to be out of her apartment by the end of the month, so we ended up putting all the boxes in the room that was to become my new office. It went from this,

Empty

To this, in a matter of days.

full

The furniture was another story. Luckily by then we were able to place our furniture roughly where we wanted it. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my younger cousin and a friend though. I like to think of myself as strong, but I’m not the young buck I once was. I ended up overdoing it and throwing out my back which laid me up for several days.

Once we finally got everything out, it was time to make it ready for our friend. This involved thoroughly shampooing the carpet and doing everything else we could to remove any trace of cat hair for our allergic friend.

Once we got her moved in, we still had our mountain of stuff to contend with. As I said, we had planned to get rid of things we didn’t need as we unpacked. This didn’t happen. In short, we were tired of living in a war zone, so the easiest way to deal with anything we weren’t sure what to do with is throw it in the attic to be dealt with later. And there it still sits. I keep promising myself that I will start bringing it down one box at a time, to be sorted through.

Sadly, just when it seemed life was starting to get back to normal and we were down to our last dozen or so boxes, tragedy struck. A dear family member passed away unexpectedly in an accident. The grieving process was terrible. Once everyone had come to terms with the fact that she was gone, there was her estate to contend with. If we thought sorting through the stuff we’d collected over the course of our short time downstairs was difficult, we were in for a surprise. Imagine how much stuff you collect over the course of a lifetime.

I have to give thanks to Shannon’s uncle who took the reins as executor. Shannon and I were at a loss for where to even start. I still feel guilty that we weren’t more help.

As soon as I had everything out of the second bedroom, I got to work sorting out my office.The first things to go in were the couch and my grandfather’s old bookcase. I would have liked to have put a bed in instead of the couch, but there just wasn’t enough room.couch

Next came my grandfather’s reading lamp which had been in storage for years. I finally had a ceiling high enough to use it. Of course the small bookcase was barely big enough to house my writing reference books, so I needed something bigger. I was going to just buy a cheap one, but then inspiration struck. (Or maybe it was pinterest.) I started with ten wooden crates and stacked them to see how they would look.

bookcase

I liked the look, but they were too nice. I needed something more rustic, so I aged them and put an appropriate logo on them. I’m a pirate at heart, after all. Bonus points if you recognize the logo.

bookcase2

With that done, I set my mind to finishing my writing space.

desk

And that brought us to Thanksgiving. We literally unpacked the last box the day before. I had volunteered to cook and host at our house. My mom has always done it in the past, but I thought that I could take some of the work off of her shoulders. Besides, I’m a pretty good cook if I say so myself.

Thanksgiving went off without a hitch. Everyone seemed to enjoy my food and we all had a good time. Luckily, we aren’t the type that has family drama that ruins holidays.

Of course, as soon as the turkey was eaten, it was time to get ready for Christmas. I spent way too much money, but it was worth it to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.

Following closely on Christmas’ heels was of course New Year’s Eve. For once, I had the night off. I’m sorry to report that Shannon and I stayed in and were yawning long before the ball dropped. When it did, we had our new year’s kiss and headed off to bed.

I blinked, and January was half over. Still, I decided to do what amounts to a resolutions vlog on my YouTube channel even if it was two weeks late. I won’t even go into what my resolutions were because I failed miserably on most counts.

Not long after that vlog, I had an incident at work involving a criminal who had come in off the street. When I ran him off, he threatened to come back with friends. I played brave, but I have to admit, I was a little scared, especially when he showed back up about a week later. I immediately called the police, even though he claimed to have been so high, he didn’t remember threatening me in the first place.

I gave him ample warning, but he was there when the police arrived. Upon searching him, they found enough drugs to arrest him on a class five felony. I was ordered to appear before a grand jury and give testimony in the case. Now, I suffer from anxiety on the best of days, but this sent me over the edge. I wasn’t so much concerned for myself, but a quick google search for my name made it clear how easy it was to find my address. I didn’t want him to come looking for me and find Shannon. I did everything I could to remove any personal information from the internet, but that took time. In the meantime, he posted bail.

Apparently, all my stressing was for naught. It seems the same day he got out, he was arrested for shoplifting and another felony drug offense. Needless to say, he was back in immediately without bail. Hopefully he goes away for a long time. At least long enough to forget about me. If he even remembers me at all with all the drugs.

Finally, just when it seemed I might be able to get some work done, I had a tooth blow up on me. It was luckily just a dull throb, but it was enough to keep me from concentrating for the two weeks it took me to get in to the dentist.

Once my tooth was fixed, it was time to celebrate my fortieth birthday in style. We went to the local speakeasy. I started with a glass of absinthe.

absinthe

I know there were more drinks after that, but I honestly can’t recall what they were. There was an option on the menu for three courses of the bartender’s choosing. I was told what they all were, but just don’t remember at this point. They were all tasty and very strong.

Starting at the beginning of March, I began blogging faithfully. I now post three times a week. Mondays, I recap what I’ve read/am currently reading. Wednesdays (today) is a general blog. This is where I’ll share what I’ve been up to writing wise or whatever else I feel like sharing. I’m also hoping to answer your questions and comments so message me on my social pages. I’ll post links below. Finally, Fridays are Flash Fiction Fridays. I post very short stories, just to give you an idea of my writing style and hopefully leave you wanting more.

I’m also starting to vlog on YouTube more often. I’m hoping to do at least one a week. I’m still trying to nail down a good day though. I tried Friday, but that didn’t work out. Maybe Wednesday. I also bought an action camera to post bonus videos of my motorcycle rides through the black hills.

I hate to admit this, but with my life in complete upheaval, I haven’t actually gotten much real writing done. That’s finally changing though. I’m working on a regular writing schedule and the words are flowing again. I’m experimenting with outlining once again. I’ve never had much luck with it, but I’m trying to approach it with a more open mind this time.

And that brings us up to the present. Needless to say it’s been a crazy year, but at least it’s given me things to blog about. Now to think of what I’m going to write about next week.

Anyway, I’ll see you on Friday.

As always, don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

 

 

Loose In The Big Apple

Before we get into it today, I just wanted to give you an update on me. I’ve been getting much more serious about my career as a writer. As you probably know, I’ve been blogging regularly, so that’s a major hurdle I’ve been struggling with for years.

I also just relaunched my YouTube channel. I’m still trying to reach the century mark so I can claim my custom URL, but I’m still a bit shy of the hundred subscribers I need. I would greatly appreciate it if you would go and subscribe.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxzUrv09aOM6JrnsZy5EyAw

I have been writing more regularly, although I’m not to the point of doing it every day just yet. Still, words are flowing again and I hope to have more published very soon. I probably would have gotten much more writing done this weekend, but we had some great weather and I just couldn’t resist jumping on my motorcycle and feeling the wind in my beard.

Now then, back to our regularly scheduled story.

Well kiddies, we’ve come to the end. I had just finished Thrillerfest and Pitchfest. I had a few well-deserved drinks and got some much-needed rest.

The next day, I was up bright and early and ready to roam free in NYC. I started by going online and booking tickets for a matinee. I spent longer than I should have deciding what I wanted to see. Of course, Hamilton was right out. Still, there were many other shows I would have liked to have seen. I could probably spend a month there and still not see everything I wanted to see. Besides, considering Shannon was a theater major her first time through college, she would have killed me if I had gone to see certain shows without her.

I finally settled on one that I’d always wanted to see but never had the opportunity. Les Miserables. Yes, I’d seen the movie, but there’s nothing like seeing a show on the stage. That decided, I quickly showered and made my way to the heart of Manhattan. Of course, I found myself with a few hours to kill, so I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch.

On a friend’s advice, I wandered in to Carmine’s. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t mention that on some days, they only serve food family style. Still, I had been saving for this trip for quite a while and had plenty of money to spend. I had planned on eating well the entire trip, but it just hadn’t worked out that way. So I decided to splurge and go for it even though I was by myself. I was expecting a lot of food, but i wasn’t expecting this.

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So that was my meal for the day. It was absolutely delicious and I have no regrets. When I was done, I realized I had to get to the theater. I didn’t want to throw away such excellent food, so I ended up taking it into the theater. Nobody stopped me, so I went with it.

As I entered the theater, I was happy with my choice of plays since the doors proclaimed that Les Mis. was in its final days on Broadway.

My tickets weren’t the best. I was up in the balcony, at the very end of the row.

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Still, the theater was well designed and I could see well enough. On the plus side, I was seated next to a gaggle of Russian models, which was nice.

From the moment the curtain went up, I was on the edge of my seat. I’m not ashamed to say, I cried at all the appropriate times. By the end of the show, I was in complete awe.

Once the show was over, I spent some time wandering around the theater district. I had to make a stop by the Majestic where I had seen The Phantom of the Opera back in middle school.

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I made sure to buy Shannon some souvenirs. Unfortunately, I was traveling light so I couldn’t buy too much. I’ll make it up to her someday by taking her there on a theater trip.

Once I was tired of walking around and sightseeing, I made my way back to The Jane where I finally ate the leftovers I’d been carrying around all day. I then went up to the rooftop bar for a nightcap before turning in for the night.

The next day, I had no real agenda. I’d done everything I really wanted to do. Sure, I could have done the touristy things like the statue of liberty and such, but I just decided to wander.

I went into several gift shops, looking for a souvenir for myself, but it seemed every shop had exactly the same inventory.

Then I found it. The perfect reminder of my trip to NYC. Still, I talked myself out of it. I wandered off, but it kept eating at me until I decided I just had to have it. Of course by then, I had completely forgotten which store held my prize. After revisiting several shops, I finally found it and wasted no time buying it.

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Yes, it’s the ducky tie from How I Met Your Mother. Well, it’s a little different. I’m guessing because of licensing issues, but it’s close enough.

My prize stored safely in my backpack, I decided I had to have a drink at The Algonquin. The place where the legen-wait for it-dary Algonquin Round Table once met.

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I took a seat in The Blue Bar and ordered. It may be cliche, but I had to try their signature drink. A Manhattan of course. It was delicious. I only had the one. I didn’t relish the thought of wandering the streets of New York drunk with no idea where I was.

I then had to check out Rockefeller Plaza. of course, there was no ice rink, but I had to go there anyway. After that, I somehow found myself sitting at a table across from the Met Life building when all of a sudden, there are black cars and SUVs all over the place with flashing blue and red lights.

A door of one of the SUVs opens and who should get out? None other than Bill Clinton. I have to tell you, he didn’t look good. Now this was right in the middle of his wife’s presidential campaign, so maybe he was just tired, but he looked like hell. Still, it was my only non-literary celebrity encounter of the trip so it had to be mentioned.

By now it was getting late, so I made my way to Times Square. Big mistake. I enjoyed the approach. Particularly the street performers. Some of them were from a strip club and I was amazed they were allowed to walk around topless. I didn’t complain though.

Finally I made it to Times Square, and immediately noped out.

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The sheer press of people was way too much for someone who spends the bulk of his time sitting along in his home office. I felt my lungs constricting as my claustrophobia triggered a panic attack. I quickly turned on my heel and retreated to the safety of the strippers.

Once I got my breathing under control, I found a restaurant. I don’t even remember what it was or what I had. I just needed some food and a place to chill for a moment. At this point, the introvert had had enough human interaction and I went back to my room and watched the Disney channel. Hey, it was the only thing on.

The next day, I was scheduled to leave, but my flight wasn’t until later so I spent some time in The Jane’s other bar. I honestly wish I’d discovered it existed earlier. The rooftop bar was cool, but this place was more my style.

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Finally, I decided that I should do something quick rather than stay in the hotel all day so I asked the front desk for advice. He recommended taking the subway all the way to the end of the line and going for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. I thought it was silly, but I was glad I did.

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And that brings my adventures in New York to a close. Next week, I’ll catch you guys up on everything that’s been going on in my life since then. It still feels like, starting with that trip in early July of last year, I’ve barely had time to breathe with everything going on. But that’s a story for next week.

As always, don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

My Trip To NYC For Thrillerfest/Pitchfest 2016 part 3

Let’s see. I was still riding high on my success at Pitchfest. Now that the really stressful part of my trip was over, a weight had lifted off my shoulders. I was now free to enjoy myself and mingle with the other writers.
First, I took a little nap in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt as our hosts were setting up for the Thrillerfest opening reception. I was amazed at how tired I was. Apparently I hadn’t been aware of how stressed I was until the reason for the stress was past. I hope I didn’t drool too much.

They opened the doors promptly at 6:30 and I got my first real taste of what the life of a writer could be like. The room was filled with authors, agents, and publishers of all levels. To be honest, I think I did more networking there than I did at Pitchfest. Of course, those of us that did attend Pitchfest wasted no time and immediately sought each-other out to compare notes. I did my best not to boast about my success, but it wasn’t easy. Especially once I’d gotten a couple cocktails in me.

Again I was amazed at the openness of the writing community there. I got lots of valuable advice from my fellow writers about both self-publishing and traditional publishing. I was given great advice on how to find a great cover designer, how to plan a book tour, and lots of other things.

Again I must admit that there were a few times where I was talking to someone and for some reason, I couldn’t help but assume that they were  on a similar level to myself, only to look down and realize it was a name I recognized. Luckily, none of them seemed offended. The food that was served was amazing, if a bit difficult to eat while navigating a room full of people you’re trying to impress. I wish I could say exactly what was served, but it was much fancier than I’m used to.

By the time the reception ended at eight, I was thoroughly exhausted and grateful when my Uber dropped me off at the front of my hotel. I went straight to my room, laid on my bed intending to rest for a bit before exploring the rooftop bar, and promptly fell asleep.

Bright and early the next morning, I was up and showered while most of my fellow hotel guests slept. I was grateful for that. Did I mention it was a communal shower?

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I decided that, considering the heat wave, and the fact that I was going to be there all day so I wanted to be comfortable, I threw on a nice polo shirt, a pair of slacks, and was out the door. Immediately, I was hit in the face with a blast of hot air. In seconds, I felt like I was covered in sweat. I probably should have called for a ride, but I decided, since I was in NYC, to experience the subway.

It was at least a mile to the nearest station, but even in the heat, I didn’t mind the walk. As I went down the stairs to the platform, I was aware of two things. First, the heat was even worse down there. It was as if I was descending into the bowels of hell itself. The second thing I noticed was the rat the size of a thanksgiving turkey running across the platform in front of me.

Luckily, the system was easy to navigate, especially since my stop was the famous Grand Central Station.

I gladly traded the heat and humidity for the almost frigid comfort of the lobby of the Grand Hyatt. I only had a moment to acclimate however, since the first set of panels started promptly at eight.

I would have loved to have attended all of the panels, but I was forced to choose between four of them each hour. I started off the morning with CHARACTER, PLOT OR LANGUAGE? YA Thrillers In Today’s World, followed by CAFFEINE, CHOCOLATE OR WINE? Writers’ Tricks To Keep You Going. I believe it was during this panel that I won a prize.

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Unfortunately, this meant I had to carry it around the rest of the day. I’m not trying to sound ungrateful, but a bottle of wine gets heavy after a while. If I’d had a corkscrew, I probably would have popped it open and shared it with a few select people.

There was a short break. Then it was on to WEREWOLVES, VAMPIRES OR WITCHES? Thrillers On The Wild Side, led by Heather Graham. Next was PAST, PRESENT OR FUTURE? Mapping Out Your Five Year Plan.

Next, was the big ITW meeting. I’m not a member, so I slipped out for lunch at Grand Central Station. I had a great hot dog and asked for a Coke. The message on my bottle seemed fitting.

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I got back just in time for, ONE, THREE OR MANY? Standalone, Trilogy, and Series Thrillers, hosted by my friend, Sandra Brannan, then wrapped up the day with BUZZ, SHOUT, OR WHISPER? How To Buzz Your Book In An Overcrowded Market. Afterward, I went to the cocktail party that wrapped up the day.

By the time I got back to my hotel, I was once again, completely exhausted. I wearily asked the front desk if there were somewhere nearby where I could just get a quick sandwich and he directed me to a small convenience store/deli a block over.

I went back u to my room, enjoyed my sandwich and my bottle of wine (don’t judge) and passed out.

The next day, I was up bright and early, but I was so tired, I barely made it in time for ITW Presents THE DEBUT AUTHOR CLASS OF 2016: Introductions by Steve Berry. I’m glad I did make it though, as it included an amazing breakfast buffet. I probably had an entire pot of coffee trying to perk myself up for the rest of the day.

After the breakfast, it was time for more panels. I started with ELLROY, HIGHSMITH OR HAMMETT? Noir At The Bar, followed by CHILLS, THRILLS OR TEEN HEROES? Young Adult Thrillers, led by Lissa Price and featuring R.L. Stine.

Next was an interview with Gillian Flynn where I found out I’d been pronouncing her name wrong. It’s a hard G.

After that was a panel I really needed. PAIN, HEARTACHE OR ELATION? Don’t Murder Your Novel Before You Finish It. I’m really bad about this. It was comforting to hear how common it really is.

Next, I couldn’t miss this. SILVER BULLET AWARD RECIPIENT JOHN LESCROART INTERVIEWED BY R.L. STINE .

I then wrapped up my Thrillerfest experience with PLOTTER, PANTSER OR HYBRID? The Pros And Cons Of Outlining.

There was a banquet following all this, but I hadn’t been aware this required an extra ticket and to be perfectly honest, I was thoroughly worn out. I slipped out and went back to my hotel. After a little nap, I went and explored the meat packing district and treated myself to an amazing burger.

I spent a good portion of that evening at the rooftop bar of the Jane, looking out over the river and fantasizing about my new life as a professional writer.

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Next week, I’m let loose on the streets of NYC, completely unsupervised. Stay tuned and I’ll see you on Friday with another piece of Flash Fiction.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

 

 

 

 

Story Time: How My Second Grade Teacher Scarred Me For Life

More on my adventures at Thrillerfest/Pitchfest and in NYC next time.

Today I want to tell you a little story.

So gather round, kiddies. Feel free to organize yourselves in a semi-circle if you’d like. It’s story time.

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First of all, I would like to state from the get-go that this isn’t about anything sexual. I’m sorry if you got that impression from the title, but there are lots of ways authority figures can damage young minds.

I was about seven years old at the time. My first grade teacher from the previous year had submitted my name for a new program known as G.A.T.E., an acronym for gifted and talented education.

Not to toot my own horn, but I was a pretty smart child. By the time I entered grade school, I had already written a book of silly little poems. One of my teachers even wanted me to try to publish them. Remember,  most of the kids my age couldn’t yet read, much less write.

Anyway, this program was intended to nurture gifted young minds. I don’t remember how often, but I believe it was a few times a week if not daily, we were pulled out of our regular class for an hour or so and given activities to spark our creativity.

My regular second-grade teacher resented the program with a passion (more on that later). She was very vocal about her opposition to the program and would mock it whenever the opportunity arose. This was usually when the G.A.T.E. teacher would come to collect me. She would often make snide comments about it being time for me to go be “special”. Other times she wouldn’t say a word, but her icy glare said it all.

One day, I was given a project that was right up my alley. I was told to pick three slips of paper from a hat. We were then given fifteen minutes to make up a story based on the words written on them. I got Hero, Phantom, and Dragon. Luckily, those three words all kind of go together. I think I wrote a story about a hero and his pet dragon going to fight the phantom. I can’t really remember because I was seven and that story only existed in print for about a half hour.

After my session, I was sent back to my regular class, story in hand. As soon as I walked in, my freshly penned (penciled?) story was snatched out of my hand.

“Let’s see what they’ve got you doing in there.” My teacher sneered.

She read it quickly and then laughed at me. I was then made to stand in front of the class while she read it out loud and openly mocked me and the rest of the class laughed. I was in tears by the time she was done. She handed it back to me and told me to go to my seat.

As I sat there, trying to stop sniffling, I slowly tore the story I had once been so proud of into tiny little pieces.

And that, my friends, is how a teacher can scar a child for life. It was years before I could pick up a pen in any sort of creative way again. Even now, I suffer from bouts of crippling anxiety and self-doubt. I question my worth and won’t write a thing for months at a time.

I also stopped engaging in class. This was the event that taught me to keep my head down and not stand out. I refused to raise my hand even when I knew the answer. (Which was often.) I would rarely do my homework. A habit that persisted through high-school which left adults scratching their heads because I pretty much always aced the standardized tests. I think deep down, it’s why I’ve always been terrified of being good at anything. It’s why I’m forty and only just now really trying to make something of myself.

Now I’m not blaming all my problems on this one event. Remember, I was also the fat kid people liked to pick on. Still, I would definitely consider this a formative event in my life.

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been different if I had published that book of silly poems. They weren’t that great, but I think that the fact they were written by a six-year old would have sold a lot of copies.

Later, I learned that this particular teacher wanted the program to fail because she had tried to get her daughter in but she was rejected. It also didn’t help that my dad was a cop, just like her ex-husband.

I know she had her issues and she was only human, but, and I can’t state this enough. I WAS SEVEN!!! How could an adult who is supposed to teach kids bully a child like that? She was the authority figure, so I took her opinion as fact. I never told my parents about it. If I had, I’m sure they would have raised hell.

I’m not sure the school would have been able to really do anything about it though. They might have given her a warning, but back in the eighties, I don’t think it was technically against the rules. Besides, it would have been my word against hers. Maybe some of my classmates might have backed me up, but she had done her level best to indoctrinate them to dislike the program and, by extension, me.

I don’t write this looking for sympathy. I just want to make people aware that this sort of thing can happen. This is why I’m opposed to tenure among teachers. I’ve had some really bad ones in my day, but getting rid of them wasn’t possible.

Anyway, I promise next week’s offering will be much cheerier. It will be more about my adventures in NYC. I’ll definitely talk about the rest of my experiences at Thrillerfest and if there’s time, my adventures exploring the city.

I’ve decided I’m going to attempt to post three times a week. On Monday, I will follow my Girlfriend’s example and post about what I’ve been reading. Wednesday will be a general post about what’s going on in my life or whatever I feel like rambling about. And of course, there’s Flash Fiction Friday. Which reminds me, I need to get working on that.

So that’s it for today. I’ll see you guys on Friday.

Also, I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have about writing or anything else, so don’t be afraid. I can’t promise I’ll have a good answer, but I’ll answer.

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

My Trip To NYC For Thrillerfest/Pitchfest 2016 part 2

Let’s see. Where was I?

Oh yes, I had just arrived at Thrillerfest and was starstruck by all the famous authors I saw just standing around like normal people. Thanks to the help of Sandra Brannan, author of the Liv Bergen mystery series, and my personal friend, I got checked in, received my swag, and found myself free to mingle amongst the crowd. The crowd filled with bestselling writers.

I was timid at first, but before long, I was in amongst them and feeling like a fraud. Who was I to talk to these celebrities having had nothing published yet?

Surprisingly, they all turned out to be pretty normal people. Or at least, as normal as us artistic types can be. The point is, none of them seemed to think they were any better than me and were even willing to give as much advice as I could take. They all seemed to remember when they were at my level and honestly, didn’t seem to think they were that far ahead of me.

The highlight was when I approached R.L. Stine and timidly called him Mr. Stine and he told me to call him Bob. Here I was, on a first name basis with an author I had read for years. I’m not going to claim I read them as a kid, because the first one came out when I was a senior in high-school, but I read all of them I could get my hands on when they did come out. Luckily my girlfriend at the time had little brothers.

Anyway, not wanting to take up too much of his time, I just asked for a picture.

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I chatted with Bob for a few minutes before making room for his other fans and mingled in the crowd. I was sure to talk to as many famous authors as I could, but I also talked to several people like me who were still looking to break in and find an agent. It truly felt like a community. There wasn’t any of that competitive backstabbing you get in other professions.

I do have to confess one thing though. A couple of times, I found myself talking to someone, thinking  they were there to find an agent like I was, but when I looked at their badge, I realized they were very successful authors that I just didn’t recognize. I’m not going to say their names just in case they ever read this blog. To be fair, it’s hard to memorize a face when you’ve only seen it on the back of a book.

Anyway, when the mingling was done, everyone who was pitching a book was ushered downstairs for orientation. We were told we would stand in line to meet each agent and would have a limited time to pitch. I can’t remember what the official time was (I believe it was either one or two minutes) but we would be given that time to pitch, then the agent would either say they weren’t interested or if they were, would tell you what they wanted and how to get it to them, Of course the agents had discretion to either extend your time, or to cut you off if they could tell they weren’t interested. Both happened to me, although I’m happy to say the former happened way more often than the latter.

After orientation, we were paired with successful authors who gave us helpful advice for pitching. I was paired with Lissa Price, author of Starters and Enders. She was very sweet and helpful. I was sorry to say I hadn’t read her books, but both Shannon and her sister had and loved them. I’m currently reading Starters.

My heart sank when, after my practice pitch, in which I had referred to my book as Dystopian YA, she told me that dystopian had become somewhat of a bad word in the publishing business and to avoid using it at all costs. With her help, we came up with an alternative genre. I can’t at the moment remember what that was, but she said other than that one thing, my pitch was good and sounded interesting. I shook her hand and thanked her profusely before making my way back upstairs to pitch.

My first pitch went very well and she asked me for pages. My second, not so much. I got a few words into my pitch and my brain completely locked up. I couldn’t for the life of me string together a coherent sentence. I started to panic. My heart started to race and I couldn’t even think. Finally, I had to get up and walk away. Looking back, I think it was just that this particular agent clearly wasn’t interested from the get go and showed it. His glazed over eyes flustered me and things went downhill from there.

After that, things began to go more smoothly. Even though I don’t think my alternative genre fooled anyone, there was still quite a bit of interest. Once I had pitched to everyone on my list, there was still some time left. I didn’t expect much, but I didn’t see any point in standing there twiddling my thumbs when there were agents willing to talk to me. Surprisingly, this strategy was more successful than I expected and two asked for pages.

All told, six agents wanted to see partials, and two wanted the whole thing. Even better, there were also publishers there and  I got a yes from my dream publisher. Again, I’m not going to name names, because I don’t want to jinx it.

After the pitching was done, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. the hard part was done. Now I could enjoy the rest of the convention, starting with the Thrillerfest opening reception. There, while enjoying some delicious food and cocktails, I was able to talk to more authors of all levels.

I found myself seeking out other pitchfest attendees just to find out how they did. I was afraid my success was just normal and some of the agents were just being polite. As it turned out, this was definitely not the case. Many of my fellow attendees had only gotten a couple of yesses, while some hadn’t gotten any at all. I found myself becoming more and more embarrassed at my success.

Finally, Sandra Brannan found me and asked how I had done. When I told her, she first looked surprised, then gave me a huge hug. Apparently, my success was very unusual indeed.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr