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

 

Flash Fiction Friday Number 19: The Golden Apple

Okay. I know it’s been over a month since my last Flash Fiction Friday, but we’ve been dealing with the aftermath of a death in the family. Also, this one took a bit longer to write. Partly because this one isn’t exactly flash fiction. it falls more into short story territory.

Anyway, as you may remember, I was going to write a less literal, more adult story inspired by the same roll of the dice used to write Rory’s Apple Adventure. FFF #18 . To see the actual roll, click here. Anyway, I’ll stop boring you. I give you…

The Golden Apple

“Robby. I need that report on my desk by three.” Mister Simmons said, turning and walking away without waiting for an answer.

“Sir?” Rory said.

“Yes?” Mr. Simmons paused without turning back around, clearly annoyed at having his time wasted.

“Never mind.” Rory said, deciding it would be better to answer to someone else’s name rather than upset the boss.

“Okay then. Remember, two O-clock.”

Rory got to work, cursing himself for losing himself an hour.

At ten, his alarm went off. He briefly considered skipping his break, but thought better of it. Even though he didn’t really need to go, it would be another two hours until his lunch break. By then, he knew, he would probably be dying. Besides, he relished his little breaks. Even when he didn’t really need to go, he loved to lock himself in the stall, pull his feet up and shut his eyes for a few minutes. On the rare occasions it didn’t smell too bad, he would even practice some of the deep breathing exercises his therapist had suggested.

He was doing just that when the door opened and two men walked in, talking to each other. He didn’t recognize the voices, but their shoes were nicer than anyone on his floor usually wore. Rory curled himself into an even tighter ball, feeling somehow guilty for no reason whatsoever.

“God, I hate using the can down here with the commoners. When are they going to get the executive wash room fixed?”

“Not for at least another week.”

“Ugh. They don’t even have decent soap in here.”

“Can’t let these peons get a taste of the good life, can we? Besides, once we turn the golden apple on…”

“Shh.”

Rory saw one of the men walk past his stall, bent low, checking for feet. He almost breathed a sigh of relief when the executive moved past, apparently satisfied that the bathroom was empty.

“Anyway, like I was saying, once we turn that golden apple on, our worries will be over.”

“Don’t you feel at least a little bad for all those people? I mean, this is their savings we’re talking about.”

“That’s the thing. It’s savings. They’re not using it. It’s just sitting in a bank account. These people don’t know how to spend their money. It’s just going to rot in their account until they die.”

“I guess.”

“Look at it this way. Taking all that money and spending it will be just the kickstart the economy needs.”

“But how? We’ll be spending it in another country.”

“Details, details.”

“Well, if it’s going to happen, I hope it happens soon. The thought of all those account numbers sitting there on that hard drive in Julian’s office makes me nervous. If we get caught…”

“We won’t. Besides, even if they raid us, like you said, it’s in Julian’s office. Connected to his computer. He’s the one who goes down for trying to rip off all those poor people. We had no idea he was capable of such a thing. Poor bastard doesn’t even know he’s committing the crime of the century.”

The other man laughed.

“So when do we turn it on?”

“We just need a few thousand more accounts. Maybe a week? Put it this way. I’d start packing now. Once we flip the switch, we’re gonna want to scoot. Best to be in some nice non-extradition country before anyone figures out what we’ve done.”

“Good thinking.” He laughed as the bathroom door opened and the men walked out.

Rory couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. Were these men really planning on cleaning out people’s savings accounts? He quickly washed his hands and exited the bathroom.

He made a beeline for Mister Simmons’ office and burst in without knocking.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Simmons shouted.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but this is really important.” Rory said.

“Do you have my report ready?” Simmons asked.

“Well, uh, no sir. But I just heard these two guys in the bathroom. They were talking about something called the golden apple. They’re going to…”

Simmons’ eyes widened at the mention of the golden apple.

“That’s enough. I’ll not have you making up wild stories as an excuse for not finishing your work on time. I’m afraid you’re done here at Oak Tree Investments. Clean out your desk, Ricky.”

Rory turned to go.

“Sir. One more thing.”

“What now?”

“It’s Rory. I want you to remember that.”

“Get out!”

As Rory packed his things, he wondered what to do next. Clearly Simmons was in on the scam. Who knew who else? Possibly everyone above his pay level. Except for Julian of course, whoever he was. Rory couldn’t go to the cops without some sort of proof. He’d just look like another disgruntled employee.

Then it hit him. He did know someone who might be able to help.

He looked at his pitiful box of posessions and realized it was all meaningless. He left it on his former desk as he walked out. As he passed through the glass doors of his building, he expected his anxiety to kick in at being suddenly unemployed for the first time since high-school, but instead he felt free in a way he’d never thought possible.

. . .

Rory wished he’d changed before going to see Mark. He stuck out like a sore thumb walking around in his suit in the commune Mark had joined after he’d gotten out of prison. Even worse, everyone he passed eyed him warily. Nobody answered when he asked for Mark. Still, nobody bothered him, either. Just as he was giving up hope, he heard a familiar voice call out to him.

“Well, well. If it ain’t the lion’s roar himself.” Mark said, hanging out of the door of a small trailer. He looked so much different than he had the last time Rory had seen him that he was glad Mark had spotted him. He wasn’t sure he would have recognized this man with long hair and a scraggly beard.

“Hey Mark. How have you been?”

“Mark’s gone. It’s Sunflower now.” His friend said. Rory waited for the punchline, but none came. “I changed it when I decided to cut that noose from my neck.”

“You mean when you were busted for hacking.”

“So what brings you out to the land of the hippies?” Sunflower asked, ignoring Rory’s comment.

“I have a little computer problem I need some help with.”

“No can do, partner. I’m not about that life any more.”

“Uh huh.” Rory said, eyeing the impressive array of antennae emerging from the roof of the small camper.

Mark/Sunflower followed his line of sight and sighed.

“You always were smarter than you let on. I guess you might as well come inside.”

The inside of the trailer was so full of old computers, Rory wondered where Sunflower slept.

Sunflower handed Rory a beer that seemed to appear out of nowhere and sat on the small patch of floor in the center of the trailer. Rory did the same.

“So what is it you need? And it’d better be good.” Sunflower said.

Rory quickly told him everything he’d heard in the bathroom, all the while, Sunflower leaned closer. Rory was worried that if his jaw dropped any more, it might actually scrape the floor.

“Those sons of…” He finally said.

“Right?” Rory agreed.

“We’ve got to stop them.” Sunflower said, jumping up and opening a terminal.

“What are you doing?”

“Seeing what I can find on this golden apple.”

“I doubt you’ll find anything on the internet.”

“Internet? I’ve been deep in their system since long before they had me arrested. A digital fly on the wall if you will.”

Rory sat back and drank his beer as Sunflower typed furiously. Before he’d finished it, Sunflower found what he was looking for.

“Bingo.”

“You got it? Wipe it clean.”

“I found it, yes. But cracking it is another story. Security to this thing is iron clad. I’m going to need to be in the same room with it to get into it. Besides, I wouldn’t wipe it anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because. If I wipe it, there’s no evidence. If there’s no evidence, these guys don’t go to prison and do it again in a couple of months. Do you still have your security badge?”

Rory looked down and saw it was still clipped to his belt.

“Yeah, why?”

Sunflower snatched it from him.

“Because, one of us is going to need to get in there. Now who do you want to be? Be careful. Whoever’s identity you use is going to be in a buttload of trouble.”

“Simmons.” Rory said without hesitation.

“Good choice.” Sunflower laughed.

. . .

Rory tried not to look nervous as he used his reprogrammed badge to open the doors and walked up to the desk where a very muscular black man in a uniform sat watching some action movie on his tablet. Rory almost breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that this was a guard he’d never seen before. The name on his tag said Alphonso.

Alphonso quickly stopped his movie and stowed his tablet when he saw Rory.

“Hello sir, may I help you?” the guard asked with a sheepish grin.

“Just need to finish a little paperwork that didn’t get done.” Rory answered. He could feel his palms getting clammy as the lie left his lips.

“Certainly, sir. I just need to see your badge.”

Rory handed it over, willing his hand not to shake. Alphonso studied the security badge for a long moment. Rory felt a sheen of sweat break out on his forehead.

Finally, Alphonso handed the badge back and smiled.

“You have a good evening, Mister Simmons.”

“You too, Alphonso. And don’t worry. It’ll be our little secret.” Rory said, nodding toward the spot where Alphonso had hidden his tablet.

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”

Rory flashed him another smile that turned to a look of panic as he turned toward the elevators.

As soon as the doors slid shut, Rory almost pressed the button for his old floor out of habit before remembering that this time, he was going all the way to the top.

“Okay. I’m in.” Rory said.

The earpiece Sunflower had given him crackled to life.

“Okay. You’re looking for the office of Julian Walker.”

Rory found it quickly, but when he turned the handle, it didn’t move.

“It’s locked.” Rory said. “What now?”

“Give me a second.” Sunflower said.

A moment later, Rory heard the electronic lock click. Rory tried the handle again and the door opened.

“Got it.” Rory whispered.

“Good, now put the device in the computer and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Rory did as he was asked and waited. He felt himself starting to tremble with the tension.

“Comeoncomeoncomeon.” Rory said under his breath.

“I’m working as fast as I can.” Sunflower said. Then a moment later, “Jesus!”

“What?” Rory asked, panicking.

“They’ve got the banking info of everyone who’s ever done business with ol’ Oak tree Financial. Not to mention the employees.”

“Jesus.” Rory repeated back.

“Aaaaannnnnd, got it.” Sunflower said, finally.

Rory snatched the device out of the computer. As he did, the printer whirred to life.

“Did you do that?” Rory whispered as loudly as he could, startled.

“Yes. We need a hard copy just in case.”

As soon as the printer stopped, Rory grabbed the sheaf of papers and shoved them down the front of his pants.

“What about the apple?” Rory asked, looking at the round device plugged into the back of the computer. “Shouldn’t I take it?”

“Not if you want to take these guys down. They need to be caught with it. Now get out of there.”

As Rory rode the elevator down. He was overcome with an odd sense of peace. It was almost over. He just had to walk past Alphonso, who was probably still engrossed in his movie, and it would be over.

The elevator doors opened and Rory found himself looking down the barrel of Alphonso’s revolver. Rory didn’t know much about guns, but it looked like a big one to him.

“What’s going on, Al?” Rory asked, trying to sound casual.

“I looked up Simmons in the database. You ain’t him. Now come out of there slowly and get down on the ground.”

“Look. I can explain.” Rory said.

“Sure you can.”

“Can I just show you something?”

Alphonso thought for a moment.

“Okay, but you’d better make it quick. Cops are on their way.”

Rory pulled up his shirt very slowly, trying not to get shot, to show Alphonso the papers.

“I’m just going to pull these papers out.”

“Okay, but no funny stuff.”

“Never.” Rory said, dripping with sweat.

As soon as Rory had the papers in his hand, Alphonso relaxed just a bit. Rory began rifling through the papers until he found the page he was looking for.

“Let’s see. Alphonso Simpson is it?”

“How’d you know that?”

Rory then rattled off the series of numbers after his name. Rory hadn’t realized someone with such dark skin could turn so pale.

“That’s my bank account.” Alfonso said, surprised. “How’d you get that?”

“Lower that thing and I’ll tell you.”

Alphonso thought for a brief moment and then pointed his gun at the floor, still ready to bring it back to the ready if he needed to. Rory, as quickly as he could, explained everything about Simmons, overhearing the execs talking, and the golden apple.

“Sonofabitch.” Alphonso said. “You’d better go, before the cops get here.”

Rory took a couple of steps before turning around.

“Here. Give them this when they get here. Tell them everything I told you.” Rory said, handing him the papers.

“And where do I say I got ‘em?”

“Tell them Rory gave them to you.” Rory said, before turning and walking out through the glass door.

As he walked down the street, listening to the approaching sirens, Rory felt as close as he would ever get to walking away coolly from an exploding building. Still something was eating at him.

“Congratulations, buddy. You did it.” Sunflower said through the earpiece.

“Yeah.” Rory said.

“What’s wrong?”

“I was just thinking. These guys are already so rich, they’ll probably just hire a bunch of high-priced lawyers and get off anyway.”

“Leave that to me.” Sunflower said, almost laughing.

“What are you going to do?”

“Well, I made a copy of the apple.”

“So?”

“I’m going to turn it on.”

“You’re what?!”

“Don’t worry. You see, there were actually two lists of accounts. Those to be drained, and another set of accounts listed as untouchables. Guess who those belong to.”

“I still don’t see…”

“Just give me a second.”

Rory could hear him typing through the earpiece.

“Just a bit of magic from my own little fingers as I switch the lists, and boom. The rat bastards are as broke as we are… were.”

Rory did his best not to celebrate right there on the sidewalk as the first cop car rushed past him.

“So what did you do with the money?” Rory asked, finally.

“Most of it’s safe in an untraceable offshore account that only the two of us will be able to access.”

“And the rest?”

I took the liberty of opening a secret trust fund for the children of one Alphonso Simpson to be delivered when they reach college. Now I’ve got to go pack. You should probably do the same.”

 

And there it is. Proof that you can interpret the dice any way you want. In this case, Rory has transformed from a literal sheep, to a sheepish man. The magical sunflower has turned into a hippie named Sunflower with magic-like hacking abilities. I think you can figure out the rest of the symbolism on your own.

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

I’ve also reopened my Amazon merch store, Scribe’s Station where I sell writing and book related T-Shirts.

What’s Up Wednesday: Big Changes

Hey guys.

First off, welcome. What do you think of the new digs? I know it’s a little bland so far, but I’d love your input on how I should decorate the place. Let me know in the comments.

Migrating the blog to my own site isn’t the only change I’ve made in the last week.

I’ve finally overcome a major stumbling block I’ve had for years.

First, I have something to confess. Even though I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, I’ve only ever submitted one piece for publication. To my credit, I aimed big and sent it to the New Yorker. Unfortunately, at the time, my work was nowhere near up to their standards. To be honest, I’m not sure it is even now. Of course, my submission was rejected. That was almost twenty years ago and I haven’t submitted anything since. Why not?

In a word, fear. I think George McFly summed it up best.

Even though the New Yorker rejection didn’t hurt so bad because I knew I was reaching, (probably why I chose that market in the first place) I was still terrified I’d get rejected by even small markets.

All those years, there was something I was missing. When it comes right down to it, the worst thing that could have happened had I been submitting pieces all this time is for everything I submitted to have been rejected. While that’s an unlikely outcome, it’s effectively what happened from being too afraid to submit anything at all. I’m still, as yet, unpublished by a professional publication.

Having realized this, I’m proud to say that in the past week, I’ve submitted two stories to anthologies. I’m also much more confident in my work so I’m very hopeful that at least one of them gets selected. I’ve decided to only submit to professional paying markets, so the competition is fierce, but I feel like accepting anything less would be shortchanging myself, and I’ve done that long enough. At least all that time where I wasn’t submitting was spent working on my craft.

I’m also preparing other stories to send to magazines and other anthologies so hopefully I’ll have good news to report soon. If nothing else, eventually I’ll have enough stories to publish a collection on my own.

Also, by popular demand, I’m trying to figure out a way to sell autographed copies of my books from my site. Of course, all I have to offer at this point are these.

But hopefully I’ll have more to offer very very soon.

So, other than the fact that we’re roasting out here and praying the gods show us some mercy soon, that’s about all I have to tell you this week.

I’ll see you on Friday with another flash piece. Until then, try to keep cool and face your fears.

Please like this post and follow this blog. I’m not sure if the migration process brought over all my followers so you may have to re-follow.

Don’t forget to stalk me.

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

 

The Return Of What’s Up Wednesday: SoDakCon, My First Book Signing, And Giving My First Interview

Hey Guys. Long time no see.

As always, life is still crazy, but at least this time it’s been in a good way.

I may have mentioned a little event known as SoDakCon before. If I haven’t or you’ve forgotten, SoDakCon is the biggest anime/nerd convention in the black hills. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still small comparatively, but it’s growing every year. This year’s theme was Pirates versus ninjas. (Yes, the choice of capitalization was intentional.)

Having identified as a pirate for many years, I of course had to finish my cosplay. Still, there’s a long tradition among cosplayers and being new to the scene, who am I to break it? In keeping with tradition, I waited to finish my costume until the last minute. Still, I think it turned out pretty well and I got a lot of compliments on it. I was even stopped by the event photographer and asked to pose for several pictures. They haven’t been posted yet, but when they are I’ll post them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For now, here are a couple of shots Shannon took of me.

File Jun 28, 4 58 01 AM

What do you think?

File Jun 28, 4 57 18 AM

I just had to stop by the green-screen booth and have a professional picture taken.

CCI06262017_0003

Check my Instagram for more of me and a few of the other amazing cosplayers who put me to shame.

So anyway, while I love going to con every year as a spectator and mingling with my kind,

nerds

this year was somewhat special. Thanks to my friend and fellow author Adrian Ludens, I was able to set up at his table to sell some of my own books. While I can’t say I sold as many as I’d hoped I would, I did sell a lot more than I’d feared I might.

I was hoping that I’d have something professionally printed in time, but yet again, I dropped the ball so at the last minute, I had to come up with what I could. I ended up designing a cover for my short story “Blood Moon” that translated to black and white. I was shooting for something reminiscent of the old dime store novels.

I think they turned out nicely. I still have plenty of copies. If anyone is interested, I’ll be selling them on my website. www.JustinMKelly.com.

One of the most thrilling moments of the weekend was being interviewed for public radio about being a writer. I have to admit, I got tongue-tied and stumbled a bit, but I made it through even though my heart was beating like crazy.

Then of course came THE moment. The moment when I sold my first copy and got to sign my first autograph. I wish I could say I did it smoothly, but the combination of it being such a momentous occasion and the fact that I honestly hardly ever write longhand, especially in cursive anymore, made me even more awkward than normal. I actually had to stop and try to remember how to make the letters I needed. Luckily, my first sale was to a friend who didn’t mind so much.

After that, things went a lot more smoothly.

All in all, it was an amazing, if exhausting weekend.

And that’s where I think I’ll stop. I could tell you more, but if I told you about every amazing thing that happened over the weekend, this post would be a mile long and I wouldn’t finish writing it until next Wednesday.

I’ll see you all on Friday with a fresh piece of flash fiction.

As always, you can find me all these places 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 also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

I’m even on Pinterest

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

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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