What’s Up Wednesday: Ready To Get Back To Work… I Think.

I’m all moved into my new office space. Well, at least the important stuff has been moved. At least temporarily.

As you may remember from my last post, I was moving my home office from the guest bedroom upstairs, to our newly reclaimed basement space.

I was planning on moving it into one of the bedrooms downstairs while I make repairs to the other one where it used to be. Once the repairs are done, I plan on moving it into the room where I did my best work. After that, the other bedroom is going to be turned into a home gym and eventually, the overly large living room will be turned into a home theater/entertainment area.

Unfortunately, my plan hit a bit of a snag.

As I was preparing the “usable” bedroom for move in, I started to realize that the moldy smell wasn’t just coming from the other bedroom. The water damage must have gotten into the shared wall between the two bedrooms. So that will have to be taken out as well.

So, change of plan. Until I’m able to make repairs to both bedrooms, I’ve decided to temporarily put my office in the currently unused living room.

After several trips up and down the stairs, I finally have a usable workspace.

Yes, that’s a bed in the foreground. Sometimes, laying down helps me think. Other times I just fall asleep.

This isn’t all of it. In fact, there’s still a lot to move down, but I should have everything I need to start writing again. Except for ideas.

That’s a joke. I have more ideas than I can handle right now. I just need the time and motivation.

I even put in a small area for when I need to relax and blow off some steam because a story is frustrating me. Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. Still, I can’t wait to get everything back into the room where it belongs.

I may have made a mistake productivity wise.

I’m actually eager to get some work done. For now, I’m just going to do some very short fiction, just to get my fingers moving again. Once the bird has been eaten, the real work will begin.

I’m trying to decide if I should pick up my long neglected YA novel, or start fresh with one of the new ideas rattling around in my head. What do you think?

Now that I have a decent place to shoot, I may even start posting YouTube videos again. I’d love to get some suggestions on topics you guys would like me to cover. Leave me some comments at www.YouTube.com/justinmkellywriter .

As for my reading, I fell off for a little bit while I was making the move, but I finally finished Firestarter by Stephen King and am now reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and I’m listening to NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. So far they’re both really good. I’m also reading a couple of nonfiction books on Freelance writing and copywriting.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to write about some actual writing progress.

Fingers crossed.

What’s Up Wednesday: Preparing For Moving Day

No. I’m not moving to a new house. We’ve put too much work into this one to abandon it and start over now.

What I am doing is moving into a new home office space.

I love my home office. It’s kind of become a combination home office/study/man cave. It’s very comfortable and if I were single, I would probably spend most of my time in there.

Perfection… almost.

There’s only one problem.

On the other side of a very thin door is our living room, bedroom, and the rest of the house. I always feel guilty locking myself away and working when life is going on on the other side of that door. Shannon swears she doesn’t mind, but I can’t help but be distracted knowing she’s out there alone.

I also worry about keeping her awake when I’m writing at night.

I don’t want her to have to walk on eggshells trying to be quiet so as not to disturb me while I’m concentrating either.

Even the window can be a bit of a distraction. Basically, I need a distraction-free workspace. Or I at least need to limit them to distractions that inspire me.

As some of you may know, due to a water leak, our renter in the basement apartment had to move. Instead of trying to find a new renter, we decided that we could afford to take over the whole house.

Before buying the house, we used to live in the basement apartment ourselves. This means I can move my office back into its original space… eventually.

Remember the water leak I mentioned? Well, here’s what my basement office used to look like.

And this is it now.

If you can’t see it, there’s a large crack right under the corner of the window. That’s where the water was getting in.

As you can see, we have a lot of work to do before it’s a usable space again.

So for now, I’m going to move it into what was our old bedroom.

Don’t worry, I’m going to clean the carpet and the walls well. Probably a coat of paint eventually.

It’s going to be pretty basic. I’m not going to decorate it much since I hope to be able to get the other room in shape over the winter, but it’ll be a good space to work.

Once I’m able to move back into my permanent space, We’re planning on turning our old bedroom into a home gym and the downstairs living room into a combination library/home theater. Once the back patio gets a makeover, we should have a nice party area to have parties, movie nights, and game nights. Maybe even an occasional poker night with the guys.

It’ll be nice to have an actual guest room upstairs again. Then I’ll just have to work on talking my friends into coming for a visit.

Reading update. I finished Full Dark, No Stars and Carrie over the last week. Now I’m reading Firestarter. Yes, I’m on a Stephen King kick, but hey. It’s almost Halloween.

What’s Up Wednesday: Checking Myself Into Rehab

First off, let me explain. No, I haven’t fallen victim to drink or drugs. It’s not that kind of rehab I need. It’s something much, much worse for a writer.

The truth is, for the last couple of years, I haven’t been writing. This isn’t something easy for someone who claims to be a writer to admit. In fact, I’ve been lying about it because if I’m not writing, I’m just a fraud. Which, since I’ve resorted to lying about it, I guess I am anyway.

Sure, I’ve scribbled a few lines here and there. I’ve even written a few pieces of flash that weren’t worth showing to the world, but for the most part, I having written anything worthwhile.

I could blame this on any number of things. My struggles with anxiety and depression, twenty-four hours a day access to entertainment via Netflix, Hulu, etc., the fact that I lost one of my best friends over the summer, (Although that’s unfair to him. My troubles started long before his passing and he was never anything but encouraging.) or just sheer laziness.

All of these are true to some extent, but after much soul searching, I’ve come to realize that they’re all just an excuse. I thought long and hard about those glory days when I could hardly stop my fingers from moving across the keyboard. What’s missing from the equation?

The answer? Reading. Looking at the past few years, I hate to admit it, but I’ve only read a handful of books. I, the kid who used to always carry around a battered old paperback. The one who used to get in trouble in math class for reading during the lesson (but not too much because whenever the teacher would try to surprise me with a question, I always knew the answer.) The guy who, when he didn’t have a new book to read and couldn’t get to the library, would re-read one of his favorites until the cover fell off and it started bleeding pages. The one who often had several books in strategic places around the house, all of which I was reading at the same time.

I’ve always been a big believer in this. I don’t know how I got so far off track.

Once upon a time, I even filmed a YouTube video on the importance of reading for writers. Looking back, I think I was mostly talking to myself. Especially looking at the view count.

Truth be told, I think the biggest reason I stopped reading was the advent of unlimited entertainment at my fingertips. When I was younger and the internet was in its infancy, if I got bored, I would pick up a book. Or, barring that, I would make up a story to entertain myself. It wasn’t long before I started writing them down. Especially once smart phones came out, I became a screen addict.

So what’s the solution? I think that’s obvious. I need to become the voracious reader I used to be. Instead of taking my phone with me to the bathroom, I need to take a book. I need to make sure I always have my kindle in my man purse.

In case I find myself with only my phone, I need to make sure I always have a book on there just in case.

Now I’m not saying I’m going to follow the advice of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and kill my television. I still enjoy watching some TV and I believe there is value in visual entertainment. What I am going to do though, is stop turning it on unless there’s something I actually want to watch.

To this end, I think I’m going to start posting weekly on what books I’m reading. I might even give soft reviews, but don’t expect me to just shred someone else’s work. I’m a big believer in karma and I rarely just don’t like a book. Currently I’m reading Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King. I’m on the last story, A Good Marriage, so I’m already deciding on what’s next.

Here’s hoping that a couple of weeks of solid reading will start the words flowing again. In the meantime, I’m going to be moving my office to a more remote part of the house so I’m ready to go when my muse returns.

I’ll see you next week with an update and possibly a tour of my new (albeit temporary) writing space. I’ll explain more then.

Another Year Older, But Not A Second Wiser

As I sit here being a stereotypical writer in my local Starbucks while I enjoy my free birthday drink as I agonize over every word, my mind wanders over the last year.

A cherry mocha frap with an extra shot if you’re wondering.

It’s been a weird year for sure. It seems like it flew by, but at the same time, it seemed to drag on forever. While Shannon has been furiously working toward finishing her master’s degree, I’ve done absolutely nothing. 

The fact that I’ve long struggled with my mental health is no secret. For years I’ve been adamant that while I struggle with anxiety, I am not depressed. Every time I would ask my doctor for something to take the edge off of my anxiety, he has tried prescribing me antidepressants. I would argue, sometimes angrily that I’m not depressed, just anxious.

Well folks. After getting absolutely nothing productive done over the last year, I decided it was finally time to face facts. My name is Justin, and I suffer from depression. 

Now I want to make one thing perfectly clear. When I say I suffer from depression, I do not have suicidal thoughts or anything like that. I haven’t had one of those since high-school. Even then, I think they were more environmentally motivated than a result of my depression.

My form of depression was much more subtle. I would wake up in the afternoon (night shift worker) and sit there doing absolutely nothing until it was time to go to work where, again, I would do absolutely nothing. Luckily, my job doesn’t require much of me beyond being there and awake. Still, the whole point of taking this job was to give me time to write. Instead, I would sit in front of my computer browsing the internet and watching Netflix on my phone until it was time to go home. 

Other days, I would feel the overwhelming urge to cry for no reason. I would just be sitting there in my usual stupor when suddenly I would feel the tears welling up for absolutely no reason. I wasn’t thinking about anything particularly sad. It was just raw emotion welling up inside me. When this would happen, an inner voice would tell me it’s because I hadn’t written anything in months.

Still, I would sit there telling myself to go write something with absolutely no motivation to actually do so.

Worst of all, it was starting to effect my relationship. I found myself getting irritable for absolutely no reason. I found myself lying about how much writing I’d gotten done out of shame and embarrassment. Shannon has always been so supportive of my writing and I felt like I was letting her down.  

I finally decided it was time to do something about it. At the beginning of this year, I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss options and I’m proud to say that I think I’m finally on my way to recovery.

Now I’m not going to try to claim I’ve completely kicked my problem, but I’m at the point where the new meds should be taking full effect and every day, I feel a bit more motivated.

Forget the video I did at the beginning of the year. I’m considering today the start of my personal new year and for once, I’m feeling positive about it. I can’t promise I’ll start blogging regularly, but I’ll hopefully see you again soon. Wish me luck.

P.S. Since I just turned 42, I’m still waiting for the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything.

Nothing yet.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 4

The Mongers, Part 4

The rest of the day went well. Butch was actually surprised at some of the things people would bring him to trade. Things that had been extremely valuable in the old world, but were frivolous luxuries now. Nobody even argued when he was sadly forced to offer a low price for a grandfather’s watch, or a great grandmother’s cameo.  

Finally, as the last customer was walking away, seemingly pleased with his transaction, Butch gave the signal to start packing up. At this point, they were like a well oiled machine. Each man knew exactly what to do. The whole operation was completed within a matter of minutes.

By the time they were done, the two waitresses who had served them their pie and beer were standing nearby, watching them. The moment they were done, they approached Gut and Bear. Soon, the four of them were talking and laughing together. Soon after that, they broke up into two couples and wandered away. Butch smiled to himself as he watched them go, then remembered he had a date himself.

“You guys good here?” He asked Rat and Nutcase.  

“We’ve got this.” Nutcase said. Rat gave him a thumbs up, unable to talk due to the screwdriver he was holding in his teeth as he tinkered with whatever new contraption he was working on.

“Good. I’ll check back in later. I’ve got… uh.”

“Have fun, Boss.” Nut told him with a knowing smile, saving him from actually having to say where he was going. He turned and walked away quickly before his men could see his reddening cheeks.

Butch didn’t actually know where he was supposed to meet Melanie. He began wandering around the school, hoping he’d bump into her. As he explored, he discovered where the peaches for the cobbler had come from. The school’s old football field had been turned into an orchard. In it were hundreds of trees heavy with various fruits. He marveled at the lush forest here in the middle of the barren desert, wondering how they kept everything watered. The areas between the trees were filled with what Butch at first took to be undergrowth, until he realized that these plants too were bursting with produce.  

He continued his self-guided tour, finally coming to the old auto shop. There were no vehicles in it, of course, but it still seemed to have all the tools. Butch was wondering if they’d be allowed to pull their vehicles in so Rat could perform some much needed maintenance when there was a tap on his shoulder. It was so unexpected, he actually jumped. When he wheeled around, he was surprised to see Melanie’s smiling face.

“Hey, Sugar. Happy to see me?”

Butch realized that his hands were clenched into fists and quickly released them.

“Sorry. You surprised me.” He said, a bit sheepishly.

“It’s okay. Are ya’ ready for dinner?”

He felt his stomach rumble at the thought of food.

“Lead the way.” He said.

Her room was small, but she’d done what she could to make it look as little like a classroom as she could. Brightly colored fabrics adorned the walls. A few ripped posters, relics of the old world, hung here and there. Butch noticed that there were two beds in the room.

“My roommate’s.” She said, catching him looking at it. “Don’t worry. I convinced her to stay with a friend tonight.”

Butch smiled, unsure of what to say. He’d gotten used to women being forward with him. In this new world filled with widely dispersed small villages, strangers were always popular with the ladies. Still, Melanie seemed braver than most.

His stomach rumbled again.

“Oh my. You are hungry. Have a seat, I’ll go get dinner.” She said, and flitted out of the room.

Butch sat in the folding chair facing the door. The battered folding table was a bit wobbly, but sturdy enough, he supposed.

With nothing better to do, he let his eyes roam the room. It took some effort to resist the urge to snoop. It wasn’t anything malicious, he was just curious. Still, he knew the best way to wreck what was about to happen was to have her come back and find him looking through her things.  

Before long, she was back, carrying two covered plates which she placed on the table. When she removed the covers, he was greeted by a sort of stir fry with lots of vegetables and some sort of meat. He didn’t ask what kind. Sometimes, it was something normal, but others, it was better not to know.

He was about to dig in, when she stopped him. She turned and bent down into a wooden chest, deliberately giving him a view he didn’t mind at all. When she stood back up, she was holding a bottle of wine and a corkscrew.

“I don’t have any glasses. I hope you don’t mind.” She said, uncorking the wine.

“It won’t be the first time I’ve had to drink right out of the bottle.”

“Let’s just hope it’s not vinegar.” She said, handing him the bottle.

He looked at the bottle, as if he had any clue. The label was singed and he couldn’t read the winery’s name, but he could make out the year. 1977. Of course, he had no way of knowing if it was a good year or not. He took a tentative sniff before upending the bottle and taking a swig. It tasted good. Decadent almost. He wondered if he’d have been able to afford it in the old world.

He passed the bottle back to her.

“Well, dig in.” She said, taking a sip of the wine herself.

He didn’t have to be asked twice. He took his first bite.

“This is really good. You cooked this yourself?”

It was her turn to look sheepish.

“Oh, heavens no. You wouldn’t want to eat anything I cooked. I just stole it from the dining hall.”

“That’s okay. It’s still good.” He said, diving in.

Before long, his plate was empty. She was still picking at her food. Butch assumed she was trying to keep up appearances, but he knew better than to encourage her to eat. He reached for the wine bottle, but set it back down when he realized it was empty. Without a word, she retrieved another. This one had no label, but was still just as tasty. He leaned back in his chair, wishing for a cigarette. She smiled at him.

“So tell me. Have you always been a bad-ass biker?”

Butch couldn’t help but laugh heartily at that one.

“Not even close.”

“Okay then, what did you do before?”

“Well, let me ask you this. Do you know what the word monger means?”

“Well, sort of. I mean I’ve heard of warmongers. I assumed it was something related to that.”

“It means peddler. A salesman. We were all in sales of some sort. Gut and Bear worked at a motorcycle dealership. Bear actually sold me my first bike. Nutcase, he was one of those crazy guys you see on T.V. who smashes stuff while he yells about his insane deals. Rat was his assistant. The one who fixed things when people brought them back broken, which they often did.”

”What about you?”

“I owned a bookstore. I loved that place until the day it burned down.” Butch grimaced as he tried to push away the memory. “It started as a joke. When we all started riding together in our suburban motorcycle club, mongers sounded tough if you didn’t know what it meant. After everything happened, we decided to go with it and stick to what we knew best. Selling things.”

Melanie laughed at this. Getting up to retrieve another bottle of wine. It was only then that he realized he’d finished the second one. He vaguely wondered how many bottles she had stashed in her chest.

The conversation flowed as freely as the wine until Melanie stood up. He half expected her to tell him she was turning in and that he should go, but instead, she wordlessly took him by the hand and led him to her bed.

The next morning, Butch woke as the sun was just peeking above the horizon. His head ached from the wine, but not too bad. Melanie was still asleep. He considered waking her, but decided to let her sleep. Instead, he slipped out of bed, got dressed, and made his way to the courtyard.

Gut, bear, and Rat stood together in a knot, mumbling to each other.

“Mornin’, boys. Isn’t it a fine day?”

The three of them turned to look at him, their faces pale, even Rat’s. It was only then that butch looked up at the empty courtyard. Something was missing, but it took Butch a moment to realize what it was.  

The truck was gone.

So that’s it for this week, but remember, if you just can’t wait to find out what happens next, part 5 is already up on my Patreon page. It’s only a dollar for early access to this story for the whole month. More perks, like exclusive short stories, are available if you’re willing to pay a little more.

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

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 4. Now On Patreon

Part 4 is now on my Patreon page. It’s only a dollar for the whole month. Check it out here.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/21424192

Or wait a week, and I’ll post it here. I could really use the support.

It’s Monday!!! Rage & 1984

It’s baaack! I’m not sure why I stopped doing these posts, but I’ve decided to bring them back. Like my other posts, I can’t promise I’ll post one every week. Honestly, some weeks, I don’t have time to finish a whole book, but I’ll post one whenever I do. For those of you who are new here, It’s Monday posts deal with the books I’m currently reading.

Last week’s book should probably start with a…

Trigger Warning. Last week’s book involves a school shooting.

Last week’s book was “Rage”, by Richard Bachman, AKA Stephen King.

I wish I could have found a better copy of the cover, but I couldn’t for the same reason I wanted to re-read it.

I read this once back in high school. It was okay, but I didn’t really think about it too much. It wasn’t until I heard that it was out of print indefinitely due to subject matter that I wanted to check it out again. What can I say? I’m a rebel.

“Rage” is about a bright high school student who was on his way to an institution for attacking a teacher with a pipe wrench for bullying him . On his last day of regular school, he shoots his teacher and one other member of the faculty then takes his classroom hostage.

The funny thing is, other than the fairly violent first few chapters, most of the book is fairly tame. The shooting/hostage situation is just the backdrop for the real story. Before long, the students find themselves sharing their deepest, darkest secrets. Most of the stories relate to how messed up they all are because or their parents. Soon, the students are bonding and discovering they aren’t all as different as they had thought.

It’s “The Breakfast Club” meets “Lord Of The Flies”

I’d love to drop you a link, but as I said, it’s out of print indefinitely. I’m sure if you looked hard enough, you could find a copy in your local used bookstore though.

This week’s read is “1984” by George Orwell.

Again, I read this back in high school. The only thing is, back then, in the optimistic mid-90’s it read as a cautionary tale, but one that, in my youthful estimation, could never come true. It’s a much more frightening read these days.

An honorable mention goes to “Ash & Quill” by Rachel Caine.

I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time getting through this one. I read the first two just fine, but I’ve been slowly slogging through this one for months now. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the book itself although some parts are very slow. It’s just that there are a lot of other books on my TBR list that I’m much more excited to read.

Ash & Quill is the continuing saga of a group of students from the Library of Alexandria (which never burned down in this timeline) who are trying to save the library from itself. This is the third in the series following “Ink & Bone” and “Paper & Fire“. Again, there is nothing wrong with the books, I’ve just been wanting to read other ones lately. I’d better finish this one soon though, as “Smoke & Iron“, number four in the series, is already waiting for me.

Please visit my website www.justinmkelly.com

What’s Up Wednesday: Back To Basics

If you want to be a successful writer, you have to build a fan base. The sooner, the better. Preferably before you even publish a word. It’s common knowledge in the writing community. Worse yet, it’s expected by publishers. With this in mind, a few years back, I set up my website, my YouTube Channel, my Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc. Even the blog you’re reading right now.

I started with good intentions and high hopes. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I got lost. My good intentions fell by the wayside as I got wrapped up in the dream of being famous for fame’s sake. I started worrying more about my YouTube views than the books I was supposedly writing. I would focus on what I was going to talk about in my next video or in my next blog post rather than focusing on the next chapter.

What’s worse, I let the fact that my number of subscribers wasn’t growing the way I’d hoped affect my mental health. Of course, it wasn’t the only cause, but it has been a big contributing factor when I’ve slipped into my semi-frequent bouts of anxiety and depression.

Recently, I’ve come to realize that it’s too difficult to market something you haven’t written yet. I know some people have managed to do it. Jenna Moreci, for one, had people clamoring for her book before she’d even finished writing it. Then again, she has a background in marketing. I don’t.

So I’m sure you have an idea where this is going. Don’t worry. I’m not going to shut down my blog or my YouTube channel. I’ll still post to my various social media pages as well. I’m just going to stop letting it take up so much of the time I should be devoting to writing.

First off, Fiction Friday isn’t going anywhere. I’ve come to enjoy sharing the quick, off-the-cuff, stories I post there. I can’t promise I’ll post every week, but I’ll try. It’s still writing, which I still believe is what I’m really meant to do. (I sure as hell hope it is, because I can’t see myself doing anything else.) Eventually, I hope to have enough Fiction Friday stories to put into a collection along with a few of my unpublished shorts.

I’ll still be posting What’s Up Wednesday, but it definitely won’t be every week. I’ll be honest, at this point, my life just isn’t exciting enough to have a real update every week. In fact, most weeks consist of, “I went to work, I wrote, and I slept.” Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Someday, I hope to have a more exciting life, but for most writers, there just isn’t much to tell.

The same goes for my YouTube channel. I just don’t have enough to talk about. I’d intended for it to be a writing advice channel, but right now, while I have plenty of opinions, I don’t feel like I’m enough of an authority to give writing advice. Besides, typically the audience for a writing advice channel is other writers when I’m really trying to reach readers. (Not that writers aren’t inherently readers as well, but I’m trying to reach a larger audience.)

I know I’ve been teasing this for a long time, but I think I’m going to finally start doing a series of videos called Story Time Saturday in which I read stories I’ve posted for Fiction Friday. I’m still not sure how that sort of video will go over but it’s worth a try. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on that sort of video so please leave a comment telling me your opinion.

Finally, I’m going to start submitting more short stories to magazines and anthologies. I tried it a while back and got frustrated after just a handful of rejections. Stephen King would be ashamed of me. He had enough rejections to rip the nail he hung them on out of the wall from the sheer weight. There were a lot more magazines that accepted fiction back then too, so the competition wasn’t as fierce.

The bottom line is, I’ve decided that I need to focus on actually finishing something before I worry too much about marketing myself.

One last thing. I want to thank the true fans who have been with me from the start. Actually, something just occurred to me. I don’t even know who my fans are. Sometimes I even question whether I have any in the first place. So if you’re a fan of my work, leave me a comment and let me know. (yes, I know it’s a blatant call for an ego boost, but I could use one right now.)

Anyway, that’s it for this time. I’ll see you on Friday. 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

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.