Whew. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say; “Thank god that’s over.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m not just speaking about the year, but most of the decade in general.
Sure, there were some great things that came out of the 2010’s. No longer having to receive our Netflix movies through the mail for one, but I can’t help but feel that we, as a people, are more separated than ever before.
Technology in general has made great strides in the past ten years. At the beginning of the decade, self publishing was still looked on with general disdain. The general consensus was, self publishing meant you weren’t good enough to get a “real” publisher. While some people still think that way, indie publishing is starting to see some of the respect people started giving to indie music and movies back in the 90’s and 2000’s. Of course, the ability to bypass the gatekeepers has led to a lot of sub-par books being published, but I have to believe that the cream will still rise to the top.
Unfortunately, while we are far more connected than ever before, we are no closer to truly understanding each other. The technology that should have led to better communication between us has instead been used to abuse each other. People browbeat each other rather than listen to each other’s point of view. I only hope that the 2020’s might bring a new renaissance of understanding.
As for me, I spent the first hour or two of the new decade wallowing in the fact that I don’t feel any more accomplished in my writing career than I was at the start of the last one. I felt the onrush of the depression train bearing down on me. But then a miracle happened. Just as it was about to crush me, I jumped out of the way just as the blast of air from it whooshing by rushed over me.
Maybe I’m not where I’d hoped I’d be by now. but I can’t honestly say I’ve made no progress in the past ten years. Sure, I spent a good portion of the decade in the grips of crushing depression, but I’ve still made progress. Hell, I even made a little bit of pocket change from it. More importantly, I’ve finally made some major steps to conquering my depression.
Try as I might, I can’t be dismal about the coming years. For once, I feel like something good is just over the horizon and I’m excited to see what it is. I know I have a long road of hard work to get there, but I’m actually excited to get to it.
In fact, I’ve been so ready to get to work that, although I love the holidays, I’ve been a bit eager to be done with them so I can get back to real life.
I’ve been studying Joanna Penn’s book How To Make A Living With Your Writing and I’m loving it. I can’t recommend them enough. As always, a lot of it doesn’t apply to me because I don’t plot my books ahead of time, but the business advice she gives is pure gold.
I also got Robert Bly’s book,The Copywriter’s Handbookand I’m looking forward to getting into that as well. I have a feeling I’m going to finally find some success in the next year.
And now, I suppose it’s time for some resolutions. I’m not normally one for new year’s resolutions, but I’m hoping I can keep up with these.
First, I’m hoping to read at least forty books this year. They could be any genre, fiction or nonfiction, long or short, but I’m going to do it. I was tempted to do fifty, but I think forty is a reasonable goal.
Second, writing every day. Even if it’s utter shit, I’m going to keep writing. As they say, you can’t edit a blank page.
Third, and this is a painful one, I’m going to put away the novel I’ve been laboring over for years and start something new. It’s honestly been so long since I started it, I’m not sure I’m the same person I was when I started it. At some point, I’d like to come back to it, but if I do, I’m going to use it as a guideline for a complete rewrite.
Finally, I’m going to finish the new project. And hopefully another before the year’s out.
Okay, now that I’ve typed them all out, I’m a bit scared, but I know I can do this.
That’s about it for now. I have a lot more to tell you, but I just got off of a long New Year’s Eve night at work and I’m looking forward to my bed.
See you next time.
Oh. I almost forgot. for fiction, I’m starting the year with Hank Green’s An Absolutely Remarkable Thing It seems like an appropriate way to kick off the new decade.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Last week’s book was “Rage”, by Richard Bachman, AKA Stephen King.
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.
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.
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.