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.

What’s Up Wednesday: The Rumble Fades, Now Back To Work

Well, the bikers are gone. Most of them at least. The truth is, there are always some who stick around until the snow flies. Still, it’s all over but the cleanup.

I’m already regretting not spending more time up at Sturgis this year, but I just didn’t have the energy to tell the truth. I was starting to think that maybe I’m getting too old to party like that. That I was turning into an old man. While there’s truth to that, it was a relief to discover that I was fighting off both a cold and some sort of stomach bug and it really took the energy out of me. Still, now that it’s all over, I kind of wish I’d toughed it out and gone up there more anyway. Alas, the party’s over.

Now it’s time to get back to work.

I’m still working on the next installment of “The Mongers” for this week’s Fiction Friday. I know I promised to have it out last week, but as I said, I wasn’t feeling well and if I had been, I probably would have been partying like an irresponsible teenager.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t know where “The Mongers” is going, if it’s going anywhere at all. I got the idea for the opening scene and I went with it, so try not to be too mad if it goes somewhere unsatisfying. I promise I’ll finish it one way or another. I just have no idea what’s going to happen myself.

Other than that, I haven’t done much this past week. I did make one last trip up to Sturgis on Saturday for dinner with family and one last trip up and down main street for souvenirs. I wish I could post the thing I bought for my new nephew, but I’m not sure if my brother and sister-in-law read my blog, so I’d better not until they get it.

After years of searching, I found a ring that I’ve been looking for. I had one like it when I was a kid, but I either lost it, or one of my scumbag friends from the time stole it. (You know who you are.) Anyway, here it is.

The old one probably wouldn’t have fit anymore anyway.

And thus completes my pirate themed hand.

I’ve been taking a bit of my own advice and started reading more. I’m a big proponent of reading and have actually made a YouTube video on the importance for writers to read, but lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I fell into the old trap most people do, proclaiming, “I just don’t have the time.”

Unfortunately, as a writer, that just doesn’t fly. Reading, for a writer, is like doing research in any other field. A scientist couldn’t very well go to his higher-ups and tell them he just didn’t have the time to keep up on the latest scientific research. So it is with a writer. At least, for writers, our research material is entertaining to read.

On that note, I just finished reading “The Regulators” By King/Bachman.

I really liked it, but about halfway through the book, I realized something. While at first I thought it was just a continuation of Desperation. I realized I recognized some of the names. I had to look it up to be sure, but it turned out I was right. Some of the names were the same as in the Desperation. Some of the characters even had the same career, but had vastly different personalities. The antagonist was basically the same. I think it’s basically the same story told in two alternate realities. I’m not sure, but I wonder if King/Bachman was unsure which way he wanted to take the story, so he ended up writing them both.

Anyway, on that note, I now want to re-read “Desperation” while “The Regulators” is still fresh in my mind.


If you look carefully, you’ll see that the covers fit together into one piece of art. Pretty cool.

I also need to finish “Ash & Quill” by Rachel Caine. I started that one a few months ago, but just haven’t finished it. It’s not that it isn’t a good book. I just got busy. I know, I know.

Anyway, that’s it for this week. I’m really hoping to have the next installment of “The Mongers” ready by Friday. Fingers crossed.

Until next time…

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.

What’s Up Wednesday: Going Back To My Roots

Hey all.

So once again, I’ve neglected my blog. I wish I had a good reason, but I honestly don’t. Other than the usual reasons regarding my anxiety/depression of course.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve let myself get distracted. As you may know. I’ve been running a YouTube channel for a couple of years now. If not, here’s the link. https://www.youtube.com/justinmkellywriter Even there, I’ve had periods where I neglected to post, but I’ve been trying to get better about it. I was on quite a bit of a roll too, slowly gaining followers week by week. Now, I’m nowhere near a YouTube star, but it was nice to see that some people were paying attention.

Then disaster struck. I attempted to start a second channel and for some reason, it was immediately shut down. I had only posted an intro video and a couple of pictures I owned myself so I honestly can’t figure out why. I tried appealing and they denied my appeal. Now I don’t really care about the second channel, but in the e-mail it said I’m not allowed to have a channel or a YouTube account at all. because of this, I spent the last couple of weeks terrified that my main channel would be shut down. It’s still up so far, but I live in fear that it could be shut down at any moment.

This whole fiasco made me sit down and think. That’s when I realized something. I’d gotten so wrapped up in the fantasy of becoming “YouTube famous” that I’d forgotten why I’d started the channel in the first place. It was originally meant as a way to find readers and direct them to the books I haven’t been writing. As if an old guy like me in a less that popular niche could ever be famous on a platform like that. I needed to get back to my roots.

Don’t get me wrong. I plan on continuing to make videos as long as they’ll let me. I’m just not going to let it take precedence over more important things like my writing and updating my blog.

Another way I’ve allowed to let myself get sidetracked is money. Or, more to the point, the pursuit of money. I feel like I only have one real marketable skill. My way with words. I’ve been unsuccessfully searching for a way to make money as a writer. I know it can be done, but in general, it’s a completely different kind of writing and I’m trying to learn how to do it. I tried writing ad copy, but honestly, the tactics most often used to manipulate people into buying just felt so dirty to me, so I quickly moved on. I’m considering writing articles, but that’s another skill I need to learn. Then it hit me. What if my path to making money as a writer is… actually writing?

Over the years, I’ve let so many people tell me there’s no way I can make a living writing fiction that I’ve started to believe it. Now I know, the odds are stacked against me, but that’s no reason to give up before I’ve really tried. I do want to make one thing clear. Money is not the reason I write. Still, since writing fiction the one thing I feel I’m really good at, (or am I fooling myself?) maybe that’s my purpose here. I guess I’ll never know until I really try.

All that being said, from this point on, working on my books and short stories is priority number one. Priority number two is working on this blog. I’m considering starting one or two more based on some of my other interests. Perhaps one day I’ll even be able to monetize them.

In the meantime, I’m going to start getting my work out there. I’m considering posting some of my Flash Fiction Friday stories on sites like wattpad as well as on my Patreon. Once I have supporters there, I’ll start putting some longer works at various tiers. I have a special surprise in mind for my first supporter if you’re interested.

So those are my strategies for now. If you have any suggestions on ways to find a readership (other than actually writing some damned stories of course) I’d love to hear them.

I’m also going to start writing more shorts which will be put together in a collection and self-published. So watch for that.

Anyway, that’s it for today. Now I’m going to go see if I can come up with a story to post for you guys this Friday.

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

What’s Up Wednesday: Still Trying To Find My Way Home

It’s been weeks since I last posted. I’d intended to write a post last week. And the week before, etc. Still, I suppose it’s an improvement from going months between posts. I think trying to post a YouTube video and a blog post on the same day. I’m still going to keep posting here on Wednesdays mainly because I love alliteration. I’m moving my YouTube videos to Thursdays, so watch for those.

I wish I had better news on the writing front, but the truth is, progress over the last couple of weeks has been almost at a standstill. I’m still trying to force myself to write even when I don’t feel like it. Some days I’m successful. Most days I’m not. Still, I suppose a little progress is better than none at all. Last week, I was able to write 1,500 words. The week before it was only a thousand, so I guess I’m improving. It’s still frustrating to not be as fast as I used to, but I have nobody to blame but myself.

I’m also working to adjust my schedule. In the summer, Shannon changes from working afternoon/evening hours, to working in the morning. Needless to say, when her schedule changes, I try to adjust mine to match. I do my best writing when it’s just me and the cats. Besides, that gives me more time to spend with her. Although, since she’s working on finishing her master’s degree, hopefully she’ll yell at me to get back in the office so she can get her homework done. Lol

Other than that, life has been very lifey. We are still trying to get her dad’s house cleaned out. A week ago Saturday, we were expecting to get the majority of the work done. We even had a crew of people ready to help. Unfortunately, when we got there ready to “git ‘er done” as they say, the dumpster that was supposed to have been delivered on Friday was nowhere to be found. Of course, even though they listed Saturday hours, our calls went unanswered. I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised as it was Memorial Day weekend, but it id kind of ruin our plans.

Fortunately, it was delivered last weekend and although we took Saturday off to celebrate my mom’s birthday with a nice drive in the hills and lunch at The Alpine Inn, we got quite a bit of work done on Sunday. I have to admit, I’m looking forward to being done with the house so that I can pay some attention to our own house and perhaps get a little writing done.

That’s about all I have for today I’m afraid. I wish there was more, but until I’m truly back on track, I’m not going to have much exciting news for you.

I do have a decent FFF idea, but I can’t promise I’ll have it ready by this Friday. Maybe next week. Then again, I could surprise you. You never know.

Hopefully, at the very least, I’ll see you next week.

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

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.

ww.justinmkelly.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/IMG_9058.jpg”> The Van. I was thinking of calling it The Writer Wagon[/caption]
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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.

Writing Office Tour

I thought you might like a look around the room where I spend most of my free time coming up with stories to entertain you guys.

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.

Flash Fiction Friday Number 18: Rory’s Apple Adventure

Hey guys. I know I haven’t posted a FFF for quite some time, but it’s a new-ish year, and I’m back at it.

This story needs a bit of background. For Christmas 2016, I was given a set of dice called Rory’s story cubes. The idea is, you roll the dice, look at the pictures that come up, and make up a story. I posted a video of the roll on my YouTube channel here.

For this week, I’ve decided to take the dice at face value so I ended up with a children’s story. Next week, I will use the same roll, but use the images more metaphorically to make a much different story in hopes of showing how you can use the same inspiration to come up with multiple stories. Anyway, without further ado, I present,

Rory’s Apple Adventure

Rory was a generally happy sheep. He spent his days with the other sheep in the fields and eating delicious grass. One day a year, just when the days got warmer and his heavy wool coat started to itch, the farmer would bring him into the barn and shave it all off. Then he could go back out and play with his friends. He loved how much faster he could run without all that heavy wool weighing him down.

As much as he loved the spring, Rory’s favorite time of the year was fall. His new wool coat grew out just in time to keep him warm in the cooler weather. More importantly, fall meant apples. Rory loved eating the apples that fell from the trees in the apple orchard. Even though the ones he found on the ground were usually rotten and filled with worms, they were still tasty.

Still, Rory always found himself looking longingly toward the tops of the trees where the biggest, juiciest apples hung out of reach.

One day, Rory decided he just had to get one of those fresh apples before the worms and the birds could ruin them. Rory had never climbed a tree, but he’d seen the barn cat do it hundreds of times. How hard could it be?

Rory wandered through the orchard, looking for the perfect apple. Finally, he saw it hanging there, a ball of red fire in the morning sun. Rory reared up and put his front hooves on the trunk of the tree.

“Okay. Now what?” Rory thought to himself.

He scrabbled at the tree with his front hooves, but nothing happened.

“Maybe I need a running start.” He thought.

Rory backed up to the fence and ran as fast as he could toward the tree. As the last moment, he leaped, putting every bit of strength into his rear legs. For just a moment, he felt like he was flying before he crashed into the trunk of the tree.

As he lay there on the ground, waiting for the stars to clear, Rory heard a snickering sound.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” A voice asked.

Rory opened his eyes to see the barn cat staring at him, amusement in his eyes.

“Trying to climb this tree.” Rory answered.

“Why ever would you want to do that?” the cat asked.

“To get a tasty apple.”

“Why, there are apples all over the ground. Why don’t you eat one of those?”

“Those apples are rotten and full of worms. I want a nice fresh one.” Then Rory had an idea. “Say, could you climb up and knock one down for me?”

“Oh, no no no no no. I could never do such a thing. I’m a good kitty. Only a bad kitty would knock apples out of the farmer’s tree on purpose. I’m afraid you’ll have to get the apple yourself.”

“But how? I don’t know how to climb a tree.”

“You don’t have the proper equipment, I’m afraid.” The cat said, showing Rory his razor sharp claws. “If you want to climb that tree, you’re going to need a little magic.”

“Do you have any magic?” Rory asked the cat.

“Of course. All cats are magic. But it’s not the sort of magic I can share.”

Rory slumped deeper in the dirt, disappointed.

“But I know someone who can.” the cat said.

“Who?” Rory asked excitedly.

“In a land far away lives a magic sunflower who can grant you one wish.”

“How can I find this sunflower?”

The cat cleared a patch of leaves and began drawing a map in the dirt. Rory did his best to memorize it before thanking the cat and running off to find the sunflower.

The great thing about being a sheep is, you don’t have to pack anything if you’re going traveling. Your wool coat is always with you, and there’s plenty of grass to eat wherever you go.

Rory ran as fast as he could down the dirt road just like the cat had shown him until he came to the river.

Rory stared at the water, unsure of what to do. He didn’t know how to swim. He wasn’t sure he even could with his feet.

“Stupid hooves.” Rory thought. “Can’t climb trees, can’t swim. What are they good for besides walking?”

Still, Rory just had to find the magic sunflower if he ever wanted a fresh apple. He put one foot into the water, but it sank into the mud and he pulled it back. He knew he could never cross the river by himself. He lay down in the dirt and started to cry.

“BAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!” He yelled sadly.

Just when he was about to give up and go home, he heard someone whistling. It was a man in a straw hat walking down the road. His clothes looked like the ones the farmer wore, but it wasn’t him.

“Well what’s this now. Are you lost, little sheep?”

Rory looked at the farmer, then back across the river.

“Trying to get across this little creek? Why, it’s not that deep. You can walk right across if you’d just try. Here, let me show you.”

The man walked out into the river. The water only came a little way above his ankles. Rory took another step into the river, still not liking the way the mud sucked at his hooves. Still, they only sunk into the soft mud a little. Rory took another step, then another. Before he knew it, he was back on dry land.

“Now see there,” the man said. You were worried over nothing.”

But Rory was already running down the road toward the place where the cat told him the flower would be.

When he finally got to the meadow where the magic sunflower was supposed to live, Rory looked around, but saw no flower. Instead, there was just an old tipi standing in the middle of the meadow.

Rory stood there, wondering if the cat had tricked him. Then he heard it. Someone was singing in the tipi. Rory ran to it.

“Hello. I’m so sorry to bother you, but do you know if there’s a magic sunflower that lives around here?”

The singing stopped.

“I’m sorry, but no.”

Rory felt sad and angry at having been tricked by the cat.

“I’m afraid I’m the only magic sunflower in the area.”

Rory poked his head inside the tipi. Sure enough, in the middle of the tent stood the most beautiful sunflower he’d ever seen.

“Excuse me, but I don’t recall inviting you in.” Said the sunflower.

“Oh, pardon me.” Rory said, sheepishly.

“Well, since you’re here, I suppose you might as well come inside.”

“Why do you live in here?” Rory asked as he walked through the flap. “I thought flowers liked the sun.”

“We do. But winter is on its way, so I have to hide in here until it gets warm again.”

“Oh.” Rory said.

“I suppose you have a wish you want me to grant.” The sunflower sighed.

“Oh yes. Very much. Can you help me get to the top of the apple tree so I can have a delicious apple?” Rory said excitedly while licking his lips.

“Not so fast said the flower. I don’t just grant wishes to anyone. You have to play a game. If you win, I’ll grant your wish.”

“Okay.” Rory said.

“But if I win, you have to give me some of your wool to help me keep warm this winter.”

“Oh. I don’t know about that. Then I’ll be cold this winter and the farmer will be mad at me.”

“Very well.” The sunflower said, turning away and resuming her singing.

Rory stood and thought about it for a moment. He really did want that apple. Besides, he’d come all this way.

“Okay, fine. How do I play?” Rory said, finally.

“It’s simple really.” The flower said. “I have these dice. We will each roll. Whoever rolls the biggest number wins. I’ll go first.”

The flower unfurled one of her leaves and picked up the dice and threw them on the floor.

“Seven. Beat that.” The flower gloated.

Rory picked up the dice in his mouth and spat. They rolled across the floor. When they finally stopped, there were five spots on each of the dice. The flower looked sad for a moment, then nodded her petals at him. Rory felt a strange itching on his back. He turned his head and saw two lumps poking out of his wool. As he watched, the lumps broke through his wool and became wings.

“There. Now you can fly to the tops of the trees and eat all the apples you want.”

Rory gave his wings a test flap.

“Not in here.” The flower scolded. “Go outside and try them out. Just leave me alone.”

Rory did just that. He ran out the door and leaped into the air once again. This time, instead of crashing down in the dirt, he gave his wings a mighty flap and felt himself climb higher. Again and again he flapped, loving the feel of the wind in his face.

Rory did a loop, then a flip, loving his new freedom. Then a thought came to him. He came back down to earth, landing clumsily. He poked his head through the flap of the tipi. The sunflower turned away quickly, but Rory had seen she was crying.

“What do you want now? Just go away and leave me alone.”

“I decided I want to give you something in return. I want you to have my wool.”

The sunflower turned to look at him, wiping away a tear with one of her leaves.

“Really? But what about you? Won’t you get cold?”

“Of course not. I think I’m going to fly south for the winter.” Rory smiled.

The flower again nodded her petals, and Rory’s wool appeared all around her stem.

“Thank you.” The flower said, picking up some of the wool and hugging it to herself.

“You’re welcome.” Rory said. Now which way is south anyway?”

“Just keep the sun on your left in the morning and on your right in the evening.”

With that, Rory dashed back out of the tipi and was gone.

So that’s it. Not bad for a first children’s story if I say so myself. Like I said, next week I’ll be posting a somewhat more adult story inspired by the same roll of the dice. I’ll see you then if not sooner.

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.