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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sturgis

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

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

Empty

To this, in a matter of days.

full

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bookcase

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

bookcase2

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

desk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

absinthe

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, I’ll see you on Friday.

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

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

 

 

It’s Monday! Starters, Enders, The Man In The High Castle, 5000 Words Per Hour

Starters, By Lissa Price

13512021I finished this one just after my post last week and I have to say, this book was great. I’m a big fan of dystopian YA in the first place, but this put a very interesting spin on the genre. One of the big questions in any YA book is, “Why does the main character have to deal with this? Why doesn’t she go to a parent/police, etc.?” In this series, the world is divided into starters (the young) and Enders (the elderly). All the middles are dead. If you’re an unclaimed starter, you have basically no rights. Most enders see you as street trash. Starters aren’t allowed to have jobs to ensure Enders don’t get forced out of theirs. Basically, enders are seen as the enemy. I’ll stop there, but I highly recommend this book. Also, I know I’ve said this before, but Mrs. Price is an absolute sweetheart. I got to meet her last summer at Pitchfest/Thrillerfest and she was very helpful and supportive.

Enders, by Lissa Price

51J+favcB4L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ If you haven’t guessed already, this is the sequel to Starters. It continues the story of Callie and Michael, and adds a few new characters. Her, and a group of other metals, (starters with chips in their heads) are being rounded up by various factions looking to use them for their own nefarious purposes. I don’t want to give too much away, because I want you to read it for yourself. Also, because I’m only about three-quarters of the way through, and although I have some ideas, I don’t know for sure how it ends yet.

If I do have one criticism for the series, it’s this. I know Callie’s a teenage girl, but she seems to have a bad habit of developing feelings for every guy her age she spends any amount of time with. A bad idea in a world where it seems everyone is out to use her. Still, that’s a minor criticism and I have to admit that, though thankfully not every teenage girl is like that, it is a character trait I’ve seen in some. Just my two cents.

Still, I’ve loved both books so far, even though at times, you just want something to go right for her.

One last thing. The tagline for this book is “The end is about to begin”. However, Mrs. Price signed my book and gave me a possible secret message. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

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The Man In The High Castle, by Philip K. Dick

2016-12-19-1482180717-9274817-themaninthehighcastlepaperback I have made absolutely no progress on this one. It’s been relegated to a “bathroom book”. It’s there in the bathroom for me to read if I should forget my phone or the book I’m reading. I really need to just buckle down and finish it, but quite frankly, I’m bored with it at this point. Still, I’ve never been beaten by a book, so I will finish it. Maybe something extremely exciting will happen in the last few pages, but I’m not going to hold my breath. This is one of the rare cases where the movie (okay, t.v. series) is better than the book. I won’t post about this one again until I finish it.

5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox

51gqAWVUU4L I finished this one fairly quickly. While it was a short read, it was very informational. As I expected, a lot of the speed in writing comes from extensive preparation. As I’ve stated before, I’m a pantser. I’ve tried outlining in the past and have had no luck with it. I find if I know too much about my story, I get bored and eventually lose interest. Still, this book makes me wonder if I should try it once more. I still don’t ever expect to get to five thousand words an hour (I’m just not that fast a typer.) Even if I can get to three thousand a day, I’d actually finish projects. I’m starting to think if I had a basic roadmap, I might not get lost so much. I’m going to try outlining in “Daughters of the Flame”, the sequel to my short-story Bloodmoon, and second in the Children of Pyrelia series.

So that’s it for today. I’ve included Amazon links to all of the books above just in case you want to check them out. Just click on the title, or the cover and it’ll take you there.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr