Loose In The Big Apple

Before we get into it today, I just wanted to give you an update on me. I’ve been getting much more serious about my career as a writer. As you probably know, I’ve been blogging regularly, so that’s a major hurdle I’ve been struggling with for years.

I also just relaunched my YouTube channel. I’m still trying to reach the century mark so I can claim my custom URL, but I’m still a bit shy of the hundred subscribers I need. I would greatly appreciate it if you would go and subscribe.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxzUrv09aOM6JrnsZy5EyAw

I have been writing more regularly, although I’m not to the point of doing it every day just yet. Still, words are flowing again and I hope to have more published very soon. I probably would have gotten much more writing done this weekend, but we had some great weather and I just couldn’t resist jumping on my motorcycle and feeling the wind in my beard.

Now then, back to our regularly scheduled story.

Well kiddies, we’ve come to the end. I had just finished Thrillerfest and Pitchfest. I had a few well-deserved drinks and got some much-needed rest.

The next day, I was up bright and early and ready to roam free in NYC. I started by going online and booking tickets for a matinee. I spent longer than I should have deciding what I wanted to see. Of course, Hamilton was right out. Still, there were many other shows I would have liked to have seen. I could probably spend a month there and still not see everything I wanted to see. Besides, considering Shannon was a theater major her first time through college, she would have killed me if I had gone to see certain shows without her.

I finally settled on one that I’d always wanted to see but never had the opportunity. Les Miserables. Yes, I’d seen the movie, but there’s nothing like seeing a show on the stage. That decided, I quickly showered and made my way to the heart of Manhattan. Of course, I found myself with a few hours to kill, so I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch.

On a friend’s advice, I wandered in to Carmine’s. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t mention that on some days, they only serve food family style. Still, I had been saving for this trip for quite a while and had plenty of money to spend. I had planned on eating well the entire trip, but it just hadn’t worked out that way. So I decided to splurge and go for it even though I was by myself. I was expecting a lot of food, but i wasn’t expecting this.

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So that was my meal for the day. It was absolutely delicious and I have no regrets. When I was done, I realized I had to get to the theater. I didn’t want to throw away such excellent food, so I ended up taking it into the theater. Nobody stopped me, so I went with it.

As I entered the theater, I was happy with my choice of plays since the doors proclaimed that Les Mis. was in its final days on Broadway.

My tickets weren’t the best. I was up in the balcony, at the very end of the row.

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Still, the theater was well designed and I could see well enough. On the plus side, I was seated next to a gaggle of Russian models, which was nice.

From the moment the curtain went up, I was on the edge of my seat. I’m not ashamed to say, I cried at all the appropriate times. By the end of the show, I was in complete awe.

Once the show was over, I spent some time wandering around the theater district. I had to make a stop by the Majestic where I had seen The Phantom of the Opera back in middle school.

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I made sure to buy Shannon some souvenirs. Unfortunately, I was traveling light so I couldn’t buy too much. I’ll make it up to her someday by taking her there on a theater trip.

Once I was tired of walking around and sightseeing, I made my way back to The Jane where I finally ate the leftovers I’d been carrying around all day. I then went up to the rooftop bar for a nightcap before turning in for the night.

The next day, I had no real agenda. I’d done everything I really wanted to do. Sure, I could have done the touristy things like the statue of liberty and such, but I just decided to wander.

I went into several gift shops, looking for a souvenir for myself, but it seemed every shop had exactly the same inventory.

Then I found it. The perfect reminder of my trip to NYC. Still, I talked myself out of it. I wandered off, but it kept eating at me until I decided I just had to have it. Of course by then, I had completely forgotten which store held my prize. After revisiting several shops, I finally found it and wasted no time buying it.

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Yes, it’s the ducky tie from How I Met Your Mother. Well, it’s a little different. I’m guessing because of licensing issues, but it’s close enough.

My prize stored safely in my backpack, I decided I had to have a drink at The Algonquin. The place where the legen-wait for it-dary Algonquin Round Table once met.

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I took a seat in The Blue Bar and ordered. It may be cliche, but I had to try their signature drink. A Manhattan of course. It was delicious. I only had the one. I didn’t relish the thought of wandering the streets of New York drunk with no idea where I was.

I then had to check out Rockefeller Plaza. of course, there was no ice rink, but I had to go there anyway. After that, I somehow found myself sitting at a table across from the Met Life building when all of a sudden, there are black cars and SUVs all over the place with flashing blue and red lights.

A door of one of the SUVs opens and who should get out? None other than Bill Clinton. I have to tell you, he didn’t look good. Now this was right in the middle of his wife’s presidential campaign, so maybe he was just tired, but he looked like hell. Still, it was my only non-literary celebrity encounter of the trip so it had to be mentioned.

By now it was getting late, so I made my way to Times Square. Big mistake. I enjoyed the approach. Particularly the street performers. Some of them were from a strip club and I was amazed they were allowed to walk around topless. I didn’t complain though.

Finally I made it to Times Square, and immediately noped out.

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The sheer press of people was way too much for someone who spends the bulk of his time sitting along in his home office. I felt my lungs constricting as my claustrophobia triggered a panic attack. I quickly turned on my heel and retreated to the safety of the strippers.

Once I got my breathing under control, I found a restaurant. I don’t even remember what it was or what I had. I just needed some food and a place to chill for a moment. At this point, the introvert had had enough human interaction and I went back to my room and watched the Disney channel. Hey, it was the only thing on.

The next day, I was scheduled to leave, but my flight wasn’t until later so I spent some time in The Jane’s other bar. I honestly wish I’d discovered it existed earlier. The rooftop bar was cool, but this place was more my style.

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Finally, I decided that I should do something quick rather than stay in the hotel all day so I asked the front desk for advice. He recommended taking the subway all the way to the end of the line and going for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. I thought it was silly, but I was glad I did.

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And that brings my adventures in New York to a close. Next week, I’ll catch you guys up on everything that’s been going on in my life since then. It still feels like, starting with that trip in early July of last year, I’ve barely had time to breathe with everything going on. But that’s a story for next week.

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

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

And on Goodreads

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I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

My Trip To NYC For Thrillerfest/Pitchfest 2016 part 2

Let’s see. Where was I?

Oh yes, I had just arrived at Thrillerfest and was starstruck by all the famous authors I saw just standing around like normal people. Thanks to the help of Sandra Brannan, author of the Liv Bergen mystery series, and my personal friend, I got checked in, received my swag, and found myself free to mingle amongst the crowd. The crowd filled with bestselling writers.

I was timid at first, but before long, I was in amongst them and feeling like a fraud. Who was I to talk to these celebrities having had nothing published yet?

Surprisingly, they all turned out to be pretty normal people. Or at least, as normal as us artistic types can be. The point is, none of them seemed to think they were any better than me and were even willing to give as much advice as I could take. They all seemed to remember when they were at my level and honestly, didn’t seem to think they were that far ahead of me.

The highlight was when I approached R.L. Stine and timidly called him Mr. Stine and he told me to call him Bob. Here I was, on a first name basis with an author I had read for years. I’m not going to claim I read them as a kid, because the first one came out when I was a senior in high-school, but I read all of them I could get my hands on when they did come out. Luckily my girlfriend at the time had little brothers.

Anyway, not wanting to take up too much of his time, I just asked for a picture.

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I chatted with Bob for a few minutes before making room for his other fans and mingled in the crowd. I was sure to talk to as many famous authors as I could, but I also talked to several people like me who were still looking to break in and find an agent. It truly felt like a community. There wasn’t any of that competitive backstabbing you get in other professions.

I do have to confess one thing though. A couple of times, I found myself talking to someone, thinking  they were there to find an agent like I was, but when I looked at their badge, I realized they were very successful authors that I just didn’t recognize. I’m not going to say their names just in case they ever read this blog. To be fair, it’s hard to memorize a face when you’ve only seen it on the back of a book.

Anyway, when the mingling was done, everyone who was pitching a book was ushered downstairs for orientation. We were told we would stand in line to meet each agent and would have a limited time to pitch. I can’t remember what the official time was (I believe it was either one or two minutes) but we would be given that time to pitch, then the agent would either say they weren’t interested or if they were, would tell you what they wanted and how to get it to them, Of course the agents had discretion to either extend your time, or to cut you off if they could tell they weren’t interested. Both happened to me, although I’m happy to say the former happened way more often than the latter.

After orientation, we were paired with successful authors who gave us helpful advice for pitching. I was paired with Lissa Price, author of Starters and Enders. She was very sweet and helpful. I was sorry to say I hadn’t read her books, but both Shannon and her sister had and loved them. I’m currently reading Starters.

My heart sank when, after my practice pitch, in which I had referred to my book as Dystopian YA, she told me that dystopian had become somewhat of a bad word in the publishing business and to avoid using it at all costs. With her help, we came up with an alternative genre. I can’t at the moment remember what that was, but she said other than that one thing, my pitch was good and sounded interesting. I shook her hand and thanked her profusely before making my way back upstairs to pitch.

My first pitch went very well and she asked me for pages. My second, not so much. I got a few words into my pitch and my brain completely locked up. I couldn’t for the life of me string together a coherent sentence. I started to panic. My heart started to race and I couldn’t even think. Finally, I had to get up and walk away. Looking back, I think it was just that this particular agent clearly wasn’t interested from the get go and showed it. His glazed over eyes flustered me and things went downhill from there.

After that, things began to go more smoothly. Even though I don’t think my alternative genre fooled anyone, there was still quite a bit of interest. Once I had pitched to everyone on my list, there was still some time left. I didn’t expect much, but I didn’t see any point in standing there twiddling my thumbs when there were agents willing to talk to me. Surprisingly, this strategy was more successful than I expected and two asked for pages.

All told, six agents wanted to see partials, and two wanted the whole thing. Even better, there were also publishers there and  I got a yes from my dream publisher. Again, I’m not going to name names, because I don’t want to jinx it.

After the pitching was done, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. the hard part was done. Now I could enjoy the rest of the convention, starting with the Thrillerfest opening reception. There, while enjoying some delicious food and cocktails, I was able to talk to more authors of all levels.

I found myself seeking out other pitchfest attendees just to find out how they did. I was afraid my success was just normal and some of the agents were just being polite. As it turned out, this was definitely not the case. Many of my fellow attendees had only gotten a couple of yesses, while some hadn’t gotten any at all. I found myself becoming more and more embarrassed at my success.

Finally, Sandra Brannan found me and asked how I had done. When I told her, she first looked surprised, then gave me a huge hug. Apparently, my success was very unusual indeed.

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 March Already?!?!?!? My Trip To NYC For Thrillerfest/Pitchfest 2016 part 1

Are we really already two full months into the year already? Say it isn’t so. Well, I guess it’s better late than never.

So here it is, my first blog post of 2017.

A lot has happened between my last post and now. Unfortunately, not much of it has been writing related.

Actually, looking back at my last post, I realize that a lot has actually happened both in my personal life and my career. I’m just now realizing that I haven’t posted since May of last year. I truly am ashamed. Well, no point crying over spilled milk. I’m not going to promise to do better. I know I’ve made that promise over and over in the past and haven’t delivered. So this time, rather than tell you I’m going to post more regularly, I’ll just have to show you.

So as I was saying, a lot has happened in both my personal life and my career since my last post. The last time we talked, I was getting ready to go to Thrillerfest/Pitchfest in NYC. I went, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. Sandra Brannan, author of the Liv Bergen mystery series, and a personal friend of mine, runs Pitchfest. When she invited me to come, she described it as speed dating with agents. I couldn’t have been more excited.

Upon arriving in NYC, a city I haven’t visited since a class trip in seventh grade, I was amazed. I have spent my share of time in big cities, but none of them are quite like New York. Just the sheer press of people at all hours of the day and night is enough to make you claustrophobic. I climbed into my first New York taxi, and he dropped me off in front of my home for the several days, The Jane Hotel.

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It’s an awesome little throwback hotel complete with a staff dressed in classic bellboy uniforms. Everyone there was extremely helpful. They quickly checked me in without an issue and I took the elevator up to my room.

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That’s it. That’s the entire room. Actually, believe it or not, the picture makes it look a little bigger than it actually is. Apparently, when it opened, it catered to sailors who were used to tiny berths. Still, I was in The Big Apple to meet with publishers. I didn’t plan on spending much time in it anyway. Besides, at less than $100 a night for a guy flying solo, it was a great deal.

The next morning, I was up early, jumped in the communal shower at the end of the hall before most of the other guests were even awake, put on my best suit, and was out the door ready to make the long walk to the nearest subway station. I quickly rethought this when I was greeted with a blast as if from a hair dryer as I opened the doors. Knowing I was going to be meeting with agents, the last thing I wanted to do was walk over a mile in near 100 degree weather in a suit. I quickly slipped back inside and did the only sensible thing. I called myself an Uber.

Before I knew it, I was walking through the revolving door of the Grand Hyatt, NYC, ready to meet with agents. I did my best not to look like a tourist, but it’s hard when 1. you’re walking into such an enormous and beautiful lobby (They call it the GRAND for a reason), and 2. you have no idea where you’re supposed to be.

Fortunately, I noticed several people with badges around their necks who told me where to go. (No, not like that.)

Upon arriving on the proper floor, I was immediately starstruck. There were famous authors such as Lee Child, Heather Graham (the writer, not the actress), Gillian Flynn, and R.L. Stine, just standing around mingling with everyone else just like they were regular people.

As it turns out, they really are, but more on that later.

Luckily, I was brought back to earth by a familiar and smiling (if somewhat frazzled) face. Sandra Brannan quickly ran me through the registration process before bustling off to continue getting everything set up for Pitchfest.

I wasn’t expecting all the swag they gave me. Books by authors in attendance that hadn’t even been published yet. I believe one was a galley proof. I made sure to get as many of them signed as possible. There was also a baseball cap, my id badge, which came in a neck wallet which came in handy during the rest of my adventures in New York, and of course, itineraries, programs, and a map so I didn’t get lost.

And I think that’s where I need to stop for the day. I’ll post part two tomorrow, but unfortunately, there’s just too much to tell in one post.

I swear I won’t leave you hanging for too long.

New Year, New Me Bullshit

And I’m back again. Of course that means confession time.

I was doing really well. I was writing every single day. At the start of November, I started NaNoWriMo with a bang. I was meeting my daily word count with ease. Some days I was doubling, or even tripling it. As a matter of fact, I was so far ahead that when Thanksgiving began to approach, I gave myself a day off to get ready for it. This, of course, was my ultimate downfall. One day off became two. Two days off became three, etc. I saw my huge head start began to dwindle. Before I knew it, I had fallen behind. I told myself it was okay. I told myself that if I could meet the word count for multiple days in a single day, I would be able to catch up quickly. I told myself this all the way to December. I was under the delusion that I just needed to let it slide until after Thanksgiving. This was a lie.

I am an avid believer in refusing to even think about Christmas until I actually see the fat man at the end of the Macy’s parade. Of course my resistance to celebrating early usually means that once the turkey has been eaten, it’s a mad dash to get ready for Christmas. I spent the last month or so doing just that. All the time, I was nagging myself to sit down and write, but it seemed there was always some holiday-related thing I had to do first. Before I knew it, the presents had been opened, and the new year was only a week away. Of course, this meant I might as well just let it ride and start the new year fresh.

So here I am. Sitting on the edge of the new year, ready to get back to work. The only holidays in sight are my birthday and V-Day. I should be able to handle both without breaking my writing stride. Of course, to be honest, I should have been able to write the last two months, but there was always a convenient excuse.

I’m usually not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I do so out of necessity.

First of all, I will finish a book. I don’t mean a first draft, (although the first draft has to come… well… first.) I mean a fully formed and heavily edited finished novel. I also have to have at least one other first draft ready to go. Both of these have to be done by the time I take my trip to New York City to meet with agents. I am not going empty handed. I must have a finished novel to pitch, as well as a back up. Just in case they don’t bite at the first.

Second, partly as a means to accomplish the first, I am pledging to write at least one page every single day. Of course one page a day won’t meet my goal. The idea is that once my ass is in the chair and my hands are on the keyboard, I will continue past that first page.

Third, I plan to be more regularly active on my social media pages. More checkins on Twitter and Facebook , and the occasional picture on Instagram. I will also resume posting YouTube videos. Mostly they will be video versions of what you read here. Of course I’m hoping to post here on a weekly basis as well.

I am also accepting a friend’s challenge to read a book a week for the next 52 weeks. I always seem to get more words on the page the more I read. Besides, maybe I can get through some of my TBR list. There’s nothing good on T.V. anyway.

Finally, I am vowing to never have to work New Years Eve again. I am scheduled to be off next year. That gives me the next two years to make things happen.

That’s about it for now. I will see you next week and let you know how well I’m keeping my resolutions.

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