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What’s Up… Thursday?: A Day Late And A Dollar Short

What’s up guys? How has your week been? Mine has been absolutely insane.

Last Friday was my mom’s birthday. I won’t tell you which one, because I’d prefer to make it to my next one. On her birthday, we took her out to a nice dinner and gave her our gifts. I got her an action camera like the one I’ve used to record a couple of videos on my YouTube channel. Shannon got her a ticket to go see Home Free this October. If you don’t know, they’re a great country acapella group. I don’t even like much country, but these guys are awesome.

On Saturday, Shannon, my Mom, and I ¬†took a ride on the 1880 Train from Hill City, SD to Keystone, SD and back. It was a lot of fun and something Shannon and I have been wanting to do for years, but never found the time. It was great being to be able to step back in time as we entered vintage rail cars being pulled by an actual steam engine. I took a video and posted it on my YouTube channel here. Warning, it’s close to a two hour video, but I think it’s a reasonably soothing watch. You wouldn’t think riding in a convertible and then a train would wear you out so much, but we were both beat by the time we got home.

Of course, Sunday was back to the grind. What I wasn’t prepared for was the hotel being nearly or completely sold out every night. Some nights, even when we’re sold out, I still have most of the night to myself. Not so this week. It seemed like every five minutes or so, somebody needed something. I was hoping to get some writing done, but to tell the truth, this blog post is all the writing at work I’ve been able to do all week. I would try to get something on the page, but it always seemed that as soon as I would start to type, either the phone would ring, or someone would magically appear at my desk. Finally I gave up and cued up the next episode of Black Sails and dreamed of running away and turning pirate myself.

Of course, one full night was devoted to editing the aforementioned two hour YouTube video. I’m getting better with my editing skills. I’m even considering getting a green screen so I can replace the ugly background when I shoot vlogs at work. Now I just need to work on my on-screen presence.

The good news is that during my time at home I’ve been fairly productive. The bad news is, what I’ve been productive at is procrastination. Yes, my office is spotless so that when I do finally sit down to write, I shouldn’t have any distractions, but I’ve yet to test this theory by actually sitting down to write. Oh well, this weekend is supposed to be ridiculously hot and Shannon has a lot of homework to do for her masters in English, so I plan on giving her space and working on my own homework. I’m hoping to even get some serious reading time in over the weekend as we hide from Mister Heat Miser.

I guess that’s about it. It may not sound like much to some of you who actually work for a living, but it’s really frustrating to not be able to get work done when you actually want to.

I do have a good idea for this week’s Flash Fiction Friday, but I’m a little afraid it’ll end up turning into a full-fledged short story that I’ll want to try to submit somewhere, in which case, I won’t be posting it here. Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t turn out as good as I think it might. ūüėÄ

Anyway, I guess that’s about this week. I will post something tomorrow, I promise.

As always, you can find me all these places 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 YouTube I finally hit 100 subscribers. Thank you everyone for your help. The new custom URL is https://www.youtube.com/justinmkellywriter

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

I’m even on Pinterest

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Flash Fiction Friday Number 3: Excerpt from Shadows Of Influence

Happy Flash Fiction Friday.

In honor of the fact that it’s St. Paddy’s day, I’ve decided that it’s your lucky day. Today I’m going to change things up a bit and share a short, but pivotal scene from my work in progress;

Shadows of Influence

Stephanie felt the gel slipping from her face and she opened her eyes. This time there was no disorientation. She knew exactly where she was. She had just completed her test.

The past few days had just been part of the simulation. All the pain, the abject terror, the heartbreak, had been a lie. She should have felt anger, but she was too exhausted for that. Her muscles felt like jelly, but she willed herself not to fall.

Christopher looked at her impassively as he waited his turn. She¬†craned her neck to see the large screen above the machine as it ¬†printed out the words ‚ÄúStephanie Williams: CLASSIFIED!‚ÄĚ.

All lethargy left her  body as she began to panic. She had heard what happened to people  whose results came back as classified. They disappeared, never to be  seen again. She tried to bolt, but the guards were already there to  catch her and haul her toward the doors.

They didn’t take her through the large double doors.¬†Instead, at the last second, they veered left. One of the guards¬†placed his hand against the wall and a small, hidden door opened. ¬†As they dragged her through it, she tried to struggle free, but one of ¬†the guards pressed a small metal object against her neck and then everything went black.

 

Want to know what happens next? You’ll just have to wait and see. With any luck, the book should be out later this year.

I’ll see you on Monday with an update on what I’m reading.

As always, be sure to stalk me online. Also, I hate to beg, but I’m really trying to reach 100 subscribers on my YouTube channel, so please check it out and, if you like what you see, subscribe.

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

 

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My Trip To NYC For Thrillerfest/Pitchfest 2016 part 3

Let’s see. I was still riding high on my success at Pitchfest. Now that the really stressful part of my trip was over, a weight had lifted off my shoulders. I was now free to enjoy myself and mingle with the other writers.
First, I took a little nap in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt as our hosts were setting up for the Thrillerfest opening reception. I was amazed at how tired I was. Apparently I hadn’t been aware of how stressed I was until the reason for the stress was past. I hope I didn’t drool too much.

They opened the doors promptly at 6:30 and I got my first real taste of what the life of a writer could be like. The room was filled with authors, agents, and publishers of all levels. To be honest, I think I did more networking there than I did at Pitchfest. Of course, those of us that did attend Pitchfest wasted no time and immediately sought each-other out to compare notes. I did my best not to boast about my success, but it wasn’t easy. Especially once I’d gotten a couple cocktails in me.

Again I was amazed at the openness of the writing community there. I got lots of valuable advice from my fellow writers about both self-publishing and traditional publishing. I was given great advice on how to find a great cover designer, how to plan a book tour, and lots of other things.

Again I must admit that there were a few times where I was talking to someone and for some reason, I couldn’t help but assume that they were  on a similar level to myself, only to look down and realize it was a name I recognized. Luckily, none of them seemed offended. The food that was served was amazing, if a bit difficult to eat while navigating a room full of people you’re trying to impress. I wish I could say exactly what was served, but it was much fancier than I’m used to.

By the time the reception ended at eight, I was thoroughly exhausted and grateful when my Uber dropped me off at the front of my hotel. I went straight to my room, laid on my bed intending to rest for a bit before exploring the rooftop bar, and promptly fell asleep.

Bright and early the next morning, I was up and showered while most of my fellow hotel guests slept. I was grateful for that. Did I mention it was a communal shower?

communial-bathrooms

I decided that, considering the heat wave, and the fact that I was going to be there all day so I wanted to be comfortable, I threw on a nice polo shirt, a pair of slacks, and was out the door. Immediately, I was hit in the face with a blast of hot air. In seconds, I felt like I was covered in sweat. I probably should have called for a ride, but I decided, since I was in NYC, to experience the subway.

It was at least a mile to the nearest station, but even in the heat, I didn’t mind the walk. As I went down the stairs to the platform, I was aware of two things. First, the heat was even worse down there. It was as if I was descending into the bowels of hell itself. The second thing I noticed was the rat the size of a thanksgiving turkey running across the platform in front of me.

Luckily, the system was easy to navigate, especially since my stop was the famous Grand Central Station.

I gladly traded the heat and humidity for the almost frigid comfort of the lobby of the Grand Hyatt. I only had a moment to acclimate however, since the first set of panels started promptly at eight.

I would have loved to have attended all of the panels, but I was forced to choose between four of them each hour. I started off the morning with CHARACTER, PLOT OR LANGUAGE? YA Thrillers In Today‚Äôs World, followed by CAFFEINE, CHOCOLATE OR WINE? Writers‚Äô Tricks To Keep You Going. I believe it was during this panel that I won a prize.

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Unfortunately, this meant I had to carry it around the rest of the day. I’m not trying to sound ungrateful, but a bottle of wine gets heavy after a while. If I’d had a corkscrew, I probably would have popped it open and shared it with a few select people.

There was a short break. Then it was on to WEREWOLVES, VAMPIRES OR WITCHES? Thrillers On The Wild Side, led by Heather Graham. Next was PAST, PRESENT OR FUTURE? Mapping Out Your Five Year Plan.

Next, was the big ITW meeting. I’m not a member, so I slipped out for lunch at Grand Central Station. I had a great hot dog and asked for a Coke. The message on my bottle seemed fitting.

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I got back just in time for, ONE, THREE OR MANY? Standalone, Trilogy, and Series Thrillers, hosted by my friend, Sandra Brannan, then wrapped up the day with BUZZ, SHOUT, OR WHISPER? How To Buzz Your Book In An Overcrowded Market. Afterward, I went to the cocktail party that wrapped up the day.

By the time I got back to my hotel, I was once again, completely exhausted. I wearily asked the front desk if there were somewhere nearby where I could just get a quick sandwich and he directed me to a small convenience store/deli a block over.

I went back u to my room, enjoyed my sandwich and my bottle of wine (don’t judge) and passed out.

The next day, I was up bright and early, but I was so tired, I barely made it in time for ITW Presents THE DEBUT AUTHOR CLASS OF 2016: Introductions by Steve Berry. I’m glad I did make it though, as it included an amazing breakfast buffet. I probably had an entire pot of coffee trying to perk myself up for the rest of the day.

After the breakfast, it was time for more panels. I started with ELLROY, HIGHSMITH OR HAMMETT? Noir At The Bar, followed by CHILLS, THRILLS OR TEEN HEROES? Young Adult Thrillers, led by Lissa Price and featuring R.L. Stine.

Next was an interview with Gillian Flynn where I found out I’d been pronouncing her name wrong. It’s a hard G.

After that was a panel I really needed. PAIN, HEARTACHE OR ELATION? Don‚Äôt Murder Your Novel Before You Finish It. I’m really bad about this. It was comforting to hear how common it really is.

Next, I couldn’t miss this. SILVER BULLET AWARD RECIPIENT JOHN LESCROART INTERVIEWED BY R.L. STINE .

I then wrapped up my Thrillerfest experience with PLOTTER, PANTSER OR HYBRID? The Pros And Cons Of Outlining.

There was a banquet following all this, but I hadn’t been aware this required an extra ticket and to be perfectly honest, I was thoroughly worn out. I slipped out and went back to my hotel. After a little nap, I went and explored the meat packing district and treated myself to an amazing burger.

I spent a good portion of that evening at the rooftop bar of the Jane, looking out over the river and fantasizing about my new life as a professional writer.

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Next week, I’m let loose on the streets of NYC, completely unsupervised. Stay tuned and I’ll see you on Friday with another piece of Flash Fiction.

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

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

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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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Can Genre Fiction Also Be Literary?

When it comes to my writing, I’ve always had a bit of a dilemma.

Like a lot of writers, I have a fantasy in my head of being the modern era’s Hemingway or Faulkner. Perhaps sitting in a small cafe in Paris, dutifully punching out literary masterpieces that will be cherished¬†throughout the ages. After all, isn’t that at least part of why people write? So that while we may pass from this earth, at least our thoughts and feelings might become immortal.

Still, while I do love reading the classics, I have to admit that my favorite books have always been in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres. Particularly fantasy. It probably won’t surprise most of you to find out that I’m a big nerd. I love nothing more than reading fantastic¬†tales of swords and sorcery. Maybe I’ve always dreamed of being the valiant hero who saves the damsel in distress, (please forgive my chauvinism,) or maybe I just long for a time when courage and chivalry counted for something. Whatever the reason, I’ve always loved medieval history both factual and fictional. I still hold out hope that some day, an archaeologist will discover evidence of dragons. I’m such a fan of the genre, I’ve even taken up amateur blacksmithing as a hobby.

Because of this, I’m afraid I’ve developed a bit of a split personality when it comes to my writing. I switch from being the serious author¬†who wants to immortalize his thoughts and feelings in print, to the writer who just wants to play and step into the shoes of his characters to live out the lives of people he will never be.

I’ve been doing some serious thinking about this recently and have come to a conclusion. Who says genre fiction can’t also be literary? Why can’t one piece of work be both entertaining and meaningful? Of course there are examples of books that, were they written today, would be pigeonholed into a specific genre but have still managed to become literary classics. Books such as The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, and Robin Hood. The question is, Can it be done today?

I guess there’s only one way to¬†find out.

So I suppose the point of this rather rambling post is this. I’m going to be true to myself and write what I enjoy. Hopefully my more literary personality will be able to reconcile¬†with my other side and I can find some peace. Or at the very least, I’ll be able to finish a project without questioning whether it’s really what I want to be writing.

Of course, the fantasy bar has been set fairly high by certain contemporary writers, (I’m looking at you George Martin,) but I think I’m up to the task.

One other perk of being a successful fantasy writer, if I get popular enough, I might be invited to Comic Con.

What do you think? Can a work of fantasy, sci-fi, or horror also be literary?

Leave your answer here, or on Twitter @JustinMKelly1, or on Facebook¬†https://www.facebook.com/jmkelly60. Also, please visit my website at¬†http://justinmkelly.com/¬†(I have plans for a major overhaul but I’m concentrating on the writing itself right now.)

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