I am still pursuing publishing options for MLAD, but in the mean time, I want to make sure anyone who wants to read it, can. I love this story so I want to make sure it stays available for anyone and everyone. I am also continuing to work on the sequel, but I will not be serializing the continuing adventures of Nate and Weed here, or elsewhere. I’ve got many projects going on so I cannot guarantee I will be able to complete a chapter each week. But I’m starting my final class for my engineering degree, and my career has stabilized, so I do plan on posting a new entry on this blog each week, so stay tuned for updates on MLAD, its sequel, and the other novels I’m currently working on, as well as descriptions of the new guitars I’m building as well.
Amazon really created the whole e-book and indie-author revolution. And they’ve been the best choice for many, many authors since 2007. I was a little late to the party, publishing my first book in 2013, but they were still the biggest and best option for me. I experimented with trying other platforms over the years, but staying exclusive with Amazon always proved to be the right choice, until now.
I am happy to announce, that each of my books is now available on every e-book platform, as well as paperback. Additionally, hardback editions will be coming in the near future. I’m not sure what direction I will be going with future books, but right now I want to make sure my books are available to the largest audience, so you can find links to them on your favorite platforms including Apple, Kobo, Scribd, and more at:
I’ve been bouncing around between a few writing projects lately and want to decide on one to focus on, so I reached out to the two people who have been supporting my writing from the beginning, my brother and sister. One suggested working on the sequel to The Consciousness Puzzle while the other was emphatic about me continuing on with the sequel to My Life As Death. Since I got no resolution from turning to them, I’m now turning to the readers of this blog. Please let me know what you think:
I started writing my first novel on March 4th 2011. By that time I already had a general plot and several characters in mind. I’d even researched how to write a novel, and used many of the suggestions to document the characters and plot. I was 10,000 words into it before I realized it was terrible. All the preparation and research I’d done did not help that story at all, but I did take some of the character attributes and the character arcs, and use them in the first novel I managed to complete. That one was The Dark Genesis of Daniel James.
After completing Dark Genesis and self publishing it, I kind of stopped actively learning how to write better. I’d completed one book, and most experts agreed that the best thing you could do to continue getting better at writing is to actually write, so that’s what I did. I wrote a few more books and published two more through KDP. I wrote the books that I wanted to write and enjoyed doing so, but because at some point I would like to actually have a full time writing career, I realized I needed to get back to actively trying to learn how to be a better writer. Thankfully, in this day and age, there are quite a few resources for this. One of most helpful to me lately has been the Writing Excuses podcast (https://writingexcuses.com/).
Each episode of the podcast is 15-20 minutes long (because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart), and provides a ton of insight from a group of successful writers, often times featuring other extremely successful authors as guests. They’re also hilarious. I started back at season 1 episode 1, and I’ve made it up to season 6 episode 20. I’ve already learned so much, and I still have 11 more seasons to go until I’m caught up to their current episode. I can’t wait to see how much more I learn from this group. So for anyone looking for an easy way to learn from great authors, I highly recommend checking them out.
Today I received my second rejection letter. It was once again a courteous one, but it was also quite evidently a form letter so I didn’t get any direct feedback. One thing I was able to gather from it is that I might need to tweak my description. It’s a little hard to say for sure, though, because the only explanation was “Unfortunately, the project you describe does not suit our list at this time.” Maybe I’m not describing it well enough to catch their attention or maybe they just aren’t looking for a YA novel about a teen protagonist who has to kill people. It’s really hard say. One thing I do know, is that with each subsequent submission I have continued to make slight adjustments to my pitch, which I hope has improved it.
This rejection came from a submission I made two weeks ago, so I am cautiously optimistic that this two week turn around might be the norm, rather than the exception, though most of the places I’ve submitted to have stated turn around times of six weeks to six months, so maybe it is just rejections that have the quicker turn around. All I really know, is that I will continue submitting to agents and publishing houses and eventually, My Life As Death will be picked up. In the mean-time, I’ll keep writing and building guitars like this one I just finished today:
I’ve got a little more setup to do (mainly intonation and adding the serial number tag and strap buttons) but even though a customer said one of my previous builds “almost plays itself”, from a playability standpoint, this is probably the best guitar I’ve made. It plays so easily but I’m not 100% sure why. I do have a few ideas though, so hopefully I can keep that going with all my future builds.
It’s the last day of the holiday break which means tomorrow I have to return to my day job. I really don’t mind it going to work but I know I’m not going to have as much time as I want to continue working on all the projects I’ve got going. Thankfully, even though it started off with me not feeling well, I did end up having a pretty productive break. I’ve managed to complete some guitars and even sold this RG9 (serial number 0006) minutes after it went up online:
I also managed to query a few literary agents, which was a huge project on my to-do list. I think My Life As Death has a great shot at commercial success, so I decided long ago that it would be the one I use to get an agent. So far I’ve only received one rejection, and it was a very nice one, so I’m not discouraged yet. I also plan on continuing to query more agents, especially as others start to open up to submissions now that the New Year has started.
And probably just as important to my the well-being of my writing career, I’ve finally been able to get more writing done. School will be starting back up soon, so I know my time will become even more limited, but the writing is flowing nicely, so I expect to continue making progress on a couple of the books I have in the works. I don’t know if I will be sharing any of them on this site, but I will definitely keep you up-to-date with how they’re coming. And I’ll do the same with the guitars as well.
So, after about a month of dealing with this bug I’m finally starting to feel like myself again which means that I want to jump right in and start working on everything I haven’t been able to touch for the past several weeks. The weather isn’t cooperating completely, which does limit a little of what I can do, but I’ve already gone for a couple (extremely disappointing) runs, gotten some writing done and made some progress on a couple guitar builds that have been collecting dust for way too long. I’ve also queried a couple more agents for My Life As Death and will try to submit to at least one more today. All in all, it’s been a pretty productive couple of days, and I still have a few more before I have to return to work.
And now that I’m feeling better, I hope to update this blog a little more often. And hopefully I’ll have something to report in regards to an agent before too long. In the meantime, feel free to check out my completed guitars for sale: https://www.etsy.com/shop/RileyCustomGuitars
So I managed to finish the fall semester of school just before getting hit with some sort of bug that kicked my ass. Thankfully, I was able to submit my first proposal for My Life As Death to an agent before I ended up sick and unproductive for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, she didn’t feel the project was right for her. So I’m still looking for an agent, but I’m also starting to recover from whatever this is so I’ve already started submitting elsewhere.
I’m also feeling good enough to start working on other projects again so today I plan on getting some writing done, I just haven’t decided which book I’ll be working on. The sequel to My Life As Death is definitely one of my priorities, but several months ago I completely plotted out an action/adventure/mystery/sci-fi story that keeps popping back into my head. And one thing I’ve learned over the years is to listen when my inner voice is trying to tell me something, so I have a feeling that is the direction I will be going, at least for a little while.
The weather is also pretty decent for December here in Ohio, so I will probably try to do some work outside before the weather changes. I know I won’t get everything done that I want to, but bouncing between those few projects should make for an enjoyable week.
Hello! There’s been so much going on but I want to keep this kind of brief, so I won’t go into too much detail over each project in this post.
First off, the guitar I shared in my last post was RG13-0002. I love how it turned out with a split humbucker, but I didn’t get to enjoy it too long because I had a customer waiting for it before it was even done. Here’s the finished product:
I also finished a 3-string license plate guitar but I haven’t got it put up online yet:
Additionally, I’ve got 6 other guitars I’m currently working on, so that’s where most of my free time has gone lately, not that I have a lot of free time between work and school.
Speaking of work, I’m now 3 months into my new job, and I still love it. The company I work for, and the people I work with are great. And while I probably won’t stay in the same position once I complete my schooling, I’m very happy doing it now and I have plenty of opportunities with this company once I get my engineering degree.
As for writing, I’ve been doing some, but not nearly as much as I want to. When I do take the time to write, I have been continuing to work on the sequel to My Life As Death. It feels like it’s starting off a little darker this time, but I’m also so early into it that I can’t say that for sure.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time getting my packet ready to submit to an agent. I found the agent I plan on submitting to first so I’m working on making sure I have everything to meet her requirements. Thankfully what she is asking for is pretty standard for the industry, so a week or two after I submit to her I will start researching other agents and I can pretty much use the same submission package for them as well. I know a lot of people suggest submitting to multiple agents at once, but she is the one I really want to go with, so I figure I’ll give her a week or two headstart.
So that’s a quick recap of all the projects keeping me from updating this blog as often as I should. I plan on updating a little more often, but now that MLAD is done, I will probably start sharing more posts on my guitar making processes. Every guitar is a little different but the various processes are generally similar for each.
A few weeks later things had mostly returned to normal. Matt was no longer in the picture at all and Shawna was hanging out with Weed and me again, just like old times. Occasionally we would hang out as just the two of us without it being awkward and that, alone, was priceless. She even hopped on the back of the KZ a couple times for a ride home after school, but mostly I kept the time on the bike for me, especially when I needed to clear my head.
But I needed those rides a little less often as time went on. Finkenbine’s death, out of all of them, was the only one that still haunted me a bit. It might have been because his death hadn’t been noticed by anyone in town. It didn’t even warrant a mention in the local paper. I know that shouldn’t have bothered me because I’m sure it wouldn’t have mattered to him at all, but for some reason it just pissed me off.
But besides that, life was going as well as could be expected. Weed had somehow managed to smooth things over with Stephanie and Tiffany so the four of us tried another double date. That time it was Tiffany making an excuse to leave early when our impromptu makeout session ended up being more awkward than a priest in a whorehouse. I felt bad about the whole thing, but making out with a girl is really hard when you have to keep your hands from actually touching her skin. Give it a try sometime, and you’ll know what I mean, though I don’t suggest trying it with someone you’d ever like to make out with again.
Weed was a good sport about it, though, and even managed to somehow keep seeing Stephanie, but I’m not really sure how long that will last. Tiffany keeps trying to set Stephanie up with other guys, I think just to spite me. And from what Weed’s told me, Stephanie might even be a little too wild for him, which has me a little scared for whatever guy she might find next. All I know is I will never, ever, let my hands touch her. The images would probably scar me for life.
Even school was going pretty well. I’d been sleeping better at night which made it easier to stay awake in school. And while most of the students had started to forget about what I’d done in American History class, the teachers still remembered what I’d done for Ms Reader so they seemed to let small things slip a little more often. So like I said, things were going pretty good, but just when I was finally feeling like I’d put most of the Reaper stuff behind me, there was a knock at the door.
The man standing in the doorway was dressed in a suit but something about him seemed just a little off. I couldn’t quite place it until he held out a manilla envelope and his sleeve rode up his arm enough for me to catch a glimpse of the tattoo hidden underneath. From the little I saw of it, I’m pretty sure it covered his whole arm.
“I’m Steven Longfellow, the executor of Jim’s estate,” he said, but I just kept staring at him.
He shook the envelope, making it jingle a little.
“Jim Finkenbine named you in his will so I’m delivering this as part of his final wishes.”
That was when it first dawned on me that I’d never even heard Finkenbine’s first name before. Upon hearing it was from him, I eagerly grabbed the envelope but then just stared at it, not quite sure I was ready to open it.
“He really thought highly of you,” Mr. Longfellow said. “Just let me know if you ever need any help fulfilling his wishes.”
“Thanks,” I replied as I took the business card he handed me, but I still didn’t know what he meant by fulfilling Finkenbine’s wishes. I was just about to ask, when he held out his hand. My mind was racing with thoughts of Finkenbine, so I didn’t even give a second thought to reaching out and shaking his hand.
As soon as our hands touched, I realized what I’d done, and braced myself, but no images came. I looked up at Mr. Longfellow, and he looked down at our hands and smiled, then turned and walked away.
I stood there in shock for a minute as he climbed into the back of a black sedan at the curb. It was only after his car pulled away that I realized there was another car still in front of my house. Mortimer Hearseburg, meticulously polished and parade ready, was parked along the curb. It was seeing the car there, in front of me, that finally pushed me to open the envelope from Finkenbine. In it I found the keys to Mort, as well as a letter.
“Nate,” it started, “I wish I could have given you some better advice about how to handle your situation, but as you can probably tell, what worked for me might not work for everyone. All I really know is that I owe you a great debt for helping me go out the way I wanted to. That is why I have asked Steven to take care of you if you ever find yourself in need of some help or even if you just have some questions. He is in a unique position to offer insight and knowledge others can not. He is also someone you can reach out to without fear.”
I looked down at the business card Steven Longfellow had handed me, and it just listed his title as “Master Consultant”.
“I do have one last favor to ask of you,” Finkenbine’s letter continued. “Please keep up the tradition and break Mort out whenever a brother needs one last ride.”
He signed it with a scribble that I couldn’t make out, but it didn’t matter. I knew it was from him.
I put the letter and Mr. Longfellow’s business card back into the envelope but kept the keys in my hand, feeling their weight. It was a heavy request, but there was no way I could say no. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to tell my mom that we needed some more room to store another car.
I was still staring at the keys when I heard the distinct sound of a harley v-twin engine getting near. Even though I heard it coming, I wasn’t prepared to see Finkenbine’s trike pull up behind Mort, or to see Weed climb off it.
“No way!” We both said simultaneously.
Weed wasn’t wearing a helmet so I could see the grin on his face from the porch. I’m sure it matched the one on my face.
“So he left you Mort?”
“And he left you his trike?”
Weed pulled a folded letter from his back pocket and handed it to me. I handed him my envelope and we both took a second to read.
“Weed,” his letter started. “This is a little thanks for helping me finish my bike. And I figured you’re going to need one of your own to keep riding beside Nate.”
It was signed with the same chicken-scratch signature as mine.
“So what’s with this Longfellow guy?” Weed asked.
“I’m not quite sure,” I said, before grabbing his arm.
The image that came this time wasn’t a dream but it was slightly distorted and almost claustrophobic. It took me a second to realize that I was seeing things through Weed’s eyes, as he stared through a pair of binoculars into the window of his neighbor across the street. She turned towards the window wearing an almost see-through nightgown, smiled right at him and started to take it off.
“Dude,” I said, yanking my hand from his arm. “She’s got to be going on fifty.”
“Who? Ms. Schneller?” He asked with a smile. “She might be going on fifty, but there’s no way that body of hers is.”
“You realize Lust is one of the seven deadly sins, don’t you.”
“Yeah, but what a way to go.”
“Just please keep those thoughts to yourself.”
“You’re the one who grabbed my arm. You knew the chance you were taking.”
“I just had to find out if I would still see things.”
“Because of that Longfellow guy.”
Weed stared at me with more confusion on his face than normal.
“After he delivered the envelope, and just before he left, I ended up shaking his hand, but…”
“But I didn’t see anything.”
“So, like he’d never done anything wrong?”
“I don’t think that was it,” I said. “I think it was a test.”
“Like he was testing me, to find out if he saw anything when he touched me.”
“So you think he might be a…”
“I think so,” I replied.
“But you didn’t see anything from him, and you don’t think he saw anything from you? Like the whole Reaper vision thing doesn’t work on other Reapers?”
“Wow,” was all he said.
“So what now?” I asked.
He paused for a minute, with a serious look of concentration on his face.
“How about you find some place to store Mort and then grab the KZ so we can go for a ride, exactly as Finkenbine would want.”
It sounded like a great idea, so I slid into the driver side seat of the hearse and took a moment to appreciate the gravity of the gift before starting it up. It ran even smoother than I could have expected, but that shouldn’t have surprised me. I knew how much the car meant to Finkenbine, and how well he would have kept it up, so I silently vowed to do the same before I pulled the car around the house to swap it out with the KZ.
I was looking forward to the ride with Weed as a way of symbolizing the closing of that screwed up chapter of my life, but as soon as I pulled the car into the garage and put it into park, the glove compartment fell open. When I reached over to close it, I saw there was one small piece of paper in it. Unlike the letter from Finkenbine, this sheet was thick and textured, almost like a fancy wedding invitation. On it were four words, written in blood red calligraphic script: Welcome to the team.
That was all there was. No signature, no other writing on either side. The car might have been Finkenbine’s, but I knew the note wasn’t from him. I was also pretty sure I knew exactly who the note was from. The anger rushed through me at the thought of him, and I almost crumbled the note up and threw it away, but then I caught myself and realized I had a choice. I was no longer bound by any agreement so I could choose what I was going to do, and I decided that I was not going to give him the opportunity to ruin my day, or my life, any more.
That thought made me smile more than anything had in a long, long time. So with that smile on my face, I grabbed my helmet and keys and hopped on the bike. By the time I pulled around the house, Weed was already back on the trike impatiently waiting on me. Together we headed straight out of town to find the most winding open roads we could. Neither of us knew where we were heading, but we knew we were going to enjoy the ride.