June Update – Writing and Guitars

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve provided an update, so this one is long overdue. The main reason for my lack of updates is because I’ve been exhausted. Like a lot of people, my life was drastically changed when Covid hit. Not because of the actual virus, thankfully no one I know has been hit by it, but because of the reaction to it. Turns out, no one needs a designer during a pandemic, so I lost 90% of my freelance income. Thankfully my wife still had her job, and we had a little money saved back, but without knowing what to expect of the future, I immediately started applying for any and every job I could find. After 3 weeks of almost no income, I got a call about a job at a local factory. I had no idea what the job was, what shift I’d be working or even how much I would be paid; all I knew was that orientation was the next day. I immediately accepted.

Some how I lucked out and got a first shift position. And even though the pay is at the low end of the spectrum, there’s a whole lot of mandatory over time, it’s hot, dirty and physically exhausting, it’s a job. One positive aspect of it is that I lost over 20 lbs in the first month, and over 30 lbs so far. I’m almost down to the weight I was at 28, before I quit smoking and got a desk job.

Another positive about the job is that it really doesn’t require much brain power, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about my books. Unfortunately, I was too exhausted during the first month and a half to do anything with those thoughts once I got home. But my body has gotten a little more accustomed to averaging 25,000 steps a day while lifting 100’s of parts, so I’ve finally been writing again. My Life As Death is really coming along. I am even more positive now than ever, that this will be my best shot at a traditional publishing deal.

I’ve also given a lot of thought to my other books, though I haven’t been working on actually writing them right now. MLAD is my primary focus, and the writing is going so smoothly that I don’t want to disrupt it by trying to work on anything else. Once it’s done ( or God-forbid, I get writer’s block with it) I think I’ll be able to easily switch gears and finish up Zero Sum, and possibly even After the End.

In addition to writing, I’m also continuing to build guitars. Thankfully I’ve sold a few and I have a few orders to finish so I’m keeping busy with them. I also have a few builds started to add some much needed inventory to my online store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/RileyCustomGuitars). Right now I’ve only got one guitar left for sale, so I’ve got to get these done soon.

So my writing and guitar building are slowing coming back to normal, and hopefully my design career will be close behind them.

Writing in Public

Dean Wesley Smith just announced that he’s going to be “Writing in Public” again, and I love the idea. Basically, as a professional writer, he posts updates every day about the book he’s working on. He’ll include his thoughts on the writing, word counts etc…, and I love when he’s done this in the past. Unfortunately, I have not reached the point where I could do daily updates like that, because I don’t write every day, but his announcement did help me realize that I have not been providing updates on my books as often as I’d like. I have several books in process, and people do occasionally ask me about them, so I’m going to try to do better at providing updates, at least weekly. So in order to catch up anyone who’s interested, here is where each of the books stand:

My Life As Death
This is the book I’m working on the most. I believe it will give me the best shot at securing an agent and possibly a traditional book deal, so once it’s done I will start shopping it around. As of right now, based off word count and story structure, it is 60-70% done.
Word Count: 41,421

After the End
After the End is the novella that takes place after the end of 23 Hours. Initially I planned a four novella series starting with 23 Hours, but decided I liked how 23 Hours ended, so I never completed any other books. Right now it’s about 90% done, and I’m not sure if I want to finish it or not. It’s a fun story, and I have ideas for the other 2 parts of the series, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever pursue them.
Word Count: 21,271

Zero Sum
Zero Sum is the sequel to The Consciousness Puzzle. It’s my second highest writing priority, after MLAD. It’s very much a Mike Locke story, with a bit of intrigue, a little humor and a lot of action. It too, is about 60-70% complete. Once I complete MLAD, and as I look for an agent, I plan on finishing Zero Sum and publishing it as quickly as possible. I’be already got ideas for the next 3 Mike Locke stories and I’m dying to write them.
Word Count: 45,378

The Failed Exodus of Daniel James
As the name suggests, this is the sequel to The Dark Genesis of Daniel James. I started writing it just after finishing Dark Genesis, but then got the idea for The Consciousness Puzzle, then 23 Hours, etc… one thing led to another and Failed Exodus ended up neglected. I still think the book, and the plan for the rest of the series, is a good one, but there’s a lot that goes into writing the Daniel James series so it has dropped to 3rd or 4th on the priority list.
Word Count: 15,559

I have about 2 dozen other books I’ve started which will probably never see the light of day. I’ve also got about 3 dozen plot ideas I’d love to work on, but first I’ve got to finish these four.

So now that you’re all caught up, I hope to keep the updates coming. If there’s a particular book you’re dying for me to finish, let me know in the comment section.

Lady in Red Update

One of the great things about building guitars is experimenting and changing things as the mood strikes me. The Lady in Red build looked great, but a solid body guitar with piezo pickups just didn’t provide the sound I was looking for, so I decided to make some changes. I’ve got several guitars with humbuckers, but I don’t have any with single coil pickups so I swapped out the double piezos with a single coil pickup from MGB (https://mgbguitars.com/collections/pickups/products/guitar-parts-pickups-seven-fitty). I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but it was pretty straight forward. I routed a cavity in the body and drilled a hole connecting it to control cavity, then ran the wiring.

MGB sells a pickup cover for the seven-fitty but due to my setup it didn’t get the pickup as close to the strings as I wanted, so I 3D printed a new cover. I also 3D printed a logo for the head while I was at it. I can’t say I’m completely done with this one, but I love the way she sounds…for now.

“Good” Is No Longer Good Enough

Today I had an early appointment at the car dealership to have my wife’s car worked on. The car only has 50K miles, so I wasn’t happy about it, but it was covered under the warranty and the wait gave me a chance to do a little writing. I haven’t worked on Zero Sum for a while, and it’s been sitting at about 90-95% done, so I really wanted to make some progress on it. Unfortunately, as I read the last bit I’d written, I realized that it really needed some work. The story is good, but I’ve decided that “good” is no longer good enough for me.

When I first started writing it was strictly for myself. I had characters and stories floating around my head and I wanted to write a novel to entertain myself, so I wrote Dark Genesis of Daniel James. By the time I wrote The Consciousness Puzzle, I had already published Dark Genesis and it had been downloaded a couple thousand times, so I knew people might actually read my stories, but I continued to write TCP for myself. I figured The Daniel James Saga would give me the best chance for commercial success so I didn’t really take the Mike Locke books seriously; they were just fun genre stories so “good” was my quality target. But as I said, good is no longer good enough.

As I sat in the dealership waiting room, I thought about the the various scenes and plot points in Zero Sum. About half of them are great and I can’t wait for people to read them; about half are average. While I think the book would be a fun read for just about anyone, I also think that the book overall would be completely forgettable. So I started dissecting those week plot points to determine how to make them stronger; how to use them to keep the story (and subsequently the reader) moving forward. In a very short time I came up with a number a changes that would make Zero Sum a much better story. Unfortunately, that means rewriting; a lot of rewriting.

Normally I try to stick with Robert Heinlein’s rule# 3) You must not rewrite unless to editorial demand but I also keep in mind Dean Wesley Smith’s thoughts on the matter. Dean believes in a distinction between rewriting and redrafting. What I have planned for Zero Sum is more of a redraft than a rewrite. I’m tossing out large parts of the story and rewriting from the creative side of my brain now that I know where the story is going. I really don’t like the idea of “loosing” 25,000 words but it will definitely strengthen the story and take it from “good to “great” so it will be worth it.

Writing Again!

There’s been a lot going on lately that has taken my focus off of writing, either my books or this blog, not the least of which was my youngest son moving and getting married. Both of these events required a good bit of my time, both for the actual event and for the projects he requested to got with them. I got to enjoy making various items I probably would not have attempted otherwise (a headboard, folding ladder-shelf, decorative wooden crates, hatchet display boxes and a cake topper to name a few). I appreciated the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone with these projects but I really missed writing. Then two days ago my wife had surgery. Surgery is not usually a great thing, but it did force me to spend several hours in the waiting room with nothing much to do, so I decided to crack open my little travel 2-in-1 laptop and give writing a shot.

I’m probably about 90-95% done with Zero Sum, and Mike Locke is such an easy character for me to slip into, so I thought it would be the best place to get me feet wet after a little time off. I opened up the file, read the last couple chapters I’d written and tried to continue. After ten minutes I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. I don’t know why, but sometimes the story just flows, other times I see way to many options and I hop all over the place, and sometimes my brain just freezes. That day, it was the latter. I just couldn’t see what happened next. I thought abut just shutting down my laptop but decided to try again with a different book.

My Life As Death is totally different from Zero Sum, and apparently that was exactly what I needed. I re-read a little of what I’d already written, and just continued from there. I wrote pretty much the entire time I was in that waiting room, and even though it’d been over a month since I’d last written, it was like I’d never stopped. That never happens when I take time off, so for that I was very grateful. Then the nurse called my name and the writing came to an end so I could go back and see my wife. Everything went well but by the time we got home both of us were exhausted so I didn’t get any more writing done.

I also didn’t get any writing done yesterday, choosing to focus on design work and caring for my wife, but most of the big projects around the house are now complete, and there shouldn’t be any more major events in the near future, so once again I can make writing a priority. And when I talk about making writing a priority, I mean both my books and keeping up on this blog. The guitar build continued, even though I haven’t given any updates on it, so you will be seeing the rest of the build soon.

Projects

I’ve always had multiple projects going on at once, but lately it seems that my mental to-do list just keeps growing. Between the household projects, my writing, 3D printing, guitar building, etc…, it seems like I’ll never get done with all of them. My wife is big on creating lists, so as much as I hate them, I decided to put together a list of all the projects I’m either currently working on or plan to start in the near future. A lot of the projects are household projects but some of the projects are personal projects (like adding a rasberry Pi/ Octopi to my 3D printer), some are for my online shop, some are for my writing (like finish the four books I’m currently working on) and some are for family and/or friends, but all of them can currently be done if I make them a priority. Additionally, each of them is an actual projects and not just a routine task I have to do often (such as mow the yard, cook dinner or do the dishes). So once I compiled the list in excel and had everything documented like that, I realized why I haven’t been writing much. As of yesterday morning I had 74 projects on the list.

At first, seeing the entire list laid out was a bit intimidating, but then I realized that very few of the projects had a specific deadline. Stuff for my son’s wedding has to be made before the wedding, and the pool landscaping would be nice to have done before we close up the pool for the winter, but otherwise the timing is up to me. And, while some of the projects are large, many of them will only require a couple hours or possibly even less. So with the list made, I now just need to determine my priorities.

I’ve already knocked out a couple projects, and prioritized some writing time, so I think the list will definitely help keep me moving forward on all of the projects, just don’t tell my wife she was right about making a list.

6 Years!

It doesn’t seem possible that 6 years ago I took the plunge and published my first book – The Dark Genesis of Daniel James. When I first started writing it, I planned on continuing the series right away, and I even have the sequel halfway done, but then I started to play around with other characters and other worlds.

23 Hours came to me in a flash, and I liked the idea so much that I just had to write it. Being a novella, just over 20,000 words, it only took a couple months to finish 23 Hours but by the time it was done, I already had another story I just had to write; The Consciousness Puzzle.

The Consciousness Puzzle took a bit longer to finish than I expected. I was really still so new to writing and filled with self-doubt so I restarted it a couple times, bouncing between 1st and 3rd person view points, and trying different voices before finally trusting myself. I also worked on a sequel to 23 Hours, and hopped back and forth between the two projects for a while before decided to focus on The Consciousness Puzzle. Once I decided on that, and allowed my own voice to flow, I was able to finish the book.

But once again, by the time I finished The Consciousness Puzzle I had an Idea for its sequel, so as soon as I published it, I started on Zero Sum. Everything was going pretty well with Zero Sum when I had yet another idea for a book I just had to pursue – My Life As Death. I tried putting off MLAD until I finished Zero Sum, but eventually I just had to at least start it. So this past year I’ve been working on both MLAD and Zero sum, hoping to complete one so I can get another book published.

So that’s a brief look at the last 6 years of my writing. I definitely wanted to be a bit more productive than that, but I feel this year will be different, and I will definitely have at least one new book out, so keep checking back here for updates.

Writing Update 4/5/19

My recipe posts have been getting a lot of attention recently but I want to be clear that this will not be turning into a food site. This is a writing site and the recipe posts are practice for my eventual cook book, tentatively titled “Recipes to Make While Drinking a Beer”. I like the title, even though I haven’t actually been drinking any beer while cooking (or really while doing anything else) lately. I have an obstacle course race coming up in a couple months and I’m just now starting to prepare for it.

My fitness training has cut into my writing time a little, but I’m also spending a lot more time on contracted design work. That, plus a couple new grand kids being born and a wife recovery from surgery means that I’ve not gotten a whole lot of writing done the past couple weeks. But I’m getting a routine worked out, and have several hours dedicated to writing today, so I hope to get back on track. My Life As Death continues to surprise me every time I sit down to work on it so I can’t wait to see where it goes. And Zero Sum is so close to being done that I get antsy any time I think about it. I can’t wait to share these books with all of you, so continue to check back here for updates; I’ll be needing beta readers real soon.