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.
5 months. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve posted here, so I’m long overdue for an update. School has been kicking my butt but thankfully my accelerated class finished last week, so now I’m only taking two classes each week and they’re both done by 8:30 at night, usually sooner. It also means that my homework is pretty much cut in half too, so I’m finally going to have a little free time to work on other things, I think.
Even though school has been taking up most of my free time, I have continued working on guitars. I went from building and selling a couple each month, to not even finishing one each month. I hate not being able to work on them, and continuing to build the business, but I know it’s only a temporary slow down.
There’s also been a temporary slow down in my writing, but I’m continuing to work on it as I can, as-well. The sequel to My Life As Death is currently over 14,000 words, and if you enjoyed the first one (still not available anywhere but this website… yet :)), then you’re definitely going to enjoy this one. Nate and Weed are maturing… a little… and having a blast with a lot of new experiences, while trying to navigate this thing called life…and death. I have no idea when it’ll be done, or when I’ll even share a little of it with you guys, but I can’t wait. I’ve already realized that this will be a trilogy, and I know how it ends, so I’m excited to fins out everything that happens in-between.
I’ve got a few other writing projects in the works, and I’ll share those details eventually as-well, but for now I’m keeping them to myself. One thing I will share with you, and I’ve literally shared this with only two other people so far, is the fact that I will most likely be starting a new job. When I left work today, I had a voicemail about a new position I’d interviewed for a couple weeks ago. Nothing is official yet, but I was told they’re working through the process with HR and I should be receiving an offer next week. This could throw a wrench into everything, because the position is one that will require a whole lot of learning and effort on my part, but I’m up for any new adventure.
So, there’s the long over-due update. Hopefully it won’t be another 5 months before the next one.
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 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.
The vision started the same as last time, with Shawna sitting terrified on her bed as the yelling took place right outside her bedroom door. This time I didn’t jump as the man yelled at her to clean up the mess, I just continued to watch her do as he said, all the while she was shaking and glancing over her shoulder. When she was done, she looked at her mom, then up at him and was just about to say something when he screamed at her to go to bed. She opened her mouth once again, but the back of his hand slammed into her face before she could get a single word out.
“I told you to go to bed, so do it, unless you want to end up like her.”
I felt her pain, both the physical pain on her face, and the aching inside her as she left her mom laying on the floor. She curled up on her bed, and laid there trembling until she was out of tears.
The vision faded out to nothing then came back in with Shawna sitting up on the bed again. I thought it was just starting over because of the yelling coming from outside her bedroom door again, but then I noticed that Shawna wasn’t clutching a teddy bear any more. This time she had a silver revolver in her hands.
There was a loud slap and a scream that made Shawna slide off her bed, and head to the door as she continued to fumble with the gun that looked completely oversized in her tiny hands.
I could feel the terror racing through her as she opened the door and saw that man continue to hit her mother, even as she cowered on the floor with both arms trying to shield her face.
“Leave her alone,” Shawna said through trembling teeth. Her voice was so weak and I was sure the guy hadn’t heard her, but then he suddenly stopped swinging his fist and turned to look at Shawna.
“What’d you say?” He asked, spittle flying in Shawna’s direction as took a step towards her.
“Leave her alone,” Shawna said again, this time her voice sounding just a little more steady as she raised the pistol and pointed it towards him.
Fear flashed across his face, but it was quickly replaced by an evil grin.
“I thought you’d learned your lesson, but apparently not.”
Shawna didn’t even have a chance to react before he knocked the gun out her hands with one hand, and smacked her face with the other. The force knocked her to the floor.
“Like mother, like daughter,” he said standing over her.
Her eyes struggled to focus as she looked up at him.
“Are you really that stupid?” He asked, picking up the silver revolver. “If you’re going to threaten me with my own gun, you at least need to know how to use it.
He used his thumb to pull back the hammer, then pointed the gun at Shawna. She froze, staring over the barrel at the eyes of a madman.
“You’re more trouble than you’re worth,” he continued. “I told your mom we should have gotten rid of you already. There are plenty of people willing to pay top dollar for someone as young as you.”
“Get away from her,” Shawna’s mother growled as she tried to push herself up to a sitting position on the floor.
The man turned away from Shawna and moved to her mother, setting the gun on the floor as he kneeled to grab her face with both her hands.
I felt something change in Shawna, like a switch flipping, as the fear left her and was replaced by both anger and a sense of determination. She moved quicker than I would have thought possible, racing over to grab the gun before taking a couple steps back, safely out of his reach.
“I said, leave her alone.”
Shawna’s voice was no longer trembling and neither were her hands as she pointed the pistol once more at the man in front of her.
“Or what?” He asked, shoving her mother back to the ground, then standing back up to full height. Shawna didn’t say a word as the man took a step toward her while raising his hand, she just pulled the trigger.
The sound was defining and almost made me pull away from Shawna, but I managed to keep myself from jumping so I could finish seeing everything as it actually happened. The man glanced down for a second with a look of shock on his face. Then the look turned to anger as the blood started to stain his white t-shirt. He took one more step towards Shawna, but a second shot from her dropped him to the floor. Shawna didn’t even look at the body as she moved around him to help her mother get to her feet before they walked out the front door together.
The vision faded to black but I wasn’t sure what other images might start to show themselves so I took the opportunity to do what I had to do. I pictured Shawna’s death, exactly as she deserved, then pulled my hands away before another vision could start.
She let go of me and raised her head with a smile.
“I’m really glad you came,” she said.
“Me too,” I replied, “but I think I should go now.”
“You really don’t have to.”
“Unfortunately, I do,” I said. “But we’ll be together again soon.”
“Maybe we can do something tonight?”
“Absolutely,” I replied with a smile. “I’m sure we can come up with something to do.”
“Good,” she said, before leaning over and kissing my cheek.
I really couldn’t bring myself to look at her as I climbed out the window, but I turned around when I reached my car and saw her staring out the window at me, so I gave another smile and a little wave, then slid into the driver’s seat.
“What have I just done?” I asked myself.
The conversation with Lucifer was replaying in my mind, and even though I knew he was toying with me at the time I wasn’t prepared for his words to have such an affect on me. He brought up Ms. Reader, knowing that I justified that assignment by the fact that she had planned her husband’s death. Had Shawna done the same thing for the man she shot? When the second part of the vision started, she was on her bed with the gun in her hand. Wouldn’t that be considered premeditated?
It really didn’t matter, though. I did what I knew I had to do, I just wasn’t sure what would happen to me because of it. I had a good idea, but I wasn’t sure I was quite ready to live with those consequences. Completing the final assignment should have been a relief but instead I was almost panicking. I needed something to calm myself and I knew right where to find it.
It took no time to get from Shawna’s to Weed’s, but I had to shake him a couple times before he opened his eyes even the slightest bit.
“Damn,” he said, “It’s either really late or really early.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of both, but I need a little smoke to help calm my nerves.”
He sat up, rubbing both eyes.
“So does this mean that you’ve made up your mind.”
“More than that,” I replied, “I’ve already taken care of it.”
“What?” He yelled, loud enough to wake the dead. “And you didn’t even let me say goodbye?”
“Hey, chill. You know I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“So she’s still alive?”
“And if I go over there now, I can still stay goodbye.”
“I wouldn’t suggest doing that.”
“But you just said….”
“Just pull out a little of the good stuff, and I’ll explain.”
Weed gave me a funny look, then climbed out of bed. His smiley face boxers didn’t cover nearly enough for my liking, but thankfully he threw on a robe before fumbling through the monster box to find a fresh baggie and his favorite pipe. All the while I just found a comfortable spot on the couch, lit up a cigarette and tried to gather my thoughts.
“Here you go,” he said, finally getting the bowl packed and lit.
I took the silver pipe from him with a smile and enjoyed one giant drag before trying to explain anything.
“This whole thing has been a game to Lucifer,” I explained. “He likes to play games.”
“And his choice of words has always been very deliberate,” I continued. “He says things in such a way that you believe he’s saying one thing, but in reality he’s saying something completely different.”
“So you didn’t have to choose how five people die?”
“That’s exactly what I had to do.”
“But isn’t that what he said?”
“So then you had to choose how Shawna, being your final assignment, dies this morning.”
“So why did you stop me from going over there right now?” He asked, with a panicked look on his face.
“We’ll get to that.”
He stared at me blankly.
“It was all in what Lucifer said, and exactly how he said it.”
Weed just kept staring.
“Lucifer said ‘You seal the fate of the five people I assign you. You’ll be the one choosing exactly how and when they cross over.’ Those were the words he used when I made the deal.”
“And?” Weed asked as he took another drag.
“Think about it. When I asked him about having a little more time he said ‘If their fate isn’t sealed within 5 days of the assignment being issued, then the deal is off.’ He made sure to word it just like that.”
His blank stare intensified.
“And then this morning I went for a drive so I could have one more conversation with him, just to be sure. And do you know what he said?”
Weed shook his head no as he exhaled a large cloud of smoke.
“He said that the only thing I should really care about is making sure I’ve determined Shawna’s death by 8:00 am.”
“So she’ll be gone by eight?” He asked, swinging his head back and forth trying to find a clock.
“No,” I said, grabbing his head between both my hands. “Aren’t you listening to me?”
He nodded yes but I could see from the look in his eyes that he just wasn’t getting it so I decided to spell it out for him.
“Shawna came over a few hours ago and told me what she’d done.”
“It’s really not my place to tell you.”
“So you’re just going to leave me hanging.”
“It’s up to her to tell you, when she’s ready.”
“So we watched The Princess Bride,” I continued, “and I fell asleep.”
“How could you fall asleep during one of the best movies ever?”
“It had been a very long day, and after Shawna came over and told me everything, I finally knew what I was going to do. So it was kind of like a big weight had been lifted off my chest and I could finally relax. Besides, I’ve only seen the movie like a million times. I was probably quoting it in my sleep.”
“That would be funny to see.”
“Anyways, I woke up a while later, and Shawna had left. I pretty much knew what I was going to do about the Shawna, but I had to be sure, so I drove back to the field where I wrecked Pamela so I could talk to Lucifer, then I went over to Shawna’s after our little conversation.”
“Are you just trying to drag this out as long as possible, or are you going to get to the point and tell me what you did?”
“Patience, my friend.”
He just glared at me and as I took another puff.
“Shawna was still awake so we talked a little, then she hugged me and I used that opportunity to see exactly what she was guilty of.”
“But she’d already told you what she’d done.”
“As she remembered it, not necessarily exactly as it happened.”
“And what, exactly, did happen?”
“Nice try, but no.”
“It’s really not important to the story, so anyway,” I continued, “when the vision ended, I did what I had to do.”
I took a long drag from the bowl while Weed looked like he was about to jump out of his skin.
“Come on man,” he finally said, grabbing the pipe from my hands.
“I made sure I had a good grip on her, then I pictured her really old, laying in bed surrounded by a room full of family. She closed her eyes, took one last breath, and died with a smile on her face.”
Weed’s jaw dropped, then his mouth began to move like a fish out of water as he struggled to ask a coherent question.
“Lucifer said I had five days to choose how each assignment was going to die; he didn’t say they had to be dead at the end of those five days.”
I could see my words finally sink in as the grin spread across his face.
“So, she’s not going to die.”
“Well, eventually, but not for a very, very long time.”
“And you lived up to your end of the deal, so I’m not going to lose you either?”
“Not today, at least.”
He jumped off his bed and started jamming out an air guitar solo,while flashing a bit too much of himself my way.
“You want to tighten the belt on your robe before you hang out completely?” I asked.
He grinned a little bigger, then flopped back down onto his bed. I took the opportunity to light up a cigarette as he went back to the bowl.
“So you beat Lucifer at his own game,” he said through a cloud of smoke. “How are you not dancing on the rooftop right now?”
“Because I really don’t think I did.”
“She’s alive, you’re alive, and you held up your end of the deal. It’s done! What the hell more do you want?”
“Think about it for a minute,” I said. “I’m sure Lucifer has been doing this for a very long time.”
“And I’m not exactly a Rhodes scholar.”
“Maybe not, but…”
“And Lucifer practically spoon fed me this solution.”
“Well, it’s not like he could lie, I mean a deal’s a deal, right?”
“Exactly. He could have worded our deal any way he wanted that night, and I would have agreed, so why make sure there was this loophole?”
Weed looked like he was about to have an aneurysm trying to think of an answer, so I kept going.
“There’s only one reason,” I said. “ Because this is what he wanted me to do.”
“But why? I mean, you not only didn’t have to kill the girl of your dreams, you got to ensure that she lives a long, long life. And you held up your end of the deal, so you’re done.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I made the deal with him, Lucifer told me that I’d remain a reaper until my last assignment has crossed over.”
“Wait,” he said with a look of shock in his eyes. “So you’re going to stay a reaper until Shawna dies.”
“I think so.”
“And all the stuff about touching people and seeing what they’ve done?”
“I think I’m stuck with that too.”
“There’s one way to find out,” he said as he held out his arm.
I thought about it for a second, a little scared of what I might see, but decided it was worth the risk to know if my theory was right.
I braced myself, then reached out and grabbed his wrist.
The vision came quickly, but I pulled my hand away as soon as I saw he was lusting after Angela Lansbury in a french maid uniform handcuffed to the headboard.
“What the hell man?” I yelled.
“What can I say,” he replied with a devilish grin, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”
“Please tell me that was a dream.”
“One of the best I’ve ever had,” he said with a grin.
I just shook my head, trying to clear the vision.
“You knew what I was going to see, didn’t you.”
“I fell asleep watching Murder She Wrote, and that always gives me some messed up dreams. Just be glad that’s all it was.”
He was right, I should be thankful he hadn’t fallen asleep watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That could’ve been really awkward.
“So you’re still a reaper?” He asked.
“I guess so.”
“But what does that mean? Like, can you still kill people if you want?”
“I really don’t know,” I replied. “I mean, I held up my end of the deal so I shouldn’t have to kill anyone else, which is a good thing, but I don’t think I’ll be getting handsy with any hot chicks any time soon.”
“That’s seriously harsh.”
He took a long drag, then stared at me with one eyebrow raised, just like spock.
“And you knew that when you decided to, you know, do what you did?”
“I was pretty sure about it.”
“And you still went through with it, for her?”
“It was the only thing I could do. I mean, I thought about pulling a Romeo and Juliet by not choosing how she’d go. I’d forfeit my second chance and some other Reaper would send her on. I figured we might end up together that way, but that was pretty much the most selfish thing I could have done. She doesn’t deserve to go this early, and you don’t deserve to lose two friends at once.”
I could have sworn I saw his eyes get a little wet just before he turned away to grab the baggie and pack the bowl again.
“Well, we’re all still here so I’m still going to consider it a victory for the good guys,” he said, raising the bowl before sparking it up again.
“Hear, hear,” I cried before grabbing the silver pipe from his hands and taking a giant toke.
After that we just passed it back and forth while we discussed how much easier life had been before we got interested in girls, though neither of us could remember much from that time.
At some point Weed tried to turn on an episode of Murder She Wrote, but I beat him with a pillow until he shut off the TV and put on a little Pink Floyd. I knew it had to be pretty close to daybreak by that point, and I’d thought about staying up to watch the dawning of a brand new day but we were both out before the sun began to rise.