In my last post I mentioned the anxiety attack I had while writing and my discussion in the therapy session that followed with my psychologist. We talked about it again this past Monday, largely because I was still experiencing a lot of anxiety that I felt was tied to the new book. She asked me if I could take a couple weeks off, perhaps as long as until July 17 when my fiscal closing will be complete at work. I thought it was a good suggestion, but I told her that I would feel bad if I didn’t write during the three day July 4 weekend. So we agreed that I wouldn’t write again until Friday, which meant taking only three days off: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. She suggested I do something for my well-being during my time off, and so on my daily walks during those three days, I tried to run a little too.

Yesterday was Friday. I finally wrote again. I netted 713 new words, which was largely the first section of Chapter Seven. My anxiety was minimal, so maybe the three days off helped.

After my writing session, I watched YouTube for a little while. YouTube recommended a video to me about the final episode of The Sopranos. Last month, creator David Chase let it slip in an interview that Tony Soprano died in the final scene of the series. I hadn’t seen it that way. I felt the series ended with the message that Tony would forever have to be looking over his shoulder, but that he didn’t die there in that diner with his family. When I learned of the interview, I felt really hurt, and it told me how attached I was to his character. When I saw that video yesterday, which provided evidence that there was foreshadowing of his death throughout the final season, my heartache returned so sharply that I couldn’t sleep without taking an Ambien.

I woke up today wondering why I feel so strongly about this. After all, I thought I liked sad endings. My favorite films (Cinema Paradiso, Roman Holiday, The Lion in Winter, Before Midnight) all have endings that I find sad. In crime related shows like Scarface and Sons of Anarchy, I’m okay with the deaths of the protagonists. That left me wondering what was different about The Sopranos, and I think the answer is that I didn’t see Tony Soprano’s character arc as complete. I ended the series thinking life would go on, and that there was more to do. But the more I think about it, and the more I consider that video I saw yesterday, I’m seeing maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it was over. The show’s creator seemed to think so.

So what does someone like me do in this situation? I try to ignore it and remain in paradise.

I believe in my Black Wax Vampire Trilogy I’m writing sad endings. I considered it a success each time a reader told me they cried. I don’t know if I should feel differently about that now. I would want my readers to feel sadness that is bittersweet, like the feeling I get when I watch Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck say goodbye in silence at the end of Roman Holiday, but I wouldn’t want to hurt them like Tony Soprano’s death is hurting me right now.

Before I began writing Scribbles of the Empress, I sent a survey to my beta readers asking: Which character would it hurt the most to see die in the new book? Most of them said Orly. Berthold came in second. Although I’m into the Second Act, I still see two possible endings. If Orly dies, I hope I am able to give my readers the bittersweet sadness rather than the painful kind.

On another note, is it ironic that in my next session I’ll be talking to my therapist about The Sopranos?

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I’ve been writing pretty consistently which I’m both proud of and amazed by because I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression and anxiety lately. On Monday I had an anxiety attack while writing. That’s very unusual. I had a video session with my psychologist later that day and we talked about it. At first I thought the anxiety stemmed from the feeling that the first four chapters were basically finished and that someday readers would be seeing them as they are. But the more we talked, I realized that beyond the stress of publicly sharing what I had written, a lot of my anxiety was actually about finishing the book because it’s the last in the trilogy. I realized I’m upset because I’m not ready to let go of Orly. And as Orly Bialek was inspired by Ashley Vargas, my illustrator who died at nineteen, I feel finishing this series is like letting go of her too. I feel like after I put this book out, I’ll have nothing left to give Ashley, and that hurts me because my distorted thinking interprets that as forgetting her. Therapy sessions are often not as long as they need to be, and I still haven’t worked this out. We’ll likely talk about it again on Monday. But I know the best thing I can do for myself is to keep going, to keep writing, even if it does mean eventually getting to the end. Hopefully by publication, I’ll be convinced either by my psychologist or by my friends that finishing doesn’t mean forgetting.

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I didn’t write for two days this week. I think it’s because of depression. The murder of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, the conversations I’ve seen circulating and been engaged in regarding both, have filled me with anger and despair. I’m also struggling with disappointment in myself for not joining the protests because of the choice I’ve made to remain socially distant because of my bad lungs and having elderly parents.

Despite the depression and not writing for two days, I’ll pass 23,000 words today. I’ve also received survey responses from four of my beta readers on the first four chapters. Most of it was positive, but there are some rewrites I want to do based on their notes. My worry that the book might feel front heavy seemed to echo in the opinions of two of the beta readers. But I don’t know what I’m willing to cut. Most of Act One, and especially the lengthy third chapter, is all meant to show the layers and depths of Orly’s sadness so it will support what she sees when she scribbles herself. I’m afraid if I trim just to make the beginning shorter and less heavy on the reader, it will undermine this and the reader won’t understand why Orly sees what she does in her scribble, or at the very least won’t sympathize with her.

But as Act One ends where it needs to end in order to kick off Act Two, I can come back to this much later, perhaps even after I’ve written the last sentence of the last chapter (which I have already been composing in my head), because the depth in which I decide to dive into Orly’s heart doesn’t really determine the through line of the plot, inasmuch as it explains her motivations. My best friend, Amirah, mentioned that Orly’s feelings in these chapters are similar to the feelings I have been expressing to her as of late. Orly and I are in unison, it seems. While that would likely concern my therapist, it makes me happy, even if it is all about sadness. I don’t know if I ever said so here, but while writing The Scribbled Victims, I’d always felt at one with Yelena, that our feelings mirrored, and that I was her or she was me—chicken or the egg, whichever comes first, I don’t know.  

I had an idea this morning that I’m going to explore. I’m thinking of having The Scribbled Victims translated into Japanese. I’d really like my books to be exposed to a Japanese audience. I don’t know if that’s because I’m Japanese, or because someone long ago told me my work would resonate well in Japan, or if I’m just excited to see what the Japanese book cover would look like and how these new readers would flip through it from right to left instead of left to right.

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I’m making very good progress on the third book in the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy. It’s always my goal to write every day, but often depression makes that difficult. But in the past 54 days, I’ve written for 50 of them. On Monday, my book passed 20,000 words, and I reached the end of the first act. That was a big milestone and it felt good to get there. Just before writing this blog, I sent out the first 64 pages to my beta readers. I’m hoping they’re going to feel strongly about them and return feedback that will help shape this into the best book it can be.

I’ve complained before that I write too slowly. I see some authors touting that you need to publish X number of books a year to make it financially as a writer, and often that leaves me feeling discouraged because I doubt I’ll ever write even one book a year. Because of all the internet cookies and monitoring of web activity, some company must have caught on to my dilemma, because I woke up to an email advertising a video program that will teach me to write a book in six hours. I had to laugh. I can’t imagine what a book I wrote in six hours would look like.

Orly Bialek woke up in her casket feeling unloved. She drank scotch and scribbled some stuff with like black crayons, while everyone around her died, breaking her heart. She dropped her crayon and crawled back in her casket feeling like sad and shit. The end.

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It’s been nearly a month since I posted. I’ve been writing a lot and working with my psychologist on my feelings about my writing. I realized that when I focus on outcomes like being able to support myself from writing, I am unhappy. It’s when I’m actually writing and story building that I feel good. But even having realized that, it’s not easy to let go of the outcomes I’ve wanted for so long. I don’t even know if I should. (I said in my April 20 post that I never would.) I’m still processing it.

The Kirkus review for Scribbling the Eternal was released. I made a video where I read it and share my thoughts. You can view it here.

I wrote over a thousand words yesterday. That’s a lot for me. I’m approaching the end of Chapter Four, but it’s been a struggle. When I stepped away and went for a walk (wearing a mask), I realized that it’s not achieving the things I need it to, so I’m going to have to rewrite a lot of it, which will mean deleting sentences I spent so much time crafting. It’s often hard to make those deletions; I become too attached to phrases. I spend a lot of time trying to salvage them until I’m finally convinced that they just don’t work for the story, and that I need to let go of them.

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I was thinking about my blog post yesterday and talked about some of it via FaceTime with my friend Holly while on my daily walk this afternoon. During that conversation, I realized I have been partaking in one of the thought distortions my psychologist often points out to me which is disqualifying the positive.

Having a day job while being an author is hard. But despite that, I’ve published seven books, and most importantly, I wrote the books I wanted to write. I wrote for myself and have found a small audience. It would be a huge mistake to discount that.

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Work at my day job has been inordinately stressful lately. The work from home status due to Covid-19 isn’t it making it any easier either. For the first time in a long time, I had a panic attack over the weekend that took me over three hours to recover from.

It hasn’t been all bad though. I continue to write in the mornings, before working, and that does improve my mood. Because of this commitment, I finally finished writing Chapter Three. It took four months, over a span of seven months, to write. (I began writing it in October but didn’t write in November, December, or January, because of depression.) It felt great to finish it as I think it’s been the most challenging chapter for me to write in the series. I’ve begun Chapter Four, and hope it won’t take nearly as long to finish. I’ve had two beta readers ask when they can expect new chapters and I plan to send them something after Chapter Four is complete.

I began this post talking about my day job because it’s really been wearing me down, and if something doesn’t change, I think there’s the likelihood of burnout. I talked with my psychologist about it today. She thinks I should consider leaving. I really wish I could; it’s my dream to be able to write for a living, but right now I don’t sell enough books to do that, and I need a paycheck. I could potentially find a job that would be less stressful, but it’s hard to leave what I have because I’ve been there for fifteen years and have a pension and health benefits to consider, including behavioral health benefits that I especially rely on.

The best answer would be to sell more books. I need to reach more readers to do that. There is so much advice out there on how to grow your readership, with social networking and advertising strategies being at the top of the list. I’ve yet to be successful at either. It’s so hard to make your books stand apart from all the other books out there, because there are so many good writers trying to accomplish the same thing I am. And then of course, with a writer’s natural instinct to be hypercritical of one’s own work, I have to wonder if maybe my books just aren’t good enough.

This post probably comes across as negative, but that’s not what I’m trying to express. My psychologist also suggested I consider changing my goal to be able to write for a living. But I will never do that. I will never give up chasing my dream. I have hopes that someday I’ll be able to look back at this post and see that it was about struggles I overcame.

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I’ve mentioned that I try to stay off social media as it is generally not good for my self-esteem, and so staying off is something I actually work on with my psychologist. Social media can also take up a lot of time, time that I should spend writing. Anyhow, I had been doing well with staying off, having deleted multiple apps on my phone, but I consciously decided to come back on recently in order to promote an eBook giveaway. I’ve had to come back on social media for reasons like this before, and it’s always been easy for me to get back off once my purpose is complete. But this time it wasn’t, and I think that’s because of the current quarantine situation we are living under.

I regularly text with many friends, but now I make an effort to text with even more, just to stay connected and feel that people are there and to let them know I’m there for them as well. But I realized I need to see faces, and in quarantine this just doesn’t happen. So I think that’s why it was harder to walk away from Facebook and Instagram this time. I need to see my friends beyond just their text messages.

My psychologist suggested video chatting, but that’s not easy for me, being shy and self-conscious (even though I have to do it during my day job and my therapy sessions are now via video chat). I don’t know why it’s so much harder for me to video chat when it’s personal, but it is. But I promised my psychologist that I would video call someone after our session, and I did, and that day I saw the faces of three friends while talking to them. It was a very good thing to do, and I’m going to try to do it more.

My Instagram video post @rtomoguchi.

But even with embracing video chat, I’m still on social media and am not ready to leave it. And now that I’m there, I realize how poorly I use it to promote my books and myself as an author. A lot of that is due to shyness and not wanting everything I post to feel like an advertisement. But I took a step forward and made a video post on my Instagram where I’m actually talking and showing my face. (I did use a filter though.)

I have an author Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but now that doesn’t feel like enough. So I reinstalled Snapchat today and finally got on Tiktok. And dammit, now I feel overwhelmed. I want to promote my books, but honestly, I just don’t know how to do it well. I’ve read that I should focus on just one platform, but I don’t know which. Twitter is the easiest for me to post to, but I get the most interaction from readers on Instagram, despite not having any sexy pics.

I wish writing books was enough, but it’s so hard to make the books you’ve written stand out amongst all the other books out there and compete against all the other authors who are trying to do the same thing you’re doing. But beside social media and paid advertising, I don’t know what else authors can do besides hope someone famous will love their book and post about it.

I’ve been back on social media for sixteen days now. I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay. I should leave already as I’ve already felt some effects on my self-esteem, but right now, I still need to see faces. I guess that means I need to do more video chats in order to escape the social networks.

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Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve transitioned to working my day job remotely like so many others. In recent months, with the help of my psychologist, I have been trying to change my workaholic ways and no longer work after leaving the office. Most importantly, this means not checking work emails after I’ve headed home. I’ve been successful 82% of the time. But now that I’m working from home, I’ve found that I’m working longer days. Some of that is because of increased workload caused by the pandemic, but it is also because I am finding it difficult to separate work time from personal time now that I am no longer physically leaving an office. I’m working on it though.

Work stress along with the anxiety and depression that I’ve been trying to keep at bay during the unfolding of this crisis has made it difficult for me to write. It feels like I’m actively avoiding it and that just makes me more depressed. Until yesterday, I hadn’t written for nine days, and all I netted were nineteen new words. But that was something, and today I’ve netted 150, bringing this month’s total to 1,396. It’s far cry from the 6,000 I aim to write a month, but I just have to keep trying. Chapter Three continues to be a struggle, but I think the end is finally in sight.

A reader described a dream she had about Orly. With some slight embellishments, I’ve worked it into the new book as a surprise for her. I hope she likes it.

I’ve gone 90 days without checking reviews. Not checking regularly is something else I work on with my psychologist, as checking regularly hasn’t been good for my self-esteem. That’s not because of potential bad reviews inasmuch as it is when there are no new reviews. I might check soon though. I’d really like to know what people are saying about Scribbling the Eternal. Excluding friends, family, and a couple emails from readers, I really have no idea.

I hope you are all staying healthy and afloat and know that this strange world we are currently living in won’t last forever.

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I attended American Ballet Theatre’s Of Love and Rage last night. I had considered not going because I would have to go alone as I couldn’t find someone to take my second ticket, but I put on a suit and put a bottle of Klonopin in my coat pocket and went anyway.

American Ballet Theatre Of Love and RageI’m glad I went. It was a beautiful performance and it told a mythological story I had never come across before. The emotions captured between Callirhoe (Christine Shevchenko), Chaereas (Thomas Forster), and Dionysius (Blaine Hoven) were spellbinding and heart wrenching. The chorus performances really stood out in a way that I hadn’t felt in a ballet before. Watching Katherine Williams as the Queen of Babylon, made me think of Yelena—not the étoile but the one who stole Marcel’s heart. (In a handful of scenes, the head of Aphrodite was suspended in the background. It was so glorious I wanted it tattooed on me. I took a picture during bows, so maybe I will.)

The reason I’m including this in my blog is because the performance reminded me how important it is as an artist to experience other art. The ballet was so moving that it became inspirational. The experience has already influenced the chapter I am writing this morning.

And I didn’t even need the Klonopin I brought with me.

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