During my cabin stay in Idyllwild-Pine Cove, I didn’t write the 30,000 words I had hoped for. I only netted 3,779 new words over five days. But I still think the retreat was a success for four reasons. The first is that I completed the first two chapters of the book. The second is that my beta readers loved the chapters (and they didn’t dislike Orly for what she does in Chapter Two). The third is that I’ve created momentum to keep going. The fourth is that I only needed extra anxiety medicine on one day during my stay.

I was supposed to be there for seven nights, but I only stayed for five. The isolation got to me. Even though I don’t generally interact with strangers in public, I still like to see that they’re there. I wanted to write where it was familiar—Starbucks store 20537. And so I left Thursday morning. It’s Sunday now and I’ve added 1,215 new words. I also began writing a story about Orly before she meets Yelena and her friendship with Abdul-Samad who is mentioned in Chapter Twenty-Two of The Scribbled Victims.

I also sent out a newsletter for the first time in a long time. I received many responses from readers which made me very happy. I’m going to try sending a newsletter once a month. Click here if you’d like to sign up.

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My depression persists. I believe it’s actually gotten worse. Down the spiral I go. Every day it’s a struggle to get out of bed. Yet somehow, with my new daily writing goal of just ten minutes, I’ve been able to make myself write every day this past week. My daily word count is minimal, but that’s not the point.

Yesterday I watched three videos posted on the Patreon page of an artist whose work I admire a lot—Elly Smallwood. She talked about doing your own thing as an artist and the importance of not comparing yourself to others. It helped to be reminded of those things, as I’ve been feeling like a failure as a writer. For some time I’ve been measuring my success by number of readers—something Elly would refer to as external validation. I need to relearn that the success is in the doing—in the writing and in the completion of work. Everything else comes second or not in any place at all. I think I often forget this because I spend too much time looking at social media, where it’s easy to compare myself to others and subsequently put myself down.

I need to stop looking around me and pay more attention to what I’m working on. Later this month I’m going to spend a week in a cabin I rented in Idyllwild for a writing retreat. I hope by then I have a better handle on my depression so that I make use of all that quiet time by writing my new book and not sleeping the days away.  

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Monday, my interview on the This Is Writing website posted. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be on their website. Today, I did my first podcast interview for the Working Title podcast. I was so nervous and spent my last session with my psychologist talking about trying to overcome my shyness and gain enough confidence to do it. Speaking publicly is not something I look forward to, and I was particularly worried about coming off as awkward, stupid, or full of myself. My hands and head were sweating when the interview began, but about halfway through it, I realized that was no longer the case. The interview lasted fifty-three minutes and time just seemed to fly by. The interviewer said I did a great job, so I’m hopeful that when the episode airs in October, I’ll sound okay.

One thing I mentioned in the interview was that I stopped checking my book sales and reviews. I had been in the habit of obsessively checking them daily, if not multiple times a day. But I realized doing so wasn’t good for me mentally. Though the majority of my reviews on The Scribbled Victims are positive, when I read those reviews, I don’t allow myself to celebrate them. Conversely, when I receive a less than favorable review, I’ll dwell on it for days. The same goes for book sales. I don’t celebrate the days I make sales, but feel dismal on the days when I haven’t made a single sale. In other words, I’m in the habit of focusing on the negative.

It hasn’t been easy to break the compulsion to check my reviews and sales, but mentally, I have definitely seen the effects, and they’re definitely positive. I’ll eventually have to check my sales however, because I pay someone to manage my advertising campaign, and their payments are based on my book sales.

Even though I haven’t read my reviews in quite a while, a reader actually took the time to send me an email today which read:

Robert,

I read so many books. Mostly horror or fantasy, bizarro or new weird fiction; as long as the writing is incredible. I have read so many authors, Harlan Ellison being my favorite as well as others…

I have to tell you- You are an incredibly gifted writer. This book is so well written it is beautiful the story and characters.  Just magic. I can’t wait for your next book. 

Thank you for writing such a great novel and sharing it with me. 

Ron ******** 
Queens, NY

I’m going to do my best to celebrate that email.

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It’s been weeks since I made a post because I haven’t much to report. I’ve been spending my time doing research for the new Me and My Friend Maddie book. I was trying to build a story about a road trip gone awry when the characters get stuck in a town of hipsters. I’ve been reading Russian folktales, primarily those about Baba Yaga, as I planned for her magical hut to parallel the RV used on the road trip. I also read a book called How to Spot a Hipster as part of the research and planned to structure the story based loosely off of the 1975 film Race with the Devil, staring Peter Fonda. But after all that, I just couldn’t make the story come together, so it’s back to the drawing board. 

This book is important to me because I know readers want to see the resolution between Maddie and Jackie Jinxed and I want to provide that and show where their relationship goes after the ending of The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff. So I think I’m going to do something I haven’t done with any of the other books, which is begin writing the story without having a myth in mind. I feel this way, their relationship can be explored and developed in exactly the way I want, with no restrictions caused by adhering to a myth. As the writing unfolds and the story begins to solidify, perhaps I will look for a way to incorporate a myth into the story. 

So far I’ve used Greek, Japanese, Native American, and Catholic stories to build the other four books. I’m not sure where I will venture next. Perhaps I will ultimately break convention and not use a myth at all, but I don’t know if that will be disappointing to the fans of the series.

For the time being, I’ve put the brakes on Forever Candy as I just can’t make up my mind on which point of view to tell the story from. Each time I decide on a point of view and begin to write, something happens in the story that makes me want to switch the point of view and I would prefer that this book not have shifting points of view. I’m contemplating rewriting the original screenplay version as that medium really worked well with the story. 

On a final note, now that some time has passed since I finished writing Scribbling The Eternal, and the book is being edited, my mind is naturally wandering back to Orly, so I may begin writing the third installment of the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy sooner than I expected. 

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I’m vacationing in Amsterdam, so I haven’t been able to write every day as I had been. But today, I finally found some time to hang out at a three story cafe and write until I felt too shaky from all the coffee I drank. I wrote a little bit of the new Maddie book and a little bit of Forever Candy. I’ve revised the Prologue so many times and have moved on to Chapter One. I believe I finally found Candy’s voice. 

There is a similarity between this narrative and the narrative in The Scribbled Victims. Many readers of The Scribbled Victims don’t realize immediately that it is Orly narrating the book. I drop a hint at it in the very first chapter when she interrupts her storytelling to say that she wished that she looked like Yelena. Because of that, a reviewer criticized me of switching from third person to first person, even though it was first person all along. 

Anyhow, Candy will be narrating the story of a man named Burrows, but similarly it is all in her voice. It should be more clear from the get go this time. Who knows, maybe this style will become my thing. 

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This week I read all four books of the Me and My Friend Maddie Gothic Book Series, just to get back in touch with them as it has been four years since I’ve written one of those books. I was apprehensive about getting to Book Four, The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff because of criticism I received stating that the book was offensive to the trans community. Gothic Beauty Magazine even refused to review the book after overwhelmingly positive reviews on the three preceding books. At the time I took that as a favor, thinking it was better to receive no review than a bad review. But now I don’t feel that way. 

Of course it was not my aim to offend or disparage people of the trans community. I have trans and nonbinary friends who are very dear to me and I would never think of hurting them or anyone else. 

When I set out to write that book, my goal from the beginning was to write a book where Maddie was flawed and would learn something from her BFF, rather than him always learning from her. Upon rereading it this week, I don’t know if I accomplished that. I felt like she understood what her BFF was trying to convey to her, but that her mentality was far more complex than the simple flashcard solution he presented could appease. Though it is unclear, even to me, whether Maddie learned from her BFF, it is certainly clear that she is flawed, and that’s how I want all of my characters to be. That’s what makes them human. During these rereads, I was reminded that Maddie was already portrayed as not perfect in the third book as she self-identified as a former cutter and then succumbed to the temptation to cut again.

One of the reviews I received considered the end of The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff to be a cliffhanger of an ending. I never considered it as such. I walked away from that book thinking it clear that Maddie and Jackie Jinxed would be together, but I guess that was not as clear as I thought. Perhaps I felt it was clear because in my mind I always knew they would be together in the fifth book. 

I’ve talked to readers who didn’t find Maddie’s reaction to discovering her boyfriend was born biologically female as unreasonable. They told me they too would have been surprised to make such a discovery. Some said they would feel unsure of what they would do. Some even said they would have felt lied to. Though those expressions gave me some assurance that Maddie’s reaction was within the realm of plausible reactions, it was not much consolation, for I still knew my book was seen as offensive to a community I am strongly supportive of. 

Be that as it may, I am concerned that the fifth book will come across as an apology for the fourth book, as Maddie will admit to Jackie that she was wrong and that she is not perfect. But that was always the plan. Perhaps I should have let that scene play out and end the fourth book instead of where it ended. But at the time I didn’t know that I would spend the next four years writing the first two books of the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy. I thought the fifth book would have come out soon after the fourth.

I don’t want the fifth book to read as an apology. Because I make no apology for my characters being flawed. Still, I hate thinking that The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff gives the impression that I am prejudiced against the trans community, as I know I am not. And I feel that that sentiment smears a series that I have loved writing and know many have loved reading. 

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The Scribbled Victims received its 50th review on Amazon! 

“Not since Interview with the Vampire and Let The Right One In have the complexity and passion of immortality, love, and death been so masterfully captured in the written word. I will voraciously consume the rest of the series. Perhaps, drink them up.”

Thank you Kirsten Mullins of Kennesaw, Georgia for reading my book and leaving me such a great review! I hope you like the sequel when it comes out next year!

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