Last night I was driving home and a song I hadn’t heard in a long while came on. It was by a local singer who played at a bar I happened to be at in Fullerton many years ago. He sang while playing an acoustic guitar. I was touched by his lyrics and the passion in his voice. I bought two of his CDs and transferred them to my iPod which is how this favorite song of his came to be playing on my car stereo last night. I don’t know what happened to him. Today, I searched his name on Spotify and then Google and found nothing.

Recently, I received messages from two readers who told me how my books affected them. When I recalled their words as I played the song again, I felt good knowing my work meant something to them just as this open mic singer’s song had meant so much to me.

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The Fussy Librarian campaign for The Last Midnight resulted in over a thousand downloads. My goal was 900, so I’m satisfied, but the thought of that many eyes on my new words makes me want to hide behind a curtain.

Still, I hope a large number of those who downloaded will read the book, like it, and then decide to utilize the free download link to The Scribbled Victims that follows the end of the story, which will introduce more readers to Orly and sign them up for my mailing list. This reader magnet/book funnel strategy is something I learned from an indie author course I paid for. I hope it works.

Today, I didn’t write, but instead spent hours learning about keywords and book categories and incorporating the things I learned into my current Amazon listings. This I hope will get more visibility for my books which will hopefully result in more readers.

But even if none of the above works, I still feel good right now because a reader posted a review saying The Last Midnight is beautiful, and my most important goal as a writer is to write something beautiful. It’s more important to me than having a large audience or enough royalties to quit my day job. Don’t get me wrong, I want those things too, but creating something beautiful has always come first, since that night I stayed up in bed reading The Dead when I was sixteen and was awed by its beauty and its perfection.

Sometimes I think some of my sentences are beautiful. Sometimes I think elements of my stories are beautiful. And those sometimes feel like the reward of writing. But invariably, self-doubt will make those feelings recede. Sure they come back, like the tide, when I reread or daydream about what I’ve written, but hearing it from a reader means a lot because their belief in me gives me reason to question the self-doubt that obscures the beauty I sometimes get a glimpse of in my own work.

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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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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 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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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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