I’m still dealing with anxiety. My deficient memory tells me it has been less than it had been when I made my last post, but my mood tracker app says otherwise. Despite this I have been writing, little by little. In terms of word count, it’s not adding up to much. The month is halfway over and I’ve barely cleared two thousand words. It’s unlikely I’ll reach my monthly goal of six thousand words, which is disappointing since last month I exceeded eight thousand.

Have I mentioned here how slowly I write? I believe so, but just to give you an idea, I spent three hours yesterday writing about Orly crossing the street.

Oh well, I’m doing the best I can and will have to just keep going at whatever the pace. (A few days ago, my BFF told me I say “whatever” a lot.)

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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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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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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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After staying off social media for over two months because of the negative impact it has on my self-esteem, I finally went back on last Wednesday to announce the release of Scribbling the Eternal. The book had actually released on November 6, but because of all the anxiety I was experiencing regarding its release I put off announcing it. I saw my psychiatrist on Monday and talking about the anxiety with her and having my monthly Klonopin quantity increased helped me to finally gather the courage to announce it.

It’s on Amazon as a paperback, eBook, and audiobook. If you read it, I hope you love it, as I loved writing it.

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This afternoon, I approved the paperback version of Scribbling the Eternal. Within seventy-two hours it will be available on Amazon. My psychiatrist refilled my Klonopin prescription.

This evening, I experienced one of the worst things about being a writer—hating your own work. I thought of something that may have been inconsistent between The Scribbled Victims and Scribbling the Eternal, so I read some of Chapters Eighteen through Twenty of The Scribbled Victims. Fortunately, what I was looking for was consistent between the two books, but the much of the writing looked foreign to me as it had been so long since I had written it. I saw so many spots I would write differently today, and that hurt because I love Yelena and Orly, and their story together so much.

This has always been the case with me. I can be happy with something I’ve written shortly after finishing it, but after some time passes, I’m no longer satisfied with what I was once happy with. Maybe that shows I’ve grown as a writer, but it’s still unpleasant to feel such disappointment. Because of this, I generally avoid rereading my work. Right now, I feel very proud of Scribbling the Eternal, but know that months from now I won’t love it as much.

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This afternoon, I told my psychologist how much my anxiety increased when earlier in the day I discovered that the proof copy of Scribbling the Eternal was delivered.

I’m home now and I’ve looked it over. It’s so much thicker than The Scribbled Victims. I have now only to approve it and within days it will be available to the public.

Because of all the anxiety regarding its release—wondering what the response to the book will be like—I told my psychologist I might procrastinate in approving the proof. I feel like I’m on a high dive platform and I have to force myself to just jump.

I am proud of this book, but I’m not fearless.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Maybe tomorrow I’ll approve it as a gift to myself.

 

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My first podcast interview posted on the J.P. Cane Working Title Podcast. Hearing myself talk gives me anxiety so the first two times I tried listening to it, I shut it off just after a few seconds. On the third try, I was able to force myself to sit through it. I guess I just worry that I’m going to sound stupid or full of myself. Two of my friends thought I did well. If you want to listen to it, you can click here.

Last night my narrator, Laura Bannister, sent me the audio files for the Scribbling the Eternal audiobook. Because she got it to me two weeks before than anticipated, I believe I will have a November book release. (Fingers crossed.) I have to review all the files, but again, this task gives me anxiety. Though I’m not hearing my own voice, I’m hearing my words read aloud, and there’s something about that that just makes me want to hide in a cave.

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