Yesterday I finished the first full draft of Scribbles of the Empress. I started writing it 1,008 days prior, before Covid was a global pandemic. That’s thirty-three months, many of them devoid of word count because I struggled a lot with my own depression while writing this book. It ended up being 108K words, so longer than The Scribbled Victims, but shorter than Scribbling the Eternal.

I’m not sure if this book means more for me than the others, but it certainly means something different. Many of my own struggles with grief and suicide are expressed openly through Orly in this final installment. There’s a section I discarded where Orly addresses her audience and says:

Earlier I said the war against me must seem anticlimactic. It was. But this wasn’t a war story. It’s a story about mourning and suicide. Perhaps it is even about suicide because of the inability to stop mourning. Late in these pages, I realized this is ultimately what all my pages have been about, ever since Yelena died.

I left those words of Orly’s out because it didn’t fit well with the text around it, but also because it breaks the fourth wall, which was something she did in The Scribbled Victims but I forgot to maintain the convention in Scribbling the Eternal.

I just emailed 72 pages to my beta readers, who have remained committed to this book since its beginning and whose help I am very fortunate to have. I’ll begin my rewrites now, hoping they’ll only take a couple of months, as I rewrite heavily as I go. Then editing and proofing. Then book design, typesetting, and audiobook recording. I’m aiming for an October release.

I hope my readers will love the book and how Orly’s series ends.

IG Post for Ashley
Though I’ve been off social media for 142 days, I made this while writing this month. Maybe I’ll post it to my IG. The words are part of the dedication I’m working on for Ashley Vargas.
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Today is the last day of 2021 and I just finished writing for the day. I finished my rewrites on Chapter Twenty-One and Twenty-Two. I netted 8,406 words for December. More than usual, but much of that is due to winter break at my day job. Tomorrow, I plan to reread Eighteen through Twenty-Two, and then if satisfied, I’ll send them to my beta readers who haven’t received pages since April 30.

2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge
I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge yesterday, with one day to spare. In 2022, I plan to reduce the number of books because there are some very long books I want to read including In Search of Lost Time.

After I finished Chapter Twenty-Two, I went on to write text that felt like a confession, with Orly telling her readers what she discovered these books are really about. It’s really a confession of ours. I don’t know if it will make it into the final draft, but I think my shrink will be glad that I’m writing about it because it may help me process my own suicidal feelings.  

Last night, I decided to remove the Soleil story from the book. Soleil is a diminutive finch Orly received among many other finches from Berthold. She was meant to parallel Orly amongst her coven, but as I near the end of the book, the payoff for it feels too on-the-nose. So even after I reach the final page of the full draft, I’ll have that to write out of the book. I’m not looking forward to it. Right now, my to do list of things to check before releasing the final draft is up to fifty-seven items.

I wrote the opening lines of this book on June 22, 2019. I didn’t think it would ever take me so long to write this book, but there were multiple long bouts of depression. I keep telling myself that it will come out in summer of 2022, but now I’m not even sure. I have to make sure there are no loose ends and I want it to be the best book it can be. Just writing about its release in this blog post I can feel my anxiety writing. I know I’ll release it, but I’m terrified.

At the same time, I’m afraid of finishing it but dreading it will never be finished.

I hope 2022 is a great year for you.  

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On April 30th, my beta readers received Chapters Fourteen through Seventeen of my new book. Before moving on to Chapter Eighteen I thought it would be a good idea to do rewrites of the preceding chapters in the hopes of making improvements but also because I felt like I had lost perspective on how the book was feeling as a whole, especially in tone. Something terrible happened when I began rereading—I didn’t like what was there. The emotions I thought Orly had poured out across the pages now seemed dulled. The writing felt prosaic. I made it through the first section of Chapter Three before I stopped. I was so confused because I knew I had been happy with these pages less than a year ago. True, as time passes, I tend to become less satisfied with my work, but that’s never happened with a work-in-progress; it happens months after finishing. This experience was especially jarring because I had been feeling so positive about the last seven chapters I sent my beta readers.

I decided to take a break from my book. I had written for 79 days in a row, so it was disappointing to end that streak, but I didn’t know what else to do. I haven’t written now for four days, and I’m not sure when I’ll begin again. But I’m hoping when I return to it, I’ll read those opening chapters differently, and again see what I had been happy with. But I’m really scared that won’t happen. I’m getting close to 70K words. What if I come back in a couple of weeks and think none of it is any good?

My best friend and my psychologist both suggested that what’s really happening is that I’m rereading these chapters through a lens of negativity. I’ve been dealing with a lot of low self-esteem lately, and they feel it’s affecting the way I’m reading my work. I hope that’s all it is, but I also know this will mean yet more work on my self-esteem with my therapist, and to be truthful, as much as I need to, I don’t like working on it. It’s really uncomfortable. It’s hard for me to see myself as worthy because I can’t discount the flaws. My psychologist had me take this assessment on self-compassion. On a scale from one to five, with five being the best, I scored 1.52 overall.

I talked to four of my beta readers this week regarding their responses to the newest chapters. I’m very fortunate to have them. Not only because they provide feedback but because they remain enthusiastic about the story. Their enthusiasm helps because it gives me hope that what’s happening right now really is about the lens in which I am seeing myself and my work, and that maybe I’m wrong. I want to be wrong. I want to love my book again.

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I haven’t posted here in over a month. My depression is still bad, but I’m trying. I only wrote 13 days this month, but 10 of those days happened in the last 12 days of December. I also had a December word count of 4,347 new words when my monthly goal is 6,000. I feel these things are significant and positive and hopefully a sign that I’m picking myself back up. I just emailed Chapters Eight, Nine, and Ten to my beta readers. They haven’t received new Orly chapters since July 28. A lot of that was because of interrupting my progress with Orly to write and publish The Last Midnight, but in looking at my word count spreadsheet, more of it is the result of depression. But again, it looks like I might be picking myself back up.

Today is the last day of 2020. I know it’s been a bad year for most because of the pandemic, police violence, and our election being contested, but today I’m trying to see the small positives. I exchanged video messages with my best friend nearly every day. I imagined and published The Last Midnight. I learned that I enjoy working from home. And I’ve begun to gain the courage to retire from my day job early. I’m looking forward to 2021. I’m hoping the Covid-19 vaccine will help turn things around. I’m hoping I will finish writing Scribbles of the Empress so that I can publish it in early 2022. I’m hoping I will cope with my depression and anxiety well enough to remain productive.

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I never went back to writing Orly’s book while waiting for the rest of my beta readers on The Last Midnight because I fell into a depression. It was pretty severe. I’m still not out of it, but I am functioning and have been working with my psychologist and psychiatrist to deal with it. I heard back from my last beta reader a few days ago and as the stress of the presidential election passed yesterday, I finished my rewrites. Today, I sent it to my sister for editing. I’m tempted to contact my typesetter and cover designer because it feels exciting to go into production, but I’m still not certain I will publish this story. I want to but I’m scared.

Speaking of my cover designer, she’s been working hard on a new concept for the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy book covers. I was very happy with my previous covers, but a book consultant recommended I go with something that suggested vampire. The updated covers are now live on Amazon and Audible for The Scribbled Victims and Scribbling the Eternal. Even though Scribbles of the Empress is still being written, she made a cover for that too. What do you think?

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I’ve heard back from eight beta readers so far for The Last Midnight. I’m still waiting to hear back from many more. I’m still not sure I’m going to publish this story. It feels risky. It feels revealing. I don’t feel confident. Of the eight beta readers I’ve heard from, five of them told me they cried. A sixth said the last sentence made him teary. These reactions boost my confidence, making me think that what I was trying to express may strike a chord with readers.

I haven’t written anything since writing the last sentence of this novella. I’ve been spending my time reading and trying to build my author platform. After 120 days of staying off social media, I’ve returned. It’s caused some anxiety, Facebook especially, so I’m only engaging in small doses. But as I continue to wait for feedback from the remaining beta readers, I’ve decided I should go back to Orly because I still have a lot of writing to do there and not writing is making me focus too much on the waiting which makes me feel impatient.

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My writing sprint was successful. It was helped by taking three Fridays off in a row in order to give myself three, three-day weekends. I always write more per day during a three-day weekend than I do in a regular weekend. Today is the end of my third three-day weekend. Twenty-four days after conceiving of the idea for my ghost story, I finished writing it. I titled it The Last Midnight. It’s fifty-six chapters and just under 17,000 words, making it a short novella.

I didn’t write every one of those twenty-four days. There were a couple days where depression got the best of me, and more days when I was too stressed and exhausted from my day job.

This is a different book for me. For starters, the chapters alternate between the points-of-view of two characters, one character written in first person, the other in third. This structure is something I’m considering doing if I ever get around to writing Filming Tara Raikatuji as a novel. This will be the first time I publish something in third person which I’ve thus far been too afraid to do as I feel like there is more responsibility required when writing in the third person.

Though this is another story about love, I really struggled to write it. A couple of days ago it occurred to me why. In The Scribbled Victims, Yelena’s love for Marcel is lost love, and the love between Yelena and Orly is the love between mother and child. In Scribbling the Eternal, the love between Orly and Mirela is dysfunctional, and the love between Orly and Berthold is unrequited. In The Last Midnight the love may be a tad impulsive or even obsessive, but it’s the closest thing I’ve written to healthy romantic love. I don’t know if I succeeded at expressing it. Only Amirah has seen it and on Friday when I sent her the ending chapters, she sent me back a video crying after finishing them. That felt like a success, but I just don’t know if the love is believable. I hope so. I really want people to love this love story.

After I post this, I’m going to email my beta readers to ask if any of them would like to give feedback. I’ve written this so quickly that this will be the first time my beta readers will see something all at once, rather than a few chapters at a time. I’m terrified of their responses, one beta reader especially. Wish me luck.

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After twenty days of not writing, I finally sat back down today and opened my manuscript. Over six hours I read through the first six chapters, comparing them to the notes given by my beta readers and making notes. It did feel like I had fresh eyes, for there were many details I had forgotten. To my surprise, I was happier with the pages than I expected I would be. I will need to go back for rewrites, but they are fewer than I anticipated. My beta readers have seen up through Chapter Seven, so I’d like to get through that chapter today as well, but my eyes hurt and my brain is tired.

I’m going to go for a walk and then out to eat. I’m donating platelets in the morning which takes a few hours and takes a lot out of me, so I can only hope that I’ll have the time and energy to sit down again tomorrow, but I will try, even if only for a fraction of an hour.

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I have the week off from work. I didn’t make any plans to go anywhere for my vacation because of Covid-19. I plan to spend my time writing as much as I can.

My manuscript passed 35,000 words today and I just sent Chapters Five through Seven to my beta readers. I’m anxious to get their responses, but right now I’m pretty happy with how the chapters turned out. I tried to show more of Kristy Amare in these chapters to add dimension to her and fill out her relationship with Orly. I had fun with Hisato in Chapter Five as well.

Tomorrow I’ll visit Ashley Vargas in her mausoleum. It will be seven years since she died.

Flowers for Ashley tomorrow.
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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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