It’s been two and a half months since my last blog post. In it, I announced I had finished the first full draft of Scribbles of the Empress and sent the final pages to my beta readers. As I revise heavily as I write, I believed my period of rewrites would be brief—two months—once I received feedback on the last chapters. At the end of May, I took a week off work to really push hard to complete my rewrites. I had originally booked an AirBnb in Portland for solitude and vegan food, but after flying to Colorado at the beginning of May for a work conference, I was too stressed to travel again and so I canceled it. Instead, I planned to rent a desk in a communal office during the week. I wrote there on Monday and Tuesday and got a lot of good work done. Daily parking cost more than the desk and the whole thing felt expensive, so on Wednesday, I decided I would write at Starbucks. The lobby to my usual Starbucks happened to be closed that morning, so I went to my second Starbucks, where to my surprise, an Instagram crush walked in for her morning coffee. I had problems concentrating in public, which is unusual. Maybe it only felt that way after the level of concentration I had while writing at that office. I would have gone back to the office for Thursday and Friday, despite the cost, but chose that Starbucks instead hoping my crush would come in again. She didn’t. But by Sunday, I did what I set out to do with my time off—I finished my rewrites.

Three of my beta readers are reading the entire manuscript as a whole now. Previously, they’d only ever seen it in batches, and that was over a span of thirty-three months. I’m still waiting to hear back from them. I know two of them have been busy with family commitments and the third can’t start reading until the NBA championships are over. I don’t expect anything major to come back, so I hope my next round of revisions will be minimal. I was hoping to give pages to my sister for editing by July 1, but now I think that’ll be delayed.

I’ve been talking to my psychologist about what to do now that the manuscript is pretty much out of my hands. I’ve decided not to jump into writing something new immediately. I’m going to turn my attention to trying to learn how to promote my work. I’ve been making an effort on Instagram, creating images on Canva that incorporates quotes from the new book. I’m also starting to look into TikTok because it seems like people can build large followings quite quickly. I had a stroke of luck last week when a magazine learned of my upcoming book release and asked for an interview. But beyond promotion, I told my psychologist that I want to do something, other than reading, with all this free time I have now. I even said I wanted to do something fun. So I’m thinking about taking Japanese language lessons, painting, and learning how to swim, among other things.

Instagram Image
One of my Canva creations for Instagram

My day job is really bringing me down though. I feel it’s actually affected my health as my blood pressure has recently increased and I’m now taking beta blockers as a result. I didn’t even go to the office today or yesterday because I felt too depressed about it. Yesterday, I worked from home, but today, I only replied to emails in the morning. I wish I could quit, but if I can’t support myself by being an author, I don’t know what other kind of job I’d be willing to do that paid enough. On top of this, I’m still feeling sad with letting go of Orly, now that her trilogy is complete. She’s been my constant companion since 2014. My days feel emptier without her.

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Covid Positive Tests
Covid Positive Tests

I just realized I haven’t posted since the last day of 2021. Between January 1 and 18, I wrote 6,217 new words which was just over my monthly goal of 6,000 words. So, I was having a good month, but then on the 19th, I woke up with a terrible sore throat, cough, aches, chills, and felt exhausted. I tested positive for Covid. I tested twice, because the result on the first antigen test I took appeared faint, but the second test also appeared faint. But since I was symptomatic, I figured they were correct positives. I missed three days of work, then worked from home, tested negative finally on February 1, but continued to work from home until February 7 because my boss didn’t want me coming in until I was symptom free. I stopped writing on January 19 and didn’t begin again until February 1.

Teams Japan and Finland
Teams Japan and Finland

I’ve been watching a lot of Olympic hockey. I was rooting for the women’s team from Japan, Smile Japan as they are known, but they were knocked out by Finland who after the game gave hugs to some of the Japanese players who were in tears and the whole thing nearly made me cry. Such is the beauty of the Olympics. Though I expect the US or Canada to win the gold medal, the compassion shown by the Finnish team now makes me hope they get the gold medal instead the bronze they seem to be accustomed to. I have a tendency to root for underdogs. Compassionate underdogs are even better.

Act III Notecards
Act III Notecards

But enough of that. This is my author blog. On Friday, February 11, I netted 1,759 new words and finished Chapter Twenty-Four. This means Act II is complete and I can finally move onward to Act III. Yesterday, I went to a different Starbucks than I usually write at and made notecards to help me nail down the order in which things need to happen from here until the end of the book. Some of it is flexible. I know what needs to happen, but the order isn’t always prescribed. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of notecards I made. The stack was thinner than I anticipated which is a relief because I had been worrying that Act III would be too long and thus possibly boring since it was all denouement. I’m now hoping I’ll have a full draft by the end of March.

So that’s what’s been going on with me. I hope things have been going well for you.

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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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I’ve been reading this book on happiness. One of the things it mentioned was doing things for yourself. Intrinsic motivations instead of extrinsic ones. My psychologist (whom I discussed this with today) has been trying to get me to focus on this for months; I feel like I disappointed her when I told her that this book (which she pointed out wasn’t written by a psychologist) struck a chord with me. I think I understood what she was saying in the months before, but I think now something finally sunk in. When I think about book sales, number of downloads, reviews, email subscribers, social media followers, and needing a day job, I feel bad about myself. But today, while sitting in my car, drinking chai, I realized that if I stripped everything away but the books themselves, and just imagined myself sitting with them all alone, I’m already happy.

I’ve said before that when I look back at my work I always find things I’d like to rewrite, but on a whole, with Orly’s two books, I’m pleased with how they turned out and feel I accomplished what I wanted in writing them. And with Orly’s third book, I already feel happy with it, even though it’s not even half written, because I like how the story is building, where it is going, and where I believe it will end up. It’s when I’m not writing that I start thinking about external validations, like the ones I listed above. I have to learn to stop going there and instead run to that place where it’s just me and my books.

(For some reason, today, that imaginary place is red and barren, like what I remember of a Thomas Ligotti story I read so many years ago.)

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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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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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On the fourteenth, I registered the ISBN for The Last Midnight. On the seventeenth, I received the final typesetting and copyrighted the story with the US Copyright Office. On the nineteenth, I approved the final version of the book cover. The audiobook is currently being recorded. I’m waiting for the physical proof to arrive tomorrow. If it’s acceptable, I’ll have to find the courage to click the button to publish the paperback. (The eBook can’t come out until January 8 at the earliest, for reasons I don’t want to bore you with.)

Though I’ve spent a lot of money producing this book, I still don’t feel compelled to publish it because the money is already spent and because I’m still scared. I’m scared it will be ridiculed. I’m scared it will be very successful. I’m scared because I plan to make the eBook free in order to try and get a lot more readers which will mean more feedback than I’m used to. I still make it a practice not to read my reviews, but with this story I think it will be difficult not to take a peek.

My anxiety has been terrible today. I’ve already taken two Klonopins and want a third. I don’t know how much of it has to do with the book release, how much has to do with feeling overwhelmed at my day job and tomorrow being Monday. It’s probably a combination of the two with other things like Covid, the election, and loneliness sprinkled on top. A stress flavored cupcake.

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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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Three days ago, I was looking for a new audiobook to listen to on my evening walks. I went down a rabbit hole, finally browsing my way to horror and discovering a sub-genre listing for ghosts. I love ghosts, more than vampires even (but I still love Orly most). I was hoping to find a book about someone falling in love with a ghost, but after browsing for a total of forty minutes and realizing it was getting darker and darker out, I gave up and went for my walk without bringing earbuds. While walking I tried to imagine a ghost love story of my own, thought of one and watched it unfurl before me. By the end of my walk I had beginning and end and was very excited. At home I took out my ReMarkable writing tablet and hand wrote notes so I wouldn’t forget the story, as I didn’t’ think I’d be able to get to it for another year, after I finish writing Scribbles of the Empress.

That was a Thursday. On Friday I finished working my day job early, and gave in to temptation and began writing digital notecards in Scrivener to outline the ghost story. I was wary to do that because I didn’t want to get sidetracked from finishing Orly’s final book, because I know when I think of a new story I always think it’ll be easy and I’ll be able to write it all quickly, but once I begin, complications always arise and then it’s never quick. But writing notecards didn’t feel like I was diverging from finishing the book I need to finish. It was just structuring the story so it would be solid when I came back to it.

But the more I worked at it, the more excited I became to write it. And as it felt like it would be a short work—a long short story—on Friday evening, I did a writing sprint and wrote five chapters. They’re all very short, but it felt good to write them. I don’t know if the writing style will appeal to readers, but I think the story will, and so I’m thinking of publishing it online for free, in the hopes of attracting new readers.

On Saturday, I sprinted again and wrote six more chapters. I haven’t looked back to read any of them over, but that’s my strategy with the sprint—just get to the end and revise after.

Today is Sunday, and I’m going to sprint again. If I make enough progress, I’ll take Monday off work so I can keep running with it. I hope to get to the end soon, so I can go back to Orly.

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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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