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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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 haven’t written for fourteen days, but this was planned with my psychologist after the mental and emotional difficulties I had earlier this month. She thought it best that I take some time off to just rest and I thought it would be helpful to clear my head from the new book since I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it. I’m hoping when I return to the manuscript and read it again, fresh eyes will show me what’s missing.

In the time I haven’t been writing I’ve been reading and making linocut prints. Linocuts are something I used to do years ago as form of therapy. I carved a new one today and inked it. I’d post it, but my psychologist wants me to consider not sharing them. She’s interested in seeing what it would be like for me to have something creative that I do just for me. The thought being that perhaps I was happier with my writing before I began to publish it, making it public, which led me to start caring about response, feedback, praise, and criticism.    

My two weeks off ends today, so I could start writing again tomorrow, but I don’t know if I will. I still have a lot on my mind. I miss Orly, but I don’t know that I’m recovered enough to struggle with her story.   

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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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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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I didn’t write for two days this week. I think it’s because of depression. The murder of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, the conversations I’ve seen circulating and been engaged in regarding both, have filled me with anger and despair. I’m also struggling with disappointment in myself for not joining the protests because of the choice I’ve made to remain socially distant because of my bad lungs and having elderly parents.

Despite the depression and not writing for two days, I’ll pass 23,000 words today. I’ve also received survey responses from four of my beta readers on the first four chapters. Most of it was positive, but there are some rewrites I want to do based on their notes. My worry that the book might feel front heavy seemed to echo in the opinions of two of the beta readers. But I don’t know what I’m willing to cut. Most of Act One, and especially the lengthy third chapter, is all meant to show the layers and depths of Orly’s sadness so it will support what she sees when she scribbles herself. I’m afraid if I trim just to make the beginning shorter and less heavy on the reader, it will undermine this and the reader won’t understand why Orly sees what she does in her scribble, or at the very least won’t sympathize with her.

But as Act One ends where it needs to end in order to kick off Act Two, I can come back to this much later, perhaps even after I’ve written the last sentence of the last chapter (which I have already been composing in my head), because the depth in which I decide to dive into Orly’s heart doesn’t really determine the through line of the plot, inasmuch as it explains her motivations. My best friend, Amirah, mentioned that Orly’s feelings in these chapters are similar to the feelings I have been expressing to her as of late. Orly and I are in unison, it seems. While that would likely concern my therapist, it makes me happy, even if it is all about sadness. I don’t know if I ever said so here, but while writing The Scribbled Victims, I’d always felt at one with Yelena, that our feelings mirrored, and that I was her or she was me—chicken or the egg, whichever comes first, I don’t know.  

I had an idea this morning that I’m going to explore. I’m thinking of having The Scribbled Victims translated into Japanese. I’d really like my books to be exposed to a Japanese audience. I don’t know if that’s because I’m Japanese, or because someone long ago told me my work would resonate well in Japan, or if I’m just excited to see what the Japanese book cover would look like and how these new readers would flip through it from right to left instead of left to right.

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