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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Late this afternoon, I arrived in Idyllwild-Pine Cove where I rented an A-frame cabin for a week so that I could write without distraction. I plan to work on the third book in the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy, although I also have a short story on my mind about Orly before she meets Yelena.

My goal coming here was to write 30,000 new words. I looked back at entries in my personal blog from the end of July 2015 when I took a similar trip to Bainbridge Island, also to write in solitude, also from a Saturday to Saturday, and noticed I also had a goal of 30,000 words. I remember I went on that trip because I had eight chapters of The Scribbled Victims and was stuck. I was struggling to figure out the mechanics of how Yelena would be able to adopt Orly. By Monday, I wanted to trash the story. But Tuesday, I spent a day in nature and then sat back down Wednesday and kept at it. On Thursday I had a breakthrough: Yelena would not succeed in adopting Orly. Once that dawned on me, I was able to keep going. I didn’t come anywhere near 30,000 new words, but by September of 2016, I finished writing the book.

As I mentioned in my two previous posts, my depression has been bad lately. My psychologist and psychiatrist are concerned about me being isolated for so long. My anxiety has been bad as well, but my anxiety was also bad in Bainbridge, and on that trip I succeeded in taking only three Klonopins and as I said, I had the breakthrough I needed. So, I’m hoping for a very good and serene writing week, even if I don’t hit 30,000 words. It’s just a number. It’s just a goal to keep myself motivated. I already have a good start. On the winding mountain road that brought me here, I acted out a scene, and when I arrived, I wrote down the last lines of a character who won’t live to see the end of the third book.  

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Though sessions with my psychologist have been helpful, I continue to slip deeper into my depression. When it gets bad like this, I just don’t want to do anything but stay in bed, so I’ve been struggling to push myself to do things—to go to work, to exercise, even to read.

For a long time, my daily writing goal had been thirty minutes. I find it effective to set easy goals so that it is more likely that I will complete them. With having a day job that often leaves me mentally exhausted, it’s more palatable to contend with a goal of thirty minutes than one of three hours. The aim is just to get myself to sit down and start writing, because once writing I usually lose track of time and, consequently, I exceed the goal.

But in this depression, even thirty minutes felt daunting, and as such I hadn’t written any new words since August 25th. So today I decided to reduce my daily writing goal to just ten minutes. It worked, at least for today. I put on music, sat down, and wrote for hours. I finally had to stop as I was running late to have dinner with my friend Brie. (Again, I’m pushing myself to do things, and seeing friends helps.)

I’m still very early in the new book and the sentences are not coming easily. I’m trying to content myself with how the passages are building—one upon the next—but already I can see they’re made mostly of sentences I will later rewrite.

Orly feels more mature though. And that was I wanted.

But the point is, I’ve responded to my depression in a way that worked, in a way that allowed me to write—at least for today.

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I never begin writing something until I know how the story begins and how the story ends.

Now that I’ve begun writing the final installment of the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy, I’m kinda sad knowing that it’s coming to a close (especially with the way the third book ends). What will life be like without Orly floating through my daydreams? Losing our daily conversations will create a void.

But there is a reason I’m not printing the word “Trilogy” on the book covers. I don’t want to commit to letting go of someone I love so much.

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Yesterday I finished reading Native Son by Richard Wright. It was difficult to read because of the blatant racism depicted on so many levels and I know that the depiction was accurate. I believe America has made progress since the release of that book, but know we still live in a racist society. Worse I know that many people in America today look back at how things were in that book as favorable and as a time they’d like to get back to. I believe those conditions are included for many when they don Make America Great Again caps.

As for the writing of the book, what struck me as profound was that in its four hundred plus pages, there were very few plot points in the book. Very significant things occurred but in terms of plot points, they were limited in a book of this length. And I see that allowed for the genius of the book. The majority of the text related the internal thoughts of the point of view character, Bigger Thomas, and the subtext of the actions that surrounded him.

With Orly Bialek, I try to devote a lot of her narration to her private thoughts, but someday I would like to write something that really plunged so deeply into one’s thoughts (perhaps even my own) that the thoughts themselves become the true story. But that is hard to do. It is not as easy as just sticking to an internal monologue. It has to be understandable, relatable, and still possess the things a story requires—a progression of character, a movement of circumstances, a reckoning, a realization, a change. I referred to this as the genius of Native Son and that is what it is.

Native Son by Richard Wright

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I’ve been busy as an author lately. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was interviewed by two websites. The Orange County Readers website posted my interview and a review of The Scribbled Victims this week. You can read it here.

Also in my previous post, I mentioned doing a photo shoot for new author photos. I finally selected one and posted it to my social media. I intend to use this photo for the interview with the This Is Writing website as well as the back cover for the redesigned cover of The Scribbled Victims and the cover of Scribbling The Eternal, when it is released. I decided to go with a black and white image this time.

Author Robert Tomoguchi
My New Author Photo

Speaking of new covers, I will soon be releasing a new cover for The Scribbled Victims. I had been very happy with my current cover as it looked like literary fiction. However, as my designer had become too busy to work on my projects in a timely manner, I had to make the very tough decision to find a new cover designer. As I am working with a new designer, I decided to go with a new look for the entire trilogy. The new covers will feature an image of Orly, but I have high hopes the covers will still look like literary fiction or general fiction, rather than paranormal or fantasy.

Because I had find a new cover designer, this also meant I had to find a new designer to typeset and design the interior of Scribbling The Eternal. (My original designer had designed both the cover and book interior.) Because this is a trilogy, it was important to me that the interiors of all three books matched, so I had this new designer go back and re-typeset and design the interior of The Scribbled Victims. This new design will be used for all books in the trilogy. I just reviewed the second proof of the interior today and only had one change request, so I think the new interior will be finalized very soon.

The text for Scribbling The Eternal continues to be edited, but I am still hopeful for an early fall release.

Finally, I’m now writing the second chapter in the yet to be titled fifth installment of the Me and My Friend Maddie Gothic Book Series.

More to come.

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It’s been weeks since I made a post because I haven’t much to report. I’ve been spending my time doing research for the new Me and My Friend Maddie book. I was trying to build a story about a road trip gone awry when the characters get stuck in a town of hipsters. I’ve been reading Russian folktales, primarily those about Baba Yaga, as I planned for her magical hut to parallel the RV used on the road trip. I also read a book called How to Spot a Hipster as part of the research and planned to structure the story based loosely off of the 1975 film Race with the Devil, staring Peter Fonda. But after all that, I just couldn’t make the story come together, so it’s back to the drawing board. 

This book is important to me because I know readers want to see the resolution between Maddie and Jackie Jinxed and I want to provide that and show where their relationship goes after the ending of The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff. So I think I’m going to do something I haven’t done with any of the other books, which is begin writing the story without having a myth in mind. I feel this way, their relationship can be explored and developed in exactly the way I want, with no restrictions caused by adhering to a myth. As the writing unfolds and the story begins to solidify, perhaps I will look for a way to incorporate a myth into the story. 

So far I’ve used Greek, Japanese, Native American, and Catholic stories to build the other four books. I’m not sure where I will venture next. Perhaps I will ultimately break convention and not use a myth at all, but I don’t know if that will be disappointing to the fans of the series.

For the time being, I’ve put the brakes on Forever Candy as I just can’t make up my mind on which point of view to tell the story from. Each time I decide on a point of view and begin to write, something happens in the story that makes me want to switch the point of view and I would prefer that this book not have shifting points of view. I’m contemplating rewriting the original screenplay version as that medium really worked well with the story. 

On a final note, now that some time has passed since I finished writing Scribbling The Eternal, and the book is being edited, my mind is naturally wandering back to Orly, so I may begin writing the third installment of the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy sooner than I expected. 

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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 wrote a little bit of the new Maddie book and a little bit of Forever Candy. I’ve revised the Prologue so many times and have moved on to Chapter One. 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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This is my second of two weekends I’m stepping away from working on Scribbling The Eternal before I give it my final read. It feels so strange not to be writing, although I’ve been doing poetry exercises from the book I purchased The Poet’s Companion. Writing poetry has been an interesting experience already. Though it is writing, the approach to it feels different. The thinking and daydreaming even feels slightly different. I don’t know that I can put the differences into words (which I suppose is a problem, being a writer, but oh well). At any rate, I’m enjoying it. 

As I was falling asleep last night, it came to mind that the phrase “my darling tragedy” might not have made its way into my new book. The term of endearment was one issued by Mirela Cobalcescu, describing Orly Bialek in The Scribbled Victims. This morning I checked the manuscript and discovered that the term was not used in the new book. 

My checklist of things to address in my rewrites was cleared two weekends ago, but when I do my final read next weekend, I’m wondering if I will find a place where I can insert it. For I do love that term for Orly so much.   

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I’m so close to finishing Scribbling The Eternal, the sequel to The Scribbled Victims, but I’ve hit a wall and her name is Mirela Cobalcescu. She’s begun behaving in ways I didn’t see coming. 

Let me explain. When I write, I don’t write completely alone. My characters do a lot of the writing for me. They do the things they want to do and say the things they want to say. Sure I created them but from there my job is mostly to place them in situations and then allow them to be true to themselves. This is especially the case for the character of Orly Bialek–I just let her go and she does her own thing. I’ve gotten a lot of comments about how unpredictable and irrational Orly is, and that makes me happy because it tells me that, on the page, she is just being herself. 

But in this new book, I feel Mirela’s behavior is making me lose the directional control of the story and I’ve been struggling to find a way back to the situations I planned to have her and the other characters face. It’s been very difficult for me mentally because I thought I was so close to finishing the full draft, but now I think it could take weeks if not months more to complete, which will mean a later release date than I planned. 

Maybe it will sound strange to you, but I need to talk to Mirela alone and find out what she really wants so I can figure out a way to steer this story back on course. 

If you write fiction, stage plays, or screenplays, do you approach writing in a similar way? Do you interact with your characters and give them the freedom to be who they want to be rather than who you want them to be?  

-Robert Tomoguchi

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