I’m experimenting with setting deadlines in the near future for me to reach the next major plot point in my new book. I’ve set one for Orly to kill a character next Sunday. I got the idea from a book that suggested giving yourself short deadlines in order to create urgency and even panic that will push you to get things done. Apparently long deadlines will slow and perhaps even kill productivity. I don’t know if it will work but already it made me sit down today for my first serious writing session since January 25. I ordered a calendar on which I plan to circle the deadline dates in bright red ink so I can’t avoid seeing the looming deadlines. I guess the test will be how well I hold myself accountable. But like I said at the beginning of this post, this is just something I’m experimenting with. If I feel the quality of what I’m getting on the page is suffering, I’ll quickly abandon it. But I hope it works because it would be nice if my productivity was more consistent and that would make it easier to predict when I might actually finish the book. And of course, if this technique could help me become more prolific as a writer overall, that would be a big improvement.

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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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The Last Midnight Proof Copies
My Proof Copies

My proof copies of The Last Midnight arrived on November 24. I avoided looking at them until the next day, and when I did I purposely gave it little thought and pressed the button to publish. I didn’t want to think of fear and give in to indecision, so I just did it. The paperback became available while I was asleep last night. I’ve gone to bed by six p.m. for the past three nights, because my depression persists and I believe I’m still descending. Who knows how low the low will be. I turn to sleep because I don’t want to be part of reality. Because of the writing and publishing of The Last Midnight, I haven’t visited Scribbles of the Empress since September 8. I’ve talked to Orly a couple times though and rehearsed some of Rosanna’s dialogue in my head. But now that The Last Midnight is out, I should go back to Orly. I plan to open her manuscript after I post this. I hope reuniting with her might help my depression even if it ends up being, at best, a distraction. It would be nice though to feel inspired. That’s what I’ll hope for. Happy Thanksgiving.

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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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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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