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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I’m making very good progress on the third book in the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy. It’s always my goal to write every day, but often depression makes that difficult. But in the past 54 days, I’ve written for 50 of them. On Monday, my book passed 20,000 words, and I reached the end of the first act. That was a big milestone and it felt good to get there. Just before writing this blog, I sent out the first 64 pages to my beta readers. I’m hoping they’re going to feel strongly about them and return feedback that will help shape this into the best book it can be.

I’ve complained before that I write too slowly. I see some authors touting that you need to publish X number of books a year to make it financially as a writer, and often that leaves me feeling discouraged because I doubt I’ll ever write even one book a year. Because of all the internet cookies and monitoring of web activity, some company must have caught on to my dilemma, because I woke up to an email advertising a video program that will teach me to write a book in six hours. I had to laugh. I can’t imagine what a book I wrote in six hours would look like.

Orly Bialek woke up in her casket feeling unloved. She drank scotch and scribbled some stuff with like black crayons, while everyone around her died, breaking her heart. She dropped her crayon and crawled back in her casket feeling like sad and shit. The end.

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Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve transitioned to working my day job remotely like so many others. In recent months, with the help of my psychologist, I have been trying to change my workaholic ways and no longer work after leaving the office. Most importantly, this means not checking work emails after I’ve headed home. I’ve been successful 82% of the time. But now that I’m working from home, I’ve found that I’m working longer days. Some of that is because of increased workload caused by the pandemic, but it is also because I am finding it difficult to separate work time from personal time now that I am no longer physically leaving an office. I’m working on it though.

Work stress along with the anxiety and depression that I’ve been trying to keep at bay during the unfolding of this crisis has made it difficult for me to write. It feels like I’m actively avoiding it and that just makes me more depressed. Until yesterday, I hadn’t written for nine days, and all I netted were nineteen new words. But that was something, and today I’ve netted 150, bringing this month’s total to 1,396. It’s far cry from the 6,000 I aim to write a month, but I just have to keep trying. Chapter Three continues to be a struggle, but I think the end is finally in sight.

A reader described a dream she had about Orly. With some slight embellishments, I’ve worked it into the new book as a surprise for her. I hope she likes it.

I’ve gone 90 days without checking reviews. Not checking regularly is something else I work on with my psychologist, as checking regularly hasn’t been good for my self-esteem. That’s not because of potential bad reviews inasmuch as it is when there are no new reviews. I might check soon though. I’d really like to know what people are saying about Scribbling the Eternal. Excluding friends, family, and a couple emails from readers, I really have no idea.

I hope you are all staying healthy and afloat and know that this strange world we are currently living in won’t last forever.

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Back on November 7, 2019, I posted that I felt disappointed when I went back to reread some of The Scribbled Victims. I mentioned how that always happens to me when I go back and reread my work after time has passed. That should have been such a happy day for me too, as it was the publication date of its sequel, Scribbling the Eternal.

On Monday, I told my psychologist something extraordinary happened in regard to this. I decided to listen to the audiobook version of The Scribbled Victims to try to keep me engaged with the series as I slowly write the third and final book. When I listened to it, I was no longer disappointed. I quite liked the story and felt myself loving Yelena and Orly. Sure, there were sentences I wish I could revise, different words I wish I would have used, but overall, I felt proud of it again.

I don’t know listening rather than rereading made such a difference. Maybe the credit is due to my narrator, Laura Bannister. Maybe hearing the words in her voice, rather than the one that reads aloud in my head when my eyes move over text, allowed me to appreciate it from a different and fresh perspective—as if the story was no longer my own, for I am certainly my worst critic. At any rate, I’m glad I decided to give it a listen.

I’m now listening to Scribbling the Eternal. Being so immersed in Orly’s thoughts as I listen, continually gives me new ideas and I scramble to jot them down on my reMarkable tablet. I hope this doesn’t sound egotistical, but as I write the final book, I may listen to the audiobooks over and over again, as it keeps me engaged, keeps Orly’s voice alive, and keeps the wheels of my imagination turning.

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