It’s been seventy-eight days since my last author blog post, and I don’t know how to begin. My thoughts are scattered, so please bear with me.

Reading on paper at Starbucks
Rereading on paper at Starbucks Store 20537

I haven’t had a significant daily word count since May 2. Since then, I’ve posted here about the depression I’ve fallen into, my struggles to pull myself out of it, no longer loving my book, and feeling disconnected with Orly. Most days since May 2, I haven’t even attempted to write. On July 3, I printed the seventeen chapters I had and decided to reread them on paper, hoping it would help me see my story in a new light and hopefully reengage with it. I didn’t make it through the rereading until yesterday, September 5.

But something did happen on August 29. That morning I could only get myself to read the first page of Chapter Sixteen, but I noticed I finally felt differently about it. It wasn’t a feeling of inspiration or reconnection as I hoped it would be—it was a feeling of distance. I was no longer hurting from it, and that felt familiar. It was as I had felt while writing Scribbling the Eternal.

For months I’ve been saying that I feel disconnected from Orly and feel lost because of it. And now I’m saying I feel a certain distance from her story and thereby feel closer to normal. It hasn’t been easy to reconcile how both could be true. But I know I’ve been hurting a lot while writing Scribbles of the Empress. I’ve felt isolated, lonely, self-destructive, and suicidal—all things that Orly is also feeling. With these shared feelings, how could we be disconnected?

There are depths of a depression so dark that you can only be there alone. Even those who can empathize, those who are also depressed, destructive, and suicidal, still have no place to be there with you. You’re so far gone that there, yours is yours alone. It was in that way I disconnected from her. In that way, I disconnected from everybody.

Making edits at the library
Making edits at the library

I am recovering from these depths. Maybe because of time. Maybe because of meds. Maybe because my shrink finally convinced me to try doing affirmations. In my resurfacing, I’m somehow establishing a division between myself and the book so that I don’t hurt so much that I can no longer write it. I love Orly, but we are not one. We cannot be so close that we destroy each other. We might destroy ourselves, but we should never destroy each other.

This is where I’m at right now. I don’t know if it will last or if I’m assessing things accurately and won’t come to different conclusions later. But I think I can move forward and write the next chapter. I will watch Orly go to Argentina, but I may not be able to go with her.

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I was pulled down a whirlpool and ended up in a really dark place around May 19 and stayed there for over a week. My depression got really bad and I struggled with persistent thoughts of suicide. I told my psychologist these thoughts were the worst they’ve been since I’ve been her patient. I actually felt worried because I didn’t feel in control of myself. I believe this was result of the failed rereading of my book that I attempted on May 8, where I went back to the beginning of the book and felt nothing but disconnected from Orly and her story. I had never felt disconnected from Orly before and I panicked over it, worrying that everything we had written was shit. Stuck in this terrible place, I decided to just put it down and step away from it, hoping to return once my mood improved.

Thirty-four days have passed since I last looked at my new book. I feel like I’ve mostly come out of the depression and am in a better place now. Fourteen days ago I began thinking I might try rereading again, but I was so afraid that I would still feel disconnected and end up back at the bottom of that whirlpool that out of fear I put it off. My psychiatrist suggested not going back to Chapter One, instead going back only to Chapter Fifteen as I had been more recently immersed in that section of the book. I thought that was insightful and considered it, but ultimately I decided against it, because I know I need to go back to the beginning to assess what I have as whole so that I can begin to write new sentences, continuing where I had left off.

A picture from Starbucks
A barista wrote on the bag containing my oatmeal, thanking me for the donuts.

Yesterday, which was Friday 06/01/2021, I saved a new version of the manuscript and marked the file title with 06.12.21 in an attempt to encourage myself to try rereading today. Now that pandemic restrictions are beginning to relax, I decided to try my reread at Starbucks store 20537, which had been a second home to me while writing Scribbling the Eternal. I had not written there since the pandemic began. I woke up early so I could pick up donuts for the baristas and get a table before they were all taken, as only half the tables are available in order to promote social distancing. It became clear to me quickly that I had grown rusty at writing in public as I found it difficult to ignore the people who came and went and not hear the music being piped in over what I heard through my headphones—two songs by Mazzy Star and three by MXMS on repeat.

Despite the distractions, I remained in my seat and began to reread. I struggled to connect to my own words and I was afraid of what the consequences of that might be. Here and there I would connect and feel like I was reclaiming my hold on my story, but then some passages later, I would feel my grip upon it slip. I stopped many times, but forced my way to the end of the first chapter. I then packed up my things and left Starbucks. I headed home where I would continue in solitude, hoping that might change things. As I read, again the connection came and went. My worry increased. I took a Klonopin and later another.

I made it to the end of Chapter Three, feeling half engaged and half empty. It was an improvement from my reread in May, but it’s not enough to feel good. Not wanting to wait to see if my mood plunges, I’m going to try to keep going, in whatever increments I can and just hope to build some momentum and find my way back to when Orly and I were in this together.  

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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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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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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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It’s been nearly a month since I posted. I’ve been writing a lot and working with my psychologist on my feelings about my writing. I realized that when I focus on outcomes like being able to support myself from writing, I am unhappy. It’s when I’m actually writing and story building that I feel good. But even having realized that, it’s not easy to let go of the outcomes I’ve wanted for so long. I don’t even know if I should. (I said in my April 20 post that I never would.) I’m still processing it.

The Kirkus review for Scribbling the Eternal was released. I made a video where I read it and share my thoughts. You can view it here.

I wrote over a thousand words yesterday. That’s a lot for me. I’m approaching the end of Chapter Four, but it’s been a struggle. When I stepped away and went for a walk (wearing a mask), I realized that it’s not achieving the things I need it to, so I’m going to have to rewrite a lot of it, which will mean deleting sentences I spent so much time crafting. It’s often hard to make those deletions; I become too attached to phrases. I spend a lot of time trying to salvage them until I’m finally convinced that they just don’t work for the story, and that I need to let go of them.

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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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After staying off social media for over two months because of the negative impact it has on my self-esteem, I finally went back on last Wednesday to announce the release of Scribbling the Eternal. The book had actually released on November 6, but because of all the anxiety I was experiencing regarding its release I put off announcing it. I saw my psychiatrist on Monday and talking about the anxiety with her and having my monthly Klonopin quantity increased helped me to finally gather the courage to announce it.

It’s on Amazon as a paperback, eBook, and audiobook. If you read it, I hope you love it, as I loved writing it.

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This afternoon, I approved the paperback version of Scribbling the Eternal. Within seventy-two hours it will be available on Amazon. My psychiatrist refilled my Klonopin prescription.

This evening, I experienced one of the worst things about being a writer—hating your own work. I thought of something that may have been inconsistent between The Scribbled Victims and Scribbling the Eternal, so I read some of Chapters Eighteen through Twenty of The Scribbled Victims. Fortunately, what I was looking for was consistent between the two books, but the much of the writing looked foreign to me as it had been so long since I had written it. I saw so many spots I would write differently today, and that hurt because I love Yelena and Orly, and their story together so much.

This has always been the case with me. I can be happy with something I’ve written shortly after finishing it, but after some time passes, I’m no longer satisfied with what I was once happy with. Maybe that shows I’ve grown as a writer, but it’s still unpleasant to feel such disappointment. Because of this, I generally avoid rereading my work. Right now, I feel very proud of Scribbling the Eternal, but know that months from now I won’t love it as much.

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This afternoon, I told my psychologist how much my anxiety increased when earlier in the day I discovered that the proof copy of Scribbling the Eternal was delivered.

I’m home now and I’ve looked it over. It’s so much thicker than The Scribbled Victims. I have now only to approve it and within days it will be available to the public.

Because of all the anxiety regarding its release—wondering what the response to the book will be like—I told my psychologist I might procrastinate in approving the proof. I feel like I’m on a high dive platform and I have to force myself to just jump.

I am proud of this book, but I’m not fearless.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Maybe tomorrow I’ll approve it as a gift to myself.

 

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