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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The Last Midnight is now widely available for free on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Audible, and paperback. You can see all the links on this page. Today is day eight since it went wide and it’s had over sixty downloads. Not stellar, but not bad either. I’m trying to remain optimistic that I will have many more downloads to come, hoping they will lead many readers to the free download of The Scribbled Victims at the end of the book, so that those who like my writing in The Last Midnight will be introduced to Orly Bialek. On January 29, my free downloads will be announced by The Fussy Librarian website, who will include it in their email to over 40,000 subscribers in the Paranormal Romance category.

Here’s hoping for the best. 

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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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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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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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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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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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