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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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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Monday, my interview on the This Is Writing website posted. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be on their website. Today, I did my first podcast interview for the Working Title podcast. I was so nervous and spent my last session with my psychologist talking about trying to overcome my shyness and gain enough confidence to do it. Speaking publicly is not something I look forward to, and I was particularly worried about coming off as awkward, stupid, or full of myself. My hands and head were sweating when the interview began, but about halfway through it, I realized that was no longer the case. The interview lasted fifty-three minutes and time just seemed to fly by. The interviewer said I did a great job, so I’m hopeful that when the episode airs in October, I’ll sound okay.

One thing I mentioned in the interview was that I stopped checking my book sales and reviews. I had been in the habit of obsessively checking them daily, if not multiple times a day. But I realized doing so wasn’t good for me mentally. Though the majority of my reviews on The Scribbled Victims are positive, when I read those reviews, I don’t allow myself to celebrate them. Conversely, when I receive a less than favorable review, I’ll dwell on it for days. The same goes for book sales. I don’t celebrate the days I make sales, but feel dismal on the days when I haven’t made a single sale. In other words, I’m in the habit of focusing on the negative.

It hasn’t been easy to break the compulsion to check my reviews and sales, but mentally, I have definitely seen the effects, and they’re definitely positive. I’ll eventually have to check my sales however, because I pay someone to manage my advertising campaign, and their payments are based on my book sales.

Even though I haven’t read my reviews in quite a while, a reader actually took the time to send me an email today which read:

Robert,

I read so many books. Mostly horror or fantasy, bizarro or new weird fiction; as long as the writing is incredible. I have read so many authors, Harlan Ellison being my favorite as well as others…

I have to tell you- You are an incredibly gifted writer. This book is so well written it is beautiful the story and characters.  Just magic. I can’t wait for your next book. 

Thank you for writing such a great novel and sharing it with me. 

Ron ******** 
Queens, NY

I’m going to do my best to celebrate that email.

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I’ve continued to write on paper and I think I’m close to having the full story for the final book in the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy. I had a breakthrough idea today, a way to make my readers really feel something. I feel so motivated and overcome with passion for this new book that I feel like I could write it all in a week if I went away somewhere peaceful. I did that in 2015 when I was stuck on a particular part when writing The Scribbled Victims. I spent a week in a house rental in Puget Sound. It was perfect and I found a solution to the problem on the fourth day in solitude. I know I couldn’t possibly write the whole book in a week, but the sound of getting away somewhere to write sounds very appealing. I just have to pick a time and place.

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