In my last post I mentioned a screenplay I was thinking of novelizing. Well, guess what? That’s what I’ve been doing every day since January 7. I wrote the screenplay in 2006 while I was in the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA. The screenplay was titled Exhume. I toyed around with renaming it and did rename it when I began the novel version, but I have since returned to the title Exhume. It’s about a string quartet who heads out to a remote location in Amish country to work on new music. There they do something they shouldn’t, and all hell breaks loose. The screenplay received an honorable mention in the annual competition at the end of the UCLA program. I thought it worked well as a screenplay, but we’ll have to see about the novel version. It might be too early to call it a novel. At the rate I’m going, it’s feeling more like novella length. I’m already appreciating getting to explore my main character more deeply writing it as fiction than I could as a screenplay. I hope I’ll finish it this year and plan to send it out to agents in the hopes of traditionally publishing it.

Lately, I’ve been on a reading streak where I’ve been reading very good books. Right now, I’m reading War and Peace and To Live by Yu Hua. A couple weeks ago I finished reading For Whom the Bell Tolls and was in awe for many reasons. I’ve also been reading the manga series Tokyo Tarareba Girls by Akiko Higashimura (my crush) which has been a lot of fun but whose viewpoints I’m often surprised by.

Two days ago, marked one year of being off social media. I don’t feel lacking because of it other than wondering if I’ve missed any messages from readers, but those are rare.

Well, that’s basically all I can think of mentioning. I hope you’re well and reading something really good.

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My Favorite Reads of Another blog lapse. I haven’t posted here since August. This is only my fifth post of 2023 and it’s the last day of the year. Maybe it seems remiss of me not to have posted since August, but I haven’t had anything noteworthy to mention. Since that last post, I’ve just been spinning my wheels, going in circles, and getting nowhere. I tried working on I Was Mistaken, like I mentioned, but it became painful to write. My shrink said a little discomfort is okay, but what I was doing was retraumatizing myself. I then went back to writing about Tara Raikatuji but couldn’t find her voice and so I completed another lap around my circle of stories by returning to Forever Candy. I struggled with the same point of view problems I’ve always had with that story, and my last attempt read back so lifelessly that it made me think of a desiccated grasshopper, if that’s a thing. This week, I pulled out a screenplay I wrote in 2008 about a cellist. It’s kind of a haunted house story. I’m kicking around having a go at novelizing it and it feels fresh because it’s not yet part of my traditional merry-go-round of stories that I tinker with then give up on. I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere though.

So that’s what I’ve been doing since August, even though I’ve written every day for the past 48 days. I’ve been forcing myself to write for a minimum of ten minutes a day to try to get something going. Though I haven’t made any progress on any of my projects, forcing myself to write like this has at least awakened whatever it is that allows me to daydream. I’m hoping this will soon lead me to finding solutions with my current stories or thinking of something entirely new.

I’m going to remember 2023 as the year I had writer’s block. I’ll also remember it as the year I read All the Lovers in the Night and Kokoro. It’s also the year I deleted Twitter, and deactivated my author Instagram and TikTok. I decided only to keep my personal accounts (@deadponies). My author accounts felt like a collection of promotional posts for my books rather than showing anything about me as a person. Hopefully, the posts about me are more interesting than my advertisements.

I really hope I get through this writer’s block soon. I can’t have another year like this. I was thinking about pretending I got an agent and a book deal so I can give myself a deadline to finish something—anything.

Goodbye 2023.

Hello 2024.

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In my last post, way back in May, I said I chose to write and began writing Forever Candy as a novel. Today, in August, I’m letting you know I stopped. It fizzled out weeks ago. The voice I was writing in just fell flat. It didn’t feel authentic. I considered starting over in a different voice, but right now, I think I must walk away from it. Maybe someday I’ll try again.  

I finished my first UCLA Extension Creative Writing class, but I dropped the second class.

In the weeks since I stopped writing, I’ve become depressed. I feel adrift and without purpose. But I’ve been putting in a lot of effort in my sessions with my psychologist. I recently began considering writing about my childhood best friend. In the preceding post, titled Pushpins, our story is laid out in the fourth row of note cards and is something I intended to weave into another story I refer to as Candela.

Writing about my childhood best friend is something I think I can only write privately, without the intention of anyone ever seeing it. I think it’s essential in order to tell our story honestly. 

So, for the readers I do have, you may not get anything new from me for a long while.

Delete TwitterI deleted my Twitter accounts. I think Facebook will be on the chopping block next. Social media has proven to be more detrimental than beneficial for me, and after being off it for over 180 days now, the feelings of FOMO rarely surface.

I feel like disappearing. 

I told my psychologist that by my next session I would open a new Scrivener document and save it for the new writing project. That next session is tomorrow. I’ve been struggling with what to save it as for a working title. I could stick with calling it Candela, but I feel like I should start fresh. I’m leaning toward saving it as I Was Mistaken.  

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Bulletin Board of Notecards
Three stories in notecards.

I know my last two blog posts suggested I was leaning toward writing a novel version of Filming Tara Raikatuji, but I no longer think it’s going to be my next project. I took six days off from my day job, with the intention of resting before my busy fiscal closing period. On Thursday I mapped out the three stories I’ve been kicking around in my head using note cards to identify the major beats of each story. I typically lay out six beats per story. The stories were Filming Tara Raikatuji, Forever Candy, and something I for now just refer to as Candela. The Candela story has two rows of cards because there are two parallel stories in it. I pinned them to my bulletin board but ran out of pushpins. I don’t know how that happened. I’ve had many more cards on this board before. Anyhow, I felt good after pinning the cards up because it told me I did have things I’d be able to write from beginning to end. In general, I won’t start writing until I know my beginning and ending.

I spent the rest of the day and Friday evaluating which of the three stories I should pursue, and I landed on Forever Candy. It’s the least brave story to write because it’s the least personal, but I chose it for two reasons. The first is that I’ve been worrying about what writing I can share if I continue in this creative writing program at UCLA Extension, because it’s online, and so the instructor and students are all faceless and I don’t find myself getting to know them. I realized that it’s difficult for me to share drafts of things that are very personal with people I don’t know. The second reason is that it’s my goal to traditionally publish my next book, and I think Forever Candy is the easiest to explain and the most marketable.

Saturday, I wrote a prologue for Forever Candy. It was only five hundred words, but it was a beginning, and I’m still happy with how it came out. Yesterday, I pushed myself to shift settings and begin the first chapter. After a couple hours, I only settled on the first three sentences—32 words. But it’s a start. I’m a little intimidated to embark on this book because I’m writing in third person, which I don’t typically do. I also have a major character who’s male, something else I’m not accustomed to if I’m not that male, and especially after spending the last eight years writing Orly Bialek.

But hey, the point is, I began something I feel like I might be able to write all the way to its ending. As always happens at the beginning of any writing project, I think I’ll be able to write this story quickly, in this case, a year. If history is any indication, it’ll likely be at least two years. At least I’m writing again. Yay me.

Okayo, my Love Village favorite.
Okayo, my Love Village crush.

On a totally unrelated note, can I mention just how much I love the new show on Netflix, Love Village? It’s a more mature version of Ainori Love Wagon, which I absolutely loved and made me cry more than any other show I’ve watched. Love Village is making me gush buckets too. If I have any influence over my readers, I highly recommend.

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Muraki and Saeko from Pale Flower
Muraki and Saeko from Pale Flower

I’m still spinning my wheels, trying to figure out what to write next. I signed up for a creative writing class through UCLA Extension. It’s an introductory course. I’ve already signed up for the Novel I course in the next term. Depending on how that goes, I may sign up for the Creative Writing Certificate Program which is a total of 21 units and at the end of it, I should have a new book, or at least something that is 250 pages. I’m in the third week of my beginning course, but I don’t know if online learning is for me; I’m assigned reading and given writing prompts, but there’s very little input made by the instructor. Regardless, I will finish the course.

I’ve continued to watch yakuza films. I was particularly moved by Pale Flower. Like Branded to Kill had, but in a different way, Pale Flower inspired me to try rewriting Filming Tara Raikatuji. Their female leads make me feel like I want to bring Tara to life and that it’s possible some readers will actually understand her. I’m scared of sharing her though, because it’s sharing a lot, and it’s that fear that’s preventing me from putting down the first word.  

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Annu Mari as Misako in Branded to Kill
Annu Mari as Misako in Branded to Kill

Since finishing Scribbles of the Empress, I’ve been struggling to figure out what to write next. I was kicking around three novel ideas but ended up writing a ten minute stage play that I plan to enter in some contests and if I get a production somewhere (fingers crossed), I’ll travel to where ever and watch it performed. The play is called The Tattooed Dentist. The play centers around being true to yourself and making your parents proud. The play feels very personal. I also wrote it with the hopes of giving a lead role to an elderly woman and calling for Asian actors.

I recently watched the Outrage Trilogy which is a series of three yakuza films. I loved it so much that I watched them twice. Then I found a list on IMDB of the 50 best yakuza films. I’ve watched a lot of samurai films, but this is new to me and I’m really enjoying it. I watched Branded to Kill (1967) and loved how dark it was and how it appeared visually. The character of Misako inspired me to consider taking on the novelization of my screenplay Filming Tara Raikatuji. So now that The Tattooed Dentist is basically complete, I printed a copy of the screenplay so I can read it and see if I still feel motivated to make Tara my next protagonist.

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The Kirkus Review for Scribbles of the Empress was released. It was very positive. I need to read it against the previous two reviews, but instinctively, this feels like the best review of the three. The tagline they gave it was, “A sensational conclusion to a dark, captivating series.”

I’m very happy that the reviewer spoke of it so favorably. While waiting for the review to come out, I had been worrying it would come back saying something like:

  • “The protagonist’s wallowing in misery was tiresome.”
  • “The book was a letdown as the epic battle the story built up to never materialized.”
  • “The author was far too indulgent with spilling Orly’s feelings all over the place.”

The reviewer recommended getting it, as was the recommendation for the previous two books, so that feels pretty great. If you’re interested, you can read the review here.

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I feel especially bad putting off this post for as long as I did because I have big news…

I released Scribbles of the Empress on October 31 while I was in Cabo San Lucas celebrating the completion of the book. I don’t know why I dragged my feet on making this post. My depression hasn’t been bad, if anything, I’m apathetic.

The sales are slowly coming and I received my first Amazon rating, which was fortunately five stars.

I’ve had two readers reach out to tell me how much they loved the book. One was sad that the series was over, the other suggested ideas for a fourth book. I’m hoping now that the series is complete, it’ll find its way into the hand of many more readers.

I’m still struggling to decide what to write next. Sometimes, I even feel like I’m struggling to decide if I should continue to write at all.

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I haven’t blogged in a while because not much has been going on. The three beta readers who planned to do a full read couldn’t meet my deadline so I had to scrap that extra read after a few weeks and turn the manuscript over to my sister for editing. We fell a little behind schedule as I got the pages to her later than expected and as I only allowed four weeks for my sister to get through the manuscript and she needed a couple weeks more as she has a stressful day job just like I do. But I received the manuscript back and accepted most of the revisions. I then gave the manuscript to my mother, who has been dying to read it, for one last proofreading, which she finished on Friday. Today, I finished writing the Thank You page. So after I post this, I’ll turn the final version over to my interior designer to complete the typesetting and layout. I’ll also be ready to send it to my audiobook narrator, Laura Bannister. If everything goes well, I think the print book and audiobook will release in November.

rtomoguchi TikTok page
Don’t be too blown away by the size of my following.

As far as my marketing effort goes, I didn’t make much progress with all the time I had while waiting to get the manuscript back. My efforts on Instagram fizzled and I’m making more of an effort on TikTok, but even that’s inconsistent as I have a hard time coming up with content. I had some pins made using the design from my favorite tattoo—a scribbled heart with a banner that has the names Yelena and Orly on it. I’ve sent a few of them out to readers hoping it’ll be a nice surprise. I’m also having bookmarks made, but I don’t have much visual sense so I’m hoping my designer can make something nice out of my ideas.

I hired a programmer to move my author website from tomoguchi.com to rtomoguchi.com. I did this to better match my social media handles.

I didn’t pick up any new hobbies during my time off from writing either. Instead, I’ve been reading and watching reality TV. I fell in love with this show called Ainori Love Wagon, but already watched all the available episodes. I hope it comes back for more seasons.

I’m stalling from posting this. Part of that is because I’m hoping I’ve forgotten something that I can mention to make my life sound more interesting. The other part is because I feel nervous to send off the manuscript for production. To assert that I am absolutely done with it, after three years of work, feels so final. I wish the moment was more unique, but here I am, sitting in my usual seat, at my usual Starbucks, on my second drink.

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It’s been two and a half months since my last blog post. In it, I announced I had finished the first full draft of Scribbles of the Empress and sent the final pages to my beta readers. As I revise heavily as I write, I believed my period of rewrites would be brief—two months—once I received feedback on the last chapters. At the end of May, I took a week off work to really push hard to complete my rewrites. I had originally booked an AirBnb in Portland for solitude and vegan food, but after flying to Colorado at the beginning of May for a work conference, I was too stressed to travel again and so I canceled it. Instead, I planned to rent a desk in a communal office during the week. I wrote there on Monday and Tuesday and got a lot of good work done. Daily parking cost more than the desk and the whole thing felt expensive, so on Wednesday, I decided I would write at Starbucks. The lobby to my usual Starbucks happened to be closed that morning, so I went to my second Starbucks, where to my surprise, an Instagram crush walked in for her morning coffee. I had problems concentrating in public, which is unusual. Maybe it only felt that way after the level of concentration I had while writing at that office. I would have gone back to the office for Thursday and Friday, despite the cost, but chose that Starbucks instead hoping my crush would come in again. She didn’t. But by Sunday, I did what I set out to do with my time off—I finished my rewrites.

Three of my beta readers are reading the entire manuscript as a whole now. Previously, they’d only ever seen it in batches, and that was over a span of thirty-three months. I’m still waiting to hear back from them. I know two of them have been busy with family commitments and the third can’t start reading until the NBA championships are over. I don’t expect anything major to come back, so I hope my next round of revisions will be minimal. I was hoping to give pages to my sister for editing by July 1, but now I think that’ll be delayed.

I’ve been talking to my psychologist about what to do now that the manuscript is pretty much out of my hands. I’ve decided not to jump into writing something new immediately. I’m going to turn my attention to trying to learn how to promote my work. I’ve been making an effort on Instagram, creating images on Canva that incorporates quotes from the new book. I’m also starting to look into TikTok because it seems like people can build large followings quite quickly. I had a stroke of luck last week when a magazine learned of my upcoming book release and asked for an interview. But beyond promotion, I told my psychologist that I want to do something, other than reading, with all this free time I have now. I even said I wanted to do something fun. So I’m thinking about taking Japanese language lessons, painting, and learning how to swim, among other things.

Instagram Image
One of my Canva creations for Instagram

My day job is really bringing me down though. I feel it’s actually affected my health as my blood pressure has recently increased and I’m now taking beta blockers as a result. I didn’t even go to the office today or yesterday because I felt too depressed about it. Yesterday, I worked from home, but today, I only replied to emails in the morning. I wish I could quit, but if I can’t support myself by being an author, I don’t know what other kind of job I’d be willing to do that paid enough. On top of this, I’m still feeling sad with letting go of Orly, now that her trilogy is complete. She’s been my constant companion since 2014. My days feel emptier without her.

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