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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday I finished the first full draft of Scribbles of the Empress. I started writing it 1,008 days prior, before Covid was a global pandemic. That’s thirty-three months, many of them devoid of word count because I struggled a lot with my own depression while writing this book. It ended up being 108K words, so longer than The Scribbled Victims, but shorter than Scribbling the Eternal.
I’m not sure if this book means more to me than the others, but it certainly means something different. Many of my own struggles with grief and suicide are expressed openly through Orly in this final installment. There’s a section I discarded where Orly addresses her audience and says:
Earlier I said the war against me must seem anticlimactic. It was. But this wasn’t a war story. It’s a story about mourning and suicide. Perhaps it is even about suicide because of the inability to stop mourning. Late in these pages, I realized this is ultimately what all my pages have been about, ever since Yelena died.
I left those words of Orly’s out because it didn’t fit well with the text around it, but also because it breaks the fourth wall, which was something she did in The Scribbled Victims but I forgot to maintain the convention in Scribbling the Eternal.
I just emailed 72 pages to my beta readers, who have remained committed to this book since its beginning and whose help I am very fortunate to have. I’ll begin my rewrites now, hoping they’ll only take a couple of months, as I rewrite heavily as I go. Then editing and proofing. Then book design, typesetting, and audiobook recording. I’m aiming for an October release.
I hope my readers will love the book and how Orly’s series ends.
I just realized I haven’t posted since the last day of 2021. Between January 1 and 18, I wrote 6,217 new words which was just over my monthly goal of 6,000 words. So, I was having a good month, but then on the 19th, I woke up with a terrible sore throat, cough, aches, chills, and felt exhausted. I tested positive for Covid. I tested twice, because the result on the first antigen test I took appeared faint, but the second test also appeared faint. But since I was symptomatic, I figured they were correct positives. I missed three days of work, then worked from home, tested negative finally on February 1, but continued to work from home until February 7 because my boss didn’t want me coming in until I was symptom free. I stopped writing on January 19 and didn’t begin again until February 1.
I’ve been watching a lot of Olympic hockey. I was rooting for the women’s team from Japan, Smile Japan as they are known, but they were knocked out by Finland who after the game gave hugs to some of the Japanese players who were in tears and the whole thing nearly made me cry. Such is the beauty of the Olympics. Though I expect the US or Canada to win the gold medal, the compassion shown by the Finnish team now makes me hope they get the gold medal instead the bronze they seem to be accustomed to. I have a tendency to root for underdogs. Compassionate underdogs are even better.
But enough of that. This is my author blog. On Friday, February 11, I netted 1,759 new words and finished Chapter Twenty-Four. This means Act II is complete and I can finally move onward to Act III. Yesterday, I went to a different Starbucks than I usually write at and made notecards to help me nail down the order in which things need to happen from here until the end of the book. Some of it is flexible. I know what needs to happen, but the order isn’t always prescribed. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of notecards I made. The stack was thinner than I anticipated which is a relief because I had been worrying that Act III would be too long and thus possibly boring since it was all denouement. I’m now hoping I’ll have a full draft by the end of March.
So that’s what’s been going on with me. I hope things have been going well for you.
Today is the last day of 2021 and I just finished writing for the day. I finished my rewrites on Chapter Twenty-One and Twenty-Two. I netted 8,406 words for December. More than usual, but much of that is due to winter break at my day job. Tomorrow, I plan to reread Eighteen through Twenty-Two, and then if satisfied, I’ll send them to my beta readers who haven’t received pages since April 30.
After I finished Chapter Twenty-Two, I went on to write text that felt like a confession, with Orly telling her readers what she discovered these books are really about. It’s really a confession of ours. I don’t know if it will make it into the final draft, but I think my shrink will be glad that I’m writing about it because it may help me process my own suicidal feelings.
Last night, I decided to remove the Soleil story from the book. Soleil is a diminutive finch Orly received among many other finches from Berthold. She was meant to parallel Orly amongst her coven, but as I near the end of the book, the payoff for it feels too on-the-nose. So even after I reach the final page of the full draft, I’ll have that to write out of the book. I’m not looking forward to it. Right now, my to do list of things to check before releasing the final draft is up to fifty-seven items.
I wrote the opening lines of this book on June 22, 2019. I didn’t think it would ever take me so long to write this book, but there were multiple long bouts of depression. I keep telling myself that it will come out in summer of 2022, but now I’m not even sure. I have to make sure there are no loose ends and I want it to be the best book it can be. Just writing about its release in this blog post I can feel my anxiety writing. I know I’ll release it, but I’m terrified.
At the same time, I’m afraid of finishing it but dreading it will never be finished.
I made a lot of progress with my book since my last post. Starting on November 6, I began to write with some regularity again, for the first time since May 2. I ended up writing 8,825 words in November, which exceeded my monthly goal of 6,000 words for the first time since April.
I finished Chapter Eighteen and Nineteen and am nearly finished with Chapter Twenty. Two days ago, my total word count passed 80,000 words. It feels good to reach novel length.
I’m still dealing with thoughts of suicide but it feels more manageable than it had been thirty days ago. I wonder how much these thoughts have affected recent chapters. I wonder if Chapters Eighteen and Twenty are longer than they need to be as Orly and I are in our headspace so much. I’m not even sure if her/our thoughts and feelings will make sense to readers if this book sees its release.
I don’t have much else to report other than I feel like I need to vomit because of something I ate. I’m drinking licorice root tea to help deal with it. I’m hoping to finish Chapter Twenty by end of day tomorrow, but I’m feeling disconnected from everything today, so I don’t know if I’ll get there.