Warning: This post includes content which some readers may find triggering. Read at your own risk.
This is a fair question. After all, I’ve more or less vanished off the face of the Earth (not really, but we’ll come back to that) for the better part of the last three years. The short, honest answer is, I’ve been living my life, learning new things about myself and figuring out how best to proceed with my life and my writing career.
That’s not really enough, though, is it?
Yeah. Didn’t think so.
So, let’s walk through the highlights of 2013-2015.
I started 2013 ready to kick ass and take names. I published seven distinct works (well, four really) through Changeling Press in a year and a half, or slightly more than one book dropping every three months. I stood with my fellow authors and made enough noise to shutter the doors of Noble Romance Publishing and force them to revert the authors’ rights. (If anyone from Noble is reading this and considering trying to start something, the NDA expired August 13th, 2016. Suck it.) I worked as a reviewer for Coffee Time Romance and More, guest posting anywhere and everywhere I possibly could, pulling a grueling college course schedule and hosting an open-mic poetry slam once a week.
Two relationships fell apart back to back.
I got the divorce papers from my ex-wife.
I failed Algebra, which has always been my kryptonite.
I was getting four hours’ sleep a night if I was lucky.
I lost my day job.
I became clinically depressed, sometimes not being able to muster the energy to even get out of bed, never mind drag my ass to class.
My creativity went to hell. My energy level plummeted to somewhere south of zero.
I wanted to be alone.
I wanted to die. And I almost did.
If I hadn’t had the exceedingly good luck to be REALLY bad at suicide, I wouldn’t be writing this now. (Ceteris parabus, I have to say that if you simply MUST suck at something, suicide is far from the worst thing…)
It took a long time to come out from under the shadow of the attempt, or the aftereffects of it, some of which I still feel profoundly to this day. In its aftermath, I felt cut adrift, lost, like a ghost in my own life. Looking back, I can see this was coming a long time before it actually happened…and there was actually a reason all this happened, which I couldn’t possibly have known at the time.
Truthfully, I didn’t know if I was ever going to get back to writing. I was tired of struggling, of putting myself out there, of baring my soul and standing naked on the street corner while people hustled past like I wasn’t even there. I knew if I could keep the effort up, sooner or later it would pay off.
The problem was, I simply didn’t have it to give. I had too many distractions, too many toxic people in my inner circle, too much negativity to fight against. Granted, much of this I brought on myself. I’m not denying my own culpability and responsibility here.
So, I made some changes.
- I eliminated the toxic people from my inner circle and spent some time reflecting on what they had in common. Once I identified the points of congruity, I made a mental note to look out for those behaviors in the future and stay far away from people who exhibited them.
- I surrounded myself with positive, good people who love and care about me, and who believe in me and my ability to succeed.
- I gave myself permission to fail, and to understand that not every failure is necessarily a reflection on me or my character.
- I immersed myself in LIVING. Not observing, not meditating on living, but actually LIVING. Meeting new people, experiencing new things, constantly reevaluating who and what I was.
Over time, that old itch to write came back, more maddening than ever.
- I started answering questions on Quora.com.
- I joined FetLife and started writing about my experiences and my journey. I’ve left off this for the most part, just because there are so many other options.
- I started writing for the members of my House.
- I met a number of great people, both vanilla and kinky, and started thinking about how I could tell their stories.
- I wrote a little kink fiction and submitted it to Literotica. It was accepted. I really need to finish that story, now I think about it…
During this time, I also found out WHY I had lost my grip so completely during that critical period from 2013-2015. In early 2016, I attempted to join a clinical trial for a new depression medication. The psychiatrist in charge of the study interviewed me. Over the course of the interview, he determined I was actually bipolar, type 2, with a side order of generalized anxiety disorder, since apparently one mental illness wasn’t enough. The problem was, people with bipolar disorder cannot take anxiety medication, because it can actually make the situation worse and cause them to commit suicide! I walked away unmedicated, but relieved. At least now I had a name to match to to the symptoms!
Of course, actions still have consequences. Again, I’m not making excuses here. My shit is my shit, and I own that. All I can say is that I know better now, and so I’m doing better.
About a year ago, I started trying to figure out what to do next. Should I give up on the writing altogether? Should I try to take a different tack? Should I just do something else completely?
The thing about being a writer is, it’s in the DNA, the soul, the blood. You don’t just STOP being a writer. It’s like being a smoker or an alcoholic, with hopefully better side effects: Once you’re a writer, you’re a writer for life, whether you ever touch a pen or keyboard again, just like the alcoholic who can’t have “just one” drink or the dedicated smoker who’d love to quit but can’t even be within smelling distance of a cigarette.
I might not have come back to fiction writing at all, if it wasn’t for an email a couple of weeks ago from Changeling Press.
Let me say right now, so there’s no chance of a misunderstanding, that I greatly valued my time with Changeling and the people I met there. They were without fail consummate professionals, indefatigable cheerleaders for their authors and generally great people.
When the email came, it was asking about Dusk and whether I’d be interested in putting the three volumes they broke it into out as a boxed set. Truthfully, I’d given it no particular thought. I figured I’d keep getting a couple of bucks (literally) a month and they’d keep getting theirs and that would be that. I asked for the night to think it over.
The next evening, I replied, pointing out that since Dusk represented my last series of contracts with Changeling, and as Dusk’s contract was due to expire, it would probably best for both of us to go our own ways. I cringed a little as I pressed send, visions of Noble Romance and how hard it was to pry our rights from the house’s dead but still-grasping fingers dancing in my head.
To my immense gratitude, the leadership of Changeling Press reverted the rights to all my work with them with nary a word of protest or snark. The reversion email was waiting for me when I woke up, along with a brief but nice email from Margaret Riley wishing me well. In contrast to the Noble fiasco, the experience was night and day, and I would recommend Changeling Press to any author looking for a home without hesitation.
During this crucial couple of days, the way forward crystallized for me.
I decided to integrate my new life experiences and my renewed determination to live authentically and openly into a new evolution. I’m more willing to experiment. I’m more willing to take a chance. I’m less guarded about how I live my life and how I write. I’m still the same guy. I still have the same passion. In some ways I’m more empathetic while being less willing to take shit than I was before. (If those of you who remember me from back when can imagine what THAT might look like…)
This isn’t a pity party. I don’t need it and I don’t want it.
This is a celebration.
I survived the worst couple of years of my life. I walked through the fire and almost didn’t make it out. But I did it, with a lot of help and support. I made it through the forge and came out the other side with a level of mental and emotional toughness and resilience that five years ago would have seemed impossible. I’ve learned just how stern the stuff I’m made of is.
I’m starting a new journey, on a new path, with my friends and family, old and new.
I hope you’ll join me.
“I know it seems hard sometimes but remember one thing. Through every dark night, theres a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it get, stick your chest out, keep ya head up…. and handle it.” —Tupac Shakur
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, mental illness or suicidal thoughts, please visit http://suicidehotlines.com/international.html for the number of the suicide hotline in your country, or dial 911 in the US, 999 in the UK or the appropriate emergency number for your country.