Saturday, July 6, 2019

Back 2 Good, or the Wonderful Adventure

The Telling first published in book format in 2009, ten years ago. Today I thought of that story that launched my career as a writer, and did a little reflecting.

At the time, I was very open about the reasons for that book, but those who've discovered my writing more recently may not be aware of the book's inspiration. 

The Telling is a very personal work, what some call a "therapy book." I didn't merely write the story, I pretty much cut myself open and bled all over the pages. The pages are full of symbolism, though it might not be obvious. 

2007-2009 marked the darkest time of my life. Reality had kicked me in the teeth, leaving me reeling and wondering what I had done to deserve the hardship I found myself in. "Low" didn't even begin to cover my state of mind. Getting through a single day seemed like such a big accomplishment. I hurt. I didn't know a person could be in so much emotional pain and still exist. 

A dear friend tried to help, but what could she do long-distance? We talked books a lot, and our love of fiction is how we met and bonded. She challenged me to write a book, pouring out my bottle of pain. 

The result is The Telling, the story of a young veteran returning home with damaged hearing and internal scars from seeing so much, so young. He also struggled with coming out. His intention was to go back to his small town, get back on his feet, and leave to find a place where he could live his authentic life. 

How does this relate to me, you ask? I poured my doubts, fears, and insecurities into the characters. Every single person but one represents some facet of my life, from the ideals I was raised with and could no longer support, to my insecurities as a mother. 

Something strange happened along the way: the characters started developing strengths. I realized their strengths were also facets of myself that I didn't even know I had. 

The main character, Michael, is in therapy, and takes music with him to his sessions to express his feelings. One song mentioned was Back 2 Good by Matchbox Twenty. My fondest desire at the time was to get "Back 2 Good" myself. Also, at the time, I couldn't see that happening. 

It took years, ten to be exact, from then until now, and during my reflection today I was surprised to realize how far removed I am from that time. It wasn't easy, in fact it was painful as hell, but step by step, day by day, I learned to live again. 

The book was, of course, too personal to sell, so I published some of it on websites, but also self-published, giving the book away for free. However, when I published it to Amazon, for some reason they never allowed me to mark it perma-free, so I put the price as low as possible (.99), and donated the proceeds to PFLAG. 

Besides the self-recovery, something else wonderful happened. People began writing to me, telling me their stories, or how much my book meant to them, or even how reading my book opened someone's mind and heart to LGBTQIA+ issues. 

Some of those stories were heart-breaking, some inspirational, all touched my heart. I made friends through those e-mails that are friends to this day. 

What a difference 10 years makes. I've got a darned good day job (though I'd love to write full-time), I'm about to publish my 21st novel, my work has won awards, I've gone to New York as a Lambda finalist, and have the greatest friends on the planet. I also did something I swore I'd never do: entered into a relationship. 

With a wonderful person. 

Much has happened on my way from there to here, and I'm so glad I hung on and kept going. My life is so, so worth it.  

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