A year ago, a demon who had been chasing me for eight months finally caught me.
I was in Texas at the time, somewhere between San Antonio and Austin, attending the funeral of a dear friend and co-worker.
I sometimes wonder where denial resides. Because, even though I know for certain I was in denial, I was also aware something was wrong. I knew the excuses I was making for the growing list of symptoms was bullshit. And yet I persisted.
Have you experienced this? It is as if three people are living inside of your head. There's the one that insists everything's okay. And then there's the other one; that knows it's not okay. And then there's the third person, presumably the real you, who can hear both voices but consciously chooses to ignore the voice of truth.
I'm not the person I was before I contracted Lyme Disease. I suppose I'm stating the obvious. None of us is the same person we were a year ago. But filtering honest and forthright recollection through the lens of denial to spare me and others from seeing the ugly truth—well, I no longer see the benefit.
When my plane landed in San Antonio, I picked up my rental car and headed for the hotel to check in, freshen up and drive to the memorial service about twenty miles northwest. The pain was excruciating, and the exhaustion was debilitating. But I managed to swallow some pills, suck it up and make an appearance at the memorial service. I was over twelve hundred miles from home, and my carefully built wall of denial was crumbling around me.
By the time I made it home, denial was no longer an option. I was sick. Too sick to work, to sit up, to even stay awake. The pain, fever, vomiting, and seizures overtook me as the last bricks of denial came tumbling down. I feared I was dying and yet feared I wouldn't die fast enough.
I'm going to pause here for a moment to tell you two things. First, the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease vary widely depending on your location and your doctor. I was lucky to have an excellent doctor. Second, this is my story. Some people have had a worse experience with Lyme Disease than I have, and some have had a better experience. I can only tell my story. And I hope I do so without boring you with an excess of graphic detail nor a sense of whining. Let me know if I failed.
Now that we have that settled, here are some things I need you to know.
- Damaged my liver and it hasn't recovered.
- Made it almost impossible for me to read except in audio format.
- Left me with occasional narcoleptic seizures.
- Made it often difficult for me to choose the right word when speaking.
I'm ashamed to admit:
- I probably can't walk as far or as fast as my friends can or may want to when we are out having fun.
- I may need more sleep than my friends do when I'm traveling or have overnight guests.
I'm even ashamed to admit these things to my wife. Shame such as this has no place in my life.
Okay, enough of the bad news.
Because it's not all bad news. In fact, it's mostly good news. Great even. You see, thanks to a little arachnid, I'm living a totally different, and even better life than I was a year ago.
As I was recovering from Lyme, a miraculous thing happened. An idea for a book series came to me, fuzzy at first. But then it began to take shape. I wrote the synopsis. And then I wrote a scene, and then another. And before I knew it, I had a chapter.
And suddenly it occurred to me. I don't know how to write a book. But I wasn't going to let that stop me. Google was my friend.
I discovered that having read roughly a thousand books in the lesbian fiction genre was a pretty good way to learn to write. Authors such as JM Redmann, Katherine V. Forrest, KG MacGregor, Radclyffe, Kelli Jae Baeli, and Harper Bliss had unknowingly shared their secrets with me. I had an excellent foundation. I learned about point-of-view and dialogue tags. I learned that I didn't know nearly as much about the comma as I thought I did. I shared the results of each writing session with my wife within seconds of hitting save. She asked me for more and that gave me the encouragement I needed to carry on.
And then it hit me. I want to publish this book.
I need to pause again here for a moment to tell you that I had deleted my Facebook profile a year before I started writing my first novel. I won't go into detail as to why. You just need to know that six months before I planned to self-publish, I had no Facebook profile.
I had a vague sense of how books were published and marketed. I'd been an avid reader since kindergarten. I knew of Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and for technical books, O'Reilly. And in the lesfic genre, I knew of Bold Strokes and Bella. And I knew that some authors were self-published. I was already taking full advantage of Kindle Unlimited. But I had no real sense of how to approach a publisher or if I needed an agent. In my limited understanding of the biz, I concluded that traditionally published authors possessed a combination of talent and luck I was certain I lacked.
My research into the matter presented me with a third argument against pursuing a publisher for my book—audience. I learned that publishers prefer authors who already have an established following. Hell, I didn't even have a Facebook profile, much less a following as an author. I had blogged a little bit, mostly about technology. I wasn't just virtually unknown in the lesfic community; I was completely unknown.
So, I created a Facebook profile. I created a separate author page, Ask Thalia, to dovetail the author website and blog I was developing to breathe life into the Thalia Chase: Sex Therapist character and brand. I searched for lesfic authors to friend and groups to join. And I came across the best lesfic group on Facebook, Lesbian Books, Writers, Readers. Thanks to Charlotte and the admins and members of this group, I was generously given the feedback and resources I needed to write, publish and market my debut novel. I found Ann McMan to create my cover and Rogena Mitchell-Jones to edit, proofread and format my novel. And on June 11, 2016, I released my first book in the Thalia Chase: Sex Therapist Series, Eagle Cove.
I started this journey one year ago. Looking back over the past year, I'm pretty impressed.
- I'm a best-selling author.
- I have a successful show on The Lesbian Talk Show network.
- I'm a member of the Golden Crown Literary Society.
- I attended my first GCLS and LCLC Conferences.
- I'll soon publish my second novel in the Thalia Chase: Sex Therapist series.
But most importantly, I found my people.
Before Lyme, before I left Facebook, I was a Solutions Engineer. I'd worked in technology for over thirty years. My life centered around my co-workers and my family. Don't get me wrong. I had a successful career. I love my former co-workers. I certainly love my family. And believe me, I am 100% geek. Even so, I never felt like I fit in. Thankfully, I didn't know that until I found my people— lesfic readers, and writers.
And I blame it all on a little arachnid. :)