On November 19, 2013, Chasing Sunrise, Book I of the Darkmore Saga, has at long last been contracted for publication. As I posted on Facebook, after fifteen rejections sweet sixteen was the lucky number.
Honestly? I’m still in shock that this is really happening. It was an impossibly long journey to get here, one that spans over twenty years. Instead of saving this story for a blog tour, I’m documenting it here.
I was thirteen when I created the world of Darkmore. I make no secret I have bipolar disorder, and am an advocate that despite mental illness, a person can still be extraordinary. At thirteen, I didn’t think being extraordinary was in the cards for me. I didn’t think I had a life beyond eighteen to be honest.
Darkmore was the story where I could retreat, wrap myself inside, and write down all of my nightmares on paper. When I could see what scared me the most, sitting there in front of me, I had the power to say “I see what you are, and you can’t hurt me anymore.”
A few short years down the road, I started to stabilize on my meds. I learned how to be a human being. And this story was still a part of my coping with life. I made friends and I told them about the story, and they too wanted to leave their mark on it. So, multi-sided collaborations were born.
My friends were all storytellers and artists. We drew the characters obsessively. One of us would come up with a new character to add, and then teach the rest of us how to draw them. We taught each other Photoshop, working from 3.0, before Wacom tablets were a thing. I started a webcomic with it, back when the only site you could use for free was Geocities.
This story consumed me for ten years.
And then I fell in love, and it all changed…
During this process of this story, I met a girl. We were instant best friends. And eventually we became lovers. She was my first love, everything was perfect, we related our relationship to Camelot. Everyone wanted to know our secret of how we were so perfect together. How we made it work. How in love we were.
After a few years of dating, we moved in together. And would remain together for ten years.
Somewhere along the way, the story became a convoluted mess. Looking back, it was a mess long before then. I’d come up with a plot point, only my girlfriend wouldn’t like it. So, to keep her happy, I ditched it.
I did a lot of things to keep her happy. Pretty much all of it I regret now.
The first five years of our relationship was amazing. I wanted to marry her. I wanted more than anything to wake up to her smile every single day.
The last five years? The emotional manipulation kicked in. As did the beatings. And the cheating. As did the breaking me down into feeling I was a worthless human being. The breaking me down so far, I considered suicide a number of times. She even convinced me my own family was against me. I don’t even appear in my brother’s wedding photos even if I was at the wedding.
Here’s where things get sticky, I was in this horrific relationship, and women are taught the first time a man hits you, you know to get the fuck out. But honestly? It’s more complicated than that. A lot more. When you are the one in it, it’s impossible to see how to get out. It’s impossible to know what the right answer is. It’s the top reason why victims return to their abusers. The victim loves them beyond reason. The victim has a logic of “We may fight, but we’re perfect together.”
People on the outside looking in, they shame the victim. They say “Well, they went back. They deserve it. Fuck ’em for being a fucking idiot.” This attitude? This is how most victims end up dead. Because friends stand by and let it happen.
Why I bring this up? She even tried to kill me as well. We were fighting, and I was sobbing hysterically. She tackled me to the ground and attempted to smother me to “get me to shut up.” She actually relented, cursed me, and went on with her business. I confronted her on it. I remember saying “You just tried to kill me.” I was horrified that she would push it that far. Her response? “Don’t be a fucking psycho.” And she went on to check her email, and left me sitting on the bed in hysterics.
The great kicker of all of this? I went to therapy to learn how to be a better spouse to her. My therapist? He had this smile like George Clooney. And when I let it all out, he cracked that very smile that said, “Oh sweetie, I don’t think so.”
The turning point in the whole thing was talking about how she would have this awesome time with her friends and completely ignore me. I said, I knew she loved me if she tossed me a compliment once in a while. My therapist said the phrase that has stuck with me to this day.
“Why are you giving her cake, when you are eating crumbs?”
I remember at that very moment breaking down and sobbing. I knew. I knew it was time. I had to go.
The Light Beckons…
I’ve dated one other person since for a year, and while it didn’t work out for us, I haven’t dated in over ten years. And I don’t care to ever again. While my ex made me a fighter, my heart is very scarred up, I have problems letting my guard down. The issues she left me with don’t bother me some days, while others, I’ll see something somewhere, and it’ll put me back there.
If I’m being fair? The whole 50 Shades of Grey craze put me back there in a fucking huge way. I still feel sick when I see the merchandise and women cooing over it that such a relationship is desirable or even sexy.
It was one fateful day, my dearest friend Augustina Wheelis and I had a silly five second conversation about a shifter that looked like a Japanese rock star she liked and a vampire guy that was an androgynous full-time crossdresser. I took the idea and ran like a kid with scissors. I decided, hey I have this world of Darkmore. Let’s put the guys there! Auggie would call me every day to make sure I kept writing. I’d send it to her as I wrote it. I drew her art of the characters as a gift.
That first book was called The Promise. And it was the first novel I ever wrote. And as I said in a recent interview, it was the most wretched and indulgent piece of shit. But the guys, Jack, the shifter, and Sevon, his vampire lover, wouldn’t leave my head.
I decided I would take them and do them right. Three complete rewrites later, Jack and Sevon finally have the book that will be published.
One of the rewrites? Sevon got changed into a woman. I was resistant at first. But I went with it. It’s that version that I have fifteen rejections on. I had this book I couldn’t fucking sell as m/f. Het vampire stories are a dime a dozen. After completing the Checkmate series, I said fuck this, changed Sevon back to a guy, redid a bunch of stuff. And shipped it off to Dreamspinner Press.
I honestly thought I had not a chance in hell at this point. Sevon is still a transvestite, I treat vampires like predators and there’s some gory parts, and, and, and…
And what does this have to do with my ex?
A lot actually. A whole heap of a-fucking-lot. I’m going to come right out and say it is that the villain of the book Dominic Ravensgrove is my ex. And a lot of Sevon’s issues with him are mine. I hesitate to say Sevon is me, but to be fair, Sevon is one of those characters that is quite possibly the closest to me.
Hogarth Dawson of the Checkmate series may have my happy-bouncy attitude and mannerisms, but Sevon is the character underneath that perky veneer.
The moment the contract came…
My Mom walked into my room to ask me a question. At the same time, I went to show her a timesheet app on my phone. I picked up my phone, and saw the contract offer on my alert tray. I started shaking, and then I started hysterically crying. And my Mom watched it all happen. We celebrated. We called everyone we knew. My parents posted it all over their Facebooks, and I posted it all over mine.
My celebratory dinner was Ikea meatballs with potatoes and lingonberry sauce that Mom brought back on her trip to Miami last week. Ikea meatballs never tasted so freaking delicious. We’re going to have a “real celebratory dinner” soon.
The sun rises again…
I’m planning two other books in the series, titled Glass Moon and Star Fall, where Sevon will continue to work through his demons and hopefully mend the scars on his heart. Chasing Sunrise has a summer 2014 projected release date. And it can’t come fast enough.
And what I have to say about this? Is what my thirteen-year-old self said all those years ago about writing down my nightmares:
“I see what you are, and you can’t hurt me anymore.”