"he would always be a broken thing."
It started with a green trench coat.
In the fog of a lost dream, it panned out to a man wearing said coat and talking to a cat with different colored eyes. The cat was talking back to him. There was a body in the street and it was raining.
I remember waking up with the image seared in my memory and I eventually wrote out the first sentence, then the first page, then what would eventually become the first chapter. I left it alone, let it gather dust in the cloud for years until the memory became so waxed over it was forgotten. I came across it again by sheer accident. I was still recovering from the rejection of being dropped by my publisher in the worst possible way, was in the throes of severe depression, had just suffered a family loss, and was starting to seek therapy because I didn't want to get back to the point of where I was in 2012-2013, when life didn't seem like it was valuable anymore. With the encouragement of my writer friends, I found life within this small chapter's pages again.
So I squelched my fears and found a different resolve. I would build this, I would finish this. One chapter became two, two became five, five stayed five for a good long while until the pandemic hit and forced me home. Staying home ended up being a blessing though (and probably deserves its own post), and through the receiving end of coaching I kept going. Five turned to ten, ten turned to
Before I knew it, a detective story about a lost friendship ended up being one about tragedy and mental health. My protagonist, Nikolai Brax, is constantly struggling with his mental illness - you see it in his ticks and his sudden lapses of panic and anxiety, his need to be around his partner all the time some days, the need to be completely alone on others. He is reminded and refers to himself as a "broken thing", and it became clear to me that that's what I thought I was - a broken thing put back together by people who had held onto my pieces when I thought I had lost them. I thought back to the green trench coat and realized what the color meant - healing and rebirth. Even in dreams, my characters were telling me they'd be there for me.
It's how Dee came about after all. I dreamt about Death dancing with her lover in the dark - it became my first novel. A Deathly Compromise was about me dealing with guilt and family tragedy. Shift is me finding therapy in my own words, dealing with my own mental illness, and realizing who I could truly count on as allies in my life. It was me finding my pride and culture and representation in Val Edison - a Puerto Rican woman in a science-fiction/fantasy setting - who struggles to balance what she wants for her own life and what her family expects of her (more of that particular struggle in Book Two).
Nikolai's specific struggle is not my own. Val's specific struggle is not my own. But my story - my heart - is interwoven into theirs, and while it's fiction, it's still my most honest work to date. I love these characters with every fiber of my being. They have become such a part of me simply because they are me. In writing their journeys, they taught me how to take care of myself, reminded me I had value. That is...immeasurable. As I was trying to give them hope, they gave it back to me. Regardless if a thousand people read this book
or ten, I'm content with knowing it provided a light in the darkness for me. It made me feel whole again.
Shift is now in the beta reader stages. Afterwards, I will polish it up in final edits and get it ready for querying/publication later this year. In the meantime, I'm working on a collaboration project and will get started on Book Two. The fun and learning never stops.
I'll end with this final note - please remember to take care of yourself. This story is not for the faint of heart, especially those with past and present issues. It will come with its own trigger warnings. May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth and I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much therapy, medication, and simply talking about my illness has positively affected my outcome. It saved me. I understand any or all of these methods are not for everyone, but reaching out to someone you trust, braving that first step, is a much bigger deal than you may recognize. It may seem small, but it's really a huge success. If you need to talk about anything, I'm here. If you need resources, please see below. Remember - you are loved.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24/7 support, Chat or phone: 1-800-273-8255
CRISIS TEXT LINE through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Free Service): TEXT 741741
IMAlive, offers instant support with a Chat Now button
Military OneSource Talkline (service members, veterans, and families), 1-800-342-9647
Mental Health Resources for Black, Indigenous, People of Color and LGBTQ+ Communities (attached doc)