Today is National Coming Out Day! But also... Wow, it feels like it's been a long time since I last posted a blog update and so much has happened since June. So I guess I'll start nearer to where we left off, before we get into the meat of today.
July had some wild things happen, not the least of which was the release of The Cryptid Chronicles: Here Be Monsters. And let me say, you guys showed up. The response to HBM has been wild and I'm blown away.
The reason I even bring the response up is because of how long it's been to get to the point where Here Be Monsters would be ready to publish. The whole story of the Cryptid Chronicles started in 2007, I think, so it's been stewing for a long time. It's been a whole journey of so many nights where I got way too little sleep, crying over not having a clue what the heck I was doing with the story, the characters absolutely rebelling against my plan, telling myself so many times that I had no right to even think of myself as a writer, and then finally the bittersweet exuberance of finishing the last chapter of the book. More than once, I had walked away from it, genuinely believing that the story should, and would be abandoned. But Cryptids just wouldn't go quietly into that good night. And now, more than a decade later, the second book is with my editor and the third and final book is actually coming together, fully outlined and plot mapped! So that's all a thing that happened.
Also in July, I attended the Once Upon A Book event in Frankenmuth, Michigan. And wow what an amazing experience. It was amazing to get to know other authors, readers and reviewers. I attended the conference along with Janel, my editor who also tagged along as my assistant for the weekend, as well as my close friend; author Victoria Perkins, as well as Krystal, who came as Vikki's assistant. The convention was an amazing and validating experience, both as an author and as a gay man. I'll get back to that part later though.
But OUAB wasn't without it's own set off issues. The convention was starting on a Friday, which meant I was traveling on Thursday. Well, late Monday night, I started feeling a pretty intense pain in my right, bottom, wisdom tooth. (Yes, I was one of those weird 35 year olds with their wisdom teeth.) Now, I've got a rather high pain tolerance, so when I awoke at 2:30 am on Tuesday in EXCRUTIATING pain, I knew it was bad and I naturally consulted Doctor Google, who immediately told me I had an abscess and would die in a matter of hours. So, I called my dentist at 7:30 in the morning and got an appointment for that afternoon which I expected to be an emergency root canal.
In the end, as I'm sure you guessed, it was not an abscess, but rather a structural deformity in my tooth that led to a small crack that went RIGHT TO THE NERVE. My dentist told me to see an oral surgeon to have the tooth pulled. Unfortunately the surgeon couldn't get me in before the convention, so I did OUAB in pain, which I coped with... I could deal with the pain as long as I knew it wasn't going to kill me.
I returned from the conference Sunday night and had an appointment for Wednesday afternoon... great.
Alas, it wasn't to be, on Tuesday, I discovered that I'd brought a hitchhiker home from the conference with me. Covid-19. By the grace of God, I was able to get a telehealth visit that night with my doctor who immediately prescribed me Paxlovid which got me through it pretty unscathed. Joey didn't do quite as well, and he had a bad fever and body aches. We made it through okay. But this meant I had to have the surgery postponed.
So, more than a week later, I'm finally doing better and have an appointment on a Monday to finally have the tooth pulled.
Skip to that Monday, the surgeon is in my mouth, and I'm full of Novocain. She's tugging and drilling and I'm crying. The surgeon realizes that I can feel everything she's doing so she goes in with four more full vials of Novocain, and we're off to the races again, drilling and tugging and I can still feel everything. At that point she tells me she's not comfortable doing it without me being sedated, but she can't do it that day. So I've got to come back that Friday. She also suggests that, all four of my wisdom teeth have similar defects and we'd be back year after year, so since I'm under, maybe we should just take all four. That seemed like a better option than doing this whole song and dance again so that was the plan.
But in the mean time, I had to wait until Friday, with my now split open tooth, in even MORE pain.
Thankfully, when Friday came around, the surgeon was able to put me under, get all four out and have me back around, all in about 35 minutes. But naturally, because I'd been anesthetized, Joey had to come and drive me home. Which was apparently pretty funny, since I just kept telling anyone who'd listen how pretty Joey is. The recovery period was utterly painless, and my mouth hasn't felt ANY pain since the surgeon put me under. So that was good.
September came around and I was able to get some more writing done, which was great, seeing how it had been tough writing anything between the conference, Covid, and my teeth. I was able to finish a draft of the sci-fi I'd been working on, and get that off to my editor, as well as receive Cryptids 2 from my editor and get it to a beta reader. The book is now in the third draft phase.
On top of finishing a book and drafting another, Joey and I went on our annual cruise vacation. Our friends Lauren and Andrew came with us and we had an amazing time.
Jump again to October, and I've felt like my life is still moving at a million miles a minute. I started working on notes for this year's NaNoWriMo. I'm pretty happy about it, actually. But I've also had a work conference. I sit on the board for that colleague group, so that was a whole ball of stress. And then last weekend, Joey and I took a mini vacation with some friends up to the Finger Lakes region where we toured so many wineries and pretended we were 21 again. Two and a half days of being wine drunk is a whole thing. But it was a great trip.
And that brings us to today. Today is National Coming Out Day, which happens to also be the day that I posted my first blog post ever, several years ago. It's a day, in some ways, of visibility. And I want to tell a quick story of something that happened at Once Upon A Book, that illustrates the importance of that visibility.
Early in the morning of the signing event at the conference, I had my table set up and some of those attending - readers, reviews, etc. - were just starting to enter the convention hall. As you can see from the image above, the PRIDE flag is front and center. I made this decision for a two reasons, one, so that people who were looking for queer stories could recognize it as a place to find them and so that those who don't want those stories could easily see that and know this isn't their bag without having a conversation that could turn uncomfortable for either of us.
As the attendees are entering the space, one young man, about 16 years old, makes his way around the convention hall and stops a few yards away from my table and just stares at me, before continuing his way around the space. Then he does it again, stopping and watching me. Then he does it again. And to be honest, I was preparing myself for some unpleasant conversations. After several loops through the space, the young man, starts stepping up to my table and I was braced for impact.
The young man puts his hands on the flag, smoothing it a bit under his palms, before he leans forward, across the table and whispers, "I thought I was going to be the only one here."
When I tell you my heart broke, I can assure you that those words fall short of what I felt. I told him that he's never alone. We continued, having a brief conversation before he moved along.
An hour later, the young man returns, this time with his mother. I wasn't sure what to expect, but any fear was quickly quelled when the mom thanked me for displaying the flag. She told me that he's always alone or afraid of being alone and that seeing someone proudly displaying the PRIDE flag and taking the time to have a conversation with him made him feel seen and included, like there was something to be excited about. They ended up getting all three of my books and before the convention was over, just a few hours later, the young man had returned again, more than half way through Thy Choicest Gifts and as in love with Sebastian and Rory as much as I am.
The conference was a huge success for me, multiple reviewer and readers; I sold out of Thy Choicest Gifts and Cryptids; and Opportunity wasn't far off either, but what made the whole thing worth it for me was the time I got interacting with that young man. If I didn't meet another person or sell a single book, it was all worth it to have that opportunity. It reminded my of just how important visibility is.
Being visible to the next generation of young, queer folks is massively important. We all know that feeling of being alone, afraid that there isn't anyone within a hundred miles who understands. And that loneliness is made all the worse when those lonely people hear refrains of hatred. The simple fact is that those comments and that loneliness drives far too many of us to the worst possible actions.
And not simply to remind each other that none of us are alone, but so that as other, non-queer people see it; it makes us seem less out of the ordinary; it shows them that we really are everywhere and we always have been. Queer visibility matters for each and every person, gay, bi, lesbian, straight, trans, cis, non-binary, queer gender, gender non-conforming, curious, and anyone else possible out there.
And so I leave you this National Coming Out Day with this reminder, as always:
You are seen; You are loved; You matter.