Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak!
Self-initiated Cover Design | Author of Hybrid-Memoir Novel, February 2023

Book Release

Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak! will be available starting June 19, 2023.

I am officially self-publishing my first novel, stay tuned for details!

The Pitch

Based on real life events; during an evening of celebration and reflection, a queer, troubled artist relives traumatic life changing experiences to help a stranger overcome her own grief and loss, unaware that the two are profoundly connected.


Updated May 21, 2023

The Treasure Coast of Florida is a community that navigates a narrow route between historic and modern southern culture. Embracing and celebrating people of color or any that identify as LGBTQ has not always been a welcome stop along that route, but nationwide tragedies have altered the course.

Like a treasured black opal, this evening is a vibrant spectrum of color, deepened by dark, cloudy matter. An assortment of emotions is reflected in the artwork speckled throughout the exhibition tonight; an event fundraiser for the somber matter of LGBTQ Suicide Prevention. Dignitaries, philanthropists, and the community’s wealthy elite have gathered to socialize and donate money to this year’s political hot topic.

Sid is a promising, queer, digital artist that suffers from a severe lack of confidence. While onlookers are captivated by his artwork, he worries that it’s out of place, like him, at the event. The arrival of two strangers seized by his work, sway Sid to reveal the true and traumatic, inspiring story behind his piece. As the night unravels and more of Sid’s past is revealed, a profound connection between them leads Sid and the strangers to new depths of understanding and forgiveness.

My First, Completed Novel

In 2023, following the death of my great-grandmother, Mary F. Black, I decided to stop allowing emotional traumas that haunt me to stockpile. I quit my new job as an art teacher at Dan McCarty Middle School to shift focus on my mental health; I believe that it’s necessary to take a pause and resolve internal conflicts before we continue moving forward in all aspects of our lives.

Fortunately, decisions I made throughout my life, along with my partner’s support and the grace of God, provided me with enough stability to be able to achieve this moment. Part of my grief and release process has been to reflect on past experiences, my role and the role of others in them. One such reflection resulted in actually writing a book, my first fully completed 50K+ novel.

…And I achieved it in 14-days.

You Should Write A Book

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve told a story about an experience or journey in your life that resulted in being told “you should write a book”, then you know how this came about. Having a rather unique perspective as someone who’s mixed (hispanic, black and white), adopted and raised by a traditional generation, and gay, has made my experiences full of wonder and intrigue to many people. When I share my life experiences, people often tell me that in their whole life they’ve never dealt with a portion of what I’ve described, and for decades I just wrote those responses off as something people say.

The last time I shared my life’s journey with someone, I was working at Indian River State College and visiting another department to drop off deposits. In this department, a woman named Patricia R. was my point of contact for the task. We’d talk as we counted money and she’d laugh and cry with me as I shared the hilarious and tragic events that unfolded in my life. Patricia told me, like so many others, that I should write a book about my life because people need to know what it’s like for someone like me to exist in a world like this. He laughter and tears were convincing.

But, what do I – a visual artist and designer – know about writing?


The goal of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is to get would-be authors writing for the month of November, and to end the month with a 50,000 word novel. In 2017, I joined as a competitor, but my journey towards writing this book actually began in 2013 when I first learned about NaNoWriMo. At that time, I was the Marketing Manager for The River Shop of Indian River State College, and I was seeking meaningful, thought-provoking, and aspirational promotions that would both benefit the store, make sense in a collegiate setting, and inspire greatness in students. I heard of National Novel Writing Month, but didn’t know there was an organization associated with it until I started digging into it.

Dr. Danny Hoey – A NaNoWriMo Finalist

In 2014, an English Professor named Dr. Danny Hoey was working at Indian River State College, and heard about my interest in bringing NaNoWriMo to IRSC. This piqued his interest not just because he was an English Prof, but because he had completed the challenge with his own published novel, The Butterfly Lady. Dr. Hoey told me about his book, gave me a signed copy and enlisted himself to my aid for promoting the event.

Danny M. Hoey, Jr.’s The Butterfly Lady presents haunting characters that ask – demand – a great deal: Understand and embrace the complications and nuances of African-American identity. Arm yourself with these revelations. This is a terrific novel; devastating and hopeful because Hoey so unflinchingly educates the reader. He writes with the fierceness and truth of James Baldwin and has given us a story that lingers and informs long after the last sentence.

– Dana Johnson, author of Elsewhere, California and Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award

As I got more involved, we offered NaNoWriMo weekly Write-in Events, or focused writing time at a particular location with a NaNoWriMo Liaison present for support, and Dr. Hoey spoke to students in our cafe about the process during special, advertised events. After reading his book, I was more convinced that it was possible to complete a novel in one month, that I too could tell a great story in 30-days and 50,000 words. I was inspired to attempt writing a book, yet each year I started after about a week into it, I became overwhelmed with work and life, and didn’t get much further than a few thousand words.

And That’s OK

The journey started in 2013 and I completed my first novel 10 years later in 2023. Albeit outside the actual month of November, I felt the urge and committed myself. NaNoWriMo inspired me, educated me as to the different types of novels, and all that within a ten year period formed what I have now written.

The hardest part in the last decade was that I was trying to write a fictitious story, but my heart wanted to tell my story. I just hadn’t figured out how to do that yet. It took 10 years to keep rebooting an attempt until I discovered how the present can tell the past and help me deal with my emotions simultaneously.

A Story 20+ Years in the Making

At the core of Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak! is a coming of age, romantically-charged story between two best friends. A classic story of unrequited love that takes place on a birthday weekend. That weekend and all its details are my recollection of what really happened between me and my best friend more than 20 years ago. It’s a memory that has stayed vivid in my mind since the moment it happened. It’s something I still learn from today and have shared with people that came and left my life over the past two decades because of it’s significance in my life.

Over the years, I’ve attempted to tell this story in various ways. It began as a screenplay, then evolved into an unreleased YouTube video for National Coming Out Day, then into a condensed version as a Tik Tok – also unreleased, then began to appear in an interview on A Soul’s Quest Podcast, but I stopped myself because it would lack the details necessary to understand the story in totality. It took me 10 years to figure it out, but I finally decided on a hybrid novel between fiction and memoir to convey this life-changing event from my personal history.

Sid Black AKA Siddael ‘Aswad

In middle school, when I had my first identity crisis, I adopted the name Sid Black. Sid was short for Obsidian and Black was my great-grandfather’s surname. The moniker stuck with me as an alter-ego in my peer group until I graduated high school. I adopted the moniker Nolli in 2015 when I sought a new identity more attuned to the artist I had become. Ironically, I received a letter addressed to Sid Black in the mail just as I was beginning to write this novel. A name I used 25-years ago that I had forgotten, suddenly reappeared as if he were a living person getting mail at my address. Surely he must live here too, then. So, I translated the name into Arabic adding another depth of multiculturalism to the character he would embody.

The experiences of Siddael in the novel are an expression of my inner self. The exhibition that happens in the story, is fictitious, but based on a very similar event with very similar people and situations. When I experienced this past moment in my life, I was Sid. So in this alternate reality of my experiences, Sid continues to live and endures the life I endured, but he gets to resolve his feelings over things that I have found no closure for.

Sid is my closure.

Everything’s Not As It Seems

The design for this cover conveys mystery, emotional trauma, and provocative sexual awakening. At its base is a photograph I took more than 20 years ago of my best friend following a wrestling match between us. As he laid there on the floor beneath me, I had my camera close enough that I was able to grab it and capture the moment. His face is obscured by a streak of blue dappled with the opalescence of a fire opal burning in the light. Two additional photos from Unsplash, photo credits to James Giddins and David Libeert, are also used for texture and symbology.

The Union Jack image was inserted to pay homage to Boy George. While the image of Jesus, torn away from the metal substrate, is representative for Christians’ affect on people, the distorted dogma, and the loss of Jesus’s one true goal; unification between people through love. Ideas of morally right and wrong actions and behaviors are misconstrued and manipulated to serve individual purposes and fears. Lives are ruined for ambiguous meanings in a book that has been edited, mistranslated, and used to commit sins that clearly miss the message of Christ. Above all else, love one another.

Additionally, the lyrics to Culture Club’s top song, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, add depth and meaning to the piece as they further connect Boy George to the story, but also cast intrigue onto the model. The lyrics suggest that the boy in the photo is hurting our main character, but the mystery behind the story leads us to ask who is hurting who?


Without the influence, the support, and the words of encouragement or the roles played by these people in my life, I’d not have completed this project.

Directly from the book:

For the beautiful life that you provided to me, in raising me to be loving, compassionate, and truthful, to have humility and to seek moderation in all things – I thank you, John W. and Mary F. Black, my adoptive parents. You will both forever be missed by those of us left drifting in your wake. 

My life partner, Manuel Rubio-McMillon, I thank you for the daily love and inspiration that you give me. It sustains me, and gives me shelter from the tumultuous circumstances that life brings. We compliment each other in the only ways that truly matter. 

My sister, Roxanna Vega, I thank you for providing me with the comfort that comes with knowing that I am not alone in this world. You are my favorite person because you see the world as I see it, but you deal with it in such a magnificently adult way that I can only admire. Everyday I am more and more thankful that I was blessed with you in my life, sister.

Alicia Vega, my biological mother, who became my best friend and stepped back into the role of mom on her second coming. No one I have ever met or known, has changed their life in as dramatic a way as you have. Neither has no one I have ever met or known, lost as many lovers, friends, and family. Your ability to move forward with their losses as love towards others is more than an inspiration. It’s the very core of what it means to be compassionate. Alicia, you are a saint; the world just doesn’t know it yet.

A special thank you to my cousin, Calvin McMillon. He’s the first writer in our family that inspired me to take up the craft and seek satisfaction through all the means that my spirit yearns for.

Boy George – Thank you just for being you. You lended me and countless others your courage in the face of bigotry, exclusion, and hate. Damn you for the cost, but I graciously thank you for the reward that it is to stand and proudly say, I’m gay.

Lastly, an acknowledgement to the reason that I wrote this story. To the memory of C.A.S. I’m sorry I had to kill you. In a poetic way, we killed each other, I’ve never been the same since that day. This, this is the next best thing to closure I could come up with. You were such an incredible force in my life, one with an equal and opposite reaction that I…

We say we love someone, but how can it have fidelity in a reality where we both exist as strangers. True, unconditional love isn’t convenient. If you can just drop someone out of your life, then that word should only ever leave your lips with the conditions that you mean it by. Otherwise you’ve made yourself the monster of someone else’s tragic love story.
This is our story, and I did my best to capture all the details. I doubt you’ll remember me, if you couldn’t remember that I was your gay best friend – that’s ok. I remembered enough for the both of us – I’ll never forget you. With this, I lay that version of you to rest in my memory. With this, you’re dead to me now, and I am haunted by the ghost of you no more.
Ashes to ashes.
Dust to dust.
I love you.
I miss you.

Nolli, Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak!

Extended Acknowledgements

  • Patricia Ramcharan – Every opportunity that I had to visit you in your office, you took a moment from your busy day to listen to my crazy life adventures and give me advice that was speckled with wisdom. I thank you, whole heartedly for believing me and listening to me. I finally did it, one of those stories became a book.
  • Max Hodge – Our friendship has been a lot like the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet. It hit a storm that it could not weather and sunk, but years later, the treasure it carried appeared from the depths of the ocean. We may not be as we once were, but I continue to love you and send you light as perhaps you do for me. Your help in editing this novel is a treasured gift that I am thankful for. Thank you, Max.
  • Jonathan Bracero – Thank you for always listening to my stories and encouraging me to tell them. Before you, there weren’t many people that cared to invest any time into hearing about my past. Your friendship brought me a new hobby; pleasure reading. You’re an amazing person, and I can’t thank you enough for the friendship you’ve provided to me.
  • Dr. Danny Hoey – Meeting you was an inspiring moment in my life. You’re a man with ambition and goals that conquers each as they reveal themselves.

Path To Publication Updates

Submitted February 14, 2023 to Sundress Publications Summer Literary Publication Contest.

Submitted April 17, 2023 to Literary Agent Emmy Nordstrom Higdon of Westwood Creative Artists.

Chapter Title Playlist

Each chapter of Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak! is titled with a song that was congruent with my mood during it’s writing. If you have Apple Music, here’s a link to the playlist. For everyone else, I have collected the music videos here for your listening and viewing pleasure. Viewer Discretion Advised.

Boy George – Catalyst for Change

Chapter 1 – Only by the Nine Inch Nails

Chapter 2 – Possession by Sarah Mclauchlan

Chapter 3 – Too Late (Instrumental) by No Doubt

Chapter 4 – Here With Me by Dido

Chapter 5 – Torn by Natalie Imbruglia

Chapter 6 – Bleach by Ellie Goulding

Chapter 7 – Dark Necessities by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Chapter 8 – Crash Into Me by The Dave Matthews Band

Chapter 9 – Uninvited by Alanis Morissette

Chapter 10 – Undisclosed Desires by MUSE

Chapter 11 – The Unforgiven by Metallica

Chapter 12 – Krwlng by Linkin Park

Chapter 13 – Far From Heaven by Evanescence

Bonus – Wasted On You by Evanescence

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