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A week ago I returned from a trip to Argentina. I’d never traveled to South America before, and since it was the only continent (not counting Antarctica) I had yet to visit, I was excited. Even though I know South America has far more to see and experience, Iguazú Falls will remain the highlight of my trip — a profound spiritual experience.

On landing in Buenos Aires we took a shuttle to the other airport and flew directly to Iguazú. In planning the trip we’d learned there was a moonrise trek every full moon to the Devil’s Throat, the most dramatic section of the falls, and we managed to get tickets our party of ten. After a briefing by a park ranger we took a little train to the beginning of the walkway across branches of the river. The moon rose, and after a kilometer or so we came to the lip of the falls. I have no photos, but it was spectacular. We stood dripping and awe-stricken in the jungle night, and I’m glad we did it. But the following morning I realized how little we had actually seen.

IMG_0758Nothing prepared me for the sheer size of the cataract. A million gallons a second, I was told. 275 distinct waterfalls across almost three kilometers, the brochure said. Identified in 2011 as one of the planet’s seven wonders of nature, a plaque said. Data became meaningless. It was overwhelming. Over the next day and a half, I evolved through three ways of experiencing what it was.

The first phase was the most obvious: Spectacle. Immense, breath-taking. Every few IMG_0718steps I encountered a new vista to photograph. I was one of dozens recording the spectacle.

IMG_0738As I hiked the trails and catwalks, I gradually adapted to the magnitude of the spectacle. The falls became a kind of New-Age Inspiration. To my amazement and profound embarrassment I caught myself thinking psychobabble banalities and projecting them onto the natural beauty surrounding me. “Even this tiny rivulet is part of the massive river.” “We spent IMG_0726thousands of dollars to be here, but this tiny orchid lives here for free.” As I said, embarrassing. When a sophomoric slogan with Biblical overlays, “bloom where you’re planted,” came spewing out of my old ministerial subconscious, I had to turn away from the water in shame. Fortunately, that one also broke the spell which had me believing I was in charge of what my experience meant.

I abandoned my desire to project petty human IMG_0743“lessons” onto whatever this immense force of nature was doing. I finally stopped taking pictures to simply stand still and be open. It seemed to be roaring at me to listen. So I did. It became my teacher. I can’t put what it taught me into words, but I did feel its message enter my IMG_0738body, which shivered and swayed to receive it. It changed me. That is its enduring gift to me.

The CompanionJuly 23, 2014 — release day for The Companion, coming to you today from Dreamspinner Press. You can read the first two chapters here.

Well, I’ve got a great cover, an interesting (I think, anyway!) story, promotional blog posts organized. Hopefully some review sites will pick up the book and say nice things about it, causing millions of eager readers to buy their own copies.

I’d like to say that the project is now out of my hands, but in current-day publishing the burden of ongoing publicity sits in the author’s lap like an eight hundred pound gorilla, and he’s there for the life of the book.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. More like a friendly five hundred pound gorilla, very into hugs, sharing bananas and checking my hair for lice. For me the gorilla, friendly as he is, takes a lot of attention and energy, even for me just to keep breathing. Five hundred pounds is a lot, and I’m not a big guy.

I know it would be more social of me if I checked him for lice, too, but that’s still beyond what I’m prepared to do for book promotion. Just one step beyond checking for lice (and eating what you find, which gorillas expect) is doing drag karaoke with smudged mascara in a seedy bar at closing time, hoping someone will invite me to go home with him. I cling to the tattered shreds of my self-respect as it is… But I do share bananas with my gorilla. What can I say, it’s a start.

The only things that really are out of my hands are making word changes to the story, and whether people will like the story or not. There’s not a single thing I can do about those things. I’ve got twitter and facebook all primed, and most of my guest blog posts written. But right now all I can hear is — silence. As if I’m waiting for a storm to hit. Or maybe a movie deal! Uh-huh. In the meantime, it’s just me and my gorilla, hanging out, being friendly. I’ve got one banana left, and we’re probably going to have to share it before the first review comes in.

I should be patient about this. After all, the book took over a year to write, and then from contract to release was another seven months. But I’m fresh out of patience at the moment. Right now I want an avalanche of enthusiasm and gushing reviews to pour in on me and my gorilla friend, generating enough sales to keep us in bananas forever. Or at least until the next book is out.

I know there will be more rounds of publicity, more tweets, and hopefully a bunch of positive reviews. But right now it’s the middle of the night — 1:00am on the 23rd — with hours of darkness before the New York Times lands on my doorstep with its glowing review of the book, its crafted prose smooth as silk and oh, so clever in restrained, literary one-upmanship that lets everyone know they’re just a notch or two below the Gray Lady’s standard vocabulary. The review will be above the fold. Of course.

I’m not holding my breath for that. Or to be more accurate, if the five hundred pound gorilla in my lap actually allowed me to breathe, I would choose not to hold my breath. As it is, that’s already been decided for me.

Just got word from Wilde City Press that Enigma, my long-ish short story (or short novella, if you prefer) is scheduled for release on August 28th. That’s sooner than I’d expected, and I’m thrilled!

Enigma represents my entry into the PI Mystery genre, and I have several story ideas for Russ Morgan, my psychic, sober, 50 year-old PI living in Denver. Being of a certain age myself, I’ve been aware of how rare it is to find a protagonist that old in gay genre fiction. I’ll be interested to see how Russ does. To make things more interesting, Russ is single, having lost his loving partner during his drinking days. So there will be some romantic potential, too.

Here’s the blurb:

Who’s blackmailing the high-profile televangelist whose son was famously cured of his homosexuality fifteen years ago? Now in 2009, that ought to be ancient history.

It seems there’s no secret to protect, no crime, not even a clear demand for money—just four threatening letters using old Enigma songs from the 90’s. But they’ve got Reverend Howard Richardson spooked.

Proudly fifty and unhappily single, gay PI Russ Morgan has made peace with being a psychic empath, and he’s managed to build a decent life since getting sober. As he uncovers obscene secrets shrouded in seeming righteousness he might have to make peace with a sword of justice that cuts the innocent as deeply as the guilty.

I’ll post an excerpt as soon as the cover art is available.

What do you think about stories featuring a hero who is older? Is it a non-issue for you? A turn-off? Something you’d like to see more of? Let me know what you think!