For Celeste, the Lady of the Mountain

Have you ever started a book and wondered at its dedication? What did Sally do to deserve such attention? you might ask. Or, How exactly did Kurt influence the narrative I'm about to read?

My first book was for Justin, the dark-haired man. It had to be. Justin is the light of my life. Anyone with a 'light in their life' can say, however, that such love does not come easily. I view much of both The King's Sun and The King's Fear as a narrative of our decade-long relationship.

The King's Fear is for my friend Celeste. A member of the Mescalero Apache tribe, I worked with her for a couple of years out in New Mexico. Stubborn and hard-headed, she yelled at me every time I walked over to her desk with coffee on my breath. She got her revenge by drinking me under the table. Twice, because I was young and stupid. While opinionated, she was open enough to change her mind about sexuality. When she first learned I was gay, she asked me why I would make that choice. Over the course of many months and conversations, her views on the subject came more in line with reality...that sexuality is not a choice, but an intrinsic part of who one is.

Back in 2009, I was struggling with the decision to stay in New Mexico or return to Illinois. At one point, I had a dream, which I had summarized in a previous blog post:

Standing alone in a forest, I was staring at a house on the side of a hill. It was out of place and, while well maintained, there were no signs of outdoor activity. There was someone inside the house, though. I knew exactly who it was, though I had not yet met them (and would not until February 21, 2010). Suddenly, a coworker of mine, a Native American woman I considered a good friend, appeared next to me. I understood that she was there as a guide, and she said that it was okay to move forward. What was in the house was good. It was my path. It was my way. With that, I went inside.

It was a powerful dream, and it changed my life. I moved back to Illinois. I met Justin. So profound was it that I had to include it as a scene in The King's Sun, with Kitsune receiving guidance from the Lady of the Mountain.

My intention has always been to return to New Mexico one day. To see the mountains, forests, and deserts. Celeste often spoke about opening a campground on the reservation, and I promised to come and visit.

In July of 2016, I received word that Celeste had passed away the year before. The news stung. In writing The King's Sun, in envisioning Celeste as the Lady of the Mountain, she had become an eternal presence in my mind. Someone magical and forever. Though, by appearing to me in my own dream, by setting into a motion a series of events that brought me to where I am today, I suppose she truly is.

To Celeste, the Lady of the Mountain.

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Christmas Curmudgeon

Over the summer, we discovered that our deck was rotting away. It wasn't a complete surprise, as the feeble structure swayed whenever more than two people stood on it, but it was a problem we were trying to ignore for another year or two. Since our home's siding was being replaced, we decided to replace the deck. Naturally, upon its completion, an early winter settled in over northern Illinois, limiting its usefulness to the dogs. It has put me in a bit of a funk. The cold does that to me, but also watching good things go unused.

After a year and a half of writing, the first draft of Book 2 of The Brass Machine series was completed a few weeks ago. I'm in the middle of a mad two-month dash of editing, tweaking, soliciting feedback from beta readers, and even more tweaking before the manuscript goes to the editor in February. Should all things continue to go well, the book should be released in May 2019, a year after The King's Sun.

Looking forward, I can't wait to start on Book 3. I'm fascinated to see where characters old and new will go and how everything will wrap up.

At the same time, the list of book projects continues to grow in my head. I'm already 50k words into a fantasy book that has been sitting for five years. A murder mystery, laced with dark humor, has been brewing for over three years, its characters already fleshed out. An epic space-based science fiction series I thought up back in college (and probably best on the backburner while I hone my skills) is still waiting to fly. Perversely, my aversion to the Christmas season this year has given birth to a cutesy (and kinky!) holiday gay romance.

So many good things going unused, waiting for the cold to retreat and their time to come. Having to wait...it has put me in a bit of a funk.

Not to worry - I've been focusing all that energy and emotion into the finishing touches of Book 2. I am really excited to see what next year brings!

Author Interview

July was not that long ago, but so much stuff has been crammed into the past three months! Went on my yearly gay camping trip, an event that continues to provide inspiration for a future book. Also went to Vegas for the second time. The great thing about traveling is that interesting, colorful people are around every corner, unwittingly fueling my imagination with character details.

My friend Lindsay and I enjoying the view from atop the Stratosphere in Las Vegas!

My friend Lindsay and I enjoying the view from atop the Stratosphere in Las Vegas!

The editor gave some wonderful feedback on Book 2's first two chapters, and I spent some time reworking some details. Additionally, I'll be reaching the 70k word mark this weekend. Beta readers are lined up for late this year, and time has been booked with the editor in February. I've got a deadline!

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Tim Barber of Dissect Designs did an awesome job of creating the cover for The King's Sun. He recently interviewed me, and you can read the article over on his website. I talk about the 14 year journey of bringing the book to life, including what inspired the idea and my writing process. Check it out! There are other author interviews if you like to read up on some behind-the-scenes details.