Friday, January 24, 2014

Three Interview Questions You’re Not Expecting with the Loverly Z.A. Maxfield!

As you may or may not be aware, my longtime pal Z.A. Maxfield is hitting the road again with a new book. My Heartache Cowboy is the sequel to her popular mainstream release My Cowboy Heart. (If you haven't read it, it's classic ZAM. What are you waiting for?!)

I invited Z.A. to stop by and amuse the troops, and she turned the tables on me and dragged me into the interview room too!


Hi Josh! Thanks for having me over here chez vous today! A lot of people probably know this by now, but you’re actually the reason I established an Internet blog presence. (I’m sure people are lining up to send you thank you cards. NOT)

I joined LiveJournal to read those posts you used to write about writers, writing, and the work you were doing back then. You were right in the middle of Adrien English and just starting to explore the world of Romance… I think I came in right around the release of The Dark Horse, and of course that led me to read the book The Charioteer by Mary Renault.

I looked to you and other successful writers like you back then for book recommends, writing tips, moral support, and a shoulder to cry on and you have always been so generous. Not only with me, but with all the people in your sphere of influence. So thanks for everything you’ve done, I wish I could be as good a mentee as you’ve been at mentoring me, but hey…I can only do what I can do…

I guess you can’t blame the path for the people on it… *snorts*  

Today I thought I’d do an interview format, and see if you’ll answer too…  

Three Interview Questions You’re Not Expecting.  

Three Books On A Desert Island -- This is like Marry, Kill or Shag only with books. You’ve got nothing to do, you have nothing to burn, and you have no toilet paper. What you do have is three books from tenth grade English. Fahrenheit 451, A Tale of Two Cities, and A Separate Peace. Read, burn, er...utilize in another way. Go... 

ZAM - Are there no leaves on this island? Is there no driftwood? Must I??? Really, must I???? 

Okay, if I must, I’d have to say, it just seems fitting to burn Fahrenheit 451, doesn’t it? I’ve read it, and I enjoyed it, but it’s not going to keep me warm unless I burn it.  

A Tale of Two Cities? Yep. I’m keeping that one. Not because I love a Separate Peace any less, but because if I’m going to spend all my time crying on a desert island, I’m going to do it with a longer read. It will take more of my time to get through A Tale of Two Cities than to read A Separate Peace, but the outcome is going to be the same: red swollen eyes, sobbing and despair. But at least at the end of A Tale of Two Cities, it will be a noble kind of despair.

True, and somewhat funny/sad story. On my daughter’s 10th grade language arts syllabus, right on the top, the teacher put the 1 (800) number for the Teen Suicide Prevention Hotline. It was almost as if they took a look at books like A Separate Peace, A Tale of Two Cities, Of Mice and Men, The Brute, Medea, Frankenstein, and Antigone and thought, wait…


Josh? Do you want to play with those books, or do you want to spin the magic wheel of books and find three different books for your answer? 

Awww. I love A Separate Peace. I get choked up just thinking about it! I’m saving that. Anyway, I’m probably saving all of them because apparently I’m going to be dying of starvation and exposure quite soon anyway, so I’ll need something to take my mind off it. Reading and bracing sea baths. If I do break down, the first book I eat will be Fahrenheit 451, as I’ve always found it a lot to digest.


What will you bring for the coming cowboy apocalypse? Forget Zombies, the Cowboys are coming. Here’s what I’m bringing:

 Texas Caviar

1/2 onion finely diced

1/2 cup each finely diced red and green bell peppers

1 bunch green onions finely chopped (white part and some green)

1/2 bunch chopped parsley

1 basket cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 jalapeno peppers seeded and finely chopped (wear gloves, please)

1 T. fresh oregano chopped

3 T. minced garlic

2 cups vinaigrette

3 cans (15 ounce) black eyed peas rinsed and drained

1 can black beans

Combine all ingredients and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Serve with tortilla chips and lots of beer.

Funny/true story. My husband bought a bag of “UCLA corn chips” at Christmas. This did nothing to amuse my UCSC and UCI students, despite the fact that they were blue and gold, the correct colors for both my kids’ schools. Apparently they tasted, “Of betrayal.”

Josh, what are you bringing to the Cowboy Apocalypse?

 Oh man, I LOVE that Texas Caviar stuff. One reason I prefer zombies to cowboys is they don’t care about the hors d’oeuvres. MORE FOR ME.

Well, let’s see. You may be surprised to hear I spent several formative summers with cowboys. Elderly cowboys, yes, but cowboys nonetheless. So I am bringing what I know cowboys love. A twelve-pack of Coors beer (I know, I know!!) and the hottest freaking chili I can find.

I don’t eat chili though, so I will ask our readers to supply me with some good chili recipes. Anybody have a good chili recipe out there? Best chili recipe ever? Come on!  

And finally, which of your characters would survive a round of no-holds-barred dodgeball?

Out of all my characters, I think the winner would be Yamane from Drawn Together. Yamane’s tough. He’s resilient. I wrote him to be a true badass, deep down. I’m always likely to pick the little guy to win -- the underdog, the one who’s a little outmanned and outgunned but never outsmarted. That’s just how I like things, so naturally, I’m going to pick the most unlikely character and let him win it all.

Apologies to Samuel Colt, but fiction is the great equalizer. In my work, I have the opportunity to right all the world’s wrongs (as I see them) and settle old scores through the characters I create. So look out, ballers. Yamane is coming atcha.

 Josh? Which of your guys is the biggest badass.

Hmm. I was going to let Taylor MacAllister from the Dangerous Ground series take this one; he’s good at sports and is definitely a bad ass, but then I thought noooo, let’s let a REAL athlete at this one. So I’m choosing Mitchell Evans of Lone Star. Yeah, he’s a ballet dancer, and probably the only character I’ve created who can lift a grown woman over his head. He can leap six feet off the ground from a full stop, so I think he’s probably got this dodgeball thing nailed.

Thank you to Z.A. for stopping by -- and here's wishing her another bestseller!

Enter the Giveaway for Z.A. Maxfield's MY COWBOY HEARTACHE!

My Heartache Cowboy
(Cowboy Series, Bk #2) By Z.A. Maxfield
Can love conquer all? Jimmy Rafferty and Eddie Molina go way back at the J-Bar ranch. They’ve worked together, bunked together, camped out, and drank together. So how has Jimmy failed to notice that Eddie is gay? Eddie has not failed to notice that his friend has a serious drinking problem, and he’s determined to help Jimmy kick the booze cold turkey. Taking him up to a snowbound cabin to detox, Eddie is confronted with Jimmy’s fierce denial. But the pains of withdrawal are nothing for Jimmy compared with the heartache of denying his true feelings and his deep longing for the one man who cares for him more than anyone else on earth.
Available for purchase at
When I woke, I was alone and the truck wasn’t moving.
Who the hell did Eddie think he was, leaving me asleep by myself in a truck outside in the freezing cold? My pa and my older brother, Jonas, used to do that. We’d be on the road, and when I fell asleep, they’d leave me in the parking lot of some dive bar or motel--just leave me asleep outside in the dark. I’d wake up with no clue where I was, no idea if they were coming back or if I should go in and try to find them.
My first useful thought was to look for the keys, because I hadn’t forgotten what Eddie said. I hadn’t forgotten the plans him and boss Malloy made for me behind my back. It would serve them right if I up and hightailed it back to the J-Bar with Eddie’s truck and no Eddie.
No keys.
Not like that was going to stop me. Where the hell did Eddie get the idea I’d go quietly? I slid over and tore the wiring out from under the dash. Found what I needed without hardly even looking.
I hated waking up alone like that. Unwanted. Abandoned.
One twist. Two. Touch the wires together and the engine should . . .
What the hell? I checked I got the proper color-coated strands and tried again. I was frowning down at the mess of tangled wire when someone tapped on the window behind me.
I glanced up and saw Eddie frowning down, no doubt pissed at what I’d done to his truck. Serves you right for leaving me like that, you prick.
“You need a working engine for that,” he told me as he opened the door. “One that has a battery.”
“Fuck you.” I spilled out of the car ready for a fistfight.
“What?” Eddie jumped back.
“Why did you have to leave me like that? What did I ever do to you?”
Eddie shook his head at me. “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. You were sound asleep and I thought maybe you needed it.”
I took a swing at him. “I hate waking up alone in a car like that.”
Ed plucked my fist from the air and peered at me like he was trying to see through my skin. “I didn’t know.”
“I hate that. Left behind in the car like a damn dog. Like a fucking duffel bag. You can’t be bothered to even wake me up and take me in out of the fucking snow.”
Now Eddie frowned like he was thinking about it. Now, after the fact. “I’m sorry, Jimmy. I didn’t think how you’d feel waking up alone like that. I won’t do it again.”
“Would have served you right if I took your truck and left you up here to walk back to civilization, wherever the hell that is. Would have served you right if I’d died out here.”
“All right, all right. Simmer down now.”
I glared at him. “Fuck you.”
“It’s pretty civilized inside. How about you come in with me.”
“How about you suck my fucking--”
“That’s enough.” He turned and headed toward the cabin’s welcoming front door. “I almost didn’t bother to disable the damn thing, but I thought on the off chance you knew what you were doing and could--”
“Which I did,” I pointed out.
“Come inside.” He jerked his chin toward the cabin like I was a dog and I was supposed to just follow along and yip around at his heels.
I debated making a run at him, but frankly, Eddie was a tough buzzard. He wasn’t too much older than me, just forty-two compared to my thirty-eight. But I was a lover, not a fighter, or at least that’s how I thought of myself. Back there on the road, Eddie had proved he wasn’t above using violence to get his way in this, so I went along.
You’re going to have to sleep sometime.
Eddie led me into a rustic-looking cabin that seemed awful nice for the middle of nowhere. There was a place for us to hang our hats just inside the door, over a table with a passel of pictures on it. There were old time black-and-whites of families and framed pictures of a good-looking man, a pretty woman, and some kids. There were some of the kids alone, and holy cow, there were probably a dozen pictures of Ed. He looked so young in a couple of them, they must have been from before we met.
One of Ed and the unknown man caught my eye. Something about the difference in height, the casual way they leaned together, the way they looked at each other, made me think this was Ed’s friend from the road, Don. Even though they’d both aged some since it was taken, I was almost sure of it.
No knobby hands, no weathered angel, this Don was good looking, without a doubt. He was lanky and chiseled. He had an intelligent face and a smile that drew the eye. He seemed sure of himself and charming. Whatever I’d seen in the darkness outside the car had to be a trick of the light.
Ed looked so young and earnest next to him it took my breath away. Brawny and tan, he wore a yoked Western shirt with the sleeves rolled up past well-muscled forearms and he eyed Don like he would follow him anywhere.
And that Don, he looked like he could appreciate a guy like Ed, as well.
Hadn't I seen firsthand how much he did appreciate him?
About the Author
Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back. Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. Three things reverberate throughout all her stories: Unconditional love, redemption, and the belief that miracles happen when we least expect them. If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four can find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”
You can find ZA Maxfield at
$50 Gift Card

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Secret to my Success

Every so often I get an email from someone, generally a newish writer, asking if I would share some of the secrets on how I got to be where I am right now.

It’s only fair to point out that “where I am right now” is one of the leading writers in a very small sub-genre of romance. It’s not like I’ve hit the NYT Bestseller list, although I guess I probably earn as much or more as some NYT Bestsellers.

How much did I earn last year? It looks like I grossed -- grossed -- around $300Kish. Let me repeat again, GROSSED. That’s not how much I took home at the end of the year -- success doesn’t come cheap and I have invested heavily in my so-called success. One example: over 20K on producing audio books this year (and because I'm self-employed, I  pay 40% in taxes).

How did I do it?


Well, to begin with, some of my success is unique to me. I have been writing professionally over twenty years and it shows. It better show after twenty years! My first professional publication credit was at age 16.  Over the years I have developed what is called “a voice.” Fortunately enough readers enjoy reading that voice.

As you can imagine, publishing has changed a lot since I began way back when. In fact, there are times I feel that everything I once knew for a certainty in publishing is now…wrong. Or at least outdated.

For example: How often to publish. In the old days it was a series book every couple of years. Then every year. I remember having a minor panic attack when -- nearly a decade ago -- a bookseller told me I needed a new series book out every nine months. And now? Now series books are launched anywhere from every three to six months.

I’ll be honest. I struggle with that.


But anyway, the secret of my success.

Part of my success is I landed in a relatively small but promising sub-genre before the glut. I got here before the rush. That’s simply timing. I didn’t plan that. I was just writing what I loved to write. I arrived early and I arrived with a small, already established readership. Not a fan fiction-sized readership, I admit, but a loyal readership. Also, being an outsider helped. I was a novelty. I came from gay fiction and mainstream publishing. I had the advantage of being something new.

Again, this is all luck. I didn’t plan it.

Two things I did consciously do. I worked hard to build a quality backlist. And I interacted constantly and consistently with readers. I treated readers like I would want to be treated if I was brave enough to contact my favorite writers.

That’s basically how I got where I am. Luck and hard work. The luck was in the timing. The hard work was in the consistent and sustained effort to build a quality backlist and lasting relationships with readers.

I’m not sure if that’s helpful to new writers or not because luck can’t be managed and the hard work I put in seven years ago is irrelevant given current publishing conditions. Every author I know is now interacting feverishly with readers and breaking her or his back to push out a book every two months. Still, these two things remain the cornerstone of any successful modern writing career.


What advice would I give a new and aspiring writer in this genre?


1 - Write the best possible book you have in you. Publish every three months. In the short term, quantity counts. In the long term, quality. If you want your writing career to last more than a decade, take the time to write quality stories. Write them as fast as you can without sacrificing quality. You need about four “big” releases a year. More than that and you’re probably cutting corners somewhere. (I should probably qualify that a "big" release doesn't refer to word count. It refers to how much promo effort you're going to give to it.)


2 - Take advantage of every promotional opportunity that comes your way (and stop whining about how you’re a writer not a marketer -- no flipping kidding! -- NONE of us enjoy the promotion part of it, so get over yourself and act like a grown-up professional). No matter how small, no matter how insignificant, take every promo op that comes your way. And look for additional opportunities. Hunt them down. When you start out, you have to work your butt off to get known.


3 - Be realistic.  This sounds silly, but having realistic expectations will save wear and tear on your nerves and keep your creativity and productivity high. Nothing kills creativity like depression. And by “realistic” I mean PATIENT. I mean INFORMED. Know thy industry. I cannot help noticing a pattern whereby a relatively newish writer puts out a book that gets nice, enthusiastic reviews, hits the Amazon bestseller list and believes she’s arrived. Alternatively, a newish writer puts out a book and doesn’t get great reviews (or any reviews) and doesn’t hit the bestseller list and thinks her career is over.

Sorry. It doesn’t work like that. For most of us, success is the result of cumulative and sustained effort over a long period of time. As in YEARS.


4 - Keep honing your craft. Nobody likes to hear this, but if you’ve been professionally published for less than ten years, you still don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Honestly. We’re all still learning our craft. I’m still learning my craft. I look back at stuff I wrote ten years ago, and I wince. I hope I keep wincing. I hope ten years from now I’m wincing at what I’m writing today. As humans we’re always, always learning and growing, right? All through our lives? Well, ideally that’s happening with our art as well. We should keep getting better. (Up until the point we get old and fall apart, but let’s not think about that.)


There are other bits of advice, of course: pick the right publishing partners, hit your deadlines, read, be courteous, invest in your success, think out of the box, stay informed, create good Karma for yourself, etc.


If I had to give you one single piece of good advice -- it’s the same piece of advice that writers have been handing out to each other since the dawn of the printing press: always write the best book you possibly can at this particular place and time. I'm not saying this guarantees success, but if nothing else, there is satisfaction in knowing you always gave your best to everything you did.





Monday, January 6, 2014

And the winners are...

I so enjoyed -- was so cheered and inspired by these lovely thoughts -- that I'm kicking up the giveaway audio books to ten. :-)

Our winners are:

Pauper Joe
Pat B
Karen H

Congratulations! Contact me with your email address and we'll get you hooked up and listening to your next story. :-)

Thank you all for contributing your winter loves this weekend. These Five Things blogs are some of my very favorites.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Five Things I Love

It's time for another Five Things I Love post. We do these daily in my Goodreads group, but I like to do them here seasonally on the blog as well. The last time was in the autumn and we've had plenty to love since then!

So as before, I'm giving away five audio books. This time it's The Dark Tide, the fifth and final (at least for the foreseeable future) Adrien English novel. Share five things you like about winter in the comments below to be entered for the audio book giveaway. I won't pick the winners until Sunday night.

Five things I love about winter:

1 - Rain

2 - The holidays. Yes, I'm glad they're over, and in all honesty this wasn't the best set of holidays ever given that I was working and/or sick through them, but I still love the holiday season. The holly and jolly, the hustle and bustle, the hurly and burly -- er, wait. Wrong holiday, that last one. But still!

3 - Documentaries. True, I watch documentaries all the time, but I watch more of them in the winter. This week I watched Black Fish. Fascinating -- and let me just say I won't be sharing my tourist dollars with SeaWorld anytime soon.

4 - The feel of sunlight on my face. Somehow it's warmer, sweeter, softer in winter. Maybe it's the promise of spring.

5 - Reading. I read all year long, but reading is especially pleasurable in the winter, I think. There's something about wrapping yourself in a warm blanket and settling down in front of the fire with a drink and a book. Nothing beats it.

Now you. Five things you love about winter for a chance at winning The Dark Tide in audio.