Good morrow to you all! Today's guest is the uber-talented Z A Maxfield, who has stopped by to tell us all about her latest release, The Book of Daniel, which is the Fourth book in the Nacho Series.
Thank you for joining me on the sofa, ZAM and for agreeing to answer some questions for us...
1. So who is ZAM?
ZAM’s a reader, a housewife, a mother of four, and someone who simply loves words for their own sake. I love feeling them on my tongue and letting them fly (via my computer) from my fingertips.
2. Tell us a bit about your current WIP / latest release.
I just released The Book Of Daniel. That’s the fourth story in the St. Nacho’s series. Those four books are stand alone novels that take place in the same small fictitious town
3. How do you work, do you pick a title first, or characters names, or how they look?
Usually the way I work is I start with an idea for a scene starring two interest characters. Often it involves a meet cute, or it’s an excuse to put two people who shouldn’t get along at all into a relationship where they are forced to work together. I like the “sweet and sour” of characters who don’t see eye to eye. It’s fun for dialogue, and getting them to face a problem together is challenging.
4. When did you know that writing was your passion?
I’ve always known words were my passion, but it was my kids challenged me to start writing stories with the intention of publishing them. I told them I thought they could probably study for and work toward -- and be successful at -- almost any career they choose. Setting your sights on being the next Marilyn Monroe might be tough, but working as an actress is probably entirely within the range of the possible. In fact, making and achieving believable, realistic, one-small-thing-at-a-time goals is an important skill set, and I chose to show my children that by mapping out a path toward getting published. It started as an experiment and seems to be paying off.
5. What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
I never subbed my first novel, which was a Y/A romance set against the backdrop of my daughter’s high school Orchestra. The Long Way Home was my second novel and it was contracted almost right away, and Crossing Borders which I wrote third, was my first published book. It was accepted almost right after I wrote it. That was a really breathtaking, whirlwind year.
6. What some don’t realize is that writing is a discipline and you have to proportion a part of your day to it – how long does it usually take you to complete a manuscript?
I usually try to write 2000 words a day. That first year, I think I completed something like five novels but I missed soccer games and orchestra concerts and important time with the kids that I’ll never get back. That’s not precisely healthy. I lived in what my husband called the “Cave of my imagination” constantly and could rightly have been called obsessed. Now I balance time with my family better. I write a novel in about three months, first draft, and after that, even as I begin the next, I spend time each day editing and sorting things out.
7. Do you outline your plots first? Or are you like me and just go hell for leather?
I outline depending on the length of the book and it’s complexity. If it’s a screwball comedy I let it just rip, but in a romantic suspense, I’m likely to write a bare bones outline of “what happens next”.
8. Out of your body of work – do you have a favourite character?
I still love Tristan from Crossing Borders and Yamane from Drawn Together. They were probably more fun to write than all the rest combined.
9. If you were to offer advice to someone starting out, what would you say?
Writing is like a horse race. There’s a lot that goes on between getting up on one’s wobby new-foal legs that you never see when the flashbulbs are popping in the winner’s circle. And the winner’s circle seems as far away – to that little foal – as the moon.
That’s why you need your blinders. Don’t look around except for research. Learning from other writers is GREAT, comparing yourself to other writers is a waste of time.
Winning comes from taking care of yourself. It comes from starting out of the gate exactly right and taking each turn perfectly. It requires patience on the stretches and daring on the turns. It sometime requires a burst of strength when you feel like you have no more to give.
Each of those things is manageable in the moment as long as you do only one simple thing at a time.
10. Who are your favourite authors, in any genre?
I have to say I have a real passion for Joan Didion and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I love Lillian Hellman, both her plays and her non-fiction novels, Pentimento and Scoundrel Time. I love the adventure novels of Alexandre Dumas. And I love Laura Kinsale. She’s my favorite romance writer, ever.
11. If you hadn’t chosen writing, or rather, writing hadn’t chosen you, what do you think
You would be doing for a living?
I have worked a lot of jobs, but if I weren’t a writer now, I would simply enjoy being a stay at home mother at least until my kids grew up, and then, I probably would have been one of those people who spend all their time taking classes at the local extension college, learning whatever floats my boat.
12. What do you do in your free time? And don’t say writing!
In my free time I hang out with my children. We love our DVR, and Blue Ray, and we Netflix all the television shows we never watch in real time. I like to camp – or rather I like to enjoy being away from civilization which for me means driving somewhere in a travel trailer with luxury bedding and parking under a stand of tree near enough to a restaurant and a souvenir shop to pick up tchotchkes for my friends. (seriously, I’m ashamed to say this: I really enjoy the idea of being in the woods but not necessarily so far I can’t get a good cup of coffee and some waffles.)
13. What makes you laugh?
Everything makes me laugh, but nothing so much as men’s underwear. I don’t know why. Women’s underwear is basically cool, but men’s underwear is… Pffffffft.
14. What irritates you most about other people?
My number one pet peeve is people who are sure of anything. Give me a person who is absolutely, positively 100 percent sure about anything and I feel very uncomfortable. I am never lucky enough to feel that way.
15. Would you like to share with us your favourite joke?
I like to think I’m a fairly funny person, but I can honestly say, my favorite joke will undermine my credibility. I still like this one:
Q: Why did the elephant sit on the Marshmallow.
A: To keep from falling into the hot cocoa.
Thank you for coming to chat, ZAM and I wish you many sales.
Aw, thanks so much for having me!
It's been a pleasure talking with ZAM and you can find her at:-
And here’s a little taster of St. Nacho’s 4, The Book Of Daniel:
“Watch it!” a voice behind me barked. Warm hands drew me away from the collision and into another solid mass of muscle, this one tall, hot, and damp -- I guessed from working out -- but oh, so gentle and fuck, almighty, I turned into whoever’s touch that was and nearly passed out, savoring the warm embrace and the smell of a clean man’s honest sweat.
“Are you all right?”
I couldn’t open my eyes and still squeeze back tears, so I nodded.
The man who tripped into me said, “It was an accident, man. I’m so sorry.”
I nodded again. “’S’okay. Shit happens.”
Jordan had apparently seen the collision, because soon he was standing right at my elbow. I recognized his distinctive, fresh cologne, and he and whoever had caught me were leading me back to the therapy room where I could sit down. A big hand stayed where it had landed on my shoulder, soothing me while I learned to breathe again.
“I’ll get more ice.” Jordan hurried to the door. “I won’t be long.”
That left me with my Good Samaritan, so I opened my eyes, prepared to thank him and tell him I would be fine.
It was Cameron Rooney, and I had no words.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got you, Daniel.”
I hadn’t recognized his voice because it was different, as unlike the voice of the firefighter who’d cut me out of my car as it was unlike the man who’d verbally sparred with me the night before at Nacho’s. Maybe that was the first time I realized that Cam Rooney had lots of different voices. That he suited what he said and did to the moment more perfectly than anyone I’d ever known. In a way, he was the ultimate chameleon. Later, when I thought about it, I realized that when we were alone, he called me Daniel.
“You’re welcome.” He got up and moved to the wall on the other side of the room and struck a cowboy pose, hunched over with arms crossed, his leg bent at the knee and his foot braced against the wall. He was so beautiful I just stared at him.
A long silence stretched out between us, and I figured that was because we usually took potshots at one another and he didn’t want to fire at me when I was already down.
He surprised me again by saying, “I don’t get you.”
I glanced up at his face. “What’s to get?”
He shook his sweaty blond head, which had for some reason at one point resembled a buffalo head to me, and I never got tired of telling him that. “I figure we can agree that sometimes I see people at the worst moments of their lives. People are hardwired for survival, and a firefighter gets a front-row seat to the best and worst, you know?”
“I never thought about it that way.”
“I’ve seen nice people run from burning buildings and leave their kids and pets behind. I’ve seen men and women die trying to save someone they don’t even know. When I pulled you and Yasha out of that wreck, he didn’t want to leave without you. I thought I’d have to knock him out. I would have too.”
I had to smile at that. I had no doubt. My hand had been crushed between the seat and the door, and Jake refused to leave me, even though it was a massive pileup in the fog, with impact after impact. The worst night of my fucking life, and there was Cam to save the day.
I’d tried to get my brother to go to safety, but he was stubborn as hell. In those awful, endless moments before rescue I thought we’d both die right there. Then Cam’s face appeared in the window on the driver’s side. His gauntleted hand shone a flashlight into the crushed passenger compartment of my once-beautiful Lexus, and he’d grinned at us like a blond angel.
Did he think I wanted Jake to stay with me?
“I tried to make him leave.”
“I know you did,” Cam said in that quiet, soothing voice I’d never heard before. “It was obvious you were hiding how badly you were injured. You weren’t about to let him see the pain, so you joked it away. Lied like a damn rug. After he left, I saw what you didn’t have to hide anymore. Excruciating pain. Terror.”
I had to clear my throat to talk above a whisper. “He’s my kid brother. I look after him. I always have.”
“Then why’d you treat him like you did last night? Can’t you be happy for him? Can’t you hide your feelings when his happiness is at stake and not just his life?”
I had no answer. I still didn’t know why I’d reacted the way I did. Part of me understood I’d become an accomplished liar. Why couldn’t I lie about that?
I nodded again to let him know I’d heard him, and we both jumped a little when Jordan came back. I felt Cam’s eyes on me while Jordan iced me down again, and then I heard him leave.
For a beat or two I was inexpressibly bereft. I wanted him to say my name again because it felt so damn good.
“You’re swelling.” Jordan sounded concerned.
“I’ll be all right. I’ll elevate it, and in the morning it will be fine.”
“Are you sure you shouldn’t see a doctor?”
“It’s okay, really.”
Jordan’s boss, Izzie, poked her head in. “You okay, Dan? I heard you got hurt.”
“It’s fine,” I told her.
She peered at me. “You don’t look so good.”
“I never look good when I leave this place. I’m going to go home and rest up. I promise if it swells up more or if there are any other problems, I’ll go see the doctor, all right?”
“What do you think?” Jordan asked Izzie. I thought that was odd at the time, because while Izzie is a lovely woman, as far as I knew she wasn’t a doctor.
“Why are you asking her?”
“Izzie’s a perceptive,” Jordan said before turning to her again. “What do you see?”
“Zip.” She shrugged. “Which is really weird. I can count on one hand the times this has happened to me.”
I looked up from where I’d been studying my hand. “I’m sorry. What are you talking about?”
“Izzie sees auras.” Jordan announced that like he was observing the weather. Like, the sun is out.
“Auras?” My face probably betrayed my disbelief.
“As it turns out, I can’t read Dan at all.”
“Really?” Jordan asked.
She shrugged. “Dan is a blank wall.”
Maybe that wasn’t a bad thing to be. I imagined if she actually could read my “aura” the news of what she saw there -- my undeniable, foolhardy attraction to Cam -- would circulate around the gym faster than athlete’s foot. I was only too happy to be her blank wall.
Her lips quirked up in a tight smile, and I wondered if she knew what I was thinking. A second later, she left me without a doubt.
“I wouldn’t be too happy about that, Mr. Livingston. What happens to a blank wall is anyone can write anything they want on it.”