Sunday, January 30, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - more Surfacing



I'm having a lot of fun with Six Sentence Sunday. Thanks to all who checked out my entry last week.

Here's a little more from my fun contemporary fantasy, Surfacing:

Clouds roiled over the ocean as AJ waited. Unable to sit still, he paced along the islet. His nerves jangled in his skin. He should have gone home for his guitar, but he couldn’t face Grandpa. He wasn’t sure he would be able to face Cassiopeia, but he had to. To save her life, he had to lie to her.

****

You can read reviews, the excerpt, and view the trailer for Surfacing here.

Check out more wonderfully talented Six Sentence Sunday participants here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Visit the library with me

On Thursday, Feb. 3, I'll be at the Grove Family Library in Chambersburg, Pa., helping celebrate its fifth anniversary. The library has a wonderful lineup of events for the entire week.

I'm most looking forward to Author Night, which is Thursday. I'll have copies of books there, so it's an opportunity to get your signed copy. :)

Other authors include Dody Myers, Eileen Graham, Ken Gibble, Valerie Malmont. Oh, and fellow Susquehanna Writer, Mike Silvestri will be there too.  Mike's an eloquent speaker as well as writer.

It should be an evening of fun, some insights into local authors, and maybe a little cake.

Friday, January 28, 2011

2011 ABNA entry is in!

Once again, I've entered a manuscript in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.

In 2009, Surfacing was a contestant, and went on to the second round! I had some positive feedback from Publishers' Weekly reviewers, and many readers had wonderful comments about the 10,000-word excerpt posted on Amazon's site.


Last year, ABNA changed the rules a bit. They split the categories into YA and General Fiction, and only allowed 10,000 total entries (5,000 in each category). Only those that went on to the third round received PW reviews.


So while I don't harbor any illusions about making it to first place, it would be cool if my entry makes the first cut, and even cooler if it makes it to the third round. I'll know on Feb. 24th whether the judges liked the pitch or not.


Here's an advance peek at the pitch. I'd love to hear what you think:



Identity theft sucks. But it’s worse when someone steals her life, body included. Now she has to figure out how to get it all back.
Recognizing Rev. Alan Cunningham, leader of the New Day Order, is her first clue. Her gut says Cunningham’s connected. Seeing newswoman Tess Munro on TV, her gut also says that’s her former body. The news clip triggers flashes of memory. Her only hope of learning the truth is to follow Cunningham into his sordid world, where a darker evil lurks.
She joins the Order as Mary Miller. The group’s anti-government rhetoric  turns violent. The Order plans to kill a senator, then target anyone attending the funeral. Mandatory training sessions become brutal, and guards warn her not to enter the woods at night. When Cunningham invites her to an orgy, she runs.
Stealing the van keys, she’s stopped by Michael, the only person she’s been able to talk to. Now he’s pissing her off. When he calls her by her true name, Tess, she blacks out. She can’t fathom the bizarre story he tells: an angel in the Eternal Transit Station of the Soul arranged her untimely death, then stole her body. And that Michael’s a warrior angel. She can redeem her past sins if she helps annihilate the Order. She agrees. Returning as Army Sergeant Alana Martinez, she’s ready to kick cult ass. But as the Order amasses explosives and dirty bomb ingredients, can she help the warrior angels prevent an attack on innocents? And is she prepared to battle demons?
Using true accounts of underground militias in current society, Dead to Rights combines fantasy with reality. An exciting read, this urban fantasy will thrill and captivate readers to its surprising end.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Going indie

I was a bit hesitant to jump into the indie pool. I'm not a very good swimmer. :) But seriously, my initial reservations were:

1. I appreciate a good editor who'll help me take my work to the next higher level; and

2. The stigma attached to self-publishing (though this, I believe, will lessen as more authors jump in).

I believe I've found a way around both those obstacles with a site called The Author Collective. Although it's in its first phase now, I believe this site has real growth potential for two main reasons:

1. Only quality stories will be listed here - ones that have gone through rigorous critiques and revision. Authors who take their work seriously enough to self-publish something that rivals a title released by one of the Big Six. A writer who joins The Author Collective will either be approved by the others in the collective, or have re-released a title previously published by either an epress or a print pub.


2. The Author Collective will earn a reputation as a site where readers can find quality work. No stigma there. I'm hoping many of the authors who join will be interested in joining an editor-level critique group. I've looked into a few online critique groups, and couldn't afford their fees. But by banding together and adhering to a set of standards (which I'll post on the site soon, if I haven't already), we can provide editor-level critiques to one another.


Again, it's a work in progress, but I invite you to visit The Author Collective. I'd love to hear what you think.


And if you're a writer who's released a self-pubbed title, please email authorcollective AT gmail. com.  As the site says, we're all in this together. And The Author Collective is here to help.


I have listed two of my previously published titles which I recently released through Smashwords (also listed under the Indie Releases link above, and by clicking on the Smashwords logo at left). I also set up a draft author page as an example. I'm hoping that soon we'll have titles under every category listed, and more.


The Author Collective also needs your support. In order to gain an audience, the site needs exposure.
Rather than an explosive start (I don't think I could handle it, frankly!), I foresee a steady growth as word spreads. Please feel free to copy the Author Collective badge and add it to your own site, with a link back to http://authorcollective.blogspot.com/

I was also encouraged by reading posts such as this one. Do I think this will be everyone's experience? No. But again, by banding together at The Author Collective, readers will get a glimpse of a site filled with great self-published authors, and maybe we'll convince them to give us a try.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Margaret West in the Author Spotlight

What is Romance?
by Margaret West

I write paranormal and romance novels. The question I ask today is...What is Romance? To define it, romance is the very essence of life. Without it your love life will never be complete. It brings a sort of identity to your relationship. An elderly man holding the hand of his elderly wife. They’ve probably done that for years, yet still, they need that closeness. So where does romance come from? Grand gestures, flowery words? No, it comes from the heart. It’s nice to have a man open a door for you, buy you flowers for no other reason than he wanted to.

In the daily grind of life it’s possible to forget about each other. That flame that once burned in your heart begins to diminish to a pale glow and suddenly you find yourself not knowing each other anymore. To hold onto your love, there has to romance and that’s what I try and put into all my novels.

When the real world gets too much to bear sometimes it’s nice into slip into a fictional reality. Read as a love story unfolds with all its twists and turns..
Full of tears, laughter and disappointments, my latest release Spirit Intervention is a comedy romance. When a mother from the spirit world tries to change her daughters love interest, havoc ensues and if she doesn’t put it right, her Grandchildren will never be born.

Abigail Cottage is my next release. This is a dark paranormal, written when I was just finding my feet as a writer over 20 years ago. When Abigail falls in love with Justin she can’t begin to know the world of hurt she is heading into. Gorgeous, kind, rich – he’s the man we all dream to meet. BUT, all is not what it seems, because Justin is a demon from hell, disguised as a mortal being. He wants her and will kill or maim anyone who tries to stop him. Namely Shaun the real hero, who wants Abigail more! So what does a mortal man do against a demon? He enlists the help of a gypsy of course. But not any old gypsy. Rosa knows Justin very well and has the powers of the spirit world on her side to fight him. Using crystals as a powerful weapon, the light of the spirit world to lead them, they embark on a battle with the whole of the underworld. Many loved ones will lose their lives. This isn’t a book where everyone survives. In real life, bad things happen. In Abigail Cottage, terrible tragedies occur too. Believe... not every story can have a happy ending.

Buy links
Abigail Cottage: Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Abigail-Cottage-Margaret-West/dp/1907963049/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1292601645&sr=1-7
Hedge-Witchery Books: http://www.hedge-witcherybooks.com/page18.htm

Spirit Intervention: http://www.eternalpress.biz and soon from Amazon

Born in England, Margaret moved to the Kent countryside five years ago to get away from the busy life in London. She is married with two grown up children and has worked in various fields of work. She is a Clairknowing medium, Crystal Therapist, Parapsychologist and Psychic Development tutor.She has been writing for over 20 years and has numerous short stories, novels and articles published. Margaret writes romance and paranormal romance, incorporating her spiritual experiences into her books.
Her love for literature extends from writing to reading and is always willing to embrace new ideas and philosophies. She likes nothing more then to sit with a good book in the quiet realms of the countryside, with her dogs, Odin and Chester. A true animal lover, Margaret’s warmth and sensitivity is reflected in her writing.
Visit Margaret online at her web site: www.margaretwest.net; her writers blog: http://margaret-paranormalromanceauthor.blogspot.com/, her spiritual blog: http://magsx.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730523124#!/margaretwest.Author


Sunday, January 23, 2011

More of Surfacing, my contemporary fantasy



Six Sentence Sunday was a blast last week. Thanks to all who checked out my entry.

Here's a little more from my fun contemporary fantasy, Surfacing:

He owed her everything. “Thanks for saving me today.”

She tilted her head, as if awaiting his kiss. “I couldn’t let an alligator devour such a talented singer.”

It took all he had not to cup her face in his hands, press his mouth against hers. He began to speak, to call her name, then realized he didn’t know it.

****

You can read reviews, the excerpt, and view the trailer for Surfacing here. The excerpt sets up the scene above.

Check out more talented Six Sentence Sunday participants here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A vote or two (or five!), por favor

The Preditor & Editor polls are open for a few days more. I'd love your vote for the following:

Angels, Sinners and Madmen - in the Novel Romance category

Design for Life - in the Romance Short Story category

Follow the Stars Home - in the Fiction novel category

Surfacing - in the Fantasy novel category

And finally - me, in the Author category

After you click the link, you'll receive an email asking you to verify your vote, so you'll just need to click one more time.

Thanks so much for your support!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Belinda McBride in the Author Spotlight

Cate: Please welcome Belinda McBride. Belinda, will you please share a short bio with us?
Belinda: Hi Cate, and thank you for having me here today! Well, I’m based in Northern California, have two grown daughters and a whole bunch of Siberian Huskies. I write erotic (an occasionally non-erotic) romance generally starring shape-shifters, men and women in outer space, and the occasional vampire with insomnia.

Cate: Tell us about Blacque/Bleu and where it's available.
Belinda: Blacque/Bleu is a m/m paranormal romance that I wrote for Loose Id’s Coming Out Day celebration. It’s the story of Lucas Blacque, who is a closeted werewolf. He’s been aware of, and attracted to his neighbor Oliver Bleu, a vampire with a deadly case of insomnia. There’s a bit of action, adventure and star-crossed love in this story. I set it in a fictional town called ‘Arcada,’ where magic is the norm.

Cate: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Belinda: Lukas Blacque is a deeply closeted werewolf, and almost more than anything in life, he desires his neighbor, Oliver Bleu. Oliver is a vampire who is slowly dying from insomnia. More than anything, he needs Lukas Blacque and the rich blood that flows through his veins.
On the day that Blacque makes an important commitment to his family and pack, he also succumbs to temptation and agrees to a passionate weekend with the alluring vampire. At sunset on Friday, it’s all about urgent lust and the drive to lose his virginity. When the sun rises on Monday, lust has shifted to love and devotion. He's not sure he can walk away, even for the commitment he's made. He's even less sure Bleu will let him go.
In Blacque’s world, vampires and werewolves make uneasy bedfellows, and a gay werewolf is an impossibility. In Bleu’s world, all living creatures are little more than vessels for food and sex. But in the mysterious and magical town of Arcada, the unexpected is always waiting right around the corner. Now Blacque and Bleu just need to survive long enough for Arcada’s magic to work for them.

Here's the blurb:
Lukas Blacque is a deeply closeted werewolf, and more than almost anything in life, he desires his neighbor, Oliver Bleu. Oliver is a vampire who is slowly dying from insomnia. More than anything, he needs Lukas Blacque and the rich blood that flows through his veins.
On the day that Blacque makes an important commitment to his family and pack, he succumbs to temptation and spends a passionate weekend with the alluring vampire. At sunset on Friday, it’s all about urgent lust and the drive to lose his virginity. When the sun rises on Monday, lust has shifted to love and devotion. Will he be able to walk away? Will Bleu let him go?
In Blacque’s world, vampires and werewolves make uneasy bedfellows, and a gay werewolf is an impossibility. In Bleu’s world, all living creatures are little more than vessels for food and sex. But in the mysterious and magical town of Arcada, rules are broken and the unexpected is always waiting right around the corner. Can Blacque and Bleu survive long enough for Arcada’s magic to work for them?

And an excerpt:
"Hey.”
Oliver Bleu looked up from the bench seat he was measuring. He took few commissions these days, usually just enough to make his monthly bills and keep the rent paid. His work was declining in quantity, but the quality was still top of the line, as long as he didn’t push himself. He released the tape and noted the measurements on a pad, hiding the feral interest that rose at the presence of his neighbor. He took a moment, willing his fangs to recede.
“Hey, Blacque. What’s happening?”
He did his best to appear casual, but after the last conversation he’d eavesdropped on, Bleu was itching to know more about the big werewolf who was darkening his doorway. He could understand why Blacque’s sister might be reluctant to give in to the alpha’s demands to make babies. After all, she had a career on the line. She couldn’t just drop a pup and walk away.
But Blacque was a different story. He’d never met a shifter who didn’t think with his dick. Speaking of which, it was looking nice and snug there inside those faded denims. And it looked happy to see Bleu. He quickly looked away, wondering if maybe his suspicions about the wolf were correct. Blacque had showered and changed out of his work clothes. He smelled like steam and Lava soap.
“Just gettin’ ready to head on out for the night. Wanted to check, though. I’ve got an old Studebaker I’m working on. Wanted to see if you might be available to do the interior.”
He looked slightly uncomfortable, but they’d never really talked much before. Their hours didn’t exactly mesh, and the mechanic had always avoided Bleu. He watched Blacque’s face as the wolf scented the air slightly. He wouldn’t catch the smell of illness on Bleu, and hopefully not weakness either. But shifters’ senses were even more acute than those of vamps. Maybe he could smell fatigue and hunger. Maybe he could smell lust.
Bleu certainly scented something on the shifter. Hot, rich blood flowing inside his veins. The musk of a male, the sweat of a hardworking man. It was all like perfume to his libido. He was suddenly very glad the wolf had interrupted his work. His fangs ached to drop even as his cock began to rise. He took another breath and let the cool control of the hunter wash over him.
“Studebaker, eh? Let’s go look.” He followed Blacque from his little workshop to the garage next door, taking time to appreciate the ripped, muscular build of the were. His ass was tight, and his legs were sleek with muscle. Bleu’s mouth watered a bit in spite of the mug of lukewarm pig’s blood he’d downed earlier. All that shit did was ease the hunger pangs gnawing at his belly. It did nothing to nourish his flesh. A full-blooded werewolf was like nectar to a hungry vamp.
Blacque paused to unlock the shop door, and he entered, flipping on the overheads in the big auto bay once he did. In the cold fluorescent light, tattoos on his bare arms stood out in stark contrast to his lightly tanned skin. They twisted and climbed like vines on a trellis. His scalp gleamed through the thick black stubble that was growing in. He certainly wasn’t trying to hide any shortcomings by shaving his head. Bleu’s fingers itched to rub the wolf’s bristly scalp.
God, he was butch enough to make Bleu want to grapple him to the floor right then and there! Thing was, the big guy might not appreciate it. Deep down, he might crave it, but he didn’t want to want it.
After dragging his hungry gaze from the wolf, he looked critically at the old car in the bay. She was a dirty gem, all right.
“Nineteen fifty-five Speedster. Nice.” He slowly walked around the car, peering into the windows to look at the tattered seats and headliner. “It’ll need everything. Panels, seats, headliner. You want it authentic or custom?”
“As close to stock as we can get. I’d like the seats done in leather, though.”
“Original colors?” He opened the door and ran a hand over the dark red steering wheel. Man, where’d the quality go in cars these days?
“I’ll keep the paint stock, so let’s keep the interior the same as well.”
He could picture the Speedster with a gleaming black-and-white paintjob, its chrome polished to a high sheen. He straightened up and gazed at Blacque, taking a moment to appreciate the artistry of his rugged face. As he looked, the wolf colored up slightly.
“Call when you’re ready for me.” Their gazes held for a breathless moment. Bleu finally exhaled. “I’ll work up an estimate. Damn nice vehicle. Can’t beat the fifties when it comes to cars. Especially Studebakers.” He gave the door a push, and it closed with a satisfying thump. He might have more fun with pimped-out cars and customized limos, but restoring a classic brought out the best in Bleu. He followed Blacque to the back door and paused, watching him lock up.
Blacque turned to face him. Excitement fluttered in Bleu’s belly. “Thanks, Bleu. I appreciate it.” Again the big man hovered, looking ill at ease. He reminded Bleu of a kid angling for his first kiss after a date. Well, that could be wishful thinking on his part. Clearly the mechanic had something to say.
“Well, good night.”
Or not.
“Good night, Lukas. You have a good evening.”
“You too.” The wolf started out to the parking lot, where his big pickup truck waited. Blacque paused and then turned back to Bleu.
“See you around.”
He waited for a moment, gazing at Bleu, and then started back out to his truck, moving with swift, graceful strides.
Beautiful. From the top of his bristly head to the soles of his steel-toed feet, the wolf was beautiful. Bleu shifted, letting his cock find a more comfortable position in his work pants. Dickies. What a name for a pair of pants. When he threw back his head and laughed, the tips of his fangs glinted in the moonlight.
This was a bad idea all the way around. Such a bad idea. The were community here in Arcada had been tolerant of him so far. Vamps and wolves never got along particularly well, and he valued the uneasy peace that existed in this quaint little town. Blacque had been a temptation he’d long denied himself, and one that Bleu should continue to ignore.
He laughed again. Hell. What was life without a bit of risky self-indulgence now and then?



Cate: Wonderful. And I love that title. Can you tell us why we're going to love your hero?
Belinda: Which one? LOL! That’s the lovely thing about writing m/m romance; I have two heroes to choose from…
Well, let’s start with Lucas Blacque. He’s big, buff and more than a little butch.
Lucas is an auto mechanic and in many ways he’s my dream man. He can fix a car, do carpentry, his own laundry and he’s got a college degree. His tough exterior hides a lonely, vulnerable man.
Oliver Bleu was inspired by the poet Robert Graves, as well as my own courtly grandfather. Oliver is old world in many ways. He’s a bit too genteel to be an effective vampire, but he’s also damned seductive. In spite of his desperate need for Lucas, he lets the werewolf leave his life, knowing that Lucas must follow his own path. Plus, he has beautiful blue eyes!

Cate: Very cool! Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.
Belinda: Arcada came to me when I wrote a short story called ‘Snowfire: Chrysalis.’ It’s a magical town that acts as a sanctuary for paranormals, and oddly, the town is borderline sentient. If you happen to be passing through Arcada and it likes you, don’t expect to be leaving anytime soon.

Cate: Love that. What's next for you?
Belinda: I’m juggling a few projects. Next up is ‘Hunting Holly’ which is my next Truckee Wolves story. Its part of the second Doms of Dark Haven anthology with Sierra Cartwright and Cherise Sinclair. I’m just starting a book called ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ which is set in the Belle Starr universe, and I’m well into the follow-up to last year’s “An Uncommon Whore.”

Cate: What inspired you to draft your first story?
Belinda: Anger and frustration. Fear for my mental health! My formerly wonderful job had devolved into a grunt job with a hostile work environment and writing kept me centered and sane. I eventually decided to chuck the job and keep the writing. Someday I’ll go back to the story I was writing back then and finish it up for publication.

Cate: Do you have a writing routine?
Belinda: No, I’m a full-time caregiver for my autistic niece so my day is pretty much dictated by what’s going on with her. Generally I do my email and marketing in the mornings, my edits and writing in the afternoon and evening. That can all go to hell if she’s having seizures or a particularly bad day.

Cate: She's lucky to have you as a caretaker. Where can readers find you on the web?
Belinda: My website is http://www.belindamcbride.com
You can find links to my social networks there, and also sign up for my newsletter. My blog is: http://www.belindam.blogspot.com
That’s where I post the newest information about releases, appearances and so forth.

Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Belinda: If you’ve made a New Years resolution, what is it?

Cate: Readers, Belinda is giving away a copy of Blacque/Bleu to a random commenter... so start commenting. She'll pick a winner on Saturday, January 22, and announce the winner here.

Thanks so much for being my guest Belinda! Best of luck to you.


Monday, January 17, 2011

In the Author Spotlight: Susan Gourley

Cate: Please welcome Susan Gourley. Susan, will you please share a short bio with us?
Susan: I’m a full time school teacher longing to be a full time writer. I have two romance series under the pen name, Susan Kelley, and a fantasy series under my real name, Susan Gourley.

Cate: Tell us about Beyond the Gate and where it's available.
Susan: Beyond the Gate is book #2 in The Futhark Chronicles. It’s available at all major online retailers.

Cate: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Susan: Cage Stone and Keeper Sabelline Shelton begin the dangerous journey to reset the seals and halt the demon invasion of Futhark. But nothing is as it should be. Cage’s keen senses guide them to a place previously unknown to mankind. Here Cage will discover some bitter truths about his past, and he and Sabelline will learn how truly desperate is the future for mankind. Racing to help their friends save Futhark, both know their only chance is for Cage to give up his humanity.

Cate: Sounds like a great epic tale. Can you tell us why we're going to love your hero?
Susan: Cage Stone is brave and intelligent but has always thought himself unworthy of love because his birth mother abandoned him. He’s unsure of his place in the world and because he’s half elf, he isn’t sure where he fits in with humans. Readers will feel his pain.

Cate: Sounds like a hero any reader would love to take a journey with. Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.
Susan: Futhark is an island kingdom where only humans have lived for years. In Beyond the Gate, the citizens will learn they are not alone and that Futhark was once a land with great magic. The people on Futhark will battle an evil they don’t understand and have greatly underestimated.

Cate: What's next for you?
Susan: In 2012, the third book in this series, Beneath the Mountain, will continue the tale and later in 2012, the fourth and final book will be released. The second book in my Tigers of Salubria romance series will hopefully be available in 2012 also. I have a second fantasy series in the works also and almost ready to seek a publisher.

Cate: Congrats! What inspired you to draft your first story?
Susan: I think I had that first book circling around in my head for years before I decided I would write it down. That first draft was terrible with so many mistakes I cringe to think about it. I joined a writing group, went to a conference, found a great critique partner and finally polished it into a publishable manuscript. That book, The Greater Good, is the lead of The Chronicles of Solonia series. It’s four books long and all are available.

Cate: Do you have a writing routine?
Susan: I do most of my writing in the evenings after I get home from school. Usually I work from six until eleven or midnight. I work on blogs during my lunch break at work. I try to do a little something everyday.

Cate: Where can readers find you on the web?
Susan: My blog is http://www.susangourley.blogspot.com/

Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Susan: I’m very interested in how many readers are now buying their books as ebooks. I also like to know what readers think of series. I know fantasy fans love series as long as they’re available in a timely fashion. Do romance readers feel the same way about series?

Cate: Readers, Susan is giving away a book to a random commenter... so start commenting. January 20th, she will pick a winner, who can select The Keepers of Futhark, book #1 of The Futhark Chronicles or any of her four romance novels in The Chronicles of Solonia.
Thanks for being my guest Susan! Best of luck to you.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Surfacing



Six Sentence Sunday seemed like such a great idea, I thought I'd give it a try.

This is from my fun contemporary fantasy, Surfacing:

A girl’s giggle snapped his attention to the sea. He waited, afraid to breathe. “Cassiopeia?”

She burst from the waves like an angel taking flight. The full moon rising along the horizon illuminated her, made her look magical. Bracing her arms against her sides, her torso came out of the water, revealing the top of her tail, that seamless skin binding girl to fin.

****

That's it, short and sweet. Hope you liked it. You can read reviews, the excerpt, and view the trailer for Surfacing here.

Check out more Six Sentence Sunday participants here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Z.A. Maxfield in the Author Spotlight

Cate: Please welcome author Z.A. Maxfield will you please share a short bio with us?
Z.A.: It’s a pleasure to be here, I’m Z.A. Maxfield, author of gay romance novels including the books Crossing Borders, ePistols at Dawn, The Long Way Home, Notturno, Vigil, and the St. Nacho’s Series. I’m a suburban housewife and mother of four teenagers, who keep me busy shuttling them to and from activities like soccer, fencing, orchestra, choir, and academic decathlon. I find time to write by blowing off housework. Life is one big trade off. :D

Cate: I'm right there with you. :) Tell us about your latest release and where it's available.
Z.A.: My newest release is The Pharaoh’s Concubine, and it’s available through Samhain Publishing. It’s about a man in his late thirties who finds himself rethinking his priorities after he survives a brutal kidnap attempt.

Cate: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Z.A.: Delighted to... Here’s the official blurb:
Beauty is only skin deep…until love reveals what lies beneath.
As mob boss Yvgeny Mosko’s open secret, Dylan Anderson is happy enough with a passionate, if loveless, arrangement that affords him a life of luxury. But at thirty-six he wonders how committed Mosko will be to an aging lover.
He finds out when a rival gang kidnaps him in a turf war everyone’s sure to lose. Mosko unleashes deadly force, leaving no one alive except for a young man whose dark eyes tug at Dylan’s heart—and the conscience he thought he’d excised long ago.
Though he tried to stop the kidnapping, William “Memo” Escobar knows Mosko will use what’s left of him to send a powerful message to his rivals. When Mosko’s pampered pretty boy risks everything to help him escape, he can’t believe his luck.
William figures he’s better suited to life off the grid, but as the days go by he begins to realize Dylan’s beauty is more than skin deep. And as Dylan coaxes more and more beguiling smiles from William, he yearns for things—like family ties—he’d thought were best forgotten.
Yet behind their newfound happiness lurks the certain knowledge that no matter how careful they are, Mosko will come for what’s his.
Warning: This book contains a mob boss, a kept man, and a reluctant kidnapper who will never have to hear the words, “Size doesn’t matter.”

And here’s a bit of the story, just for fun:
After fumbling in Lazlo’s pockets for the key to the shed, Dylan opened it quickly, starting a count inside his head, thinking that if he’d timed this correctly, he’d get the boy out and both of them away, and if he didn’t, he’d be joining Memo in that shed by morning.
He toggled the light switch. “Memo.”
Not a sound.
“Memo, it’s me.” Dylan made his way to the cot and put a gentle hand on the boy’s arm. “You have to come with me, there’s no time to waste.”
“William.”
“What?”
“My name is William.”
“Argue with me later. I figure we have about three minutes before neither of our names will matter except in the obituaries. Come with me.”
“I can’t, man. I can barely even move.”
“You have to. I didn’t do this to leave you here.”
“I can’t.”
“If I pick you up, it’s just going to hurt you more. Don’t make me do that.”
William tried to roll over and it was obviously agony for him. Dylan’s heart sank. “Here, let me help.”
“No.”
William bit his lip. Dylan didn’t ask this time, he just took William’s arm, pulled it over his shoulder, gave him a moment to get used to that, then hauled him to his feet. “No time to be gentle. It’s either this or a fireman’s carry.”
“This.” William groaned. “You sadist.”
“Yeah, well.” Dylan didn’t disagree. Once they left the shed behind he hugged the perimeter, scraping his arms on the rough bushes where the ambient lighting from the street and the moon didn’t penetrate the shadows. “Next time kidnap a nicer guy.”
They made it unseen to the row of cars belonging to the guards. Dylan ducked behind the last one, Andreas’s nondescript Honda sedan. He held William steady, close and quiet, even though he stank like raw sewage. It took all of Dylan’s concentration to keep William from falling over onto the ground while he unlocked the car with the key to avoid illuminating the headlights. He helped William in and made his way around to the driver’s side, getting in quickly, praying the dome lights wouldn’t give them away.
“Now, we wait,” he told the boy.
“What are we waiting for?”
“Popcorn.”
“Popcorn?”
Dylan chewed his fingernail. Did he set it high enough? He’d scorched and burned microwave popcorn before, filling the house with acrid smoke when he wasn’t even trying. He’d been so sure that it would work, but as seconds ticked by he doubted himself, and his heart started to sink heavily. What if he just brought more suffering to the kid?
Nothing happened, and Dylan was ready to start the process of hauling the kid back when sirens filled the air and the front floodlights blinked to life, bathing the entire house in blinding white light.
In the commotion no one noticed that Andreas’s car started. Smoke had already begun to fill the first floor as the two remaining guards pulled the front doors open. Protocol required that Yves’s men search for him inside the house, while Andreas checked to make sure the fire department received the alarm. Andreas was supposed to open the gate for emergency vehicles when they arrived, but Dylan hoped he would be sleeping quietly, draped over his monitors, as blissfully unaware of everything as the three temazepam capsules Dylan had emptied into his coffee could make him.
His plan was for the two men inside the house to split up, one looking for him, and the other for Lazlo, to see why he hadn’t responded. That left Dylan and William with only a brief window of time to make it to the guardhouse, open the gate, and then leave without being seen.
He approached the guardhouse cautiously, pulling up right alongside it. If Andreas hadn’t drunk his coffee, or if the drugs hadn’t taken effect yet, there’d be hell to pay. If one of the guards looked out front or found Lazlo too soon…
Sick dread covered Dylan with sweat.
A quick glance found Andreas slumped in his chair. Dylan put the Honda in park and jumped out to activate the remote.
It seemed like the massive wrought-iron gate took hours to open, sliding slowly on the track while Dylan’s heart clattered in his throat. It wasn’t hard to imagine what punishment Yves would mete out to a lover who betrayed him. If he were spotted now, it would be nearly impossible to get away.
A low groan came from William, reminding him why he had to try.
“Fasten your seat belt, Memo.”
“William.” Awkwardly, the kid did as he was told.
“Remind me when we’re not about to die.”
When the gate finally opened enough for them to slip out, Dylan glanced in the rearview mirror.
I’m leaving. I’m really leaving Yves. There was no time for grief. If he thought about what he was doing, he’d surely freeze in his tracks. He punched the accelerator and worked the manual transmission.
William shifted to look behind. “No pressure, but we should probably go faster.”
“What?” Dylan sure felt pressured. He pelted out of his driveway and headed east. “What do you mean, no pressure?”
“I mean about my name. No pressure to remember.”
Dylan shook his head. “I’m lucky to remember my name right now. Much less how to drive a manual transmission. It’ll come back to me—like riding a bicycle.” Dylan winced when the transmission gears made a telltale grinding sound, then tried to shift again.
“I hope that means you know how to ride a bicycle…”
“Yeah.” Dylan made a sharp right turn and it threw Memo into him.
“What happens now?”
“I don’t know. I only thought this far ahead.”
William accepted this, or else he was in too much pain to argue.
Dylan’s heart stopped racing when he’d driven several miles and as far as he could tell no one followed them. He wet his dry lips and slowed down. They’d made it. He didn’t want to say it out loud, he didn’t have the nerve to count on it, but it was entirely possible he’d gotten away with it.
While they were stopped at a red light, he glanced over at William and allowed himself to hope. The kid looked like he’d been hit by a train. Dylan cursed. The real work—the hard part—was just beginning. He had to keep William safe until he healed, and that meant they needed a place to hide where Yves couldn’t find them.
If such a place existed.

Cate: Wonderful. Can you tell us why we're going to love your hero?
Z.A.: The heroes of this novel come from diverse worlds, but they share some common values, hopes, and dreams.
Dylan is older, privileged, and a little distant, but he grew up in a happy family that turned him away when they found out he was gay. Now he doesn’t form attachments easily, and has a hard time trusting. William lived in poverty with his grandmother, but he’s grateful she took him away from his gangster father, and he’s heartbroken she died before he ever had the chance to pay her back.
William is angry and cynical, yet he yearns for a safe place he can call home.
Dylan is resourceful, kind, and compassionate in a way that first insults William and then captures his heart.

Cate: Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.
Z.A.: If I had to choose one little thing that makes this fictional world different it’s that this story has its inception in a particularly brutal truth about organized religion. Sometimes, churches and the people in them are cruel. Sometimes people throw their children away because they believe them unredeemable. And yet I really wanted to show that you can’t always judge a religion by the people in it, and vice versa. Sometimes good people can surprise you.

Cate: What's next for you?
Z.A.: Right now I’m working on a screwball ghost story, a kind of Topper meets Emma meets… well. Me. :D

Cate: Sounds like fun! What inspired you to draft your first story?
Z.A.: I wrote my first novel on a dare from my kids. I was giving that “You can do anything you want if you work hard and your heart is in it, follow your bliss” talk that parents give and they turned the tables on me. Once they found out I always wanted to be a published author, the jig was up and I had to get off my butt and do something about it.

Cate: Do you have a writing routine?
Z.A.: Because it’s the beginning of January, I’ve made some – not resolutions, necessarily – but changes to my schedule. I’ve decided to work on projects during the week and use the weekends for blogs, twittering, facebooking, and all the necessary promo things that can take up so much time. We’ll see how concentrating on work during the week and giving myself time off on the weekend works out for a while, I think.
Plus, I’ve got what Josh Lanyon’s character Steve in Fair Game calls writer’s ass. I need to get out more. Take a walk every now and again.

Cate: Where can readers find you on the web?
Z.A.: Anyone can get all the latest news at www.zamaxfield.com. I’m also Abstractrx at LiveJournal, here: http://abstractrx.livejournal.com/ and I’m ZAMaxfield at facebook and twitter. You can link to all those through my website, and even find a mini Amazon store where you can buy my books. I try to make things convenient.

Cate: Your web site’s very cool.
Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Z.A.: I love a little humor with everything. You’ll find it in my meet-cute scenes, my sex scenes, even the angsty bits of books that don’t seem to have the possibility of humor at all. Is there ever a time when you think it’s inappropriate to throw in a bit of humor? (outside of real tragedy or criminal behavior)

Cate: Readers, Z.A. is giving away a book to a random commenter... Yes! One lucky commenter will be chosen at random to win an ebook copy of The Pharaoh’s Concubine! Good Luck!

Thanks for being my guest, ZA! Best of luck to you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Page 99 of Surfacing

Here's a peek at page 99 of my contemporary fantasy, Surfacing.

“Busy again.” Chaz fell back for a moment, then charged ahead to fall into step with AJ. “Same girl?”
“Yeah.” AJ held his pace even, though he wanted to run. Or shove Chaz. Anything to get away.
“She must be some special kind of girl, for you to be so crazy about her so quick.” No matter how casual Chaz’s tone, he was interrogating AJ nonetheless.
“She is.” Maybe if he kept his answers short, the dude would take the hint.
The strain of trying to keep pace sounded in his breathy voice. “Cause I figured you more for a player, not someone who fell in love with a girl just like that.”
AJ kept his gaze ahead, but felt Chaz’s constant stare. “She’s different.”
“Different how?” Chaz stepped in front of AJ, his steely grey eyes bore into him.
Oh, man. How did he pick up on the slightest nuance like that? AJ shrugged, his annoyance came through in his tone. “She’s nice. And smart. And funny. I like talking to her. Being with her.” He sounded like a drooling middle-schooler.
And it wasn’t fooling Chaz one bit. His intense gaze cut through AJ’s bullshit lines. He knew.
“She sounds really special.” The way he said it made AJ want to take a shower. Like he pictured her naked.
AJ set his hands on his hips. “She is. I don’t want to mess things up.”
The movement of Chaz’s head might have been a nod, might have been a nervous twitch. He didn’t release AJ from his crazy-eyed scrutiny.
He had to get away from the creep. “Listen, we’ll work out a night, maybe next week. All right?”
“Sure. Next week.” His eyes glazed, Chaz sounded far from convinced.
“That’s what I said.” AJ shifted his legs, ready to sprint away the moment this damn conversation ended.
“And you’re a man of your word.” Chaz tilted his head, and narrowed his eyes. “And in the meantime, maybe we could double-date. I’d like to meet this girl of yours.”
AJ winced. “What? No.”
With pouty lips, Chaz clucked his tongue. “Don’t be afraid, AJ. I won’t steal her from you.” His eyes shone with hate – or something more insidious.

****

See the trailer, read reviews and more here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Page 99 test

I learned of this notion last fall - that readers turn to page 99 in a book to see if it captures their interest. Author Ford Madox put forth the original idea, saying: "open the book to page ninety-nine and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." You can read more info in the Guardian UK article.

Is that your practice? Do you believe in this idea?

I was surprised at some of the comments I found. Some readers allow a book up to 50 pages to engage them, and if it doesn't, they put it down. The next reader said the same, but after only 20-25 pages. The next said the first page. Finally, a reader said the first few sentences have to grab her.

Yikes. The pressure! :)

Sometime in the future, a web site will allow authors to post their own page 99. Until then, I decided to start a new blog series and post page 99 from my novels.

First up, Angels Sinners and Madmen, my historical romance from Freya's Bower. Set in 1850s Key West, it's an adventure about the wreckers, who salvaged cargo from ships that wrecked on the reefs beyond the island.

Page 99 opens a new chapter:

Chapter Eighteen
Pounding on the door startled Sam from sleep. He jerked upward. The pounding in his head worsened.
“Go away.” He fell back to the pillow.
The door muffled Liam’s rough voice. “If you want to keep your job, you’ll get up now. Awake or no, we’ve work to do.” Muttering, he added, “If the sorry-assed lad can’t take his liquor, he shouldn’t drink.”
Blinking, Sam sat up. His eyes felt drier than the Sahara; an unnamable ick lined his mouth. “Liam.”
“What?”
Rolling off the bed, he shuffled to the door. Outside, Liam sat on the doorstep, holding his head in his hands.
Sam chuckled, but immediately stopped when it caused his head to almost burst. “I’m not the only one suffering.”
“Aye, misery loves company. Let’s go.” Liam sat, unmoving.
“I’m coming. Let me put on my boots.” He shuffled back to the bed, reaching for the spot on the floor where his boots usually sat. He found only empty air.
Strange. He always set his boots exactly there, so he could find them no matter what condition he was in. When he bent further to look for them, the lightness in his head made him sway.
Liam grumbled outside.
“Hold on. I can’t find my boots. I don’t understand where….” Realization struck him. He hadn’t been the one to take off his boots.
His memory of yesterday returned in bits. Livvie finding him at the beach. Helping him walk home, acting as his crutch. Sitting at his bedside. The last memory he had was of holding her hand, asking her to stay. Ah, hell. Had he really been so pathetic? Yet she had.
A wave of renewal washed over him, refreshing Sam from the inside out.
Clattering came from the doorway.
Liam lurched against the door jamb. “What in the name of all that’s good and holy are ye doing just sitting there, grinning like a fool? Have ye lost yer mind?”
“Not my mind. Perhaps another part of me.” To say any more to Liam was to invite ridicule. “And my boots.”
“Are ye daft? They’re right there.” He pointed.
Sam followed his finger. “Ah. So they are.” He bent to retrieve them, and his earlier nausea hardly registered. All he felt was Livvie’s touch, her brushing away his hair, soothing his brow.
Liam set his fists at his hips. “If ye move any slower, we’ll arrive in time to go home.”
“Patience is a virtue, Liam.” A virtue Liam did not possess. Sam loved to remind him anyway.
“Virtue.” Liam spat the word. “Of the seven virtues, I’ve only Prudence and Fortitude left, my boy. I never claim more.”
“And it’s balanced evenly by the seven sins. You’re only guilty of Lust and Gluttony. Perhaps an occasional Sloth, though it’s well earned.”

****

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Review for Angels, Sinners and Madmen

Long and Short Reviews said: "The intriguing title and the well-known author drew me to this book. With a mix of romance, tragedy and heroes, you have a recipe for a fine romance.
Angels, Sinners and Madmen is fraught with death-defying scenes.
The setting was finely described: Florida in the 1850's was a very different place to how it is now and it suited the plot.
I recommend this book for the sheer originality of the tale, and for those who like HEA, they’re going to be kept guessing right to the last page."
Read the full review here.



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Snow is the white board of the imagination

For some, anyway. Certainly for Calvin and Hobbes. These are hilarious, but also show the illustrator's genius.













Of all of them, this one's my favorite though. Instead of snow, he might have been talking about a blank page, waiting to be written on.



I'm off to go exploring. :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

The unreliable narrator

I once mentioned to another author that I’d love to someday write a story with a protagonist who’s an unreliable narrator. The author chided me, saying something like she could never write such a character because she wrote only heroines.
But to me, that’s not an accurate view of an unreliable narrator. The protagonist might find herself in a totally foreign situation, and not even know herself what was true or false. Does this make her less than admirable? No. In fact, I believe it makes her stronger. It’s one more obstacle to overcome.

Have you seen the movie Inception? While my hubby and I were on our cruise, the ship offered the movie on its television network (in Portugese, Spanish, Italian, German and – finally – we caught it in English). In any case, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is a great example of an unreliable narrator. He’s never quite sure whether he’s in a dream state or awake, so, like the viewer, is never sure whether what’s taking place is real or a dream.

I began a new story a few months ago, and just realized I had gotten my wish. My protagonist’s an unreliable narrator. Which is not to say she’s not a heroine; she most definitely is. But for reasons that aren’t clear to her – or the reader – until later in the story, she’s in a situation she can’t explain. Her memory’s erased, and she sometimes wonders whether she’s lost her mind.

Is she insane? No. But I’m not going to give anything more away. :) Suffice to say she’s an unreliable narrator AND a heroine (a kickass one to boot). She’s one of the strongest characters I’ve ever written, I think. Awhile ago, I mentioned on Facebook that I was writing a snarky character, and suspected she’d taken over my brain.

As you can probably tell, I’m excited about this story. And about the heroine. She may be an unreliable narrator, but in a pinch, you can definitely rely on her.

I can't wait to introduce you to her, though I'm only about 30k into the story, so it may be next year, by the time it goes through revisions and critiques. :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011

Stealing another author's words is plagiarism, but hopefully this doesn't qualify. Neil's so eloquent, I couldn't resist.





Make it your best year yet.