Monday, June 24, 2013

News, Reviews, and Birthday Fun


Grime and Punishment has been getting its fair share of really nice reviews, among them:

…Not only is there plenty of emotional substance to sink your heart into, but there’s also the very simple fact that ZAM has come up with another great couple of MCs whose verbal skills rival the non-verbal for a practically perfect validation that they should continue to investigate what’s happening between them…. From the The Novel Approach HERE


…Z.A Maxfield wrote a beautiful story about life, honesty, and love. The writing is clean and pulls at your heart strings in places. I loved the way she handled this couple in the bedroom–so wide open one to one another, filled with such passion. Those scenes were key to zoning in on who these guys are, and that’s how I love my steam best: hot and integral to the plot rather than just there to fire things up. I cannot wait to read more of this author… From My Devastating Reads HERE


So I will recommend this to those that love budding romances, secrets emerging, great supportive family and friends, hot sex and a happy ending. From MM Good Book Reviews HERE


Who you gonna call? No, this isn’t some eighties movie throwback. It’s the latest from ZA Maxfield. And I don’t know anyone else who would write a story about a company that handles these grisly jobs and does it with humor and sympathy. From Mrs. Condit and Friends HERE


ZA Maxfield is one of those unspoken authors that just naturally seems to go onto my Classic Great M/M Romance Authors list, and I think that this book is a good illustration of why she deserves that spot. I read a lot of likable m/m romances, but it takes a little something extra to sink into the story. The more of this genre that I’ve read I’ve realized how that has less to do with how much I like a plot, and more how the author extends the story into wordplay — one of the biggest reasons that I review a book first on it’s execution and only after on the author’s choices. The best books use prose like an extra limb, manipulating the reader’s emotions not by what they say but how they say it. From The Armchair Reader HERE


A BIG thank you to everyone who took a chance on a book about a guy who cleans up dead people!

The next story is Eddie’s, and he’s been pining for his niece Lucy’s first grade teacher, Andrew Daley, so long it was just a mercy to finally let him loose.

When Eddie and Andrew find Eddie’s favorite elementary school teacher — the long retired Mrs. Henderson — wandering around the school grounds in a daze, Eddie’s afraid there’s more to her story than a failing memory. His and Andrew’s mutual concern for the old woman is just the icebreaker Eddie’s been waiting for. Her story is sadder than either man is prepared for.

While Eddie helps take care of Mrs. H., he and Andrew he begin a happy courtship. But nothing ever runs smoothly. Eddie’s secrets and Andrew’s emotionally abusive father make things way harder than they have to be and moving too fast might be as bad as moving too slow…

Boy meets boy. Boy loves boy. Boys have to clean up something horrific together — something that will teach them more than they ever wanted to know about life and love and growing old. What can go wrong?

Unedited Excerpt

Eddie sat down at his desk and got out his headphones. When he worked, he used his computer’s speaking capability to read what he needed of the day’s events.

Mrs. Henderson could not have foreseen the computer he used. She probably couldn’t have imagined something like a reading “pen” that used OCR technology to help severely challenged dyslexics like him, but she’d believed things would get better with time and somehow, she’d made him believe as well.

She’d been so, so right. Her faith in him cracked a hole in the ceiling and let him see the sky for the first time and he’d loved her for it. Seeing her today was particularly poignant, because she’d recognized him, after a fashion. She’d remembered him, after all these years.

A quick perusal of a dictionary site revealed the word of the day, caterwaul. Eddie knew what that meant, but just to be sure, he listened to the definition. Every day, he vowed to find a way to use each new word he learned. Caterwaul should be easy. That was a nice word for how Skippy and Kim usually bitched each other out at the end of a work day.

“Stop your caterwauling,” he practiced.

His phone rang, and he glanced at it. Lucy’s face, pink and softly rounded, smiled at him. He shifted his earphones to answer, “Hey Lucy loo-loo, whatcha up to?”

“Uh…” A very masculine voice responded, and Eddie sat straight up in his chair.

“Is Lucy okay?” Eddie demanded, imagining all sorts of awful scenarios. With the business he was in, he didn’t even have to imagine — he’d seen them all. “Is she–”

“No, she’s fine, she’s perfectly safe. This is her teacher, Mr. Daley. She let me use her phone so I could call you.” There was a lot of background noise, children playing, Eddie assumed. “I’m sorry I scared you.”

“It’s fine. I probably shouldn’t jump to conclusions.” Eddie heard the sound of a door closing and less background noise. “What can I do for you?”

“I guess I wondered how Mrs. Henderson is doing. That is her name, right? You were amazing, how you handled her.”


“You were so gentle with her. She really responded to that. There could have been a big scene, and instead…You were awesome.”

“Wow. Thank you. I–”

“Is she going to be all right?”

“Yes. I took her to the hospital. She had a seizure while we were waiting and they admitted her. I don’t know anything else yet.”

“A seizure? That’s not good, is it?”

“I don’t think so, no.” Eddie shifted papers on his desk, straining for something useful to say. “It’s not, probably.”

“Were you really in her class all those years ago?”

“Yes,” Eddie leaned back. “She was my third grade teacher.”

“That’s wild. I don’t think any of my little ducklings remember me after summer vacation.”

“I’m sure they do.” I never stop thinking about you, anyway. “I can’t believe she remembered me.”

“You must have stood out somehow?” Andrew asked. “Were you a bit of a trouble maker?”

“Maybe.” Eddie thought back to those confusing early years of elementary school. How angry he’d been that he never got things right. How hard every single lesson seemed once he got it home and had to do it by himself. “She had a real nice touch. I was crazy about her.”

“That’s nice.”

“I’m going to do what I can to help her.”

“You’re going to think I’m awfully nosy, but Lucy told me you clean up dead people. Are you in the death care industry?”

“No. I…” This is where a lot of guys stepped off the ride. “I’m a partner in a trauma scene cleaning company. We clean crime scenes, suicides, traffic accidents. Anywhere there’s likely to be biological waste or–”

A cough. “Whoa, okay. That’s…I’ve never met anyone who does that. People really do that?”

Andrew didn’t sound disgusted…yet. Eddie minimized things. “I do. I mean my company does. We’re called The Brother’s Grime. You know… for when life’s not a fairy tale?”

Andrew practically purred. “Oh, my God, that’s amazing.”

“I uh…Most people think it’s kind of gross.” Eddie waited to hear if that was the case with Andrew. “The coroner takes the decedent from the scene, the police process it. Someone has to clean up after.

“How could anyone think that’s gross. Imagine if you didn’t. I guess I never thought about what would happen if–”

“Most people don’t think about it until something tragic happens to them.” Silence stretched out between them.

“Well…I’m going to have to go in a minute because recess is nearly over.”

Say something, say something, you’re going to miss your chance. “Oh. Okay.” Estupido!

“Hey. I was thinking. Tonight’s my book club. We’re reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. Have you read it?”

Again with the books. “That was a movie, wasn’t it?”

“You haven’t read it then? I thought maybe you could–”

“I saw the old black and white film — the one with Angela Lansbury.”

A brief pause. “It’s not the same as the book.”

“I don’t suppose so.” Eddie cursed his inability to say with any certainty. And he still wasn’t sure he could ask the man out. “I saw the film when I was a kid.”

“Okay. Well.”

“Look, do you — maybe — want to get a cup of coffee some time and tell me about…the books you like?”

“Yes.” The enthusiasm in Andrew’s voice took Eddie completely by surprise. “I have some time this afternoon. Are you busy? I get off here around 4:15”

“This afternoon?”

“Too sudden?” Andrew asked. “Yeah, I guess it’s–”

“No, I can do that. Want to meet somewhere at 4:30?”

“How about Stomping Grounds on Chapman, by the high school, is that good?”

“Yeah.” Eddie smiled into the phone. “That’s great. See you then.”

“See you.”


And finally, I want to thank everyone for wishing me a happy birthday. I had a GREAT day. It was just magical. I took my son to see the Gay Men’s Chorus Of Los Angeles, who were joined by Stephen Schwartz and Liz Callaway for music from Schwartz’s musicals (including Godspell, Pippin, The Prince Of Egypt, Pocahontas, and Wicked.) The chorus was wonderful and there was a reception for Mr. Schwartz afterward, so my son and I got to meet him and tell him how much  his music has meant to us over the years. The GMCLA also performed Testimony, a number inspired by the It Get’s Better Project. Here’s the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus singing it. The song is taken from, and inspired by, actual It Get’s Better messages. Get your tissues.

News, Reviews, and Birthday Fun

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Musing about Muses

"roads"I have this guilty pleasure thing with BBQ places. At home I drink all kinds of healthy freshly squeezed vegetable juice and green smoothies and eat whole foods, but when I’m on the road, I have a positive weakness for barbecue places. One of the best things about Kansas City wasFiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, which seriously? Amazingly tasty. Another guilty pleasure was Pappas in Houston, where I took in some barbecue with my son and the Houston Comicpalooza gang. (More on that to follow.)

So I was on the road yesterday  on my way to pick up my daughter from school, and hit up a Famous Dave’s. I asked for a table for one. I had my kindle, and I was reading Mary Calmes book cause yeah, who can resist a book with a motorcycle racer on the cover. (Heart of the Race)

I don’t exactly know how the subject came up but my waiter asked me what I do, and I said I’m a writer. He was delighted. He writes, he’s been writing since he was a kid, and has even been published.

But lately, he said, he has had a hard time feeling inspired.

I’d just come from an RWA meeting a couple days before, where Elizabeth Boyle talked about moving out of your comfort zone so it struck me that I had a bit of advice I could offer, especially having heard her talk, because I’m not the only one who would offer it. (Mentors, in fact, have offered it to me.)

Muses are all very well and good. They’re like a lot of convenient things. Like napkins and cell phones and cars. It’s a wonderful thing to have them. They make life a great deal easier when you need them. But when they’re not available, it’s not an option to say well, too bad, I don’t have that, I can’t therefore wipe my face, call my mother, or drive to work. When these modern conveniences are unavailable, one must Make Do.

Muses are often unavailable. It’s unrealistic that in one’s long tenure as a writer, the muse will remain seated coyly waiting for you to ask her to dance every morning. It’s especially unrealistic if say, life has called and you’ve had to attend births or deaths or graduations. You’ve raised children. You’ve undergone colonoscopies or MRIs. In fact, you’ve had to attend any number of events at which the muse is not happy to be a plus one, like unfulfilling day jobs or changing tires or waiting in line at the DMV.

These are the times when a writer places his or her butt in the chair and writes anyway. Because writers knows one thing for certain. They have words. Words don’t belong to any specific entity. A writer can arrange them any way she likes, she can stack them up and knock them down. A writer can use all caps or all small letters and he can assume as he fills the pages, that if he doesn’t like what he’s written, he can hit that magical delete key and they will all go away. We’re free to a-muse ourselves.

To become a writer who always has words, a writer has to be using words, all the time.

Writers write. Period. Full Stop.

Professional writers know that on average, they must write a certain number of words daily to make books happen, whether or not those books are a success. Writers stay focused on words. They stay in the moment. The don’t look at past successes and they don’t borrow future problems.

What happens is that eventually, the words themselves become the goal.

The plaything.

The shiny bauble.

The writer says, hey, look there, I’ve said something interesting. I’ve created something new to me. I’ve begun something I can finish as long as I keep going because it really is that simple.

A writer takes all the qualifiers out of his work ethic and simply assumes he will write, whether or not he feels like it.

Does this mean writers don’t schedule much needed breaks, attend family functions, or go on hiatuses where they don’t write? Is taking time off the kiss of death?

No, of course not. It wouldn’t be much of a life without those things. Every professional needs down time. Sometimes it takes longer to get back into the swing of things, into the routine of writing, but that’s true of anyone who’s been away from the job. It takes time to get up to speed.

I guess what I’m saying — the advice that I offered my waiter was – the professional writer takes responsibility for his words. She knows they don’t come from outside her. They come from within her, she owns them, and she can’t afford to wait for inspiration. A professional writer must work with or without it.

Given that, there’s never a time when a writer has to stare at a blank page.

A writer simply writes.

And I can assure you, as anyone who has ever met a muse knows, the best way to get a muse to hang around is to show you could be having fun without her.

Musing about Muses