Sales Link: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Z.A. Maxfield today on tour with Plummet To Soar, her latest release. She’s brought an exclusive excerpt and giveaway for all our readers. Enjoy.
Hi, I’m Z.A. Maxfield! Thanks again for inviting me to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words to share my thoughts and talk about my latest book, Plummet to Soar!
I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked why I write. I’m often asked how I get my ideas or what my process is. How to get over writer’s block (I refuse to believe in it) and burnout (I failed to recognize it, until it was almost too late to save myself.)
But right now, I can’t remember anyone specifically asking why I write. Let me just put this out there — I write to change the world.
Maybe that sounds super-grandiose, but we’re supposed to aim for the moon, right? So we might fall among the stars…
When I was in college, I saw the film, “My Beautiful Launderette.” The story was different, and sexy and positive, even though life was so precarious for the characters. I found that story immensely compelling. I wanted the love affair to work out so badly my heart just ached for it. I looked for more stories like it, and was unable to find many books where LBGT characters got a happily-ever-after. Possibly, I didn’t know where to look, as there was no Amazon, or search engine optimization back then. I found–maybe–twenty that fit the criteria.
The lack of romance featuring LGBT protagonists still bothered me when I started writing for publication. I can’t say why, because I had no skin in the game. I lived in a traditional heterosexual marriage and my children were too young to date. It just seemed so stupidly unfair. Thirty years later, that feeling of isolation was still on my mind. What must that be like, I wondered…
God, was I ever naïve. I had no concept of my privilege. I had no idea what own voices, or diversity, or inclusion, or marginalized meant. I only wondered how it would feel to be a queer kid, looking for a book with a queer protagonist, where queer people can find love and don’t end up in a mental institution or dead.
Stories teach us, they comfort us, they take us places that would be impossible to visit without them. They give us whole new worlds to enjoy. They inform and interact with society in unexpected ways. They allow us to meet people we don’t know and get used to ideas we haven’t grown up with. Stories creep over the walls people put up between each other because human emotion is universal. Whether we’ve experienced something or not, a skilled author can create strong, unforgettable, and transformative emotions. That’s what I want to be, when I grow up. Who knows! I’m fifty-seven and it could happen any day now! 😀
Not all my ideas are awesome but fortunately, there are a geshmillion other writers out there trying to change the world with me. I am not alone in my endeavors. Whew!
But since you asked, I write because I believe people are more alike than they are different. I write because I believe that people are basically good. And I hope you’ll join with me and help change the world by telling your stories. Because the more often we strive for a world of peace, of plenty, of fairness, and kindness and decency, the more likely that world will become a reality.
Neil Gaimon said, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Feckless, luckless, and charming, Mackenzie Detweiler is the author of a self-help book one reviewer calls “the most misbegotten motivational tool since Mein Kampf.” He’s maneuvered himself into a career as a life coach, but more often than not, his advice is bad. Really bad.
It’s even getting people hurt… and Mackenzie sued.
It falls to Mackenzie’s long-suffering editor, JD Chambers, to deliver the bad news. He chooses to do so face-to-face—to see if the spark he senses between them is real when they’re together in the flesh. Unfortunately, a snowstorm, a case of nerves, a case of mistaken identity, and finally a murder get in the way of a potential enemies-to-lovers romance.
There are many, many people who have good reason to want Mackenzie dead. JD must find out which one is acting on it before it’s too late for both of them.
Despite the white noise generated by the heater and the hum of someone’s television, silence threatened to overwhelm JD after Mac left. The room was nice—super-dated decor, traditional furniture. The linens, though, had that “international chain hotel” look—white on white with a colorful runner and fancy round bolsters to go with ample standard-size lumps for sleeping on. And right next door, lying on his back, among all those many pillows….
You can call me anything you want. You contracted the book, man. People have called me everything—Mac, Mackenzie, Z, and shit-for-brains.
I’ve never let anyone call me Kenzie.
Why’s that? Breathlessly curious about the odd new writer—the goofball his colleagues laughed at and jokingly called Humpty Dumbass behind his back—he switched to text.
Mac texted back, Dunno. I think I’ve been saving that one for someone who loves me.
JD thumbed, I love being inside your head during the journal entries. A long hesitation. Oh, God, was that too much? He always gave away too much, goddammit. He typed like lightning—I mean that’s how I felt when I first read it. I love these ideas, finding resilience. It resonates with me in a way I can’t really explain. I loved being in your head, reading words as you thought them. Wrote them.
My book is me, distilled. Maximum me. Call me Kenzie.
Like whisky, the words, the book, the man went to his head. All right, then, Kenzie.
JD loved their secret nicknames, loved knowing what it meant. He connected with Kenzie daily, over the minutiae of publishing his book and well beyond that, into late-night emails and intimate text conversations about the meaning of life. But while he coyly obscured all but a few details and kept his face, even his voice, hidden for no reason but his fear that if he broke the fantasy, he’d lose it, Kenzie was transparent. Since Kenzie Detweiler had become the single most important thing in his life, and since JD had nothing in his life to compare the experience to, he was ill equipped to handle such a thing.
Kenzie was made of minutiae, it turned out. He’d spent endless, generous time explaining how he saw the world and why he saw it that way and what it all meant.
Chambers Lighthouse Publishing published books by authors with whom JD had never spoken a single word. His name was on the door, but he had people for interacting with the authors. But the Lamplight line was his sole purview. He was its acquisitions editor and its executive editor.
Lamplight, started by his grandfather, put out almanacs, books of prayerful sentiment, and the journals of thoughtful, barely known but highly influential men. He’d kept his output to three or four titles per year. The authors were thought-provoking but never controversial—Norman Mailer and Truman Capote and Joan Didion need not apply.
His father changed all that, publishing astonishingly sexy memoirs and books by people who really set society’s hair on fire, becoming the enfant terrible of the legacy publishing world for about five minutes. And now, no matter how many pairs he tried, JD could fill neither man’s two-tone, lace-up, wing-tipped oxfords. Shortly after he took over, he vowed to publish books he liked, and people called him sir, or Mr. Chambers, or they got out of his way.
But not Kenzie, who called him JD.
Somewhere between the contract and the first marketing campaign, Douglas—oh, who was he kidding with the fake name and this ridiculous trip—Jacob Douglas Chambers IV—fell in love.
That Kenzie didn’t know who he was? Was both a godsend and a curse. A godsend because he could choose the perfect time for The Big Reveal, and a curse because if he was wrong about this? There was no perfect time.
He really expected Kenzie to know him. That was the thing. He told Kenzie that he was allergic to cameras, but who stops there? There were exactly five pictures of him online. One in a morning coat, top hat, and tails at a wedding, even. JD could have told Kenzie who he was at any time.
Why hadn’t he?
He’d foreseen the moment for so long. What was he protecting himself from? He’d developed a deep, unhealthy emotional attachment to the man who was taking a shower—if the running water was anything to go by—in the room adjacent. There was a gap under the connecting door, and every sound was amplified through it.
Kenzie, singing “Despacito.” The sexy slap of water on the tub floor. He didn’t dare take his imagination further than that. He’d believed in Mackenzie Detweiler, trusted his words, his thoughts, his heart.
And it seemed as though he’d been deluded, along with all the other saps who bought Mackenzie Detweiler’s spiel. But maybe that wasn’t fair, because even tonight, even in pain from an injury he got—not while following Kenzie’s very well-meaning advice, but Kenzie didn’t know that—right up until the moment he’d seen Kenzie face-to-face, JD wanted to believe that what they had was foreordained or somehow magical—celestial.
He wanted to believe there was some sort of there… there.
I’d ask your definition of freedom.
Kenzie always had a comeback. There was another reason not to get sucked into the happy complacency of letting someone else do his thinking for him. JD had tasted the Kool-Aid, siphoned a little to see how it felt, and then guzzled it. And when the unthinkable happened, and the scythe came too close to miss him, he didn’t have the revelations he’d been promised. He simply felt… pissed.
Yes. That was it. Pissed, because in no way did he believe Mac lied in the book. In Mac’s case a near-death experience solidified who he was. He seemed happy. Fulfilled and content. His weird personality traits and his inchoate yearnings had incubated—hatched into someone fierce and proud and unfailingly kind. JD would stake his life on the fact that Kenzie was legitimately happy.
JD was pissed because he felt goddamn nothing.
Stupid for hoping that, if he embraced the worst, his fears would go away.
Stupid for asking for more than he had when he was arguably the richest, luckiest person he knew.
Stupid for trying out any advice he got from a dumbass like Mac, who had turned out to be just another fucked-up human being after all—even if he was a delightful one.
They were all lucky no one had gotten killed. Yet.
Everyone from editorial to corporate had put in a word. Plummet was going to be pulled off the shelves the following Monday. Press releases had been written. Lawyers were on standby. And he had to tell Mac about that too.
Sorry. I’m the man you trusted with your career, and I’m here to pull the rug out.
It wasn’t right to keep it from him. Years back, they’d pulled a book on canning while the author reworked the section on food safety. Those things happened. But they wouldn’t offer Mac a chance to rewrite and rerelease. The ideas JD had embraced so fully only alarmed them after his ludicrous brush with death, though it had nothing to do with the book.
No. The board didn’t want anything to do with Mac anymore.
JD had argued at first. Thrown his weight around. What happened to him didn’t result from Plummet to Soar. All he’d done was attend a contentious co-op board meeting. Those were a bore but not normally dangerous. It wasn’t like he’d run with the bulls in Pamplona. No one could have foreseen his ex catching him in the parking garage alone.
JD absently rubbed his knee. And why, when his leg was broken on one side, did the other knee hurt so much? JD made a mental note to call his doctor and find out.
His eyes snapped open when the water shut off. From the other side of the door came the sound of more humming and rustling noises. Curiosity was killing JD truly. Killing him.
How did connecting doors in hotels work, anyway? Were there two doors or just one? It seemed kinda old-school—a knob, a dead bolt.
Is the lock engaged?
As though it heated before his eyes, the lock seemed to glow with some inner fire. The knob was the only thing he could focus on. God, his leg hurt. The buzz from the flight, from the bar, was fading. If he took a pain pill, it would knock him out too hard.
JD laid his cheek against the door and put his hand on the knob. Nope. Nope, Nope. Nope. The door between their rooms felt cool. He let go of the knob, as though it would brand him, but that was just more melodramatic bullshit. He could hear his mother’s voice telling him to get a grip on himself. Which, really, anyone who ever met him would have known that having a grip on himself was part of the goddamn problem.
Try the door.
It was almost as though the door were talking to him—or was that wishful thinking?
He wanted to try it anyway, and what was it they said about confirmation bias? You generally fall in with the data that supports what you already believe?
No. It wasn’t all a scam.
The doorknob turned in his hand. The door opened in his direction. He had to step back to get out of its way. And then he was standing there, staring at Kenzie Detweiler, who wore nothing but a towel.
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.”
Readers can visit ZAM at her Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon
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